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October 1, 2006

George W. Bush

There has been some dispute lately about just where the current US president stands among the supernaturals. We have, of course, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' suggestion that Mr. Bush is "El Diablo." But other observers see the self-described "Decider" as fitting more gently into a religious context. Here is Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times:

In Bob Woodward's highly anticipated new book, "State of Denial," President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war.

I'm not sure the "almost" is necessary in the phrase I italicized above, as has been noted here before. Certainly, one of the great gifts of religion has been certainty. Here is the first major Christian theologian to write in Latin, Tertullian, having a go at those wishy-washy Greek philosophers (whom the Christians would, soon enough, put out of business):

Wretched Aristotle...taught them dialectic, that art of building up and demolishing...self-stultifying since it is ever handling questions but never settling them....

Mr. Bush settles questions. (The Republicans even pass laws to make sure everyone knows they are settled.) And I'm naive enough to remain shocked that questions could be so badly settled with so little reliance upon wisdom and reason, with such terrible consequences for this country -- and the world -- at this time.

The devil often appears as "the opponent" of religion. But, as history has taught, it is the partisans of religion -- with their obstinate, at some point unreflective certainty -- who so often muck things up.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at October 1, 2006 11:57 AM


You are "probably" correct that the "almost" isn't necessary. Still, here you seem to imply--unlike what you have often, legitimately, said elsewhere--that the term "religious certainty" refers to a degree of certainty, which is to say, no uncertainty, absolute certainty. But isn't it really a matter of kind of certainty, or uncertainty--that is, the kind of reasoning that operates on the basis of theological belief rather than scientific inquiry? I bring this up because many people are both religious and uncertain: they are not agnostic and essentially believe in the God of their respective religions....but are not convinced by everything their religion proclaims.

Postscript: Is the devil really an opponent of religion? I thought that, as an agent of evil, the devil was the enemy of good, or even the enemy of God (wow, I just realized that good/God similarity!!!!). But that accommodates a notion of devil as part of religious doctrine, if not a creation of it.

Posted by: george at October 1, 2006 2:00 PM

I heard the devil is in the details.
I also heard that the devil is now into PMs and email to entice yuts into sexual perversions.

The Devil makes God a victim. How cute.

Posted by: Jay Saul at October 1, 2006 4:45 PM

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