Do you really think for yourself?
Take a read through these random comments and responses, and please think about what they mean. Please think about what the questions that I am asking on each one for a few moments before going from one to another.
Youth: “So, you guys are into promiscuity and stuff, I get it. I want to save myself for marriage.”
World: “You’re a prude. Sex is just an expression of love, why are you against expressing love?”
Me: Is that what sex is? What is sex? What is it for? Who gets to decide what it’s for? On what basis do we know that’s what it is? Why does my disagreement with you mean that I am against “expressing love”?
Youth: “I believe in God.”
World: “That’s cute. I think religion is mostly a thing out there to control people. Can you keep your religion to yourself and stop judging me?”
Me: Is that true? Is that what it is for? If it happened that religion controlled people, does that make it false or does it make it something that can be abused? Is there a reason why my religion should be kept to myself but a Jew/Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist/Atheist’s should not? Why do you get to tell me to keep it to myself but I cannot tell you the same? If I did do the same what would feel or think? Why does my having an opinion automatically mean to you that I must be judging?
Youth: “Howcome you are allowed to have an opinion, but I am not?”
World: “Because yours is bigoted, outdated, and anti-science. The rest of the world disagrees with you. If you’re going to disagree, can you do it in your head?”
Me: What constitutes something being bigoted? On what basis do you say it’s anti-science? What does the Church actually believe and proclaim about these things? Why do I have to keep it in my head while others proclaim their views?
Youth: “I thought you say, ‘be who you are and don’t let anyone else tell you differently’.”
World: “We do sometimes, it really depends.”
Me: On what? Is this not a double standard? Who is “we”? Who gave “we” the authority to decide who gets to be whom?
Youth: “What does it depend on?”
World: “People. Science. You know…stuff.”
Me: What does that even mean? What’s the foundation of this? What drives this? What is science? What kind of science? What about the science we don’t understand yet? Who decides what science gets to the people? What does this even mean?
Youth: “I think this is wrong.”
World: “It might be wrong to you but it’s not to everyone else, you need to respect that and keep your mouth shut.”
Me: Again, why me? Why do I not get to have a view?
Youth: “I don’t know, I just think that it’s really important that we try and find out what’s right from wrong.”
World: “Listen, people make mistakes. What really matters at the end of the day is that you are a good person, and that you have good intentions.”
Me: What is “good”? Isn’t that a really relativistic term? Who gets to decide on what good is? Who gets to implement it? Who decides what “bad” is? How do we regulate? How do we judge people’s intentions when we are told not to even judge? Isn’t this inconsistent?
I want to go on and on and on, because there are so many of these random statements and conversations, but it comes to the same thing: do people actually think, or do they just listen to what ‘everyone knows’ or “everyone is saying?”
Let’s look at another one, to get a message across: “So, there’s nothing wrong with smoking weed. My friends read a bunch of stuff online about it, it’s harmless. It’s totally natural, a lot of bad propaganda that people gave it has made it have such a negative image.”
Is the real reason weed has been illegal for so many years, simply because people ‘gave it bad propaganda’? Cocaine used to be available over-the-counter, without prescription. That’s why Coca-Cola was called Coca-Cola. Because of the Coca[ine]. When we discovered something was not good about it being used very freely, we regulated it, for the safety of individuals and society. We use morphine to treat patients who are in pain. We use drugs that are illegal on the streets in a legal way in a healthcare setting. So it seems that we are okay with “bad drugs” being used to treat people in a good way. Ever wonder, then, why weed has not been a popular drug of choice in the healthcare sectors? Perhaps it is not because of propaganda – or we would not use other ‘dangerous drugs’, but simply because it is a poor choice of medication. This is a possibility.
The objective of this blogpost is not to discuss weed. That can be done elsewhere. The point that I am trying to make is that too often people are regurgitating cliché comments and thinking that they are saying something profound. They are repeating what they keep hearing, but are not thinking for themselves. This is particularly ironic, because we keep being encouraged to “think for ourselves”. I guess the question that I am asking, is “are you really an independent thinker, or are you simply another product of society?”
Let’s look at two examples, so that we are not focused on just weed. One example is fictitious, another is real.
Example 1: Serial.
For those of you who were not on the wagon of the most famously successful podcast of all time, the podcast investigates the case of Adnan Syed, a young man who is alleged to have murdered his ex-girlfriend. With limited and [questionable, in my view] evidence, the young man was convicted. Because he was convicted, he must have been guilty, or so most of the people who were following the case at the time believed. Sixteen years later, a remarkably well-produced podcast makes some waves, and then a spin-off podcast looking at the legal perspective (Undisclosed) throws all previously accepted evidence into question. Suddenly, everyone is really questioning the validity of the investigation, the validity of the evidence, and consequently the justice of the verdict.
Were the majority right back then? This is still being discovered.
Example 2: Hermione Granger and the House Elves.
Yup, I’m referencing Harry Potter.
There is this dramatic scene in The Goblet of Fire when Hermione is giving a discourse in the Hogwart’s kitchen about the craziness of the slavery of the elves. She’s so upset that the elves so badly want to please and serve their masters, and that they are content to be slaves. Everyone tells her to be quiet because the elves are content to be slaves and that they even want to be slaves. Even the elves themselves tell her this and get upset at her for questioning their identity and for her anger that they wish to make their masters sound great all the time. I have thoughts on what Rowling was trying to get at with this concept, but this is not the blog for that. The point is that Hermione’s challenging of the status quo causes unrest.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Thinking for yourself may mean that you are at odds with everyone else because finding out what is right can be divisive – but that doesn’t negate that a ‘right’ exists. Finding the right can and does cause discord. This is why our Lord said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). There is going to be contention around Him because He rocks the status quo. He’s not just some other guy, He’s not just a “good man”. Things mean things, and independent thinkers are the ones who ask, what is the fact, and what does it mean?
In fact, our Lord challenges someone on this very thing.
Inquirer: “Good master, what must I do to be saved?”
Jesus: “Why are you calling me good? The only thing ‘good’ is God.”
– Luke 18:18-19
Or, in other words, as St. Cyril explains, He’s asking, “why are you applying titles of God to me, when clearly you don’t even really believe that I am God?” In other words, the guy was just repeating things he knows to be polite or flattering, and does not even care what they mean. He was not thinking for himself. He was thinking like everyone else.
The “funny” thing in all of this, is that most people think that it’s religionists and theists who are not independent thinkers. When, actually, I think independent thinkers, in general, theists or not, are rare.
What we should be doing, is looking independently at things and asking important questions. There are going to be times when maybe the stance of the majority is right. Granted. We are not looking for the majority to always be wrong. We are simply looking for what is right. There are also times when individuals may be deemed wrong by the majority.
The majority of people thought the earth was flat for a really long time. That didn’t make the world flat.
The majority of people thought the concept of germs and microbes was ludicrous. That did not take away from their existence.
The majority of people thought that atomic theory was nonsense. That did not mean it was actually nonsense.
The majority of Germans aligned themselves supported Hitler. That does not mean Hitler was right.
The majority of Jews didn’t think Jesus was God, but that does not affect His Godhead.
There are things that have to be questioned, and there are things we can accept, no problem. But let’s make sure that we do not go to silly extremes.
I urge you to ask the questions that matter, to be an independent thinker. Instead of looking to your friends and pop culture to get your answers, ask yourself hard questions, and ask yourself if you truly are bold enough to “be who you are” and “believe what you believe”. It does take courage to be different, it really does, and the only way to have the courage to stand out, is to know and believe that you are right with utmost conviction.
Our Lord gave us an intellect and He’s happy for us to use it, He really is. He gifted it uniquely to us in Him Image and Likeness and it’s a remarkable gift.
If feeling pressured to be promiscuous, ask yourself what is the point of sexuality – and go beyond what society says. You have to ask yourself, is there really a God, yes or no? If there is, what does He say about it? Why does He say it? Why did He give it to me and how do I use it?
If feeling pressured to do drugs, ask yourself if you are justifying it with pop culture responses, ask yourself really if it is bad for you or not, and talk to people who are actually experts on this, not a wikipedia article, and not someone in your school or church who is so close to your age. Ask a physician, ask a pharmacist, or ask a nurse. Ask yourself if there is a God, what He designed our bodies for. It’s easy to abuse any tool or any object around our house, but that does not mean we should do it.
If feeling pressured to agree with people on morals or ideals that you actually disagree with, ask yourself what is right? and why am I afraid to believe it or say it aloud? Ask yourself why it is okay for society to tell you that you are not entitled to have a view different from theirs, or that if you do, that you should keep it to yourself. Ask yourself why one person can go on and on about why he or she thinks the rest of the world is dumb for thinking something, but if you bring in your view, that you are just old-fashioned. It’s not about old-fashioned, it is a simple question: is it right or is it wrong and more importantly how do you know? The majority of people thinking it’s right doesn’t make it right.
Heroes are made from those who care about Truth, who can think without the pressure of society. St. Athanasius did this, and he saved the church by the grace of God. Daniel did this, and he saved all the Jews by the grace of God. Esther did this, and she saved the Jews by the grace of God. You can do this, and you can save the faith for the Christians, because it is definitely under attack.
Look for the Truth, my friends, because it will set you free, and the one who has the Truth, fears nothing.
There is a Truth. Christ is the Truth. Think about that. independently.