The Importance of Truth

Since graduating from college with a degree in philosophy, I have considered myself to be a Unitarian-Universalist. This is a faith bound by seven principles, not by religious beliefs. The first principle is that every person has worth and dignity. Imagine if all people held this view. That certainly could reduce the amount of conflict that exists between people of different faiths, customs, traditions or beliefs. For example, accepting this principle could reduce conflict between Pakistani Muslims and Indian Hindus, Israelis and Palestinians and Iranian Shi’as and Saudi Arabian Sunnis, among other clashing groups.

The other six UU principles are as follows:

Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

For more information about the UU faith, see this Wikipedia link.

I think all seven of these principles make sense and I strongly support them. The only one that I used to be a little confused about was “a free and responsible search for truth.” Didn’t we all agree on what was true and what wasn’t? Why did we need to search for it? Didn’t science, for example, help us know what was true? Couldn’t we all agree that two plus two is four? The election of President Trump in 2016 made me understand how important the truth is in a way I never understood before.

When a world leader says something that isn’t true, such as covid-19 is a hoax and it will disappear, this is dangerous for everyone. Such false statements put peoples’ lives in jeopardy. Indeed, the US now has more than 10 million cases of covid-19 as of today and more than 240,000 deaths. But Trump has consistently minimized the threat of the pandemic, even after he, his wife and son Barron and many White House staff also caught the virus. See this Atlantic article for a complication of his many lies about the pandemic.

When Trump said he won the 2020 presidential election, even though Joe Biden overwhelming won the vote in both electoral college totals and popular vote totals, such false assertions are dangerous to a democratic system of government. Most people are ignoring his false claims for now. Thankfully, as far as I am concerned, a majority of Americans saw through Trump’s countless lies and voted for Biden in part because he is someone they feel they can trust. But I still wonder about the 70,804,457 people who voted for a liar. That’s more than 70 million Americans who are okay with someone who doesn’t care what is true and what isn’t. According to the Washington Post, by July 2020, Trump had told more than 20,000 false or misleading claims. That’s a lot!

If American people cannot agree on what is true and what isn’t, that’s a big problem. I am currently reading The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics by Jonathan Haidt. I chose to read this book because so many people do support Trump despite all his lies and I really need to understand why this is. I have only read two chapters so far but I have already learned that people generally use their intuition to decide on a position about an issue and then use reason to justify their position. So it’s not like a person’s mind is a blank slate willing to make decisions based simply on the input they receive. It’s more like a person has already decided how they feel about an issue and use their reason to justify their position. For example, a Trump supporter might say, “Sometimes Trump stretches the truth but he speaks about the economic issues that matter to me so I support him.”

While I was watching the election returns come in over several days, I heard the newscasters say they had interviewed Republican voters and 85% of them polled in one study had said “the issues” matter most to them, while only 15% said the character of a candidate matters. That was instructive for me. It helped me understand better some of Trump’s support. Because for me, a person’s character will determine the kind of policies he or she will pursue, such as whether they will champion the cause of the economically disadvantaged or help rich people get richer.

In summary, thanks to Trump’s presidency, I now understand better why “a free and responsible search for truth” matters. Not everyone agrees on what is true and some people don’t even care if something is true or not. And my curiosity has been piqued by these millions of Americans in mostly Southern and Western states who voted for Trump despite all his lies, including that covid-19 was going away. I need to keep reading and researching why they chose Trump again and did so in greater numbers than four years ago. I guess I am pursing the second part of the fourth UU principle: “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” I am looking for meaning in what still seems shocking to me: that almost half of American citizens wanted Trump to be president for four more years.


One thought on “The Importance of Truth

  1. So right we Americans will have to find a way to common ground. The politicization of simple actions doesn’t help. Shame of the politicians that stir up emotions for short term gain. Hubby

    Liked by 1 person

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