lenticular cloudsHere’s one of my favorite quotes [1] concerning that all-too-common closed-minded attitude that prevents people from pursuing the truth:

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance: that principle is contempt prior to investigation.

Contempt prior to investigation

meditation practice provides many benefitsThe practice of rejecting or ignoring an unwanted, unwelcome, challenging, or offensive idea outright – with no serious contemplation whatsoever – is sadly a common reaction for us humans. Some may cease listening upon hearing talk of subjects like:

  • Muslims/Islam
  • Jesus
  • Beliefs/ practices other than Christianity
  • Religion in general
  • A political party
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Folks of other nationality/origin; racism
  • Abortion
  • God
  • Agnosticism, freethought

herd of sheepIn truth, the act of discrediting or scoffing at an idea prior to performing meaningful, objective research about that idea is truly ignorant. Surely most folks realize this on some conscious level. The refusal to honestly consider such ideas will certainly prevent growth, learning, acknowledging truth, and achieving enlightenment for as long as the mind remains closed. The blind desire to conform is not a generally positive trait, IMHO.

With enough repetition, closed-minded attitudes can and do result in lifelong ignorance of reality and dedication to various forms of superstition, zealotry, or religiosity. It’s sad but true… and it seems to be alarmingly common in the United States, where Christian fundamentalism is considered "normal" in some parts of the country.

You might say an absolutely closed mind isn’t empty. It’s full of inalterable stuff. I’d argue that a closed mind isn’t really a mind any more than a computer is a mind. It’s a machine, a set of predetermined habits playing out. Minds by definition change. Some people think minds are like elaborate computers, but I’m from a school of thought that says that minds are more like computer programmers. Their openness enables them to evolve new computer-program-like habits. So a closed mind isn’t really a mind.
(Source: Psychology Today)

Willful ignorance, a strong desire to conform to others, and the fear of honest, difficult, reasonably objective study happen to be prescriptions for potentially dangerous fundamentalism of all kinds: not just a wide range of religious fundamentalism, but also political fundamentalism, a.k.a. partisanship… alarmingly common, indeed.

The refusal to closely examine a particular idea in an intellectually honest and forthright manner is almost always based on faulty preconceived notions learned from biased, bigoted, or prejudicial influences – and quite often, those influences are rooted in fundamentalism and/or political hyperpartisanship. (Search for Truth)

Glenn Beck, split opinionsAt its root, all closed-mindedness is born of fear — along with most other emotions and habits typically considered to be negative. (The fact that fear itself rests just beneath virtually all negativity is a primary spiritual teaching that managed to elude this writer until his 30s.)

Do I sense some readers grumbling, and perhaps making faulty assumptions about this article? (Most assumptions are faulty, which is exactly why not making assumptions is excellent advice — another basic spiritual practice taught by the fantastic spiritual teacher Miguel Ruiz.)

ripples on the waterIt would be wildly inaccurate to conclude that this writer, or the Search for Truth blog in general, is "against" religion and "for" die-hard skepticism. In truth, a militant atheist might be just as closed-minded as a "hard right" religious fundamentalist – and in some cases perhaps more so.

However, we do strongly encourage everyone to help themselves and those around them by choosing to do the responsible thing: Learn enough to back up claims, beliefs, and opinions with reality instead of superstition. Please consider emphasizing the practical over the supernatural by embracing the basic spiritual principles that are universal in nature… the spiritual principles taught throughout history by a wide range of great spiritual teachers.

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. (Source: Dale Carnegie)

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. (Source: Proverbs 18:13)

Close-minded vs. closed-minded
This is a bit off topic, but it came up during my research on the subject of closed-mindedness. A mind can be open; a mind can be closed. It sounds silly and improper to describe a mind as being close; therefore, I suggest the term close-minded be altogether dropped in favor of the more accurate, more grammatically correct (IMHO) closed-minded.


Quote about contempt prior to investigation

[1] Although Herbert Spencer was given credit for this quote in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, William Paley – a British Christian apologist – is thought to have stated it around 1794.

[2] Inerrancy is the condition of being inerrant, or completely devoid of errors. Biblical inerrancy is the belief that the Bible is perfect and free of discrepancies and errors of any type. People who hold this belief – and many still do – are called inerrantists, or Biblical inerrantists. (Whether the Bible is errant or inerrant is a hotly debated subject; however, when examined objectively, it’s really not so difficult to determine the truth about it.)

Resources: Closed-mindedness

Snippets pushed to the bottom

When strong beliefs are adopted without honest, deep, objective research — when opinions lack any real application of critical thought — the original source of the wayward thinking is often fundamentalism: Arguably the most common cause of faulty prejudgment and closed mindedness in the United States.

I, along with other reasonable skeptics, Buddhists, Christians, Taoists, etc…

A person who has decided the answer to a question before the question is asked has a miniscule chance of being correct.

Let them believe as they wish; it’s their right. But why force the entire country to adopt fideism?

The following quote does not seem to be very popular within fundamentalist and other closed-minded circles…

  • Errancy of the Bible [2]
  • The inversely correlated statistical relationship of intelligence to fundamentalist religious belief
  • …are likely to be ignored, ridiculed, or perhaps even become the victim of violence if overheard by the wrong type of ignorant persons. Ultimately harmful to all those around them, closed-minded thinking and willful ignorance appear to be ways of life for some groups.