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To survive we must cast off certainty

Posted: Tue, December 24, 2013 | By: Religion / Atheism

By Richard Collins

Imagine a world where toddlers are led away to an indoctrination center and forced to become Republicans, or Libertarians, Laborites, Democrats, Socialists, or Communists, you get the idea. Indoctrinated into any scheme that has a rigid plan and believes they know best for everyone. The list is quite long.

Well, observe closely and you find that children all over the world are indeed suffering this fate. The are being captured before their little brains are even fully developed and given to believe the adults around them are feeding them absolute truth and they better believe it if they know what is good for them. The vanity and egos of parents is behind this cultural acceptance of force feeding hapless, vulnerable children cherished certainties. No religious system, political system, or cultural belief system has all the answers, yet we allow myriad organized systems to trap kids and never give them a chance to grow up and search for their own vision, their own answers to life. We continue down this road at our peril. 

Rigid ways of thinking are fatally flawed in a universe that changes so fast we can scarcely keep up. Glaciers melt, polar ice caps vanish as sea levels rise. Coastal villages suffer inundation and homes dip beneath the waves. Typhoons and hurricanes become more vicious and destructive. Droughts turn previously fertile agricultural land into dust bowls. The most seriously effected people, the ones that suffer the most, are children. They had no hand in the recent catastrophes that have swept the planet or are about to sweep the planet. They are least prepared to cope and recover when a natural disaster hits. Did I mention asteroids and comets? They have been known to almost completely obliterate all life on the planet.

Certainty is a monstrous trap. Otherwise responsible people so wedded to their cherished certainties they cannot negotiate and compromise block solutions. We must take a dramatic turn away from the past that has trapped so many people in their thinking as children. That has so frozen their minds against new possibilities that they don’t know about and are not even open to learning about. Instead of certainties a new vision calls for maximum flexibility and openness to the new and novel. Our salvation will come only when we achieve a willingness to try new methods, new approaches to everything. When we substitute honest intellectual debate and banish willful nonproductive stubbornness and constant bickering and even war that frozen mindsets lead to.


What is so disconcerting, and what most will find extremely hard to credit, is that we are simply not as much in control of our thoughts as we believe. We have a strong notion that we are in control of our thoughts, but what we experience as control is really an illusion. A quite possibly vital illusion, to be sure, for us to live and survive in a universe that is out to kill us at any given moment.

Brain neuron configuration and wiring is fairly fixed and can be almost impervious to change without a lot of hard work. Because those swayed by organized superstition believe they possess all the answers they need, their inclination towards self reflection and free inquiry is completely lacking. Such people will hardly see a need to drop their certainty and more than likely will resent any effort others might make to change their views. This fact is so widely observed, that it is a commonplace.

These are the worst case examples. However even enlightened people who might want to discard long held certainties will likewise find it hard. Possible, to be sure, but hard. Try an experiment on yourself. Discover in your innermost mind something you might consider is a cherished certainty. Then try and adopt an opposing attitude. Maybe you hate cats for instance, disgusting arrogant animals. You adore dogs though. Now, can you easily swap this viewpoint? Or pick a sports team that you hate and despise. Can you easily grow to love them?

By Richard Collins on Dec 28, 2013 at 4:27am

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