WE ARE CAPABLE OF FAR BETTER THAN THAT

“The official story that the war was about the South’s desire to protect and expand slavery and the North’s determination to abolish it is not merely an error in academic history.  The evidence against it has not been ignored so much as it has been suppressed.  It had to be suppressed because it contradicts the legitimating myth of the centralized nationalist regime that emerged after the war.  Having been repeated so often, it has come to be believed because of repetition.”

From Why the War Was Not About Slavery

An essay by Donald W. Livingston

The above excerpt–from one of the most enlightening writings I have ever read–contains one of the most profound observations about our aversion toward critical thinking that I have ever encountered:

Having been repeated so often, it has come to be believed because of repetition.

We human beings like to think simplistically, if we think at all.  We have a natural aversion toward critical thinking–a natural aversion toward questioning anything. We don’t like to examine the complex nature of any issue–we like to believe what is easiest to believe, no matter how questionable or outright false it is.  Our shared human tendency is toward two-valued thinking–all or nothing, black and white.  We don’t mind the truth unless we are uncomfortable with it.  But we are uncomfortable with the truth most of the time.  We like to believe–but we don’t like to know.

Having been repeated so often, it has come to be believed because of repetition.

The simplistic claim that the American “Civil War” was about slavery is not true. But it has been repeated so often that it has come to be believed because of repetition.

Yet there are so many other claims–some of them simplistic, some of them not–that have come to be believed because of repetition.

Consider this one:

“Six million Jews were killed in the Nazi German concentration camps.”

There is no evidence to support this claim at all.  Yet in some countries one can be imprisoned for questioning this claim.

Many Jews died in the Nazi German concentration camps.

But the “six million” is completely arbitrary–there is no evidence to support that figure.

Furthermore, there was a typhus epidemic that swept through the Nazi German concentration camps–many, if not most of the Jews who died in the Nazi German concentration camps died of typhus.

This does not mean that the Nazi German regime was not responsible for the deaths of many Jews–it was.

But to simply accept the claim that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi German concentration camps is irresponsible.

Because–to accept any claim as truth simply because it has been repeated is irresponsible.

There are even claims Christians believe simply because they’ve been repeated–claims that are not even substantiated anywhere in the Bible.

One such claim is that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.

There is absolutely nothing in the Gospels that substantiates the claim that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  In fact, Mary Magdalene is portrayed, throughout the Gospels, as a very close friend of Jesus–one who stayed with Jesus in his time of crucifixion, even after all of his disciples had abandoned him.

A minister even pointed out to me, once, that Mary Magdalene may have been Jesus’ wife.  And this is possible–women truly were considered second class citizens throughout the Roman Empire, and it would not have been unusual for the male Gospel writers to have failed to mention such a close relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

What about the three wise men who brought gifts to Jesus?

The Gospels do not say that there were three of them.

The Gospels only describe the magi as “wise men from the east.”

Even the date of the holiday commemorating Jesus’ birth–December 25.

The Gospels do not tell the time of year of Jesus’ birth.  In fact, most historians place Jesus’ birth sometime in June.

I have even felt, for a very long time, that Christmas ought to be moved to June–to separate it from the secular, commercial trappings of the December 25 holiday. Because, no matter how hard they try, it is impossible for most Christians to truly “keep Christ in Christmas.”

We have come to believe that the “Civil War” was about slavery–simply because this claim has been repeated so often.

We have come to believe that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi German concentration camps–simply because this claim has been repeated so often.

We have even come to believe that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, that there were three wise men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus, and that Jesus of Nazareth was born on December 25–simply because these claims have been repeated so often.

Having been repeated so often, it has come to be believed because of repetition.

There are millions upon millions of people–all over the world–who truly believe that the only purpose we human beings have is to be happy–that happiness is our only reason for living.

Even those who believe in intelligent design, rather than evolution, cannot deny that we human beings are animals.  We are animals.  We are mammals, we are primates.  We are omnivorous, predatory animals.  And physically, we are the most defenseless animals on the planet.

The only reason we are the apex predators on this planet–the only reason we have dominion over all other animals is that our minds are so highly developed. It is our extremely advanced intelligence–and only our extremely advanced intelligence–that gives us dominion over our fellow animals.  We are the only animals on this planet that are born with spirituality–but even our spirituality exists because of our advanced intelligence.

We truly are “put on this earth to think.”

If our Creator expects anything of us at all, our Creator expects us to think.

And thinking requires questioning.

And it is our responsibility–as the most intelligent animals in the world, by far–to question everything.  Even everything we have come to believe, simply because it has been repeated so often.

Having been repeated so often, it has come to be believed because of repetition.

We should not believe anything simply because it has been repeated so often–we are capable of far better than that.

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