From the Founding Fathers to a Dumbed Down America: How we got here

IMG_1259.jpgAs a nation, America was formed in reaction to the abuses of highly conservative British rule built around strict control of trade, slavery and empire.

The Declaration of Independence led to the American Revolution, soon followed by drafting of the United States Constitution. This was accomplished by the intellectual leaders we call the Founding Fathers. These intellectual leaders embraced the principles of The Enlightenment, questioning traditional authority and applying rationalism to the planning and conduct of human affairs.

The United States Constitution was thus formed around principles of human equality, freedom and personal autonomy. These also happen to be the defining characteristics of liberalism, defined as:

A political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class).

The American Experiment

Yet despite these intellectually liberal foundations of the American experiment, a significant portion of the (newly) American populace, including those in Northern states, was never convinced of the Enlightenment philosophy and the demands it required of them in terms of human equality and social tolerance. There were still too many people who preferred the benefits conferred by conservative white rule.

This abiding belief in white superiority had long driven European nations to engage in imperialism and colonialism. And as a result, its premise was still very much alive in much of the populace following the American Revolution. Thus a continuing form of colonialism occurred through secession of the Southern States, where slaveowners denigrated the intelligence of their human slaves by branding them 3/5 of a person as the Constitution held, while simultaneously claiming that their plantations could not survive economically without their labor. In states where slavery persisted as an institution because it was not under federal control, black people were regarded primarily as property and considered unworthy of full citizenship.

Founding Failures?

So it was that the Founding Fathers were unable to implement the full dimension of Enlightenment philosophy when taking part in the formation of a new American nation. In other words, they failed in some respects.

For those that might argue the Founding Fathers did not “fail” in any way, but acted in kind with the morality of the day, or were inspired by God beyond human comprehension to author the Constitution in its fixed way, we must immediately confront the notion of constitutional originalism. This is how the late Justice Antonin Scalia described such “originalism,” as he puts it: “The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring. It means today not what current society, much less the court, thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted.”

No other statement in history better encompasses the lie of American conservatism that drives anachronism to the forefront of modern existence. Because even the Founding Fathers recognized that originalism was a lie from the outset. Why else would they build a steam valve into Article Five in order to allow the nation to produce amendments to the Constitution? If the United States Constitution were, as Scalia claims, a “dead” document rather than one made alive by further enlightenment, then the Founding Fathers were liars and cheats.

Thus the notion of constitutional originalism is an absurdity created by conservatives to force the narrative of law and morality toward anachronism. Consider the evidence: thirty-three constitutional amendments and 27 ratifications have been produced in American history. The nation has clearly evolved to advance the cause of social progress and equality. By contrast, men such as Justice Scalia advocated the diehard conservative’s notion that the “good old days” were automatically better than the current era. His claim was that America was perfected at its birth. But it was not.

Proclamation proof

Consider the fact that it took until the late 1800s to correct one of the largest inherent flaws in the original Constitution. That’s when President Abraham Lincoln was finally able to advance the Emancipation Proclamation, an act was specifically intended to apply pressure from the federal government on Confederate states to free black people from slavery.

The South’s argument for maintaining the institution of slavery was the classically conservative claim that paying its labor force a fair wage would lead to financial ruin for plantation owners. That line of argument would persist throughout the Industrial Revolution, with companies taking unfair advantage of workers laboring under unsafe conditions for pitiful wages. Only through union strikes and liberal support did labor organizations finally establish policies for a fair work week, overtime and fair wages.

Robber barons and labor

Yet conservatives to this day seem unconvinced that fair labor practices are good for America as a nation. The so-called “Robber Barons” of the late 1800s and early 1900s were committed to exploitation as a fundamental principle of American wealth and privilege. As described on AboutEducation.com, “The concept of laissez faire capitalism, which dictated no government regulation of business, was promoted. Facing few impediments to creating monopolies, engaging in shady stock trading practices, or exploiting workers, some individuals made enormous fortunes.”

And so it goes well into the 21st century. The evidence is clear that if American businesses could still gain access to slave labor, they would do it in a heartbeat. So it has occurred. Global companies have shipped manufacturing and production operations overseas where cheap, often uneducated labor forces are easily accessible.

The resultant effect of this overseas job migration is that a wide swath of American workers now have difficulty finding jobs. Meanwhile, union organizations in both the public and private sector have under full attack since Ronald Reagan committed the first real slam with his scab replacement of union air traffic controllers. The basic motives behind such attacks are philosophically conservative. Because unions represent workers that fall on the supposed cost-side of the equation rather than the profit side, labor interests supposedly run counter to the stakeholders seeking a return on investment.

New age slavery

So it was no coincidence that so many companies turned to immigrant labor when it became available in America. Massive waves of Mexican immigrants meant cheap labor for businesses willing to hire them. In some respects, this formula for cheap labor worked best when Mexican laborers were in fact illegal immigrants, allowing American companies to essentially operate “outside the law” by hiring a workforce with literally no voice in the American system. Thus the ultimate “dumbed down” labor force came into being.

Some Mexican laborers literally worked in slave conditions, proving that the mindset of those willing to exploit labor beyond basic human rights had not much changed in American culture. Fortunately, new age slavery did not require a second Civil War to create social justice because American workforce law has evolved from the day and age when slaver was an acceptable practice.

Yet to this day, the conservative whine about paying America’s workforce a fair wage continues to this day. The economic benefits of a well-paid, stable and even well-educated middle class are clear. America’s greatest periods of economic health have come about as a result of a flourishing middle class. Yet conservatives still whine that economic ruin will come to the nation if companies are forced to pay a living wage to the American worker.

Familiar ring

To this day conservative warnings about pending “financial ruin” are still trotted out whenever government proposes regulations are proposed to protect human or environmental health. Regulations typically are created in response to some form of documented abuse. Laissez faire capitalism has frankly done a terrible job of regulation on its own. Without environmental laws, the air in America would still be polluted by lead in gasoline, smog from cars without sufficient auto emissions equipment, and water laced with heavy metals and chemicals produced by all sorts of industries. The environment was essentially a slave to the whims of polluting industries before the 1970s and formation of the EPA by a Republican president, no less. Conservatives have railed against its influence ever since

No one can doubt the clear benefits of the EPA’s effect on environmental quality. Air and water quality in America is far better than it was 40 years ago. And there is still work to do, particularly in standards of auto and industrial emissions as they affect anthropogenic climate change (global warming.) Yet conservatives claim it’s all a hoax, or that self-regulation would be far better for the economy than living by governmental regulations.

It all has the same familiar ring conservatives foisted on the world at large since time began. “Nothing’s wrong. Let business and the free market take care of things. And all will be good.”

Age old discriminations

Under the same broad umbrella of willful ignorance, conservatives have fought against cultural progress and civil rights. Women were long denied the right to vote because it was left out of the original Constitution. This could hardly be called a surprise, because prevailing attitudes of the day aligned with a longstanding social order of patriarchy inherited through generations dating back to the earliest forms of recorded history, including the Bible.

Yet over these same two full millennia, human society has learned that some aspects of the Bible, especially practices and traditions been disproven or outmoded by science and medicine, are no longer considered sacrosanct. Ancient laws pertaining to every problems such as molds and infections, diet and women’s menstruation no longer need to be abided. We no longer need the guidance of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to dictate medical practices. Our knowledge of modern medicine and human physiology discredits such practices, so they can naturally be confined to the philosophical graveyard of ancient scriptures.

In fact, the conservative tradition of taking holy scripture literally vexes the world more than any other issue. Muslim traditionalists and conservatives have likewise turned the Quran into a book of war against the world. This puts the faith in direct competition with biblical literalists on the Christian and Jewish side of theology. Yet technically, all three faiths share some of the same scriptural traditions. Even some of the same leading characters! Yet because conservatism dumbs down the approach to scriptural interpretation by imposing literalism over its interpretation, the world must face a constant war between these faiths.

But it need not be. Clearly the habit of scriptural literalism produces misguided, even dangerous beliefs about the present age. That means we need to confront attempts to intellectualize biblical literalism as a belief system superior to all others.

None other than Jesus Christ would tell us the same thing.

What would Jesus do? 

In keeping with the conservative orthodoxy of times past, some Americans still seek to present the Founding Fathers as a band of religiously political conservatives who fully intended to create a Christian nation. This is a particularly popular view among American conservatives who love to fuse their political and religious views into one.

Yet this contention is as false as saying that Jesus began his ministry to raise money and build a new temple in God’s name. Because just like the Founding Fathers who broke with conservative rule to free the Colonies from British rule, Jesus lashed out against the leading conservatives of his day. These were the Pharisees (Chief Priests) who used religion to rule over the people and the Sadducees (wealthy classes) who through their riches gained influence and control over the social order.

When Jesus came along he told people to defy this power structure. As a preacher filled with spirit, Jesus sought to free people from the legalistic confines of conservative religion. His liberal take on the right path to God was not well-received by the religious orthodoxy of his time. Jesus wanted to enlighten people to a more liberal notion of wholeness through grace. But the religious leaders preferred the dumbed down version of faith in which people simply followed the rules, paid the fees and thus purchased their place in the heavenly kingdom.

When Jesus questioned this “dumbed down” version of faith, he met considerable resistance from the powers that be, who aggressively questioned him and then had him killed. The same brand of response is evident among conservatives today, who lambast Pope Francis today for statements that do not align with conservative doctrine. The patterns never, ever change.

Sad truth

It is a sad truth that civic and spiritual leaders in the modern era who follow the example of Jesus Christ in standing up to conservative dogma face persecution as well. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one such intellectual and spiritual hero who stood up to the harsh face of ignorant white racism in the American South.

Dr. King advocated peaceful protest, but it was violence that took his life. So it goes with all such sacrificial personalities, including John F. Kennedy, another intellectual leader of 1960s social revolution who challenged Americans along the lines of the liberal call to action originated by the Founding Fathers: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Yet Kennedy was similarly cut down for his idealistic philosophies. Many believe there was a conservative conspiracy to kill the president lest he resist aims for wars against communism. The conservative wish is always, it seems, a wish for a warrior king who uses force to solve problems. In Jesus’ day, many such zealous people were wishing and hoping for a powerful ruler in the mold of King David to come back as their Messiah and conquer the enemies of Israel. Ultimately, a zealot amongst his own disciples, disillusioned by the passive approach to spiritual victory, betrayed Jesus to the authorities. To zealots with a military vision of the Messiah, Jesus seemed like a phony, someone unable to deliver on the promise of freedom of any sort.

True freedom looks different

While he was no warrior or earthly king, Jesus was also no liberal wimp. The Bible repeatedly shows him railing against the chief priests and wealthy classes of his day. He castigated the “keepers of the law” for their hypocrisy in forcing their conservative form of religion on the Jewish people. Let us also recall that the fiscally conservative experiments of the past were disasters among the populace as well.

At the time of Christ’s arrival, the holy temple of God was a privatized organization, charging people for the right to worship. The chief priests also imposed strict, highly conservative rules about the correct practice of religion. If these were disobeyed, the worshipful were cast out. These practices were based on literal interpretations of scripture.

That’s why Jesus spoke out against it. His example is the very reason why Americans should do the same with today’s hypocritical conservatives who twist the words of God to their own political or economic advantage.To push home his point about the difficulty the wealthy truly faced in living moral lives, Jesus mocked the wealthy classes for their arrogant claims to their high status in society. “It is easier,” he warned in full hyperbole mode, “for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to get into heaven.”

To confront this attitude of entitlement he saw in the rich, Jesus praised the contribution of a poor woman who gave a far great portion of her actual income to the temple. Then Jesus went on to encourage people to store up spiritual treasures and knowledge rather than earthly wealth. The liberal and intellectual prize that Jesus offered the world was a wealth of spiritual knowledge rather than gathering up treasures on earth.

To make his point that the conservatives of his day were out of touch with God, Jesus branded them “hypocrites” and a “brood of vipers.” This was the same accusation pointed at them by the hyper-liberal pastor known as John the Baptist, who lived the wilderness, ate locusts and honey and preached from the organic soul of creation that one should be “born again” into the world by immersion in that classically fluid material known as water.

There was nothing at all conservative about either John the Baptist or Jesus. They did not abide by the “dumbed down” version of compliant faith in which everyone is expected to just “go along to get along” and earn their place in heaven. Of all the people he encountered, Jesus was the harshest with his own disciples. He admonished them for preferring the “dumbed down” version of faith they claimed to follow.

Are you so dull? 

Yes, it’s true. Jesus’ own disciples had trouble understanding his liberal methods of instruction. They specifically questioned his use of parables to teach people about the kingdom of God. “We don’t understand these parables,” they told him.

Jesus showed a bit of frustration at this response, and challenged them, “Are you so dull?” Or, in an alternate translation, he asked “Are you also without understanding?”

In other words, Jesus expected a modicum of intellectual integrity from his disciples. He called them to follow him, but also expected them to “follow along” as he imparted real knowledge of God’s kingdom to everyday people. This he did by calling up examples from nature itself to teach about the nature of creation and the character of God. His method of delivery was to us organic metaphors such as a mustard seed to teach spiritual lessons. By growing from a tiny seed into a tall tree, the mustard seed represented the true growth of faith in this world. A complex concept, for sure, yet communicated in such simple terms that it amounted to genius.

Lessons never learned

Yet his more conservative opponents, those chief priests whom he branded a “brood of vipers” for their legalism, was convinced that the literal interpretation of scripture was the true path to God. They accused Jesus and his band of merry men of breaking those rules by eating with “unclean hands.”

But Jesus tossed that ugly bit of control freak conservatism right back in their faces, telling them that it is what comes out of men’s hearts that matters, not what literally emerges from their asses as a result of eating a certain way. Jesus objected to their asshole rules of conservatism because he knew these were stupid attempts to control the thinking of all those under their jurisdiction. Jesus saw this as the “dumbing down” of all those who sought to believe in the higher ways of God.

Yet conservatives never seem to learn from their own bad habits. The Catholic Church basically repeated the same mistakes as the Pharisees all over again. This evolved through the same sort of legalistic faith practices centuries later. Again, it took a liberal such as Martin Luther who nailed the 95 theses to the doors of the Catholic Church, to protest against the “privatizing” of God’s kingdom when the church was basically charging people for admission to heaven. Notice that it took the insertion of some intellectual wisdom by Martin Luther to break the bond that conservatism had on the practice of faith.

We may need yet another reformation in both civic and spiritual form to break the bonds of dumbed-down conservatism all over again.

American reformation

Along the same lines as the Protestant Reformation, the United States has seen fit to reform its own Constitution. This has transpired through a long series of amendments. Those amendments associated with granting full civil rights to blacks and women have succeeded. Yet the amendment calling for Prohibition of alcohol ultimately failed because, at its core, it was essentially a breach of freedoms. It was a dumbed down version of social engineering. And it failed. The same holds true with conservative efforts to ban abortion, govern birth control and control women’s health rights in general.

Neoconservatism still acts like the priests in Jesus’ day, swearing to the heavens they know what God wants while claiming that government should never impinge on the lives of the American people. Yet that’s the contradiction conservatism cannot seem to resolve. Thus a form of cognitive dissonance and defiance of common sense lies in the heart of all conservative instincts. To maintain a conservative worldview, once must engage in a form of time travel between past and present to justify one’s response. Reconciling this dichotomy of mind is not an easy endeavor. And it always fails.

The path toward progress and freedom

The path toward progress and personal freedom is seldom driven by conservative policies, which are by nature anachronistic, and therefore a “dumbed down” response to advances in social, cultural and spiritual understanding. Thus there has been a long campaign on many fronts to battle all progressive policies with conservatives battling to control the intellectual narrative across an entire spectrum of policy and thought leadership categories. What follows is a description of these categories and how conservatives seek to “dumb down” the populace in America in order to maintain control, impose hierarchal structures of patriarchy and corporate control, and deliver favoritism to those whose own privilege would otherwise be at risk.

Anti-intellectualism/Anti-Academic: Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible.

Anti-intellectualism is being fostered by neoconservatives eager to undermine social and cultural change separate from that favored by traditional institutions such as the Christian Church. This has been attempted by conservatives by seeking to defund support for higher education, the arts and sciences as so-called “biased” sources of information.

Anti-Academic (Education) opposed to education, especially public education in favor of privatized, for-profit or home-schooling, specifically local choice in curriculum. 

In the same breath, conservatism loves to hate academic institutions that promote liberal and free-thinking. This has resulted in an attitude of distrust toward schools of all types that teach to a progressive or advancing curriculum based on science, instigation and critical thinking. We are thus faced with a dumbing down of America by those who are:

Anti-Science, being against a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws:, or resisting the systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation

Being Anti-science is the belief that science cannot be trusted even when it is delivering facts about the material world. In more recent years, the Anti-Science cabal has partnered with industrial and economic interests that find science pertaining to the dangers of pollution and climate inconvenient to profit motives that typically privatize the profits and socialize the costs of such ventures. Thus the Anti-Science crowd tries to discredit the findings of objective science by funding project

Anti-Liberalism Cultural derision aimed toward a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.

The primary methodology of anti-liberalism is to use the term as an insult separate from its true definition. This isolation from its roots as the foundations of American democracy and the Constitution presents liberals as “the other” in American history, when in fact it has been conservatives that have most doggedly fought against the principles either laid our or neglected for inclusion in the original Constitution.

Constitutional Originalism: In the context of United States constitutional interpretation, originalism is a principle of interpretation that views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed as of the time of enactment. The originalist enterprise, then, is a quest to determine the meaning of the utterances, the meaning of which can only be changed by the procedures set out in Article Five of the Constitution.

One of the devastating effects of Constitutional originalism is the interpretation of the Second Amendment to mean, in exclusion of the opening phrase, “A well-regulated militia,” to mean that no restrictions can be placed on gun ownership.

Political Correctness: Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct, commonly abbreviated to PC) is an ordinarily pejorative term used to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.

Political correctness is now being wielded as a weapon against all those who seek to control hate speech. The goal is to let anyone say any dumb thing they like, even racially or religiously offensively slurs, under the name of freedom.

Religious fundamentalism: in any form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture, strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline, and exclusion of other worldviews. 

Religious fundamentalism and constitutional originalism fall under the same dull umbrella of literalism, which means that no interpretation but the simplest, most dull-headed meaning must be true. This is an insult both the Jesus, who did not believe in fundamentalism as a rule, and to the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson who changed his own beliefs during his lifetime on both religious and political matters, and not conservatively.

Biblical Creationism: Creationism is the religious belief that the Universe and life originated “from specific acts of divine creation.” For young Earth creationists, this includes a biblical literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative and the rejection of the scientific theory of evolution.

As derived from religious fundamentalism, the belief in a literally interpreted Book of Genesis leads to a confining and dumbed down understanding of the physical universe.

Neoliberalism: Neoliberalism (or sometimes neo-liberalism) is a term used by scholars in a wide variety of social sciences and critics primarily in reference to the resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism beginning in the 1970s and 1980s.

Neoliberalism is simply the return of dogmatic beliefs in laissez-faire capitalism and other such selfish takes on how the world works.

Anti-Modernity is being against the quality or condition of being modern “an aura of technological modernity, a modern way of thinking, working, contemporariness.

This has taken the form of conspiratorial takes on the reality of the space program and American flights to the moon. Any form of technological advance is suspect. Yet like the Amish, anti-modernist will often rationalize exception if it favors their needs or wants. Proving its general stupidity.

Anachronism: a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned: an act of attributing a custom, event, or object to a period to which it does not belong.

Otherwise known as “thinking backwards” to a time when things were supposedly better, but typically were not. It is the height of cognitive dissonance to make such claims, yet stubborn minds find it comforting.

Asceticism: severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. 

Otherwise known as repression, which always seems to backfire when politicians in denial of being gay or claiming to be pillars of marital righteousness wind up having affairs that destroy their public claims. It’s just stupidity any way you look at it.

Racism Tribalism the state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes.the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

This dumbed down version of identity is on display every day in American.

Discrimination: Age, Disability, Equal Pay, Genetic information, Harassment, National Origin, Pregnancy, Race/Color, Religion, Retaliation, Sex, Sexual Harassment

The ultimate insult of culture is discrimination of any of the grounds listed above. Yet people claiming that protests against all such discrimination is being “politically correct” exhibit the dumbed down version of social interaction that conservatives seem to love to advocate.

And there you have it. From the Catholic Church claiming that the earth was the center of the universe to creationists claiming that the earth is only 10,000 years old, conservatives have been on the wrong side of facts, and aggressively so, for all of recorded history.

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How scientific and biblical illiteracy contribute to ignorance on Caitlyn Jenner

Society struggles to accept change as a whole, much less change in individuals who work against so-called "social norms."

Society struggles to accept change as a whole, much less change in individuals who work against so-called “social norms.”

With social expert Snoop Dogg branding Caitlyn Jenner a “science experiment” and some Catholic priest stating that she’s just a “man dressed up as a whore,” perhaps it’s time we all stepped back to consider what science and religion actually teach us about Jenner’s gender move from male to female.

First, let’s start with science. What science teaches about the nature of gender and gender roles is quite simple. There is no status quo. Nature is filled with organisms whose sexual gender, or the change thereof, is not an inhibitor in life cycles or reproduction. Some species of frogs, as described in this scientific study, don’t play by the so-called “normal” rules of sexual genetics. Nor do millions of other organisms on this earth. It’s a simple truth that the Xs and Os of genetics are not meant to lie dormant, and never do. Nature plays with them every millisecond.

Humans are no exception to these dynamics. In fact we are messing with our own genetics and our environment all the time with the drugs we take, the food we eat and the ecosystems we manipulate to our own purposes. Even the Catholic Church with its so-called rhythm method of birth control is trying to cheat nature in its own way.

Honesty existence vs. cheating ways

Transgender people, those having generically-driven sexual organs and characteristics of both genders, have long existed in human populations. Science has no real trouble sourcing these genetic “experiments” if you want to call them that. They are only “experiments” in the sense that nature works through these processes to produce every living thing on earth.

None of us is genetically perfect, of course. Plus, if you’re ranking human beings at the top of the genetic world because of our intelligence, it is wise to recall that we share more than 95% of our DNA with our nearest living ape relatives. So the scientific odds of us being truly superior organic creatures is quite low. Probably less than 5%.

We’re simply not as special as we claim to be. In fact we’re just as susceptible to the core biological threats of disease, parasites, infections, inflammation and other travails as any other creature on earth. We’re also susceptible to emotional dependencies, obsessions and mental illness at very high rates, much higher than so-called “lower animals.” Add in human addictions to substances and behaviors and the human race turns out to be one of the world’s most frail and flawed population of living things. If we’re truly made in God’s image, God is pretty messed up.

Just as we feared

But the worst human foible of all is fear. Our fears drive a great many of our behaviors. It turns us into warlike creatures. Fear undermines our confidence and self-esteem. It makes us shun love at both the personal and God level.

We learn to look at life through the lens of fear because it makes us feel protected from ills that we do not understand. Some people reject even trying to overcome their fears. It is much easier, or so it seems, to simply avoid knowledge that seems to threaten a person’s current understanding. That’s how sayings like “the Bible says it, and I believe” evolve into personal mantras. That’s also how ignorant prejudices by race, religion or nationality turn into fixed worldviews.

Many people inherit these worldview through the culture or religion in which they are raised. It is certainly true on the Christian religious front. People are indoctrinated to trust only what other people tell them the Bible says about truth. One would think the Reformation and Protestantism might have helped cure this problem. But being able to read and discern has not evolved religion all that much. As Mark Twain once said, “In religion and politics, most people’s beliefs are secondhand, and unexamined.”

Control freaks

There is considerable value to be had when you control the mindset and beliefs of a great many people. You can ask for their money. You can ask for their vote. You can even tell them how to use their money and tell them how to vote. Just make them afraid they will have to change if they don’t listen to you and the job is done. They won’t change, and you own the authority that controls the culture in which they operate.

It’s best if this sort of religious control is kept to a very basic approach. If you have to renew the message or change its focus very often, believers get distracted and wander off. That’s how religious fundamentalism works. It reduces faith to a simple doctrine that people can embrace without too much examination or thought.

Nuance and progress have little stake in this process of thought control. If fundamental religion has to accommodate other faiths or other politics, it might find itself at risk of change due to bright new specks of truth that distract from the core message.

The best way to avoid that pattern is to convince believers that the “other” is a bad thing.

Always hating on the other

For millennia this has been the approach of major religions around the world. Christians are taught to think Muslims are bad, and vice versa. Hence the Crusades over ownership of the Holy Land.

Catholics are taught to think Protestants are bad. Murder and mayhem follow.

Religion can be aimed like a gun and used to persecute and kill anyone it chooses. That’s how so-called Christians in the KKK targeted Southern Blacks, branding them inferior beings worthy only of slavery and submission.

Christianity still struggles with its targeting of gay and transgender people as well. Certain passages of the Bible are used as proof texts that homosexuality is a sin. Never mind that these texts are largely yanked out of context or misinterpreted to indict homosexuals. Never mind that the science behind genetics did not exist when the Bible was written, nor that society has learned plenty about other laws in the Bible that we now patently ignore.

The world has progressed, but those still captured by the anachronisms rife in scientific and biblical illiteracy have not. That is why explaining something as complex as the Caitlyn Jenner story takes so much work and engenders so much stupid commentary. When you have major portions of society committed to communicating their fears of being exposed as ignorant, there is no room for intelligent dialogue on a matter such as Caitlyn Jenner.

You can criticize her decision and question whether it serves well the needs of women or men around the world. But inside that shell is a living, breathing human being made of the same stuff as everyone else. And if you’re a person of faith, you know that Caitlyn Jenner has a soul. That soul is all that God or Christ or whoever you think needs to be concerned is concerned about. And I see a soul in search of meaning. And that’s all.