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« Re: Speaking of Objects | Main | Biblical Illiteracy »

September 27, 2006

The Fear of Being Fooled

I read with interest the blog about why conspiracy theories persist, and why some individuals seem unusually attracted to such theories, no matter how strong the evidence against them may be. When I followed the link to Feser's article, I found the most telling phrase near the end: "Yet no civilization can be healthy which nurtures such delusions, for they strike at the very heart of a society's core institutions -- family, religion, schools, political institutions, and so forth -- and replace the (sometimes critical) allegiance we should feel for them with a corrosive skepticism. Conspiracy theories are only the most extreme symptom of this disease."

For me, the question is "Where does such corrosive skepticism begin?" Does it not, perhaps, start in those core institutions -- such as families broken by divorce; or in families where physical, emotional, or verbal absue is the "norm"; or in churches where pastors are guilty of adultery, embezzlement, sexual abuse of children, etc.? Then there's the little matter of our "yellow journalism" culture where we are repeatedly treated to the roller-coaster school of reporting: public figures are given the "hero" treatment for several months, followed by the "goat" treatment for several months, followed by the "restored hero" treatment, followed by the "lapsed goat" treatment, etc. It doesn't take much of this before human beings begin to construct certain defense mechanisms in the soul. On a personal level, they learn to distrust, and they fear being fooled again (as the old saying goes -- "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.")

Feser hits the larger cultural and historical issues at work in the inherent cynicism of our times, but I wonder if we can't look closer to home for reasons why that cynicism finds such fertile soil. BTW, when was the last time any of us heard a pastor preach a sermon against the "sin of cynicism"? Perhaps it's time.

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