A Glitch in the Theocratic Matrix

When I was a kid — I was about 12 I think —  and relatively new to atheism and its social burdens, I had a little run-in with a sincerely religious classmate. He simply would not believe that my non-belief in religion was even possible. He was sure I was lying or being provocative for the hell of it. As a test, he pulled out a little picture of his favorite god from his wallet, and dared me to tear it up. I did, and he was suitably shocked. After a moment of stunned speechlessness, he said something weak, like “err… oh wow!”

I was reminded of this little episode when a little clip from CNN did the rounds a couple of days back. It features a religious conservative being visibly stunned speechless by the revelation that you do not need to swear on the Bible to assume an elected office in the United States. Ted Crockett really appeared to believe that a Muslim politician could not hold office because “You have to swear on a Bible to be an elected official in the United States of America…a Muslim cannot do that, ethically, swearing on the Bible.”

Like my old schoolmate, this guy was genuinely shocked to learn he was wrong in a fairly trivial way. Unlike my old schoolmate, however, we’re not talking about a 12-year old boy. We’re talking about a man who appears to be in his late fifties or sixties, and has held an elected office.

Like many others, once I was done chuckling, I found myself wondering: how is it even possible to arrive at, and hold, this particular sort of bizarre false belief, about swearing-in ceremonies being necessarily tied to the Bible in a non-theocratic state?

The belief is not a trivial sort of false belief. It’s what computer scientists call an abstraction leak, like the deja vu moment in The Matrix that reveals a glitch in the simulation. A low-level, seemingly minor phenomenon that is not explainable within the reality in which it is experienced.

The belief strikes a secular imagination as more than just false. It seems not even wrong. It’s an unnatural sort of false belief that doesn’t lend itself to an obvious explanation. So to understand it, we have to ask, in what sort of reality would this be a natural kind of false belief?

Let’s establish just how surprising this little episode actually is, in a non-theocratic political context.

It is easy to imagine a conservative Christian politician believing that all elected officials should swear on the Bible.

That is not what happened here.

It’s easy to imagine a paranoid ethnonationalist believing that all Muslims want to impose Sharia on the rest of us and therefore should not be allowed to hold office, if they’re allowed into the country at all.

That is also not what happened here.

I can even imagine not knowing the specifics of prescribed swearing-in procedures (I don’t), but that kind of ignorance isn’t enough for this kind of mistake to be natural. We all participate in a million mindless little ceremonial rituals of various degrees of sacredness to different kinds of participants, and we don’t generally hold weird false beliefs about them, despite not being experts in matters of priestly detail.

This is not a question of unusual ignorance about a ceremony.

Nor is this mere stupidity, or ignorance of the principle of separation of church and state, or failure to correctly infer the implications of the principle.

In fact, earlier in the interview, Ted Crockett (the spokesman) spars briefly with Jake Tapper (the anchor) on precisely that subject, and seems unfazed by it. He’s at least heard the phraseIt just doesn’t fit into his belief system the way it does in Tapper’s:

TAPPER: Does [Roy Moore] believe that the Christian Bible should be the law of the United States of American

CROCKETT: This country was founded on the Christian Bible…[elaborate run-on assertion about English mosaic law and old and new testaments]

TAPPER: This country has a  separation of church and state and we have laws that are not rooted in the Christian Bible

CROCKETT: You don’t understand…

TAPPER: I think I understand…

CROCKETT: You don’t understand…

TAPPER: Here’s my question…

CROCKETT: You do not understand…

TAPPER: Here’s my question for you…

[predictable exchange on homosexuality]

CROCKETT: …You people want to to take the whole… 2 or 3 thousand years of history and y’all just want to throw it out the window as if you’re going to make your own rules, your own man-made rules, and do whatever you want…

What this exchange reveals is clear: Crockett is aware of the relevant political context. He simply does not recognize the primacy of secular constitutional authority over religious authority, and in fact believes the reverse pecking order holds. And this isn’t a contingent, what-if belief about a hoped-for religious social order. It’s the foundation of his active reasoning about the prevailing social order.

He has a coherent — to him — account of secular constitutional authority flowing from religious authority. An account within which the separation principle is to him a minor matter of operating procedure, not a basic axiom.

Now for the part of the exchange that went viral:

TAPPER: Judge Moore has also said that he doesn’t think a Muslim member of Congress should be allowed to be in Congress. Why? Under what provision of the Constitution?

CROCKETT: Because you have to swear on the Bible — when you are before — I had to do it. I’m an elected official, three terms, I had to swear on a Bible. You have to swear on a Bible to be an elected official in the United States of America. He alleges that a Muslim cannot do that, ethically, swearing on the Bible.

TAPPER: You don’t actually have to swear on a Christian Bible, you can swear on anything, really. I don’t know if you knew that. You can swear on a Jewish Bible.

CROCKETT: Oh no. I swore on the Bible. I’ve done it three times.

TAPPER: I’m sure you have, I’m sure you’ve picked a Bible but the law is not that you have to swear on a Christian Bible. That is not the law. You don’t know that? All right. Ted Crockett with the Moore —

CROCKETT: I don’t know. I know that Donald Trump did it when he — when we made him President.

To an irreligious mind like mine, or even a socially religious mind, this sounds completely insane. How do you even get to that kind of argument? And it’s not a joke. It’s not a troll. He’s not hoping to bluff his way through with a belief he does not actually hold. It’s not a belief about an abstract ideological position.

He appears to actually believe it. It does not occur to him that a hostile television journalist with an opposed ideological bias might challenge him on that particular point (or he’d have been more prepared to counter it).

Because he is simply not even aware that it’s a weak belief, open to attack, let alone a demonstrably false one.

Secular versus Religious Induction

To understand what happened here, consider what it takes to reason from an ordinary, low-grade knowledge of the law (say half-remembered high school civics where you scored a C grade) to the conclusion that a Muslim would have an issue with the swearing-in ceremony because the Bible is necessarily a part of it.

Clearly you’d have to answer the question, “How would a practicing Muslim be sworn in?” with “using a Bible” before you even get to a potential conflict.

The secular among us would guess “using a Koran.” We’d never even get to the apparent conflict. It’s a simple problem in inductive reasoning starting from the axiom of separation of church and state, and the principle of freedom of religion.

With an ordinary amount of data about how political processes work and minimal general knowledge of the sacred books of various religions, you’d get to “any book or object that is sacred to the oath taker will do, so a Muslim would likely choose the Koran.” The whole chain of reasoning would be almost subconscious.

The folk-legal theory intuited by a secular imagination is that the process is designed to let people import ritual significance into a ceremony from their private sacred belief system, whatever that might be. The ceremony has some signaling utility among true believers, and is harmless theater if non-believers go through the motions.

But if you are sincerely religious, your first axiom is that your book is objectively special. Not just an ordinary thing of special subjective significance to you. Its role is not empty and ceremonial. It’s not just an equal member of some largely interchangeable set of books. For Crockett, replacing the Bible with the Koran in a process changes the meaning of the process as surely as replacing gold with plastic in a piece of jewelry changes its objective market value. It’s a kind of assumed-universal functional fixedness.

My classmate in childhood made the same mistake. He assumed his picture I tore up casually had objective significance for all, a sort of magical religious property that would exercise its power over me whether or not I chose to believe in it. To me it was just another piece of paper.

This explains the glitch in the matrix that Crockett experienced. What to a secular imagination is a trivial matter of inductive extension within a set of similar objects (the set of sacred religious texts) would be a category error for a theocratic mind. The Bible is sui generis. Other religious texts live in a different mental filing cabinet. To even contemplate substituting another text for it as a source of religious authority requires a reboot and reification, and a different, meta way of thinking about the ceremony.

For Crockett, the Bible is the active source of sanctity from which the swearing-in process derives its fundamental authority. Crockett’s earlier reference to “you’re going to make your own rules, your own man-made rules” clearly reveals this belief structure. The presence of the Bible in the “man-made rules” is not an arbitrary thing, but essential to the idea of constitutional authority somehow flowing from religious authority.

To him, the human constitution is a secondary source of authority. Note that we don’t require him to be particularly devout, or a good Christian, or a saint. The quality of his adherence to his faith is not relevant, only its existence. We just need to assume his religiosity is not fake, and the false belief makes sense.

A different example might clarify this. You don’t need to assume I’m a racecar driver to infer that I drive on the right side of the road in the US by instinct. If you saw someone drive on the left side in the US, you’d assume they’re coming from a left-side-driving country. It’s not a bad-driver mistake or a doesn’t-know-traffic-rules mistake. It’s a glitch-in-the-matrix mistake. An abstraction leak. One caused by inhabiting a subjective reality that does not match objective reality in some critical ways that you haven’t yet noticed.

Crockett’s use of confirmatory evidence is revealing. He cites his own 3 experiences of being sworn in with a Bible. He cites Donald Trump being sworn in with a Bible. His data set lacks disconfirmatory evidence, and like most humans, it is not instinctive for him to seek it out. So faced with a belief falsification, he just piles on the irrelevant confirmatory evidence.

That part is human. You and I would instinctively do that too if one of our basic low-level beliefs were suddenly undermined. In the driving example, if I’m driving with left-hand-drive instincts in a right-hand-drive country, and see a car oncoming, I’d instinctively swerve to the left and expect the oncoming car to swerve to its left, and a collision would occur.

Programmed beliefs are hard to resist.

I imagine that to Crockett, separation of church and state is a little Santa Claus lie (“Of course the constitution is real kid!”) you tell naive little atheist children who “don’t get it”, as he repeatedly asserts. From his point of view, Tapper is missing something completely obvious, and perversely pretending Santa Claus is real.

Of course constitutional authority flows from Biblical authority. Of course we drive on the left side of the road in the US. You don’t get it.

CRASHHH!

Reasoning from Certainty

Stepping back, the characteristic feature of the theocratic mind is that it reasons from subjective certainty (on the validity of a text in this case) as a starting point. Start with what you viscerally feel to be the most true things you know, and then tackle the problem of forming beliefs about new, uncertain, or ambiguous matters.

To reason from constitutional authority to the principle of subjective choice in what text to swear on is not just an alternate theology. It is a different kind of reasoning.

For most of us, belief in the constitution is not a matter of religious faith, but a sort of pragmatic and contingent acceptance of a piece of human reasoning that is open to critical scrutiny. The principle of separation of church and state is not a secular-religious axiom but a political science proposition we are capable of bracketing and debating (not necessarily well, but without undue reverence).

There are of course constitutional originalists to whom the constitution has religious sanctity and the founding fathers the status of apostles, but that’s a different matter. Most of us don’t relate to constitutions that way.

The theocratic mindset reasons from certainty to uncertainty. The secular mindset reasons from contingent belief to contingent belief.

Reasoning from certainty is actually a very odd and fragile mindset that can only exist under conditions of extreme isolation, coupled with uncritical belief in the validity of a textual source over empirical experience.

All humans suck at seeking out disconfirmatory evidence, and none of us deal particularly well with it. But most of us have experienced it. It takes living in a protected Alabama bubble, an escaped reality, to make this sort of mistake. And it takes theocratic cognitive foundations in a book.

Most of us can think of one or more experiences of having a sense of absolute, visceral certainty being invalidated by an inconvenient and undeniable fact. I called this an UnAha experience in a really old (2008) post, The UnAha! Experience. 

Your particular set of UnAha experiences may not include mathematical counterexamples like mine, but I bet you’ve had several experiences of a subjective mental bubble of absolute, visceral certainty being popped. And I bet you have examples both trivial and deep. In some cases you probably figured out why you were so certain but wrong (“Oh, I thought I was facing north, not south, that’s why I was sure we had to turn left here” or “Oh, I forgot we drive on the left side here”), and in other cases you probably never quite figured it out.

Whatever your particular set of UnAha experiences, it likely left you primed to not entirely trust reasoning from certainty, particularly from textual certainty. It’s easy, it’s quick, it feel solid, it feels reassuring. After all you start on firm ground, you build stable inference structures based on internal logic, you ought to get to equally stable new ground.

What could possibly go wrong?

It takes a few painful certainty crashes to learn the answer to that question.

In a way, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ted Crockett. His crash was genuine, which means the underlying belief structure is at least sincere.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. I am reminded of this quote from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem – “the difference between poets and mystics . . . The mystic nails a symbol to one meaning that was true for a moment but soon becomes false. The poet, on the other hand, sees that truth while it’s true but understands that symbols are always in flux and that their meanings are fleeting.”

  2. I usually have the opposite problem. I cannot trust logical reason from collected facts about the environment. That may make me sound like an enlightened nerd mage, but really what it means is that I must cope with what I’ll call an information mania. Even with something as simple as counting, or copying numbers from one thing to another, I instinctively mistrust my ability to see ‘truth’ and execute ‘correctly’ and endlessly reverify the results. I have had to learn to relax a little trust into these processes that other people seem to be able to factor out to instinct without thought.

    I had an interview recently where the interviewer asked me “what’s 34 times 34?” Rather than resort to the long form algorithms everyone learned in elementary school and compute the answer in seconds, I rather regressed into dithering about what method to use and how to remember intermediate results, which took me over a minute.

    Because fundamental uncertainty precludes knowing how or why, imperceptible to even the most ideal, unattenuated intellect, pedestal noise corrupts every physical law ever written, epistemology itself is by definition unable to answer the distortion that figures into the formulation of its own origin and purpose.

  3. Of course to be Ted Crockett you also have to be unaware that there are Jewish members of Congress, or unable to make simple inferences from that fact.

    You may be overthinking this, it’s possible that this person is just very, very stupid. Certainly that’s the impression he gives off. Moore himself gives an argument that is several orders of magnitude more informed and coherent, if still wrong in obvious ways.

    Crockett seems to be unaware that there is any other frame of reference than his own, while Moore is very aware and seeks to be in active conflict with them.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      The Old Testament is part of the bible so Jews are perfectly capable of ‘swearing by the bible’.

      • That might be how Crockett could parse the situation, but it is not at all true regarding the reality of how Judaism navigates the swearing of oaths or a Christian bible which includes “the Old Testament.”

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      I imagine he in fact makes the same assumption he does about Muslims: That they swear a dishonest oath, borrowing biblical power insincerely, and are basically lying.
      He probably does not believe that it is ethical for any non-Christian to be an elected official. But he also probably believes that most elected officials are not ethical to begin with.

  4. Samuel Skinner says:

    “Like many others, once I was done chuckling, I found myself wondering: how is it even possible to arrive at, and hold, this particular sort of bizarre false belief, about swearing-in ceremonies being necessarily tied to the Bible in a non-theocratic state?”

    8 American states have religious tests for office included in their constitutions.

    “TAPPER: This country has a separation of church and state and we have laws that are not rooted in the Christian Bible”

    The United States was not founded on separation of Church and State. The Articles of Confederation do not cover the topic.

    Until the bill of rights were incorporated against the states (in the case of religion it was Everson v. Board of Education in 1947) this did not apply to states. That is why Thomas Jefferson had to pass a statute of religious freedom for the state of Virginia and why states were able to persecute the Mormons.

    “He simply does not recognize the primacy of secular constitutional authority over religious authority, and in fact believes the reverse pecking order holds. ”

    Replace religious authority with ideology and you’ve just described civil disobedience.

    “This explains the glitch in the matrix that Crockett experienced. What to a secular imagination is a trivial matter of inductive extension within a set of similar objects (the set of sacred religious texts) would be a category error for a theocratic mind. The Bible is sui generis. Other religious texts live in a different mental filing cabinet. To even contemplate substituting another text for it as a source of religious authority requires a reboot and reification, and a different, meta way of thinking about the ceremony.”

    Religious believers are perfectly capable of understanding that religious believers of different traditions think the same way about their tradition. I’m sure he would understand people in Saudi Arabia swear on the Koran or understand the significance of BANZAI (may the Emperor live ten thousand years!).

    “So faced with a belief falsification, he just piles on the irrelevant confirmatory evidence.”

    Someone telling you your beliefs are false is not ‘belief falsification’.

    “I imagine that to Crockett, separation of church and state is a little Santa Claus lie (“Of course the constitution is real kid!”) you tell naive little atheist children who “don’t get it”, as he repeatedly asserts”

    No, Crockett probably believes separation of church and state is a truce between different Christian denominations. Just like most Americans believed for most of American history.

    “It takes living in a protected Alabama bubble, an escaped reality, to make this sort of mistake. ”

    … right.

    • Samuel —

      A religious test for office would probably make those 8 states qualify as theocratic as this article uses it.

      Tapper didn’t claim that the country was *founded on* a separation of church and state, only that it was a feature of the country.

      Re: primacy and civil disobedience: it’s about institutions, not individual values or behavior. Civil disobedience is when personal values, whatever their source, lead you to defy secular authority from beneath, as a subject. The question of theocracy is whether secular authority is fundamentally subordinate to or grounded in religious authority.

      Sure, many or most actual conflicts over church/state issues in American history may have been among Christians, but turning around and imposing that particularity on the principle–mentally substituting “Christian denomination” for “religion”–seems like pretty clear evidence of bubbled thinking. And even if one is the kind of originalist who would claim that the writer(s) of the first amendment didn’t consider that someone might not be a Christian, and that that is legally significant: the Treaty of Tripoli happened less than a decade later.

      (I’m not posting this like ~oh boy get dunked~, and I haven’t answered everything you’ve said. But I think that the question of sources of authority is an important delta between what you were responding to and what the article was getting at.)

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        “A religious test for office would probably make those 8 states qualify as theocratic as this article uses it.”

        Then essentially all states prior to the 20th century were theocracies. We should use definitions that illuminate things, not that just a thousand different ways of saying ‘old’.

        “Re: primacy and civil disobedience: it’s about institutions, not individual values or behavior. Civil disobedience is when personal values, whatever their source, lead you to defy secular authority from beneath, as a subject. The question of theocracy is whether secular authority is fundamentally subordinate to or grounded in religious authority.”

        Civil disobedience is claiming your personal moral values are higher then secular law. It is followed up by claiming current authority should be subordinate to those values.

        This is the exact same mechanism; the difference is one is tagged religion and one isn’t.

        “but turning around and imposing that particularity on the principle–mentally substituting “Christian denomination” for “religion”–seems like pretty clear evidence of bubbled thinking. ”

        Not if it is the historical meaning.

        “And even if one is the kind of originalist who would claim that the writer(s) of the first amendment didn’t consider that someone might not be a Christian, and that that is legally significant: the Treaty of Tripoli happened less than a decade later.”

        Because regulation of religion was down to the individual states. The states had religious tests for office. The states were the ones who attempted to liquidate the Mormons.

    • “Like many others, once I was done chuckling, I found myself wondering: how is it even possible to arrive at, and hold, this particular sort of bizarre false belief, about swearing-in ceremonies being necessarily tied to the Bible in a non-theocratic state?”

      An even easier explanation for this- I was explicitly told this by a teacher. It’s historically shown this way on TV courtroom scenes. When I took up atheism, it was a question of what does an atheist swear on and what does that swear entail? It’s not an uncommon belief at all…

      https://www.866ourvote.org/newsroom/news/state-voter-required-to-swear-on-bible-when-confirming-identity

      Pennsylvania law:
      5901. Judicial oath.
      (a) General rule.–Every witness, before giving any testimony shall take an oath in the usual or common form, by laying the hand upon an open copy of the Holy Bible, or by lifting up the right hand and pronouncing or assenting to the following words: “I, A. B., do swear by Almighty God, the searcher of all hearts, that I will , and that as I shall answer to God at the last great day.” Which oath so taken by persons who conscientiously refuse to take an oath in the common form shall be deemed and taken in law to have the same effect as an oath taken in common form.

  5. Marc Hamann says:

    You didn’t go to the ultimate conclusion:

    We all live in some escaped reality or another. Probably several layers of escaped realities.

    • Yes, this is a strong belief of mine, and I’m trying to develop a theory of this. A sort of bubble relativism dialectic. We can only become aware of the illusions of escaped realities that are more escaped than ours along some dimension of interest.

      • Marc Hamann says:

        Hmmm. Isn’t it simpler than that? You become aware of a mutually escaped reality when you come into conflict with someone on a substantive point.

        Crockett has an escaped reality which says that de facto, if not quite de jure, Christianity has a special role and place in American governmental tradition and practice, and you and I live in an escaped reality where the modern interpretation of a purely secular state is obviously the real and true state of affairs.

        The objective current and historical evidence can very likely be marshaled to support either interpretation.

        Most of the time this is a feature, not a bug, in that different escaped realities can look at the same thing and give their buy in. This works until someone demands the exclusive, explicit dominance of their view for something practical, and this seems to be happening more an more as the escaped realities diverge on more and more basic “facts”.

      • You might get some value out of A Field Guide to Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior. Some humans are much less influenced by socially constructed reality than others, and they’ve made an effort to understand it.

      • Dielectic is a very good word for that. I occasionally reread old german philosophy in these terms, trying to see if they can give me a proper justification to the fundamental assumption of some Hegel-style inevitable progress of history:

        Why should we be justified in saying that structures of ideas pass from one form of knowledge to a more complete one? How do we know people don’t just react to the flaws of previous theories, and the forms of society and experiment they embodied, and then go off into something else equally flawed?

        Knowing thoroughly the mistakes of the past is not enough, you have to do so without generating new blindspots that in some sense cover a greater area of “facts”.

        In science we have correspondence principles, and the sense that you should be able to carry forward all the results of the previous views of the world in the new more general framework within some reasonable domain, but there we do not have the true expansion of ideas such a theory of knowledge would demand; people use newtonian physics in a huge array of broad ways that expand to metaphors about energy and momentum that use the ideas crudely without actually fundamentally misunderstanding them, whereas we still don’t live in a quantum world. Most attempts to draw on quantum physics do so as a way to emphasise the unknowability of the universe, to get people to become comfortable with confusion and not knowing things, either to get them to chill out and stop worrying, or to soften up their defences before bringing out the “active water”.

        Instead of the Hegelian idea of a new social order carrying along the old one within it, we seem to have a kind of weird slave stack, where we use the correspondence principle backwards to determine when we can still drive things from the top layer.

        So just as an electrical engineer with an approximately newtonian perspective hires a quantum physicist to clear up all the awkward quantum behaviour from his chips, the theocrat seeks to get all people who are not of the same religion from exercising their theoretical ability to swear on any book. It isn’t a theocracy, but in the limit of certain voting patterns, it can be made to behave as if it is.

        To put it another way, degrees of freedom are discovered, and then intentionally suppressed, at the cost that this new “necessity” has to work harder to maintain it’s ignorance, an old world that survives by tightly containing the new. I’d hope that such a system is fundamentally unstable, and that you eventually resolve the cognitive dissonance and self-parody with some new concrete simplification, and the fact that this guy’s boss lost an election is some superficial encouragement on that front.. But I don’t know.

        That’s not even considering the obvious possibility of people forgetting useful information, or becoming blind to it because of conventions of interpretation.

    • I’m pretty sure the Blue State version of this is the idea that America was founded on the idea that “all men are created equal”. Since the guy who wrote that was both a slaveowner and a politician, a realistic assessment would suggest that he was insincere. But that’s the myth.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        He was perfectly sincere. Blacks are equal to whites in that they are not endowed by God with a special position simply by their parentage (see-divine right of kings); rather their position is set by the ability.

        • Was there some sort of Slavery Aptitude Test that I’ve never heard of? Because I’m pretty sure blacks got their position from their parentage.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Was there some sort of Slavery Aptitude Test that I’ve never heard of? ”

            Yes. If your parents were capable enough to buy your freedom, you would no longer be a slave.

            “Because I’m pretty sure blacks got their position from their parentage.”

            I don’t think Jefferson was a believer in blank slate.

          • “Yes. If your parents were capable enough to buy your freedom, you would no longer be a slave.”

            Which did not apply to whites, therefore blacks were in a special position simply by their parentage, not because their own ability. So either insincere, or confused by his own argument.

      • Classic case of “You decide what’s ‘equal’, I decide what counts as ‘human'”

  6. Okay, I get it. And your article is a good one, in my opinion. You raise and elucidate some very good points, and I like the idea of escaped reality. But I can’t help thinking that the strength of your reaction to this interview only just shows that you have lived on the coastal strip for a while. At this moment, I am sitting within easy walking distance of at least 10 people who would accept Ted Crockett’s argument as perfectly reasonable. Such is Kansas.

    It is not correct to refer to people like Crockett as theocrats, nascent or otherwise. What we are seeing in American politics is not theocracy, and almost never has been. What we have is ordinary kleptocracy with a religious frosting. Crockett doesn’t know what the Bible says, and he doesn’t care. He has a feeling that he believes in some god or other, but his true belief is in his cultural right to appropriate value from everyone else. This is the entire history of European activity on this continent. Quote Crockett the bit that everyone knows about the rich man being less likely to enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel fitting through the eye of a needle, and he will just shrug it off. He and all his ilk don’t believe in Christianity, they believe in money.

    • The 10 people who would accept his argument as reasonable are what I’m getting at: the argument is *natural* for some types of people, and I’m trying to figure out what kind. Certainly we on the coasts have our own escaped realities with different religion-like basic beliefs, and we have our own matrix glitches.

      I do think theocratic is the right term. Crockett explicitly makes the argument earlier in the interview that religious authority has primacy. And as an elected official holding that view, he’s a theocrat, even if a mistaken one (if ordinary citizens believe that, the label doesn’t apply since it only applies to political office holders). As I said, he doesn’t need to be a sincere or good Christian. He just need to argue for the primacy of religious authority over secular. I agree he probably just vaguely feels he believes in Christianity (not ‘some god or the other’ though… his earlier comments reveal he is not an abstract thinker; his sense of his own religiosity is definitely grounded in Christian history).

      • Hi Venkat, thanks, I appreciate the response. I am not sure I can characterize ‘what kind of people’ think like Crockett in this example, but I am pretty good at knowing them when I see them. Also to say ‘them’ is misleading, because we all have our ‘religion-like basic beliefs’ as you say. The beliefs on display here are just different enough from the coastal beliefs so as to be surprising.

        I am going to maintain my doubt about the theocracy part, even in the light of your lucid explanation. The reason is that the people you call theocrats are citing a god as their authority, but that god always seems to support things that benefit the ‘theocrats’ in the here and now, even though those things are directly opposed to the published prior opinions of said god. This to me does not describe a theocratic regime so much as a rule by force with god as a veneer of excuse. Or maybe that is how you define theocracy. I am not sure there has ever been a ruling regime that submitted its power to the wishes of its claimed deity, but I am willing to allow for the possibility.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “The reason is that the people you call theocrats are citing a god as their authority, but that god always seems to support things that benefit the ‘theocrats’ in the here and now, even though those things are directly opposed to the published prior opinions of said god.”

          Freedom of religion means over time people adopt the religious beliefs that tell them to do what they desire to do.

          ” This to me does not describe a theocratic regime so much as a rule by force with god as a veneer of excuse. Or maybe that is how you define theocracy. ”

          That describes all states. They use force with ideology providing an excuse to justify their rule; the Chinese were the most honest about this with the Mandate of Heaven being ‘power legitimately belongs to those strong enough to hold it’.

          “I am not sure there has ever been a ruling regime that submitted its power to the wishes of its claimed deity, but I am willing to allow for the possibility.”

          Well, the best examples we have are organizations that did things catastrophically harmful to themselves to show their devotion; the Shakers are an obvious example. It is hard to find state level examples since nations with that level of fanaticism tend to implode- think Khmer Rogue.

          • “Freedom of religion means over time people adopt the religious beliefs that tell them to do what they desire to do.”

            That’s a very cynical view. But I can’t disagree that this is how fundamentalists choose to interpret “freedom of religion”. I would try to argue that not all religious individuals are fundamentalists.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        “the argument is *natural* for some types of people, and I’m trying to figure out what kind.”

        It is natural for all people. His particular argument works for people that believe ‘label x’ means something is good.

        “Crockett explicitly makes the argument earlier in the interview that religious authority has primacy.”

        Gavin Newsom believed the same thing only with different labels. Drop ‘religion’ and you get ‘people believe their group values has primacy over the law’. It is how you organize in politics- you tell people you are powerful and proceed to demonstrate that power and people flock to your banner because they prefer a strong horse.

        • Liz McLellan says:

          False equivalency is the bane of American political discourse.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The bane of American political discourse is people who mouth platitudes without thought. In their case no response other then to call out their mindless is available because there is no substance to interact with.

  7. Liz McLellan says:

    “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
    —John Adams

    “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. … But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding….”
    Jefferson to Adams

    “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” Jefferson on religious freedom in Virginia and his intention in general…

    “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” on where power is derived from…

    “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” …period – end of sentence

    ….refer back to the Supremacy Clause

    “The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land. … Even state constitutions are subordinate to federal law.”

    The constitution was understood to be a document that would necessarily be tested by legislatures in the following years and over and over again the idea that this is a nation in which all other religions and non-religious believers are subservient to the 30,000 SECTS of Christianity which like to pretend they were not at war with each other until ten minutes ago….is on it’s face ridiculous.

    I’d like to sign as a descendant of the Rhode Island Colony but, us Catholics weren’t really considered fully human back then by the Baptists and Protestants who were duking it out to create the separation of church and state. Heck…we got our first President only 60 or so years ago and that shocked the shit out of people back then.

    Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

    • Jefferson was still a deist

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Thomas Jefferson didn’t write the constitution so it is unclear why you are citing him.

      “….refer back to the Supremacy Clause”

      Look up incorporation. The Constitution was not interpreted that was until the late 19th, early 20th century.

      • What does incorporation have to do with this, since the text of the Constitution is quite clear, and the Supremacy Clause was interpreted “that way” eventually, i.e. in the late 19th century? I thought the discussion was about people being unclear about the separation of church and state in 2017.

  8. Liz McLellan says:

    I’d like to ad being mis-educated all your life in a sectarian religion which distorts the actual truth and understanding of the law is an act hostile to the nation by your educators. It does not make it a “valid” harmless belief just because you were corralled before the age of reason and made a soldier in the army of a sectarian general….see also radicalized madrassahs and nunneries that recruit unwed women to wash the clothes of their betters for life.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Nah, it is more ‘state within a state’; my understanding is there are two history textbooks used in the US; the California version and the Texas version. No prizes for guessing the content or which states use with textbook.

      Yes, this is as stupid and dysfunctional as it sounds.

  9. It’s a Friday and I’m very tired, but when I read (before getting to the point of the blog post):

    “It features a religious conservative being visibly stunned speechless by the revelation that you do not need to swear on the Bible to assume an elected office in the United States.”

    I had to stop and reread that sentence—”what, obviously people have to swear on the Bible…I mean they call these things SWEARING IN CEREMONIES, and every single one that I’ve always seen, well it’s of course a Bible they are swearing on”.

    1.5-seconds worth of thought and I was at “oh, yeah, I guess they don’t have to really swear on anything and obviously it can be any religious book, or hey probably anything really.”

    In my thought stream, I conflated “swearing on the Bible” with “swearing in” with “taking a public oath of office”, so of course the concept that there is no requirement to “swear on the Bible” was initially one of shock.

    This is probably a similar glitch in the matrix, but I think it is simply a semantic one. My guess is this man was simply on-TV nervous, knowing he was talking to someone obviously antagonistic to his beliefs, a bit discombobulated, and made some sort of similar conflation that just got further confused by the combative nature of the exchange.

    Or, you could be right—but please don’t generalize his confused ignorance to all Christians. It is a historical fact and a deeply important one to conservative Christians that (Judeo-) Christian ideals lied at the heart of the founding principles of the U.S. So his line of argument was again probably confused and misplaced but not inaccurate or solely theocratic-matrix based.

  10. It started as a nice essay but it quickly turned into self-congratulation. Rao, something you should consider is that we all have what you call the theocratic mindset, just about different things. Whenever someone’s behavior looks nonsensical to you it means there’s something new to understand about human nature and if you’re earnest and reflective, you’ll find it in yourself also.

    As insightful as your essays are, I noticed a blindspot when you wrote about cosmopolitans vs. the hinterlands and declared (with palpable belief) that the future would belong to the former. That and technological determinism are part of your fabric of faith and I think that you might have trouble seeing discomfirmatory evidence in those areas. To someone who can, you look exactly like the politician on TV.

    I don’t say these things to pick on you. I say them to point out that we can each go down our confirmation bias hole and we all react the same way to disconfirmatory evidence. There’s no special class of experience that we can call religion or ‘theocracy’ that does not surface as general mechanism in the psyche across all domains.

    • We do all live in our own bubbles of escaped reality, but it would be incorrect to call all those bubbles theocratic. A theocratic bubble derives its blindspots from very specific sources (the idea of primacy of a religious text or historicist understanding of events) that make minds trapped within them more resistant to change and evolution.

      This is not the same as a bubble that might be sustained (for instance) flawed science, or too much misplaced compassion, or simple ignorance of facts. And all sorts of bubbles are not created equal. Some are much more capable of reacting to glitches in the matrix with learning rather than denial. Differences in ‘openness to experience’ is an actual thing and has consequences.

      I’ve lived in flyover country, and I’ve lived on the coasts. I’ve also spent half my life in a developing country (both small town and big city), and watched it evolve through a much more extreme jump of progress and corresponding extreme reactionary backlash. So it may be a viewpoint you find self-congratulatory and annoying, but it isn’t a blindness.

      My all-in bet on the open political culture of the coasts and tech determinism isn’t a matter of blindspots, but extrapolation from history. Both history I’ve personally lived through and history I’ve read about. It feels nice and egalitarian to go, “ha ha, we’re all equal in our blindness and stupidity and equally wrong” but it is simply not true. There are arguments on both sides, but to be blunt, I find one set of arguments both stronger and more supported by the data of history. To take a trivial example, by your logic, belief in biblical creation in 7 days 6000 years ago and belief in biological evolution, are both equally theocratic. No they’re not. One is vastly more theocratic than the other, and in a very consequential way that affects how the respective bubbles evolve/change (or don’t).

      You see reactionary waves after every period of rapid progress, and during those periods, it feels like forward and backward movements cancel out, but they don’t. If they did, we’d still be living in the conditions of 1600 or so.

      Under conditions of technological modernity, the choice isn’t between open progress-positive culture and closed reactionary culture. It’s between open progress-positive culture and collapse. A reactionary vision like MAGA is basically a false hope. History doesn’t have that kind of rewind button.

      So yeah, I’m going to trot out the tired phrase “false symmetry” and leave it at that. I may be personally annoying and self-congratulatory in my manner of writing/talking, but there is a real difference and asymmetry between how the Trump heartland and the rest process and respond to reality, and real differences in outcomes that result. There is a real difference in openness to experience. Sure we are all members of the same species and have similar psychological mechanisms driving us. We are all living in our escaped realities but they don’t all have similar effects. They are not equally resistant to disconfirmation.

      There’s a reason California and New York have driven history for a century while Alabama is most famous for trying to perpetuate the institutions of slavery. The fact that Californians can be as annoying as Alabamans doesn’t mean both are theocratic bubbles, or that choosing to believe in biblical creation over biological evolution is consequence-free.

      So no, we’re not all theocratic minds.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        I’m going to have to agree with Bao.

        “And all sorts of bubbles are not created equal. Some are much more capable of reacting to glitches in the matrix with learning rather than denial.”

        Lying and rewriting history are always more efficient and are the preferred option of whatever belief system is in power.

        “My all-in bet on the open political culture of the coasts and tech determinism isn’t a matter of blindspots, but extrapolation from history. ”

        For the former, look at demographics. Birth rates are below replacement (1.8 white conservative, 1.4 white liberal, 1.9 3rd generation Hispanic, 2 African American) and they get worse the more ‘open political culture’ you get.

        “To take a trivial example, by your logic, belief in biblical creation in 7 days 6000 years ago and belief in biological evolution, are both equally theocratic. No they’re not. ”

        No, the comparison would be things that are FALSE in each ideology. You named it in your enemy, but choose something true for your ideology. Are you unaware of any false beliefs in your ideology?

        “There’s a reason California and New York have driven history for a century while Alabama is most famous for trying to perpetuate the institutions of slavery. ”

        Yeah, Alabama has 5 million people while the other 2 states have about 60 million. It is a bit like comparing Norway to France. Washington state is more ‘open to experience’, but I can’t think of anything important or memorable from there off the top of my head.

        • You’ve answered your own main question in 2 separate places:

          “For the former, look at demographics. Birth rates are below replacement (1.8 white conservative, 1.4 white liberal, 1.9 3rd generation Hispanic, 2 African American) and they get worse the more ‘open political culture’ you get.”

          “Yeah, Alabama has 5 million people while the other 2 states have about 60 million. It is a bit like comparing Norway to France.”

          Open culture does not reproduce through genetics. It reproduces through memetics and human mobility. To put it bluntly, smart people born in Alabama are likely to seek out and be exposed to a broader set of ideas than their peers and simply leave and opt-in to more open epistemic cultures, which thereby acquire the human capital required to self-perpetuate. So birth rates are largely irrelevant. If open culture depended on liberals reproducing to perpetuate itself, we’d be dead in the water.

          Simple example: Alan Turing was a persecuted gay man, yet the dominance of his ideas and contributions in modern culture, including the medium we’re using here to debate, are due to him. Despite the fact that he hasn’t left a Genghis Khan size imprint in the human genome.

          More germane to the American conversation: people like Robert Noyce leaving places like rural Iowa to work in places like Silicon Valley. Migration from closed to open cultures is the single greatest demographic trend in modernity. It swamps birth-rate differentials. The only way to keep curious people from leaving is to literally impose a Taliban-scale wall against the outside world, both physical and informational.

          Your comparison of textbooks is revealing btw. It is entirely irrelevant whether Texas or California has more subversion of textbooks or whether either is worse than Saudi Arabia on that front. What matters is: can curious people find an encouraging atmosphere to go hunting for other information anyway?. I’ve heard enough horror stories about how close-minded small towns treat bookish nerds who want to read more and expand their headspaces. I periodically get an email from some young kid who talks of being stifled with nobody to talk to or learn from outside regressive schooling systems. Just adults and peers all creating an atmosphere of contempt for learning all around them. Such kids invariably end up moving to an more open culture the first chance they get.

          As for “No, the comparison would be things that are FALSE in each ideology. You named it in your enemy, but choose something true for your ideology. Are you unaware of any false beliefs in your ideology?”

          No, you compare bubbles on both confirmatory and disconfirmatory elements of the belief system, because both affect how much you can progress. You need belief in biological evolution to move on to work in genetics and modern medicine. You need to uncover and drop falsehoods. The balance of those two processes determines whether you thrive or die.

          Sure, we can compare falsehoods, but the comparisons don’t mean what you might think. For example, at a technical level, I believe support for net neutrality is based on factual falsehoods among liberals. I think there’s potential factual weaknesses in the case for climate change. I think ambiguity in biological gender phenomenology has been overstated by far leftists.

          But it isn’t the fact of the existence of potential falsehoods on both sides that matters. What matters is how each side deals with its falsehoods. How it responds to glitches in the matrix. There’s a basic difference in seeking resolution of glitches in a fixed old text or a set of unchanging traditions versus seeking it in more experiments, better data, and arguments conducted without the hammer of holiness hovering.

          Yes, there are climate fundamentalists. Yes, untrained extremist liberals treat climate scientists with something of the reverence bible thumpers accord to priests. The difference is that climate science has a dialectical capacity for absorbing new data and arguments based on them. However imperfect and slow those processes may be, the dialectic is fundamentally not closed off to new information.

          One clear sign of the difference is that open culture rarely has black-and-white falsehoods. Most ideas are in the gray zone of perpetual beta, with true and false parts, strong and weak claims. That’s the sign of an evolving idea. Only static ideas can be absolutely true or false in a material sense.

          By contrast, the falsehoods of closed culture fundamentally have nowhere to go. There’s only so much you can mine from additional sources or new data to support the biblical story of creation. It’s not just wrong, it’s a cul-de-sac: it cannot get any righter.

          Washington state: are you kidding me? Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, the base for the Alaskan Gold Rush. And it’s a tiny state by the way. Only about 7 million, barely twice Alabama. Yet it punches in the CA/NY weight class technologically/economically. And it has the fastest growing airport for international flights to Asia.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Open culture does not reproduce through genetics. It reproduces through memetics and human mobility. ”

            I try not to assume my opponents intended goal is to bring about the extinction of the human species. You do realize that is what ‘my group has a TFR below replacement and I want everyone to join’ means, right?

            “To put it bluntly, smart people born in Alabama are likely to seek out and be exposed to a broader set of ideas than their peers and simply leave and opt-in to more open epistemic cultures, which thereby acquire the human capital required to self-perpetuate. ”

            Now apply this model to the USSR. People who leave small towns adopt Marxism to get ahead in the party- same behavior and the same nonsense.

            “No, you compare bubbles on both confirmatory and disconfirmatory elements of the belief system, because both affect how much you can progress. ”

            You are assuming members of a belief system hold the beliefs in question. They don’t- most people simply parrot the phrases without thought.

            “The difference is that climate science has a dialectical capacity for absorbing new data and arguments based on them.”

            So does Marxism. It doesn’t mean it will output accurate results, it just means it will output results that tell people what to say.

            “For example, at a technical level,”

            A Young Earth Creationism who denies YEC is doing something considered morally wrong by other YECs. Once again, none of the things you mention come remotely close.

            “One clear sign of the difference is that open culture rarely has black-and-white falsehoods.”

            Yes, it means it is full of bullshit artists who make claims that aren’t falsifiable.

            ” Most ideas are in the gray zone of perpetual beta, with true and false parts, strong and weak claims. That’s the sign of an evolving idea.”

            That is a sign of a constantly changing party line where the in group knows the current accepted answer and everyone else has to read tea leaves in order to figure out what the accepted beliefs are.

            “By contrast, the falsehoods of closed culture fundamentally have nowhere to go. There’s only so much you can mine from additional sources or new data to support the biblical story of creation.”

            The falsehoods are flags. The stuff you are supposed to mine and improve on are the stories and history in the bible. You can do archeology to look up the background and understand it better or you can study human behavior to try to grasp the reason for the lessons and what they are trying to impart.

            “Washington state: are you kidding me? Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, the base for the Alaskan Gold Rush. ”

            And the countries second largest book chain is headquartered in Alabama. If your claim is high tech is dominated by a few small cities, no kidding. That is what happens when you have massive fixed costs.

        • “Birth rates are below replacement (1.8 white conservative, 1.4 white liberal, 1.9 3rd generation Hispanic, 2 African American) and they get worse the more ‘open political culture’ you get.”

          This makes little sense, provided that these numbers aren’t bullshit. People aren’t born with political opinions. Political groups don’t rely on birth rates to sustain themselves.

          “So does Marxism. It doesn’t mean it will output accurate results, it just means it will output results that tell people what to say.”

          Marxism (and ideology in general) doesn’t “input” or “output” results. Science does. Ideology is not science, inept attempts at drawing an equivalency between the two notwithstanding.

          “You can do archeology to look up the background and understand it better or you can study human behavior to try to grasp the reason for the lessons and what they are trying to impart.”

          Which is exactly what “closed culture” is trying to avoid, since fantastic belief cannot survive contact with facts.

          “And the countries second largest book chain is headquartered in Alabama.”

          Terrific comeback. Because retail and high tech have the same kinds of fixed costs.

          “Yes, it means it is full of bullshit artists who make claims that aren’t falsifiable.”

          That’s a convenient out whenever you’re unable to argue a point. I’ll save that for future reference.

      • Aptenodytes says:

        I particularly appreciate this piece on the bunnytrail of open/closed worldviews because I grew up in a fundamentalist church for most of my childhood. I became deeply aware that what the teachers taught wasn’t just laughably wrong (e.g Voltaire’s deathbed myth) but part of a womb-like bubble. I sought an ideological exit through books, Wikipedia, and my attempts at fitting into my largely secular school. As I was greypilled by the steady stream of info about others’ worldviews, I began to develop from a fundie hedgehog to a secular hedgehog to a fox.

        As an aside, I wouldn’t hesitate to bestow part of the process of enlightenment on Ribbonfarm, because the pessimism of works like the Gervais Principle and Be Slightly Evil exposed me to a potential(ly invalid) vision of the world every bit as grand as what I had imagined religion to be, but “better” in that its pessimism fit reality _more_ than the saccharine diet of self-help books and religion I had been fed in my childhood.

      • You might profitably study the history of the French Revolution, or Maoism, or North Africa. There have been many confrontations between the ignorant masses and the open-minded elites; they have rarely ended well for the elites.

  11. [The first two lines of what ensues are a direct reply to this post. The rest is an excerpt from Singer’s collected works I like to think will motivate anybody who doesn’t know them to… know them.]

    Let’s assume that, God forbid, there is no God,” he had answered me. “So what? Then His non-being itself is divine. Only God, the Cause of all Causes could have the power not to exist.”

    “(…) The smaller the greater, the uglier the prettier. Their rule is: The closer one is to dust, the nearer one is to God.”
    [dialogo tra diavoletto tentatore e intelligentissimo rabbi]
    “He [God] is too exalted to notice these puny creatures who delude themselves thinking that they are the crown of Creation”
    ”does that mean God did not give the Torah to Moses at Sinai?” Zeidel asked.
    ”What? God open His heart to a man born of a woman?”
    ”And Jesus was not His son?”
    ”Jesus was a bastard from Nazareth.”
    ”Is there no reward or punishment?”
    ”No.”
    ”Then what is there?” Zeidel asked me, fearful and confused.
    ”There is something that exists, but it has no existence,” I answered in the manner of philosophers.
    ”Is there no hope then ever to know the truth?” Zeidel asked in despair.
    “The world is not knowable and there is no truth,” I replied, turning his question around. “Just as you can’t learn the tast of salt with your nose, the smell of balsam with your ear, or the sound of a violin with your tongue, it’s impossible for you to grasp the world with your reason.”
    ”With what can you grasp it?”
    ”With your passions — some small part of it. But you, Reb Zeidel, have only one passion: pride. If you destroy that too, you’ll be hollow, a void.”
    ”What should I do?” Zeidel asked, baffled.

    He no longer had any earthly desire, but one yearning still plagued him: to know the truth. Was there a Creator or was the world nothing but atoms and their combinations? Did the soul exist or was all thought mere reverberations of the brain? Was there a final accounting with reward and punishment? Was there a Substance or was the whole of existence nothing but imagination? The sun burned down on him, the rains soaked him, pigeons soiled him with their droppings, but he was impervious to everything. Now that he had lsot his only passion, pride, nothing material mattered to him. Sometimes he asked himself: Is it possible that I am Zeidel the prodigy? Was my father Reb Sander, the leader of the community? Did I really have a wife once? Are there still some who knew me? It seemed to Zeidel that none of these things could be true. Such events had never happened, and if they had not, reality itself was one great illusion. (…) Soon he tired from too much thought. Only one question remained to perplex him: Are the Epicureans right? Am I really dying without any revelation? Am I about to be extinguished forever?
    Suddenly I, the Tempter, materialized. Although blind, he saw me. “Zeidel,” I said, “prepare yourself. The last hour has come.”
    ”Is it you, Satan, Angel of Death?” Zeidel exlaimed joyously. (…)
    ”Where are you taking me?” he asked.
    ”Straight to Gehenna.”
    ”If there is a Gehenna, there is also a God,” Zeidel said, his lips trembling [di felicità!]
    ”This proves nothing,” I retorted.
    ”Yes, it does,” he said. “If Hell exists, everything exists. If you are real, He is real. Now take me to where I belong, I am ready.”

  12. Folks: The following is from a, ordinary (often times simple) person. The kind peopling our planet. “Rif-Raff”… as I call us. At the very least it will be short read in amusement, at worst it will be a scathing indictment of the masters of fallacies. Both are intended.
    See, you all with the big, obscure, erudite words and excruciatingly crafted sentences resulting from contemplation (navel or otherwise) expended over hours – days (lifetimes even) of consideration, requiring lots of energy to arrive at philosophically festooned answers intended to be universally applied to compliant Rif-Raff and which such “answers” and “truth(s), in subsequent years, becoming reasoning to enslave some, and kill others in wars all under your exquisitely valid justifications.

    DON’T get me wrong, us ordinary Rif-Raff absolutely need your thoughts and answers and tests for actions’ validities (past and/or intended.)
    DO get me right. We need your contemplations to guide us for escaping our bodies’ imprisoning psycho-physical processes. We (you included) live at the mercy of hormones, enzymes, nerve endings, pheromones and a panoply of autonomic (sorry for the big, obscure words) bodily reactions, most made unconsciously and all made at 1000 miles per second (mps).

    We Rif-Raff deal with life coming at us at light speed. The choices we make and the actions we take are NOT based on the human ability to think, (which is shunted aside and subordinated). Rather our consequences are based on easier and time-efficient body “reactions” which “feel” right sans any of that excruciatingly crafted reason-based contemplation. After the fact, is when some question, “Why did I do/say that?”

    Even easier, Rif-Raff reactions rely on what was said by some priest, from some time ago, in a different world than the one in which we live. – – No thoughts necessary, follow the truth(s) here – – AND we do follow those truths because that path uses far, far less resources than thinking for one’s self. Take my word for it, even this mini tome has taken me 4 days to massage its message to a semblance of utility and only partly due to my incompetence with a key board.

    “Priests” and “Theocrats” help us withstand that 1000 mph life from shredding our brains.”

    Besides life at the speed of light, another reason why Riff-Raff are so easily deluded is misunderstanding.

    Look at the misunderstood assumptions in commenter’s shreds. So often, the answer is dictated by the limitations built in the question.
    Rao isn’t seeking a discourse about the specifics of whether the US was, was not, should be, is not, has or needs documents establishing the Christian basic of the Nation or providing validation for the exclusion of one sect or another, Blond over Brown haired people or short vs tall people. Those are tactical “proofs”, temporary details serving only to confuse the issue with facts.

    Rao’s paraphrased post is about:
    “… trying to figure out what kind of people think so as to arrive at believing fallacies”
    But the pseudo “Intellectucrats” are ready to respond just like every other Rif-Raff.

    Take the assumption phrase “people think” out of Rao’s quest. – leaves us with – –
    I’m trying to figure out what kind of people arrive at believing in fallacies

    Now we have a possibility of a satisfying, though none-the-less disagreeable answer.

    People who believe in fallacies are:
    3. Those spending huge time/attention searching for answers, and subsequently must prove (to themselves) their time was NOT wasted.

    4. Those without ability-interest to deal with 1000mps life rely on Priests of the Church of the Answers for what to think.

    Here are 2 quotes to consider.
    5. Before you agree to take anti-depression pills, make sure you are not in fact, surrounded by assholes.
    6. The biggest danger to lemmings are their leader’s fast approaching the cliff.

    7. If by now I haven’t made myself clear.
    People believe in fallacies because they:
    7a. don’t think
    7b. are assholes
    7c. There is no amount of specific proofs in existing documents, didactics of reason (sorry), or wisdom of long-past, currently irrelevant sages of the ages to help increase accomplishment and enlightenment to drive humans to default to reason as the antidote to 1000 mps life.

    Finally (I apologize for this length – (even Rif-Raff’s occasionally have a need to show off their stupidity)
    All the “crats” (what ever their stripes) must not stop at answers. They must include a roadmap for arriving at Nirvana implicated by the convoluted (like these) answers they’ve concocted. I have started a plan, but the comments section says it’s too long just now.