Your Right to Believe
You probably cherish your right to believe whatever you wish to believe. So does almost everyone else. By exercising this right, earth’s six billion inhabitants have produced an amazing diversity of beliefs. Like the variations in color, shape, texture, taste, smell, and sound that we find in creation, differing beliefs often add interest, excitement, and enjoyment to life. Such variety can, indeed, be the spice of life.—Psalm 104:24.
BUT there is a need for caution. Some beliefs are not only different but also dangerous. Early in the 20th century, for example, some people came to believe that Jews and Freemasons had plans to “disrupt Christian civilization and erect a world state under their joint rule.” One source of this belief was an anti-Semitic tract entitled Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The tract alleged that the plans included advocating excessive taxation, promoting armament production, encouraging giant monopolies so that ‘Gentile wealth could be destroyed in one blow.’ Allegations also included manipulating the education system so as to ‘turn Gentiles into unthinking beasts,’ and even constructing underground railways to join capital cities so that the Jewish elders could ‘quell any opposers by blowing them sky-high.’
These, of course, were lies—designed to inflame anti-Semitic feelings. ‘This preposterous fiction,’ says Mark Jones of the British Museum, ‘spread abroad from Russia,’ where it first appeared in a newspaper article in 1903. It reached The Times of London on May 8, 1920. More than a year later, The Times exposed the document as a fake. In the meantime, the damage had been done. ‘Lies like these,’ says Jones, ‘are hard to suppress.’ Once people accept them, they produce some very jaundiced, poisonous, and dangerous beliefs—often with disastrous consequences, as the history of the 20th century has shown.—Proverbs 6:16-19.
Belief Versus Truth
Of course, it does not take deliberate lies to develop mistaken beliefs. At times, we just misread things. How many people have met untimely deaths doing something they believed was right? Then again, often we believe a thing simply because we want to believe it. One professor says that even scientists “often fall in love with their own constructions.” Their beliefs becloud their critical judgment. Then they may spend a lifetime in vain trying to shore up mistaken beliefs.—Jeremiah 17:9.
Similar things have happened with religious beliefs—where immense contradictions exist. (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:3, 4) One man has deep faith in God. Another says that the man is only “weaving faith out of moonshine.” One maintains that you have an immortal soul that survives death. Another believes that when you die you cease to exist, totally and completely. Obviously, conflicting beliefs like these cannot all be true. Is it not the course of wisdom, then, to make sure that what you believe actually is true and not simply what you want to believe? (Proverbs 1:5) How can you do that? The following article will examine this subject.
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1921 article exposing “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”