Lately I’ve been fascinated with why people so rarely ever change their minds.
First, the undeniable truth is that if you want to change the world, go into entertainment.
That said, since most of us won’t, we’re stuck with arguing over the Internet or at a bar.
When it comes to things like religion, political affiliation, or even who’s the best basketball player ever, we all think we’re right. This is obvious; if we didn’t, why ever hold any opinion?
But suppose everything is not subjective. Suppose there is discoverable, proveable fact and reality.
Let’s define “truth” simply as something that undeniably is. Gravity, for example, and not something being true just because a judge says it is.
If you’re presented with undeniable evidence to the contrary of what you believe, wouldn’t you change your mind?
The answer, of course, is no.
Let me rephrase that: the answer, of course, is hell no!
But why? This is what’s been bugging me lately.
We so seldom can change other people’s minds, no matter how good we are at persuasion. Now, we have to make a distinction between different conclusions based on the same facts, and situations where the facts only point in one direction.
If someone has a gun pointed at you and says, “I want to kill you,” you reach a different conclusion at your own peril. Yet even impending death isn’t enough to change minds, as we see again and again.
We all know America is divided; it’s a boring cliché at this point. But surely we could agree on existential threats and how to keep ourselves safe from them?
Again, say it with me now: hell no!
The recent mass murder in Orlando at the Pulse gay club, perpetrated by at least one militant Islamic barbarian, really got to me. It bothered me more than other terror attacks. After some contemplation, I think I know why: 15 years on, and with all of the warning signs, people literally shouting from the mountaintops that they want to kill us, and our leaders still can’t keep us safe.
Even more distressing, about half the country thinks said leadership is doing a wonderful job! These monsters want to throw gays off of buildings and many Americans are arguing in favor of throwing our borders open even wider.
How? Why? How can rational, good, decent people think this way? Are they simply not rational, good, or decent people? Or is their sense of self-worth really that bound up in their politics? If you’re wrong, you’re wrong, right? What’s the big deal?
It can’t be that easy. But I can only conclude that there are only two types of people:
- Those who have some objective standard against which they measure their behavior in reality.
- Those who think that they create their own objective standard.
For the sake of argument, the first type are often religious, and let’s just say Christian because that’s the faith I’m most familiar with. Christianity has an immutable standard–God’s laws–that, if reality or our behavior does not match, forces us to change our behavior or change reality. If you believe that murder is wrong, you will stop murdering. You will also change reality, to the extent that it can be changed, by having laws against murder, punishing murderers, or even executing murderers themselves.
If this is your mental and moral modus operandi, it is easier to change your mind. You have your standards, and if what you feel does not match the standards, then the problem is you, not the standards, supposing these standards are objectively true, which we’re positing is possible for the sake of this argument.
Is presupposes that your standards don’t involve bullets and bombs as a means of religious expression, but we’ll get to that in another post.
It’s also worth noting that the United States Constitution was largely set up on this basis.
It is also worth noting that this idea is not exclusive to religion, nor do all of the thousands of religions on the planet subscribe to it.
The second type of people believe that every man is a God, essentially. They create their own morality based on what they personally feel is right at the time, because everybody has their own truth, and therefore their own conception of right and wrong, based on their individual circumstances and experiences. Given that there are about 7 billion people on Earth, one can only imagine the chaos view this could sow.
If the only standard is what you feel is right at the time, you will rationalize whatever you feel to be right, and to hell with anybody that gets in your way.
Nothing is concrete, and who are you to say that anyone’s morality is better than anybody else’s?
This amounts to giving in to human nature, something that civilization tries to prevent us from doig.
Being relativistic or feelings-centric is actually an intense form of self-worship: We become our own god. And you know what they say about gods: they are jealous and they are angry…
If you worship yourself and you are your own god, then there is quite literally nothing that will ever make you change your mind. If there is no such thing as objective truth, then whatever you feel is reality.
You will never change your mind, because your worth as a human being will be inexteicably linked with your feelings.
Think about this the next time somebody tells you not to worry about the people coming here with the specific intent to murder Americans. Why they can think this despite all evidence will begin to make more sense. So will the knowledge that you will never be able to change their minds.
Next time, we’ll talk about how we can all coexist with each other, or if it’s even possible.
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