Secondhand Truth is Hazardous to Your Health

I love good quotes. It’s one of those odd little facts about me. Whether they’re cute, funny, inspirational, or just plain true, I love a good quote. That’s why I was amused to come across this quote amongst the many that pepper the sides of the pages in The Artist’s Way:

“To believe in God or in a guiding force because someone tells you to is the height of stupidity. We are given senses to retrieve our information with. With our own eyes we see, and with our own skin we feel. With our intelligence it is intended that we understand. But each person must puzzle it out for himself or herself.”

In case you hadn’t figured it out, this quote falls into the “just plain true” category.

As an atheist, people assume that I’m an angry, Godless heathen who hates religion and thinks all spiritual people are idiots, and because this quote refers to belief in God I bet most of you are assuming that this post is going to be a religion-bashing hate-fest. But nothing could be further from the truth. I’m actually extremely tolerant; I think everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, just as long as they don’t harass those who believe something different. And no, this post is not about religion (specifically).

This post is about people in general. It’s about growing up and taking the things you are taught as truth, without question.

These days there are too many people, from the religious and politically-minded, to the millions of schoolchildren around the world, who neglect to use their own senses, their own gut, and their own thoughts to determine what they do or don’t believe. So many people out there accept, without question, everything they are taught by their parents, neighbors, teachers, employers, and so on. People adopt the religious and political views their family teaches them, even if those views don’t really make any sense to them. Kids take what their teachers tell them as gospel, even if something doesn’t sound quite right about it. We all, in a misguided attempt to fit in, accept whatever the norm is in the society in which we live, because we worry endlessly about being “right”, even if our gut tells us that we’re wrong.

pushykittyGrowing up I was as bad as anyone. I read books my teacher’s suggested even if they were genres I knew I didn’t like. I rooted for the sports teams that my father liked even if I secretly thought they were terrible. I watched the shows and played the games that my peers liked because I wanted to fit in. That’s all anyone really wants, deep down inside, but when you really stop to think about it, “fitting in” is a terrible basis for establishing who you are as a person. Your beliefs are an important part of who you are, so why take them secondhand from the people around you?

I really am a very tolerant person. I believe that love is love, that everyone has a right to their own faith and beliefs, and that no one has the right to force their opinions on anyone else. As such, nothing bothers me more than when someone believes in something simply because it’s what they were told was the truth.

Use your own senses. Trust your own gut. Do your own research. Chase your own experiences. See and decide for yourself, and if you discover that what you believe is different than what you’ve been taught, at least you’ll know that you learned it for yourself instead of taking it as second-hand information.

Which brings me to another of my favorite quotes:

“I don’t want you to think like me; I just want you to think.”

Is that really so much to ask?

Look at yourself. Look down deep. What “truths” do you accept simply because they are what you grew up hearing? Have you ever adjusted your beliefs based on your own senses/gut/experiences? How did that feel? Please share!

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