Mental Xenophobia and Retaining Beliefs

“If what I start to read, goes against my beliefs, then I just don’t read it.”

That comment was made recently on one of my discussion forums. I had to ask the member if that was really what they meant to say and they confirmed that yes, that is exactly what they meant.

I really can’t get my head around that, it’s mind boggling to me.  It reeks of mental xenophobia. Instead of being a proud and swarthy banner cry of steadfast devotion as it was meant to be taken; I see it as a very frightened and desperate tactic to retain a world view at all costs.

Is our goal in our short lives to retain the full set of our beliefs along our entire path? To walk unshaken in all things. We have that choice to be sure. There’s just one small glitch in all this: it doesn’t make the beliefs any more true.

In my youth I developed a core of beliefs, as we all do. One of them was “to study the opposite of what you believe. In that process the kernels of belief you are still left with are the truth.” Or something like that. The idea is to jump in head first challenging your beliefs, so you can see what has been in error. One of my present core beliefs is that this is a good way to be; that it’s healthy and allows room to grow with new ideas and intellectual curiosity.

With the internet there is little excuse now to hold on to urban legends, heresay and skewed facts. We have most of what we need to find at our fingertips. I am constantly amazed how many times I do a quick research on the net to find a cherished and long held belief shown to be inaccurate, or flat out wrong. It’s a wonderful feeling when I realize these. I’m not sad that I was wrong, I’m quite happy (dare I say “joyous”) to have learned more.

And if you hadn’t guessed it: Yes, the comment was made on a religion discussion forum.

“Anything that disagrees with me I will not entertain in my mind.” Not a way I choose to live.

3 thoughts on “Mental Xenophobia and Retaining Beliefs

  1. “Study the opposite of what you believe !”
    Wow ! What a challenge !
    Guess what ? I did that very thing !

    For the first 27 years of my life, I was a total unbeliever.
    I took great pleasure in arguing with anyone who tried to convince me of God’s existence.
    I always knew my arguments were a million miles better than theirs.
    In my 28th year, the day came when I was chatting with a friend, unloading great distress and worry.
    (Yes, OK, it was over a case of unrequited love.)

    My friend said, “Well Frank, Arl pray for yer.” (Aussie accent.)
    I said, “Huh ! I might even pray myself !” (I was THAT low !)
    My friend said, “When yer pray, yer gotta ask God ter forgive yer fer what yer’ve done wrong, and yer gotta thank ‘im fer what ee’s done for yer.”

    Armed with this data, over the next few days, I began to pray, just as I’d been told, and asking God for the help I felt I needed.
    Things started to happen.
    One night (over another matter), I was in great emotional distress, facing a situation I felt I just totally couldn’t cope with.
    I asked God’s forgiveness, I thanked him for all he had done for me, and I asked him to change me deep inside, to give me the courage and patience and all the other stuff I needed to carry on. I went to sleep straight away, which was amazing, considering how I felt.
    I woke up the next morning, feeling incredibly full of life and strength and everything I needed to cope with what faced me. This was a million times more than just a good night’s sleep (which I know I wouldn’t have got without God doing something).

    I got invited to a church that preached the gospel. I started reading the Gospels very sceptically, asking the Lord to convince me if it was true or false. To cut a long story short, I became a Christian, convinced of the Gospel because I checked it out for myself, and found it worked when put into practice.
    I can now honestly say to anyone,
    “Forget religion. Check out what Jesus actually taught. It works.”

  2. Thanks for sharing. If you’ll notice, my blog post does not speak directly of any particular belief – but is instead about the process of creating a belief and protecting a personal world view.

  3. Hi Conrad,
    Thanks for your message. You speak (I understand negatively) of:
    “the process of creating a belief and protecting a personal world view”.
    I believe “belief” is not something we should ever try to create.
    Our “personal world view” (particularly about God) must be developed through personal experiment, desiring above all things to discover the truth.

    In my opinion, it is foolish to believe something because:

    1) It’s what you were brought up to believe,
    2) It’s what someone persuaded you to believe,
    3) It’s a belief you chose because you thought it sounded nice.

    It is essential to check out the facts (as far as is practical) before you believe something. My discovery concerning God, is that He teaches anyone who sincerely cries out to Him for the truth !

    (Which (as I see it) is what the Bible actually teaches !)

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