The art of telling oneself rational Lies
Published 1:03 pm Monday, October 9, 2023
By Lloyd Albritton
There are two kinds of lies
Most of us tell.
One we tell to others,
The other to ourselves.
The first is called a “sin”
Of this we are aware,
But the lies we tell ourselves are seldom laid so bare.
For when the liar and the dupe
Are both one and the same,
Then lies are not called lies,
But have another name.
When I occasionally refer to my “liberal friends,” most of my conservative friends respond suspiciously, “You have liberal friends?”
I do indeed have some liberal friends whose views on most social and political issues differ markedly from my own. Most people, both liberals and conservatives, feel strongly, even passionately, about their beliefs and values and harbor at least some degree of desire that everybody else agree with them. I heard one such person rant just recently, “I don’t understand why everyone can’t just accept…”, then he went on to delineate his views on a very controversial social issue. I believe my friend’s declaration. I believe that he truly does not understand why the whole world does not accept his version of things as the absolute truth. My friend went on to proclaim his belief that the main reason so many others do not agree with him is that they have been indoctrinated and brainwashed by religious clergy and that evil book of fables, the Holy Bible. Another of my liberal friends joined the discussion and suggested that it is virtually impossible to teach scientific truth by rational argument to anyone who has been so indoctrinated. My friend added his opinion that there are two sides to every argument: (1) the side which has been indoctrinated by the distorted and false teachings of traditional institutions, and (2) the side which is rational and guided by true scientific inquiry.
As you can see, it is no easy task for people who hold diametrical views on matters of deep and profound social significance, to get along with one another, much less maintain a cordial and affectionate friendship. This social dynamic has never been more pronounced than in our current day, where even beloved friends and family members develop enmity and hatred toward one another over differences in politics, religious beliefs, and social mores. It seems as if the only way for people to get along these days is for everyone to agree on everything. Is that possible? Probably not.
Is rational thinking correct thinking? Many of my liberal friends contend that they are guided in their philosophy of life and behavior exclusively by science and rational thought. They contend that religion is for the most part a political structure employed to control the minds and behavior of the masses of weak-minded people in the world and that to act by faith in things we have not seen, including God, is a product of irrational thinking and is pure foolishness.
Is that true? Is rational thought really an exclusive domain of liberal thinkers? One of my liberal friends confided in me recently that he prides himself in being a liberal thinker and a compassionate person who believes in feeding all the poor people in the world by government largesse, yet, said he, “I am smart enough at mathematices to see that it doesn’t work economically.” Rational thinking? Hmmm!
When a military commander orders his men to “HOLD THAT LINE!” or “TAKE THAT HILL!” his orders may seem irrational and impossible to the brave soldiers who will fight and die in that effort. An untrained/unindoctrinated civilian would likely think rationally about his chances of getting killed in this battle and would refuse the order. Military fighting men, however, are indoctrinated (brainwashed, if you will) to follow orders and they do as they are commanded. That’s how hills are taken, lines are held, and wars are won. Not by rational thinking, but by faith and courage.
When Moses brought Israel out of Egypt with a promise from God that He would give them a choice land of their own, He failed to mention that that “the promised land” was already occupied by formidable heathen nations. When Israel finally arrived and crossed the Jordan River, they were horrified not just by the sheer number of people living there, but also by the giant size of many of them and the iron chariots in their war arsenal. Many Israelites fainted at the thought of it and begged Moses to take them back to Egypt. In the end, Israel was persuaded (endoctrinated? brainwashed?) by Moses to go in and seize by force those lands God had given them by the promise that God would vanquish all their enemies. Israel ultimately prevailed in this quest, not by rational thinking, but by faith in God. Indeed, rational thinking would have led them right back to Egypt and the bonds of slavery.
Like my liberal thinking friends, however, I too believe in the value of rational thinking. In fact, irrational thinking is a symptom of mental illness. I also agree with my liberal friends that churches do indeed indoctrinate their members to believe and trust in God and follow His commandments by faith. I also agree that parents indoctrinate their children to follow rules and do what they are told “just because I said so.” That is all true.
Acting on unscientific evidence, however, is not necessarily irrational. Believers see miracles (things they do not understand) all around them every day and conclude that all these things denote an intelligent design by a Supreme Creator. Believers also read the numerous biblical historical accounts of God performing such miracles as parting seas or swallowing up sinners into a sudden gaping hole in the earth or raising the dead or walking on water or raining edible, nutritious manna on the ground for forty years for the people to eat and survive. They read the testimonies of ancient prophets who spoke with God and recorded His words and accept these stories and testimonies as true, just as a trial jury might believe the testimonies of a hundred witnesses who say they saw the defendant shoot the victim. They also see and experience miracles in their own lives, such as the mysterious healing of a loved one who doctors have pronounced hopeless and terminal, and are further persuaded that a living God is the author of these miraculous things.
Non-believers hear or read or see these same things and conclude that all earthly life forms are merely the result of a huge explosion in the universe once upon a time, or perhaps billions of years of evolutionary development, and that seemingly miraculous healings are only coincidence. In no way do they perceive intelligent design or divine will in any of this. And so, I pose the question, which of these two perspectives is rational and which is irrational?
Even if a person is indoctrinated or brainwashed by manipulative, evil and controlling parents, clergymen, governments, or the Charlie Manson kooks of the world, there comes a time in every person’s life when we experiment upon the things we have been taught and find them either lacking or sound. If they work, we hold on to them and treat them as truth and rational thinking. If they don’t work, we abandom them and continue to search for something that does work. Or, there is a third option. We rationalize (tell ourselves rational lies) to justify continuing a belief or behavior that is neither rational nor true. I think most of us are sometimes guilty of doing that very thing, whether liberal or conservative, and that neither side has an exclusive on truth or rational thinking.