The Psyche of Blind Faith

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, January 9, 2021

This essay is not about Donald Trump or politics, but I’m going to use the January 6th riot at the Capitol as an example of blind faith. In the days following the riot several news reports have appeared where followers of Donald Trump have denied he was the instigator of the riot, and in some cases, that the rioters were not the real followers of Donald Trump.

The evidence for Trump instigating the riot is overwhelming, and growing, as law enforcement and the media assemble a timetable of events and clues. I can easily see January 6th becoming the subject of future congressional hearings like those covering the JFK assassination where we heard weeks and months of testimony. In the end, most people will believe that Trump was the inciter-in-chief in the same way the congressional investigations concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman. But like lone gunman deniers, there will always be deniers to Trump’s guilt.

This kind of denial comes from a psychology of blind faith. I find that psychology fascinating. We see blind faith everywhere. What allows some people the ability to tune out aspects of reality to maintain their faith in a particular belief? One good example is the free-market capitalists whose faith keeps them from seeing pollution, climate change, wealth inequality or any other negatives to capitalism. They must deny all evidence to the contrary to maintain their faith in the purity of Milton Friedman’s teachings.

The ultimate example of blind faith came just after the crucifixion of Jesus. The followers of Jesus saw that he was dead. However, they couldn’t accept that death, so they invented a faith to prove he still lived. Their blind faith created a new view of reality that they see but others don’t.

The only way to maintain blind faith is through denial. I now see denialism everywhere, which implies blind faith is everywhere.

Donald Trump inspires blind faith in his followers. What causes that? How does it work? Why him? It’s obvious that no amount of evidence can penetrate such faith. It’s a survival mechanism. Believers obviously benefit from other positive mental states once they let go and accept a faith. Once a faith is accepted any threat to that faith is also a threat to the new sense of wellbeing.

This blind faith is why I’ve given up talking with my conservative friends about Trump. The wall between us is impenetrable. To talk with them feels just like being John Cleese trying to convince Michael Palin the parrot is dead.

The inspiration for this essay.


8 thoughts on “The Psyche of Blind Faith”

  1. The psyche of blind faith offers an explanation. It is a reflective equilibrium of the entire psyche including the 95% of unconscious reflection not seen by the rational little conscious slice. Donald Trump excites a number of unconscious archetypes, including the trickster. But the biggest one he activates is the shadow. That’s why so many people hate or fear him.

  2. Indefatigable source of inspiration, that Monty Python. I’m curious – are your conservative friends no longer your friends? Or do you just avoid discussing politics with them? I have several pro-Trump friends, family, and neighbors. So far, I’ve been able to avoid the topic, even though one stated clearly to me “I’m for Trump.” I just smiled politely and moved on to another topic. However, after Wednesday, I think I’m done with them all. I’m furious with them, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive them for electing and enabling Donald Trump. Am I wrong?

    1. Well, I don’t try to un-friend relatives. But for the most part, I no longer associate with conservatives. That became easier after I retired, and even easier after Covid-19. However, there are neighbors I try to stay friends with. I tell them I don’t want to talk about politics. Some keep doing it just to be funny, but I don’t find it funny. But I also don’t like living in an insular world of just liberals. I like to think of myself in the middle politically, and want to avoid the extremes of both the right and left. It would be great if we could all work together to solve our problems. However, that appears impossible. So I just try to avoid conflict. I love talking with people, but I don’t enjoy talking with people who can’t see the damn parrot is dead.

  3. There are a lot of words being tossed about, and clearly alluded to if not mentioned specifically, in this little discussion: Psychology, psychological, mind, brain, knowledge, facts, evidence, proof, science, and ah yes, faith.
    So I am to believe, for example, that “psychology” is a “science” because it studies and purports to speak with great “scientific” authority about the human “mind”. Now the “brain” is a physical organ that can seen, touched, studied, etc., in a true “scientific” sense of the word. After all, “science” is limited to only the “physical” world. I mean is that not one of biggest arguments against “God,” that he/she/it, heaven, and all the rest, can’t be “proven” to exist? But a “psychologist” can now be said to be speaking with “scientific” authority about someone’s “mind”? That sounds like either (01) that failure to define the terms or (02) a giant leap of “faith”. I mean it starts to sound exactly like the eagerness and that willingness to believe, and believe in, things and stuff that cannot be “proven” beyond any and all doubt so that there is not one person who can argue the point. The human animal…while alive…breathes oxygen. Period. End of discussion. That is a scientific fact. But is it my “brain,” or my “mind,” that makes me believe I am madly in love with my wife? Or is that yet another part of the “mind” called “heart” only for poetic reasons? It all starts to sound very much Humpty Dumpty:
    “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
    ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
    ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
    And I also notice that all reduces to…”authority figures”…and the debates over who and which one is worthy of being believed, which one has earned and deserves…our “faith”. I was alive and kicking when JFK was assassinate (no attempt at dark humor intended). So I am quite willing to accept what those “experts” concluded. What choice do I have? I wasn’t there to either witness the thing or examine the body. I live in world in which I am, truly, “at the mercy of” these “authority figures”.
    But at the same time, am I to also simply accept that they, those “experts,” those “authority figures,” are truly above and beyond…yes, the perfect word…those “conspiracies” now being laid at the feet of Trump…and his supporters who, I am now seeing, are being called “followers,” much like Jesus had his “followers”. Ah yes,, men and women who were oh so eager and willing to not only believe, and believe in, anything and everything that could not be “proven” “scientifically” but who were then also eager to “embellish the truth,” just a wee-bit…for their own purposes, you know, to create a “new” religion, one that would find them at the top, you know, those “authority figures,” become that “ruling class”. And that’s now what this is all about: Trump supporters wanting to stay at the top of the food chain? Is that what I am to believe? But yes, I forget: The “experts” and “authority figures,” just like Humpty Dumpty, are now telling us all what “the” truth and “the” facts really are and I should simply accept what “they” say and move on. Yeah, this is just one more example of that quantum leap of faith I have never been able to take.
    But here is the funny part: The shopkeeper with the dead parrot (and yes, Python at their very best!)?
    IF he admits the parrot is dead, then what? Yes, he has to refund the money he was paid for it.
    And WHO bought the parrot in the first place? A “customer” who was (01) too stupid, to see for himself, that the parrot was already dead because (02) he really, really wanted a parrot and (03) he was ready to believe, to have “faith” in anything he was told (04) by the shopkeeper, the “authority figure”.
    Money and power. Power and money.
    Thousands of years of recorded human history is a boring repetition of the same tales, time after time. But now, here in 2021, I am to believe that this time (!) it is really, truly “different,” that THIS time the human animal really will learn from the past, and his mistakes, and that NOW he, that human animal, can and will do better, be “smarter,” and move to a “better” tomorrow.
    James, you mentioned you have few, if any, “friends” who are “conservatives”. Well, this is an example of why I have no “friends” exept my wife, my best friend for forty years, and the older I get, the more I enjoy that “solitude of the soul” because yes, clearly I do love these little debates and discussions but none of ’em are, or should be, worth parting company over.
    As always, you stay safe and be well and thanks for letting me have my say. I’m getting ready to throw a couple potatoes in the over ’cause I am craving a baked ‘tater for supper tonight and if you were here, I’d throw one in there for you.

    1. Two more things we share in common Randy. I also have a wife that I’ve been married to for over forty years, and we love a good baked potato too. One of our regular meals is twice-baked stuffed-potato.

      Science is not about knowing the truth, but knowing which things are more statistically likely than other things. You place your bet and take your chances, but I always favor those things with good odds.

      The bone I gnaw on over and over is we can’t agree on reality. Without any agreement, there is no cooperation. While the U.S. argues China and other countries are building away. There is an objective reality out there and we can shape it but that requires working together. I’m just disappointed people in this country can’t work together anymore.

      1. “I’m just disappointed people in this country can’t work together anymore.”
        If you were a preacher, you’d get a hearty “Amen” from me. If you were a politican, you’d have gotten my vote. If you were just a guy talking to a bunch of folks, you’d get a standing ovation and “Bravo!” But….
        You are just you and I am just me so:
        James, you said it perfectly!

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