Anti-intellectualism is absolutely a real thing. I was on the phone a couple weeks ago with a woman I work with, a conversation that turned out to be comically one-sided. I spent more time during the 15 minute “talk” looking for an out to hang up than I did actually listening.
When she asked me what I was doing, I told her I was watching videos about politics on YouTube, which both (a) sounds tedious and boring and (b) doesn’t invite much dialogue thereafter. (Assuming, as I did, that she couldn’t possibly be capable of devoting any serious time to such issues.) She responded by telling me she has too much to worry about already than to focus on any of that stuff. So that was good. Mission accomplished, so to speak.
I broke it down, to her, to the most basic philosophical question: Would you rather know the truth and potentially challenge everything you believe in, or be ignorant and happy? Ignorance is bliss… that sort of thing.
“Life is already hard enough… I like my ignorance,” she replied, laughing.
I highly doubt the meme that’s been sold to the millennial and slightly pre-millennial demographic, that life is a bitch, or that it’s hard enough as is, et. al. Everyone who was born in America after 1985 has lived pretty much their entire life with an intimate understanding of the Internet, game systems, and cell phones. These are all products of a country that has won: Simply by breathing we have acquired the knowledge of how to operate all of these technologies that we use every day of existence.
So it seems — to me — that the ultimate defeatist mindset is to say, look, my life is so special and so difficult, and because it’s so hard I’m going to cling to a naïve outlook in spite of the knowledge and information being right there for me to use.
That is not something to celebrate or be proud of. This is a symptom of having given up. Once a person is willing to capitulate to fantasy, they are capable of believing in literally anything.
Amazingly, as of the 2014 Gallup Poll, 42% of Americans still believe in the Creationist origin of humanity. This is to say that more than four out of every ten people — in the global superpower that is the United States — believe that god created humans less than 10,000 years ago. The majority of the country believes god had a hand in the evolutionary process.
Again, in spite of the smartest ideas in the history of man, such as the age of the universe, or that on the cosmic calendar — where each month represents about a billion years — Homo sapiens didn’t arrive until December 31st at roughly 10:30 PM.
It really is a remarkable claim that our first version of the truth, something man came up with as recently as a couple thousand years ago in an illiterate part of the Middle East, is the correct one. Christopher Hitchens said god did not make man, but precisely the contrary. Man made god. That’s why there are so many gods and always have been and always will be.
Fortunately, people who identify as “religiously unaffiliated” is rising in the States. The carnage of the first World War was a catalyst for much of Europe to take the lead on Atheism, but the United States are clearly, if not slowly, moving in the same direction. And that gives me some hope for the future. In a few hundred years, there is every reason to expect that the heavy majority will look at people who still believe in God in the same way present-day evangelicals look at those who still believe in Zeus and Thor.
Barring a future resurrection… a temporary suspension of the laws of physics and nature… the world’s current religious majority will one day be those who are looked at as batshit crazy people. It’s difficult to imagine that world in 2016, or if there will even be an earth to live on due to climate change or nuclear war, but it’s another sign of just how young and un-evolved humans still are.
We’ll get there. It’s just going to take time.