The Relentless Pursuit of Ignorance

(Article originally published in 2023)

Things did not change quickly in ancient Egypt. But in 1353 B.C.E. there was a new sheriff in town. Akhenaten the son of Amenhotep III made changes that must have had his dad spinning in his pyramid. The establishment priesthood had a nice gig until Akhenaten stripped them of their authority, declared that the empire would now only worship one God, and moved the capital.

But smart-aleck kids, even if they are considered to be deities, don’t live forever. The system and the aristocracy that spawned them always gets the last laugh.

Subsequent pharaohs restored the national religion, moved the capital back to Thebes, and dealt with the legacy of Akhenaton the way totalitarian systems always do – they took that ugly little piece of history and tossed it on the dung heap.

Akhenaten was labeled as a criminal. His monuments were dismantled. His statues were destroyed. His name was redacted from public records and official lists of Egyptian rulers. He was so thoroughly scrubbed from historical records that he was completely forgotten until just over one hundred years ago.

Why Re-Invent the Wheel?

That level of thinking did not change much over the next 1500 years. The Roman empire turned it into an art form. It destroyed the civilization of Carthage, then built a new one on its ashes.

It brilliantly wiped out the memory of the Jewish zealots in the first century while simultaneously sponsoring a replacement for their Judaism. Two new theologies emerged – both completely accepting of Roman authority: Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

For more on how that came about, see my blog What was the “Other” Gospel, and check out The Second Crucifixion of Jesus on Amazon or at the Barns & Noble website.

Insecurity Breeds Tyranny

The longing to control the thoughts of us peasants is not new. Whenever you see a movement to ban (or burn) books, or to discredit (or burn) those who write them, there you will find a scared, nervous idiot who is paranoid about what the rest of us may find out.

The three bastions of defense instinctively raised by folks without supporting evidence on their side have always been the same: attack the messenger, kill the message, call on faith.

In 1925, John T. Scopes was found guilty of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act which made it a criminal offense to teach the science of evolution in state-funded public schools. Anything that may expose the peasants to legitimate science and history scares the daylights out of those in power.

When history scholar James Loewen, examined twelve history books that were being taught in high school classrooms, he found that they consistently hid, sugar-coated, ignored, or outright lied about the major milestones of American history. [i]

To this day, there is a persistent effort to remove science from the classrooms or to at least “supplement” it with the superstitious mythology that has been deceptively labeled “creation science”.

After years of seeking and failing to find evidence to support the stories in the Christian Bible, most of our children are still taught that faith is a virtue. The older I get, the more I see the real world, the less patience I have with that silly notion.

Some would argue that faith can be a good thing because it offers hope for desperate people. Unfortunately, it also closes the windows of reality. In times of impending doom, its benefits of strengthening us with hope are more than offset by its tendency to support bad decisions.

In every respect, faith is the opposite of knowledge. Because it promotes intellectual paralysis, its only fruit is the status quo. Growth is made possible by learning – and learning by research.

Insistence on believing something regardless of evidence is the very definition of foolish. No one has ever grown in knowledge after beginning with the assumption that learning will not be permitted to change an existing belief.

Only by having the intellectual curiosity and personal courage to question the things we have been told, can we cut through the fog into which we were born.

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[i] Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me. New York: The New Press, 2018.


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