“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” – Saul Bellow
I’ve been thinking a bit recently about deception. How does one know if they are deceived? Conversely, if one knows they are deceived then would they in fact no longer be deceived… but rather choosing to live in opposition to objective truth?
Current cultural understanding of truth and deception is so varied from one person to another. Everything has become shades of grey.... except if someone actually believes in objective truth... in which case that in and of itself is considered evil.
We have embraced individual truth over evidential truth as a core belief. This individualistic truth means what’s true for me will conversely be a lie for you. In this vacuum of values, how do we know whether our truth is a lie or whether the thing we believe is a lie is actually truth?
Let’s get back to my first question… “How do we know whether we are deceived?” History has shown repeatedly that even large groups of people are prone to deception. Entire countries, even religious and scientific organizations have believed a lie or lies to such a degree that they would do despicable inhumane things in the strong belief that their lie was true.
It is documented that during the time of the third reich, Nazi Officers would oversee brutal tortures and deaths of thousands of people they deemed “enemies of the state”… then they would go home to sit with their wife and kids for supper completely “at peace” with how they spent their day. Nearly a century later this sounds incomprehensible… It’s easy to look at this and say “this would never happen today”…. I think that is in and of itself a sign of the possibility it could… and I shudder at that thought.
Paul says in the book of Corinthians
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
In the late fifties within the democratically elected USA there was a significant fear of communist infiltration into high levels of government… from this fear they formed what was called the “house un-American activities committee”, otherwise known as the “McCarthy commission”. This committee became so singularly focused on its “mission” that they began to create pure emotional hell on the lives of ordinary Americans merely for talking to someone who was considered a communist. When a person was brought before the committee they had only one real choice… they had to give up other names and contacts so the commission could bring them in to make their life hell as well. Many times they shared names of people who were entirely innocent just so they could go back to a normal life. Politicians at the time would speak loudly about the threat of communism and the importance of reporting neighbor’s to authorities so that these scourges to society could be weeded out. Lives were utterly destroyed, people were blacklisted, careers ended… all in the name of a partially real but massively overblown threat.
Again, we look back and think this could not happen today… But then we remember 2020 and the last two years during which many people were turning in families, laying aside compassion, and viewing people more as “carriers” then as fellow humans that need care. Church leaders, politicians and others called for separation of those who did not comply “for the common good”.
As I write this I remember reading about the family dynamic within Nazi Germany during the holocaust… parents would explain to their kids that it was not the Jewish people they were trying to deal with – it was their blood which was believed to be defective… absolutely chilling!! Looking at how society - even church leaders, and of course politicians encouraged “separation” and “segregation” the last two years – and otherwise good people have adopted obviously flawed facts as gospel truth… I grapple again with this burning question of truth.
How do we know when we are deceived?
Here are just a few thoughts on that:
We have to admit we can be wrong… the book of John says “If we boast that we have no sin, we’re only fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth.”
Always be searching for objective truth… not cultural truth if you want to avoid mass formation psychosis. Paul says in Thessalonians “test everything; hold fast what is good.”
Peace of mind and feelings can deceive us. This is evidenced by many atrocities people have committed while they appeared to have peace of mind. Our hearts can deceive us… Past trauma, life experiences, hurts, societal pressures and norms can all influence our minds and draw us into a false reality. We need to always be searching for foundational and indisputable truth apart from culture and apart from our own peace of mind. We must listen to what our mind is telling us… but not necessarily use that to guide us on our path to truth. The feelings serve a purpose... to get us to dig deeper to the real truth.
There is of course so much more here… I feel like I’m just past the outer layer of the onion. I will post more parts soon... we will talk about self deception, deception in the Church and more.
Wherever you are at in your journey – keep seeking real truth!
Jesus said in the book of John "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Stay strong and be the change!