The Noble Lie (From November FreedomTalk)
There is a desperate longing in the human heart for purpose beyond the passing hours of a senseless shuffle to the grave. “Dust thou are, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his Psalm to Life.
The Judeo-Christian worldview upon which our Republic was founded assumes that life carries divinely gifted worth, meaning, and purpose. Our Founders reflected this belief when they wrote that men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
They embraced “self-evident” truths because they recognized a higher moral authority manifested in Natural Law and Natural Rights. Purpose is a birthright, and happiness is attainable in this life. The American “new birth of freedom” descended from centuries of English Common Law development, nurtured by a unique commitment to personal autonomy.
Daniel Hannan wrote in Inventing Freedom, “More than a thousand years ago, in England, the precedent had been set that a ruler might be judged before a representative assembly. The law…was a set of inherited rights that belonged to every freeman in the kingdom. The rules did not emanate from the government, but stood above it…if the sovereign himself is required to keep that law, it must have a higher source of legitimacy.”
Yet the Left, in denying the existence of a higher power—and thereby self-evident truth—experiences a lack purpose that makes life a meaningless absurdity. As French philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
“Postmodernism,” writes Matthew Lohmeier in Irresistible Revolution, “challenges the possibility of obtaining objective knowledge of the world—of knowing truth. Reason and truth are meaningless; they are mere abstractions. Objectivity is a myth.”
Without purpose, life is intolerable. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” wrote Thoreau. Mankind becomes “the absurd hero,” as Camus put it. His “whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing,” like the archetypal Sisyphus endlessly rolling a stone up a hill, only to watch it roll back again—a sort of Greek Groundhog Day.
Christian philosopher William Lane Craig describes this “dilemma of modern man” as “truly terrible. The atheistic worldview is insufficient to maintain a happy and consistent life. Confronted with this dilemma, modern man flounders pathetically for some means of escape.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, 20th-Century French philosopher, offered a coping mechanism: “In a word, man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually defines himself.”
Craig references a 1991 address to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science by Dr. L.D. Rue, in which he “boldly advocated that we deceive ourselves by means of some ‘Noble Lie’ into thinking that we and the universe have value.”
“Without such lies, we cannot live. This is the dreadful verdict pronounced over modern man. In order to survive, he must live in self-deception,” says Craig.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote that “if there is not immortality, then everything is permitted.” If everything is permitted, then we must either abandon any social coherence and live in chaos, or impose social coherence at the expense of personal freedom. “If we’re to avoid these two options,” writes Craig, “then we have no choice but to embrace some Noble Lie that will inspire us to live beyond selfish interest and so voluntarily achieve social coherence.”
But voluntary social coherence has mutated into mandated conformity. As the Lie grows, those living by it have gradually come to believe it—and to protect their fragile constructed purpose for living, they impose it upon others through panic-driven forced compliance.
Dostoyevsky entreated us in The Brothers Karamazov not to live by lies:
Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to passions and coarse pleasures in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in his vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and himself. A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. (It sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn’t it?) And surely he knows that no one has offended him, and that he himself has invented the offense and told lies just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated for the sake of effect, that he has picked up on a word and made a mountain out of a pea—he knows all of that, and still he is the first to take offense, he likes feeling offended, it gives him great pleasure, and thus he reaches the point of real hostility…”
The advent of a “novel” coronavirus presented fertile ground for a narcissistic noble lie. Here, at last, was a purpose to cling to, a utopian “new normal” with a sanctimonious slogan, “we’re all in this together,” led by a medical messiah to save us from our unsanitary sins and our horse-paste heresy. Decades of nearly unanimous scientific recommendation against generalized masking were quietly purged and replaced by shiny “new” studies; the cries of those suffering adverse reactions to experimental vaccines were drowned out by slightly off-key paeans of slavish praise to Pfizer and the pharmaceutical pantheon.
Initial seemingly noble sentiments, like saving grandma, deteriorated into forced compliance in obeisance to the collective. Censorship of dissenting voices has compelled allegiance to the Lie and threatened to destroy the beautiful heritage of human dignity and freedom, which we consider to be foundational Truth.
Well did Paul write two thousand years ago, “they exchanged the Truth for a lie.”
The priests of the Noble Lie preserve the orthodoxy through intimidation, ostracism, and penance, for to abandon the covid obsession is to once again face the meaninglessness of their existence. The Left dreads having nothing to live for more than death—it terrifies them—and perfect fear casts out love.
The Lie devours freedom and obscures truth like the creeping shadows of an eclipse, but the Truth shines the revelatory light of liberty. “I believe in Christianity,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
FreedomTalk exists to shine a light on the lies—which are not really noble at all—and to illuminate the path that will lead us back to true nobility.
Kelly J. Walker, M.S.
November FreedomTalk issue, 2021