Discussion: The Basis for Knowledge
Gradually parental authority is supplemented, and for some
eventually replaced by the authority of
Sadly, many respond to this question by immediately locking onto a single answer or narrow range of answers. Not doing so, but rather leaving the door open for further exploration and consideration of a wide range of possible answers, starts one down the free inquiry path to a worldview. (Added note: Sadly, especially narrow worldviews are often built around the "True Believer" theme discussed below.)
(of Theme(s) #2)
#2A: While the term "true believer" is an
ancient one with religious origins (see Figure #2a), by the latter half
of the twentieth century its meaning had broadened. Imagine yourself a true believer, as Eric Hoffer described
you in his classic 1951 book The True Believer, "a man of
fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for a holy
cause." Hoffer argues
that "frustration of itself, without any proselytizing prompting
from the outside" is behind this person you've become: dissatisfied
with past and present, unable to accept your own flaws and
imperfections, you escape all this by believing in an imaginary future
world—one that your idealized self, working collectively with others,
will create. Hoffer posits
you are a revolutionary who came from the class of "noncreative men
of words"—not the creative ones who became the mere reformers.
While you are "Working for Change" (worldview theme
#35B) you recognize chaos (in which you thrive) will be required to
bring it about. You embrace
"Apocalypticism" (worldview theme #9B) for as Hoffer described
one of your fondest dreams: "he glories in the sight of a world
coming to a sudden end." Your
belief in the righteousness of your cause is behind the nearly unlimited
energy you have for promoting it. The solidarity you feel for those you
work with has forged (in the words of Theodore
Draper) a "band of true believers bonded together against all those
who did not agree with them."
Those non-believers will describe you
Depending upon the nature of your crusade, your organization, or
the company you keep, you may be characterized in various ways:
as someone not known for critical thinking skills; someone who isn't
very smart; one who prefers faith to reason, or—given your
passion—emotion to logic,
as an ideologue: a
blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular idea (perhaps
political in nature),
if there is a pseudoscientific component to your true belief, as someone
fiercely clings to belief despite overwhelming scientific evidence to
the contrary, and
4) as someone not worth arguing with.
Carl Coon in an essay "What is Faith?" writes, "The true believer will never let himself admit, even
to himself, that he has been beaten in an argument about the
propositions he believes in. He's
stubborn to the point of total irrationality.
There really is no point in trying to talk him out of his
beliefs, because all you are likely to get from the effort is a punch in
The certainty behind true
believerdom is anathema to the "Humbly Unsure" and the
themes #1A ,1B.)
religious true believer Terry
Walstrom—connects this fanaticism with drug addiction.
In his essay "Absolute Certainty: The Grip of Belief"
he writes, "The bargain a True Believer makes with their belief
system is the bargain of a drug
person. Unless more and
greater stimulation is available, the destructive evidence of reality
wipes away the high." He
offers this advice: "The moral of the story is: JUST SAY NO! to the
drug of absolute certainty."
After presenting this admonition, we also note one could argue
that many of the most revered, respected people through-out human
history have been—to one extent or another —true believers!
As Figure #2b suggests—saying "This I believe" is
powerful! It could be true
belief itself is not what is to be discouraged—indeed, one can argue
its merits and desirability. Being
selective is required: the critical thing is what idea, vision, cause,
or way to change the world one decides to devote one's life to.
Of course the degree of one's devotion or fanaticism can vary.
The "True Believer" component of one's world-view need not
eclipse the rest of one's being!
#2B: While some value seeking truth using a dialectic
method, true believers believe they have found it and are strongly
driven to convert others to the great idea or cause and change their
evangelicals are responding to the "Great Commission" and
following Jesus' instructions to preach the gospel.
Those who embrace scientism feel that only scientific methods
have value in the quest for knowledge and forcefully urge others to
modify their academic pursuits accordingly.
Those who feel "I Know What's Best for You," go far
beyond casually giving unsolicited advice in attempting to convert
others to their beliefs. Many
have mastered persuasive communication techniques—an art that can be
traced back to Cicero. Some
so skillfully craft their messages, they do not obviously appear to be
designed to persuade. They
also present both sides of arguments—taking care to refute the
"wrong" argument. Those
who are naturally skilled at reaching others and changing minds make
especially good evangelists if they are religious true believers.
If they don't fit into this latter category, they may make good
Those at whom this persuasive effort is aimed, in repelling it,
may skeptically ask, "What right do you have to impose your
worldview on me?" Others
may be receptive to this proselytizing and eventually gratefully offer
thanks! That may be
especially true of those who are experiencing cognitive dissonance.
Such people are good candidates for changing attitudes ands beliefs.
By doing that—and eliminating a perceived inconsistency—inner
tension can be reduced.
#2b: This I Believe
Edward R. Murrow's 1950s radio program (and associated books) This I Believe was revived on National Public Radio for four years beginning in 2005. There "Americans from all walks of life [shared] the personal philosophies and core values that guide their daily lives." Some had their statements read on the air, or printed in books; all were digitally archived so that they can be read online.
Edward R. Murrow, 1954