New Poll: Americans superstitious idiots

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees on the Reuters news wire that a new poll by the Pew Center for Religious and Public Life shows that a suprising number of Americans are superstitious idiots. The article doesn’t put it that way and is actually entitled: Many Americans Haunted by ghosts; look to astrology.

Here is a juicy bit:

The poll released on Wednesday showed that three-in-ten Americans say they have felt in touch with a dead person and 18 percent say they have seen or been in the presence of a ghost.

Other Pew surveys have shown that relatively few Americans would identify an Eastern religion or New Age spirituality as their core faith. But about a quarter of those surveyed say they believe in aspects of Eastern religions.

Nearly 25 percent said they believed in reincarnation and 23 percent said yoga was a spiritual practice. Twenty six percent said they believed “spiritual energy” could be found in objects such as trees.

A quarter said they believed in astrology, while 16 percent of U.S. adults think that an “evil eye” exists or that some people can cast curses or spells on others. Among black Protestants the evil eye figure is 32 percent.

What can your Maximum Leader say about this except that he weeps for the future.

Until he read this piece he thought that the worst thing he’s read/see/hear today was the drivel that President Obama was spewing out to a room of unfortunate Norsemen (and Norsewomen) and other dignitaries while accepting his Nobel Prize.

The “evil eye!” Really now! People actually believe that people with “powers” can use the “evil eye” to cast spells and curses… Other than the eyes that Elin Nordegen Woods is using on Tiger now, your Maximum Leader is unaware of a curse laden “evil eye.”

Sad. Just sad.

Carry on.

Fear and Loathing in Georgetown said:

Hey, scoff at your own peril. I have a voodoo priestess on fucking retainer.

Is she hot? Then all is well.

Kevin Kim said:

Old Father Cenkner, a cheerful and emphysemic Dominican priest who was the resident Hinduism expert (and the other half of what qualified as an “Asian studies department”) at Catholic U., loved to walk into the tiny lunch room on the third floor of Caldwell Hall and make gloriously general pronouncements about whatever religious topics were being discussed. One day, someone was talking about syncretism when Cenkner walked into the room. He took a moment to scent the direction of the conversation in progress, then growled to no one in particular:

“It’s ALL syncretism!”

I agree. It’s unsurprising that people mix and match components of religious belief and praxis; that’s been happening since the beginning, and is a ubiquitous feature of human culture. Perhaps the issue to focus on, though, is what happens when mixing and matching becomes the prevalent ethos, and depth gets sacrificed in the name of breadth. Any particular spiritual practice takes time to master, and mastery is hard to achieve when you spend all your time gawking at the over-stocked aisles, but never buy anything. A lot of “seekers” miss this about true practice: it takes deep and serious commitment, no matter which path is chosen. Every major tradition contains some form of that admonition, but shoppers — dabblers — ignore it because they’re just too enchanted with all the variety that’s out there.

Of course, many mix-and-matchers aren’t flirting with twenty different traditions at once; at most, they’re supplementing their core practice with elements from just one or two other distinct traditions. I can use myself as an example here. As much as I respect the rich inner life found in Hinduism, I know that Hinduism doesn’t hold the same charm for me that Buddhism does. For me, it’s the Zen form of Buddhism, and just Zen, that has informed (and seriously altered) the nature of my Christian belief and practice. JuBus and others are in the same boat: far from being heedlessly promiscuous in their religious explorations, they’re looking for that one tradition that gives them a Jerry Maguire-style “you complete me” feeling.

The people who creep me out are the truly eclectic ones — the loopy folks who have utterly renounced the scientific mindset in favor of a hilariously incoherent worldview that allows all pantheons and doctrines equal air time. Sense, for these people, is far less important than sensibility. Rationality has left the building.

It’s also unsurprising to see that people still cleave to magical, folkloric nonsense. Healing prayer, evil eyes, ghosts, demonic possession, ESP, ancient astronauts, crystals, blah, blah, blah– these notions fill a need, I suspect, especially in modern societies where the romantic mindset is still cultivated, making the more classically realist attitude seem like cold comfort in the face of a mysterious and dangerous world. Alien abduction fantasies and 9/11 (or moon landing) conspiracy theories all respond to that same need as well. Superstition provides the illusion of sense without actually making sense.

It’s going to take humanity a long, long time to divorce itself from its own need for self-delusion and bamboozlement, if such a divorce is even possible on a global scale. On one level, I’d agree that we’re awash in idiocy, but on another level, I suspect that this sort of idiocy is just plain human, and the only way to rid ourselves of it will be to figure out which combination of genes to unplug or reconfigure in future generations.

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