Depending on where you live in the United States, what you believe about the nature of reality matters. The quality of your life will be directly proportionate to what you profess. I'm talking about your religious convictions. By way of example consider the story of Damon Fowler, a college graduate from small town America. He lives in a community where 91% percent claim "absolute certainty" concerning belief in God. Damon found himself unable to consent to this proposition, and was honest enough to admit of this. He promptly found himself shunned and denounced even by his teacher, and also booed and prayed for at at his graduation ceremony. Similar affirmation or lack thereof awaits many in the sleepy backwaters of small town USA, a bizarre thought when you consider the death rattle of mainstream religion in the rest of the western world. Tales of discrimination, intimidation, and physical violence are not at all uncommon, all for the simple crime of unbelief.
One could be forgiven for thinking we are talking about Saudi Arabia or Somalia at this point, but America? The land of the free? The nation built upon the inspirational backbone of Paine and Jefferson, both famous secularists?
America is an anomaly, at least in the religious sense. Much of it is drenched in old time religion, and 40% percent of the population believe the Biblical creation account to be literally true. It's astonishing, and here's the punchline, these convictions can and do influence the rest of the western world.
You doubt this? Foolish of you. Let's reflect on the latest debate between republican candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Each candidate has deep religious convictions, and when I say deep I mean disturbingly deep. Rick Perry, by way of example, recently told a young child that evolution was "just a theory with some gaps." This makes him a scientific illiterate and begs the question of whether such an ignoramus deserve to sit in the White House?
It get's worse. Senator Michelle Bachmann, pocket dynamo and fundamentalist is also actively denouncing a free injection against the HPV virus, which is known to protect against cervical cancer. This jab saves lives, yet Bachmann considers such an injection to be both a violation of parental rights and also likely to increase promiscuity amongst young girls. Yes, you heard me correctly, cancer is bad but sex is worse. Finally we have Mitt Romney, who appears to be generally likeable yet whom is an adherent to Mormonism, possibly the whackiest religious belief this side of Jedi. If you doubt this google it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
You might very well ask how, in this day and age people with these views could even be considered for the highest office? Herein lies the paradox that plagues much of American society. It's a stunningly innovative country which has given us so many advances in science and been such a staunch advocate of democracy, yet even now it remains in the grip of a strong religious undercurrent that often leads it into murky waters. Weirder still, one of the reasons why is to be found in the way in which religion markets itself.
It has no established church, so has been required to market and tout religion in many ways. It comes in brands, and if the yanks can do anything well it's market a product. There are so many denominations, so many schools of thought, and religion in America has a consumer quality about it which has bizarrely enabled it to thrive. No stuffy Church Of England institutions here. It's a banquet of choice. Little wonder then that it has endured, and even though there has been a marked decrease in religious adherence the numbers are still troubling.
So anyway, that's a clumsy overview into what is an absurd world. And it should lead us to consider the following; do we want scientific illiterates at the helm of the western world? Are we comfortable that Biblical literalists, replete with all their dangerous views on Israel and prophecy and the second coming initiating foreign policy which can and does affect us all?
I am not. I'm deeply uneasy about this prospect. Now in all likelihood those buffoons are going to get intellectually de-trousered once the presidential race hots up. People are going to start asking tough questions, but don't kid yourself for a minute if you think it's beyond the realms of possibility that within a year a person who believes in a literal garden of Eden, or talking snakes and donkeys couldn't be stood in Washington taking the presidential oath. Bush managed it, and look at how his religious convictions changed the world.