Why Do You Believe What You Believe?

in Way

On a political forum a few years ago I posed the question, "Why do you hold the political beliefs that you do? How did you arrive at them?" Most who responded admitted that they had no idea. One went so far as to say, "Who knows? Who has the time to think about it?"

Astonishing? It should be. But probably a surprising majority might have a similar answer. Why, in fact, do we hold the religious and/or political beliefs that we do? I think each of us should know the answer, if for no other reason than to be true to ourselves.

An old hymn called That Old-Time Religion might offer a clue: "It was good enough for Little David, so it's good enough for me!" I think many of us embrace whatever religion or politics our parents held. Others have deliberately chosen just the opposite, for whatever rebellious reasons that motivate them. Many people went to college and "lost their religion", while others went to college and embraced it more fiercely. Ditto with politics. 

And many are influenced, even convinced, by the media, both news and entertainment.

Why do you believe what you do, or embrace the politics you do? Have you thought about it? Did you approach the subject with an open mind and deliberately weigh each issue separately? Did you look at evidence on all sides (or as many sides as you could find) and make a decision based on that? 

For most of us, I'll wager not.

One thing I've noticed in people, myself included, is that we all seem to cling to the first exposure we have to something. When my wife was pregnant with our third child, she was immobilized for several weeks with morning sickness. During that period I took over the kitchen, feeding our boys and keeping the place going. It seemed that every time I did something, the boys, 4 and 6, informed me that "Mama doesn't do it like that!" In their view, the way I did things was "wrong", because I didn't do it the way Mama did. Her way was their first exposure, and it was the "right" way. Never mind that the end result was the same.

When we are taught something, we assume we are being taught correctly, that we are being taught the "right" way, or the "right" thing. If someone comes along later and shows us a better way, we tend to resist it, even if it proves to be better.

Thus, a Catholic child will resist Protestant teachings. A religious child will resist agnostic data. A child of democracy will resist totalitarianism, and vice versa. Many people can be persuaded by charismatic rhetoric, but few people proceed with a truly open mind and weigh the logic of religious or political beliefs before embracing them. We just seem to be wired that way.

And that's a shame.

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John Bowers has 1 articles online

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Why Do You Believe What You Believe?

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This article was published on 2010/04/03
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