When I was a child, up to the age of about fifteen I assumed adults were beings of pure reason, driven only by rational consideration and with truth as their highest ideal…because they seemingly were, by comparison to children.
Only by middle school did I begin to understand that not only do there exist people for whom truth is not of paramount importance, but who scorn it for one reason or another, and that there is no guarantee adult reasoning is any more valid than child reasoning…just more sophisticated.
I want you to imagine for a moment that you’re not a reasonable person. I want you to imagine there’s some event which happened to you, some unacceptable aspect of yourself, or some other fact which you absolutely cannot bear to acknowledge, so you’ve rejected reality. Truth is now incompatible with your happiness.
This is not a hypothetical for many millions of people who have lost a dearly beloved spouse or child to violent, premature deaths. Many such people must believe there is some supernatural continuation of their loved ones beyond the veil of death in order to keep getting up in the morning. Without that belief, they could not carry on.
That’s not the primary focus of this article, just one of the most common examples of traumatic experience that might cause one to dethrone truth as their highest ideal, because their happiness is dependent upon remaining convinced of a falsehood (or in the case of the afterlife, an unknowable proposition).
Now, if you’re such a person, you have different priorities than me. You are not always interested in what’s true. Maybe you are when it comes to astronomy, or geology, or any other topic. But when it comes to this one particular topic, you don’t want truth, you want to be fully immersed in a convincing illusion because truth is unbearably painful.
You’ll probably not want to argue with anybody about it, aware on some level that because you did not arrive at your conviction by reason and evidence, it is not defensible by those means either. Instead you’ll look for others who have arrived at the same conviction as you, probably in the same way, and surround yourself with them.
This is the ideal comfort you want. The false conviction upon which your happiness depends is normalized here. It feels authentically true because everyone around you agrees with it and implicitly treats it as factual in their speech, thought and actions.
If a naysayer wanders into your midst and says something which reminds you of the unwelcome reality you came here to escape, you will probably react with reflexive hostility. They’ve not done anything morally wrong; not from the perspective of a value system which prioritizes truth. But they’re a fly in your ointment. An alarm clock waking you up from a pleasant dream.
This will sour you to outsiders, because they are bulls in the china shop that is your fragile worldview. They are the children who naively but honestly point out the emperor’s nudity, upon which your lucrative employment as a tailor of invisible garments depends.
This is a simplified explanation of how there can be entire communities, entire societies of people united in their wrong belief, constantly working to push out “problem people” who disturb their blissful slumber. Before long nobody is left who remembers what’s true. The lie becomes their reality so completely that they do not even suspect any different.
This is the goal state for such people. Total immersion in the false reality to the point that there’s not even any remaining awareness of the unwelcome truth. This is what makes coexistence with skeptics impossible.
It’s not enough for people living a lie to be humored by skeptics. Because if they’re aware skeptics are only humoring them, then they’re aware not everybody believes what they do. Cracks begin to appear in their bubble, through which they can glimpse the terrible truth they worked so hard to banish from their awareness.
Thus, if there was someone who had spent decades of their life convinced they were a superhero with invisibility powers, it would be deeply embarrassing to confront the reality that they have no such powers. So that truth is off the table. Their comfort, dignity and happiness would require that everybody they ever interact with pretend that they can turn invisible, behaving as if they cannot see that person while their “powers” are active.
Try to imagine if there was a sizable subculture of people who believe themselves to have this ability. Try to imagine that a majority of the mainstream population decided the kindest course of action was to humor these people. To facilitate their fantasy at any cost.
In this case you don’t have the option not to play along. Their facilitators would regard your refusal to do so as “mean”. A definition of mean which assumes without examination or argument that their own value system is objective; that humoring the make believe superhero community is the morally correct thing to do, and not humoring them is cruel.
That’s certainly one possible take. But it ignores that there are other equally valid takes. For example, that it’s immoral to force those values onto people who instead prioritize upholding truth. But this condition of society-wide, Truman Show style facilitation of fantasy doesn’t work unless everybody’s in on it. As such, the facilitators cannot tolerate the existence of even one person going against the grain.
You need to be absolutely convinced that the falsehood is true. That those people really are superheroes. They don’t care why you believe that, only that you do. If you don’t, they don’t care to try and convince you of it, they just want you gone. Destroyed, if necessary.
This condition exists today. But the subculture in question is not people who believe themselves to be superheroes. As you probably already guessed, this model describes the emotional dynamics of (among others) religious culture, and groups defined by shared religious conviction, like flat Earthers and creationists.
Flat Earthers would no doubt absolutely love it if mainstream culture decided to require everybody to speak, think and behave as if Earth is flat, harassing and deplatforming anybody who says it’s instead an oblate spheroid. Creationists, too, would no doubt love it if a majority of non-creationists took pity on them and forced everybody else to treat creationism as true in education, the workplace and every day conversations, so as not to hurt their feelings.
But they don’t get that special treatment, because they are deeply unpopular groups, so nobody cares if their feelings get hurt. The notion of upholding the rights of people you dislike doesn’t exist anymore. Who gets what rights is now decided by social media popularity contests.
While nobody sympathizes with flat Earthers or YECs enough to force everybody else to humor them, there’s loads of people who deeply sympathize with the trans community. Who will react with reflexive hostility to the discovery that you don’t believe transwomen are women, in the biological sense, nor that transmen are men.
As in the earlier example, they do not care to argue with you. They don’t feel they should have to try to convince you of it, because in their mind pretending that falsehood is true is the morally correct thing to do. So if you consider yourself a morally upright person, you ought to already agree with them in the first place, and you’re being evil by disagreeing.
Again, they don’t believe in rights for “bad people” and never question whether their definition of who is a “bad person” is objective. Their morality is just as unexamined as a Christian, Mormon or Muslim’s morality, their certainty that it’s unquestionably objective just as immovably firm.
If you don’t come to them already fully converted, fully programmed and fully onboard with the unspoken goal, then you are an unperson. Shunned, because the world they want to create has no place for you. Because they did not arrive at their position by reason and evidence so they can’t convince you of it by argument, they don’t feel they should have to, and you can easily be replaced by somebody they don’t need to convince. So if they have the power to make that exchange, they will do it.
It’s not enough to agree to keep your mouth shut and humor the people they want you to humor. Because then you’re aware you’re humoring them. Ideally you wouldn’t be aware of that, you’d truly believe Earth is flat, or that evolution is false, or that some people are superheroes, or that no difference exists between a post op transwoman and someone born female.
Their ideal citizen is someone with no inkling that’s not the case. Much about how they behave only makes sense in light of all this. The way they punish people for saying true things, confusing to someone who assumes everybody prioritizes truth above all else, makes perfect sense once you realize truth is their enemy. That they have divorced truth and married themselves to a lie, in solidarity with a tiny minority whose brains are wired such that they cannot live any other way.
How did we arrive at this state of popular, widespread, culturally mandated insanity? This time of universal deceit, in which telling the truth has become a revolutionary act? Like frogs in a pan brought slowly to boil.
Every step along the chain of reasoning leading to this condition seems individually reasonable: 1. There exist people who feel strongly that something false is true. 2. They find it unbearable to live any other way. 3. As they can’t help but be like this, we must accommodate them, surely?
But is “accommodating” people with gender dysphoria by funding the surgical affirmation of their beliefs the moral thing to do? Should we also “accommodate” schizophrenics by pretending that we, too, can hear the voices? Is that healthy, or does it feed and enable a pathology?
What of the people who don’t consent to play along? Do their rights vanish because they’re unpopular? Should only those groups which wokies personally sympathize with have rights? Is it really a human right to force everybody around you to validate your beliefs?
One of the implications would be that disagreement itself is inherently immoral. Therefore you no longer have freedom of belief, but instead must affirm as true something you know to be false, else you’re an evil person. Is that reasonable? Does everybody get this protection from disagreement, or only popular groups that provoke sympathy?
If I were to say that I identify as always correct, for example, and as such it is immoral to dispute my conclusions, the reaction would doubtless be that it’s an asinine take. But why is that more asinine than to say we all must profess that transwomen are women and transmen are men, because disputing that hurts their feelings and therefore is immoral? Why is their wrong belief protected but mine isn’t?
This is the other reason why simply humoring such people isn’t good enough. Because for the new status quo to be upheld, wherein you’re required under penalty of social and professional destruction to profess beliefs contrary to your own understanding of reality, the belief itself must be regarded as literally factual. Otherwise the people forcing you to validate it would have to conclude they’re being perverse and oppressive by doing so. That does not compute; they identify as the good guys. Therefore you must be the one that’s wrong.
This is how you wind up with guys like Kent Hovind and Ken Ham for whom an Earth under ten thousand years old is not only morally necessary (moral necessity to the fabric of society being a common justification for upholding lies) but also self-evidently factual.
They’re fully immersed, fully programmed, without so much as an inkling that they’re wrong. Like fish who don’t think they’re wet, because they can’t see the water they’re in. This is how they can say with a straight face that science bears out the truth of their claims, “when correctly interpreted”. Because from their perspective, it has to.
This is also how you wind up with scores and scores of people, mostly reasonable in all other matters, who went from “We should humor these people to avoid hurting their feelings”, to believing that it is a scientific fact that humans are not reproductively binary. That sex is a spectrum rather than bimodally distributed, that the vanishingly rare outliers are proof of critical gender theory rather than proof that birth defects exist. Because that conclusion is mean, therefore immoral, therefore untrue.
From the outside this all seems self evidently mad. But from the inside it’s totally convincing because it lies at the end of a long chain of dependent propositions, each of which seems individually reasonable and morally necessary. Much in the way that indoctrination into Scientology does not begin with Thetans and Xenu, but classes onhow to organize your life, how to maximize information retention when studying for tests and so on.
This is what it means for a belief to be sacred: Sacred beliefs cannot be challenged, for no other reason than because they can’t withstand it. This is why the reaction of people married to a sacred belief which does not survive any amount of scrutiny is often immediate hostility and even violence.
Every minute they tolerate your presence, arguing with their convictions, they risk waking up to painful realities they cannot live with. This negatively shapes their perception of skeptics as wicked, dangerous people to be shunned/avoided, independently of how skeptics actually behave, because they need to justify actions taken to terrify/brutalize you into silence.
This is why Europeans have died by the busload because somebody published an article about the age of Aisha, Muhammad’s underaged bride. Or why discussing openly the number and ages of Joseph Smith’s wives would lead to your swift expulsion from BYU. Or why it’s a bad idea to compare the Watchtower Society against the B.I.T.E. model in a conversation with an elder witness, in kingdom hall.
It’s why discussing the biological nature of sex and its role in reproduction, evolution and so on will now often result in an immediate tidal wave of abuse. Up to and including remorseless attempts to bring material harm to you, such as depriving you of income, food, housing and medical care.
It’s why the predictable reaction to any attempt at all to broach this subject on certain platforms will be over-wrought, performative outrage. Because that’s a proven means of bluffing someone into thinking they’ve actually done something outrageous, and should be ashamed. It’s a totally free way to put someone on the defensive which doesn’t require anything except theatrical flair.
It’s why such people will try to harm you in retaliation for making a simple statement of dry academic truth; because in their mind, the only possible reason you might do that is to cause harm, which merits equal and opposite retaliation.
It’s why they will often challenge your motivation for discussing certain facts, rather than attempting to dispute their credibility. Invalidating your motivation can serve as a shortcut which bypasses the need to actually show that you’re wrong in the factual sense. Yet another tactic to avoid attempting a defense of the indefensible.
It’s why the very subcultures we’re most likely to intuitively regard as gross have deliberately taken ownership of and repurposed the word “gross” to refer to anybody who would describe them that way. Linguistic re-framing, the cultural equivalent of the tail wagging the dog. One of many ways in which control of language is employed by enemies of truth in order to prevent unwanted expression.
This same turning of the tables, this cultural and linguistic role reversal is reflected in the way we’ve gone from hunting, exposing and shunning homosexuals in the recent past, to doing the same to homophobes in the present (and more recently, transphobes). The witch hunt never ended, we just changed targets.
Control over who society shuns is powerful indeed. If you’re the ones who make the list of official unpersons, you’re occupying the only position which is absolutely insulated, absolutely safe from the purges.
Only the inquisitors, you might say, are safe from the inquisition. Different political, racial and religious groups have worn this mantle at different points in history. None made what I would regard as magnanimous use of it. Each instead created a terrifying, zero sum McCarthyist atmosphere, hunting down and destroying unpersons.
What if instead, we upheld the right of every individual to live, dress, speak and refer to themselves however they’re most comfortable…but also the right of every individual to hold their own beliefs and not be forced to validate someone else’s? Accepting that we haven’t the right to interfere in one another’s lives, but nor are we owed agreement.
What if we didn’t have to live this way, under constant fear of mass harassment, deplatforming, social and professional ruination by extrajudicial mobs? “You don’t” the moral inquisitors might say, “all you need to do is adopt our beliefs, and affirm them as factually true whenever it comes up.” Usually expressed as “it costs literally zero dollars not the be transphobic”.
It also costs literally zero dollars to affirm a young Earth, for the comfort and happiness of creationists. An absolutely valid analogy, but seemingly a red herring to the moral inquisitors, only because to them creationists are unpersons and therefore obviously undeserving of such protections.
It costs literally zero dollars to affirm that the Earth is flat, to spare the feelings of flat Earthers. Who are, after all, every bit as human as any trans person. Just as sensitive, just as capable of having their feelings hurt. By the exact same logic which says we should affirm the beliefs of trans people to avoid hurting their feelings, we ought to also affirm the beliefs of flat earthers so their feelings aren’t hurt.
But this is not how reasonable people define tolerance. Tolerance of creationists does not require that we agree with creationism. Tolerance of flat earthers does not require that we agree the Earth is flat. Neither does tolerance of trans people require that we agree with critical gender theory.
As such, disputing the claims that sex is a spectrum, that transwomen are women, that some women have penises (and their various similar mantras) cannot, by itself, be considered intolerant. Otherwise any kind of disagreement is intolerance.
All of this means nothing to moral inquisitors, for whom tolerance means holding all the currently approved, orthodox progressive beliefs rather than permitting a variety of beliefs, even on topics you feel are morally important.
This level of analysis requires a great deal more thought than tribalism. The human brain, having evolved to conserve calories, will sooner fall back on the less metabolically expensive pathways.
Not attempting to argue, instead searching for strategic alternatives. Questioning motives. Harassment. Shunning. Physical explusion. “Who is this guy, saying such things? Why is he allowed here? Who let him in? Get rid of him!” Cue the torches and pitchforks. Or deplatforming campaigns. Or explosive vests.
All the while, they act as if you’ve done something terrible and should know it. As if you are the cause of their unhappiness, rather than their own divorce from truth and subsequent marriage to lies.
Predicted, perhaps ironically by Saint Anthony the Great who once said “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.’”
Do we not live in that world? Where the laudable humanitarian pursuit of kindness, sans critical examination of what “kindness” means, results in the enthusiastic defense of absolutely anything it is imagined that bigots might dislike? Simply because if bigots dislike it, then it must be virtuous…including certain facts?
That backwards, upside down, inside-out reasoning now somehow checks out for millions who look on as drag queens give lap dances to confused, anxious children in libraries. As transwomen inflict career ending injuries on woman athletes they shouldn’t be competing directly against.
A world where a highschool girl who protests when forced under threat of expulsion to undress in the same locker room with a male student that only recently began to identify as female, having made no efforts to transition, can expect death threats and all manner of other extrajudicial retaliation.
A world in which the Rotherham, Rochdale, Telford, Oxford, Banbury, Derby, Bristol, Newcastle, Halifax, Peterborough, Berkhamsted, Manchester and Norwich grooming gangs continued to methodically rape thousands of children for years despite police knowledge of their activities, because the police were fearful of being thought racist.
We look on, and do nothing. Some of us knowing it’s depraved, but kept in check by the chilling effect of cancel culture, terrified to be unpersoned. Others sincerely supportive, fully indoctrinated, all pathways in their brain which might lead them to question how we got to this point long since short-circuited.
Those short circuited synapses only spark more furiously if you ask questions like “why is it important for drag queens to read to children? How does that advance the human species? Does it get us somehow closer to colonies on Mars?” A non-sequitor to somebody whose value system prioritizes weird sex stuff over the objective, quantifiable improvement of the human condition.
How do millions of people lose sight of what’s important so severely that they viciously defend lies and the liars who tell them, collectively descending upon and eviscerating anybody who dares to point out the emperor’s nudity?
Crazed lemmings rendered unable, even for a moment, to step outside the collective ideological bubble they’re in to discover where the chain of reasoning they followed to get there has actually taken them. Let alone question whether it advances humanity by any concrete metric.
But tyranny of the mad is the only outcome we should expect when a majority dethrone truth as their highest ideal. When you close your eyes to reality, you can hardly expect to navigate it effectively. You become a ship without a rudder, every turn is a wrong turn taking you further and further off course until your surroundings are unrecognizable.
In that direction lies madness and depravity, which was always the intended destination for some. The rest are astonished, having truly believed in the virtue of what they were doing. Having assumed that the unstoppable momentum they imparted to the engine of civil rights would all dissipate as soon as it reached what they believed to be the logical finish line, and that everybody who warned them it wouldn’t stop there were just stupid or evil.
There is no changing the trajectory we’re on so long as everybody whose eyes are still open to reality remains gagged, under threat of destruction. Like being the only sober person in the car, but nobody will let you drive.
If you care at all to prevent that car from winding up in a ravine, take the wheel. Do not be silenced by fear, cry out that the emperor’s naked body is plainly visible and others who recognize the truth of what you’re saying will add their voice to yours, emboldened by your defiance.
Above all else, fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.