Editor’s Note: Normally, one would expect philosophies that show themselves to be consistent wrong to be abandoned; however, this doesn’t seem to apply religious or political cults, where reality doesn’t seem to have much of an effect.
define the mental stress induced by trying to balance two contradictory
thoughts at the same time as “cognitive dissonance.” It’s the sort
of conflict that’s likely to afflict pro-choice Catholics or gay
Muslims. As a pro-death-penalty/anti-affirmative-action liberal, I know
how it feels.
high school, one of my classmates became a Jehovah’s Witness. He’d
planned to go to college but decided against it, based on his
denomination’s study of selected Bible passages, which convinced them
the Second Coming would take place in 1975. This wasn’t something they
“believed”; it was something they “knew.” Hence, starting college
in 1969 would have been a waste of time and money.
enduring relentless and nonsensical preaching on fictional history (e.g.,
Noah’s Flood), pseudoscience (young-earth creationism) and mythological
cosmology (Genesis), I let him know that the first voice he’d be hearing
on January 1, 1976 would be mine, and I’d be asking, “What happened to
the Apocalypse?” By New Year’s Eve 1975, we’d lost touch; however,
around 12:01 a.m., I managed to drunkenly dial his number to convey my
relief at surviving the End Times. But, sadly, no one answered, leaving me
to wonder how he’d handled the conflict between what he “knew” to be
The Truth and reality.
course, there’s nothing new under the sun. In 1831, Baptist lay minister
William Miller proclaimed his conviction, based largely on his study of
the Book of Daniel, that Jesus was returning sometime in 1843 or 1844. In
a short time, Millerism would become a national movement. Adherents gave
away their worldly goods and gathered outdoors to await the Second Advent.
When a series of prophesied dates passed uneventfully, the Millerites
suffered what came to be known as the “Great Disappointment.”
2,000 years of unfulfilled prophecies, and the Gospels’ doctrine that
that day or hour no one knows — neither the angels in heaven, nor the
Son” (Mark 13:32), American evangelicals have been unable to
resist predicting the End of Days. From pastor F. Kenton Beshore, who
forecast the Apocalypse to be 1988, then 2018, then 2028, to evangelist
Harold Camping, who’s wrongly predicted Armageddon some 12 different
times, fundamentalists seem to lack any ability to practice skepticism.
is a key trait of the Christian conservative bloc of the Trump base.
Evidently, his perfunctory efforts to ban abortion and win “the war on
Christmas” enable them to accept the former president as the “Chosen
One” — a “blessed” figure,
anointed by God to rule. They have no trouble ignoring his penchant for
adultery with Russian prostitutes and forgiving him for having
unsafe sex with a porn star while his third wife was delivering his fifth
child. No problem with cognitive dissonance there.
Trump cultists have short memories about promises made and unkept. The Wall is nowhere near finished, no Mexicans paid for any of it and the balanced budget promised to the Tea Party morphed into tax cuts for the rich, financed by the largest deficits in human history. His pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare (with a “great” plan) was never seriously attempted. Tax returns Trump vowed to release are still state secrets (the IRS is performing that audit with an abacus and Roman numerals), and even the most credulous can count up the number of pardons required by his undrained swamp.
Some radicalized QAnon followers have become disillusioned that the 30,000 reputed indictments of Deep State “liberals” were never unsealed, martial law wasn’t declared and military tribunals haven’t indicted the Clinton/Obama pedophilia/cannibalism ring. Many had faith that everyone from Oprah to Tom Hanks would be arrested, and they’ve also ranted about how Biden wouldn’t be inaugurated, because he was headed for prison.
four years of racism, mendacity and corruption — and more than a
quarter-million COVID deaths — didn’t stop 74 million people from
voting for Trump’s re-election. From the American Taliban to QAnon,
far too many of us have
developed an immunity to our consciences, our democratic tendencies and
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