The quality of the ideas and beliefs held by an individual or organization can be best judged by their willingness to be exposed to alternative ideas and beliefs, forcefully presented.  Only after such a fair hearing can an informed decision be made about the relative merit of each.

–Ernest Kinnie, PhD, Amoral Science – Brainless Religion

I have a theory that we’re all closed-minded.  At least about the things we feel very strongly about.

Take religion and faith.  I often post links to articles and books on my Facebook page that support my particular views on religion and faith.  Likewise, my Christian friends and acquaintances often post things on Facebook that support their beliefs.  Facebook being the social network it is, it goes without saying that people post things there intending to spread their word, their beliefs, whatever they may be.  The truth is, though, that I am pretty unlikely to click on any link that appears to support anything religious or faith-based, because I know it won’t resonate with me and it has a good chance of just irritating me, so what’s the point?  I assume, on reflection, that my Christian friends do the same with my links and posts relating to my views on religion and faith: they probably ignore them, knowing they wouldn’t like whatever point or message I might be trying to get across.

On a larger scale, what about all the books out there that either support or deconstruct religion and faith?  What’s the point of these books, really?  Generally speaking, people tend to seek out things that they feel confirm their existing convictions. They’re not looking for things that might poke holes in their beliefs – in fact, people pretty clearly try to steer clear of information that might support an opposing viewpoint.  I’m not exactly sure why, except that it’s safe to say that it’s a pretty frightening and overwhelming thing to consider the possibility that our own personal worldview might not be right. Not only that, but we want everyone else to see it the same way we do, because we want our views to be validated.

I don’t even think that these types of books – either books that promote religious beliefs or books that promote non-religious views – are actually written with the mass public in mind.  The authors must know that no self-respecting atheist is going to seek out Christian publications, and no upstanding Christian is going to look for a scientific or philosophical manifesto on the origins of the universe.  It seems that they are really intended for their own specific loyal audiences: religious books for people of faith, and non-religious books for us other folks.  Maybe there is a market for these types of books for skeptics and people on the fence about where they stand on matters of faith, but I suspect neither type of book would sway someone who isn’t already leaning one way or the other.

So why do we with strong views and beliefs continue to seek out information that only supports what we hold dear?  Do all of us really, secretly, way down deep inside, nurse some little nugget of doubt and we therefore need constant reassurance that we’re on the right path?  Or is it, really, that we truly do hope to convince others to see things the way we do because we’re that sure that we’re right?



4 Comments on “Closed-Minded”

  1. starrlife
    June 15, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Great points. Altho then Why do people who are liberal watch Fox news and listen to Rush Limbaugh? I have close friends who are passionate liberals who do just that- according to them to have mental arguments (sometimes not so mental but out loud to the radio) as though the exercise of debate has its own merit and reward. To consolidate the rightness of their position. Why are humans so invested in being right? Lack of self confidence I suspect.
    I’m a person who would just as soon not argue about things that are purely personal belief (which is almost everything I think more as I get older – science is just another form of religion to me). I like a good exchange of I think and you think and we will just agree to disagree and respect each other for our differences and be happy that we are not all the same! I rather enjoy people who don’t think like I do as long as they don’t push me to be them – I hate being pushed and then I might argue with them no matter what I believe. Kind of like buying a car- research and comparison is fine but we all want the car we want don’t we, in the end?

  2. Beth
    June 15, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    Well, I’m one of those outliers who reads atheist stuff, currently reading Buddhist stuff, and still attending Christian church and reading Christian books and articles. Some would say that makes me a fence sitter. I guess I like to think of it as open to different ideas and possibilities. I find that wisdom and craziness can be found in all the religious traditions. Being completely non-religious doesn’ t appeal to me, though I can certainly understand that choice, too.

  3. mumofone
    June 15, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    My main thoughts are what an amazing writer you are. Not only can you succintly capture the essence of an idea but the prose which you use to convey your thoughts is pure genius at times. This is one of those times. I think you make an extremely valid argument and as usual have given me food for thought for a few days 🙂

  4. Addie
    June 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Personally, Im a reader… if you put it in front of me, chances are Im going to read it. I read “Christian” books to help me kind of flesh out what I believe on certain things (or dont believe as been the case for some)… with other types of religious books (muslim, atheist, etc) – I usually read to find out the other person’s viewpoint… even read some of the Satanic Bible, which was interesting and does not say everything that its been rumored to say… I just like to be educated on everything and then decide for myself what Im going to believe…

    With that being said, I do believe that I am the exception to the rule and most “Christians” would not ever read anything that wasnt deemed “Christian” when it comes to a non-fiction book… which, personally, I find kind of hypocritical, b/c if you put a fiction book in their hand, they will read whatever

    but thats just me and my experience…

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