Over at Slactivist, Fred Clark is talking about how the Far Right has to be willingly deceiving themselves.
Fred is being entirely sensible, as usual, but I think he's missing something here.
Yes, there's a structure of advancing contra-factual utter nonsense as truth, there's an obvious unwillingness to consider anything that might require a change of opinion, but it's really a bit simpler than that.
"True" is a statement about the inside of your head; there is no direct or inherent connection to outside your head.
"Fact" is a statement that something does not depend on the inside of any one particular person's head. If it's a fact, consistent methodology will demonstrate it consistently in a way completely independent of any one person's belief, un-belief, or indifference.
That's where science comes from; that's what, reduced to the core essential, all the requirements for peer review and repeatability mean; they're tests for the fact-nature, as distinct from the truth-nature.
If you really believe that believing an untruth will send you to hell, or that sin is operant on the state of your life, or something like that, you have to privilege truth over fact, because there are no facts supporting any religious belief.
Further, an acceptance of the pre-eminence of fact as a basis for decision will require you to say "I am an idiot" and mean it. You have to give up absolute truth and the possibility of being really right in some immutable sense.
Also, you'll have to say, in an honest service of facts, "I was wrong", "that belief doesn't appear to be supported by the data", "OK, that was a dumb thing to try", and so on. People make factual errors all the time. Taking this seriously, taking the methodology of science seriously, becomes an obligation to acknowledge that your picture of the world, that thing your brain builds and that you live in and that is really all you will ever have as a matter of direct knowledge, is necessarily now and forever incomplete, inaccurate, and intractable. Call this secular humility if you like.
From the point of view of the Far Right, accepting that facts should be the basis of decision means accepting:
- I can't have what I most want (well, no one can; are you special?)
- I don't actually deserve anything (not good, and not bad, either; it's a contingent world, it doesn't do "deserves", and when people do "deserves" things get messy)
- there's no state of grace that has any material meaning
- I can never be right; I can only be imperfectly aware of the "best current understanding"
I don't think they're deceiving themselves at all, really, beyond the unquestioning acceptance of the magic-works world view that's the default state of human brains. I think they're very consciously trying to force the facts to match what they hold true, by whatever means necessary. It's not deception; it's rejection, a conscious, willed, deliberate rejection of facts they don't like, and a combined insistence that the world can be re-made to conform to their truth.
If they get to write the history books, it'll be close enough.