Monday, November 09, 2015

Don't expect consistency or coherence

In addition to the evidence for the fundamental ambiguity of symbols, there is also evidence that religious beliefs are relatively unstable and unsystematic for most people. Instead of well-formulated beliefs, most religions are little more than "collections of notions." Philip Converse demonstrated this point quite graphically in a study of belief systems among elites in contrast to such systems among the mass public. With regard to political beliefs, he found that systems of ideas, beliefs, or ideological attitudes do not filter down much beyond the class of professionals who deal with them on a regular basis. Among the public at large, beliefs and opinions become increasingly incoherent with each other as the level of sophistication and education decreases. That is to say, beliefs or attitudes are increasingly less constrained by logic on the one hand while becoming more affected by local group interests on the other. The dissociation of logically related ideas proceeds down the social ranks to such an extent that it is impossible to find any significant public participation in the belief systems found among elites. In addition, nonsystematic clusters of ideas, so much more prevalent than wide-ranging systems of beliefs, show great instability over even short periods of time. Converse concluded that the factors affecting the juxtaposition of beliefs were most likely to be social (group affiliations), then psychological (expressive of individual idiosyncratic orientations); the logical coherence of beliefs was the least likely factor to affect which beliefs were juxtaposed.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 184–85

<idle musing>
Yep. I agree 100% with that. Don't expect consistency or coherence in people's belief system. I am repeatedly amazed that people don't recognize the logical contradictions in things they claim to believe. When I bring it up, they say they just hadn't thought about it. Which reminds me of a post that I read this morning on Christians and philosophy. Here's a good little snippet:

Maybe we do not find many people interested in anything philosophical because of the growing anti-intellectual sentiment around us. Maybe cultural pressure from bite-size pieces of information delivered rapid-fire via digital media has conditioned our minds in such a way that we cannot think deeply. My concern is not so much with the culture-wide absence of philosophical conversation, but how a lack of thinking has grown among Christians and kept so many followers of Christ underdeveloped. It seems like many who call themselves evangelicals living in twenty-first century America typically find little or no interest in philosophy, theology, or engaging the intellect.

Mark Noll made this observation over twenty years ago when he declared, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” (emphasis original)

"Lack of thinking has ... kept so many followers of Christ underdeveloped." Quite the accusation! But, I think he's correct. Now, what do I do to counteract that? Give me wisdom, Lord! I'd like to think that this blog (now over 10 years old!) is part of my attempt to counteract the lack of thinking. So, a question for both of you who read it: Does it stimulate thinking on your end?
</idle musing>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, yes.