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Religious Tolerance logo

An essay donated by Creighton Ainsworth

Listen to the evidence -- all the evidence.

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Judge George Rheinhold had been on the bench since, well – nobody who was alive could remember when Judge Rheinhold wasn’t on the bench. He had a quick smile and a loud, heart felt chuckle when he was engaged in a personal conversation, but on the bench he was known to be very serious, very thoughtful, and, oftentimes, very blunt.

“Judge,” welcomed Zach, “nice to see you. How are you?” Zach and the Judge had known each other for years, and had a deep mutual admiration for each other. They walked into Zach’s personal media room where he often filmed conversations that became part of his projects.

“Great, Zach,” the Judge answered. “I’m curious,” he said as he looked into the lens of the main camera. “You said I could help you with your current project. Are you working on a film about the judicial system, the Supreme Court, the tobacco litigation – or just a film about old farts!”

“Judge,” laughed Zach. “I just wanted to borrow your thoughts on making decisions and how important it is to have all the evidence before you make a decision. In other words, how do you find the truth?”

“Well, Zach, isn’t that self-evident?” said the judge. “Of course it’s important to have all the evidence before you make a decision. You gather the evidence, examine it carefully, and then come up with your decision – hopefully, the truth. What kind of numbskull would say otherwise?”

“Unfortunately, lots of people,” replied Zach.

“To hell with them,” ripped the judge. “You’ve got to be stupid and a bit touched in the head to go around making decisions without considering the evidence. But Zach, you don’t need me to tell you this. You already know that.”

“I know,” smiled Zach. “But it seems to carry more weight when a respected judge says it.”

“Well, heck, I’m game,” said the judge. “But you know, if I don’t like the way this is going, I’m going to yell cut and that film you have of me goes in the garbage!”

“Sure, Judge. Fair enough. Okay, here we go. Roll ‘em,” said Zach as he started the camera and began recording.

“Okay, Judge,” Zach began. “I am one of twelve people chosen as a juror for a murder case coming to trial. You are the judge.”

“I hate being typecast,” laughed the judge. “There goes my film career.”

Zach continued. “The day begins with the defense explaining their view and interpretation of what happened. Five witnesses attest to the moral character and reputation of the defendant. You find out that, according to the witnesses for the defense:

  • Mr. Thompson has been happily married for fifteen years
  • He has two children, aged 10 and 12, and is a wonderful father
  • He is a deacon in his church
  • He has no criminal record
  • Mr. Thompson was at work at the time the crime was committed
    • The defendant didn’t even know the deceased, a young woman in her mid twenties

The evidence presented so far all points to his innocence. Of course, you would expect that this is the evidence the defense will present. Of course they want to paint a picture of his innocence.”

“Judge,” Zach continued, “you face the jury, and say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard the evidence. Retire to the conference room until you have reached a verdict.’”

“Wait! shouts the prosecutor. Judge, they haven’t even heard our witnesses or seen our evidence yet.”

“I know,” you say. “I decided that’s all the evidence they need to make a decision. Now, go. My decision is final. I …”

“Hold on, partner,” the Judge stopped Zach in mid sentence. “I have never, and I never will, expect a jury to make a decision when they have only heard part of the evidence. We’re talking justice. We’re talking fairness. You have to listen to all the evidence.”

“I know, Judge, you’re right. Hold on, just for a minute. Let me finish this scenario, and then I definitely want to hear more of what you have to say,” Zach said.

“I leave with the other eleven members of the jury. As we discuss the evidence presented, the other jurors and I unanimously agree that based on the information we have, we have no choice but to find him innocent. I feel strange about not having the evidence presented by the prosecution, and I wonder what that other evidence might be, but, hey, what else can I do? Some of the jurors seemed perfectly happy to reach a verdict without any more evidence.”

“I, and several other jurors, however, think this is preposterous. How can I, or the other eleven jurors, or anyone, make a reasonable decision based on only part of the story? You think, to make a good decision, I need the other information, the other perspective, the other facts. I can think about them, weigh the evidence, and then make a decision. But I can’t do that with only one side of the facts.”

“And yet,” Zach went on, “every day in all parts of the world, people are told one story, given a few biased pieces of the evidence, and given one perspective. They are told to make a decision based on the relatively small amount of information they are given. And, like the jurors in this scenario, there is really only one decision to arrive at – the one that the evidence made available points to.”

“What do you think, Judge?” asked Zach.

“Well,” said the Judge. “I think we need to find these people who want to twist the truth, paint an unclear picture, and withhold evidence, and hang them from the highest tree.”

“But Judge,” argued Zach. “People do this every day. The politicians, sales people, all kinds of businessmen, religious leaders, you name it – they do it every day.”

“And it’s a goddamn shame, too,” said the Judge. “I can tell you one thing – it doesn’t happen in my court!”

“I’m sure it doesn’t, Judge,” Zach agreed. “Here’s an example. Take a young person who is raised a Christian. His parents, his pastor, his Sunday School teacher, his Bible, his world all tell him about the wonderful Jesus Christ and the miracles he has performed. They tell him the Bible is God’s word and is true, and that the church’s beliefs and customs and ceremonies are the ‘right’ way to do things.”

“If a young Christian were to ask about the Muslims or Buddhists or Atheists or other groups that do not follow the ‘evidence’ that he sees all around, he is told that these other groups do not know the true God, that they are misled by the devil, and that they will burn in hell for eternity.”

Zach continued, “Turn your eyes and ears and thoughts away from the nonbelievers, they say. Open your eyes only to the ‘evidence’ we tell you to believe. Just have faith. Believe as we tell you. Don’t pay attention to the outside world – the nonbelievers just want to corrupt you and lead you away from Jesus Christ.”

“And so millions of Christians listen to one side of the story. They listen only to the ‘overwhelming evidence’ thrown at them by their religious leaders. Their religion -- and that can be any religion; I just used Christians as one example -- will give you the evidence you need to justify your faith. No use in listening to the other evidence.”

“Just like the juror who is, and should be, mortified at not having all the evidence before a verdict is reached in a trial, each of us should be mortified at being told to make a decision regarding our choice of religion and beliefs without hearing the evidence. Let each one of us hear and see the evidence. Let us ask questions and discuss and use our mental capabilities to weigh that evidence. Then let us choose what makes sense to us. What do we believe based on the preponderance of evidence? We demand this fair treatment in a trial – why not in our own lives? After hearing the evidence, a person may choose to be a Christian, or a Muslim, an Agnostic, an atheist, or whatever – but only after the evidence has been presented and examined,” Zach concluded.

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“Some very good points, Zach," said the Judge. "But do the churches want people to do this? Do they want them to weigh the evidence? No, it’s obvious that they don’t. They pour their stories and their beliefs and their truths down the throats of young children while strongly discouraging their flock from investigating other evidence. No, they say, just have faith. Believe what we tell you, not the other guys. It’s just like in a trial. The defense says listen to us, we have the truth, we will tell you what to believe, we will tell you the one and only verdict you can reach. And the prosecution says, no, listen to us, we have the true story, we will tell you what to believe – and so on. They will tell you what you should believe."

“But at least the jury gets to hear both sides,” the judge continued. “At least the jurors are not given part of the evidence and told to make a decision. They have the big picture. They have the best information available to make their decision. If I had my way, all decisions would be made from the strength and wisdom of full knowledge – not just in my courtroom, but all decisions we must make. It’s the only way to do it.”

“Of course, you’re right. Thanks for you time, Judge. That’s a wrap.” Zach quietly turned off the camera and walked the judge to the door.

“By the way, Zach,” asked the judge. “What evidence did the prosecution have?”

“Just a few minor pieces of evidence, Judge,” Zach smiled. “Like three eyewitnesses who identified the defendant as entering the deceased’s apartment about half an hour before the killing. And the fact that the dead woman’s sister testified that the deceased had been having an affair with the defendant for over a year and that she had threatened to tell his wife. Also, the man had a history of violence, and had twice been arrested for assault and battery – one time his wife, and another time his mistress – not this mistress, but another one. Other evidence – let’s see, the gun used in the murder was found with the defendant’s finger prints, and at least two people testified they had seen the man leave his office at least an hour before the woman was killed.”

“That kind of evidence, Judge. Nothing important. In fact, now that I think about it, the jury doesn’t need to be presented this evidence,” Zach smiled sarcastically. “They should just believe what the defense attorney has told them, and let the man free. Why waste time listening to the evidence?”

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This essay by Creighton Ainsworth is an excerpt from his book:

book cover image "True Truths: The shameful deceit, arrogance and corruption of religion."

Four reviewers all gave the book a 5 star rating -- the highest rating.

Read reviews or order this book in ebook format safely from online book store.

You may be able to order a printed copy from:

The author welcomes feedback in his guest book at

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Originally posted: 2012-DEC-16
Latest update: 2012-DEC-17
Author: Creighton Ainsworth

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