Congratulations! You’re a Heretic, 21st Century-Style

Written by Wes Walker on February 7, 2014

Did you know you were a heretic? You are! Congratulations!

I don’t know what kind of heretic you are, but in today’s polarized environment, you are sure to be one on somebody’s list.

You might not be the religious kind of heretic, in the classical meaning of the word. (The kind that wants to belong to a major religion, even after inventing one of their own — Mormons, for example.)

If you’re reading this column, chances are good that you’re some other kind of heretic. Probably multiple kinds.

You might be the kind of heretic that doubts Man-made global warming. You might be the kind of heretic that thinks unborn children have inalienable rights. You might be the kind of heretic that thinks defending traditional marriage is good for families and society at large.

Maybe you challenge Neo-Darwinism. Maybe you think affirmative action demeans those who receive it. Maybe you think militant Feminism is a lie. Maybe you refuse to attend a Pride parade. Maybe you carry a firearm, drive a gas-guzzler, smoke a cigar or quote “dead white guys”.

Maybe you think “Progressive” isn’t; that Socialism rends the social fabric; and that Fascism is dangerously fashionable. Maybe you think the Muslim “Brotherhood” isn’t exactly brotherly.

Maybe you think all races are equal, but all cultures are not.

The list could go on, but you get the idea.

There was a time that political disagreement led to spirited debate. When ideas clashed in public, and strong ones crushed the weaker ones. When popular opinion was shaped by compelling arguments. It wasn’t perfect. Sometimes bad ideas endured for awhile, but eventually better ones toppled them.

It is usually unpopular to challenge an established idea. Convincing people to change their minds can be hard, very hard. But there was a time when you didn’t fear the consequence of doing so. Free speech protected you.

Free speech is the difference-maker.  It is the freedom of the kid laughing at the naked Emperor. He did not fear recrimination for his honesty, so he spoke up.

Although the kid — who had nothing to lose — could speak freely, the rest were shackled by their fears.  Telling the truth carried a penalty.  They could be labeled as “unfit for their position”.

Is there a modern analogy to these shackles?  What penalty does heresy carry today?  It depends on whose list you are on.

Is any public personal price paid by rejecting traditional values?  Not at all.  Quite the opposite, sometimes it’s a shortcut to fame and money.  What personal price did some unknown basketball player face for making his private life public? Nothing. He was lionized.

But dare to affirm traditional marriage and they’ll close your bakery, or boycott your restaurant.  They’ll pin a scarlet letter to your lapel, and thrust you out of the public square.

Make a gazillion dollars off some second-rate Eco-scare “documentary”, selling modern eco-indulgences, while complaining about everyone’s “carbon-footprint” but your own — AND have your ideas debunked six ways past Sunday, and you can somehow still be the hero that “invented the internet”.

But question the data, conclusions, and financing of eco-zealots, or compile the various criticisms of Neo-Darwinism that Atheists themselves have demonstrated (e.g. “Darwin’s Doubt”), and you’re “anti-science”.

However did we become a culture of thin-skinned me-monkeys crying to mama whenever a skeptic says “prove it”?

Human nature hasn’t changed much in a few hundred years. The Federalist Papers had something to say about this.  “For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.”  — Hamilton, Federalist #1

And yet, isn’t that exactly what’s happening today?  They try to force the public into agreement. The “progressive” New Orthodoxy isn’t quite as obvious as a Mafioso “protection” racket.  They don’t smash your windows or firebomb your business if you fail to pay up, and their payment isn’t (necessarily) cash. We are more sophisticated. Heretics here do not face burnings at the stake, or gulags, or floggings. They face something more subtle and sinister.

Instead of spirited debate (science is “settled”, remember) zealots proclaim victory and demand conformity. Agree with us, or pay an unspecified price. Some might face a kangaroo court in “human rights” cases.  Others face lawsuits, boycotts, and various kinds of slander. There are as many ways to bully people into conformity as there are bullies.

Bottom line is this: does beating your opponent into submission make your position true? Not at all. The opponent’s idea must be beaten.

I cannot please all people. Nor should I. It is enough for me to know I am faithful where I need to be. Some ideas, and some people are simply wrong. The only way I could please them is to tell them they are not. That would make us both wrong.  

I will be resented for that. Opposed. Possibly even hated.  So will you.  Here’s a secret… It’s ok to be hated sometimes. People who really make a difference in this world usually are.

But when they attack you, don’t let them claim false victory. If they’ve attacked you, but not your position, call them on it… every time.

When they challenge your assumptions, challenge theirs too.  Put up a fight. Let the ideas clash.  Because truth matters.

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