People say that the truth will set you free. And not just people; it originates in the Christian bible as something spoken by Jesus. These days it’s a popular saying that is tossed around with little regard for the depth of meaning it holds.
When you start telling lies, you not only have to keep track of what’s true, but also what lies you’ve told so that you can keep your story consistent. The more you lie, the more you need to lie in order to keep your previous lies hidden. You end up living a fictional life dictated by the lies you’ve established.
A similar trap can happen when you are lied to, or simply believe a lie. After long enough, even if you learn the truth, you may feel obligated to keep following the lies, especially if forsaking them would damage your reputation or otherwise cause you distress. As Carl Sagan said it, “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: if we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.”
Religion is not concerned with truth and freedom. Sure, religious people talk a lot about knowing the absolute truth, but it’s a lie they willingly believe in order to feel safe. Some of us don’t feel safe basing our lives on arbitrary rules, though, and we’re the ones who are accused of going astray, believing lies, or being confused.
The aim of religion is to control, most often through coercing conversion. This coercion can be emotional manipulation such as scare tactics or making you doubt your own ability to think, or it can take the form of physical violence. The former is particularly popular among Christians today.
I’ve always been a loner, and I think about ideas extensively before reaching a conclusion. Being autistic, I value truth and logic above just about anything else, so if I find logical evidence that I’m wrong, I am eager to embrace a new truth. Once I grew up and learned how to think for myself, this caused issues with people who wanted me to believe what they fed me without questioning it. If I thought for myself, I could logically reach a different conclusion than they did, which threatened their safe little fictional world where they know the absolute truth.
There seem to be few things more frightening to the souls of non-autistic people than facing the fact that what they think is right is actually more likely to be wrong than what they think is wrong. This fear makes them lash out, either in anger, or with personal attacks, or with more subtle manipulation. Over the past several years I have faced a lot of this, and I portrayed some of the general attitude in my post The Righteous Sinner Complex.
What does it look like in detail? Here are some examples…
When I voice a belief that I accepted because I found it to be the most logical, I may be accused of trying to justify my evil desires. “You just say that sex outside of marriage isn’t a sin because you want to do it yourself!” Of course, this is a fallacy whether or not it is true…instead of presenting a logical argument to the contrary, the accuser settles for an ad hominem to claim that my reasoning is flawed because my character is flawed. It can be effective because as someone who cares about the truth, I will always double and triple check myself. I think the accuser knows this, and they are preying on my love of the truth to make me doubt my own ability to think.
When I simply advocate a truth that someone does not believe, I may be accused of thinking I know it all. “You believe you have the corner on the market for truth and yet you do not accept the Bible as absolute truth.” But wait…which one of us is claiming to know the absolute truth? It isn’t me. I think it’s the person who’s accusing me of forsaking truth by having an opinion that’s different than theirs. Again, this attack goes for my character by assuming something about me that isn’t true. If the accuser was actually interested in showing me that I come across as a know-it-all, they would explain how, instead of presumptuously telling me what I believe, and implying that their opinions are the absolute truth.
When I have a friend who agrees with me, I may be accused of controlling said friend. “It pains me – and many others who know both of you – to see the influence you have…it is not a good thing.” I find this to be a particularly disgusting accusation. It attacks my purpose in the world, that is, to love people and contribute my knowledge and perspective. This accusation implies that my very existence is bad, that my friend would be better off if I had never been born. It blames me for the mere fact that my friends agree with me, and insults them, as if they are unable to make their own choices.
And finally, simply holding different opinions is enough to be considered a lost and confused person. “I pray that tangled mind of yours is one day touched by Christ.” How does my accuser know that my mind is tangled? No examples were given, no logic presented to show me why I’m confused. Just an attack phrased as sanctimonious bullshit.
Let me explain to you a thing. When I was the person who believed as these people want me to believe, that was when I had a tangled mind. When I was “touched by Christ”, when I “accepted the Bible as absolute truth”, that is when I was lost and confused, because I wasn’t free. I was imprisoned by the opinions and expectations of other people. I was not thinking for myself.
My path to a free mind began when I actively looked for the truth. I searched for it not because I wanted to justify anything, but because the truth is what I wanted. It set me free, and now I’m here.
Now, I can think and see clearly. I’m not ruled by the fear of displeasing others. These accusations no longer hurt like they used to. I can dismiss them for what they are…the mad rambling of ignorant minds.
Now, I can laugh. Now, I am living, instead of merely surviving. The truth set me free, so I am free to pursue the truth, and free to believe what I find most logical, and free to feel satisfied in who I am.
I’ve never been better, and I’ve never been less confused, and I’m never going back.