I am a big advocate for rationality and using a rational framework to manage your life. But you haven’t heard me mock or disparage the doomsday group that has recently been in the news for its failed rapture prophecy that was supposed to occur on May 21st, 2011. Many followers of this cult cashed in their retirement savings, took out ads and held signs, gave away their possessions, took time off work, and made significant changes to their lives that will have ramifications for many, many years.
Why, given their mental foolishness, do I refuse to criticize them? Why, when I can be so brutal against irrational prejudice or foolish actions, am I giving these people a pass?
It is simple. Even though these men and women were being irrational, they truly:
- Believed that the world was ending
- Believed that there was a way to be saved from the destruction
- Believed that the most important thing they could do was warn people so everyone had a chance to escape the disaster
- Gave up their life savings and possessions to back up that conviction so that you and I had a chance to avoid the end of the world
Even though their beliefs were imbecilic, these people were doing what they thought was right and they subjected themselves to humiliation and loss solely so they could save even one man, woman, or child. Were they profoundly misguided? Yes. Were their motivations pure and good? Absolutely.
In other words, many of these believers are broke because they thought the world was ending and they used everything they had to try and save you. Their concern was for you. They were acting in love, and compassion. They were just wrong and now have to suffer the consequences of that reality. They thought the building was on fire and didn’t think of themselves, only getting you out to safety.
To exult over their cognitive dissonance and cognition failures achieves nothing. It displays no character. It rejoices in cruelty and pain. Their lives are now irrevocably harmed, their credibility destroyed with many friends and colleagues, and their bank balances empty. Taking pleasure in that displays a lack of morality.
We are our decisions. We are how we behave. Gloating over the shattered lives of well-meaning but mistaken individuals is not the man I want to be.