The comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought February 28, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Politics, Reason, Religion.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said he “almost threw up” after reading John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech in which he declared his commitment to the absolute separation of church and state. Santorum also criticized President Obama for having “some phony theology … not a theology based on the Bible”. Santorum, meanwhile, believes that Satan is attacking America, that evolution is a lie and global warming is a hoax, and that “our rights come from God — not any god, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. And of course, those rights do not include equality for homosexuals or abortion for women.
How is it possible that Santorum is a serious contender for the U.S. Presidency in 2012? How can so many Americans be so deluded? The spell of dogma and authority is surprisingly hard to break. In his 1962 Yale University Commencement Address, President Kennedy (with apologies to Santorum’s stomach) discussed how myths distract us from reality, how our dialog is “clogged by illusion and platitude”:
As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality.
For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.