Reason is not the Subversion but the Salvation of Freedom

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Adlai Stevenson once wrote:

“Unreason and anti-intellectualism abominate thought. Thinking implies disagreement; and disagreement implies nonconformity; and nonconformity implies heresy; and heresy implies disloyalty. So, obviously, thinking must be stopped. But shouting is not a substitute for thinking and reason is not the subversion but the salvation of freedom.”

I have traveled to a lot of places, in this country and around the world where reason has been a scarce commodity and to me that has always been a frightening specter; a world where reason is all too often sacrificed on the altar of political, ideological or religious expediency.

But reason does matter, and those who ignore it do so at their own peril as Christopher Hitchens once said “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” History shows us in times like this, where reason is tossed as primordial urges rise, that people all too often fall back on old hatreds and myth rather than seeking answers; instead of trying to figure out what is really important; instead of studying the details of the great questions; that frustrated people become intellectually lazy and gravitate towards angry demagogues who play to their often legitimate anger and frustration.

But demagogues do not need to appeal to reason, they appeal to something more primal, they appeal to fear, anger, and the need of desperate people to find someone to blame.

Appealing to fear and loathing is so much easier than using reason. To call an opponent a Communist or Nazi, Fascist or imperialist, unbeliever, heretic or even a racist; and then connect them to the evil we want to demonize them is far easier than it is to actually engage them in a truthful debate and to see things in their historical context.

Too often we allow people of little learning but whose great charm and salesmanship ability, to sell us myth in place of fact and this happens across the political, social, economic and theological spectrum. That is a tragedy for all of us no matter what our political, ideological, or religious views.

Such salesmanship may comfort the true believer in whatever cause may be, and it may even make them feel superior to those that disagree with them. But it blinds them to reality and ensures that they never become aware of their own envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. The untruths they believe serve as protection against any thought, fact, presumption or doctrine that contradicts them.  John F Kennedy said, “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” 

In times like ours, it is most important to take the time to learn from history, not just generalities that mix fact and myth but the little details that make up history and for that matter the sciences, philosophy, sociology, political thought and theology.  As a society we have ceased to do this and until we take the time to return to such study, dialogue and put aside our blinders we will be doomed to remain as we are no matter what political party is in power or ideology dominates the airwaves and cyber space.

Reason, it is important, and the dangers that we face as a nation, society, and world demand that we return to it.

Have a great day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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3 Comments

Filed under ethics, History, philosophy, Political Commentary

3 responses to “Reason is not the Subversion but the Salvation of Freedom

  1. Reading this I do agree with you!

    You are right because you see that people hide themselves behind generalities that often end in prejudice and a dangerous ignorance.

    Compare a person with a tyrant
    Compare a political opponent as endorsing political systems like Communism, Marxism, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism is easy.
    However they are lacking the emotional and factual frame of reference.

    I have noticed that in general Americans tend to do this often in everyday life, in political debate.

    What hits home to me is Nazism.
    I am Dutch, so from the Netherlands.
    My parents experienced as young adults WWII, the occupation and the many, many hardships and gruesome experiences they had to endure.
    Some of them be it physical and/or psychological staying with them.

    In discussion with Americans, they often assume I want to endanger their freedom of speech when I adress this.
    This however is no intention of mine and it has never been.

    They are ignoring the fact that there are people in this world that have experienced first hand the gruesome effects of this, and ofcourse other political systems and dictators.

    They also devaluate the suffering of the victims of these systems and erode the emotional frame of reference.
    In doing that blinding themselves for the small signs they should notice and create awareness.!

    • padresteve

      Thank you for your very insightful comment. Many Americans have no clue when they make such comparisons. Even Donald Trump is not Hitler, despite his words, and I pray that he will never get the chance. Sadly, it is all too easy for people who have known nothing but almost unlimited freedom to make such comparisons, be they about Obama, Clinton, or any other political opponent.

      Thank you again.

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