The word conviction is seen in our society as a strength. We all have things that we strongly believe in and are completely convinced of. There are multiple religions that are populated with devout followers, all of whom believe the other sects are incorrect in their beliefs. We have people who sit to the far left of the wing, and those who sit on the far right. There is the age old debate between evolutionary science and religion. Wars have been fought time and time again because of convictions. One commonality I believe we all have is that we strongly believe in something. What I’m going to tell you today is that its okay to have your convictions, but be wary of them. Why do I say that?
I believe that a majority of what constitutes our beliefs are a matter of environment. I feel that many of us feel that our thoughts and beliefs are inherent to us, and I don’t think thats really true. Lets take religion for example. Many children grew up in a family that belonged to one religion or another, and became indoctrinated into these faiths. Lets say you are a Christian; If I started your life over and placed you in India and you grew up around the influences of the Hindu religion, do you think you would inherently still have the faith in Christ embedded into your DNA? I would hypothesize that you actually would be more inclined to be Hindu. Now what if I took you and placed you ancient times, perhaps you would believe in a myriad of mythical gods responsible for the rising of the Sun and the blowing of the wind.
The point I’m trying to make is that perhaps you should take the time to explore what’s true to you after exploring some of the evidence. The brain has many cognitive biases. One of these cognitive biases is called social proofing. Social proofing is the idea that people are more likely to believe what is most popular and what is said most often. I can use another example where I believe social proofing has been prevalent: our education system. Up until recently college wasn’t even the norm for society; It was mostly reserved for affluent males. Today, the number of students attending college is higher than ever. I get a lot of resistance when I say that going to college isn’t an absolute necessity to finding prosperity. I challenge the idea that it is the golden ticket to success. Im not saying its bad to school either. College is a tool that can be used to live a better life, but its not the only option. I might dare to say that the reason why many of you are in school is simply because everybody else is and that you were told repeatedly that you should do it. That brings up another one of the cognitive biases, the authority bias. We are more likely to accept something as true when it comes from an authority figure.
I can already envision the potential backlash to what I am saying, but I at least want you to think about it. Some of you will argue against this, which it is your right to do, but much of arguing doesn’t come from a place of logic. When you see what I call ” comment wars” on social media, its due to the fact that people are bound by conviction. It seems as if their are explaining their side but in truth the words are just a mechanism for reinforcing the convictions. The feelings are already deeply rooted so to try to talk somebody out of them is a futile endeavour. Thats why most arguments go nowhere. Most Christians have never read the Quran or studied evolutionary biology thoroughly, most liberals haven’t delved deeply into conservative ideology. Once we have decided, our are convinced, we tune the evidence out of all other possibilities and only bring up evidence that supports our beliefs.
I believe that being extreme on any issues is dangerous. I believe that there is usually a little bit of truth on both sides to any issues. I think that if we want to be worthy of our beliefs we should be able to argue both sides of an issues effectively. Black and white thinking is the cause of much conflict. I think that the truth resides in the gray area. With thesis and antithesis being brought together there becomes synthesis. Im not saying you must abandon your beliefs. I actually think that questioning and challenging your beliefs can lead to an even stronger resolve. Once you’ve explored multiple theories, avenues, lifestyles, and beliefs, you will be able to form an identity that is truly unique to you.