October 2, 2008

Confronting Idiocy: From Palin to Angels

It is difficult to accept the fact that 40% of American voters believe that Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as President of the United States. Regardless of one's political leanings and whether one finds her charismatic in some way, her lack of qualifications have been so apparent during her few interviews as to be beyond question. This point is hammered home by the growing number of conservatives denouncing her. So who exactly are these 40% who have convinced themselves that she is qualified and somehow managed to ignore all evidence to the contrary? Are they completely uninformed about her, or have they simply been watching Fox "News" as their only source of information about the world.

The mainstream media has been consistent in describing Palin's support along the lines of "only 40% believe she is qualified to be president." Okay, but in the face of something so apparently false, 40% strikes me as a fairly large number.

When I commented recently via Twitter about this 40% statistic, some expressed surprise, even disbelief. I can't say I blame anyone for having such a reaction. It boggles the mind to think that there could be this many Americans out there who actually think Palin is qualified to lead our country.

But I have another set of statistics for you, one that many of you will find even more disturbing. According to a poll conducted by Baylor University (reported in the Washington Times):
  • 55% of Americans believe that they are protected by guardian angels
  • 25% claim to have witnessed miraculous healings
  • 20% claim to have heard some sort of god speak to them
  • 8% speak in tongues, much like members of Sarah Palin's church
American atheists are used to feeling that they are surrounded by believers in all sorts of absurd things. We even habituate to it to some degree. But stop for a second and force yourself to realize that here in 2008, the majority of our populace is convinced that they have some sort of angelic protection. Mind-blowing, isn't it?

Interestingly, the authors of the Baylor report also felt the need to engage in some atheist bashing.
“The religious people don't care about the irreligious people,” Mr. Stark said, “but the irreligious are prickly. I think they're just angry.”
Forget for a moment that this is an inaccurate stereotype that sounds an awful lot like anti-atheist bigotry. If we are angry, I'd say we have ample reason for such an emotion. Then again, reading these findings makes me feel far more dumbfounded than angry.