Cross your fingers that no lonely soul in a clock tower does anything stupid today, or we're never going to hear the end of it.

I'm not talking about reasoned discussions of evil by Malachi Martin, or the demon-as-metaphor found in my own fiction, or the 68% of 2,201 adults surveyed online who told the Harris Poll they believe in a devil. I'm not even talking about the objective evidence before our eyes of demonic possesion: three minutes of gibbering from the Bizarro President, for example, or the Vice President barking and growling on Sunday morning TV with his hands clenched together to appear reasonable while barely suppressing the urge to tear his questioner's head from her shoulders, or almost anything that comes out of the mouth of John Gibson or Anne Coulter.

I'm complaining about people who ascribe significance to the number "666", waiting for mischief to occur on June 6th, 2006. Some of them read a book once, or stood next a book while someone else told them what it said.

Evidently, no one ever told them that the Gregorian calendar, rolling around to 6/6/6, is not the same calendar used in "biblical" times. I wonder how they count to 700? Do they skip a floor, like people avoiding the Thirteenth floor in a hotel? What happens if their purchases at Wal-Mart total up to $6.66?

Remember when everyone had to sit and nod and be polite about the most appalling nonsense, from Erhard Seminar Training to your stoner roommate droning on for hours about the dangers of mucus in the diet, or what your horoscope meant?

I remember my friend Dan Daniels trying to defend Truth from a superstitious crowd in a bar in Grand Rapids: "So if what we believe to be "true" is a bead on a wire, and "objective reality" is a spot at the center of that wire, and we can never quite balance the bead exactly at the center because of our own imperfections-- still, isn't it true that the bead can either be closer to the center or farther away, so that if I say, 'We're sitting in a bar in Grand Rapids', and you say 'This is an illusion, and our physical bodies are really spirit messages being beamed to us from Angels on Mars'-- well, isn't one of us going to be a little closer to describing reality than the other?"

"Oh, no," answered the woman he was questioning, "both interpretations of reality are valid and true."

That generation of tolerance for every opinion, being so open minded that our brains fell out, helped give us the dream world of Karl Rove and the Bizarro President, where "we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

We now have a culture so full of credulity and manipulation that actual events, real conspiracies, real massacres, real evil is disguised behind a hundred distractions and superstitions. Today the Bizarro President evaded his prom date with reality by proposing a constitutional amendment to protect us all from gay marriage, and everyone in the chattering class felt compelled to stop what they were doing and pretend this was important enough to talk about. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you a vital issue of Manufactured Importance.

That's something that drug addicts, and alcoholics, and persons possessed by minor devils do so well-- change the subject away from themselves, whenever the conversation gets too "real".

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