The spread of misinformation and lies has now extended into multiple aspects of our lives, eating away at humanity’s fundamental realities. It has paralyzed so many that they have lost hope for the future.
Everywhere, people feel confused about what to believe, and struggle to find the truth.
Not long ago, people were used to getting their news from newspapers, radio, and television, and for the most part they trusted those sources – but now information comes filtered through so many untrustworthy, commercialized, partisan outlets that convey the exact opposite. Finding the truth requires searching through all kinds of misinformation and even a plethora of outright lies to discover what all the contradicting views and facts really mean.
Baha’is Must Independently Investigate Reality
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Baha’is have a spiritual duty to investigate for ourselves and not follow others blindly. In a talk he gave in Washington, D.C. in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha said:
The first teaching of Baha’u’llah is the duty incumbent upon all to investigate reality. What does it mean to investigate reality? It means that man must forget all hearsay and examine truth himself, for he does not know whether statements he hears are in accordance with reality or not. Wherever he finds truth or reality, he must hold to it, forsaking, discarding all else; for outside of reality there is naught but superstition and imagination.
This principle represents a great challenge facing humanity. What we need is a higher level of personal investigative abilities, so we can each find truth.
The invention of printing and later mass media like radio and television, and now the internet, has made it easy to spread lies and half-truths to a large number of people. With the exponential increase in how many people mass media-driven information can now reach, things have gotten progressively more complex and complicated – but hopefully, our understanding and intellectual abilities will keep pace with these changes.
Now, in order to determine the truth, we must train ourselves and our intellects to do more research and dig deeper to find the facts – and that process can sharpen our intellects and add to our discernment. We need moral guidance to become savvier and more knowledgeable, because when we try to discern the truth, it requires us to learn not just the bare facts, but what those facts actually mean. Investigating more deeply will serve us well, and benefit our collective human development. A dedicated search for the truth gives us investigative insights that can penetrate through the thickness of misinformation to get to the reality of any statement or situation.
Our God-Given Truth-Seeking Capabilities
God has given man the eye of investigation by which he may see and recognize truth. He has endowed man with ears that he may hear the message of reality and conferred upon him the gift of reason by which he may discover things for himself. This is his endowment and equipment for the investigation of reality. Man is not intended to see through the eyes of another, hear through another’s ears nor comprehend with another’s brain. Each human creature has individual endowment, power and responsibility in the creative plan of God. Therefore, depend upon your own reason and judgment and adhere to the outcome of your own investigation; otherwise, you will be utterly submerged in the sea of ignorance and deprived of all the bounties of God.
The truth, however, isn’t just a set of concrete circumstances – it goes far beyond mere facts, and crosses over into the realm of values. This means we each have to adopt a set of over-arching principles or values that allow us to measure what is right and compare it to what is wrong.
When we make these changes in our thinking and in our approach to reality, they allow us to evolve to a higher level of understanding.
Separating Truth from Fiction
We’re all busy, and everyone has a limited attention span and only a finite amount of time to become informed. Since we take in literally thousands of media-borne messages each day, we have to find reliable ways to filter the false ones out. This problem describes our present situation, and we must live with the confusion. But we are assured of a future – the Baha’i teachings refer to it as a “Golden Age” – when humanity has reached such spiritual maturity that there is no room for using these corrupt methods of lying and denying the truth.
In this environment, no one can afford the luxury of being indifferent. When we don’t try to investigate the truth independently, we take on the easy or lazy attitude adopted by many these days. If we want to base our lives on truth rather than fiction, we need to work hard for it, investing physical and spiritual energy. Why? Because ignorance leads to terrible life decisions, and knowledge points us in the right direction. That is how great goals are achieved, and growth is essential for achieving our life’s spiritual purpose.
Then, and only then, we can start discerning the realities from falsehood, and become a lighthouse in the darkness of the ocean of confusion. So in a way, this swimming through an ocean of misinformation is a beautiful process that humanity is going through – painful, no doubt, but not necessarily without its benefits. If we adopt a rigorous practice of separating fact from fiction, and develop a set of spiritual principles and values to rely on to guide us through the turbulent world of our existence, we can stand firm and face all the misinformation that comes our way.
We have the opportunity to use the misinformation that comes our way to our advantage – we can make those lemons into a refreshing lemonade, and quench our thirst for truth with it in these trying and politically-charged times. This positive attitude has been the hallmark of humanity down through the ages, so there is no reason we should give up now and reject these God-given challenges that, in the end, will take us to a higher level of maturity.