by Isaac Asimov

4.The Blind that would Lead

In the United States, an old, old phenomenon resurfaced in 1980. It is the voice of self-righteous, all-knowing, narrow-minded "religion," this time in the form of the self-styled "Moral Majority," which has as its objectives the punishment of politicians who deviate from M.M. principles, and the dictation to all Americans of what they should read, think, and believe.
The Moral Majority speaks with the voice of absolute authority. This is not to be confused with the kind of authority expressed by scientists, who can only claim to hope they are right pending further information. The greatest scientists have been wrong on this point or that - Newton on the nature of light, Einstein in his views of the uncertainty principle- and this does not lessen respect for their achievements.
Scientists expect to be improved on and corrected; they hope to be. Science has its "authority," but it is an open and nonauthoritarian authority. The Moral Majority, however, speaks, it would seem, with the voice of God. How do we know they do? Why, they themselves say so; and, since they speak with the voice of God, then their testimony that they do so is unshakable. Q. E. D. And since the voice of God is never wrong and cannot be wrong (the Moral Majority, speaking with that voice, says so) any spokesman of the M.M. is never wrong and cannot be wrong. The Moral Majority is, in other words, a closed intellectual system, without possibility of change or admission of error. It insists that all the answers exist and have existed from the beginning because God wrote them all out in the Bible and we need only observe them to the letter. Surely this puts an end forever to any hope of social or intellectual advance or to any rational adaptation to changing conditions. For what does the Bible say? "The letter killeth" (Cor. II, 3:6). We have had thousands of years of experience with the kind of absolute self-anointed authority that little men adopt and call "religion." We have watched the Christian nations of the world fight each other for many centuries, each believing itself under the peculiar protection of a God they all insist is universal. Each prays separately for the destruction of the enemy and praises jubilantly God's assistance in helping them bring death and misery to that enemy, although both sides, presumably, are equally God's children. (Nor is it only the Christians. We see Moslem Iraq fighting Moslem Iran, with each insisting that the universal Allah is aiding only its own side while the United States is supporting the other.) One can only draw the conclusion that the "religionists" (to be distinguished from the wisely, ethically, and universally religious) are convinced, in each nation, that God is himself a member of that nation and is rather proud of being so. Certainly I suspect that the Americans of the Moral Majority take it for granted that God is an American citizen (naturalized, of course) and that he is, moreover, a member of the conservative wing of the Republican Party and voted for Ronald Reagan.
Furthermore, the Moral Majority types are convinced that God is forever intervening in human affairs in a kind of wrathful way but that he is fortunately weak-willed. He may send a drought, for instance, to punish sinners; but if everyone prays and pleads and wails, he'll say, "Oh, all right," and let it rain.
If there is an earthquake and a thousand people die, and one person is uncovered from a ruined house, unhurt, the Moral Majority types cry "A miracle!" and fall to their knees in gratitude. And the thousand who died- whose deaths, indeed, were necessary to convert the one survivor into a miracle, what of them? Not to worry. If anything really puzzling happens, it is only necessary to remind everyone that merely human minds cannot expect to penetrate the deep, mysterious purposes of God. Except that the Moral Majority does it all the time, when they want to whip and harry the rest of us. The Moral Majority feels absolutely secure in being under the protection of an American Republican conservative God. Still-just the same-they favor a strong national defense. God will certainly destroy the Godless Soviets, but he'll need a lot of very advanced bombers, missiles, and nuclear bombs to do it with. (Scientists are perfectly moral people, to the Moral Majority, as long as they design sophisticated war weapons to control the population problem by raising the death rate - as opposed to any evil attempt they make to control it by lowering the birth rate.)
What's more, the Moral Majority types do not need to study science or consider its observations and conclusions to know that those observations are misleading and those conclusions are not only wrong- but deeply wicked. The M.M. has its own textbook of biology, astronomy, and cosmogony, in the form of the Bible, a collection of two-thousand-year-old writings by provincial tribesmen with little or no knowledge of biology, astronomy, and cosmogony. To be sure, the Bible contains the direct words of God. How do we know? The Moral Majority says so. How do they know? They say they know and to doubt it makes you an agent of the Devil or, worse, a L-b-r-l D-m-cr-t. And what does the Bible textbook say? Well, among other things it says the earth was created in 4004 B.c. (Not actually, but a Moral Majority type figured that out three and a half centuries ago, and his word is also accepted as inspired.) The sun was created three days later. The first male was molded out of dirt, and the first female was molded, some time later, out of his rib. As far as the end of the universe is concerned, the Book of Revelation (6:13-14) says: "And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together." The Bible textbook, then, says that the sky is a thin sheet of something or other that can be rolled up in the same way a scroll of parchment can be rolled up, and that the stars are little dots of light that can be shaken off that scroll and allowed to fall to the earth.
Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make of themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes in order to tell us what books to read and what not, what thoughts to think and what not, what conclusions to accept and what not. And what does the Bible say? "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Mat. 15:14).





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