Crazy Beliefs

Crazy Beliefs October 20, 2012

This cartoon came to my attention on Facebook:

Some may be expecting me to make a point in favor of a particular political party. But my thought when seeing this was just how much the beliefs that some people have across the political and economic spectrums, about political and economic matters, are comparable to the kinds of religious beliefs that would get most people thinking “NUT.”

Paul Tillich focuses particular attention in his book The Dynamics of Faith on the way that “faith” in one's nation or political party becomes idolatrous, substituting in place of the truly ultimate something which is less than ultimate.

How close are the parallels to religion in the political and economic devotion of human beings (and Americans in particular, thinking of my own immediate context)? Do people turn only to particular news sources or types of sources, much as ancient Israelites sought prophets who said what they wanted to hear rather than what they needed to hear? Do people have a blind and irrational faith that if they choose the right president, jobs will be created, gas prices will fall, and other things outside of a president's control will nonetheless occur as a result?

It is a well-known fact that we quickly label views we disagree with as “nuts” but are rarely able to see how our own beliefs look from the perspective of others. Perhaps more of us need to publicly present our views, and listen closely enough to hear the judgment on our sanity which others pass as a result, and ask what we can learn from what they say (hopefully out loud, since in real life we do not have the benefit of cartoon thought bubbles).

I am not suggesting that all views are equally worthy of respect, nor even that the label “crazy” might not be apt on occasion. I am simply highlighting that everyone has views which seem completely ludicrous and insane to someone else. And unless we are open to receiving correction and constructive criticism, our chances of sidestepping actual craziness is that much smaller – as I emphasized here on this blog not that long ago.

Are there any beliefs which you hold that you know seem crazy to others? Why do you persist in holding them? What beliefs do others hold that seem crazy to you? Are you able to understand why they do not seem that way to them? And are labels related to lack of sanity used to frequently and inappropriately?

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  • The “Hebrew Roots” folks who think Gentiles must be Torah observant and believe Paul taught that seem to hold crazy views (though I wouldn’t call them crazy).

  • Yes, I hold a belief that most other people think is crazy: I am a 9/11 Truther. That means that I do not accept the official explanation of how and why the WTCs (1,2, and 7) came down on 9/11. I believe that they were brought down by controlled demolitions. I do not know who was responsible, thought I strongly suspect people high in our military and perhaps in our government were involved. I continue to hold these beliefs because many experts in architecture and engineering hold them. has a petition that over 1700 architects and engineers have signed asking for a new, independent investigation. They have a video that people can see. It is being presented by Colorado PBS:

  • What beliefs do others hold that seem crazy to you?
    This is an election year … I’d have to write several books. Just for a starter, though, how about the guy who thinks he can read Obama’s “confession” that he was inelligible to be president between the lines of Obama’s speech to the UN in the wake of the attack on our Lybian consulate?
    Are you able to understand why they do not seem that way to them?
    Well, sure … the psychology of self-delusion and mistaken competency are pretty well understood …
    And are labels related to lack of sanity used to frequently and inappropriately?
    Probably. But as the old saying goes, ‘just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean no one’s out to get you’. Just because some may be too quick to call others “crazy” doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of crazy people and ideas out there.

  • Mira

    A week or two ago I was driving to the grocery store and the thought entered my head that maybe if Romney became president, I wouldn’t be jobless forever because of how his policies would affect my particular line of work, we wouldn’t turn into an industrial-revolution era state of desperate poverty and extreme riches, we might not go to war with Iran, and basically this country wouldn’t become that much worse of a place to live in just four to eight years. (NB: I never thought the world would end, and I consciously try to steer clear of the “politics as idolatry” line. A Republican Christian and I have more vital common ground than politics. But I do think elections matter, and I have strong opinions on policy that align more with one party than the other.)
    Thinking for a moment that maybe I was wrong, as about half the country thinks, put things into different perspective. My apprehension and conviction probably look crazy to lots of people.

    • Mira

      Oh also – labels of sanity are one thing, but what about false consciousness? It’s a pretty condescending charge, that others simply don’t understand what’s going on or who is really on their side, and that they would share your ideas if they did. I don’t know which is worse. But I also don’t know how to avoid reflexively assuming either craziness or ignorance about people with whom you really disagree on moral matters. (I suppose you can also assume evil, but….) It’s possible to come to understand their positions at some level with communication and empathy, of course, but it’s the reflex that worries me.

      • Susan Burns

        My theory is that we are evolving into two separate species.

  • Gary

    “Let us resolve that never again will we send the precious young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad,”

    He called the unemployment of more than 5 million Americans “the most false and wasteful economics of all” and said his highest domestic priority would be “to ensure that every American able to work has a job to do.” He called for an end to a system of economic controls “in which labor is depressed but prices and corporate profits run
    sky high,” and he called for national health insurance and “a fair and just tax system.”
    …from a obit for George McGovern from CNN. He was defeated soundly in 1972, losing to Nixon. I think I was the few who voted for him. Same belief then as now. People in 72 must have thought McGovern’s beliefs were crazy. Same now as then, apparently.

  • Kaz

    During the last election I heard some assert that if Obama were to loose, the only plausible reason would be racism. Thoughtful people probably realized that this had more to do
    with left-wing political rhetoric than with reality, but I’m sure that
    some people actually believed it. That not only struck me as a little crazy, but it clearly seemed flawed, logically. It’s not that I thought it impossible that racism might contribute to election results, but to assert that it was the *only* possible reason Obama might loose clearly seems to have been a misconception. Ironically, it’s possible that one of the reasons Obama won was specifically because of his race. I come from a mixed family, and I know that some Blacks who had previously voted Republican, voted the other way last time specifically to contribute to the historic moment in American history. They were joined by many decent whites, some perhaps out of guilt over the past, but many out of a sincere desire to see their previously oppressed fellow citizens enjoy the uplifting experience that most probably feel was long overdue.

    • Susan Burns

      Some of us voted for him because of his policy positions. His race was irrelevant. Also, I predict ALL Mormons will vote for Romney. How ironic.

      • Kaz

        It wouldn’t really be “ironic” for Mormons to vote for Romney, unless that somehow turned out to be an unexpected result. Since you expect it, it’s probably not unexpected;-)

        For the situations to be comparable, some would have to say that if Romney were to loose it could only be because he’s a Mormon, and then have it turn out that he won, at least in part because he’s a Mormon.

        As I said, I’m part of a family that is mixed, racially, and I know that some Blacks voted for Obama because they wanted to contribute to making history. I doubt that my experience is unusual.

  • I do have crazy beliefs. In my less charitable moments I am convinced that there’s an evil cabal in the GOP (with Karl Rove crouching like a huge, pallid spider at its center) determined to steal the election through voter intimidation, discouragement and deception, and through absentee ballot purchase and hacking voting machines.

    However, when I reflect on the nature of reality, I realize that the flow of events is enormously resistant to manipulation. There is sometimes a kind of comfort to the realization of how puny human actions are, compared to the arc of history.

    I try not to judge people’s sanity based on their beliefs, btw, so I’m not a fan of the title of this post. Rather, I think of the “fetter of opinion”, as the Buddha described it: “not understanding as it really is the arising, the subsiding, the sweetness, the wretchedness, and the leaving behind of modes of opinion; who, with respect to opinion, is obsessed with passion for opinion, delight in opinion, affection for opinion, intoxication with opinion, thirst for opinion, fever for opinion, attachment to opinion, craving for opinion: this, monks, is called ‘the bond of opinion’.”

  • Sunshinecoast001

    Hey Kaz, It’s ‘lose’ not ‘loose’ … just so you know.