Monday, May 12, 2014

Why Some People Embrace Urban Legends

My friend Jake is always embracing the next conspiracy theory, whether it's the Nephilim heresy (the idea that demons are mating with humans and producing evil offspring that roam among us), or UFOs or chemtrails. It's extra exciting if you can combine any two or more. But Jake isn't the only one! There are tons of people who want to get their knickers in a twist over an imagined problem. Why is that?

We live in a time and place where our minds are idle. We aren't consumed every waking moment by the necessities of life. Modern appliances and conveniences have bought us extra time. And what do we do with that time? We watch stupid TV shows or read idiotic books or magazine articles that don't challenge our minds. It's OK to do this occasionally, just like it's OK to have dessert after you eat your meal. But your body can't live on chocolate sundaes alone, and your mind can't live on a constant diet of trash without it craving something more. Many people are consumed by that constant craving. In fact, I would argue it's a spiritual craving.

We also feel the need to be important. From the earliest age, we wonder how we can distinguish ourselves. So we choose to stand out in some way. One person may stand out as a musician. One may stand out as a financial analyst. And one may stand out as the group idiot who's always trotting out the latest nutty theory.

Of course everyone has that need to belong. If we don't belong to a tribal group, we feel that terrible disconnect. You don't have to be in an actual tribe to feel that you're a part of a group. My particular "tribe" is my small church, which functions more as a family than simply a church. We love each other, we pray for each other, we cry for each other, we celebrate with each other. Not everyone is so blessed.

Those people who don't have a tribe search to belong somewhere. If they're gullible, uneducated, mentally ill, and/or craving something to satisfy their spiritual needs they may fall into a group that they see as exotic or interesting, even though outsiders see the group for what it really is. Cults are created from this class of people. The membership doesn't have to be formal, but the dedication is all-consuming. Let's lump cult-followers and conspiracy theorists in the Crazy Tribe, for the sake of brevity, OK?

Members of the Crazy Tribe are so dedicated to their brand of crazy that they discount any rebuttals. I've heard members of the Crazy Tribe say that they won't believe Snopes rebuttals because "everyone knows that members of Snopes are [insert whatever you despise here]." In fact, they will reject any facts for various reasons because they are so enamored with their membership in the Crazy Tribe. Suddenly they're important! They're being listened to! Well-meaning friends are trying to argue with them!

Of course that leads to the next point: If we argue with members of the Crazy Tribe, we simply solidify their position because we make them feel special. It's important to stand your ground and tell them the truth, but then you must let it go. If it continues to come up, you can periodically remind them of the truth, but in general you don't want to give their beliefs any credence. Don't argue after you've stated your beliefs: They aren't in the Crazy Tribe due to any logical decision they've made, so they won't be swayed by logic.

After Jake told me about a cult leader he was following (Chuck Missler), I emailed him a relevant article on false prophets, specifically naming Missler, as well as others. and explaining what was wrong in their teachings. A day went by, and then I got Jake's response back: "Great article! Really interesting to read. I'm so glad I've never fallen for any of that."

But there is still hope. A week ago, Jake sent me an article titled "Missler Debunked." Sometimes you get through, but you must give it time.