"The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the
false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by
weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice."
- Arthur Schopenhauer
Belief System—Lucky or Arrogant?
When it comes to belief and belief systems, most people are so
lucky that it is incredible. Let me explain this claim.
When I talk with
people that have a semblance of intellect, wisdom, age, experience, and
spirituality, and that indicate a willingness to dialogue about ultimate
or significant issues I usually get around to asking them the following
questions. “Are you really aware of, or have you thought much about, how
you got your current belief system?” They usually admit that they
haven't thought about it very much, if at all.
And 2, “Do you think that currently you have the perfect belief system and the perfect
paradigm of reality?” Well no, because what person wants to stand
publicly in this obviously arrogant-sounding position?
And 3, “Given that you didn't create the universe and its reality and that you don't know
the truth about reality from the standpoint of having designed and
created it, do you think that it is more spiritually mature to embrace,
to welcome a well-structured challenge to your belief system, or to go
into the automatic emotional mode of defending it, at least in your own
mind if not in some more obvert or verbal form of argument defense?” OK,
so, often we don't even get this far, and the conversation gets shunted
off to some other subject or direction. People are generally reticent to
talk about such "personal" matters, and are heavily conditioned to at
least expect a heavy load of 'beliefs" coming at them if not some
serious discomfort, displeasure, or disagreement. If we do get to this
last question, most people in the above category will readily admit that
it is more spiritually mature to embrace a well-structured challenge to
their belief system. I generally try to reinforce this proper answer,
and let it go at that.
However, this latter question seems
to be an easy one to answer, but the answer a very hard thing to
live up to. I am not certain that I have yet met the person that can do
it. I now have friends that don't go into the obvert defense mode, but I
can't be sure about what is going on in their minds. But,
overwhelmingly, later in the conversation or at another time when I do
present a meaningful challenge, their reaction is anything but open and
welcoming. Why should this breach of consistently be prevalent?
It must be because they are so incredibly lucky
or graced by God that somehow without even trying very hard, they have had delivered to them the almost
perfect or at least the good enough belief system, one that needn't be seriously
challenged. And what's more, it's usually one that should be promulgated at
every decent chance. I wish I could have been so fortunate! I have had to
suffer the collapse of the belief into which I was born into and programmed, have
had to work diligently to challenge each and every precept, and throw off the
superstition, irrationality, illogicalness, and unreasonableness. It was
at first agonizing, like doing surgery on myself, but now the angst seems
silly. Now, the question I have concerns the usual response by people described above. Is
their perfect or "good enough" belief system a matter of some "luck", or
is it an example of your ordinary garden-variety of apathy and indifference mixed with egoistic arrogance?
Given that a person's belief system is a personal possession, except
under extreme conditions it is unwise or inappropriate to challenge or
assault it unless specifically invited. When confronted by the unsolicited
claim of belief, it is always valid to simply ask why they believe that. It
is never appropriate, or at least never effective, to go on the warpath
against their belief.