The post-truth society

(Photo: Unsplash/Patrick Tomasso)

Does truth really matter? Have we reached a stage where the only 'truth' that matters is my truth ... or the truth of those who have the power? Do we even know what truth is? Have we moved into a post truth society?

The English theologian/historian Carl Trueman, author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, recently appeared on the popular Triggernometry, where he expressed the view that what should concern us most in this post-truth technocratic society, are the children.

Why should this concern us? If children are growing up in a world without absolute truth, they will find themselves facing a confused reality – indeed they will struggle to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Believing that Santa is real, that fairies do exist at the bottom of your garden, and unicorns really do talk and turn you into a princess is fine when you are five, but disastrous when you are 25.

Consider the following examples.

Last week it was announced that the Tavistock clinic was closing. That's excellent news. Why? Because the Tavistock was participating in one of the great lies sweeping society today – that you can be trapped in the wrong body and that there is little relationship between your biology and your gender.

As Lionel Shriver wrote, "Men are women. We might as well recite 'lamps are carrots', or 'knitting needles are tractors." We are all being conditioned to believe the lie that a man who says he is a woman really is a woman. It is a lie that has enormous consequences for children and women.

The ABC network in Australia referred this week to 'non trans females' who participated in a race that was won by transwomen. Non-trans females are what we used to call women. Women's sport used to be for women only, but once the lie that men can become women is accepted, then you lose women's sport – and a whole lot more.

Then there was the case of Alex Jones, the American 'shock jock' who was found guilty last week of lying about the Sandy Hook massacre. He claimed that America's deadliest shooting was a hoax. That particular lie cost him $49.5 million and other cases will follow - which will almost certainly destroy his $270 million Infowars company. The size of the damages is a reminder of the pain and cost that lies often bring.

In Australia, we have the extraordinary case of a 48% growth in the Aboriginal population in the past decade, revealed by the latest census. It's possible that there are a number of indigenous people who have previously hidden their ancestry, but some Aboriginal leaders are more concerned about what is called 'race shifting'. Pretending to be of Aboriginal descent is not only more fashionable, but it is more lucrative. Indigenous scholarships, corporate sponsorships, welfare benefits and jobs in the diversity industry are all up for grabs. Traditionally it was the case that the elders had to verify your Aboriginal status, but now the University of Sydney, amongst others, just accepts that you can self-identify as such. It is often a lie.

Governments can tell lies too. In the US, there have been two successive quarters of negative GDP growth – this would normally be referred to as an economic recession. The President's treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, refused to accept that definition, calling it 'semantics' and instead spoke about all the good things in the economy. What was interesting about this particular case was that within days several online resources, including Wikipedia, completely rewrote their definition of recession, and then locked their pages – so that this could not be corrected!

Doug Murray was correct when he summed up what this indicates about our culture, "There is something almost awe inspiring in the way in which our age can do this. Deny reality, redefine things and try to make everyone agree to the new definition, only then to become furious if people do not go along with it." George Orwell (1984) would be proud. Who needs the Ministry of Truth when you have internet companies rewriting the script for you?!

There are so many other examples – of lies from all sides. Putin's 'special operation' in Ukraine; political leaders claiming that if you got vaccinated you would not get Covid; all white people are racist; all Muslims are terrorists ... the list is endless. This week I decided to book a holiday to the Barrier Reef – after all no less an authority than President Obama had told us it was likely to die, and the BBC told us last year that it had lost half its coral since 1995. I thought we had better see it before it's too late. Yet no sooner had I booked the holiday than the news came through that the coral cover was now at a 36-year high.

It's as though people have an algorithm of truth in their minds – we believe what we want to believe as fact, and reject everything else as fantasy. We make truth fit our pre-conceived opinions and prejudices. That's the cultural sea we swim in, made much worse by the prevalence of social media and the politicisation of almost everything.

So how can the Christian respond? We can identify with the angry cry of John Lennon's 'Gimme Some Truth'. We too are sick and tired of hearing things by "neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians!" All we want is the truth, just give us some truth. But where is that to be found? Or we can shrug our shoulders like Pilate and ask, "what is truth?" It may be 'out there somewhere' but how can we ever find it? We can despair like the Psalmist when he said in his alarm, "everyone is a liar" (Psalm 116:12).

Or we can go back to the source of truth – Jesus Christ and his word. God's word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). It's not Google. It doesn't tell us everything about everything. You won't find any Bible verse that tells you about the amount of coral on the Great Barrier Reef! Nor does it simply confirm our own prejudices.

Rather it gives us the great principles of truth, calls us to humility and reveals the darkness within and out with. Above all, it reveals the one who is the way, the truth and the life. It all boils down to this simple truth – the devil is the father of lies, and Christ is the truth. Know the truth and the truth will set you free! That is also what our children need to hear. And what our society is desperate to stop them hearing. For the sake of the children, let's learn, live and speak the truth.

David Robertson runs The ASK Project in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at the Wee Flea.