A Preference for Lies

One of the more discouraging things I’ve noticed is the general lack of interest in the truth. This preference to run screaming from the truth, fingers in ears, yelling “la-la-la” afflicts a sizeable percentage of the people we come in contact with every day.

I noticed this most recently on Facebook when someone posted a picture in the style of a Norman Rockwell painting. The children had their hands on their hearts and were obviously saying the Pledge of Allegiance. The words scrawled on the picture asked, “Why don’t children do this anymore?” The poster commented that people should repost the picture and that we “need to do something to restore the Pledge to the classroom.”

I was infuriated because this picture makes an assumption that isn’t true. My wife is a public school teacher. She has the children say the Pledge every day. She’s not alone. The Pledge is said every day in just about every classroom in America.

And in most states it’s mandated by law.

There are six states where the pledge is optional: Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio and South Dakota. Meanwhile, the states of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii simply have no laws regarding the Pledge.

But in all the other states, the law dictates that teachers must have their classes recite the Pledge of Allegience. For instance in California, where my wife teaches.

So I responded to the posting with this information, relating my wife’s daily experience, as well as with some documentation that would be easy for people to understand: a link to a website with nice maps and charts:

http://undergod.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000074

My comments and the link had no effect whatsoever.

Dozens of people “liked” the original post. Dozens more shared it on their own pages. The comments below my posting, without exception, ignored what I wrote. Instead, the subsequent posters expressed mournful sorrow over how the Pledge is no longer being said, with railings against the public schools, and how the disappearance of the Pledge signals the decline of America.

Sigh.

What I have learned from years of previous experience—and what this serves as an example of—is that most people who have made up their minds about a topic, especially if it meshes with some core belief of theirs, will simply not be swayed by the truth. No facts, no refutation, no demonstration will ever be enough. The old saying is true: “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind.”

Years ago when I was in college I researched an odd belief called “British Israelism.” I knew that merely destroying the underlying presuppositions of the belief would be insufficient. So I sought additionally to refute each and every point built upon the demonstrably untrue foundation. At the time, I read every work created by those who believed in British Israelism and I made a detailed analysis of their beliefs. This was my senior project for my undergraduate history degree: in order to graduate I was required to turn my research into a short book and a two part magazine article that was published the month I graduated from college and the month following.

Those who hold to British Israelism think that the “ten lost tribes of Israel” wandered until they settled in the British Isles. Therefore, the white, Anglo-Saxon people who speak English are the actual descendants of Israel and they will receive all the blessings that God promised the Israelites.

It is a belief that has been adopted by white supremacists, anti-Semites, and, oddly, several Moslem extremist groups.

The whole foundation of the British Israel notion is demonstrably false: there is no such thing as ten lost tribes.

Unfortunately, blowing up the basic core of the belief proved insufficient to disabuse these people of their racist notions. Sadly, I’ve since discovered that even refuting each and every one of the beliefs they have built upon this non-existent foundation doesn’t make them see the light of truth.

A few years ago I had to send a cease and desist letter to a white supremacist site ordering them to take down a quote from that article: my definition of British Israelism and a summary of what they believe. I told them they could keep my quote up on their site on two conditions: that they pointed out that I was opposed to British Israelism and everything else they believed in, and if they linked back to the full article.

They took my quote down.

Obviously they had read my article, since they quoted from it. But just as obviously, it had no effect on their beliefs.

Too often as human beings, we will believe what we want to believe, the facts be damned. We may claim we want to know the truth, but more likely we would rather not. We regularly and willfully turn our backs on anything that might disrupt the comfortable illusion we prefer to harbor. When Adam Savage of the Mythbusters commented, “I reject your reality and I substitute my own,” he was just being funny.

Unfortunately, his words are what a lot of folk actually live by.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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