More On Fact-Checking

Should you verify matters on the internet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I saw a lot of this situation happening. First, someone I know from back in Knoxville messaged me on Facebook about something involving Wal-Mart brand water. It looked to be something like it freezing instantly. Then I was told to pass this on to everyone I knew immediately.

99.9% of these things shared in a Facebook blast are false.

And it didn’t take long to see that this was one of them. I asked the person if they had checked the claim before sending it to me. Of course not. I then pointed out the falseness of the claim. There was no acknowledgment of this.

Some of you out there might not like Wal-Mart and I get that, and I’m also not saying this person is one of them, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to share false information about them. There are many people working there who are just trying to provide for themselves and their families and when you share information that is false, you hurt every single one of them. Of course, it’s not that all of this sharing means the company shuts down, but it does do damage in the long run.

The second one I am happy to say has now apparently been taken down. It involved a quote from Henry Kissinger to a UN Council on Eugenics stating about what would happen when people were told that vaccinations were necessary. I got suspicious of this one immediately and I and several people asked for a source. None was given and I was told to do my own homework.

Of course, I already had. The thing is that if you make a claim and someone challenges you on it, it’s not their job to do their homework necessarily. It’s yours to back it. If you do not, you are again possibly bearing false witness.

Yet despite both of these, the last instance was the first.

This last one was in a discussion group for Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, where debate takes place. Someone posted the following. The meme was bad enough being full of false information, but the source that it came from made it even worse.

The source was someone named David Koenig who posted on a page about Catholic truth for Protestants. In his post first sharing the meme, he said the following:

“The founder of Protestantism is in hell because he committed SUICIDE!!!

Through out his life Luther was always depressed Man who got punished by God counted less time’s, he even talked to Demon’s, even the devil himself while he was still an Augustineian Monk and after he created Protestantism.”

I left the grammar exactly as it was also.

First off, Luther did not die this way. Several quickly showed up to point this out. The second point is far more important for me. I say this as someone married to someone who can struggle with suicidal thinking and has had attempts. Imagine what it does to the average person whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, who might not be well-grounded in theology and they hear that someone is in Hell because they committed suicide and they have a loved one who did do that.

We can debate what does happen to the suicide, but if you’re going to make such a dogmatic statement, there needs to be some backing. Not only did this person make an attack based on false information, but they could cause great unnecessary harm to people already suffering immensely. This person decided that such was not needed and I really consider that the worst part of this post.

If we’re followers of Jesus, we have to do better than all of these. Sharing false information on the internet will damage other people and also will hurt your reputation. That makes it even worse. After all, if you share something that I can see is false in just five minutes of checking and I realize you did not check your claims, why should I, if I am a skeptic, believe you on the resurrection of Jesus?

Let’s look at the Catholic posting in particular here. Fortunately, I know several Catholics who are brilliant minds and so I know this is an anomaly, but let’s suppose that this was typical for Catholics online. I could say it is sadly for Muslims and internet atheists. What will be the result? I would likely take Catholicism far less seriously than I do. I am still a convinced Protestant, but I know the majority of Catholics I meet are not like this, but for those that are, you are doing a disgrace to what you think is the church of God.

If you can’t verify it, you probably shouldn’t share it.¬† My own wife can tell you that when she reads something like news on Facebook, I immediately ask “Source?” If you are unsure, you can share a caveat of something of the sorts like, “I did some checking and couldn’t find anything to verify this, but it does concern me. Does anyone know anything about this?”

Truth is something valuable we should all hold on to. Yesterday my wife was watching an interview on Dr. Phil with a compulsive liar who was addicted to it. Three people she had hurt were on stage and it was clear with one of them they would never be friends and another said they don’t know if they can believe anything this liar says.

You don’t want that kind of reputation yourself. Fact check please.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The State Farm Syndrome

Can there be claims on the internet that aren’t true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remember this State Farm commercial?

We all laugh at the idea that if you read it on the internet, it must be true. Unfortunately, we also all know of situations that are just like this. We could say that the blessing of April 1st is that at least on that day, most everyone checks everything they read on Facebook before sharing it.

Then every other day, gullibility abounds.

So what do I see yesterday? I see a claim going around that the National Day of Prayer has been cancelled by Obama. Now readers of this blog know that I’m not fan of the Obamas. I am politically very conservative. What I am a fan of however is truth and that includes truth about my ideological opponents.

I really don’t like that regularly when this comes up, I’m forced to defend the Obamas, but I am. The truth matters more. I want to take down our opponents, but we have to do that with truth and not falsehood. So what do we do?

First, ask yourself if the story you’ve seen has appeared on any major news network. If it hasn’t, it probably isn’t true. Nowadays, every controversial decision is blasted from the rooftops. Today, we’d have Clinton and Sanders being asked if they support that decision, Cruz would be decrying it as an example of liberal policies and our turn from God, and we’d know where Trump stands on prayer. Yet despite this supposed event, no one has said a thing about the National Day of Prayer.

Folks. This one is easy really. All you need to do after that step is go to a web search and type in something like “Has the National Day of Prayer 2016 been cancelled?” If it has, you will find out about it. If you think that’s not enough, then you will need to do some more.

There are two more sources to check. The first is a site called Truth Or Fiction. I went there and put in “National Day of Prayer” for a search. It looks like according to them that this is an erumor that has circulated before and it’s really bad that it gets people every year. You can find out about that here.

Another site I go to is Snopes. So what did I do? I went there and posted “National Day of Prayer” again and what do I get? This. Yes. These rumors abound constantly.

Please keep in mind this was not a large and in-depth research project. This would take at the most about five minutes worth of your time. Now if you’re not sure on Facebook if something is true or not, let me give you a good policy to follow. It’s awfully complex, but I think you can grasp it.

DON’T SHARE IT!

In fact, if you want to, put the burden on someone else. If they share it, ask them if they have checked it out. Ask them if they have done any searching to see if the account is true or not. Hopefully, something like this could get them to stop spreading false information.

Keep in mind also when I say false information, I mean something that can be said to be demonstrably false by anyone who just does five minutes worth of research. I do not mean “An opinion that disagrees with yours.” It could be false. It could not be. There are some matters that do take time to determine the truthfulness of them, like scientific and archaeological claims.

Now why on Earth do I harp on this? Well let’s start with Christians. If you’re a Christian, you’re supposed to be a person of truth. You’re supposed to love the truth. When you claim Jesus rose from the dead, you’re not claiming just that you’ve had some sort of personal experience as if you were a Mormon. You’re claiming that this is a real event that happened in history. You’re claiming a dead man went into a tomb and He came out alive again.

Now of course, I hold that’s a true claim, but we should all agree on something. It is a remarkable claim. It is not an everyday claim. It is not a claim that you can do five minutes worth of research and verify or disprove. It is a claim that requires much in-depth study.

You when you say you are a Christian are saying that you hold this claim is true. Your friend who is skeptical is not sure yet. What do they see? They see you sharing a claim they can easily see is false just by a few minutes worth of checking. Why should they bother with the claim that would take much much longer to check? You’ve already shown you’ll believe anything if it goes with what you already believe.

You see, by doing this, you have seriously damaged your reputation. You have shown yourself to be gullible and your non-believing friend will chalk up your Christianity to gullibility. If you have a habit of sharing stories that are false, why should anyone believe you on the grandest story of all that is true?

By the way, a lot of Christians share stuff on Facebook and think that by doing just that, they are doing something. You’re not. If you want to look at how something can be done, consider what homosexual activists did with¬†After The Ball. This was about how America would overcome their “hatred” for homosexuality in the 90’s and come to love the gay movement. It was a brilliant success, and that group is a much smaller number of the population. They turned something most people found repulsive into something that we are now supposed to celebrate with a Gay Pride Month.

They’re actually going out into the world spreading their message. Would that Christians would do the same thing! If Christians took Christ as seriously as the homosexual movement took homosexuality, we could really turn things around in this country. That requires more than just Facebook posting. Of course, what you do on the internet is important, but it goes beyond Facebook.

There are non-Christians of course reading this and you could be feeling pretty good right now about this. After all, here I am, a Christian apologist, going after my fellow Christians on this and saying “Yep. Too many of my fellow Christians are gullible.” Brace yourselves. The group that describes itself as guided by reason and defines themselves by rationality can be just as gullible.

When I see internet memes by atheists making arguments, they are often some of the most ridiculous memes I see. Frankly, you should not make arguments by memes period. Memes can be illustrations or a bit of humor and such, but they are never to be arguments in themselves.

Yet if there is one area where atheists regularly fall prey to this gullibility, it is in the area of the historical Jesus. When I see arguments going around about Jesus being a copy of other pagan deities in the dying and rising gods motif or arguments that Jesus never even existed, I just roll my eyes immediately. These arguments are not taken seriously in the field of academia. This is not an open debate any more than evolution is an open debate with biologists or heliocentrism is an open debate with astronomers.

And yet, despite this, internet atheists share this regularly as if they’ve discovered some great new secret that has escaped notice.

“But Richard Carrier says”

Yes, I know what Carrier says. I also know that many scholars in the world have no idea who he is. The reason he’s so hard for some to answer is the same reason people who say the moon landing was a hoax can be hard to answer. It’s because the claims looked at are claims not paid attention to by scholars as they rely on esoteric theories that just aren’t taken seriously. Carrier regularly goes with the most bizarre reading and most people don’t know how to handle that. Mythicism is not taken seriously in academia and there’s no sign that that’s changing.

Readers of this blog know that I’m not a young-earth creationist (YEC), but if you happen to be a mythicist, you have no place making fun of YECs. There are more academics in the field who question evolution and/or hold to YEC than there are Jesus mythicists. Mythicism should be seen as a conspiracy theory for atheists. If you are a skeptic of Christianity, you owe it to yourself to stop your fellow skeptics who are spreading the idea of mythicism. Most Christians aren’t answering any more not because the arguments are too difficult, but because they’re too ridiculous.

Fact checking is something everyone should do and with any claim you’re wanting to share. For much of what we’re talking about, it only takes a few minutes to check a claim. Is it really worth risking having a bad reputation to avoid five minutes worth of checking? Be a person of truth. Check that claim before you share it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters