Beliefs Taught At An Early Age Essay

Beliefs Taught At An Early Age Essay

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In 1781, on a cold winter’s eve in upstate New York, a farmer read his bible and suddenly claimed to hear the voice of God emerging from the darkness, which commanded, “Destroy all your idols.” Thus, James Yates listened, butchering his livestock and breaking his sleigh. However, the voice demanded more. Consequently, Yates murdered his wife and two of his children, dragging the surviving daughter into the cold where she was ordered to sing and dance for him. He measured his love for his daughter against his love of God. Inevitably, his low of God won, and in the name of his deity, he struck his axe through her skull. (Project MUSE, 2008) It’s often hard to see the line between religious fanaticism and mental illness. Talking to God is considered a sign of religious devotion, but when God talks back, it’s a symptom of schizophrenia. (The Boston Globe, 2008)
Beliefs taught at an early age can often be construed as tantamount to brainwashing, as the beliefs that people hold today may lead to choices that foreclose putting the beliefs to a test tomorrow. It is easy to see how this can happen in the case of trust. If people believe that trusting strangers or putting money in a bank is risky, they will be reluctant to use financial intermediaries. If they did, they might discover that the trust they placed in them was warranted, and after enough good experiences, they would revise their belief. But the perceived potential cost of testing the belief is too high for most. Beliefs can lead people to ignore, suppress, or even forget observations that would tend to undermine their convictions. This confirmation bias results in a detrimental scenario; if the bias is sufficiently strong it is possible that the false hypothesis can never be d...


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... legal system cannot seem to differentiate between allegedly valid religious experiences and the hallucinations or voices of an insane person, because there is no difference. Religious confirmation bias leads individuals to be unable to discern patterns, never being able to discard their false hypotheses. What’s worse is that affected individuals narcissistically believe that God is speaking specially to them. Common experiences are over-interpreted and ideas of grandiosity become so uncommon that they believe themselves to be special and chosen. In doing such, the most heinous of atrocities can be justified, as common sense can never amount to the voice of God. As Krakauer states, “As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane-as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout-there may be no more potent force than religion.” (Krakauer, 8)

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