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Please, Please Tell Me What to Believe
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2019
Many unseen forces combine to create beliefs. We believe we are autonomous but often are products of the unknown.
Like sheep, we blindly follow. Afraid to question or examine, we allow others to dictate our beliefs, create our destiny and imprison our souls.
"It seems that the majority of men are suggestible, half-awake children, willing to surrender their will to anyone who speaks with a voice that is threatening or sweet enough to sway them. Indeed, he who has a conviction strong enough to withstand the opposition of the crowd is the exception rather than the rule, an exception often admired centuries later, mostly laughed at by his contemporaries." Erich Fromm (2010, Location 86).
We believe we are independent, acting according to the dictates of our superior logic. We proclaim freedom of choice. But often this isn’t the case. As Fromm suggests, we are half-awake children surrendering to anyone who is threatening or sweet enough to sway our opinion. We need more skepticism. We should scrutinize proclamations—especially when personal well-being is at stake. Our biological organism responds to the senses and acts. We fail to integrate conflicting beliefs. Social mores, customs and habits invisibly influence our minds. Our behaviors seem so natural, we don’t recognize the underlying biases pulling strings and pushing action. Until we see a bias, we can’t examine it for correctness. Many beliefs need deconstructing; they prevent us from experiencing the richness in the life we desire.
"Our behaviors seem so natural, we don’t recognize the underlying biases pulling strings and pushing action."
Simple beliefs provide hope and require little. These believes attract, exciting our souls. Perhaps giving a reprieve from anxiety ridden lives. Sometimes moving forward in complexity overwhelms. The unknowns frighten. So, we settle on simple answers to complex problems. Hope is essential—we need a worthwhile future to motivate action and escape the present distress. But fanatical beliefs of a paradisaical future aren’t helpful. Simplified beliefs eventually discourage when much of the essential work is left undone.
Likable beliefs go viral—whether they are true or not; only valiant searchers discover the more complex truths. Wisdom requires scrupulously examining evidence to combating falsehoods. No man, woman, religion, political movement, group, or scientist has exclusive claim on truth.
Step back and courageously examine your beliefs, uncover your biases, and open your mind to new discoveries. It’s okay to be a little skeptical, really. Believe me!
Fromm, E. (2010). The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil. American Mental Health Association. Retrieved from Kindle.