Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Duplicity of the Human Mind

I get into the occasional debate. As a Christian, one thing I notice is that people often don't believe what they believe for the reasons they say they believe. Let me unpack this somewhat.

People most often believe a thing for the reason that such a thing was normalized in their life. Through a continuity of exposure to a lifestyle or an ideology people become convinced that something is normal or true.

This is often not enough to create a firm belief especially when this exposure is unpleasant in some way. For example, many children rebel against the ideology of their parents when the ideology is enforced in an unpleasant way. Let's say a couple are involved in a church that is legalistic. They may observe that some of the children of the church grow up to be as legalistic as their parents because the legalism is positively reinforced in the home. However, this particular couple don't themselves joyfully adhere to the legal requirements of their church and only negatively reinforce them in the home. The children will grow up resenting the legalism and develop a reactionary ideology.

In either case, adherence to an ideology is initially formed in the human mind through experiential means.

Down deep, most people realize that these experiential beliefs need to have a more solid foundation to reinforce them. They need a better reason for believing these things to be true. This is often not even a conscious realization in people. What happens is that as similar beliefs are espoused in the marketplace of ideas through media, education, and associations with likeminded people more intellectual reasons are developed for believing something to be true.

When a person takes the challenge of their beliefs to a debate, it is these intellectual arguments that they offer for why they believe something to be true. The real reason they believe it to be true is often never espoused. By this time, most people are barely aware of why they really believe something to be true.

If the belief is strong enough and the belief is untrue, they will cling even to irrational intellectual arguments as though they are rational. Often, this clinging serves to distort their capacity to reason.

In a later post I hope to look at some of Christ's wise answers to people and observe how he answered them. All the arguments He made that I can think of off the top of my head suggest that He answered their hidden reason for believing something to be true while ignoring the intellectual obfuscation we too often get involved with.

More later...

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