Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Believe or Not but Do Not Cling

If there is such a thing as free will, then we are left with choices and we have the capacity to reason about them, and that leads us to evidence.  Evidence, information that has suffered the test of falsehood, can help us to ascertain our choices—not to know if our choice is correct—but to know why we made it and to illustrate to ourselves why we would make that choice again. In that, even when the choice is the wrong choice, we can find solace in accountability. We surveyed the information, ascertained its correctness, and then made a decision. This is reason.

In all realms of thought, be it Science or Religion, we are endowed with the freedom of investigation.  And one of the most important tenants of investigation is that we do not necessarily believe what we are told. That we are told soemthing may be evidence of one kind, but we should know better than to take any of those statements at face value. To do less is to obey, and obey may be the most dangerous word in the human vocabulary, because it means that we reliquish ourselves of whatever free will we may have been granted. To obey a dogma or a doctrine is to alleviate ourselves of our inherent ability to assure ourselves of any truth by asking questions.

Ultimately, authority represents the relinquishment of the freedom of investigation.  It is the Jedi knight who waves his hand and says, “These are not the droids you are working for.”  And I would not deign to use a pop culture reference here if only for the fact that Obi-wan Knobi himself says that his Jedi mind-tricks work only on the weak-minded.  Do not be weak-minded.  And do not be opinionated.  It is not a strong mind that clings to the opinion, the assured, the lack of chance.  The strong-minded are not those who hold fast to ideas, but rather the open-minded and curious; those who are never sure of an answer, and so always have reason to question authority.

Authority wants something from you that you do not necessarily want for youself. Consider some religions that will happily tell you that “evil” people will go to hell, while you (who are never, apparently, evil) will go to heaven. The only evidence to be surmised here has nothing to do with souls or their arrival in a heaven or hell. It does, however, have everything to do with your inherent goodnes—something I am sure that you find suspect. This fact, that you might trust yourself less than the church does, could and should make you consider that your faith is not the church’s to give, if only because they do not know who you are. Why isn’t your faith, your faith a matter of your choice and investigation?

And this questioning of authority and the importance of trust in one’s own freedom to invesitgate brings me now to the topic de jour: did Senator Obama mean what he said about people “clinging” to religion and guns and anti-immigrant sentiment? I do not know and even if I were granted a personal audience with Senator Obama, I think I could not know. But I do know that religion can be arrived at by two different paths. One, we come to on our own out of a genuine need to wonder. The second we arrive at by keepers of the temples who tell us what to believe. It is right for those who believe to stand up and be counted among those who do not cling.  But is it truly fair to say that all Americans believe and do not cling?  It is not. There are many among us who, unwilling to investigate, refuse to question their chosen authority.  And in this act, they are no longer possessing of the inheritance of good Americans, our heroes and forefathers who questioned a God-ordained king and said that we could, ourselves, form a better government. There are, whether we like it or not, those of us who have chosen and those of us who cling—in all of Science, Religion, Politics or Philosophy. Only those who have chosen possess a modicum of free will and the rest are soldiers in a horribly dangerous army that fights for control—an objective that is the truth of evil and tyranny.

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