Of course, the other possibility is that belief itself is weird…
Weird beliefs are a one-way door
Most human groups have some form of weird belief. Examples are easy to point out. Roman Catholics, for instance, believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, which holds that the bread and wine consumed at valid celebrations of the Eucharist become the literal flesh and blood of Christ. Theologians agree that the appearance, odor, taste and feel of the bread and wine do not change, but insist that their underlying substance is converted. I intend no disrespect for Catholicism, but I think it is fair to say that for the majority of humans this idea is, so to speak, hard to swallow.
That may be the point; one purpose of weird beliefs is to serve as barriers to entry. That is, if a group maintains a weird belief, the difficulty of accepting that idea prevents others from joining lightly— it filters out the non-serious. And once accepted, the weird belief serves as a barrier to exit. Once an applicant has gone to the trouble of reordering her psyche to accept a weird belief, she is unlikely to abandon it lightly. Weird beliefs are a one-way door.
I am not one to throw stones when it comes to weird beliefs; during my sojourn as a Christian fundamentalist, I firmly believed that the creator of all things was opposed to celebrating holidays, hated blood transfusions, had firm opinions about the wearing of ties, etc., etc., ad nauseam. In retrospect it seems foolish, but at the time my passion for these ideas was so fervent that I spent as many as a hundred hours a month promoting them. Ultimately, when I was trying to quit the church, I found that I couldn’t simply give up the weird beliefs, I had to denounce them, to proclaim myself a heretic. If weird beliefs are a one-way door, the only way out is through.
Weird beliefs are memes, idea clusters that propagate like parasites in human gray matter. They aren’t necessarily bad, but they should certainly be considered guilty until proven innocent. It sometimes seems to me that they are peculiar life forms that depend on religions, corporations and governments for their very survival. On the other hand, much that is uniquely and lovably human is a product of religions, corporations and governments and, thus, a product of weird beliefs… so perhaps they’re symbiotes rather than parasites.
In any event, it is a very good thing to be aware of weird beliefs in general, and one approach to sanity is the recognition of weird beliefs in oneself. I am always happy whenever I recognize some personal weird conviction—it’s a relief to abandon it.
Conversely, one can take the opposite tack and intentionally adopt a weird belief; presently, for example, I am trying hard to believe that humans worldwide are becoming more generous, more kind and more loving every day, and that the world is becoming a better place. This is a difficult faith to maintain, but I’m getting there and it sure… feels good.
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