I remember an experience I had back in the second grade of public elementary school. The teacher had divided us into groups to work on a project, but, being children, the topic of discussion was not always about the assignment. On this particular occasion, we became sidetracked talking about Santa Claus, and whether or not he existed. At some point in the discussion, I casually stated that I did not believe in Santa Claus. My lack of belief stemmed from evidence I had seen and talk I had heard, but I did not have time to present the evidence before an eavesdropper interjected.
“You don’t believe in Santa Claus?!” she exclaimed, “Ooohh! I’m telling!”
And tell she did. She ran over to where our teacher was seated at her desk, appearing to be occupied with something important (probably the latest tabloid). I watched as my classmate explained the situation to our teacher. The others in my group looked at me as though a gruesome ending were imminent for me.
As soon as the informant had finished ratting me out, the teacher glared over at me, and without so much as troubling herself to stand she shouted my name and said, “Do not say you don’t believe in Santa Claus and don’t say he isn’t real!”
The entire class became silent and stared at me. So my sentence was to bear the shame of the class. I got off easy.
In my mind though, I thought, “But he isn’t real. If he isn’t real and if I am not allowed to say he isn’t real, then I am left to either never speak of him again or lie about him. Why am I not allowed to tell the truth?”
I have seen this scenario played again and again throughout my life, though not always about Santa. Metaphorically speaking, people would rather believe in a make-believe, fat, bearded, old dude who gives them whatever they want than believe the truth. People would rather believe in false theories and false morals than in the real thing, because it’s more fun to play make-believe than to grow up and go to work. And should anyone tell them they are wrong, rather than ignoring the realist and agreeing to disagree, they work to silence the realist forever.
I have observed that people will believe what they want to believe, despite all the evidence placed before them. If they want to believe they are descendants of monkeys, they will believe it. If they want to believe the first man was made from dust, they will believe it. If they want to believe a lie, they will believe it. If they want to believe the truth, they will believe it. And there is usually nothing anyone can do or say to change their belief.
I have also observed that if I choose not to believe something, I am no worse off than I was before I heard it, but I am no better either. It would seem wise to determine the effects of a belief before choosing to believe it.
More often than not, it is difficult to know the truth. Words can be twisted, numbers can be fudged, and images can be blurred. For every truth, there seems to be a myriad of lies to try to hide it. Why? Because some people don’t like their make-believe playtime interrupted.
So how can we know the truth?
…Would you believe me if I told you?