Chapman University recently published the results of a depressing, but hardly surprising, survey that shows American believe in codswallop continue to rise. Not political codswallop – this is the supernatural, paranormal, wingnut type. And the numbers are huge. Or yuge as the ignorati-in-chief would say.
The article notes, “nearly three-fourths of Americans do believe in something paranormal.” While we expect that sort of muddle-headed, superstitious thinking to be widespread in the 13th century, that’s truly sad in the 21st century. And we don’t expect it in the country that put a man on the moon, invented the iPad and the PC. You can’t do that when you believe in ghosts, goblins and magic.
These are truly, deeply unsettling scary figures. Almost 20% of those surveyed believe “psychics” and “fortune tellers” can “…can foresee the future.” These so-called psychics are constantly being debunked and revealed in the media as con artists, swindlers and charlatans. Yet millions of Americans believe they have some ability to see the future. Depressing. But it gets worse. According to the results,
- 55.0% believe that ancient, advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis, once existed;
- 52.3% believe that places can be haunted by spirits;
- 35.0% believe aliens have visited Earth in our ancient past;
- 26.2% believe aliens have come to Earth in modern times;
- 25.0% believe some people can move objects with their minds;
- 19.4% believe fortune tellers and psychics can foresee the future;
- 16.2% believe Bigfoot is a real creature.
The rise of Donald Trump and the rapidly growing culture of anti-intellectualism, anti-science, faux Christianity and the alt-facts version of reality promulgated by the theocratic right parallel this growing belief in superstitious and religious claptrap. It’s a deliberate, planned attack on Americans to make them stupid. And it appears to be working.
In September, author Kurt Anderson posed a question in The Atlantic:
When did america become untethered from reality?
A question many of us are asking as we watch the USA descend into what seems to be medieval-level madness. He adds:
The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control… we Americans believe—really believe—in the supernatural and the miraculous, in Satan on Earth, in reports of recent trips to and from heaven, and in a story of life’s instantaneous creation several thousand years ago.
Two-thirds of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world.” More than half say they’re absolutely certain heaven exists, and just as many are sure of the existence of a personal God—not a vague force or universal spirit or higher power, but some guy.
Science, for millions of Americans, has become synonymous with liberal, socialist, leftist lies and deceit. They eagerly accept the unfounded frothing fantasies of online conspiracy theories and charlatans, while rejecting actual fact, empirical data, double-blind studies and even reason. They easily side with anti-vaccination, anti-GMO, anti-gluten, anti-nutrition, anti-NASA ranters instead of actual studies, reason and common sense. Facts – especially proven science – aren’t allowed to interfere with their beliefs.
The word mainstream has recently become a pejorative, shorthand for bias, lies, oppression by the elites. Yet the institutions and forces that once kept us from indulging the flagrantly untrue or absurd—media, academia, government, corporate America, professional associations, respectable opinion in the aggregate—have enabled and encouraged every species of fantasy over the past few decades…
Today, each of us is freer than ever to custom-make reality, to believe whatever and pretend to be whoever we wish. Which makes all the lines between actual and fictional blur and disappear more easily. Truth in general becomes flexible, personal, subjective. And we like this new ultra-freedom, insist on it, even as we fear and loathe the ways so many of our wrongheaded fellow Americans use it.
It’s little wonder than the bloviating Trump and his fellow ideologues are able to get their message across to gullible Americans, who are already conditioned to believe in pseudoscience and gibberish.
For example, a 2016 survey by Pew Research concluded that many, many millions of people believe in angels:
When it comes to belief in angels, men and women are about equally likely to profess belief in these celestial beings in 48 of 63 countries surveyed (76%). In 14 countries, women believe in angels to a greater degree than men do.
Belief in angels, goblins, aliens, bigfoot, Atlantis, the literal truth of the Bible, fortune tellers, Nibiru and the whole apocalyptic-rapture-tribulation nonsense. What does that say about American education and its future? Nothing good.
The Religious Tolerance site lists the results of numerous surveys in the past decade about American beliefs, and includes such frightening statistics as:
- 31% believe in the accuracy of astrology;
- 27% believe in reincarnation;
- 75% believe that the virgin birth is accurate;
- 64% believe in the world-wide flood and of Noah and his ark;
- 51% believe ghosts exist;
- 68% believe Satan is real.
Astrology? Reincarnation? Ghosts? The virgin birth? Creationism? How can people accept this stuff as real? Apparently they can, and do it easily. It seems accepting claptrap is easier than having to work at learning the truth.
Other studies have shown similar results. In part, I think it’s the result of the rapidly growing American Taliban that shovels all sorts of pseudo-biblical, faux-Christian nonsense at them. In part, it’s the crumbling public education system where underpaid teachers struggle to do their jobs effectively in a climate of funding reductions and rightist ideology that forbids free inquiry and free thought. In part, it’s what Neil Postman predicted about popular attention to trivia, sports and entertainment over news, science and truth. In part it’s the spread of unadulterated bullshit served up on the Net as fact to an undiscerning, unskeptical, and highly gullible audience.
The future looks dim, dimmer all the time, if people – Americans in particular, because they have been the source of so many advancements and so much progress in the past – continue to believe in this nonsense.