You may have seen this photograph on the internet. It is one of the multitudinous phantasmagorical photos used in graphic art to get your attention. This one above has been used to draw you to a list of the world’s most dangerous beaches. Only a gullible person would believe this is a real beach.
There are lots of gullible people in the world and somewhere along the line I have been one of them. You also? “There’s a sucker born every minute.” This famous phrase is often ascribed to P.T. Barnum and good for him if he gets the credit and apologies to the one who really first said it. Barnum, of course, was in the circus business and this world of illusion required gullibility.
I turn my attention to gullibility in this little missive from the perspective from which I have just retired, preaching. Ethics in preaching requires substantiating your presented material and clearly means not pushing the envelope to make a point. A homily without footnotes or references can be dangerous.
Many times in preaching I bring up the point that we have to be selective in our sources for religious teaching. Unfortunately in many cases just because you hear it from a preacher in the pulpit or on tv doesn’t necessarily mean what is said is true. Likewise, just because we read something in a religious magazine, newspaper or website doesn’t mean we are receiving reliable material. There’s a gullibility in all of us. Try as one might to warn people of this, there will always be people born (perhaps one every minute) who believe that one of world’s most dangerous beaches features a backside waterfall.
Some suggest that we have become a world of non-thinkers, that is incapable of rational thought. Logic seems to have passed the way of nylons. Perhaps we are facing the world today without a grasp of reality. People are constantly talking to us and if we spend all day in front the tv, we can be sure to lose a great portion of what is left of our minds. There is a reason that we have come up with the phrase, ‘educational television.’ Of course, most programs are designed for entertainment, including 24 hour news programs.
To accept everything as ‘gospel truth’ is a quick way to mental anarchy wherein we are confused because reality does not match what we hear and read and likewise accepting everything and anything leads to a deadening bliss, as in “Ignorance is bliss.” Neither effect of not thinking or analyzing is disastrous.
Mindlessness leads to a breakdown in social structure, putting knowledge in the hands of just a few who can abuse or use benevolently that power. The personal effect is a total loss of how best to live, taking into account that for most of us, the identity and self-appropriation of the self is extremely important . A man who refuses to have his own philosophy will only have the used-up scraps of somebody else’s philosophy. [“The Revival of Philosophy,” The Common Man (1930)] (https://www.chesterton.org/) What an empty life to be so gullible as to live one’s entire life inside someone else’s!
There’s a lot of ‘stuff’ out there so be careful. Think about what I’ve written here and as a good teacher will say, “Do you agree or disagree…and why?” Without evidence of ‘why’ you might spend the rest of your life looking to see that dangerous beach with the menacing waterfall.