When People Abandon Reason for Madness
What if a group of people believed false things that impacted their ability
to make correct decisions? How would the individuals of that group do at
functioning in the world with other people? For example, let's say that a
certain group of people believed that the results of mathematical equations
would result in random answers (something false). Thus, if one of their
children asked, 'what is the sum of 2 plus 2 daddy', the parent would say,
'well, we are not really sure, maybe 6, maybe 3, or possibly 4'. How well
would their buying, selling or trading work? How would their architects
and engineers design things to build? If a group of people denied the
principles that mathematics operates on, then they would be hard pressed to live
up to their human potential, and would likely be in chaos.
As another example, what if a group of people believed that each person must decide what a particular noun means (that the meanings of the nouns in that culture's dictionary are incorrect). In other words, they agreed on a basic vocabulary in terms of the word's existence, spelling and pronunciation, but left the definition of the words up to the individual. How well could that group communicate? If a group of people turned away from a common standard for knowing the meaning of nouns, then would not confusion and chaos result? Imagine this grocery store scene, 'Excuse me sir, could you please tell me where the apples are'; the worker answers, 'well, what do you mean by 'sir' and 'apples'?'
As another example, what if a group of people could not agree on what was right behavior and what was wrong behavior? So, for example, one parent believes that it is OK when their son takes vegetables from their neighbor's garden without asking but others don't. Another parent thinks it is OK if their son bullies and forces his will upon others but others don't. An adult male thinks that fourteen year old girls are 'fair game' for his sexual activities but most others don't, especially dads with daughters. If that group of people could not agree on what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior, how would that group do? Would there be harmony and peace, or would there be discord and conflict?
As far-fetched as the above examples might seem, the point of this article is to demonstrate that there is a widely held belief in the United States (and other nations as well) that is serving as the foundation for - and enabling - people to in fact enter into the kind of destructive confusion in the examples above.
There are two elements to the source of confusion. First, people denying that any universal standard regarding 'proper' human behavior exists. The second element is people being unable to use reason in order to arrive at sound conclusions in any realm of knowledge, but particularly in the realm of human beliefs and behavior.
Let's start by not looking at the foundational belief or primary reason why people are losing their ability to reason well, but rather at one of its 'children'.
A Popular Belief: 'We Must Respect Other People's Beliefs'
'Each person has their own beliefs and those beliefs must be respected and
not sought to be changed by another person. Stated another way, since
there are no absolute truths, it is intolerant and disrespectful to judge
another person's beliefs as somehow deficient or wrong and thus needing changing
Examining this popular belief:
The above statement contains essentially four primary elements:
Element one is self evidently true. However, it is important to point out that two or
more people can share the same beliefs. It is also possible for two or
more people to judge the beliefs that they share as the most important beliefs
Element two is not necessarily true. We will examine this in the following paragraphs.
Element three is not necessarily true and it serves as the foundation for elements two and four. It is the key belief referred to in the beginning of this article and will be examined later.
Element four is a re-statement of element two.
It is important that the reader understand that the assumptive statement 'since there are no absolute truths' needs to be true in order for elements two and four of the popular belief to be true - and without 2 and 4 being true, the belief is clearly false. This assumptive statement is often not spelled out, stated or clearly identified in the popular belief, but is assumed since it serves as the foundation of the popular belief.
Examining Element Four
The statement, 'it is intolerant and disrespectful to judge another person's
beliefs' is immediately shown as false as it is what is known as a
self-defeating statement. A self-defeating statement is one that
contradicts itself. For example, 'all red rocks are blue' (physical), or,
'kind people enjoy hurting others' (moral) are self-defeating statements since
within the statement the single subject or point in the statement is
contradicted within the statement. In the previous two examples, the
single subject or point is the color of all red rocks, and the contradiction to
that single point is that red rocks are blue. In the next example, the
single subject or point is what kind people enjoy, and the contradiction to that
single point is that kind people enjoy hurting others.
Please consider this statement, 'it is wrong to judge'. Is that a self-defeating statement? Yes, it is for a judgment is made in the statement which statement says it is wrong to judge! The statement 'it is wrong to judge' is merely a simplified version of, 'it is intolerant and disrespectful to judge another person's beliefs'. If a person believes and expresses that 'It is acceptable to judge another person's beliefs', then that person is JUDGED as intolerant and disrespectful by the person who believes, 'it is intolerant and disrespectful to judge another person's beliefs'. Do you see the contradiction? The person who says, 'It is intolerant and disrespectful to judge another person's beliefs' judges the person who disagrees with their belief!
The above examples of false statements are proved false by using logic. Logic provides rules by which reasoning should operate. Logic is a sub component of reasoning. One of the laws of logic says that if two things/concepts/ideas/beliefs contradict one another when addressing the same subject, and both claim to be true, then at least one is false. This is the case for the statement, 'all red rocks are blue' or 'it is wrong to judge'. In the latter, the subject, 'judgment', is said to be wrong or is judged to be wrong. Thus, the statement is false as it contradicts itself.
Let us look at the main issue again from a slightly different perspective to help the reader grasp this important point.
'It is wrong to say something is wrong'. This statement uses a synonym for 'judge', namely a type of judgment, 'wrong-ness', in order to make clearer the false nature of the statement. The statement claims that it is wrong to say something is wrong - a clear contradiction. It is the same nature of statement of something like, 'It is bad to say (or judge) something is bad'. Judgment is the declaration of something as right or wrong, good or bad, true or false. The nature of the term 'wrong' is undeniably an essential aspect of human judgment and an integral part of human reasoning. A person cannot utter a coherent, non-definitional statement containing the word 'wrong' (and its associated concept) without making a judgment.
Therefore, the statement, 'It is wrong to judge' is a false statement as the statement contradicts itself. For the person uttering, 'it is wrong to judge' is himself making a proclamation of judgment, and thus is doing what he says is wrong.
Element four of the popular belief contains the same exact elements as the abbreviated version ' 'it is wrong to judge' - and thus element four is clearly false.
The popular belief also relies heavily on the concept of 'respect', for the
popular belief says all people must 'respect' other people's beliefs.
Thus, it is important that the term 'respect' be defined and properly
The people who believe the popular belief define the term 'respect' as meaning a person should not say anything negative about another person's beliefs nor state that they believe it is false. The concept of 'respecting someone's rights' might seem akin to this, but is significantly different for the following reason. A 'right' is a legal concept and to respect someone's right to 'free speech' for example, means to agree they are allowed to express themselves - it does not address the content of the speech, but rather a person's 'freedom' to speak at all. The popular belief we are looking at has everything to do with the content or nature of a person's beliefs for we are told we must 'respect' other's beliefs.
Here are some definitions of 'respect' (in the context it is used in the popular belief) from widely accepted dictionary sources in the United States.
All these definitions assume there is a basis for one person respecting another. In other words, these definitions assume that the first person sees something worthy of respect in the other person or thing. For example, if you have never met someone and during your first encounter with the person, the person is doing something you believe is wrong, you are unlikely to 'respect' that person. If during your first encounter with a person, that person is not doing anything but rather just sitting there, you also would be unlikely to say 'I respect that person'. If you did want to make that statement in those circumstances, then this author would suggest what you are really saying is, 'All human's deserve respect', which statement has a very different meaning than a personal respecting of a person due to their characteristics or behavior.
Testing the Popular Belief
Let us first test the popular statement's basic premise using some example statements. The popular belief ' 'each person has their own beliefs and those beliefs must be respected and not sought to be changed by another person'.
'I believe that all people with a dark skin color are not as highly evolved as people with lighter skin, and thus they are less human and ought to be relegated to some type of servant status only, for this belief is true and right to me.'
'I believe that people who have different religious beliefs than I do are inferior to me, for this belief is true for me.'
'I believe that it is good for adult men to sexualize young girls, for this belief (and desired subsequent behavior) is true for me.'
'I believe that christians are all untrustworthy aggressive people who ought to be defeated and subjugated to non-christian people, for this belief (and desired consequence) is true for me'.
'I believe that people who say they believe God exists ought to have their foolish God beliefs removed from their minds in order to be enlightened by those who have had true reality revealed to them, for this belief is true for me'.
'I believe that it is good and right to protect myself (including harming them) from other people who frighten me due to their differences from me, for this belief is true for me.'
'I believe that it is good and right to distrust people who are different from me, and to allow that distrust to become fear and hatred, for this belief is true for me'.
'I believe that those who have less material things should forcibly take material resources from those who have more and who will not willingly share, for this belief and behavior is true for me.'
'I believe that 'non-normal people' (handicapped, retarded, etc.) are a drain on society and thus ought to be 'eliminated', for this belief is true to me and ought to be true for everyone'.
Given the statements above, how does the 'each person has their own beliefs and those beliefs must be respected and not sought to be changed by another person' philosophy hold up to your reasoning? The philosophy sounds good at first glance, but it does not lead to human freedom and true respecting of one another. Rather, it can be (and is) used to justify 'evil' (the unjust harming of people) and opens the door wide for the strong or aggressive to take advantage of those who are weak or vulnerable. For if I believe I can take from others without their consent, and I am stronger than my targets, what will happen? What in fact does happen millions of times each day?
Some would seek to qualify the philosophy of 'a person is free to believe in whatever way they like, for whatever they believe is right or true to them' with the premise 'as long as what a person believes does not cause harm to others'. The 'harm clause' does not fix the fundamental flaw with the belief which flaw is that it begs the question regarding what standard of human behavior is used in the first place. The harm clause cannot overcome the same problem - what standard is used to determine 'harm to others'? In other words, who or what is the standard a person turns to in order to know what causes harm to others? Let us look at some examples to illustrate the fatal flaw in the 'harm clause' proposition.
Is it harmful for people to serve or sell food or consumptive items that are known to be harmful to people?
'I believe that it is good that I can profit off of selling food (or tobacco) that is proved to contain cancer causing agents to other people, for this belief is true for me'.
Is it harmful for a woman who 'willingly' performs sexual acts in front of a camera in order to make money 'harmful' to anyone? What standard do you use to make that judgment?
'I believe that it is good for women to believe and be trained that they are primarily an object to be used for sexual pleasure by men, and to earn income for such a belief and associated activities, for this belief is true for me'.
Is it harmful for children to be allowed or led by their parents to play act or enjoy violence?
'I believe that it is fine for parents to allow their children to buy and play video games that involve explicit personal and gratuitous violence, for this belief is true for me'. Or, 'I believe that it is good for children to learn to enjoy perpetrating violence by partaking in virtual violence and thus training their minds as such, for this belief is true for me'.
Is it harmful for people to believe and thus practice that using a powerful narcotic is a good way to worship god?
'I believe that it is good for me to use LSD (or whatever the latest drug is) in order to connect with my god, for this belief is true for me'.
Is it harmful for one group of people to raid a neighboring group, and to take their women and children for slaves for their own group?
'I believe that un-contacted tribes in the Amazon basin (which tribes do in fact forcibly take women and children from neighboring tribes) have a right to be free of all outside influence due to evolutionary principles which lead me to believe that all their behavior is right for them, for this belief is right for me.'
Is it harmful for one person to see another person being harmed, and yet do nothing about it?
'I believe that I should have done nothing today when I saw the old man in the trench coat reveal himself to the little girl in the park, because this belief is right for me.'; or, 'I am free to believe that I did not have to do anything to help the person lying on the street bleeding today ' I don't owe them anything - because this belief is right for me'.
The above examples demonstrate the erroneous nature of the 'as long as it causes no harm to others' clause. If each person determines what is 'true and right' for them, and their definition of 'harm to others' if different than another persons (which is a reasonable assumption), then some people will be viewed by others as harming other people. What then? What happens when one person is viewed by others as harming another person? Which side will the referee take? What is the referee's standard for that matter? What is the right action to take? Without any standard of right and wrong beliefs and behavior, who is to say what is right and wrong? Truly, if you follow this philosophy consistently, it has and will lead to destructive human chaos within any given human group (or among groups). This philosophy will lead to the physically stronger dominating and using the weaker persons as their slaves - in other words, human history.
The Foundational Belief Driving the Madness
Thus, we have reached the fundamental error with the widely held belief called 'Relativism'. What is relativism? It is a popular philosophy which serves as the foundation for the popular belief we have been examining. The relativism philosophy states there are no absolute truths (or standards) that exist to judge anything (of course 'anything' would include human beliefs or behavior). Stated another way, this belief says that the individual person's perspective on any topic or event is that person's ultimate reality or complete truth which no other person is bound by. Furthermore, relativism is girded by physicalism ' which is the belief that there is no reality (metaphysical or otherwise) beyond the physical reality that can be measured by 'science'. It states that there are no absolute truths that people can hold to'that all beliefs and behaviors are only real or meaningful or relevant to the person or persons who hold them and no one else (unless other people happen to hold to those same beliefs and behaviors). Stated yet another way, there is nothing outside of the human brain by which human's behavior or beliefs can be governed or judged as right or wrong.
Obviously relativism is a true belief for many lesser aspects of the human experience, like wealth accumulation, for example. Who defines what 'materially wealthy' is? Obviously each society or group of people will have different standards. The people in a village in Bangladesh will have a different standard than the people of the city of Tokyo, and thus a person's material wealth will be relative to others they encounter in their normal sphere of living. While relativism is valid for many aspects of the human experience, it fails as the highest governing belief of the human experience.
As with its child philosophy 'The Popular Belief', when you apply reason to moral or existential relativism, it is shown to be self-defeating. The statement from the consistent relativist is, 'there are no universal or absolute moral or existential truths that can be known or applied among all humans'. But when you ask the relativist who uttered that statement, 'does your statement convey an absolute truth that applies to all people', they have only two reasonable answers - yes or no. If they answer 'yes', then there is at least one universal truth, and thus their statement is false. If they answer 'no', then they admit that relativism is false since there are universal or absolute truths that exist. Therefore, other absolute truths might also exist, so perhaps it would be wise to seek out from where absolute truth originates. Please read this paragraph again, slowly and carefully, for it proves (using logic) that moral or existential relativism is a false belief, and thus if you hold it, you ought to abandon that which is false.
Let us take another look at the Popular Belief in light of the relativism philosophy.
'Each person has their own beliefs and those beliefs must be respected and not sought to be changed by another person. Stated another way, since there are no absolute truths, it is intolerant and disrespectful to judge another person's beliefs as somehow deficient or wrong and thus needing changing or correction.'
As you can see, the popular belief is merely a slightly different wording for expressing relativism. The popular belief goes a step further than just stating relativism, however, and seeks to defend relativism by stating the 'ought nots'. As we have seen this is a self-defeating exercise ' since relativism states there are no 'oughts' (no universal moral standard by which to judge right and wrong for human beliefs or behavior), how can there be 'ought nots'? The Popular Belief piggy-backs quite closely with relativism since it promotes the following idea - that a person should not be pressured to hold a different moral or existential belief or adopt a behavior that they did not hold before the person desiring to use reason to examine their belief approached them, since there are no universal truths that apply to all human beings. In this article, this author has used reasoned arguments to demonstrate that this belief is false - it is self-defeating or self-contradictory.
To recap, since relativism as a guiding belief applied to human morality, ethics or existentialism (and by extension its derived popular belief) says that there are no absolute truths that apply to collective humanity, then to declare a foul by stating a person 'ought not' believe or behave in a certain manner is to state a contradiction according to the law of logic. A consistent relativist contradicts themselves when they say to another person, 'you should not believe that' or, 'you ought not to do that'. And if asked by the person who is receiving the relativist's correction, 'why not?', a relativist who answers with anything other than, 'because I say so' (and thus identify themselves as the standard) will contradict themselves.
From a slightly different perspective, any statement of the nature of a judgment such as 'that is wrong' by a person who claims to hold or believe the popular belief (or its parent, moral or existential relativism) is a self-defeating statement and thus is false.
Tolerance: All People Need to Be Tolerant of Others
The concept of tolerance is very popular and is very similar to the popular belief already looked at. Below are three versions or definitions for a 'tolerant person':
'To be a tolerant person, you must accept all other people's beliefs or behaviors, and if you cannot accept something, you must not express disapproval towards the person(s) who hold the belief or engage in the behavior.'
A belief that includes 'must accept all other people's beliefs or behaviors' is a false, self defeating statement. The person who holds to that belief and encounters a person who 'believes they should not accept all other people's beliefs or behaviors', will break their own belief by rejecting that person's belief and judging it as wrong'they have not accepted the other person's belief and in so doing are in contradiction to their own stated belief.
'To be a tolerant person, you must accept your culture's majority views/beliefs of acceptable human beliefs or behaviors, and if you cannot accept it, you must not express disapproval towards the person(s) who hold the belief or engage in the behavior.'
This statement is better than the first self-contradicting and thus false statement just examined, but it still contains two serious flaws. First, who decides what the 'majority' views/beliefs are, and by what standard do you judge them as right or wrong? For example, let's say most people in a society believe that American people are generally evil. Is the majority of people in that society 'tolerant' of American people? According to the above belief, only if they do not express disapproval of American people. However, the truth is that human belief drives human behavior, thus exposing the second flaw. If a group of people believe that American people are generally evil, then they will very likely manifest behavior that aligns with that belief. It is unreasonable to believe that people who hold a belief like, 'those people are evil' will not somehow manifest that belief with consistent behavior when opportunities arise.
'To be a tolerant person, you ought to cause no harm to others no matter how different they are (regarding things not controlled by their will) or no matter how much you disagree with their beliefs. The truly tolerant person will be careful or sensitive in the way they seek to have a discussion with the person they disagree with.'
This statement is not false and does not contain the significant flaws of the prior statements, thus is should be adopted as a valid definition of a 'tolerant' person. Yet, it is not. Instead, the popular culture holds to some version of the first two definitions of 'a tolerant person' above.
At the most basic level, the popular concept of 'tolerance' is false. If a 'tolerant' person judges another person as 'intolerant', then their belief is self-defeating'meaning they contradict themselves. The moment a person proclaiming to be 'tolerant' claims or castigates another as 'intolerant', they have no reasonable basis to proclaim or believe that they themselves are tolerant! It has the same fatal fallacy that we saw with the popular belief.
What those who proclaim 'tolerance' are really saying is that they have a belief or behavior they think is right and good and want others to accept it ' oftentimes a popular or a 'politically correct' viewpoint or behavior that they believe other people ought to hold. Those who disagree with that viewpoint are labeled as 'intolerant' - as we have seen, a logically false practice. This is an extremely important truth I hope people readers will be able to understand.
For example, homosexuals seem to be a person-type that are eager to proclaim the 'tolerance' belief - they want others to tolerate their beliefs and behavior. They say that it is intolerant for a person to say (or believe) that homosexual beliefs or behavior is wrong or harmful. They say that their beliefs and/or behavior ought to be viewed as good, right and acceptable human behavior and those that say or even believe otherwise are intolerant, disrespectful people. It seems to this author that many outspoken homosexuals seem to be unable to refrain from more severe judgments against people who disagree with their beliefs or behavior, and use terms like 'hateful', 'bigots', 'homophobic' and the like to label those who disagree with them. Do you see the problem? Even if a person is a kind and caring person - would never think of harming someone - and essentially is perfect in gently and kindly expressing their view that homosexual behavior is wrong and harmful, they are judged as 'intolerant' by people who hold to the belief - or practice it - and who want others to believe the same way.
What is the homosexual's standard to justify their beliefs and behavior? They have none other than where relativism leaves people - 'because what I believe is right and true for me'; or 'because this group of people believe it is acceptable' ' unfortunately it also makes the homosexuals who promote the 'tolerance' belief, just as hypocritical as the religious people they seem to hate. As can be seen in the behavior and words of many outspoken homosexuals, they do not practice what they preach - they are among the most intolerant people (by any definition) towards others who believe their beliefs and practices are wrong.
(Lest you think the author to be biased against homosexuals, I would also say that most religious people do not practice what they preach and also seem to have great difficulty avoiding hypocrisy. In fact, this author would say that we all as humans have difficultly avoiding hypocrisy to some degree. This author believes that a life well lived has two components: First, having the right beliefs to guide one's life, and second, consistently practicing or living out those beliefs.)
In regard to avoiding hypocrisy, it is extremely important to make the distinction between a person's failures to live out what they say they believe in contrast to a person saying the standard they believe needs to be changed to accommodate their behavior. For example, I can say ('preach') that I believe that all high fat food is unhealthy. My standard could be a medical or scientific report or data that demonstrate that indeed high fat food is bad for human health. If, however, you catch me eating a high fat food, my response will be telling. If I say, 'Oh, well, the evidence that high fat foods are bad for human health is suspect', then I am justifying my behavior and attacking the standard to do so. If, however, I said, 'well, yes, high fat food is bad and I should never eat it but I fail and occasionally eat it', my response is not attacking the standard and thus my response is more objective and humble. Unfortunately, we as humans seem to lack clarity when it comes to seeing our own faults and we would rather defend ourselves and attack the standard rather than been seen as wrong. What exactly accounts for that? : )
Here are some additional cases to show the erroneous nature of the popular 'tolerant' and 'must respect others beliefs' beliefs.
And adult person believes that it is good to have sexual relations with a child. The adult's belief is, 'It is good and right for me to have sexual relations with children'.
According to the popular beliefs in review, it would be intolerant and/or disrespectful to attempt to change or correct that adult's belief.
A person believes that the earth's core is made up of water.
That person's belief ought to be 'respected' and their belief 'tolerated', and thus to try to convince them otherwise would be intolerant and disrespectful.
A person believes that dumping a small amount of toxic waste into the large river will not harm anything since the river is so large. Should a person be tolerant of that belief?
Adult person A believes that God exists and has given mankind a moral standard both by which to live, and by which they will be held accountable, including that the only acceptable expressions of human sexuality are between and husband and his wife.
Is this belief 'tolerated' and 'respected' by the majority of people who currently live in the US? Person B, a person who proclaims the 'tolerance' doctrine, yells at person A (as person A states his belief publicly in a calm and appropriate manner) and accuses person A of 'proclaiming hate speech'.
Does the reader get the point? Will the reader use reason to conclude what is evidently true? What is evident is that reason or truth do not play a part in Person B's reaction to Person A, and it is also evident that Person B is contradicting his own stated 'tolerance' belief and thus is acting hypocritically. As such, Person B should be ignored and his statements should be dismissed as false.
What happens in reality? Person B's words get published and the 'objective press' which publishes them puts Person B's words in a favorable light and context while subtly supporting Person B's contention that Person A is 'full of hate'.
The popular beliefs of 'respecting others beliefs' as well as the 'tolerance', while sounding good, are built on the faulty foundation of moral or existential relativism. This article has demonstrated the errors of those popular beliefs by showing people who utter them contradict themselves and pronounce self defeating statements. When people say things that are false - self-defeating or contradictory - those statements ought to be rejected, and reason should be appealed to in order to find the truth of the matter.
Ironically, relativism in regard to moral and existential beliefs is probably the most widely held belief among the 'educated' people of the earth at this time. The opposing belief has traditionally been called 'absolutism'. This belief states that there are absolute truths that don't change due to a person's perception or human culture or time - and those truths exist not only in the physical realm, but in the realm of human beliefs (metaphysical) as well.
Relativism is most popular amongst the educated elite in materially wealthy nations. Thus, the US educational system and the teachers that make it up essentially teach only from the perspective of a relativistic paradigm. This is very unfortunate and is the leading cause of 'madness' (believing and proclaiming things that are contradictory and false) in indivdiuals in the U.S.
Absolutism has far fewer problems with logic, represents reality better, and thus should be adopted by people who want to understand and sort out their lives and experiences using reason.
'All things are relative.' Is that statement absolutely true?
Take the next step. Seek past the materialist life you have been trained to accept. Reject false things and love that which is true. Reject moral and existential relativism for it is false, and begin the journey to find that which is ultimately true.
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