Hot Air

Believe And It Is So

[Big Mike Note: Here’s another blast from the past. This post originally ran in my old blog, The Third City, three years ago. Do we know precisely what belief is? Enjoy.]

July 30th, 2011

Belief, as always, has been in the news.

Many economists and government officials believe that if the debt ceiling is not raised, the American economy will be profoundly damaged.

Bye Bye, Nest Egg

Many Me Party-ists believe that’s an exaggeration.

That’s only the latest conflict of belief in the news the last few years. The vast majority of climatologists believe the burning of fossil fuels by humans for the last couple of hundred years has caused the Earth’s weather to begin to go haywire.

Many oil company executives, oil-producing state officials, and Me Party-ists believe that’s an exaggeration.

“Oh, Be Serious — How Can This Harm The Environment?”

Most people believe President Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Some people — and many Me Party-ists — believe he was not.

There are those Me Party-ists again. They seem to relish swimming upstream.

Many people believe former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is charming, ambitious, and outspoken but she’s a tad shy in the book-larnin’ department.

Some people — predominantly Me Party-ists — believe she possesses a razor-sharp intelligence.

The Me Party may be the first major political party in this holy land whose existence has come about because its adherents…, well, believe certain things.

Not believe as in, “I think the federal government ought to spend less money,” or “I believe the U.S. should go and help our British friends in their battle with Nazi Germany,” or even, “I believe that dark skinned people who had been kidnapped from their African homelands and forced to labor on plantations in the southern United States are less than human.”

No major political parties actually arose because a large group of people came together over those beliefs. But the Me Party seems to have arisen out of a set of beliefs millions of people shared over the Internet and by watching a certain cable news channel.

Guess Which

What is belief? Dictionary.com says it is “something believed.” Gee, thanks. The well-worn New Oxford American Dictionary I keep in the bathroom (you never know when you might need a quick definition) isn’t any help either.

I can’t tell you precisely what belief is. Not only that, I can’t really figure out what makes a believer.

For instance, I know a guy who believes either Jack or Bobby Kennedy smothered Marilyn Monroe to death with a pillow because one of the brothers might have blurted out some national secrets during sex with her.

Citizens Help Apprehend The Suspected Murderer

He also believes that a crashed extraterrestrial space craft is being kept in a well-guarded hangar in Area 51.

And this fellow is certain Barack Hussein Obama was born in Kenya.

He also believes Saddam Hussein had a stash of nuclear weapons that has now been scattered throughout Iraq in the wake of the US invasion. He says he still believes every word George W. Bush said in the lead up to that operation.

This same guy also advises anybody within earshot not to believe a thing politicians tell you.

So, is he a believer or not?

I don’t know.

What is a believer? What is belief?

Little kids believe in Santa Claus. Lots of people believe in ghosts and angels. When I was six, I believed a devil paced back and forth near my bedroom door in the middle of the night. He was a strange looking chap, reddish from head to toe, with cloven feet and a tail with a black arrow-like tip. Oddly, he walked much like Groucho Marx did.

The Murder Victim And Satan

He scared the living hell out of me night after night until…, oh, I’m embarrassed to admit how long he scared me.

Since 1967 I have believed that the Chicago Cubs will win a World Series before I die. At this rate, I’d better pray I live to the ripe old age of 143.

Prayer. Isn’t that the ultimate expression of belief?

Dear god, please don’t let the repo guy find my Infiniti G35.

Dear god, don’t let me be pregnant.

Dear god, please let me be pregnant.

Dear god, I agree with you that homosexuals ought to be denied all rights available to heterosexual couples.

Dear god, I know you love peace; help us end all wars.

USA Today conducted a poll last year that revealed 83 percent of Americans believe god answers prayers. In raw numbers, this means that of the 308,745,538 people living in this country according to the 2010 Census, some 256,258,797 people believe not only that there’s a god (the number of believers is actually higher) but that he (she? it?) will either make them pregnant or cause the repo man to look on the wrong block for that Infiniti.

“Hey Pal, Leave That Guy’s Infiniti Alone, See?”

Let’s go back to baseball. Not too long ago, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit game-ending home runs in consecutive games to beat the Cubs. Both times he pointed up to the sky, presumably toward his god. As in, “Thanks, Big Man, for giving me the ability to hit a baseball a long way.”

Similarly, every time Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano pitches his way out of a jam, he does the same thing — he points toward heaven.

“Thanks, God, For Turning That Nifty Double Play For Me!”

Are there two gods? One for the Cardinals and one for the Cubs?

I don’t know what I believe.

And speaking of superstars, arguably the world’s most powerful female, Oprah Winfrey, recently retired from her TV group-thinkfest. One of the enduring legacies her show has left us is her book club. One of the books Oprah insisted her viewers buy, read, and believe with all their hearts was The Secret, a self-help tome by someone named Rhonda Byrne.

The gist of The Secret is if you think positively, good things will naturally occur in your life; if you believe, it will be so. (It’s a shame Rhonda Byrne was born too late to be of assistance to the millions of people who didn’t know they could believe their way out of Hitler’s concentration camps.)

All They Had To Do Was Believe

Anyway, The Secret is still listed on the New York Times Hardcover Advice best seller list. It stands at No. 6 this week, its 184th on the list.

That’s a lot of believers.

I readily admit that my belief in the Cubs is deranged. On the other hand, the vast majority of people on this planet believe their beliefs are rock-solid, sane, and well-reasoned.

Come to think of it, I may be the only one around here who really does understand what belief is.

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