Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

The Complexity of Naive Acceptance of Socially Manipulated Beliefs

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

The Complexity of Naive Acceptance of Socially Manipulated Beliefs

Article excerpt

Every society has traditions and routines that define its realities. Its members hold these values with high esteem and pass them down to the following generation. The recipients, in turn, become hesitant to embrace major changes to those norms that they consider defining the very essence of who they are. Each generation therefore derives its principals and beliefs from the one that preceded it. It follows, then, that the influences the children in these societies obtain are social in nature.

I moved to the United States several years ago laden with my own share of beliefs and traditions that were handed to me by my Somalian society. Needless to say I was at complete odds with the American culture, tradition, and beliefs. Ethnocentricity ran wild both in me and the Americans I interacted with. They too were responding to the influential social norms and realities that were constructed to fit their lifestyles. The western social structure was at work in me, diluting the nonwestern social structure that had until then shaped my identity. These conflicting realities created a need in me to search for who I was becoming, or who I initially was before being transformed into this stranger who wasn't sure of what was happening to her. Confusion set in after an initial period of confidence achieved by ridiculing the strange culture that I got exposed to.

A notable crisis in me occurred when I started to question the social manipulation of religious teachings or principals that were previously passed down as a matter of fact. The more questions my mind created, the more I believed I was damned and doomed. Never had thoughts of that nature occurred to me back when I happily lived among my society. I even considered leaving the United States at one time and going back to my familiar routine and beliefs. All that which the scholars decreed were firmly curved out of stone.

Plato's metaphor of the three men in the cave comes to mind to illustrate how closed-minded I was. The metaphor is about three people who were tied to their seats in a cave. There was a light source (fire) behind them such that shadows of what was paraded in front of the fire and behind them reflected on the front wall they were facing. These people had never left the cave since they were born and could not even turn around to see the fire. One of them was finally grabbed and dragged out of the cave while he was kicking and screaming. Finally when he was brought out of the cave and into the real world, he was completely torn apart. His realities were of shadows and images, but came to discover the moon, the sun, and the stars, rivers and birds of different feathers, and lush gardens of flowers and fruits. His reality completely changed and when time came to be put back in to the cave, he resisted and was dragged back while kicking and screaming. Finally when he was tied to his seat, the others questioned him about the shadows that were being reflected on the wall. Since in this cave community, one received more status by how well one interpreted the shadows, the others were terrified that they too might one day be dragged out and come back in an idiotic state like their friend. Little did they know that the friend was no longer interested in the shadows:

Plato can hardly have meant that the ordinary man can not distinguish between shadows and real things. But he does seem to be saying, with a touch of caricature (we must not take him too solemnly), that the ordinary man is often very uncritical in his beliefs, which are little more than a "careless" acceptance of appearance. (Lee 1978:256)

As a Muslim, and coming from a country that is 100% Muslims, I noticed that Christians too had as much a conviction in their faith as I did in mine. They went to church, like I went to the Mosque. They prayed to their God with as much humility as I did. They strongly believed that Christianity was the only true religion as much as I believed that Islam was. …

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