Introduction: The Whipple Perspective
In a remarkable account of what the study leaders termed a delusion, social scientists at America’s most loved, most dubious research institution (The Onion) documented a South Dakota man’s beneficial, wellness-enhancing conviction that he’s God. The findings provide a liberating perspective that can and often is applied to resolve troubles, puzzles, difficulties and worries of all kinds. The perspective provided by the report should be beneficial for all concerned about American’s overall health and well-being. It can also be used to shed new light on the underlying basis of Republican politics. (Source: News in Brief, The Onion, Insane Man Gets A Little Perspective By Reminding Himself That He Is God, Issue 49•49, Dec 2, 2013.)
The subject of the Onion report, a 38 year-old Rapid City man named Isaac Whipple, 38, said that when he’s feeling down and out, stressed and flummoxed, he sits down, takes a deep breath and reminds himself that he’s the Great God Almighty, Supreme Lord and Ruler of All Creation God. In addition, Mr. Whipple believes he’s Satan, meaning he rules over the pits of Hell, as well.
This technique does wonders for his state of mind.
Republicans in Congress and elsewhere regularly employ this perspective-enhancing technique. Such thinking is on display in this video. Here, influential Congresspersons (and a failed presidential candidate) are shown explaining that the words of the Great God Almighty, Supreme Lord and Ruler of All Creation God prove that scientific concerns about climate change are groundless.
Is there a substantive difference in Mr. Whipple’s reasoning and the decision process employed by these politicians?
Mr. Whipple considers himself immortal. He believes he holds sway over the lives of all living creatures and is a flawless and infallible being who controls everything that is and will ever be. What’s more, he sees all, knows all and judges all.
As far as I know, neither Rick Santorum, Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio nor Congressmen Gabriel Gomez (TX) nor Paul Broun (GA) has ever claimed that he is God (or Satan) but each does seem quite certain that he knows what God has written and wants, not just in general but with respect to public policies.
I’ll consent that there are advantages in having such a perspective. Mr. Whipple, for example, states that, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. (That in his case means being God.) No doubt the above noted politicians have a similar view, knowing God’s will and every desire.
How much simpler policy-making, not to mention life itself, must be if you believe either that you are God (or the Devil) or are certain you know what God wants. Assume such a position and you, too, can conclude that’s all that matters.
Those who lack such a perspective are at such a disadvantage. They can’t find all that matters so readily, if ever. They have to struggle to balance competing principles, diverse interests, Constitutional safeguards and so much else. For those who don’t think they are God or are uncertain of exactly what God wants, decision-making is just so darn challenging and time-consuming.
There are tens of thousands of Christian fundamentalists, many in high places, who believe in making decisions based on convictions similar to Mr. Whipple’s. They don’t believe that they, personally, are God, but they are convinced they know what God wants.
Delusions and Morality: A Harris Primer
Sam Harris has addressed the topic of delusions in the context of the Christian God. Have a look at this instructive video.
The Onion report and Republican faith leaders have me thinking about delusions and their consequences. I wonder if it might be time for Mr. Whipple to look around for a new identity and technique to achieve a satisfying state of mind, and if perhaps Republican fundamentalist politicians couldn’t find a more reliable, kinder way to resolve key policy choices on the great issues of the day that affect all of us.
Harris once said that his pick for the most terrifying and depressing phenomenon on earth is that smart, capable, compassionate, and honorable people can grow infected with ludicrous ideas about a holy book and a waiting paradise.
Mine is that the rest of us don’t recognize the fact that people who do that are delusional. We should try to help them come to their senses and otherwise be as compassionate as possible, but we should never overdo it by electing them to public office.
Good luck, everybody.