Wise counsel, sound advice or excessive prudence and precaution ? Both imperatives are sure recipes, in reality, for making life impossible.
How do we distinguish fake news in the Press from the genuine … article ? How trustworthy are the media, especially the social media ? How can we recognize conspiracy theories as the fabrications they are ? Can we believe all that parents, teachers, politicians and ministers of “God’s word” tell us ? Should we believe what is written in the Torah, the New Testament and the Koran ? Is what I write in this Blog credible, factual, truthful ? Can I be trusted to tell the truth ?
Let’s begin with the 700+ posts in my Blog. Why should anyone believe them ? Well, for one thing, they are not anonymous. On one famous occasion – to my profound embarrassment – I was called out by my faithful friend, Thom. Naturally I admitted my stupid mistake in biblical exegesis, for which I was, to my surprise, praised by “Lumen de lumine”, my gladiatorial opponent and former classmate, Jim, a ferociously traditionalist Catholic catechist and apologist.
A second reason for my credibility may be my … credentials : two degrees in Theology, including a Master’s (with High Distinction) from the Catholic University of Paris, as well as a seven-year stint as a priest. I can be expected, in matters theological, to at least know what I am talking about.
There is a possible third reason : the force with which I attempt to make my convictions contagious. This is, of course, a two-edged sword, so skillfully wielded by Mussolini, Hitler and evangelists like Jim Jones . . .
(If I have, in fact, acquired overall credibility, I could attempt to exploit this to lead you into error on a given subject, and deliberately deceive you. I however trust your intelligence to be able to detect such dishonest exploitation in my or anyone else’s statements. People and products are generally trustworthy, but the exceptions suggest that we should always keep a grain of salt handy . . . ).
Beyond this Blog, how can we be sure that what we are told and taught and are expected to believe is worthy of trust ? This is not rocket-science. Common sense will always be the ultimate criterion.
We have to take a lot of things on faith. Life would be unbearable if we had to put everything into doubt. The groceries we buy at the supermarket, we trust, are not contaminated (we are rightly outraged when we discover rare cases of fraud or negligence). We board public transport and even ships and planes without wondering about the driver’s, the captain’s or the pilot’s credentials, competence, sanity or sobriety. We, as a rule, believe the media, though we sometimes fail to recognize fake news, or dismiss factual news as fake. We are suspicious of conspiracy theories about JFK, 9/11, the Moon landing and UFOs. The “evidence” backing them up we weigh and find wanting. But the gullible will continue to swallow the spiel of the snake oil salesman and be happy to pay for his fraudulent product. Which brings us to … religious belief.
Religions get people to believe the most outrageous doctrines and to accept as historical facts imagined “miraculous” events by exploiting their hopes, fears and credulity. This Blog attempts to unmask such manipulation and to ridicule the absurd doctrines, rules and rituals which make up the belief and practice of non-atheists. It invites Believers on the Brink to think for themselves, to recognize their personal credulity and to discover the truth that alone will make them free.
Rational people avoid the extremes of both skepticism and credulity. They expect and demand reasons for what they accept as the truth, weigh the pros and cons in each case, use their common sense, and make up their own mind, depending on available evidence. They know that blind faith is blind folly.