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Strength of Belief

 

Explanations > Beliefs > Strength of Belief

Blind belief | Strong belief | Weak belief | Disbelief | So what?

 

Beliefs, like alcohol, come in different strengths. Strong beliefs affect people powerfully, driving them to act with conviction. Weaker beliefs are still beliefs, but the accompanying doubt lays the believer more open to contrary argument.

Strong belief

Strong beliefs are often closely tied to a sense of identity. An example would be a belief in Christianity that is taken as a part of who I am. Take it away and I will feel lost. Other strong beliefs connect with profession and family.

At the extreme, strong belief drives people to remarkable self-sacrifice or even acts of terrorism (which may be the same thing, depending on whether or not you believe the same things that they do).

People who mostly hold strong beliefs tend not to change them easily, however when they do, the walls tend to crumble fast. They are likely to see the world in black-and-white and have a strong need for belief and so when they change they will switch to strong belief in something else, perhaps after a period of significant discomfort during which they are very susceptible to persuasion.

Blind belief

Blind belief is a 100% belief, assuming a belief is always true and can never be challenged (or even considered for challenge). This is the belief of the religious zealot -- although it must be remembered in this that we treat many things as religion, from football teams to our faith in science.

Blind belief is also an indicator of the naive or innocent person who accepts given assertions as wholly and always true.

Blind beliefs are often strong beliefs, and vice versa. Blind beliefs can also be weak and the belief is driven more by the need for belief than a true and deep belief.

Weak blind beliefs tend to be fragile. In such cases all you have to do is shatter it and the person will quickly switch to the alternative you offer.

Weak belief

People with weaker beliefs may be not fully convinced yet or want to keep their options open. One of the effects of experience may be to weaken beliefs. From the idealism of youth, where the world seems relatively black and white, people see their hopes, dreams and beliefs dashed so often they are very cautious about making further commitments.

People with weak beliefs are often easier to convince that they should change their beliefs. If, however they move from weak belief to weak belief, their conversion may not be permanent.

Disbelief

Disbelief is a variant of belief and often accompanies beliefs. If I believe in A then I will likely by definition disbelieve in anything that is not A. If I hold Catholic beliefs then I disbelieve in Islamic and even Protestant tenets. The strength of disbelief tends mirror any associated beliefs. A fanatical football supporter will hate all other football teams.

So what?

Seek the strengths of the other person's beliefs, perhaps by gentle probing and discovering the emotion in their response. Remember that beliefs are not logical and the more illogical they are, the higher the walls the other person will have built around them.

In strong beliefs, find out if they are blind. If not, probe their rationale for weaknesses. If they are prepared to debate, you may be able to sow seeds of doubt.

For blind beliefs, find the source of the belief and, if possible discredit it or otherwise weaken it.

For weak beliefs, demonstrate how weak they are, find out why they are held, and and offer beliefs that will support the deeper purpose.

See also

Theories about belief

 

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