When Lies Become Truths 1/11/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

The Reich minister of Propaganda Paul Joseph Goebbels apparently once said that if you repeat a lie often enough, the lie becomes truth, at least in the minds of the people. It becomes something akin to “common knowledge”, but the problem with common knowledge is that it is often wrong. For example, it’s common knowledge that when we are making pasta, we add salt to the water to make it boil faster. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the salt makes the water boil at a higher temperature so it will cook the pasta faster, but because the temperature had to be higher, it actually makes it take more time to boil. But, this “truth” has been repeated so often, though so many generations, that suddenly it is accepted as truth.

On the sixth, as Congress began the task of counting the Electoral votes to certify the election results, a group of insurrectionists, armed with handguns, assault rifles and pipe bombs invaded the capitol building. They succeeded in occupying the building, and even in disrupting the count, but not in changing the results. It doesn’t matter how many people believe salt will make the water boil faster, the water will only boil at the temperature, and in the time, that it will boil. The count resumed, the results bore out Biden as the president-elect, and the final certification has been completed.

Unfortunately, the seditionists were misled. Despite attempts at reason to convince these misguided soles, they continued to listen to the same source and his team. Goebbels’ assertion has been demonstrated by psychologists already, but what an amazing example in our own society, and at the same time, an important warning for future generations. With absolutely no proof, despite failing scores of lawsuits, despite contrary statements from officials and governors within his own party, the president and his inner circle continued making the claim that the election results were somehow rigged, and that the election was not legal. And people believed it, and so intensely that they attempted a coup on their own government.

As a society, we’re kind of conditioned to accept unsubstantiated “truths”. We just completed the season where we are conditioned to believe in a magical toy maker delivering gifts all over the world in a single night, and we have an impending holiday where we are conditioned to believe in a rabbit that delivers chicken eggs. Actually, before that we’re conditioned to celebrate a holiday for love, like love is a real thing!!!!

Okay, maybe that’s taking it a bit far. But still, how many of us belong to a faith because that’s how we were raised, or vote one particular party because it’s what our parents did? There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but how many of us have ever actually questioned that faith, or that political party? I have several Republican friends who have abandoned their party affiliation because of what happened last week. I myself gave up on the Republican party, my original political affiliation, because of their stances on a variety of issues. When I actually considered what they stood for, I realized that the party does not reflect my own personal standards, and I had to leave.

In my opinion, some of the best people of faith are, indeed, those that have questioned their church. I went to school at Boston College, a Jesuit Catholic College, and I’ll be honest with you; I loved discussing faith with the priests. They were seriously cool. They never actually tried to convert me, and in fact never invited me to go to their church, but they would provide lucid, intellectually stimulating conversations on their beliefs, always respecting my perspective as well. Believe it or not, one can question their faith, and not abandon it. Those people who do can more clearly elucidate why they believe what they do, and often have stronger faith than those who never do. My mother was one of those, raised a Catholic, but died a Methodist. She questioned her faith, and some of the church’s assertions. The one she discussed with me was why, as a Catholic, she had been told she cannot talk with God. In fact, she had to go to confession, and the priest would pass her concerns on to the bishops, then the pope, and only the pope could talk with God. When she sat in a meeting with a Methodist minister, he asked her why the pope was more worthy to speak with God than she was, then he knelt and prayed to God with her. It was the first time she spoke with God. She could always explain, since then, why she was a Methodist, and her faith was unshakable.

I try very hard to convince my students to question everything. It was fun when I challenged my senior students to question even the founding laws of science last semester. Those who took my class to heart won’t abandon any beliefs, but I hope they at least question why they believe what they do.

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