On May 25, 2020, the Calgary, Alberta city council passed a “conversion therapy” bill by a vote of 14-1. According to the bill, any councilor who offers to reduce a person’s same-sex attraction or reaffirm a person’s birth sex is subject to a fine of up to $10,000. The by-law also applies to anyone making such an offer in a private conversation or during a public sermon. One of the councilors proposed an amendment that would allow conversion therapy for a person who freely chose it. The amendment, however, was defeated.
It seems odd that a homosexual who wants to rid himself of unwanted same-sex attractions would be denied this in the interest of protecting his freedom. Treatment is routinely offered for people suffering from addiction to drugs, alcohol, and even food. Why not offer similar treatments for people (whether homosexual or heterosexual) who are addicted to sex? The bill may be unconstitutional and tested in the courts.
Apart from civil law implications, the Calgary bill represents a dismissal of Genesis. A person is now subject to heavy financial penalties for citing that “God made them male and female” and that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. How did the Calgary councilors surpass the Bible in moral wisdom? People can shift from one sex to another, but not from one sexual orientation to another. There is more than a hint of discrimination here. This new wisdom might not enjoy a long life.
In addition to the draconian quality of the bill, what stands out in my mind is its overwhelming approval. An 80 percent agreement on a bill of such dubious implications certainly arouses suspicion. Only a few years ago no Calgary councilor would have approved such a bill. How do times change so dramatically and so quickly? We see similar radical shifts in thought concerning abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, as well as homosexual activities. Philosophy should not be as unstable as changes in barometric pressure or the fluctuations of the stock market. It should be an anchor that gives society a certain stability.
Philosophy is concerned with pursuing the truth. Stating such a quest these days appears to be presumptuous. Yet nothing serves us better than truth. And if truth is difficult to attain, it should not be abandoned for that reason. In sports, one either wins or loses. But no one can win if he does not play the game. In the game of life, Truth is our North Star.
Philosophy requires a positive activity of the mind. Being a passive subject to the Zeitgeist requires no effort. Hence, we come to the difference between philosophy and propaganda. Economist Thomas Sowell makes an important point when he states, “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.” His caveat should be taken seriously.
Christ has told us that the truth shall make us free (John 8:32). But the truth, like philosophy, requires continuous effort. Anybody can be trendy. Being mesmerized by the media is sufficient. Incomplete ideas that float on the wind are absorbed unconsciously. It is akin to being possessed by alien forces. The dreaded Covid-19 virus is invisible yet harmful. It passes from one person to another in ways that are mysterious. It renders us passive. The same can be said for bad philosophy that is transmitted through incomplete ideas (like choice without consequence, sex without marriage, or education without truth). The Covid-19 virus and bad ideas are both contagious. And it is debatable as to which generates more harm. Bad ideas, of course, have had a much longer inning. The former is airborne; the latter is transported on the wings of propaganda. In the world of academe, we have reason to wonder if studies centering on diversity, feminism, and gender equality are truly educational or merely forms of propaganda delivered under the pretext of education. Playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter has stated: “It is so easy for propaganda to work, and dissent to be mocked.” Thus, Catholics are mocked for adhering to the truth of the unborn and holding to the authority of the Bible.
G. K. Chesterton reminds us: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Trendiness streams into our minds without our realizing it. We may think we are being liberal because we are celebrating something new, but we are being iconoclastic because we fail to see the value in something old. Propaganda replaces thinking; philosophy energizes it.
The 2011 film, Contagion, is about a deadly virus that sends the entire world into a panic. It has been hailed as “the film that anticipated our pandemic.” The horror of both pandemics lies in the fact that they render us helpless. Yet there is another contagion that is going on, one in which our minds are infected with propaganda. Concerning this one, there is something we can do to oppose it, namely, we can develop a love for truth and pursue it vigorously. Truth, in the final analysis, will also be our most effective weapon in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. We cannot allow ourselves to remain passive to both the Covid-19 virus and the reality of truth.
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