Re: Make Believe Beliefs

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 6 Feb 1997 15:14:48 -0800 (PST)

> I think far too many people pretend beliefs they do not have in order to
> fit in. The worst thing isn't the hypocricy (quite often it is necessary
> in order to remain in the group) but the fact that make believe beliefs
> tend to rub off. We tend to start to believe in what we say, regardless
> of what we say.
> How to deal with this? Being more open about what we think will cause
> more friction, and in some cases might even be counterproductive, but in
> the long run I think it is healthier to decrease the dissonance between
> what we really think and what we say we think. It also promotes others to
> be more open, if they know you can tolerate their divergent opinions.

Well said, but as usual I would put it much more strongly: Anyone whose
relationship with you is so fragile that expressing your honest beliefs
might jeopardize your friendship is no friend. Such a relationship can
be of no benefit to you, and if your honesty ends it, then it has saved
you time and energy that you might more profitably invest in a healthy
relationship elsewhere.

Likewise, if your friend has some psycological need for your approval of
his ideas, your acquiescence is no benefit to him; it only serves to
feed his neurosis.

Of course, this applies mainly to voluntary relationships. There are
certain externally-imposed relationships like close family, roommates,
and business associates that may require different treatment. I tend to
deal with these mostly by treating them as obstacles to be worked around.
I do not loudly proclaim my atheism to my Baptist minister uncle, but
nor have I had to deny it--I simply don't let our conversations turn to
that. I simply acknowledge that my time is better spent developing my
voluntary relationships (which, happily, include my parents, my sister,
and my rommate (though not all of their spouses, alas). I have never
needed to express a belief I don't hold, though I have often had to bite
my tongue and quietly move to a different conversation.