While it is undoubtedly true that evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump, it’s important to note that this is not an unusual historical phenomenon. The Roman Catholic Church (the original large-scale Christian sect, nearly fifteen hundred years old before the first Protestant sects began to emerge) could easily adopt the tag-line “Proudly supporting tyrants since 382 AD.”

This is because religionists crave a black-white yes/no good/bad simplistic view of the world, which in turn is because their brains aren’t good at dealing with complexity. Hence they believe in invisible magical creatures for which no evidence has ever been seen, and disregard all we know about how the universe really works. You can look at any religion, whether pantheist or monotheist, and see the same core features over and over again. This is because the human mind is very limited and the human imagination even more so. “There are few things more tedious to the human mind than the banality of religious discourse.”

In consequence of their need for simplistic answers, religionists are the natural allies of tyrants because tyrants also offer simplistic answers. Hence the Roman Catholic Church reliably supported all manner of tyrants through the ages including Mussolini in Italy and today Kaczinsky in Poland. It’s why the Russian Orthodox Church prostrates itself at the foot of Czar Putin. And it’s why evangelicals (and many Catholics, and many “regular” Protestants) voted for Trump: he offered a simplistic view of the world that was easy for simple-minded people to grasp.

Look at the people we see at Trump rallies: they are on the unfortunate side of the Gaussian distribution of intelligence. They do not possess intellectual subtlety. They love Trump because he’s as dull-witted and as unpleasant as they are, but in Technicolor. They look at his weak fatuous face and his vacant eyes and they see themselves, which is comforting because if Trump’s empty sad little life has meaning then surely so does theirs! And yes, they adore him for being “pro-life” which in the USA means being perfectly OK with 30,000+ gun deaths per year but very much not OK with the idea that women should have control of their own bodies. Because it’s a simple idea and these are very, very simple people.

So in the end Trump is merely an inevitable symptom of the fact we let anyone at all vote regardless of their grasp of the important issues of the day, regardless of their intellectual incapacity, and regardless of how bigoted they may be. It’s astonishing that voting is one of the very few things for which we don’t have to prove adequacy before being permitted to do it. We have to pass a test to get a driver’s license, pass a test to be allowed to cut hair or wire a house or practice neurosurgery or pilot an airplane and on and on. But in the very important matter of voting we let anyone do it provided they’re over the age of 18.

The fact is, representative democracy is utterly inadequate as a system of governance in a modern complex and rapidly-changing world. But we have fetishized it and we’re now suffering the early phase of its awful consequences. There is much worse yet to come.


Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store