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Just the facts

Monday, 27 September 2010

Fact: (n.) 1. Knowledge or information based on real occurences. 2. Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed.

These definitions of the word fact are the definitions I personally have been familiar with since I learned the word. The exact time I became educated in the concept of “facts” is lost to me in the hazy mist of half recollection but I know for certain (or for a fact if you prefer) that I’ve known about what constitutes a fact for more than two decades.

I’m also aware it is a word misused and abused regularly by people trying to add weight to a flimsy argument by mindlessly and arbitrarily using it in conjunction with half baked, groundless notions frequently gleaned from tabloid newspapers. Phrases such as “The fact is, immigrants are coming over here, stealing our jobs and defrauding our benefits system.” are commonplace in such arguments and are a blatant misappropriation of the term. The fact is, you read some nonsense in a tabloid and assumed it to be true before regurgitating it as your own opinion at a later junction to make people think you are informed.

Never before today, however, have I experienced such a grotesquely blatant abuse of the word fact.

If you live in the Inverness area then there is a high probability you have a copy of the 100th edition of that free publication of dubious quality, the ICA. If you do, lay it face down on a stable level surface then (including the back cover) turn four pages. This should leave you looking at a full page advert (handily this is pointed out at the top of the page for those who would mistake it for journalism) entitled “Facts are Stubborn Things”.

Now, there is a good chance you don’t have a copy of the 100th issue of the ICA or that you no longer have it as you have used it in lieu of toilet paper or otherwise disposed of it in a careful manner. Fear not, for I will summarise said advert for the benefit of critical analysis. Brace yourselves, we are in for a bumpy ride.

“WAR is a fact.” This is the proud proclamation of paragraph one (under a photograph of a lady with her fingers in her ears). “You can doubt, disbelieve and deny there were world wars but the thousands of crosses spotting the cemeteries of the world cry out these were wars. Facts are stubborn things.”

Fair enough. Almost. You can doubt, disbelieve and deny there were world wars but the thousands of first hand accounts, pages and pages of documentary evidence, photographs, film and so on proves that they took place. I would say substantially more so than the “crosses” (what about the non-christian casualties?) “spotting” cemeteries. War is a fact though. Or more accurately there were two world wars is a fact. It’s a bit of a general statement otherwise. I’m tempted to let them off.

Having been forced to more or less agree with this assertion we move on to paragraph two where we are invited to ponder on the next statement.

“GOD is a fact.” Uh oh. “If you were to find an expensive watch lying on the ground, you would not say it just happened. No, it is too intricate; it had to have an intelligent maker. This world is too intricate and complicated to have just happened. God is its Maker, not a “big bang”. Admit this fact to yourself – for facts are stubborn things.”

Now see what they did there? They read something in a tabloid (in this case The Bible) and because they believe it to be true they are running around asserting it as a fact. The fact (and it is a fact) that the world seems a bit complicated to us is clearly not evidence of any kind that there is an omnipotent universal designer. The evidence they cite? The Bible. A compiled collection of books, written by human beings over a long period of time, translated, re-translated, edited, adapted, confused and corrupted (all of these are actual facts), not to mention the fact that it is incomplete as there are volumes of scripture that are not included in the “official” canon for whatever reason, the most likely theory being they contradict the aims of organised Christianity and so are deemed heretical. See how I said theory when I was suggesting a possibility as opposed to stating a fact.

There are more paragraphs of more drivel wrongly defined as facts. My favourite is the paragraph “HELL is a fact”. The evidence that proves there is actually and actual hell (and a fiery, brimstoney one at that)? “All reason and revelation says men like Hitler did not get their just punishment here. Surely these will not get the same fate after this life as the godly, holy people who accept the Saviour and live for Him.”

What?! So, there must be a Hell because otherwise where did Hitler go when he died? Clearly my scepticism has been misplaced. How in the face of such concrete evidence and potent logic can I argue against the existence of Hell? Well for one thing there’s the fact that according to Christians God forgives everyone their sins so Hitler wouldn’t be in Hell would he, he would be in Heaven. “All reason says..” All reason says Hitler was a bad man, possibly mentally ill, definitely maladjusted and riddled with psychological issues.

I hate it when evangelical Christians appropriate the language of science and reason and apply it to concepts where it doesn’t belong. There is a gargantuan gulf between believing something to be true and something actually being true. Fair enough, believe in fairies, but don’t bandy around terms like fact and reason and truth when you lack the evidence to prove your so-called facts and truths.

“You can doubt, disbelieve and deny these facts, but that doesn’t make them any less true.” That’s how the “article” ends.

I might be crazy but I’m pretty sure we have an Advertising Standards agency in this country. I feel obligated to investigate if this advert breaches their standards. I’m appalled at the fact the ICA feel it is acceptable to print an advert like this. I’m sure they saw only the amount on the cheque (they don’t seem to bother proof reading or fact checking anything else they publish) and didn’t stop to consider the content, but when you are producing something that is going to be stuffed through unsuspecting citizens letter boxes you have a responsibility to ensure you are sending accurate unsolicited information into their homes.

As you may have guessed I am not happy about this at all. Between this and the Pope’s recent comments on his “state visit” I’m pretty riled up. I am sick to death of getting nonsensical propaganda through my front door from these sorts of groups and so I intend to pursue every avenue open to me to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for them to do so in the future. I encourage you all to do the same. I used to be of a more “live and let live” mindset but I have had enough. I’m not taking it anymore.

The organisation responsible for this is the Culloden Gospel Hall. Their website is: http://www.cullodengospellhall.com and their address is Culloden Gospel Hall, Keppoch Road, Culloden, Inverness.

I’m not talking hate mail, or anything illegal mind. I was thinking more complaints to the ASA and ICA, stern letters to the organisation, peaceful protests, that sort of thing. I doubt it will make any difference to the blind idiocy of these people but we owe it to ourselves, each other and them to try.

Rant over.

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