470. Doubting Thomas? Part Three: Not Seeking Truth

Original Illustration (Public Domain)

 

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”    from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

 

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

Introduction

This Post will make more sense to you if you go back and read the last two Posts.

In our first Post, I recalled how “in the old days” American people trusted our national religious and political leaders to speak the truth. Also we considered that when Christ said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, He did not mean only theological truth. He is the One “through Whom all things were created”, so Christians need to seek what is true in all things: religion, science, politics, wherever. There is no “secular world”. Therefore, in this light, we’re going to look at more than “religion” today.

Last week we looked at how trust has been lost in so many ways in our society, and I blamed chiefly the churches for this. Contemporary American Christianity has become, for the most part, “The Church of What’s Happening Now”. Religion, dealing with the deepest truths, is the foundation of a good society, so when the churches stop caring about truth and lose their grip on Reality, so does society.

The churches also lose their grip on their people.

This is from a current Gallup Poll, measuring the drop in religious attendance over the past two decades: “Among religious groups, Catholics show one of the larger drops in [weekly] attendance, from 45% to 33%, while there are slightly smaller decreases among Orthodox [Christians] (9%) …” They noticed that we Orthodox exist! but don’t let this make you feel good: We Orthodox had the lowest percentage of weekly attendance of any Christian group in America. See:  Gallup poll, March 25, 2024.

Little wonder that today eight out of ten Americans believe religion is losing its influence on society (Pew Research) – and we Orthodox aren’t helping any.

Since even God no longer seems solid, to quote G.K. Chesterton again, many people believe “not in nothing, they believe anything” -“as many as six impossible things before breakfast”!

Many truths?

Some people who believe quite different things say, “Well, my truth is my truth; your truth is your truth. We’re both right.”

You can’t do that!

courtesy of PBS

Back in 1994 Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan * famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

  • A number of people have said the same in one variant or another. I heard it first from him.

Truth and facts are essential. Lies and falsehoods are dangerous, no matter whether it’s someone receiving the Holy Eucharist without believing, or the guy who says “I love you” when he doesn’t mean it, or when Hitler lied to the German people, convincing them that all Jews were evil, and he was building them a Thousand Year Reich. You know the result: World War II, six million dead Jews, over 75 million people killed overall, much of Germany in ruins – and a Twelve Year Reich. Truth matters.

Later in the 1950s and ’60s, it was Communist lies. The official Russian newspaper Pravda (“Truth” !!) and Radio Moscow put out such absurd propaganda that, dangerous as it was, we used to laugh at it, confident that we Americans could never fall for such lies.

Wrong.

The Way We Are Today

Here’s why we’re in trouble. (Remember, I blame chiefly the churches for this.)

1  Politics: You know what it’s come to. Some politicians now look us straight in the eye and tell us lies, things which they can’t possibly believe are true, but many of their followers do. Negative political ads and commercials prevail, often filled with falsehoods or distortions and with images of their opponents in the worst possible pose. (And I suppose you have never taken a bad picture…?)

Because of this, people don’t trust even the good, honest politicians – and there are some.

Current public approval of Congress: 12%. (Pew Research, February, 2024)

If I go any farther with this, I’ll be right into the middle of a particular political campaign. Suffice it to say that polls show this: About 80% of the public believe one particular candidate cannot be depended on to tell the truth. Nevertheless about half the country supports him for office. (Look it up for yourself.) Telling the truth no longer matters much.

2  News Media: Some (certainly not all) newscasters and “news celebrities”  lie to us regularly and become more popular despite it. Accuse those you disagree with of “fake news”, and soon people lose trust even in those who tell the truth. One result among many: “U.S. adults under thirty now trust information from social media almost as much as from national news outlets”. (Pew Research, October 27, 2022)

And that means we’re in deeper trouble. Because on the internet it’s even easier to cozy up with only the people we agree with and never have our ideas challenged.

3  The Social Media

On the internet, despite some feeble attempts to control it *, people can advocate the most outlandish, sometimes dangerous lies, which millions of folks then accept as true. Why? Because some other people do.

  • This is tricky, if we believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press.

4  Photo-shopping, etc.

You know that pictures can be faked. * And now with AI, even voices and videos can easily be faked, so we can watch and hear politicians (or even our friends and relatives) “say” and “do” things they never said, never did.

  • Now, at last, back to a religious topic: Did you know that a few years ago a photo of the now-infamous Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia showed him wearing a $30,000 watch. In later photos, the watch was not there. “Watch” carefully now:
Courtesy of New York Times

5  The Entertainment media. Movies and television “reflect the culture”, yes, but they also “create the culture”. One example among many: Is it true that couples living together without marrying makes no difference – to them? to society? I say… the Church says this creates instability in both cases. So why is this widely accepted today? I’d argue it’s partly because this untruth has been all over TV and the movies for a couple of generations, now – “and if they do it, why can’t we?”

So, at last, we come to it. This lack of concern for truth – this bizarre distrust of truth and fact – is the cause of…

Falsehoods that many believe today. 

We’ve always had the small crazy groups with us: The Flat Earth Society is growing, though one heretical break-off now believes the earth is in fact shaped like a frisbee. Another bunch believes the Apollo Moon landing was a fake, all filmed in a movie studio. These and others are all over the internet.

However, let’s concentrate on a few of the falsehoods that many people believe, and the facts many people refuse to believe.

Alaska (atmo.arizona.edu)

1  Global warming: I follow this closely and care about it a lot, because I graduated university in meteorology, and worked in it for a short while before heading to seminary. These are facts: Statistics gathered from all over the world show that the earth is warming rapidly, at an unprecedented rate. The ten warmest years in the past 174-year period have all occurred during the last decade (2014–2023), 2023 being the hottest of all. The predicted consequences have begun to take place: the sea level is rising; storms and heat waves are becoming more intense; glaciers are melting; desert areas are increasing. The evidence is overwhelming that this is caused by an increase of man-made CO2 in the air. 97% of climate scientists believe this. (nasa.gov)  However, many people (especially politicians?) won’t accept even the facts. * After he was presented with the facts, I heard a president of the United States respond simply, “I don’t believe it”.

  • Just this past Wednesday I happened to talk with a man who had followed a “talk show host” who denied global warming. Then he took a class which presented the facts. He said he was “shocked”.  Some years ago I heard the same “host” interview a guest climatologist who he thought was “safe”. When the climatologist began to present the facts, the “host” quickly said “Thank you for telling us that global warming does not exist” and cut him off the air!

2  Abortion. Instead of giving you the Church’s 2000-year- old teaching about this, or dealing with the legalities regarding abortion, let’s take the scientific approach: The heartbeat of the baby in the womb can be detected at five or six weeks, and his or her own unique personal DNA from at least seven weeks. (National Institute of Health) There is some evidence the baby can feel pain at some level as early as seven weeks. The beginning of “personhood” cannot be determined scientifically. However, the fetus is obviously “human life”  from conception and, from at least implantation, is at minimum a “unique person in development”, surely worthy of respect and protection. How can so many people ignore these facts?

at the Capitol riot (courtesy of Forbes)

3 I’d list Q-Anon among the “crazy” little groups, except that at least 15% of Americans believe its premises: That a secret clique of Satanic (and some say cannibalistic) child molesters is operating a global child sex trafficking ring from this country and that many prominent Americans, especially politicians even to the highest level, belong to it. The evidence for this bizarre belief is … what? (And there’s more, but I don’t want to get into that. Look it up for yourself.)

4  The 2020 Election. Despite thorough investigations by competent authorities from both our political parties, about 30% of Americans believe, without factual evidence, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Indeed, this lie appears to have become a sort of “loyalty oath” in order for people to be active in one of our major political parties. Does truth matter? Uh uh.

5  Covid Vaccine. The following are typical of many statistics gathered over the past few years: “People who received the updated COVID-19 vaccine were 54% less likely to get COVID-19 during the four-month period from mid-September 2023 to January 2024.” (National Institute of Health) Nevertheless about a third of Americans reject the statistics and have not been vaccinated. One minor Presidential candidate has considerable support largely because he has made rejection of Covid vaccine part of his platform.

P.S. added on June 17. As I have been forcefully reminded in comments below, not all thinking people agree with the above. I’ve just spent several hours researching the subject – one of the advantages of being retired. The one thing that stood out (to me, at least) is the very frequent connection between peoples’ belief about Covid and their political persuasion. Among many studies:

https://www.brookings.edu/articles/for-covid-19-vaccinations-party-affiliation-matters-more-than-race-and-ethnicity/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10781192/

https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/article/45/4/930/7220452

https://www.kff.org/policy-watch/the-red-blue-divide-in-covid-19vaccination-rates-continues-an-update

 

6   In a future Post we’ll look at the belief that young people, who were clearly born male and male, should be able to change their sex. And why is this suddenly all over our media?

There are more examples but that’s enough to make the point: Concern for truth doesn’t seem to interest many people these days. It’s worth mentioning also that in most of the above cases, what people think lines up chiefly along political lines. That is to say, it looks like their conclusions in most cases were based not so much upon thinking or searching for the truth, but rather upon which political party they belong to.

Oh, help.

People: Think! Try your best not to be taken in by lies and find yourself following the Evil One, the Father of Lies,

Lord, please give this world more doubters, more skeptics, more people who think for themselves, who want the truth and will settle for nothing less.

And that, finally and at long last, brings us back to…

The Apostle Thomas and his doubt

… Thomas who wanted The Truth.

courtesy of the OCA

It would have felt so good and been so easy to “go along with the crowd”, but he didn’t do it, even though they were his friends whom he had trusted. He had courage enough to question whether they might be wrong. If he was indeed as young as he is pictured in many of his icons, that meant he was even braver.

Note: We do not call him ‘Disbelieving Thomas”. He did not give up and say “I want nothing to do with these crazy people”.  Thomas was only unsure, only doubting what the other Apostles told him. That was why, on the Sunday evening after Pascha, he was still in their company. He still wanted to know what was true, whether they were right or wrong.

My Dad taught me, “Don’t be one of the sheep, one of the flock. Think for yourself.” Whether it’s your friends or your political party or your religion, don’t just follow the crowd.

That is how many of us became Orthodox, is it not?

We realized our flock was on the wrong path. We wanted the truth. In this most important part of our lives, surely we must not be taken in by the Father of Lies. We thought and searched and prayed and finally found the True Flock of the Good Shepherd, our Lord and God Jesus Christ.

Does that mean we rejected what we had been taught and had learned before? I know I didn’t. I’m grateful for all the people who taught me and all I learned from them – above all to treasure what is true. I look back and see my Lord Jesus leading me all the way, till He finally brought me Home.

So, brothers and sisters, never be afraid of your doubts, even about your Faith. Ask questions. Seek answers. Use your doubts to help you dig deeper into the Faith and come closer to The Truth.

In other words, be like Saint Thomas.

The Sunday Evening after Pascha

Thomas was again with the other Apostles in the Upper Room, still doubting, but still wanting to find the truth.

And then The Truth found him.

Duccio di Buoninsegna – c. 1300

Suddenly Jesus again stood in their midst and said “Peace be with you”. Then He said to Thomas: “Thomas, put your finger here and see My hands. Put your hand here and place it in My side, Do not be faithless, but believe.”

Notice, and this is important: the Lord never chastised Thomas for his doubt. He simply gave him the answer he sought.

Thomas cried: “My Lord and my God”.

And so “Believing Thomas” became the first to utter the words with which the Church has honored Jesus of Nazareth ever since: “Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ”.

Next Week: I haven’t had time to think about it. Anything you’d like to hear about? Comment below.

5 thoughts on “470. Doubting Thomas? Part Three: Not Seeking Truth

  1. Quote from your article:
    “The following are typical of many statistics gathered over the past few years: “People who received the updated COVID-19 vaccine were 54% less likely to get COVID-19 during the four-month period from mid-September 2023 to January 2024.”
    Typical, indeed.
    1. Who was classified as unvaccinated during that period? How, and how reliably, was the status of not being vaccinated determined?
    2. How was “get Covid 19” defined? A mere positive PCR? If so, what markers, what CT? Was that consistent over time and space and between laboratories? How was that consistency ascertained? And, really important: Where the requirements for frequency of testing the same for “vaccinated” and “unvaccinated”?
    3. For your reference:

    https://peoplesvaccineinquiry.co.uk/

    https://wherearethenumbers.substack.com/

    You write:
    “My Dad taught me, “Don’t be one of the sheep, one of the flock. Think for yourself.”
    — Maybe it’s time to take that lesson to heart.

    A little learning makes the whole world kin.

    1. Perhaps I could have found a better example of Covid research. If so, forgive me.

      The question is which flock one chooses to follow. Did I just blindly follow the herd in relation to Covid? No.

      My wife and I researched the Covid issue as best we could, since neither of us is a medical professional. Our daughter, who is just short of a degree in epidemiology, first alerted us that Covid was coming. Then we turned to medical professionals we know and trust in the parish, and also others I know and trust because of my medical conditions. They all said the same: Get the vaccine now. (Later, we incidentally met one doctor who was anti-vaccine.) Then we followed the national groups we trusted: the AMA, the CDC and so on. (Since Covid was new and just then being researched, naturally it took them a while to know exactly what was going on.) We also listened, chiefly on television, to the anti-vacciners and couldn’t find much we agreed with. Could we be wrong? Of course. But if so please know that it was not the result of a lack of thinking or trying to learn.

      So my wife and I have kept up with our vaccinations and, depite the fact that we have close contact with many people, we have not caught Covid. That’s all I know to say.

      So, to repeat, your thinking leads you not to walk with the “flock” I belong to. I respect that. My thinking has led me not to walk with the flock you belong to. OK?

      Father Bill

      1. No, not ok at all.

        Those who chose not to go along with the panic narrative have been misrepresented (your piece, with the headline being as it is, insinuates that those who hold a view on the Covid issue that differs from yours are “not seeking truth”), sidelined, ridiculed, some lost their jobs, lost their business, lost friends.

        It is not the job of a priest to further that division by pronouncing on a matter which he should not pronounce on in the first place: It is a truly diabolical thing to do so.

        It is not the job of bishops and priests to join in with the propaganda; if they choose to follow the regulations, they can do so without publicly taking position.

        Shame on any bishop, any priest who furthered the division my marginalizing those who did not play along.

        Shame on you.

          1. Father Bill,

            you write!

            “Thank you for your corrections and suggestions. I accept them in the spirit with which they are offered.”

            — No, in fact you don’t.
            1. You censored my last comment.
            2. You didn’t answer the question I asked.

            So, what do we have:
            A priest who misrepresents (“not seeking truth”) and ridicules (“crazy”, “flat earthers”) those who hold views that are not his own and suppresses information offered in a reply to his comment and evades a question.

            Years ago, Father Thomas Hopko said in one of his podcasts:
            “Few were called, and all were chosen.”
            Apparently, he wasn’t joking.

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