Sunday, October 03, 2004

Different Kinds of Faith

I was in a discussion group this morning, discussing a book I don't particularly like, The Culture of Disbelief, by Stephen Carter. Professor Carter, an African American, tells a story about how when he was in school, he was taught the slaves were generally a happy lot, and what they really wanted out of life was to have a good master. In my typically tasteless sense of humor, I twisted that cretinous statement into a joke: "that's what we're all looking for!"

There's a lot of talk in the book about the separation of church and state. Mr. Carter believes the Founding Fathers were more interested in protecting the church from the state, than vice versa. I found that an unacceptable enough premise to take the book too seriously. This led to talking about Creationism, and how widely held these anti-scientific views of the universe actually are. According to a 2001 Gallup Poll study:
Although most scientists subscribe to the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the origin of human beings, a recent Gallup poll shows that the American public is much more divided in its own beliefs. Americans choose "creationism" over "evolution" when asked which of these two terms best describes human origins, but slightly larger numbers of Americans choose one of two evolutionist explanations than choose a strict creationist explanation when given a choice between three specific views. At the same time, only about a third of the public say that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is well supported by evidence.

I was pretty aghast at the idea that so many people would think creationism is on a par with the theory of Natural Selection, and thought it sounded familiar to polls that show almost a majority of Americans believe that there's a connection between pre-9/11 Iraq and Al Qaeda:

The bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks said it had found no evidence of a "collaborative relationship" between Hussein and the terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden. Its staff has said it had found "no credible evidence" that Iraq had cooperated with Al Qaeda in targeting the United States.
Surveys of Americans consistently have found large numbers who say Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, despite repeated declarations by a variety of investigators to the contrary. As recently as June, a Gallup Poll indicated that 44 percent of those surveyed said Hussein was personally tied to the terrorist strikes; 51 percent said he was not. [Boston Globe]

I'm not coming to any new discovery of the human psyche here, In 1941, Erich Fromm published his famous work Escape from Freedom, and long before that, Fyodor Dostoevsky dealt with these themes in a chapter of the Brothers Karamozov that is so famous, it has been repackaged by itself, The Tale of the Grand Inquisitor.

Faith is a difficult topic. In the context of how it can provide a positive guiding force and direction to a people, it's a great thing. But in certain situations, like the faith in creationism, the belief that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, and that George W. Bush is a great leader, it falls just a tad short for me.

Perhaps we are all just looking for a good master.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You've touched upon a very important point here, Geoff: Most of us aren't on quests for truth; we're just on quests to feel as if we're backing the right horse. I find the most applicable mantra to come from the grieving woman in "Fahrenheit 9/11" whose son was killed in Iraq: "You think you know! But you don't know!"

I'd like to see that quote on our currency.

-- Gazoo