Debating can be a very frustrating and unproductive activity. If our objective is to change the mind of a partisan, most likely we will not get anywhere. Why? We can try to get into the head of the person we are debating, but we don’t actually know what they are thinking. All we can do is examine their arguments.

When Conservatives debate Liberal Democrats, how do the debates tend to go? Well, I can only point to my own experience. Whenever I say almost anything about politics, some Liberal Democrat will almost inevitably take the time to tell me how awful Trump is. Is there really any appropriate way to respond to that? Well, I suppose I could get frothing mad about some Democrat and say awful things about that Democrat. Any Conservative think Nancy Pelosi is a great Speaker of the House? No, but what would be the point?

Therefore, I am not inclined to spend much effort trying to defend Trump. Instead, I just point out that his detractors no longer have any credibility. Impeachment flopped. Then I point to what Liberal Democrats say they believe. Here is an example. Liberal Democrats believe in government-run schools. In How modern education has destroyed the next generation’s soul: Students are taught self-esteem and sexual promiscuity more effectively than science and civics (washingtontimes.com), Everett Piper explains the problem with government-run schools by ending his article with this quote.

“All your life long you are slowly turning … either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, and rage … Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.” — C.S. Lewis “Mere Christianity”

When we educate our children, we have the sacred duty of helping our children become heavenly creatures. If, instead, we turn our children over to politicians and bureaucrats, people no one with any good sense trusts, what excuse can we offer? None! Still, Liberal Democrat politicians want us to believe they should educate our children.

Why don’t we ever stop to think how absurd it is to put politicians in charge of our children? As Cal Thomas observes in America’s Expiration Date: Eric Metaxas with Cal Thomas (christianoutlook.com), for Christians handing their children over to the government is akin to letting the enemy educate our children. It would be just as dumb to let the Chinese train our soldiers.

Want a simple comparison? A straightforward example of our insanity. Consider how Milton Friedman described our options for spending money.

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income. — Fox News interview (May 2004) (from here (en.wikiquote.org))

If we can be so easily convinced that we should rely upon politicians to wisely spend somebody else’s money on someone else, then we should not be surprised we can be convinced we should trust politicians instead of parents with the education “other people’s children”. Still, it is a crying shame.

Are politicians that dumb? Where do politicians send their own children? How Many Politicians Send their Kids to Public Schools? (publicschoolreview.com) uses old data, but I doubt things have changed much.



  1. Tom.

    Great Post. I linked your post to a related issue which will be posted tomorrow AM.

    In my opinion, our founders recipe for a united nation has been diluted and we need to add the ingredient back into the USA melting pot.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

  2. After seeing the election results this morning, my daughter sent me this text dripping with dark humor:

    “It’s finally time for a very old very white man to run this country.”


    1. @tsalmon

      It is kind of funny. The Republican Party is usually portrayed as the party of angry or dead white men. Now the Democrats have two angry and nearly dead white men in the lead as their presidential nominees.

      1. The choices were three very old white men before Bloomberg dropped out, and four if Trump is included. For a country supposedly consumed with identity politics, this is a very strange identity demographic for both political parties to settle on.

        1. @tsalmon

          Not really. There are still many more men than women qualified to be president, and Hispanics are still a new immigrant group.

          Joe Biden was Obama’s VP. So he has the black vote. Sanders is a Communist. He is the only person with the experience and stature to appeal to that wing of the party. Trump is the first Republican in recent times to campaign seriously for the black vote. So there are few black Republicans. That leaves us with three old white guys.

          If and when Pence runs in 2020, my guess is that he will make a serious effort to choose a woman as his VP. Time will tell. Either Biden or Sanders will certainly try to pick a woman if they get the nomination.

          1. @tsalmon

            I am so literal? Well, that is because I think words mean something. Words like sex, oath, marriage, murder, illegal, citizen, is, he, she, ….. Did you know that the dictionary is full of words and their definitions?

            It is an act of kindness to use words properly.

            Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach. — Samuel Johnson

  3. Let me put in a good word here for “debating.” It’s not that debating is an unproductive activity, it’s that most of us have really lost all our debating skills. So what we are engaging in is not really “debate.” To have a debate you have to have some respect for the other guys opinions and an open mind, enough humility to at least want to listen their perspective. It seldom plays out that well, but that’s the general idea. Something else we’ve kind of lost is our ability to handle conflict in healthy ways.

    1. IB,

      Very true. And that’s where our individual and group cognitive distortions deflect us from productive debate.

      One has to at least acknowledge that those who disagree with us may have valid points, or at least a sincere belief that they too are advocating the more moral and practical position. In other words, one has to cultivate the attributes of what F. Scott Fitzgerald coined as a “first-rate intelligence”: an individual who can hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, and especially when confronted with new information that contradicts a previous mindset. In fact, “cognitive dissonance” is defined as the inability to do just that.

      Look at any of the big issues right now and you will find that, at the extremes, both sides arbitrarily dismiss the other side’s best arguments, often with platitudes, circular reasoning, solipsisms or outright confabulations.

      As a lawyer, I had to acknowledge and distinguish the other side’s facts and case law, even to the ethical obligation of presenting to the court cases and facts that the other side didn’t know about and that might hurt my side. One of the main reasons that cases are settled during trial or on the court house steps is because, in this crucible of justice, both sides are forced to confront the other side’s real case, reassess evidence and risk, and then compromise on a course that may work to the benefit of both sides better than the all-or-nothing outcome.

      I often hear both political sides say that they won’t compromise on principles. My experience is that that is exactly what we must compromise on, especially when our principles are unnecessarily absolutist on literally everything.

    2. @insanitybytes22

      The word humility is the key, I think. If we forget we are creatures — created beings — that belong to God, we can easily grow too proud. Instead of debating, we can attempt to force our world view upon others. When that starts happening, there is no such thing as a First Amendment right.

      Unless we acknowledge the rights of others, that others belong to God, not “me”, there is no reason to debate because there is no basis for compromise. There is just a choice between enslavement and warfare.

  4. Psychologists have identified several traps that our thinking about ourselves and our world can fall into that we find hard to get out of until we escape the downward spiraling default loop. Psychologists call these “black holes” in our thinking “cognitive distortions” and in individuals these distortions result in anxiety, depression, procrastination, low self esteem and addiction. As Jonathan Haidt points out in several of his books, but particularly in his “Codling of the American Mind”, on a broader societal scale such cognitive distortions lead to many of the political pathologies that are plaguing both the extreme Left and the extreme Right today.

    Here are a list of common cognitive distortions:

    1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
    2. Overgeneralization
    3. Mental Filter (obsessing on one negative detail to the exclusion of everything else or as the reason for everything)
    4. Disqualifying the Positive (dismissing positives that don’t fit with the negative mindset)
    5. Jumping to Conclusions
    6. Catastrophising
    7. Emotional Reasoning (feelings are more important than evidence)
    8. Should Statements (normative vs empirical reasoning)
    9. Labeling and Mislabeling
    10. Personalization

    (For a longer explanation of each cognitive distortion I refer you to David D. Burns’ monumental work on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT: “Feeling Good”).

    Jonathan Haidt‘s criticisms of cognitive distortions in “The Codling of the American Mind” are mostly aimed at their prevalence by the Left on many college campuses (oddly, conservative Christian colleges seem to be more open to negative feedback and , but he makes clear that both political extremes in modern western culture are subject to many these social pathologies.

    I ask that you look at each of these cognitive distortions and examine what they mean and then determine where the Left is captured by one or more of these distortions in thinking. More importantly, I would ask that you be brutally honest with yourself and your political faction, and determine where you and your group may be trapped in such a distorted feedback loop.

    For example, Tom, you automatically label everyone who disagrees with Trump as “Liberal Democrats” even though you must know that many good conservatives, moderates and independents also disagree with Trump on both moral and competence grounds. You talk about TDS on the Left (and there is some truth to that) but, if you read back through your post above openly and honestly, how many cognitive distortions can you find?

    1. @tsalmon

      If I would just get my head straight I would agree that everything is Trump’s fault?

      If I were brutally honest with myself — meaning I am being dishonest — I would agree that everything is Trump’s fault?

      I will readily concede I am not perfect, but I don’t hold myself up as some kind of authority or model. I generally don’t even waste time trying to defend myself. Except on rare occasions, I have no desire to be the subject of either a political or religious discussion.

      Please observe this instead. We could easily replace your list of cognitive distortions with a list of common logical fallacies (https://thebestschools.org/magazine/15-logical-fallacies-know/). Do psychologists have any special expertise in logic? Perhaps, but calling illogical thinking a cognitive distortion does not make either Logic or problem solving techniques the expertise of psychologists. We usually refer to that discipline as Philosophy, not Psychology.

      1. “If I would just get my head straight I would agree that everything is Trump’s fault?
        If I were brutally honest with myself — meaning I am being dishonest — I would agree that everything is Trump’s fault?”

        Perhaps if I just get my head straight, I could learn to think Trump is doing everything right. 😊

        Maybe the hardest thing in the world to do for any of us is to be brutally honest about our own motivations, and yet those motivations are perhaps the first thing that each of us could benefit from examining. In any event, if we are being “brutally honest” in examining whether our impulses actually spark from cognitive distortions (or logical fallacies if that’s all you think they are), then why should we be defensive about it? All that I asked was for you to take a look at your post and see if some of your points fit the profile. If they don’t, they don’t, and if they do, they do, but either way, why feel threatened by the truth? (I mean seriously, Tom, you spend too much time here labeling everyone and critiquing their motivations to proclaim yourself immune from your own threshold criticism).

        Aristotle said that knowing thyself is the beginning of all wisdom. It’s an Ancient Greek maxim, but I’m sure that we can both come up with a dozen similar scriptural aphorisms.

        I’m not psychologist either, but it is easy to see that emotional issues can and do distort our perceptions before we even get to the point of logical reasoning. It becomes a “garbage in garbage out” problem even if our cognitive computer is working logically on the data after it has been filtered through the distortions.

        Take for example the current “cancel culture” problem on the Left. Can’t you see how this political correctness gone wild can be the result of numerous cognitive distortions by your extreme leftist ideological opponents? Why would you think that the extreme Right is totally immune from similar distortions?

        My point here is similar to IB’s in that debate can be constructive, but it must begin with an understanding of ourselves and our opposition to see if mutual understanding is even possible and to find out if we ourselves (as individuals and as tribes) may be the ones self short circuiting anu mutual understanding. Why is this not a reasonable place to begin any discussion, particularly a discussion about how we discuss things?

        1. One other side point on this. If you do some research into the topic, I think that you’ll find that most philosophy and even most sociology over the past 30 years or more has been to a great extent slowly subsumed into the field of psychology and social psychology. And that includes a good deal of theological philosophy as well. The reasons for this is an interesting topic for a longer discussion, but my short opinion is that we are learning that there is much, much more to the human animal in connection with nature than just being a rational machine. Indeed, I am more convinced daily that the overmuch worshiping of reason has been a bit of a distraction from our naturally intuiting God through a mind He shaped to echo His constant quiet and loving call to us. I would love to discuss this more if you wish.

        2. @tsalmon

          Am I being defensive or are you being defensive?

          All I said is the we need to focus on — discuss and debate — the things we believe. You are still into psychoanalysis.

          1. Before we can have any intelligent discussion of what we believe we must know ourselves. That’s because the truthfully realized self is the foundation of any prospect of true belief. Call it psychoanalysis or call it introspection and self awareness (of which, as you know, the Bible has a lot to say), but without this foundation, we just project darkness out of our own darkness.

          2. @tsalmon

            The discussion is over then.

            1 Corinthians 13:11-12 New King James Version (NKJV)
            11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

            We do not perceive Creation clearly. So, I have no way of knowing whether you really know yourself, and you have no way of knowing if I know myself. Like as not, neither of us will truly know ourselves or each other until we are in heaven.

          3. Strange, I don’t at all read the quote from Paul with your matter-of-fact discussion ending “just lay down and wait for it” pessimism. To me, it seems that Paul is saying just the opposite – to stop being like a self centered child who lacks the self awareness that is required before one can be truly aware of our brothers and sisters and the God that shines through them and in us. Adult wisdom comes from striving to see ourselves better, even if dimly.

            Luke17:21 and several other scriptural references essentially say to look for the Kingdom of God within you now. That requires introspection, including a deeper understanding of our motivations.

            Even if you perceive Paul’s message as a promise that we may have a more perfect understanding of ourselves after death, I think seeing this as an embrace of self blindness misinterprets his call to, as much as faith and grace allows, begin by putting away a childish lack of sentience and know yourself better now.

          4. @tsalmon

            It seems no matter what I say you are going to twist into some excuse to find something wrong in me. Therefore, instead of discussing the issues, you can discuss me or my inability to properly perceive reality.

            How do we come closest to understanding Creation. We humble ourselves before the Creator. We try to perceive Creation as He sees it. We try to perceive ourselves as He sees us. We accept the fact that we are His creatures, and He is God.

            If you don’t accept the fact God gives our rights, that we each belong to Him, then your beliefs about government rest upon some seriously flawed assumptions. Those assumptions are worth discussion. Discussing yours and my psychological problems won’t get us anywhere.

          5. This line of thinking reminds me of something that I keep reading from other theologians lately. That is that we should stop seeing Christian theology as just a scary evacuation plan the next life and instead as a joyful means to live life more fully in, with and through Christ now.

          6. @tsalmon

            A Christian speaks of being saved. That is past tense. Once we are born again, Jesus has saved us. Here is a brief description of the process.

            Romans 8:29-30 English Standard Version (ESV)
            29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

            We are at least sanctified (dedicated to God) in this life, but we don’t seem to be glorified in this life. At least we don’t get the new bodies Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15.

          7. Let’s put aside the fact that your constant proclamations of TDS are a destructive effort to psychoanalyze your opponents, and you might come to the realization that you are the only one specifically making this about you.

          8. “A Christian speaks of being saved. That is past tense. Once we are born again, Jesus has saved us. Here is a brief description of the process.“

            One and done. Yes, and don’t you think that a person also presently “is” in an eternally continuing sense “saved”? Also, don’t you think that it is possible to lose faith, fall out of grace, and then either be saved again or not? And then there is the Pauline aspect of continuing toward perfection in Christ, meaning that justification by faith is just the joyful beginning of an eternal journey to be more one in Christ through the “practice” of faith and grace, which includes a dynamic (rather than a one and done static) unfolding relationship with the Christ incarnate in others and in the universe.

            “We are at least sanctified (dedicated to God) in this life, but we don’t seem to be glorified in this life.”

            Hum, I don’t know. However, like a child learning something wonderful, I would guess that there are degrees to everything

          9. @tsalmon

            Lot of trouble to avoid discussing the issues. Well, the topics on this blog include religion. Since what we believe about God helps to determine our political beliefs, I don’t see much point in separating politics from religion.

            Your questions are not a simple ones. Are we always in the process of being saved? Don’t think so. We are saved when we make a choice. We are saved when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. After we are save, we become the home of the Holy Spirit. He makes us (as active participants) more holy. That is, because we become living temples of God, indwelled with the Holy Spirit, we become increasingly more virtuous, especially in our capacity to love (That addresses your third question too.).

            What about this question?

            Also, don’t you think that it is possible to lose faith, fall out of grace, and then either be saved again or not?

            I found four references I think you might find useful. This reference addresses the issue straightforwardly.

            This reference provides some discussion of Hebrews 6:7-8, a very difficult passage with respect to your question.

            This reference focuses on the issue raised by Hebrews 6:7-8.

            This reference considers another verse that suggest that someone who has been born again can lose their salvation.

            I personally don’t think we can lose our salvation. However, we cannot easily tell whether someone else who once seemed to be a disciple of Christ has lost their salvation. Frankly, I also don’t our ability to judge another person is especially important. Jesus said, “You follow me.” We don’t make others follow Him. We just do it ourselves.

          10. Tom,

            I think this discussion followed a rather natural progression from politics to the underlying psychological pathologies (cognitive distortions) that can promote unnecessary and destructive political divisions to how the psychologically dynamic practice of salvation can and should act as an off ramp to the negative feedback loops caused by the cognitive distortions that I mentioned earlier. Because, as you say, salvation is a choice of free will involving intention, voluntary acceptance and humility, in combination with the grace of God, salvation is, by its nature, an intensely psychological individual event and, because it involves that individual’s actions within his community and that a community (the Body of Christ) acting as one, we are also talking about the socio-psychological aspects of politics. As you very well know, just because Paul might not have used political and psychological terminology does not diminish their relevance to understanding salvation then or now.

            Notwithstanding that there seems to be some disagreement between your references as whether salvation can be lost, I don’t think we otherwise disagree in substance about what salvation is. This seems to be one of those chicken and egg tautologies that seem more important as a matter of sophistry than in spirituality.

            Perhaps if we think of salvation as a continuum with a clearly defined point, like a coming of age ritual, then a clearer picture of what it means can be understood. Many cultures have coming of age points where the catechumen accepts his/her adulthood in salvation. The Bar Mitzvah, Catholic Confirmation and the practice of Baptism only when a person reaches a certain age are all examples of rituals where a person enters into an initial stage of salvation. In theory at least, if this ritual transition from child to man or woman in God is made sincerely and voluntarily in faith, and given that God’s grace through the Holy Spirit descends upon that person, then he or she is saved. That experience may be enough to last them a lifetime. However, its hard to imagine that for most of us perfecting our holiness does not mostly come with prayer and great effort and the grace of God throughout our life’s journey toward perfection in Christ. At least that has been my experience and the experience and example of the Saints that I most admire and embrace.

            Getting back to the relevance of cognitive distortions, I believe that where these psychological pathologies trap us in negative feedback loops, they prevent us as individuals and as a group from greater unity in love with each other and with God that salvation promises.

            If you want proof of this, simply go back in history to find otherwise devout Christians who loudly self proclaimed their salvation actually behaving rather badly, and you are likely to find any number of the cognitive distortions listed above were involved.

            It is only a tool to consider, and I’ll leave it at that unless you wish to discuss it further.

          11. @tsalmon

            The Bible talks about God, sin, and our need for redemption. It says that when we sinned God cursed His own creation, including us, for our sake.

            Did the curse result in psychological imperfections? Yes. However, our most profound flaw existed before the curse. It caused our fall. What is this flaw? It is our haughty pride.

            This distortion is not cognitive. The distortion is a moral one. Out of pride we insist upon seeing Creation from our own point of view. Instead of revealing the Creator, we want to believe that the purpose of Creation revolves around “me”.

            Is making Creation all about me “insane”? Yes, but insane behavior need not stem from a physical or mental imperfection. Usually, the moral component is far more important. Do nations go to war — destroy each other — because of pride, vengenance, hatred, ….. or simply because of some sort of cognitive distortion?

            When we speak of salvation, are we talking about salvation from a disease? No, not even a psychological disease. Salvation requires us to repent of our sins, humble ourselves before our Creator, accept the gift of His forgiveness, and to love Him in return. Therefore, if we do not set aside our pride, we will not be saved. God will not force Himself upon us.

          12. I did not present the this theory of cognitive distortion as the exclusive reason for our separation from God. That would be rather simplistic and in itself a form of distorted thinking. Information of a more useful nature would tell us why are we subject to these negative feedback loops?

            You say that pride is and always has been the source of our original and continuing sins. I agree with that. The pride filled cynical person knows he is acting selfishly and he does so with devious intent. At the extreme, these are dangerous people that we call sociopaths, but we all sin in this way to greater or lessor degrees.

            In contrast, cognitive distortions result from negative feedback loops in individuals and groups where their actual thinking distorts their subjective reality in unhelpful ways. For example, a person that is caught in the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing actually believes every event is proof of never ending catastrophe. The more she obsesses on this fatalism, the more self fulfilling it becomes, leading her to increasing anxiety, depression and perhaps addiction in an attempt to self medicate. In groups, this same pathology presents in apocalyptic and dystopian group cynicism.

            I don’t know if overmuch pride is the source of all such thinking (it’s worth considering), but do you think the person or group who is actually suffering from being caught in such a cognitive distortion believes that he or she or they are being prideful? I don’t think that in the moment they can recognize their misery that way. And recognition is the first step to recovery for any problem or pathology, whether it’s pride or these other types of distorted thinking.

          13. @tsalmon

            I don’t know why we fall prey to all the various logical fallacies, but I suppose pride could have something to do with some of them. Consider the prideful person who feels guilty for his sins. His sins are just too awful for God to forgive. In fact, he deserves to be punished, and so he makes faulty decisions, and he punishes himself. Catastrophizing? Why not? When the people around you are getting along just fine, isn’t kind of arrogant to think the world is out to get you?

            People turn to Jesus for various reasons. One is that we have made ourselves so miserable that we finally realize we need help, and we reach out to Him.

            Why would we make ourselves miserable? Each of us is our own worst enemy. In pride we make demands upon the person we love most, unreasonable demands.

            “Me” is the center of the universe is a bad assumption to start with as a foundation for all the decisions we make. Bound to result in considerable negative feedback, especially from other people who think they are the center of the universe.

          14. Upon further contemplation, I think that you may be on to something about the importance of our recognition of pride. For example, my understanding of the process for healing that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) uses is that it requires the individual to admit that they have a problem, to accept the need for a higher power to help them overcome that problem and that person’s acceptance of responsibility for his/her own part in the disease they have, including taking responsibility for the harm that the individual has done to others. Whether or not pride causes cognitive distortions, it would seem that overcoming our own pride is required to see the pathology within ourselves before self help is even possible.

            Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has a proven success level that you can look up. It has better and more long term therapeutic outcomes than pharmaceutical psychotherapy alone and when used in combination with such drugs.

            Application of CBT’s cognitive distortions to sociological problems is more new and changing group pathologies in this regard has obvious obstacles. However, any solution to such problems, whether in individuals, groups of individuals or for society in general, must begin with an understanding of the problem, which means a greater understanding of ourselves and why we do the things we do. Refusal to do so is a form of pride in and of itself, don’t you think?

          15. @tsalmon

            Looks like you and I were writing at the same time. Anyway, we have a few trees and March winds. So, I have to go play pick up sticks.

  5. You know Tim— if we did totally give in and up to progressive liberal Democrats, allowing them to take full control of our schools and children— eventually there’d be no children— they would all be eventually aborted or turned into side-show oddities, unrecognizable as little boys and girls

      1. True that!
        Do you read The Federalist Tom?
        They offered an article on abortion this morning that seems to take abortion to a new level of disturbing— if that could really happen. I’m working on tomorrow’s post based on the article

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