Here is the only truth you need to know!

Carve Truth on a Stone Tablet

Some people’s beliefs seem carved in stone with absolute certainty. An idea can be so firmly entrenched that any evidence presented to the contrary will be summarily dismissed without actual examination. Absolute meaning, no room for error, ever.

You’ll find people arguing whether we actually put a man on the moon or whether it was a government PR gimmick. That God is bearded, white, and sits on a throne in the sky. Would you believe it; there is a Flat Earth Society – it must be true, they have a website!  Then those who insist that 911 was a government conspiracy. Also, people who yell, “Fake news,” without any examination of the situation. Have I stepped on any toes yet?

Absolute Certainty Must Have Companions

We invariably align ourselves with groups of people who believe similarly. To maintain cohesion, we must have a base of unchangeable truths that are agreed upon. Anyone who accepts new, contrary ideas is an aberrant member, and the rest will act to correct them. They either save the straying person from their error or no longer associate with them.

What Prevents Members Looking Into Other Perspectives?

Why do people hang so desperately onto ideas when presented with abundant evidence to the contrary? First, it is comfortable to have a personal, unshakable absolute truth. They don’t have to spend time wondering if it is the truth. Also, in most cases, it aligns with an agenda they agree with, which supports the “truth” they believe.

The other reason is fear. People with “absolute truths” either grew up with them or attached themselves to a group of like-minded individuals. For many, leaving, either physically or mentally, a group one is a part of can be terrifying. The consequences can be grave, such as going to hell, being ostracized, or being burned at a stake.

The Power Dynamic of Group Belief

Unfortunately, fixed beliefs have the liability of attracting those who intend to exercise personal power over others. While pretending to be a devout adherent, an unscrupulous person may covertly carry out plans against individuals or the group. Pedophiles posing as teachers, counselors, priests, and other honorable professionals have gained access to children. Ministers have built massive churches and congregations for personal gain. Some take law enforcement jobs to act out their violent impulses. Despite efforts to screen out the unfit, the occasional deceptive miscreant slips through the cracks.  Once in a position of power, they wreak mayhem, being a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

What is Wrong With Having Firm Convictions?

Nothing at all; we admire those with firm convictions, not absolute. They are considered persons of exemplary character and credit to their group. Most are kind, tolerant, and accepting of others’ differences.

The above being true, what characteristic distinguishes a well-rounded, tolerant, healthy belief from an “absolutist”? For one thing, it is the ability to see another viewpoint without feeling threatened. Furthermore, it is the willingness to change, no matter the consequences, if warranted. In other words, firm belief does not exclude the ability to change in the face of new information.

The Uncomfortable Process of Re-Examining Beliefs

Much of the time, a firm set of positive beliefs is often good for everyone concerned. In most cases, it is the glue that binds the best of groups, states, and nations together. However, without the ability to change our ideas, in this country, only white male landowners could vote, and we would have slavery. Anyone different would be designated as a witch or heretic and would be burned at the stake. In my case, I would likely be jailed for some of the things I’ve written or at least soundly criticized. In today’s world, examining new ideas is more important than ever and could be more dangerous. You could be canceled!

It is worthwhile to examine fixed ideas and beliefs every so often. We live in a changing world. Even though it is demanding, I see it as exciting. However, finding and analyzing new data that challenges old ideas can be exhausting. I know, I’ve been there.

How Social Media Opened The Door to Dramatic Change

With cell phones, radio, TV, social media, and a mobile population, we need to cast a questioning eye on every so-called “fact” presented daily, if not on an hourly basis. Be aware that someone promoting any idea as indisputable fact may have their own agenda; if so, the truth is seldom their first priority.

As you can see, there are advantages to having firm beliefs. At the same time, if those ideas are so firmly fixed as to be immovable, they can be a liability. The ability to analyze new ideas without feeling threatened by them is optimum.

Of course, that is the more challenging road, but in my experience, it is the most rewarding.

Jerry Society & Culture

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