It is difficult to explain belief and doubt without evoking religious context. Faith’s relationship with science has always been a touchy subject. For individuals who have successfully integrated into organized religion, there is a great disincentive from deconstructing their faith. They not only have difficulty understanding the purpose of skepticism, they are also not free to choose or modify their own faith. Such people could live their whole lives strengthening their faith through repetition, while at the same time remaining oblivious to the machinery that allows them to do so.
Survival of religious societies depends on the instrumentalization of individuals through anti-intellectualization. Although invisible from the inside, religious rules in such societies are always built on an economic, even Darwinian framework. Consider he following excerpt from Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber which tells us how Christian guilt keeps people in their place.
As communities grow into kingdoms and kingdoms into universal empires, the gods themselves come to seem more universal, they take on grander, more cosmic pretentions, ruling the heavens, casting thunderbolts—culminating in the Christian god, who, as the maximal deity, necessarily “brought about the maximum feeling of indebtedness on earth.” Even our ancestor Adam is no longer figured as a creditor, but as a transgressor, and therefore a debtor, who passes on to us his burden of Original Sin:
Finally, with the impossibility of discharging the debt, people also come up with the notion that it is impossible to remove the penance, the idea that it cannot be paid off (“eternal punishment”)…until all of a sudden we confront the paradoxical and horrifying expedient with which a martyred humanity found temporary relief, that stroke of genius of Christianity: God sacrificing himself for the guilt of human beings, God paying himself back with himself, God as the only one who can redeem man from what for human beings has become impossible to redeem—the creditor sacrificing himself for the debtor, out of love (can people believe that?), out of love for his debtor! (Nietzsche F, Genealogy of Morals 2.21)
Irrational, or superstitious beliefs can be held more easily when they serve the society or one’s self. People believe what they feel or think will help them. Once a belief stops to be self-serving, it dies. It got much easier to shed irrational beliefs in the hypercompetitive environment of Enlightenment-Age Europe, because technological advancement required a rational understanding of nature.
Just as it is hard for religious believers to understand the real nature of faith (because you cannot understand it without deconstructing it, and it stops being a belief once you do that), skeptics in a religious society are also discouraged from discovering it for different, mostly social reasons. Pure believers do not get to experience the virtues of doubt, and pure skeptics do not get to experience the virtues of belief.
Hopefully, we were able to make it clear that religious belief is not the only type of belief. In fact, one might find it much easier to establish faith in secular concepts, such as one’s self, one’s ability to love and one’s ability to change.
We also anticipate a wave of criticism against SRT, calling it pseudoscience. Such criticisms are completely justified! In fact, SRT is meta-scientific—it relates not only to how we discover truths, but also how we create them. To make this easier to understand, we present a possibly oversimplified, but nevertheless practical framework:
The meta-scientific framework (MSF) of cognitive restructuring
Belief and doubt are two distinct mental states, or attitudes towards certain things. They don’t necessarily oppose each other, and can be used on the same thing in tandem to reveal and establish new truths.
|Belief is exercised through affirmations (repeating stuff)||Doubt is exercised through questions (asking what?, why? and how?)|
|A believer is someone who spends most of their time in the “believing” state||A skeptic is someone who spends most of their time in the “doubting” state|
|Belief constructs (subjective) reality||Doubt deconstructs (subjective) reality|
|Belief establishes feedback loops||Doubt shows how to break out of feedback loops|
|Belief creates truths||Doubt destroys existing truths and reveals new truths|
Thus, we proclaim the two most important tools for changing one’s own mind: the question and the affirmation. To change a belief, questioning by itself might not be enough—you might still need to use repetition to achieve lasting effects.