Ask Muslims what they believe, and most can give you a reasonable answer. Likewise with communists and socialists. Of course, committed Christians can also express their beliefs quite well. However, since secular Americans abandoned Christianity beginning in the 1960s, for the most part they are at a loss regarding what they believe.
Just ask them. You will get some whimsical answers that seem to find their origin in a serendipity shop such as, “Well, everything happens for a purpose,” while having no thought regarding why everything happens for a purpose or who makes it happen.
Which raises two related questions: What do secular Americans believe, and why can’t they tell us? The answer to the second question is rooted in the first. They can’t tell us what they believe because they believe that reality is determined by emotions and not by the mind. Since their worldview is essentially emotional in nature, and since emotions can’t formulate and verbalize concepts, they are at a loss to tell us what they believe.
This is not to say that they do not have a belief system. They do, a factor which becomes evident when their belief system is crossed.
During the days when Pres. Obama was in the process of discarding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the military, which resulted in permitting open homosexuality in the Armed Forces, some Republicans in Congress sought ways to stop this initiative. It was revealing that of all the arguments they advanced, I do not recall any objecting based on the fact that homosexuality is morally wrong, or even that a large segment of Americans believe it to be wrong.
The reason politicians do not take this type of position is because the foundational belief of the American people is rooted in the hippie mantra, “You have a right to do your own thing,” which psychologist Carl Rogers framed in terms of unconditional acceptance. These expressions are synonymous. By accepting individuals unconditionally we are extending to them the right to do their own thing. Consequently, to say anything is wrong violates this core American value, therefore constituting political suicide. We find the same disinclination today to suggest that anything is wrong with Islam, even in the face of the atrocities of ISIS.
Notice the feelings orientation of these two expressions. The hippie expression, “You have a right to do your own thing,” was coupled with, “If it feels good, do it.” Therefore, “your own thing,” which you have a right to do, is determined by feelings. Likewise, unconditional acceptance has nothing to do with objective reality. It is comprised of a feeling that is extended to another person that is intended to elicit feelings in the recipient. In other words, it is not enough that we accept another person, but it is also essential that we make him feel accepted, whatever that might take. The bottom line is that the contemporary American worldview is all about feelings.
Consequently, Americans have little interest in objective reality. The media response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech dealt virtually not at all about facts, but instead was all about feelings. It makes little difference whether we are nuked by Iran as long as we feel good in the interim. One really terrible outcome of his speech was that Nancy Pelosi “was ‘near tears’ throughout the speech because of Netanyahu’s rhetoric.” Had only Netanyahu realized, he probably would not have warned us about the disaster of Iranian nuclear capability.
A major reason for American decline is that emotions constitute the worst source of guidance. Therefore, our nation, beginning in the 1960s having set aside the mind and will as its guidance system, instead being guided by emotions, commenced on a steep decline in virtually every area.
I mentioned that one primary source of this feelings-orientation stemmed from the psychology of Carl Rogers. In light of the salient contribution he has made to the contemporary American belief system, during the next one or two posts I plan to examine some passages from what is probably his most influential book, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist View of Psychotherapy. There we will find insight into his total commitment to a feelings orientation.