When passion looks like insanity

“I watched all three 2-hour segments of the latest PBS documentary “God in America” this week. Even though I’m a history buff and fairly knowledgeable about New World history going back to Columbus’ time up through the Colonial, Revolutionary, Frontier, Civil War, and more modern eras, I still learned a great deal from how religion, most especially Christianity, has impacted American culture and politics. Being a product of Californian non-religious people during the 50s, I hadn’t realized how skewed my perspective was, what a minority position I hold. I have a better understanding of how frantic many believers are and how much pluralism that includes Muslim beliefs under the “Freedom of Religion” is literally more than most can handle. Most can barely handle the differences between Christian Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, due to two different Bibles and authority traditions. I’ve always considered Falwell and Robertson’s mouthings about America walking on the brink of damnation due to impieties to be just that–their ideas. But, it has a long tradition. All States collected taxes that paid for the official state churches until just before the Revolution. Jefferson was the mover and shaker in Virginia that allowed Baptists to be legal and put the “Freedom of Religion” article in the Constitution in 1789 — this was NEW! When people say that “We are a Christian nation,” they aren’t far off the mark in terms of history. But, change is well underway.”

I’ve been quiet on the blog recently — was posting too much elsewhere and wore myself out.  Plus, I got sucked into several several bigger discussions and it’s taken me a bit to get back on track. I posted the above on a HuffPost article today.

I’ve been pondering throughout my life why I couldn’t get with the commonplace belief system espoused by so many, i.e, Christianity. How can one explain the simple “I don’t believe?” I’ve studied the history of Christianity, the Bible, the apocryphal texts, and seemingly engaged in arguments without end. I think I’ve been more puzzled by the underlying question of how could anyone believe, since I couldn’t (good ole CF of arrogance.)

But, this show brought home something I’ve been working on in my own overleaves — my goal of discrimination, mode of observation, attitude of idealist, along with a center of emotional moving to intellectual, which roughly means that I’m quite dispassionate and disengaged from most emotional dramas, especially ones that operate purely from that perspective.

“God in America” finally got through to me just how much Christianity as practiced in the United States is a highly emotional and passionate belief. This is why it can bypass scientific discoveries, such as geological timelines going back billions of years, or evolutionary theories going back millions of years, and accept that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. There are currently 47 percent of the people in the U.S. who subscribe to this belief, that dinosaurs not only were vegetarian until the Fall of Eden, but lived along side humans and all other species — they were missed on Noah’s Ark.

But, nevermind the extreme oddities, the need to believe is an emotional one and has little to do with the actual belief itself.  It is why evangelical revivals have been so successful — the emotion builds on itself as more people gather, infect each other with the passion, and feed the flames.  Each born-again is another example of mass hysteria being an effective method of recruitment.

We saw something similar during the 60s and 70s as the anti-war movement grew in size and passion. The demonstrations grew from a few hundred people to major marches with hundreds of thousands.  But, if the political passion hadn’t been dampened down from the emotional pitch at the beginning, the marches might have burned cities to the ground.

The GOP is the intellectual arm of the conservative movement and they’re perplexed with how to deal with the highly emotional and passionate Tea Party movement. They’re trying to damp it down, but if the Tea Partiers pick up a true evangelical personality who can whip crowds into a frenzy, it might get very interesting. Sarah Palin would like to be that person, but she lacks the fire, as does Rand Paul. I look for a Sage-casted Priest to come out of the backwoods who will deliver barn burner political speeches.  The content will be irrelevant as long it’s on a par with whatever is currently being said–it’s the emotional passionate delivery that will sweep across the country like a prairie wildfire.  Oddly enough, Glenn Beck is a likely candidate — let’s hope that partial paralysis of his vocal cords is incurable.

The passion can be a false positive. The truths don’t have to match the facts. Facts can be ignored. It’s how it feels that becomes the underlying story. It’s how myths are born. It’s how religions are born. It’s how they separate into sects. Meanwhile, we have an old religion that proclaims there is only one god and whose practitioners believe they are the chosen people and are waiting for the Messiah; and we have a newer religion that proclaims the Messiah arrived; and we have an even newer religion that proclaims the Messiah was only a prophet — but doesn’t really address if the prophecy about a Messiah is still on track. All believe in the same god, and yet all believe that they are the only true believers.

If there really were a god, it’s surprising that he or she hasn’t chosen sides and forced conversion on everyone else in order to resolve this ridiculous issue. Yeah, I know, that’s exactly how my overleaves work — very dispassionately.

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