Wall of Barriers Activities: Develop Confidence in Reason
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Develop Confidence in Reason
Confidence in reason is the deeply held belief that, in the long run, one’s own higher interests and those of humankind are best served by giving the freest play to reason; confidence that encouraging people to come to their own conclusions through a process of developing their own rational faculties is the best path to the development of critical societies; faith that (with proper encouragement and cultivation) people can learn to think for themselves, form rational viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, think coherently and logically, persuade each other by reason, and become reasonable, despite the deep-seated obstacles in the native character of the human mind and in society.

Confidence in reason is developed through experiences in which people reason their way to insights, solve problems through reason, use reason to persuade, are persuaded by reason. Confidence in reason is undermined when people are expected to perform tasks without understanding why, to repeat statements without having verified or justified them, to accept beliefs on the sole basis of authority or social pressure.
In the place of confidence, or faith, in reason, people tend to have uncritical or “blind” faith in one or more of the following (often as a result of irrational drives and emotions):
  1. Faith in charismatic national leaders (think of leaders such as Hitler, able to excite millions of people and manipulate them into supporting genocide of an entire religious group).

  2. Faith in charismatic cult leaders.

  3. Faith in the father as the traditional head of the family (as defined by religious or social tradition).

  4. Faith in institutional authorities (employers, “the company,” police, social workers, judges, priests, evangelical preachers, etc.).

  5. Faith in spiritual powers (such as a “holy spirit,” as defined by the many extant religious belief systems).

  6. Faith in some social group (faith in a gang, in one’s own department, in the “cliques” to which one belongs [one’s gossip group], and so on).
  7. Faith in a political or economic ideology (such as communism, capitalism, Fascism).

  8. Faith in one’s own prejudices (misperceived by the mind as intuition).

  9. Faith in one’s unanalyzed emotions.

  10. Faith in one’s gut impulses.

  11. Faith in fate (some unnamed force that supposedly guides the destiny of us all).

  12. Faith in “official” social institutions (the courts, schools, charities, business communities, governments).

  13. Faith in the folkways or mores of a social group or culture.

  14. Faith in the perceptions of one’s own unanalyzed experience.

  15. Faith in people with social status or position (the rich, the famous, the powerful).
Activity:
Identify Blind Faith in Your Past
Read the list above and see if you can identify any times in your life in which you had inappropriate faith or confidence in situations, people or groups that did not have your best interest at heart.
Complete these statements:
1. One example of a situation in my life in which I had blind faith is...
2. This led to the following beliefs and actions on my part...
3. Some important implications of holding these beliefs are...
4. A more reasonable set of beliefs in the situation would be...



Activity:
Identify a Failure in Reasoning on Your Part
Think of a recent situation in which you felt yourself being defensive. You now realize you were not able to listen to an argument you did not agree with, though the argument had merit. In this situation, you apparently could not be moved by good reasons. (Realize that this happens to everyone, and perhaps often.) Briefly write what happened in the situation. Then write the reasonable arguments against your position that you were not willing to listen to. Why weren’t you able to give credit to the other person’s argument? In answering this question, see if you can use the list of sources of blind faith from the previous activity that people usually rely on.
Complete these statements:
1. The situation was as follows...
2. The argument I did not want to hear was as follows...
3. I did not want to hear this argument because...
4. In looking at the list of “sources of faith” people tend to believe in, I was likely falling prey to the following sources... (refer to the list 1-15 of “faiths” above).