Quinn O'Neill argues that our crazy beliefs and actions aren't as mysterious as we might surmise:
The irrational belief could result from an innate lack of reasoning ability, ignorance or misinformation, or, like ceremonies, it may meet important psychological or social needs. There are reasons why people think crazy things and it often behooves us to figure out what they are.
The upshot of this sympathetic posture:
When we encounter "wingnuts" and "dumbasses", instead of asking “what’s the matter with these people?” we should ask “what causes people to act this way?”. In the US, income inequality has grown over the past several decades and almost a quarter of children now live in poverty. The K-12 public education system has been demonstrably poor for decades and the cost of higher education is prohibitive and rising. The media provides the public with mixed and often misleading information serving only to further reduce public literacy. Considering these circumstances, it’s no wonder that the country’s awash with science denialism, religious fundamentalism, violent crime, ignorance, and irrationality. It’d be crazy if it weren’t.