It does very little good to attempt to be a voice of reason in a society that is not given to sound reasoning. In fact, in an irrational culture such as ours, reasonable commentary on particular points of religious or political doctrine actually seems to do more harm than good:
- Those whose established beliefs disagree with the conclusions of the commentator will simply harden themselves to those conclusions and to the commentator alike—as well as to whatever or whomever else they may associate with that commentator. Further, they congratulate themselves and their allies for being “right” in the matter, and thus fuel themselves all the more in their unreasonable beliefs. (This is called the backfire effect.)
- Those whose established beliefs agree with the conclusions of the commentator will congratulate the commentator and themselves alike on having the right answer, and will simply harden themselves against all those who disagree—as well as against whatever or whomever else they may associate with those who disagree. They are not compelled to adopt sound reason across the board, but continue to use it only intermittently—primarily when it can be used to criticize others. And they abandon sound reasoning when it threatens their own predetermined conclusions.
This is how it works in a biased and relativistic culture of Circumrealitans, Pseudorealitans, and Contrarealitans.
What about the reformer/activist, then? Once he or she admits that his or her activism is counterproductive—assuming he or she thinks that counterproductivity is a bad thing—will the activism be abandoned? Or has the person become so deeply invested in his or her identity as an activist that it will be carried on even after the realization?
In my judgment, in a non-realitan culture such as ours, it is better to abandon activism on the particular points of political and religious doctrine and to adopt an activist role in promotion of Reality-Based Thinking, where the process of thinking becomes the subject matter—and under which the Realitan can be trusted to go home and set his own cognitive house in order.
Attempts to reform non-realitan people regarding specific points of doctrine backfire as a rule. Even in those rare cases in which a person is converted on a specific point, one of two bad things usually happens:
- The person stays in his present irrational camp in spite of the new evidence that he now believes, or;
- The person leaves his old camp and joins the new one, which itself has many irrational positions, no matter how rational it may be on the particular point in question.
This sort of activism, therefore, is a fool’s errand—a hacking at the branches while the root goes unaddressed. In our society, however, those hacking away at the branches seem to view themselves as the brightest and best. In their relativist view, what they are doing is “at least better” than what the other guys are doing. (Do you see the relativism in this?) So they are happy with themselves as being better off than the others, and this happiness becomes their focus, rather than a continual goal of self correction in all matters. Thus do they continue being wrong in various matters while evangelizing about their topics of choice. In general, they are no more interested in reforming themselves than are those poor souls to which they are preaching. Yet the preaching continues and the merits of rationality as a sustainable way of life are still unsung in our crippled culture.