Michael Maiello's picture

    Derisive Religion Mocking

    Pssst.  I'd like to be president of the United States but before you vote for me, there's something you need to know.  I believe, literally, that Star Wars is a true story.  I believe in both the Old Testament story of Luke and Vader (parts IV-VI) and the New Testament origin of Vader (Parts 1-3 and The Clone Wars cartoon series).

    Does this make me an unfit leader?

    Before you say yes, consider that I'm a reasonable guy.  I don't think, for example, that Star Wars has any bearing at all on life on Earth.  It all happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  I don't think  that humans evolved from Ewoks or that the Force works here of that you can make a lightsaber or travel through hyperspace.  I just literally believe that everything in Star Wars actually happened somewhere at some distant point in time.  Of course, I can't show you proof.  But consider this... if the universe is infinite, then everything has to have happened, by definition.  So don't even get me started on The Marvel Comics Universe.

    So far as politics go, I'm making a relatively innocuous claim by believing in the literal truth of Star Wars.  Since I believe that these true events happened far away and long ago, I don't make claims, as some religious adherents do, to moral authority, legal authority or land ownership.  I just don't want to be mocked or criticized for my beliefs.

    Over at the Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore is chastising an "elites" for making fun of Rick Santorum's literal belief in a worldly and active Satan.  Far better, says Kilgore, to engage Santorum on the substance of what he had to say about Protestants, Satan and the corruption of America, as Genghis has ably done for us already.  I get why this makes sense.  If you can make Santorum say what he really believes, which is that some of the very people who he is courting for votes are the dupes and pawns of the Big Evil, then you get to have some fun watching Santorum flail in the flames ignited by his own rhetoric.

    Kilgore is probably right that letting Santorum get into the weeds of his own beliefs is better politics than just mocking a grown man for going around the country talking about devils.  Besides, says Kilgore, most Americans believe in an actual Satan, far more intensely, it seems than my professed belief in the Book of Lucas.

    Kilgore's concern is that "elites" who make fun of Santorum's hunt for the devil are just feeding into the myth Santorum is selling.  Santorum's followers will view his critics as people duped by Beelzebub.  How could Dan Savage so effectively sully Santorum's name without help from the depths of Hell?

    Well, I'm sorry but you should not vote for me if I truly believe that Star Wars really happened, even if it has nothing to do with the policies I'd enact.  A rich fantasy life is a wonderful thing, but there are limits, right?  A belief in Satan as a living being who once rebelled against God in Heaven and now rules of the sulfurous pits of Hell is part of a rich fantasy life, too.  It just happens to be a fantasy that many, if not most, Americans share.

    I think we have to start talking more openly and honestly about this.  What laws are really being pushed and passed based on such magical thinking?  How rooted, really, are our policies in the world we inhabit, as opposed to the world we imagine?

    For the sake of expedience, most Americans have embraced restraint with regard to religious issues.  I stopped debating with my Israeli friends about the Middle East not because they ever changed my mind but because, in the end, I'd rather have Israeli friends than go down lonely, spitting arguments out of my pie hole.  But it seems to me that, at least every now and then (and especially when a national-level politician brings it up) that we do have to debate about ghosts and goblins every now and then, no matter whose feelings get hurt.




    To be fair to Kilgore, I think his myth-feeding remark was the minor point. His major point was that focusing on Santorum's belief in Satan per se misses the far more sinister element of his worldview--that those who disagree with Santorum's dogmatic ideas are Satan's pawns. That belief is not just silly, like the Destor Star Wars cult. It's scary as hell (figuratively speaking).

    I had no idea you were into Scientology.

    I am afraid this puts all of your prior posts in a new light or at least light saber!

    How rooted, really, are our policies in the world we inhabit, as opposed to the world we imagine?

    And right here American politics, and perhaps even American culture, stand reconsidered on the prongs of the is-ought distinction.  Certainly some of our policies are based on religious superstition, but still others are based on things we insist on believing - despite the evidence - for other reasons entirely.  Maybe it's the belief that contractionary fiscal policy is expansionary.  Maybe it's the belief that the War on Drugs has some kind of positive outcome.  Maybe it's the belief that an increasingly draconian security state makes us safer.  How deep does the rabbit hole go?  Moreover, what would our policies look like if they were actually scaled against the evidence?

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