Untruth and Consequences
Updated: May 7, 2020
A recent article in a magazine to which I’ve subscribed for forty years included this conversation: “When my barber asked me if I believed that zombies were real, I laughed. ‘Zombies are on TV, movies, in books and games, but they’re not real.’ With agitation in her voice, my barber replied, ‘Well, my pastor preaches zombies are real. He says that the devil reinvigorates dead bodies and that’s what zombies are.’ ‘Where in the Bible does he get this?’ I replied. With more than a little indignation she said, ‘I don’t know. All I know is that zombies are real, and we better get our guns and our ammunition ready.’”
The issue at hand is not about preachers or the Bible or gun control. It’s about perception of reality.
The words of Daniel Moynihan, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts,” are often quoted . . . but often ignored or refuted in practice. Obviously, one’s perception of reality is factual to the observer, but that doesn’t make it true. A hunter, convinced it’s a bear, shoots at the critter coming toward him through the brush . . . and kills another hunter. One can fervently believe the sun revolves around the earth, but that does not make it so.
The consequences of many misperceptions are trivial or unimportant, but others cause untold misery. For instance, believing that human beings of color are subhuman and/or on earth to serve Caucasians fostered slavery and the U.S. Civil War, the resulting horrors being indescribable.
In any given situation or subject, which perception is correct? Sometimes it can be determined by honest empirical observation. Other times it’s not so easy. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world . . .” The U.S. Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” But these statements arise from a philosophical/theological base upon which not everyone stands. In fact, U.S. slave owners held to a perceived “truth” diametrically opposed to the Declaration.
The critical point: be careful. It behooves any one of us to do serious homework before ordering our lives around a “truth” that is untrue. A person who keeps a .357 magnum in the bedside drawer for zombies who might invade the home could be providing the weapon a child uses to shoot classmates or commit suicide.