Monday, November 07, 2005

Despondency In The Bible Belt

I had an interesting conversation this weekend with a coworker. He is a real True Believer, lock, stock and two smoking Bibles. Let's take a quick look at this coworker and the interesting thing we talked about.

Here is a grown man, apparently in possession of all his faculties, who is not in the least stupid. He does, however, believe that demons exist and possess people. And he believes this because he's seen it happen. He and his friend were out drinking and his friend was also smoking a little pot when his friend's eyes started fluttering and his head moved back (he tried to mimic these actions to show me what it looked like). Soon afterward, his friend, who claims to be a Christian, started "speaking against God" and "speaking in what sounded like some other language." Then my coworker, who says he believes he gets smarter when he drinks but is not normally good at expressing himself, says he felt God's Spirit move him to rebuke the things his friend was saying, going toe to toe with what was coming out of his friend's mouth with Scriptural citations. After a while, his friend stopped talking, then he did the eye-flickering, head move thing again and the incident was over. The friend claims to have no memory of what happened during this time.

Now, except for my coworker's unusual eloquence, everything in this entire little story sounds like epilepsy or some other type of seizure to me, up to and including the amnesia. And my coworker's eloquence? Well, alcohol can loosen the most stubborn lips.

But my coworker firmly believes that it was demonic possession and his deity's spirit acting on him and his friend. He'll freely admit that it does sound like seizures and alcohol but that it wasn't. Why? Because he "felt" like it wasn't.

He had a "deep feeling" that it was demonic and deific, respectively. And you hear this time and time again from the True Believers. Their feelings trump science every time. Their connection to their deity gives them a discernment that goes beyond measurement. Yet they can feel it. They can measure it. They are special.

That's especially true of this True Believer, since he's apparently a Calvinist who believes in predestination and "God's Elect". And I'll admit that not all True Believers are this adamant about their beliefs. But you have to admit that the Calvinists are one end-point of the logical progession of Christian religious belief. Much as it may repulse some of the Christians of America, Pat Robertson is one of the logical culminations of Christian history, too.

What's sad is that down here in the Bible Belt, most Christians don't even think about the fact that he's a nut. They look at good ol' Patty R. and think "What a brave man." I look at him and think "What a psycho." And I look at these fringe group, usually charismatic or fundamentalist, churches and think "How crazy and uninformed can you get?" But here in the Bible Belt, people just go, "Eh, they have faith." Meanwhile, they disparage the Catholic Church at a time when it's trying to go more mainstream concerning scientific inquiry and a naturalistic worldview.

In the Bible Belt, it boils down to this:

Preacher = Good, Scientist = Bad.

But boy, do they ever run to the doctor when there's a problem. But that's an article for another time.

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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain

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Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu