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Gospel Disproof #35: Birthers

Here’s a Gospel Disproof that’s almost certain to be dated in a few years: birthers. The only reason anyone has for denying that Barack Obama is a US citizen is because they don’t want him to be president, so once he’s an ex-president, it will cease to be an issue. What will endure, however, is the way birthers illustrate the principle of “denial as a source of knowledge.”

Think about it: how could birthers possibly know Obama’s actual citizenship was Kenyan? None of them were there when (and where) he was born. So what source could they have for their “discovery” of his “true” nationality? Even if he were indeed Kenyan, there’d be no way anyone else would find out unless they had one of two things: an actual eyewitness who was there when Obama was born, or an actual Kenyan birth certificate. And birthers would be the last to try and hide such evidence if they had it, so their continued failure to produce any such thing is pretty conclusive proof that they don’t. Which means they must necessarily have absolutely no basis for claiming that Obama is Kenyan rather than American.

The only basis for their accusation is denial. They don’t want a black liberal to be the legitimate president of the United states, and this denial becomes “knowledge” to them: they know that he “must” have been born in Kenya, because that is what is required in order to validate their belief in the illegitimacy of his presidency. But notice this: these people aren’t stupid or immoral or technically even crazy. They hold down normal and often respectable jobs, they have spouses and families, they’re a functional part of society. But they “know” things that couldn’t possibly be legitimate knowledge, because it’s the only way they can reconcile their deeply-held beliefs with what they find in the real world.

People are like that. They can “know” things are true just because they need them to be true in order to maintain a fixed set of beliefs in an uncooperative world. All that’s needed for the first century to produce a Resurrection story is for people to “know” that Jesus must be the real Messiah, just like birthers “know” that Barack Obama is a “real” Kenyan. It doesn’t require that first century believers be crazy or stupid or dishonest. It just means they’re people, like the people we see today. Like the birthers.