Nobody with any common sense believes the Warren Commission explanations for the Kennedy assassination. Nobody with any common sense believes that the reason we went into Iraq was to liberate Iraqis from Saddam's despotism. There are the official cover stories, and then there's what really happened.
The problem lies in that while the cover stories rarely pass the laugh test, you can never be sure about what is really going on. You can speculate and come up with the most elaborate conspiracy theories, but you never really know. You can do a lot of research, and maybe you can get a bigger collection of dots to connect than the next guy. But about too many subjects, usually the ones that matter most to us, there's always someone with more dots or someone else who has the same dots as you but connects them differently. People who do it well, who are more often right than wrong in their judgments have what the Greeks called 'phronesis' or practical wisdom.
Practically wise people are generally well informed, but they don't get lost in a flood of detail. They have a nimble, intuitive way of organizing the dots into meaningful patterns that are refreshing and true. They have developed a certain skill with seeing patterns in the world that less skillful people don't, the way a good chess player sees patterns on the board that the less skillful player does not. You trust people to the degree that they have developed this skill, and you don't trust them to the degree that they haven't.
If we think back about all of the bad judgments we've made during our lives, if we're honest, we'd recognize that there was usually something blinding us from seeing clearly what was right in front of us. Sometimes it was a laziness that prevented us from looking carefully or making the effort to investigate. On other occasions because of some blinding passion or desire for things to be a certain way. When we're in such a state, we dismiss any contrary evidence as insignificant.
Everybody makes mistakes, and we are wiser for them if after making them we learn something about our blindspots. We can also learn by observing the mistakes of others, but sometimes we just have to learn it for ourselves the hard way. One way or the other, though, we have to learn, and this learning in religious language is called "repentance." The word has become encrusted with guilt-driven moralistic meanings--'fessing up to being a bad boy who broke the rules and promising to be a good, obedient boy from now on. But that's not what the word really means.
The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, which comes closer. It has more the meaning of being open to transformation, to seeing things in a different way and to be changed by our new seeing. This cognitive element is very important. If you don't really see the world differently, you haven't genuinely repented, which is to say, your vision hasn't changed. The bllindspots remain in place.
The wisest people are the ones who have undergone to some degree this kind of moral transformation. The stupidest people, no matter how high their IQ, are those who remain willfully blind. And one of the stupidest things any of us can do is take too seriously any particular ideological construct about how the world works. None of us knows, really, how the world works; all we have are provisional constructs that we develop over time to help us to make sense of things. The worst possible combination is to be both stupid in this sense and to be arrogantly willful.
The people who got us into Iraq, for instance, are very smart, but they are stupid. Many are sincere, believing Christians or Jews, but their thinking lacks moral legitimacy to the degree that it remains so willfully blind. Ideological thinking is one of the primary causes of blind thinking because it only works with the dots that fit into the pre-existing ideological pattern, and it's always, as a result, stale and predictable. Ideological thinking is fundamentally lazy thinking and its main concern is to reinforce the cage constructed to make us feel safe. We all need some kind of a construct or worldview; the stupidity lies in thinking that it represents absolute truth.
This is not to say that there is no absolute or primordial truth--I don't believe that for a minute. But we don't ever know anything in an absolute sense--all we have is provisional guesstimates whose validity is measured by their real-world consequences. Some people see meaningful patterns more clearly than others, and a part of what makes those patterns meaningful is their having a moral dimension, i.e., understanding the real consequences, the real cost, especially to others, of the actions we undertake--that collateral damage is not an empty abstraction.
The cultural left is a tired, morally spent force in American culture. But the cultural right is full of people blinded by their moralistic ideology. Moralism is wannabe morality. It's the priggish posture taken by the morally immature to appear morally righteous. The moralistic person deep down knows he is a fraud and aggressively strikes out at anyone who would expose him. They know deep down that the world as it really exists does not fit neatly into their simplistic template, so they reject whatever doesn't fit as 'evil'. And for these people there is no accommodation with evil; they must confront and destroy it because they sincerely believe it will destroy them if they don't. Hence the paranoia that is at the heart of the cultural right.
Come election day, I'll vote for a scoundrel before I'll vote for a moralistic prig. The scoundrel is more vulnerable to repentance; the moralistic prig is blind to his need for it. He thinks everyone else needs it. The self-righteous, moralistic prigs are the ones who do all the major damage. That's the picture painted over and again in the gospels these folks on the rigid right keep insisting is their playbook.
I don't doubt their sincerity. The problem is not with their being sincere but with their being blinded by their own righteousness. Many of the Bolsheviks were quite idealistic and sincere, as were the Red Guard during Mao's Cultural Revolution, as are suicide bombers. But you don't want to give these people the keys to the car. They will sooner or later find a way to drive it over a cliff.