by Justin Robbins
He who can be made to believe absurdities, can be made to commit atrocities – Voltaire
Ever since our species (Homo sapiens) crossed whatever the threshold was between an instinctual level of consciousness and being cognitively self-aware, we have invented mythologies to explain the things we otherwise cannot. This seems true of every culture or societal construct we now know, or have ever known.
From our oldest apparent spiritual icons, like the 38,000 year old Lion Man, to the oldest still-practiced faith of Hinduism, to newer models like Mormonism and Scientology, we seem to have no shortage of imagined explanations to fill the gaps in our actual knowledge. Most of the gods we’ve created, with estimates ranging from 4,000 to 33,000 (depending on things like whether Zeus and Jupiter count as one), gracefully retired to the celestial version of Miami when the natural explanation was discovered for whatever they had once controlled. When it was proven that the gravitational pull of the moon controlled earth’s tides, for example, Poseidon (Neptune, if you must) found himself with a lot of free time; ostensibly to snicker at Bill O’Reilly.
The slow but continuous creep of evidence-based, replicable, natural explanations and descriptions of our world, has retired many a divine office holder. Yet, there are holdouts. The literally countless gods of Hinduism still have sway over approximately 9 million people worldwide, and there’s Jehovah (aka Yahweh, Allah) the father of the Abrahamic faiths. Within his various imaginings, he is alleged to have ordained kings, facilitated genocides, and inspired morally indefensible applications of commercial aircraft. He is also apparently quite concerned about how humans behave in their bedrooms.
If I did this right, readers of faith who have come this far may have already experienced a twinge of offense at having their chosen faith lumped in with other, patently false faith claims. Perhaps there is a certain comfort in realizing that those who don’t share your faith may yet share your offense.
Which brings me to Greg Gianforte and Kristin Juras. Both are candidates for public office in Montana; Gianforte for governor and Juras for supreme court. Both have also made fairly selective, dog whistley non-secrets of their preferred mythologies, and of how those would inform their approach to public service.
Gianforte’s support of a creationist museum in Glendive has been largely ignored by the main-stream media. Most notably, the mediators of the first gubernatorial debate felt our time was better spent hearing the candidates attest to marital fidelity, than hearing about Mr. Gianforte’s biblical retirement plan. Fortunately, a world renown paleontologist Jack Horner harbors genuine concern for Montana’s educational system.
Meanwhile, Juras is throwing ironic ethics allegations with her left hand while sketching out a religious freedom agenda with her right; eager to impose her favored mythology with a gavel. “Religious freedom”, of course, being short hand in the current Christian lexicon for freedom to discriminate…a sentiment also favored by Gianforte. Working in concert, these two could have a corrosive impact on Montana’s children, communities and businesses that would be felt for generations.
If you would critique this essay as smacking of intolerance, or of casting vague aspersions, that may be fair. Perhaps one of the thousands of gods currently at offer is actually real, and perhaps one of these candidates has his/her home number. I honestly don’t know. Then again, neither do you. The takeaway here is that it is very wise to be very wary of anyone who tells you not only that they know the mind of God, but that they look forward to imposing their version of His will on you.