At the other end of the scale it sometimes seems as if people have built a whole false consciousness, a bubble of belief which has no grounding in reality. Their loud bluster is unassailable. And then I think at some level the person loses their grounding altogether and invests their emotion entirely in this bubble of false consciousness. They externalise the doubts and project them onto an 'other' who is attacked. They can no longer evaluate their own beliefs at all.
I'm not sure about any of this, but I can't stop trying to put myself into the shoes of other people, hopeless as that effort always is.
Take for example David Icke. He says that the Queen of England is a lizard-alien from outer space. Does he really believe that? Is he even in a space where he can have real beliefs any more? Perhaps in that case he is mentally ill in a serious way. Or is that a cop-out?
What about the people who say they believe there is going to be a Rapture, with people flying bodily into the air? What does belief mean in that context? How 'real' is that belief? Can we even distinguish real and false belief? Can they?
What about that leaflet the Republicans gave out in Arkansas, saying that 'Liberals' want to ban the Bible? Does anyone, deep in their hearts, believe that? Or perhaps they believe that Liberals don't revere the Bible enough, that Liberals will downplay its significance, and are simply expressing this more moderate belief with hyperbole? I'd say such use of political rhetoric is understandable, but I wonder if there are other people who have invested that hyperbole with literal belief.
On the Left, people used to say 'after the Revolution'. Did they think a Revolution would happen? It's not intrinsically a mad belief (there have been political revolutions, and no doubt there will be in the future) but now we can see it was always a false one. Did we always know it was false? I think I did.
Reading personal and public blogs over the past year has brought all these questions to my mind, and I don't think I'll ever get to the bottom of them.
Links - Crooked Timber discussion of false consciousness and the Bible ban story. and another on Leftist belief in the Revolution vs Rightist belief in the apocalypse