THE SELF-COMPLACENCY OF BELIEF

There is a current saying, by way of definition, that orthodoxy means "my doxy," heterodoxy "the other man's doxy;" and one cannot read very far in the history of religion, nor observe very carefully the mental habits of mankind, without realizing that this humorous putting of a point voices a fact which enters into the determination of some of this life's greatest issues. The significance of the matter is seen when we remember that religious opinions are, for the most part, a product of education and environment; that they often prompt to the zealous if not passionate defense of ideas respecting a subject which the individual has not even tried to compass or think through for himself, and that the spiritual progress or decadence of men and nations alike is traceable in no small degree to mental predispositions. People not only inherit their religious beliefs, but in the case of a vast majority they are content to accept this inheritance without any patient and purposeful inquiry into its meaning, or into the warrant in reason or revelation for their beliefs, and yet how frequently those who differ from them are branded as heretics.

The rule of undigested convictions, of teachings which have been accepted by men for no better reason than that their fathers accepted them, has been so long and so blighting in its influence upon human mentality that Jesus' description of certain men of this world as lovers of darkness rather than light, still seems entirely in keeping to those who rightly perceive that darkness stands for and includes all erroneous thought. What is true of religious beliefs in this connection is particularly true of medical beliefs ; the fact that a physician has pursued his studies in a given institution or been associated with a given school of practice means for the average man that he has accepted a given point of view as correct, and is ready to condemn any opposing thought as though he were the exponent of demonstrated truth, rather than of a prevailing belief which, as he well knows, will ere long give place to another belief of its kind.

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Editorial
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October 21, 1911
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