The perception that the problem is the whole problem is the problem.
We, the rational non-believers, have been saying for years that delusion is the problem. We have thought that it was. Unstated by most of us were the other factors that exacerbated simple delusional beliefs.
In that regard, we fucked up.
Most delusions are a problem only for the people who have them and only so long as they remain resistant to the kind of clinical help from which they would greatly benefit. These delusions are greeted with reactions from the public that vary from humour to pity to contempt. The poor sufferers of most delusions can add a feeling of persecution to their other woes. None of this is a problem for anyone else.
Some delusions are shared. This is the whole of the problem.
Cultic delusions ranging from the ludicrous (aliens built the pyramids) to the tragic (Jonestown) are reinforced by associating with those sharing them.
This species of delusion is harder to combat, therefore. When others feel as you do, it’s easier to dismiss those who try to convince you that you are fooling yourself.
The extreme end of this scale of mutually supportive delusion include those that have millions or billions of adherents. These delusions shape government policies and laws and can result in the outcast—often with extreme prejudice—of those who do not share them. Worse, those who share delusions are prone to dismissing—or being profoundly blind to—bits of reality that contradict their delusions. (Think Flat Earthers and Anti-Vaxxers.)
Perceptions that suffer in this way hamper more than merely learning. New technologies, as well as the maintenance of existing ones, slows and may stop.
For most of our history, we have been living in a world where the majority are trapped in these kinds of delusion.
The dizzying acceleration of progress since the Enlightenment is due to the unconditional rejection of the prevalent mass delusions that had gripped Europe for its entire history to that point.
Today, we are a more rational, less delusional species than we have ever been before.
We are also neck deep in the technology afforded by those scientists and engineers unblinkered by culturally mandated delusions.
Problem: some of us are not so rational. We can’t begin to understand the technology developed by those who are.
Why is this a problem?
No one wants to hear that the beliefs that have shaped their lives are false. The discomfort of hearing this can be a pain so acute that it births an anger resulting in a too often homicidal violence.
Most of these pissed off cultists have access to technologies that can drastically increase the scope of their efforts to silence those painful, hateful-sounding voices. The weapons possessed by some Muslim-majority nations is a frightening case-in-point.
We don’t have rapid cures for mass delusions that don’t involve a lot of pain for everyone concerned. The slow way—persistent exposure to the painful truths—can take decades to break apart these clumps of malicious fantasy.
Meanwhile, defenders of the faith come up with ever more creative ways encompass the new ‘reality’ into their dysfunctional worldview, in the process becoming more ‘pure’ (read: ‘extreme’).
Some of our technologies are apocalyptic.
See the problem?