Navigating Our Fake World
Navigating Our Fake World
Ever heard of Febreze? This air freshener kills odors and infuses the air with lovely nose-tingling scents. It works, too. Squeeze the trigger and lickety-split the room smells fresh and clean; it sings, Come hang out, I’m healthy!
But it’s not. The inviting scent is actually a concoction of toxic chemicals.
The label simply says it contains fragrances. But research fragrances, and you’ll soon learn that these are manufactured from harmful synthetic chemicals, including phthalates, styrene and musk ketones. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that wreak havoc on the body’s hormonal system. Mothers exposed to phthalates can give birth to babies with decreased IQs. Phthalates cause sperm damage in adult men, meddle with the metabolism, and promote obesity. Styrene has been declared a carcinogen by the National Academy of Science and National Toxicology. Styrenes damage the central nervous system and kidneys; they also cause headaches, depression, fatigue, weakness, even hearing loss. Musk ketones harm the immune and hormonal systems. In high doses, they harm women’s reproductive systems, causing infertility and ovarian failure.
When it comes to scent, Febreze and countless other household products that contain fragrances deliver on their promise: They smell fantastic. They make things seem safe and clean and healthy. But this message is fake. These products aren’t healthy. Absorb enough fragrances over time, and they start to kill you.
Figuratively, we live in a world of Febreze. Virtually everything we see, hear, touch, eat and experience has, to some degree, been manipulated to seem safe, clean or healthy. But all too often the experience is actually poisonous. This is true about the food we eat, the vitamins and supplements we take to make us healthier, the music we adore, the trends and influencers we follow on TikTok and YouTube, the news we consume, the politicians and experts we follow.
Most of us have no conception of just how manipulated virtually every facet of our society and culture is: education, politics, religion, pop culture, medicine, social media, family life and sex, food production, the economy and finance. This is a world of epic fakery!
Fake, Fake, All Is Fake
We’ve all seen fake news: stories that have been exaggerated, or entirely fabricated, to push an agenda, smear an opponent, or muddy an issue. Fake news has been around for millenniums: Ancient Mesopotamian kings were masters at “tweeting” victories and conveniently failing to mention defeats. But it has reached its apogee in the 21st century.
Why now? Multiple reasons. Social media is one major factor. Hundreds of millions today are naively, perpetually gripped by platforms built for deception and fakery. Even the regular user who shares an experience, tweets an opinion, or posts a video or photo probably engages in fake news.
Dramatic examples abound. One of the most obvious is Donald Trump, who, from the moment he entered politics, has been repeatedly and vehemently vilified as a racist, misogynist and warmonger. He’s also a tax evader and a child molester. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, he colluded with Russia to steal the election. In January 2021, he masterminded the deadliest domestic attack on America since 9/11. Turns out, this was all fake news.
Same goes for covid-19. For two years, mainstream media, the World Health Organization and experts like Anthony Fauci and Matthew Hancock insisted that the covid pandemic was a globally transformative event on par with Noah’s Flood and World War ii. We were told that untold millions would die. Terrified swathes of the global population were subjected to lockdowns, social distancing and other “absolutely necessary” measures. Entire economies ground to a halt. Government printing presses churned out currency to bail out businesses and citizens, racking up record debt, then inflation.
No one claims the covid virus isn’t real, even fatal. But the end-of-world scenarios blasted from the rooftops? The arguments for muzzle mandates and paralyzing lockdowns? For shutting down schools? Much of it was fake news.
Then there’s the covid vaccine. People were assured that if they got the jab, they’d never get covid. That was fake news. They were told the jab would prevent them from getting seriously ill. More fake news. They were told being jabbed meant they couldn’t transmit covid to others. Fake news. They were told the jab was safe and had no side effects, that it certainly wouldn’t kill you. Fake news.
We could do this exercise with virtually all the big topics from gender identity to the merits of green energy to climate change. We are told repeatedly by professors, mathematicians and billionaires, by “intelligent” scientists dressed in white lab coats, on tv, in ted talks and in social media, in the classroom, boardrooms and government offices, that the science on these issues is settled.
It is not.
Social media is a playground for fake news. This is no small issue, since platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter are now an intrinsic part of life for billions, especially children and teens. (Last year, people spent an average of 2.5 hours per day on social media.)
Social media creates an alternate, often fake, reality. Social media posts hit the mind like Febreze hits the nose. The image or video seems so appealing, happy and successful, wholesome and healthy. So often, though, it’s a well-crafted fake that inflicts real damage on the brain, mind, schedule, morals and relationships.
You may have heard of the Liver King. His name is Brian Johnson, and he’s a giant social media influencer worth $100 million, thanks mainly to his product line. This 45-year-old man looks like a Greek god: flawless bronze tan, epic beard, cantaloupe-size biceps. Fans have long been led to believe Johnson’s physique and “perfect” health were the result of his dedication to the nine ancestral tenets: eat, sleep, move, shield, connect, cold, sun, fight and bond. Follow these, he preached, and you will look just like the Liver King.
Turns out, Johnson follows a 10th tenet: steroids. The Liver King spends $15,000 per month on steroids. His muscles aren’t natural; they’re the product of synthetic chemicals. Sorry folks, the Liver King is a fake.
Most influencers, to some degree, are like Brian Johnson. Theirs is a world of staged photoshoots, filters and Photoshop, of fake tans, Botox and implants. Some of what they sell may be authentic, but a good part is artificial, smartly concocted to prompt the release of a little dopamine and make you feel good. From Mr. Beast to the Kardashians, influencers are in the business of creating fakes—fake worlds, fake beauty, fake peace, fake relationships, fake happiness.
Like Febreze, social media delivers on creating fleeting moments of feeling safe, happy and healthy. But its deeper messages, the ideologies and lifestyles it promotes, the destructive emotions it arouses—the unrestrained greed, the vanity and selfishness, the insecurity and jealousy, the endorsement of perverse sex and promiscuity, of gender fluidity, drug use and other immoral behaviors—are absolutely toxic, both to individuals and to society.
So social media is filled with fakes. No surprises there. Are there any other examples?
Consider the food we eat. Whether it’s fast food, prepackaged meals or even much of the regular food we buy at the grocery store, there’s fakery all through it—from production to packaging to labeling to marketing. So much of it, Febreze-like, looks and tastes delicious and is packaged in glossy, bright, colorful wraps and bags. The labels say “100% natural” and “sugar free.” Reality is, it is loaded with refined sugars, artificial flavors and harmful preservatives. So much of the Western diet is harmful. Don’t believe it? Just study the statistics on obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related diseases (which is most of them).
What about fruits and vegetables? Everyone knows fruits and vegetables are healthy! Actually, much of our produce has been cleaned, buffed and polished, sometimes using unsafe chemicals. In America and even globally, it has been genetically modified to look more appealing or taste better. In many cases, our fruits and vegetables have been plucked from a plant or grown in soil doused in synthetic chemicals, including insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers. I’m not suggesting our fruits and vegetables are lethal, just that they’re not nearly as safe, healthy and nutritious as we probably think.
What if you avoid processed foods and buy organic? The label says “organic” and you’re paying three times the price, so it must be organic, right? Not necessarily. There’s a lot of deceit and fakery in the world of organic farming. This is unsurprising, considering organic producers can charge two or three times as much for their product, and it’s a $57 billion a year industry in America. Natural, organic foods are no doubt healthier than refined, heavily processed foods. But there’s no way of really knowing whether the product is truly organic.
In America, a product is deemed organic when it comes from a farm or business that has been certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What does it take to be certified organic? Surprisingly little. First, the usda has delegated the task of granting certification. According to the usda website, “nearly 80 agents are currently authorized to certify farms and businesses to the usda organic regulations.” These 80 agents are responsible for evaluating, inspecting and granting applications to “organic” producers worldwide. To be certified organic, a producer submits an Organic System Plan and subjects his operation to a single inspection. Once the certificate is granted, regulations require only one inspection per year. Investigations have revealed several cases of corruption, including producers bribing agents to receive certification, as well as staging the farming operation during the annual visit to appear organic.
What do you do when your food doesn’t have the nutrition it promises? Easy: Take some vitamins and supplements. Big box stores all have a massive selection, and there’s an endless supply of inexpensive supplements and vitamins on Amazon and other online retailers. There’s no fakery in the wholesome world of vitamins and supplements, right? Sorry.
Fake vitamins and supplements are everywhere. In 2015, an investigation by the New York State attorney general’s office found that some of the top-selling supplement products, sold at national retailers including Walmart, Walgreens and Target, did not contain any of the herbs listed on their labels. The results were reported by the New York Times: “Among the attorney general’s findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for ‘physical endurance and vitality,’ that contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat—despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free.” Meanwhile, testing of supplements at Target revealed that “3 out of 6 herbal products …—ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid—tested negative for the herbs on their labels” (Feb. 3, 2015).
Sadly, much like the organic foods industry, dietary supplements—worth more than $150 billion globally—are also loosely regulated. The “fda has to approve over-the-counter and prescription drugs before they can be sold,” explains Brian Tanzer, M.S., C.N.S., manager of scientific affairs for the Vitamin Shoppe; however, “Dietary supplements and foods, meanwhile, don’t have to be approved beforehand.”
Consider the field of education. Surely a field devoted to the teaching of truth and knowledge couldn’t be corrupted. Actually, education too is riddled with fakes.
A 10-minute online search will lead you to websites offering paper-writing services. High school students can buy a paper for as little as $10 per page. Getting a fake Ph.D. will cost you $20 per page. Working to a tight deadline? No problem, just pay a little more: $23 per page for a high school paper; $34 for Ph.D.
In Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas, Allen Ezell and John Bear expose the world of fake diplomas and degrees, and even masters and doctorates. “There is a major crisis in the world of higher education: the large and growing number of fake universities and fake degrees,” they write. “Many people are either unaware of the situation, don’t know what a huge problem it is, or don’t appreciate how it is affecting them, their institution or employer, and society at large.”
The authors show how “there are more than 3,300 unrecognized universities worldwide, many of them outright fakes, selling bachelor’s, master’s, doctorates, law and medical degrees to anyone willing to pay the price.” In America, the number of fake Ph.D.’s issued each year exceeds the number of earned Ph.D.’s. There are instances of medical doctors practicing medicine using fake medical doctorates. In some cases, their treatments have killed people.
This is to say nothing about fake curricula and education itself. Across the West especially, schools have become a major battlefield in the culture wars. Education “experts” and top government leaders now routinely introduce lies into textbooks and classroom curricula. Children today are fed misinformation about almost every subject, from sex and gender to race relations to history to politics to science and evolution.
Modern education no longer values truth. Instead, children and teenagers are taught to reject and manipulate truth. For so many educators today, truth is stifling our freedom and happiness.
Have you heard of Chatgpt? Launched by OpenAI last November, this is an artificial intelligence computer program. Ask it a question and within seconds it will produce an answer that is generally eloquent, factual, logical and compelling. It will answer follow-up questions, admit mistakes, challenge what it considers incorrect opinions, and reject what it deems inappropriate requests. It can even write poetry and fiction.
Conversing with Chatgpt is an astonishing experience. The program has encyclopedic knowledge of almost every subject, is a clear and logical communicator, and is remarkably intuitive and creative. It converses with you quickly and freely too, making it seem like you’re talking to a human. But it’s not—it’s a computer.
We’ve considered just a handful of areas plagued by deceit and fakery. We didn’t explore our financial system and currencies, which are propped up by central banks and confidence. We didn’t consider our economies, which seem stable but are propped up by consumer spending and astronomical debt. We didn’t explore the fakery in Hollywood and celebrity culture. We didn’t talk about the hip-hop “artists” and pop stars who use their glitzy lifestyles to sell greed and deviancy. We didn’t explore the world of sports, of overpaid athletes pushing radical ideologies and expensive products and services, of sports gambling. We didn’t talk about fashion, gadgets and technology.
In today’s world, no nation, people, age, race or sex is immune. Politics, government, media, economics, education, fashion, entertainment: There’s an element of phoniness in them all. Every one is, to some degree, propped up by exaggeration, embellishment, clever marketing and branding, obfuscation and lies.
Perhaps the most remarkable and tragic reality is this: Most people are either ignorant of or comfortable with the fakery.
How else do you explain America’s stolen 2020 election and installation of a fake president in one of the most powerful jobs in the world? The evidence showing the 2020 election was stolen is abundant and compelling. We have the receipts. Yet most people aren’t overly concerned. Life goes on.
How can such a sophisticated people with access to so much material knowledge be so easily duped and on such basic issues?
How can such a sophisticated people be deceived about something as fundamental as gender? How can such a sophisticated people be deceived to believe we can borrow and spend our way out of debt? Deceived to think we can make America’s military woke yet remain formidable? Deceived to believe that a “family” of two dads is just as good or better than a married husband and wife? Deceived to believe we can have marijuana shops on every corner and not experience more social problems, more mental illness and depression? Deceived to think we can open our borders to illegal immigrants without infrastructure collapse and more crime? Deceived to believe we can let children and teenagers spend hours a day in a demonic trance on social media and not raise a generation of inert adults? Deceived to believe we can put toddlers in front of cross-dressing deviants and not distort their precious minds about sex, gender and family?
How has humanity—and I mean every single human on Earth, to some degree—fallen for such blatant lies? How has such a historic transformation in the way we view truth occurred so rapidly?
And perhaps most importantly, how can we navigate this terrifying world of deceit and lies?
The late Herbert W. Armstrong taught us that man’s problems are spiritual in nature, and this is certainly the case with our fake world. There is a crucial spiritual dimension to these questions. To really understand what’s happening here, we have to go to the Bible and to biblical prophecy. The truth is, God’s Word describes our fake world in phenomenal detail.
The Prophet Jeremiah described the conditions that would prevail in the modern nations of Israel (Britain and America), and among humanity, prior to the return of Jesus Christ. His prophecies include vivid descriptions of horrific wars and famines. These horrors are the results of man’s moral and spiritual collapse, much of which revolves around his relationship with law and truth.
Jeremiah 7:28 says that “truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.” He prophesies of a time when every man “will deceive … his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies …” (Jeremiah 9:5). Being phony is an entrenched way of life! We live and work, as Jeremiah warned, “in the midst of deceit …” (verse 6).
The Prophet Isaiah delivered similar warnings. Isaiah 59 is a staggeringly accurate description of modern America and Britain. “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity” (verse 4). In our world, truth has no advocate. People value emotions and feelings over truth.
“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey …” (verses 14-15; Revised Standard Version). Isn’t this essentially what happened at America’s Capitol, one of the world’s most iconic “public squares,” on Jan. 6, 2021?
The way January 6 has been hijacked to push a fake narrative epitomizes the intense hatred the radical left has of truth!
We read another pivotal end-time prophecy in Daniel 8, which describes a terrible event that occurs in God’s true Church in the end time. It invokes the history of Antiochus iv Epiphanes, the second-century b.c. Greek tyrant, to prophesy about three end-time tyrants. Verses 11-12 describe the rule of these individuals: “Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.”
Everywhere you look today, you see truth being cast to the ground!
How and why is this happening? Daniel 8 says it happens “by reason of transgression.” The word transgression means rebellion, sin or trespass. The reason Antiochus has such tremendous success destroying the truth is that people are consumed with sin!
“The sins of the people gave Satan his opening,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in his first version of America Under Attack. “That is why Antiochus can do all of his dirty work: because there’s so much sin going on inside Israel. That was woefully true of spiritual Israel, God’s Church, and it is equally true of our nations today. Our people are saturated in sin and lawbreaking of every imaginable type—and proud of it! That’s why God punishes us with such a devastating curse!” (emphasis added). There is a direct correlation between sin and deception.
Unrepented-of sin leaves a person or nation vulnerable to deception!
The essence of America Under Attack is based on the prophecy in Revelation 12:9: “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
This is a phenomenal prophecy. Today’s fake world is a direct result of Satan the devil, the one who “deceiveth the whole world,” having been cast down to Earth! In John 8:44, Jesus identifies Satan as the father of lies and says “there is no truth in him.” The devil is the ultimate fake. From the time of Adam and Eve, he has sold himself to humanity as God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Meditate on the following quote from Mr. Flurry: “[Revelation 12:9] says Satan deceives the whole world. That’s talking about everybody! His deception affects this world’s education, its religion, its politics, its science—everything! So says your Bible. … This is earthshaking—even universe-shaking in many ways!” (ibid).
This isn’t hyperbole. There’s no exaggeration or embellishment here. The truth about the devil and his deception of every single human being on this planet is one of the most important truths you could understand right now. Only when you accept that you have been deceived can you begin to see the truth!
Fight for Truth
How can we survive a world built on exaggeration and embellishment, on lies and deception? How can we avoid deception? The answer is simple, at least in theory: We must value truth over everything.
“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart” (Proverbs 3:3). Learn to value truth over emotion, over comfort or feeling good, over the perceptions of friends and family. Gird your loins with the truth, the Apostle Paul admonishes in Ephesians 6:14.
In your pursuit of knowledge, develop a strong attachment to facts. Always seek the truth. Defend the truth. Never get comfortable with altering the truth, coloring the truth, editing the truth. Never get comfortable with telling lies, even the smallest, tiniest “whitest” lies. Be extremely careful with exaggeration and embellishment.
Above all, look to God and His Word for the truth. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth,” Jesus said (John 17:17). Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” True education is studying and understanding the testimony, or truth, of God.
The only way to navigate this fake world is to be armed with God’s knowledge, with His law, doctrines and teachings. God’s law is both an anchor and a compass.
You may think I’m talking only about spiritual truths, religious doctrines and practices. Maybe you are more interested in navigating the material world, seeing through all the lies and phoniness in politics and education, in the grocery store and on social media. Studying the Bible won’t really help you avoid the shoals of deception in all these areas, will it? Yes, it absolutely does.
God’s Word is full of practical, day-to-day, simple, basic and relevant instruction on how to survive and thrive in Satan’s world!
God’s Word tells us to “prove all things” and not take what we see or hear at face value. Learn to read labels, literally and figuratively. The Bible cautions us not to let others think for us. Don’t let slick marketers tell you what you need. Don’t let greedy, vain or deviant influencers define what constitutes happiness, contentment or success. Don’t let musicians and movies define what makes for a healthy relationship or healthy behavior.
The Bible endorses the habit of asking penetrating questions—being skeptical. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,” admonished the Apostle John (1 John 4:1). Ask yourself: Is this consistent with God’s law? Of course, this means you must know God’s truth and God’s law.
Truly, in a world that constantly bombards us with lies, the most important activities we can engage in every single day are studying the truth of God and praying to the God of truth. God sees through the fakery with perfect vision. And He promises to open our eyes to it if we ask Him. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Above all, seek after righteousness: Those who love truth and strive to obey God’s laws cannot be deceived!
In a fake world, find comfort and encouragement in the words of Jesus Christ in John 8:32: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”