How We Believe, Faith and Self-Deception
by Barrett Wolf
People believe what they want to believe. Belief is often motivated by personal desire for safety, security, community, acceptance, peace or other personal drivers. Belief in something can begin with a sincere desire for understanding the truth. However, this can be a lengthy and difficult process. So, at some point in this process an individual can leap forward and say they believe something to be true, without the necessary and thorough work to completely understand something, objectively.
When this happens, the person hasn’t really reached rational belief, which would have been the result of objective reasoning and truth investigation. They claim “belief” in a certain thing, when in fact they (subconsciously or not) do not truly believe it. They protect themselves, covering up of their lack of objectivity and thoroughness, with a type of delusionary perspective in the thing they claim to believe. Examples of this can be seen in the mass populations who supported Nazi Germany’s evil plan to murder innocent people, America’s Southern population of slave owners, Religious believers (Mormonism is a good example), or any other thing where people allow themselves to be deluded, and prove themselves to have abandoned critical thinking and reason.
People have an amazing capacity for self-deception. And for those who genuinely believe things on the basis of faith, with insufficient evidence, they err in another way. These actually admit there is not enough evidence to believe something, but claim faith as a virtue and sort of privilege of piety. Faith like this, in fact, is not a virtue. It is actually an intentional suppression of our human capacity to think, reason, observe, doubt, ask questions, wonder, imagine, investigate and activate our intelligence. In other words, faith creates an excuse for people to avoid thinking.