Friday, January 22, 2016

Why is Trump Winning Evangelicals?

The head-scratcher of the day is a piece at Time on line called "Why Trump Is Winning Over Christian Conservatives?" by Alex Altman and Elizabeth Dias (Jan. 21, 2016). It's a head-scratcher because one wonders how anyone can be puzzled over it.

They're Really Driven by Anger

For a lot of people, conservative religion serves as an outlet for anger. They eat up all that stuff about judgement and damnation.

Many of them are really angry at God, first of all, for forbidding them from doing things they'd like to do, but worse yet not punishing people who do the forbidden things. God betrays them by expecting them to behave a certain way, but not punishing people who disobey. That explains all the wish-fulfillment rants about how, any day now, God will summon America to judgement. Others make God in their own image. They're angry people so they create an angry God.

Trump is verbalizing all the things that make them angry. And he's pretty much promising, unlike that slacker God, to punish all the people who make them angry, or at least not interfere if they do it themselves.

They Trust Trump Won't Legislate Against Their Values

Trump himself lives a decidedly non-Christian, even anti-Christian, lifestyle. And that's okay. Lots of politicians have been caught having affairs, getting their mistresses abortions, trolling for gay sex, and gotten re-elected. The issue is not how they behave, but what sorts of behavior they are willing to impose on others. It's not whether they have an affair, but whether they're willing to penalize others who do. It's not whether they get an abortion for their mistress, but whether they're willing to legislate against abortion. It's not whether they have gay sex, but whether they're willing to vote against gay marriage.

One major reason why so many people are willing to forgive sins of the wealthy is the idea that they can bear the costs of their transgressions. The $1000 a night call girl probably won't rob her client or hassle passers by on the street. The powder cocaine dealer probably won't randomly spray a neighborhood with gunfire in a turf battle. If the politician's mistress gets pregnant, the public won't be stuck with the child support costs. If the politician gets hooked on drugs, the public won't have to worry about him mugging someone for a fix, or paying for his rehabilitation.

Trump's lack of concern for values issues is a plus, because his supporters believe they can trust Trump to throw gays, women, and minorities under the bus.

Religion is a Mask for Magic

Beyond science and religion is a third force, equally inimical to both: magic. Science asks, how can I conform my thinking to physical reality? Religion asks, how can I conform my thinking to God? Magic asks how can I get God and physical reality to conform to my thinking?. A scientist might want to know how to achieve a certain result, working within the framework of natural laws, but he knows energy can't be created from nothing, and no amount of wishful thinking will make it so. A magical believer looks for a way to make the universe behave the way he wants it to regardless of physical laws, simply because he wants it to. A religious believer asks God to intervene on his behalf, but knows God won't allow him to have an affair or get away with murder. Believers in magic think it's possible to bribe, trick, or propitiate God into allowing such things.

The vast majority of what passes for "religion" is really magic. And a lot of people apparently believe that uttering the right words or being angry about the right things serves as a substitute for actually obeying the Commandments. Hating gays buys enough karma to make up for adultery and stealing. And a lot of conservative Christians believe that mouthing a mantra about accepting Jesus is a lifetime free pass into Heaven.

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