The True Believer Mindset

(From the Tower Of Babel To Today)

“Discontent is likely to be highest
when misery is bearable; when conditions have
so improved that an ideal state seems almost
within reach. A grievance is most poignant
when almost redressed.”

From, Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer” 1

[As Eric Hoffer states above, if we would not have come so far, it would not seem so bad… but we have … and, now, at the point of victory – defeat? Is this our position today? It depends on us – that is the gist of this essay.]

There is something inside the human psyche that makes it look on certain facts as things called “beliefs.” Once these facts become beliefs, whatever they are, from beliefs on baseball teams, to beliefs on Gods, they become ingrained, and immune to the workings of reason. A side is taken; that side that upholds these beliefs. In the 1950’s Eric Hoffer termed these adherents of beliefs “true believers”; people beyond reason as far as these “beliefs” went. Religions have always catered to this type of person, because religions often deal with phenomena outside of reason: things called miracles. But the downside of the true believer mindset is always the same: division.

In fact, in the religious book called the Bible, the original testament of the ancient Hebrews, God, Himself uses this true believer attitude in humanity to cause its division, and undo its project to build a structure reaching into Heaven itself. This is the story of the Tower of Babel, in the Old Testament book of Genesis 2 , well named, since it was this “babel” of different tongues, in different languages that caused this ill-conceived project to fail. God had depended on the true believer mindset of mankind, in its arrogance, to favor its own language over the languages of others, to the point of stopping their harmonious cooperation – thus, the “babel” of so many misunderstood tongues, brought this Tower of Babel to a halt. But did God not foresee that His own religion, in the arrogance of creating a closed off set of beliefs, was but doing this very same thing – oh, not stopping the progress of a building’s construction, but stopping the unity of all God’s creations, by seeing one group alone as His favorites, or “chosen”? You see, the main effect of this “true believer” attitude is really not the unity it pretends, but the arrogance of a group closed off from all others, due to their inflexible ideas. Inflexibility is the main idea here, for inflexibility stops cooperation, and destroys that one other main attribute of the human race – love.

But what has always bothered me was the fact that, it was reason itself, which created our species, and allowed it to become Homo sapiens – “the wise human” – the chief characteristic of the human race. But those biologists, who named the human species, forgot that there was another attribute of humanity that also characterized it – the attribute of love. In the West, again, the Bible brought this attribute out, in the life of one of its Rabbis, Jesus of Nazareth, who taught the doctrine of love to His followers. But His followers, in declaring Him a God, and founding a religion that supposedly followed His teachings, used the same method of the very same religion He admonished, so disparagingly, for using this method of a “chosen” people to divide it from others. Jesus preached unity of the human race, yet His religion used the same method, that of the true believer mindset, to divide it from all others, in its search for unity! And, like all other religions since that time, it too, has not only brought about division, but isolation, hate, wars, genocide and further division.

But, there is another word we used above to distinguish this true believer mindset, the word “arrogance”; arrogance of the superiority of one’s beliefs over that of any other’s. Can love, which assumes equality, unity and a lack of hierarchy, be found in beliefs that assume the opposite – inequality, division and hierarchy?

The answer lies in how the human reasoning process works – it always assumes a given upon which it builds 3 . That given is the newborn human, in its innocence, dependency and loving trust of others. If we build upon this foundation of true love, we can find the path to equality, unity and the lack of hierarchy religions seek, yet actually deny, in producing the opposite.

The other part of the solution is the way God is seen in religions 4 . God is not seen individually, i.e. within the purview of a particular individual, but as a part of a group image. But, as Saint John says in the Bible: “God is love”, and therefore a part of all human beings, for all human beings enter this world with that innocent love at birth. If we look on God as the book of Genesis did; as the leader Moses did; or even as the good man Job did: as a tyrannical ruler to be feared and obeyed, then we are being superior and arrogant in our beliefs, and divide ourselves off from all others. But if we see God as the good Shepherd, the teacher, showing boundless love and devotion to His flock, always bringing all together through love; then we see the way to unity and harmony for all human beings, because religion loses that inflexible attitude that divides us from others.

But not only religion has used this mindset as the rallying cry upon which to build the foundations of division – societies have also used it to create disunity through their institutions of government and the economy. Just as in “unity there is strength”, so in “division there is the seed of dissolution”. And, more and more, are today’s free governments bringing this dissolution about, through burying themselves in the true believer mindset of parties that proclaim the vague package deal 5 of political doctrine, instead of the problems of societal issues affecting all of society’s people.

Similarly, is the economy trying to foster this same attitude in the new global economy, that instead of unifying the world, supposedly through the globalization of capitalistic markets, is instead, splintering it into a divided world; that of a “third world” of cheap labor, and a “developed world” of expensive goods.

But even the Sciences and technologies are finding the very same thing: a lack of standards, because of the “true believer attitude” instilled by the competitive spirit of a competitive economy; and, the production of duplication and waste 6 fuelled by the profit motivation of business practices. Thus, the vital cooperation of science is being lost to a proprietary sense of protectionism, spurred by profit motivation. Even the technologies are lost in the lack of standards this “true belief” or “carved in stone” attitude has created. 7 .

Paradoxes and enigmas, everywhere we turn; this is also the result of the true believer attitude, which has enveloped all of the societies on earth at the present time; but which is really the continual deception of us by ourselves 8 .

Again, solutions are needed, needed to allow us to stop this insidious deception, that has swallowed our lives and our societies, blinding us from our own stupid fantasies that are not in touch with the true world we are progressively destroying a little more, with each passing day. A delusional state that will one day bring us back to the stark reality that we have no world left to live in, and that we have only ourselves to blame.

Thus, again, are we confronted by that ageless analogy to the One and the many: The many live within us – because we are the One, and the same! Can we ever bring together that many into the One they contain, which itself contains them?


To return to note's origin click the footnote number at left

1 “The True Believer”, by Eric Hoffer, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1951.

2 See: “The Holy Bible”, Genesis 11:1-9.

3 See the essays: “Speculations Into The Origins Of Reason (Where Free Will Finds Its Confirmation)”; and, “The Geometry Of Faith (Finding The Correct Foundations)”.

4 See the essay: “That Great Chameleon, GOD (God, The Idea)”.

5 See the essay: “Why? (The Story Of The ‘Package Deal’).”

6 See the essay: “Economic Solution 2”.

7 This redundancy is a real concern. This "my way is the right way" attitude, causing the proliferation of more and more proprietary ways of doing the same things, and the proliferation of even many names for the same processes and basic concepts, is making it harder and harder to find the talents needed to support these various and sundry duplications (e.g.: the proliferation of more and more computer languages, and dialects of languages). Will there come a time when people will not even know what they are talking about to each other, as they did in the time of the Tower of Babel? Will the chaos of our new and ever multiplying “techno-babel” finally consume us; in the end destroying all innovation, instead of creating it? For more on this subject, see my essay: “When Personal no longer means Personal … And Freedom means Big Brother Is Watching YOU!”

8 See the essay: “An Insane World!”



Originally Published:

January 1, 2013


July 4, 2014