These are the chosen quotations for a Nonfiction Talk by the Humanist Fellowship.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen

For the Nonfiction Talks event:


  1. You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
  2. Do your own thing” has a lot in common with “Every man for himself.” If it feels good, do it: for some that will mean smoking weed and watching porn—and for others, opposing modest gun regulation and paying yourself four hundred times what you pay your employees.
  3. Modern electronic mass media had been a defining piece of the twentieth-century experience that served an important democratic function—presenting Americans with a shared set of facts. Now those news organs, on TV and radio, were enabling a reversion to the narrower, factional, partisan discourse that had been normal in America’s earlier centuries. The new and newly unregulated technologies allowed us, in a sense, to travel backward in time.
  4. Starting in the 2000s, broadband Internet allowed for massively multiplayer online worlds populated by countless other real people in fantasy form, fellow émigrés from real life. The newer, more ultimate-Fantasyland business model for game makers involves making the commercial transaction itself part of the fantasy.
  5. Conservatives are correct in pointing out that the anything-goes relativism of the campuses wasn’t sequestered there, but when it flowed out across America, it helped enable extreme Christianities and consequential lunacies on the right—gun rights hysteria, black helicopter conspiracism, climate change denial, and more. 
  6. Acknowledging actual, specific conspiracies makes sense. But reflexive conspiracism can become a bad habit and a misguided way of making sense of current events.
  7. Since the turn of the century, American fundamentalists had reveled in their sense of persecution by an infidel elite, but in the 1960s the atheist tyranny became official. In 1962 and 1963 the Supreme Court decided in two cases, with only one dissenter in each instance, that it was unconstitutional for public schools to conduct organized prayer or Bible readings, and in 1968 the court finally ruled—unanimously—that states could not ban the teaching of evolution.
  8. You know how young people always think the universe revolves around them, as if they’re the only ones who really get it? And how before their frontal lobes, the neural seat of reason and rationality, are fully wired, they can be especially prone to fantasy? In the 1960s the universe cooperated and did seem to revolve around young people, affirming their adolescent self-regard, making their fantasies of importance real and their fantasies of instant transformation and easy revolution feel plausible. Practically overnight, America turned its full attention to the young and everything they believed and imagined and wished.
  9. If I think it’s true, no matter why or how I think it’s true, then it’s true, and nobody can tell me otherwise.
  10. Whether an individual’s conspiracism exists alongside religious faith, psychologically they’re similar: a conspiracy theory can be revised and refined and further confirmed, but it probably can’t ever be disproved to a true believer’s satisfaction. The final conspiratorial nightmare crackdown is always right around the corner but never quite comes—as with the perpetually fast-approaching end-time.
  11. Before the Internet, crackpots were mostly isolated and surely had a harder time remaining convinced of their alternate realities. Now their devoutly believed opinions are all over the airwaves and the Web, just like actual news. Now all the fantasies look real.
  12. And childlike magical thinking synergy isn’t limited to Christian kinds. “How do you get yourself to a point of believing?” Rhonda Byrne asks in The Secret, the Oprah-endorsed New Age guide to success-by-wishing-and-pretending. “Start make-believing. Be like a child, and make-believe. Act as if you have it already. As you make believe you will begin to believe you have received….Your belief that you have it, that undying faith, is your greatest power. When you believe you are receiving, get ready, and watch the magic begin!” 


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