Urban Legends and Gullible People

Checking my inbox has always brought with it a sense of amusement and amazement. I am amused because of the kind of stuff I sometimes receive from those whom I wouldn’t expect it. I am amazed that so much misinformation is so quickly shared without anyone stopping to think, “Hey, this sounds ridiculous. I’d better check it out.”

For example, there was an email chain letter circulating saying that noted atheist Madelyn Murray O’Hair was campaigning in America to ban all religious broadcasting. This has been circulating for 25 years or so and still pops up once in a while. Then there’s the one (actually a variety of versions–I’ve received three) about Barack Obama and the “fact” that he is secretly a practising Muslim. This, in particular, has been brought to my attention numerous times by some of my more conservative Christian friends and family members.

Today’s email was about an supposed upcoming movie version of the play Corpus Christi which portrays Jesus and his disciples as gay. No doubt, if such a story is true, it would add so much fuel to the fire of hatred that some seem to enjoy perpetuating. However, I have learned that the best thing to do is to check such things against the Urban Legends web database and, sure enough, a full explanation busting this internet myth appeared.

There will always be gullible people who fall for anything and everything they read or see on the internet. We can’t do much about that. There are also many who love nothing better than to talk incessantly about the latest conspiracy or government cover-up. Fighting against such rumours and misinformation among those with such mindsets is futile.

Could I suggest, however, that you and I be discrete in passing along such information? May I further propose that you reply to such emails (if they originate from your friends or family) to expose the “legend” and encourage them to send a corrected version to their original mailing list? Perhaps you may wish to check such paranoid outcries against a website such as Urban Legends or Snopes.com. If you are in the U.S. you can buy an Urban Legends app for your iPhone. Or you could easily type a few words into Google and come up with another entire list of sites that exist solely to protect us from such misinformation.

Let us be wise in our dealings and not be gullible enough to believe or perpetuate stories about things that clearly just aren’t so.

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