Saturday 30 August 2014

The Literalist

The President of the United States of America wants to insert a computer chip into the brains of every American citizen so that the state can monitor their movements; of course, he has told America that this will have enormous health benefits and that people will live longer.

It is a conspiracy, dear reader, and proves, once and for all, that The Leader of the Free World is in fact a shape-shifting alien who wants to enslave the world, starting with the US and then moving onto Europe.

He is also the Antichrist.

Now then! There are people who will read the first three paragraphs of this post and believe every single word. For those of you who are reading this sentence, I can assure you that the previous gibberish is totally untrue. Strangely, though, the idea has not been plucked from my own disturbed imagination; it is based on genuine concerns that have been aired in cyberspace.

And most disturbing of all – there are people who take such nonsense literally and actually believe every single word of it.

I am not joking.

It makes me fear for the future of the human race.

Most human beings are of sound mind and can make rational judgements based on the information that they encounter, whether it is spoken by politicians or written in books and newspapers. I have never believed every shred of information that I have consumed; I am too cynical. When I see a politician preaching to the masses, drowning us in rhetoric, I take his words with a pinch of salt. Equally, when I read newspaper articles that make outrageous claims, I am most definitely not inclined to believe a word of it.

I am a cynic by nature and prefer to do my own research and make judgements based on facts rather than speculation or ridiculous scaremongery.

I recently read an article in a newspaper that highlighted the curse of being a literalist, i.e. a person who takes everything literally. The article was written by a British humour satirist who in the past has made totally untrue claims in the name of humour, claims like:

The Conservative party want to reduce the number of characters in a Tweet from 140 to 135 for those people who have fewer than 200,000 followers so that we didn’t drive these popular Twitter aficionados abroad.

While most people chuckled , apparently there were a few people who took this totally seriously, expressing their distaste at the injustice of it all.

Are these people gullible or just plain stupid?

Everybody is gullible to a certain extent, myself included, but there are limits. Some claims may be believable if they are not outrageous but there are some people out there who do take things literally without questioning the absurdity of what they are reading or watching.

If you don’t believe me, just look up Barack Obama and Antichrist on You Tube.

Here are some famous and not so famous examples:

In 1938, many people in America thought that the Earth was being invaded by Martians, having listened to a radio broadcast based on the War of the Worlds.

The world was due to end on 21st December 2012 because that was the date that the Mayan calendar ended. I have a calendar in my house that ends on 31st December, 2014. Does that mean the world will end on that date?

The Millennium Bug was due to cause total chaos on January 1st, 2000 at the stroke of midnight, with aircraft falling out of the sky and nuclear explosions the world over. I worked in IT and I knew this to be a scaremongering hoax at least ten years beforehand.

All dogs in Denmark are to be painted white so that they are easier to see by motorists. 

The North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been voted the sexiest man alive.

You can charge your iPhone battery by putting it into a microwave.

See what I mean? Who would believe those things?

If you ask Mr Google about a literalist, he will focus on Biblical literalism, that is, the belief that every word of the Bible is gospel (if you will pardon the pun). Biblical literalists are those people who interpret every single word of the Bible and trust everything contained therein without question. These are the kind of people who say that I am cursed to an eternity in Hell for listening to heavy metal.

While I used to be religious, and made to feel guilty about everything, as a Roman Catholic, it didn’t take me long to start questioning the scriptures – and even questioning my local parish priest. Thankfully, the priest was sensible enough to tell me that perhaps the Bible shouldn’t be taken literally. As I grew up, I realised that the Bible in its current form has been written and rewritten many times, and with each rewrite, the basic messages and facts have been distorted and reinterpreted, so really the Bible is not really the same document as it was originally.

I’m sure that if you are a Biblical literalist you will be horrified by that last paragraph. I have actually had discussions with a Jehovah’s Witness on my own doorstep about this very subject. The very pleasant old lady told me that the Bible was a manual for life and I contradicted this by suggesting to her that the Bible is full of contradiction – so how can we take it literally?

Her answer was to read passages from the Bible she had with her, to prove to me that I was wrong.

So I brought up the subject of  dinosaurs and asked why they are not mentioned in the Bible when there is irrefutable proof of their existence.

Her answer made me laugh out loud.

“Fossils were created by Satan to test our faith.”

“And is that mentioned in the Bible?” I asked.

I don’t want to pick on Biblical literalists at all; it is just easier to highlight what I am saying using them as an example. There are numerous other examples of conspiracy theories that are so absurd you have to shake your head in disbelief when you read them.

But people do actually believe them, theories like:

The world is ruled by lizard people.

The Earth is hollow.

There is a Nazi base on the moon and Hitler himself flew there in 1945.

The truth is that I am not really a normal everyday buffoon living in Manchester; I am an alien and I have written this post from my invisible spaceship that has been orbiting the Earth since 2008. I am in league with Barack Obama and together we are going to take over the entire world.

If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

Over to you dear reader:

Are you a literalist?

What is the most ridiculous "truth" you have read?

What is you favourite conspiracy theory?


Elephant's Child said...

I am so glad that your first paragraphs were (probably) not true. Since our foreign policy is firmly based on following the US of A's lead I worried.
I don't eat a lot of salt, but I use it in quantity.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Rest assured - they aren't true.




joeh said...

The Obama healthcare is the first step to the chip implant. Once everyone has healthcare the chips will be implanted.
President Barack Obama = 20 letters

666 is the devils number
6+6+6=18 +2 for two term president=20

Spooky Isn't it!

River said...

A lot of things to think about here. I tend to not believe everything I hear or read, I'm a wait and see person. If something is eventually proven to be true, or untrue, I can say "I knew it all along".

H2B said...

My favourite, which is also mine theory:
An alien (God) escaped from his doomed planet and arrived in Africa on earth, cross bred his son Adam with a female homo heidelgergensis Eve and created Homo sapiens. He also created a set of rules (bible) by which the modern man will obey.

DrB said...

I had a good friend who believes every conspiracies theories, ranging from Y2K, Mayan Calendar, 2012 Brave New Year, Obama's anti-gun law effort or mediplan to the Brave New world.

He stopped talking to me after I pointed out to him that every events he was prepared for didn't come to fruition,

Sometimes, I think he is mentally illed to believe in all these stuff because he actually has very high IQ.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Joeh,

In the UK we have the NHS which is not too disimilar to Obamacare - and we don't have chips in our bodies - on our shoulders maybe but definitely not anywhere else.

666 is only the devil's number of you take the words in the Bible literally - which of course I don't and neither should anybody else. Interestingly, we a road not too far from Manchester called the A666 and people claim that there are "spooky goings on" there.

Is that spooky or just an active literalist imagination?




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I'm a bit like that - except I tend to dismiss it as hogwash before it is proven to be false by common sense.

Of course, if I am wrong then I openly admit it before scraping the egg from my face.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

That alien God must have left a spaceship somewhere. I'm sure there are traces of it in Africa if somebody tries to look.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

A guy I knew at university was totally convinced about the existence of alien beings and UFOs, to the point that he would get very angry when people tried to prove him wrong or ask for the proof in which he believed.

He was also a very intelligent guy. I never understood his obsession.




Jackie K said...

My husband is also a very intelligent guy but tends to believe every second crackpot thing he reads on Facebook. We have some fun arguments :)

The conspiracy theory that drives me to despair is that the Americans created 9-11. It's so stoopid.

My favourite literalist: recently we attended a house-warming party hosted by a quite religious couple, who have VERY religious friends. One of them earnestly told us that all the Old Testament stories are true, and when my husband asked how all the animals fit on the ark, she said (1), "the dinosaurs could have been babies" and (2) "remember some of the animals would have been swimming in the water next to the boat".

I don't attempt to debate these people. I will happily engage in debate with normal people I disagree with, but there's no point with these ones!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie

Oh yes. The 9/11 theory is a favourite of mine - how absurd. And Noah and his ark is one I could argue about with a Biblical literalist for days.