Friday, May 16, 2008

Demonic Logic

Demonic kitteh from I Can Has Cheezburger?

So with my Bear home sick with a bellyache, and with a heap of work looming over me, I did what any good slacker parent would do and hauled out my old iBook, thinking he could spend some time playing games while I chipped away at my translating job. Only I hadn't fired up my old computer since I replaced it with the new one a couple weeks ago, and apparently it took umbrage, because even though I plugged it in, it wouldn't start. First it did nothing at all. Then it made some promising clickety clickety noises, followed by a most alarming tooooooot!

Yes, my computer tooted at me. Like a machine possessed.

It did this three more times, with me getting more perplexed and the Bear growing more disappointed. Finally, in a lame attempt at cheering him up, I said, "That sounds about like an A or a B-flat" and went over to the piano to plunk out the notes. Sure enough, it was a quarter tone right between the two pitches.

At which point, my old iBook fired the fuck up.

The Bear dissolved into giggles. And because I've been reading and thinking too much about charismatic forms of religion lately, I thought: oooh! cool supernatural stuff!

Well, I didn't really. But according to the truly spooky findings of a survey conducted in 2005, an impressive majority of my fellow Americans might not rule out my computer being possessed. The Baylor Religion Survey asked if demons exist. A full 43.6% of respondents answered "absolutely yes" and another 22.6% said "probably." Only 12.4% said "absolutely not."

The breakdown of the data is fascinating and disturbing, too. Women and younger people were more credulous than men and older people. Those who never attended church were (probably obviously) far more skeptical than regular attendees, as were those with higher household incomes and more education. But shockingly, 31% of respondents with graduate degrees said they "absolutely" believed in demons. (Maybe they're looking for someone to blame for how long they/we spent writing our theses?)

Perhaps the most interesting difference runs along political lines. Based on the 2004 presidential election, 56.6% of Bush voters but just 27.6% of Kerry's responded "absolutely yes," demons do exist. Leaving aside the still disturbingly high number of Kerry voters (maybe they were thinking of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?), this result shines a bright light on how the all-too-this-worldly demons work their black magic.

If well over half of Bush's supporters definitely believe in demons, then how can we be surprised that at one point, 70% of all Americans also believed that Saddam and Al-Quaeda were in cahoots? Why should we flinch when evangelical leaders blame Katrina on feminists and gays? Why should we expect any sort of rationality in our public life if most America believe the world is overrun by dark, supernatural forces?

As The Political Cat reasoned a few days ago:
As we remarked over lunch today, if there is a god, it is a very stupid one indeed, and guilty of bad aim. It could have taken out the entire military junta of Burma in one fell swoop. Instead, it landed a cyclone on the heads of the weak, the bereft, the poor, the already suffering.
Yeah. There's no way that a god can be both merciful and omnipotent at the same time. Still, I don't think religious people are all deluded, nor do I believe religion is always a force for evil, even though it's too often used that way. The world's religions offer wisdom for those who seek it and are willing to use reason to reject the prejudices that humans have injected into every religion.

But the sort of credulous belief that sees supernatural forces playing games with the universe? That's just not compatible with democracy. Or with compassion.

As for my iBook? It's humming along to the annoying, but healthy, sounds of innocuous online games. Apparently that spooky toot was just its complaint that the battery had run down low enough to reset its internal clock, and it needed to recharge before it could reboot.


Sugarmag said...

Sungold my friend, I think you over think things sometimes. Do you ever take anything at face value? You fascinate me. Your computer makes a weird noise, you identify the note and play it on your piano, then you start this whole big long thing about demons and who believes in them, and back it up with DATA LOL. I think you are one of the most interesting, cool people ever.

Sungold said...

Heh. Whaddya mean, I overthink things *sometimes*? That's way understated! :-)

Seriously, I saw this study on the web in connection with my current translating project (which is NOT related to the Baylor folks) and was pretty shocked by those numbers. Before I had a chance to post on it, my computer did this freaky thing, and I thought, OK, that's my spooky signal from beyond to write about this.

Of course we appreciate each other, Sugar Mag - old Deadheads nearly always do! :-)

Smirking Cat said...

I believe in demons. Who else would have voted for Bush TWICE?

Sungold said...

Oh! So are you suggesting that Bush's supporters were just voting for one of their own?

*Now* this all makes sense ...

Lynn said...

I don't think my computer is demonic, but I have observed it being spiteful.

Maybe even jealous.

Sungold said...

My new MacBook is behaving beautifully so far, so I'm going to assume it came with angels factory-installed.

But yeah, I know that spite! It usually comes out when you've got a deadline and haven't kept good backups ...