You Know This, Man


So just a few days now and no more George W. Bush, and hopefully things will be smooth enough for a while that 1585 can stop writing about politicians by name and get back to our primary agenda of reducing complex social phenomena to Star Wars analogies and trying to persuade chicks to wear those tights that have spider-webs on them even when it isn’t Hallowe’en.

But first, a brief (by our standards) word about how Bush is going out.  I’m sure a lot of you saw this clip from a few weeks back, where Bush admitted — in a disturbingly cavalier fashion, no less — that the Bible is not literally true.

And some of you may have been wondering whether this makes us — or atheists in general — like him any better.  I can’t speak for all atheists, but for my part the answer is no.  It doesn’t make me like him any better and, in fact, it makes me hate him significantly more.

Why’s that, you ask?  Didn’t I already hate him as much as I possibly could?  Well, no, actually.  Because there’s only so much you can hate someone who you just think is retarded.  Someone who’s pretending to be retarded in order to take advantage of people who are actually retarded, however, is another matter.

 cartman     knoxville     bush
Who thought of it first?

So, Bush doesn’t believe after all that God directly intervenes in human affairs?  Okay, well, that makes him slightly smarter than I thought he was.  Of course, it also means that when he said he believed God would protect American soldiers in Iraq, he was just lying, and knew there would be heavy casualties, and didn’t care.  So, congratulations on the 10 extra IQ points, and uncongratulations on being an even bigger evil bastard. 

And why is Bush talking like people have made all these baseless assumptions about him out of nowhere, and it was all just a big misunderstanding?  Well if you’re religious, therefore you must think that you were picked out of all the people on the face of the Earth to become president.”  No, actually.  No, people didn’t assume you believed that because you’re religious.  People assumed you believed that because you said you did, over and over.

Does God talk to you?”  No, I quit drinkin’!”  Ha, ha!!  It’s funny that people would actually think that you think that God actually talks to you!  Why the heck would people think you think that?  Oh, right, you said you did.  Constantly.  In the most unambiguous, self-important manner imaginable.  For several years.  In front of the whole world.

And did I hear the word “proof” in there at the end when evolution came up?  So the jury is back, then?  Funny, I don’t remember Bush ever leaning smugly over a podium and announcing that the jury had ceased deliberations and found in favor of evolution.  All I remember is him leaning smugly over a podium and announcing that it was still out.

I also remember Steve Bitterman, the Iowa professor who was fired in 2007 for saying Genesis isn’t literally true; Paul Mirecki, the Kansas professor who was stalked, jumped and beaten in 2005 for saying Genesis isn’t literally true; and Chris Comer, the Texas state science curriculum director who was fired — at the behest of Lizzette Reynolds, an adviser to Bush in his Texas Governor days and later a Dept. of Education appointee — in 2007 for forwarding an e-mail about a lecture by someone who said that Genesis isn’t literally true.  And I remember thinking it would be nice if the president knew that Genesis isn’t literally true, so he could tell all the people who were doing stuff like this in his name to stop.

Turns out he did know, and he just didn’t feel like telling them to stop.

The three incidents I just related, you may have noticed, all took place during Bush’s second term, when he didn’t need to worry about reelection anymore.  Not that this would have made a good excuse, but in these cases it doesn’t even make a bad one.  So Bush’s eleventh-hour revelation that he knows perfectly well Creation is a load can’t simply be explained away by lameduckness.  What does explain it is that, at this point, he has fucked everything up so bad that all he can do is come crawling to the smart people who write the history books on his knees and hope that we let him pass through to history as only the second- or third-worst president ever instead of the worst.

There’s nothing more he can do, so now he’s just jockeying for historical position.  Jockeying for historical position versus Buchanan and Hoover, yes, but jockeying all the same.  He’s hoping that someday, someone will compose a sentence along the lines of “To his credit, in the closing weeks of his presidency he attempted to ease the nation’s religious divisions by admitting that the Bible is not literally true…”  And in case that someone is reading this right now, I must urge you:  do not ever compose that sentence.

Why should you?  Bush isn’t attempting to ease jackshit.  He has nothing more to gain by kissing the asses of retards, so after eight years of shitting on smart people he is suddenly kissing our asses instead, hoping at least to effect a split decision in the Worst President Ever panel.  If he thought he could help himself by saying that the world was created seventeen minutes ago by a tap-dancing giraffe, then he would have said that instead.  How do I know?  Because, apparently, that’s what he has been doing the whole fucking time.  Up ’til now, we were under the impression that he actually swallowed his own snake oil.  Now we know better.  You might as well say, “To his credit, he picked up five bucks that he saw lying on the ground.”

And that’s how he’s choosing to go out.  After not only presiding over, but to a great extent causing, the most divisive period in American history since the Civil War, Bush is choosing to go out as neither uniter nor divider, neither slick neocon nor aw-shucks paleocon, neither bold Bring-It-On Guy nor cutesy Need-Some-Wood Guy.

He is choosing to go out as Chris Tucker at the end of Friday:

But now that we know the truth, the truth raises two questions.  One, if even Bush isn’t actually dumb enough to believe in the literal truth of the Bible, then sweet jumping fuck, how stupid does someone have to be to believe it?  And two, exactly what percentage of Religious Conservatives are secretly bullshitting about this stuff?

In a poll about Bush’s revelation on Sean Hannity’s website, when given the options of  a) “I agree with President Bush:  I believe in the Bible, but Genesis’s Creation is probably not literal,”  b) “I disagree with President Bush: I believe in the Bible and in a literal Genesis Creation,” and  c) “I totally disagree with President Bush: the Bible is just a total lie,” 47% of respondents said the first thing, 38% the second, and 15% the third.

Okay, in a poll of the general population, these numbers might not be that surprising.  But this was hardly a poll of the general population.  Or even a poll of Republicans.  This was a poll of people who are so Republican that they are still hanging out on Sean Hannity’s website as of December 2008.  That is a degree of brand loyalty on a par with the kid who sneaks out of his house in the middle of the night and rides his bike across the state line because he heard about a store that still carries Boo Berry cereal.  An even greater degree, actually, because at least Boo Berry was good.

And for that demographic, the numbers don’t add up.  First of all, 15% of the people who hang out on Sean Hannity’s website are atheists?  Huh?  Well, I guess that option as phrased doesn’t actually specify not believing in God — it just says the Bible is a “total lie.”  I would assume that the folks who picked that option are that kind of Conservative who’s a Libertarian conspiracy theorist and hence thinks everything is a “total lie,” only the last time I saw those people they were chasing a self-crapping Sean Hannity through the streets of New Hampshire, so I doubt that a year later they’re frequenting his chat room.

Ronpaul Stomper

It’s a good thing that tiny blonde woman was there to protect him.

Anyway, if not even 40% of people who fuck around on Hannity’s discussion boards are Creationists, what’s up with all those stats that claim over 50% of the general population are?  Is this one of those situations where a group says one thing when it’s just them but another thing publicly, like how whenever there’s a Republican around the rest of us pretend to think that rap music is really meaningful?

But that’s just a peripheral thing on our parts.  Bible shit is the Conservatives’ main thing.  At this point, it’s basically their only thing.  Seriously, without wacky religious stuff, what have they even got anymore — believing that doctors’ malpractice insurance premiums are too high?

So how many other Conservatives secretly know perfectly well that religion is a load of crap?  When, say, James Dobson’s machine is finally in pieces, is he going to turn around and go “Yeah, well, I actually knew all along that there was nothing wrong with being gay.  Sorry the stuff I said directly led to you being beaten with a pipe, but hey, Dobson gots to get paid, son.”

Believing something doesn’t mean that you enjoy being associated with the idea, or think the idea is good for society, or get off on how the idea pisses off people you don’t like.  It means you actually think it’s true.  And not true “for you,” but true in the sense that when someone goes “Okay, we just built a machine that knows the right answer to every conceivable question, and we’re about to ask it whether Noah’s Ark literally happened, only you have to guess what it’s going to say, and if you’re wrong it’s going to shoot you in the face, so once and for all, did some guy literally build a giant boat and put two of every animal on it?” you actually say yes. 

Over half the people in the U.S. claim they would say “yes” in that situation.

And the more I think about it, there is no fucking way that the vast majority of them are not lying.

Now, shouldn’t that make me feel better, you ask?  I’ve put so much time and energy into being mad about how stupid everyone is, shouldn’t I be pleased to find out that people aren’t actually as stupid as I thought they were?

In other words, instead of living in a country where more than half the people are so stupid that they should not hold the legal status of adults, I live in a country where more than half the people are pretending to be that stupid just to piss me off...?  Why is that better?!  And why are they even bothering to do this?!  What’s the point?!

I guess if you gave these people some kind of truth serum they would say that they pretend to believe in religion because without religion people would all just do what they want and society would fall apart.  But if the person who says that doesn’t even believe in religion themselves, and they aren’t doing whatever they want, then why do they think everyone else would?  And if most of “everyone else” also don’t even believe it, then society doesn’t even currently have religion — society has pretending to have religion!

So…  If religious people secretly aren’t actually religious, and they admit this around other religious people, who also secretly aren’t actually religious, and they all only pretend to be religious around people who aren’t religious, or rather, people who admit they aren’t religious, because actually no-one is religious, then…


So Bush pretended to believe a bunch of loony religious shit to get votes from people who were also pretending to believe the same shit out of loyalty to Bush?  And then a bunch of loony religious policies got put into place that everybody secretly knew wouldn’t work, out of fealty to principles that they were all only pretending to have?  How are historians going to explain this — ergot poisoning? 

Okay.  Obviously, some religious people actually believe it.  The kind who blow themselves up, for example, are almost certainly not just messing with our heads.  But how many of those people are there, really?  Clearly, that’s variable depending on what part of the world you’re in, so let’s start with the U.S.  In America, according to what people say out loud, you’ve got roughly 10% who don’t believe in God, 40% who believe in God but that none or very little of the magic shit literally happened, and 50% who believe in God and that most or all of the magic shit literally happened.

Now, how many of those last two groups actually believe what they claim to believe?  As in, if their lives depended on what they said being factually true?  (Once upon a time, I thought the phrase “factually true” was redundant… And then one day people started asking me, in all seriousness, what kind of truth I meant.)  A good chunk of the bottom group have got to have serious doubts about the magic shit, and a good chunk of the middle group have got to have serious doubts about God at all.  But hey, no-one wants to be in some tiny minority, unless it’s one of the really good ones like “billionaires” or “people who have gotten to apply body lotion to Kate Beckinsale.”

 pileofmoney     beckinsale
I’m thinking, I’m thinking…

Sure, you could argue that “atheists” are one of the really good minorities to belong to, since it means almost exactly the same thing as “really smart people.”  But maybe we shouldn’t be arguing that way.  Not because we’re not actually smart…

But because maybe we’re not actually a minority.

If I were strapped into the all-knowing face-shooting machine, and asked whether I really believe that the majority of Americans really believe in God, would I say yes?  Would you?  If people were incapable of lying, would atheists still be a minority?

Because if the answer is no, then we’re going about this all wrong.  If somebody secretly already knows that evolution is true, for example, then it’s pointless to spit all the science at him — it’s not that he can’t understand that we’re right; it’s that he can’t admit we are.  The issue is actually why he feels the need to lie.

Approaching the problem of religion this way might be beneficial in more ways than one.  Many passive atheists are passive only because they balk at the idea of aggressively opposing stupid people, because it’s not their fault that they’re stupid…  But how would they feel about aggressively opposing liars?  How can it not be someone’s fault that they choose to lie?

Well, they could be nuts, I guess.  Wait, you’re thinking — wasn’t this essay just arguing that religious people are actually lying instead of being crazy?  Well, yes…  But lying so devotedly on such a grand scale about something so unnecessary is a pretty crazy thing to do.  And what better indicator that someone is crazy could you ask for than the fact that they constantly do crazy stuff?

Countless others have suggested that religion is a psychological disorder, of course — but it might actually be a different psychological disorder from the one we think it is.  Rather than belief in God, religion might actually be the pathological need to pretend to believe in God.

And this would necessitate a radical shift in atheist practice.  Rather than studying biology in order to present theists with arguments that secular explanations of natural phenomena are valid, we should be studying psychology in order to present them with arguments that it’s alright for them to stop lying about the fact that they already realize this.

If the truth of God’s non-existence is already present deep in the hearts of most of the human race, then we don’t actually need to convince them of anything.  All we have to do is remind them:

You know this… Man.

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