Let us consider Faith vs. Gullibility.
Faith is the:
- Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
- Strong belief in doctrine based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
Gullibility is another angle of pretty much the same thing:
1. Credulousness: tendency to believe too readily and therefore to be easily deceived.
Imagine the fortunes lost by con men from Ponzi to Madoff on the basis of our misplaced trust in such charitismatic people, their particular knowledge, or their integrity. Imagine the innocent lives similarly lost in the suicides in Jonestown, the Holy Inquisition, and the Crusades.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where Faith ends and Gullibility begins.
Years ago, my older brother Leo presented me with an explanation of such thinking. It’s called : “Circular Logic.” It’s used to prove an assertion from an assumption.
Two servants are talking:
Servant #1: “My Master talks to God.”
Servant #2: “How do you know?”
Servant #1: “He told me so.”
Servant #2: “How do you know he didn’t lie?”
Servant #1: “What? A man who talks to God lie?”
Good show, Servant #2.
Over time, I have developed a set of guidelines which I use in evaluating the truth of any matter someone asks me to accept and believe. Here they are:
1. No statement that advises you to hurt yourself, or hurt others, in any name, any way, or under any circumstance, can be true.
2. Beware of any statement that promises to put you in a special position, with valuable information or privileges available only to the Chosen Few, in return for your obedience, total compliance, and (often) money. As they say in finance: “Any deal that sounds too good to be true, probably is.”
3. Apply the “Ronald Reagan Realism Directive:” “Trust and Verify.” You can always respectfully suspend acceptance of anything until you have time to check it out. If they pressure you, or there’s no way to check it out, start to worry.
4. Remember that the best con men in the world keep their stories simple, and don’t over promise in the short term. It’s always in the longer term that their plan works flawlessly and you come out ahead. I read a financial analyst talking about the Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi-type scandal. He said that Bernie’s genius was that he didn’t promise huge returns. He promised good, consistent returns over the longer term. And there was no way to check out what he was doing. He also said: “If I ever see a con man’s pitch that promises too much, too soon, I think ‘these guys are amateurs.'”
5. Think. You have a degree of intelligence, experience, education, and a well developed sense of right and wrong. Use these gifts to evaluate what you’re being told, and decide accordingly. Remember what they tell fledgling weather forecasters: “Before you go on TV with your detailed analysis, look out the window and see what’s really happening.”
If it doesn’t make sense, given what you know, it may not be sensible.
A wise man once told me this: “It’s not always easy to know what’s right, but we always seem to know what’s wrong. Don’t do the wrong thing.”
Finally, my closing thoughts are summed up in this doggerel couplet I wrote a few years back. It’s called, “The Truth Shall Make You Free.”
If you meet an angel or saint,
With some sort of Holy Complaint,
Who says he’s selected,
To lead The Elected,
Please exercise care and restraint.
For most of the horrors yet made,
Stem from somebody’s Holy Crusade,
And folks with such itches,
End up hunting witches,
And burn whom they cannot persuade.
The best piece of Wisdom I’ve known,
Is “Leave Everybody Alone!”
And your Vision will pass,
It might even be gas,
And we all can lead lives of our own.