Chapter 22
Faith and Deception

Recall the simple definition of “faith” that we are using:

Faith: Belief in something that has not been directly observed.

Since “faith” deals with things that have not been directly observed, it follows that it is relatively easy to be deceived about matters involving faith. Few people are deceived about things they directly observe. No, we are more likely to be deceived about things we do not directly observe, including things which we only partially observe or indirectly observe, or things we only hear about through others.

For example, you may have heard about the 1938 radio drama about “The War of the Worlds.” History indicates it was directed and narrated by Orson Welles, and that it aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System on October 30, 1938 throughout the United States. (I was not alive then; I did not hear it or observe it myself; I am basing this on historical accounts, about which I have some level of faith in their accuracy.) It was a radio drama about an invasion by space aliens, based on a novel by H.G. Wells. Unfortunately, many people who tuned in after the introduction of the drama thought the news reports about an alien invasion were true and began to panic and suffer extreme mental anguish. A few people are reported to have attempted suicide. Why the mental anguish? Why the attempted suicides? Because these people had strong faith in the accuracy of radio news reports. They believed that what they were hearing was true, even though they hadn’t directly observed any evidence of the reported invasion. They were deceived; they believed something to be true which was actually false.

Consider another example. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC is reported to have been founded in 1960 by none other than Bernard L. Madoff. For about 48 years, this investment firm “invested” other people’s money for them, and generally showed very consistent and strong returns on those investments. Mr. Madoff developed a great deal of wealth and respect based on the consistent success of his company. Many people had strong faith in the company, and proved their faith by eventually entrusting over $50,000,000,000 to Mr. Madoff’s investment firm (that’s 50 Billion dollars, or 50,000 Million dollars). Perhaps you heard: in 2008 this investment company was found to be operating a Ponzi scheme! New money coming in wasn’t invested in a proper way. Instead, it was used to pay previous investors and provide Mr. Madoff with a lavish lifestyle. Apparently even some of his own family members who worked in the business were largely unaware of the deception. Lots of people had faith in Mr. Madoff and his company, but they were deceived. They believed in something which they had not directly observed, and only later found out that they had been deceived.

Consider a somewhat more religious example. Many successful television preachers (and some churches) appear to have a message that goes something like this:

“God wants to financially bless you! We who are serving God need more resources to serve God better. Invest in our ministry and God will financially bless you! Don’t hinder God’s blessing any longer; give today!”

Are such claims true? Believing such claims usually involves faith, but having faith about something doesn’t make it true. Likewise, however, not having faith about something doesn’t make it false.

For Further Reflection:

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