I've just had a very interesting (and ultimately strange) hour or so. I stumbled across one of your essays (on Christian Reconstructionists and Dominionists and MidTribulationists and what-all), and followed it back to your web site to read some more essays. My compliments to you on your writing style, and on your clarity of thought. We happen to be about the same age, but I grew up in Wisconsin, mostly Norwegian-German, but with, indeed, a small dose of Scots Irish, so our windows on reality do have different transmission characteristics. I am, as it happens, pretty much a suburban, lower middle class liberal intellectual puke, but I did spend a bit under four years in the USAF, where -- to my amazement -- I discovered that there were other people in America. So, while I do not have a serious familial acquaintance with the Christian jihad, I am uncomfortably aware that it exists, and is probably still growing.
To me, it sometimes seems like the irresistible allure of religious certainty is eventually going to disprove evolution by reversing it. We appear to have a severe predisposition to belief in religious absolutes, even as many argue that we have a hardwired prediliction towards language. I suppose (I am not a evolutionary biologist) that the existence of the capacity for faith was selectively useful in our prehistory, when an objective assessment of our chances of surviving predators, disease, famine, and disaster would have been sort of a downer. That is, "Who cares how bad it looks, fuck anyhow" probably led to more offspring. This predisposition to faith results in a situation in which somewhere between 40 to 60% of the population of the most scientifically and technologically advanced nation ever to exist firmly believe things which are utterly incorrect according to the science and technology that they use in their everyday affairs. And, with only a few regional exceptions, much the same situation obtains across all the nations of the world (allowing only for differences in the details of the faith, and the precise level of technology).
There is a term I am trying to think of a name for. "Intellectual elite" would be easy, as would be "thinking class", but both seem a little restrictive and more than a little condescending. Maybe "reality-based community". What I'm trying to describe is the part of human society that performs science; practices mathematics and logic; philosophizes; creates music, art, and literature; and generally spends time thinking about the human condition. This part of humanity, whatever you call it, has existed since the earliest civilizations -- in fact, what we know about earlier civilizations is almost entirely due to the things left behind by this part of the species.
It appears that we have made giant strides in our understanding of the universe and ourselves. But this impression of progress arises at least in part because it is all contained within the "reality-based" segment. It's just us, talking to each other. Fifty percent or so of all humans just don't believe major parts of our hard-won knowledge, although many of them will use the practical results. The marginally good news is that I do think the percentage of "faith-based" folks has been declining, gradually, over the centuries. The bad news is, a lot of the practical results of progress involve pretty destructive forces that are easily invoked.
The other bad news, of course, is that your friend Virgil is correct ("Contemplations from the Cheap Beer Zone"). It's over for a significant chunk of mankind, and there is fuck all we can do about it. I don't even think you can take this as a good example of "We need to think about the long-term consequences of our actions". I think it just means that on big matters, global matters, we have no idea what the hell we're doing (by we here I mean "the human race").
But I digress. The ultimately strange part of the hour was when, after reading several of your earlier essays (based mostly on the titles), I read your most recent post and discovered that you have bailed out to Belize. I'll be damned. This will probably eventually screw up your incisive commentary on American (dare I say redneck?) culture, but I surely wish you the best.
Well Bob, we are certainly on the same page -- with a few slight variations on the theme -- about nearly everything. When I came here to Belize, one of the many questions in my mind was: "Do I have to live in pain to authentically communicate with Americans about our condition?"
Perhaps, perhaps not.
But endlessly describing the condition becomes boring, then maddening. I am finding a more global view now that, while Americans may not find it so interesting because it is not about Americans, I am finding positively liberating. There is one helluva lot bigger show going on in this world than just what Americans think about their government. Mankind.
In the end, I just write about what I see in this world. One guy's viewpoint. I really don't know how to do anything else. If it is read, fine. If not, well, I've been there before and will be again.
In art and labor,