Belief and Delusion: The American Way

Donald Trump believes whatever he wants to believe.

It’s a cherished tradition dating to Biblical times.

© David Chartrand, 2017

The doubter has no faith and cannot be saved. Believers inherit the Earth, or at least the White House.

We know this from the Biblical story of Didymus, the Apostle who invented questions. Didymus means “The Twin,” though no one ever found his twin. had not yet been invented.

Fortunately, all the apostles used fictitious names in order to protect their families and their credit scores.  After much thought, Didymus chose the enigmatic and provocative name, “Thomas.” 

Thomas the Apostle.  Doubting Thomas — the man left speechless by unconfirmed reports that his friend Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.

It’s not that Twinless Tom didn’t believe in life after death. He’d seen all the Netflix zombie movies and everything. He simply felt the story needed a few zillion clarifications.   Like, where were the police reports and photographs?  And, how does someone rise from the dead without permission from health authorities?  He had more questions but was leery of acting prickly around people whose anger management issues sometimes led to upside-down crucifixion.

Lacking confidence in first-century journalists —  pencil, notepad and shorthand had not yet been invented — Thomas responded to the alleged resurrection in a carefully worded press release. It read:

“Except that I shall see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

It was an improvised sound bite with a significance Thomas could not have anticipated.  His words went viral on social media, establishing the Twinless Twin as a troublemaker. By asking believers to supply proof and corroboration Thomas threatened to set the world loose from its moorings. He had advanced the argument that belief required reality. You can imagine everyone’s horror.

Doubting Thomas found himself a man on the run, a voice crying in the wilderness. Unless that was John, or possibly Daniel.  Many said he was mentally ill, or possibly suffering a nervous breakdown.   Those who believed what they wanted to believe — hearsay, gossip, and opinion polls citing Cher as the greatest female artist of all time — soon outnumbered the doubting devotees of Doubting Thomas.  In the war between facts and fantasy, fantasy faced no competition.  By the Middle Ages, civilized nations had not been invented, leaving mankind under the spell of television evangelists who advocated “free belief.” Free belief was like free sex only more scary.  Free believers claimed that marijuana caused more deaths than World War II and denied the existence of self-combusting Samsung cell phones.   Free belief offered rhapsodic freedom — freedom to dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to run where the brave dare not go. This led to the era of Broadway musicals that featured songs like, “When All Else Fails There’s Always Delusion.” But I digress.

My point is that legalized fairy tales fulfill a fundamental human need that was first postulated by Didymus, whose dying request was that Twitter, once invented, permanently retire his user name — “Tafkad” (The Apostle Formerly Known as Didymus).  Tom Didymus was the first to predict a world divided into opposing campus: Those who asked questions and those who dared not.  By the early 19th Century, neuroscientists had confirmed the duality of human reasoning. Some brains require newer, better explanations for old problems. Other brains invent their own explanations.   As early as the fourth grade but no later than the Constitutional age required to seek public office, the brain resolves social conflict the way college students resolves multiple-choice quizzes.  All decisions are reduced to two choices, leaving a 50-50 chance of success.

Choice #1 — I am free to believe in the Great Pumpkin if I wish. No one is harmed, though it’s best to keep this to myself. 

Choice #2 — The freedom to believe any loony thing I want leaves me free to take actions based on my beliefs.  Such actions including choosing a president and deporting people who I sincerely believe should go back to wherever they came from. 

Thus far, history shows Choice #2 maintaining a significant lead. “Non-Reality Belief” is an addiction for which no cure is known or being sought. It frees one from the surly bonds of facts and figures.  And, hey,  nothing rocks like the freedom to believe that employees are a bunch of party poopers.

Era to era, relentless intrigue and persistent inquiry have unlocked the mysteries of the brain.  Assuming you’ve been paying attention, current events enable us to trace the evolution of human thought to the seminal questions raised by Doubting Didymus, the apostle who believed in asking questions and questioning the answers.  Universal, timeless questions. Questions like, “Where the hell is my twin brother?”

What a relief to know it wasn’t invented by Donald Trump.

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David Chartrand writes humor and commentary from his home in Olathe, Kan.  © 2017  David Chartrand