Like it or not, it’s true, and stands to reason. Indoctrination relies on it, with regular reinforcement, to last a lifetime. Kids bullied by indoctrination at young ages will adopt the strangest beliefs on the strength of authoritative appeal to their imaginations and, if kept away from outside influences, will maintain those beliefs while in the same intellectual environment.

Culture furnishes our beliefs and the environment that maintains them. The effect a multicultural environment has on that will depend on how freely a child associates and with whom. We become influenced by our peers to adopt whatever parts of their beliefs mesh well with our own, attempt to compartmentalize what does not, and reject whatever fails that process.

New beliefs will be adopted more quickly during youth than in maturity, and rejected more quickly as people age. In an apparent move to sustain conformity, Nature rigged our systems to assess new information according to how well it meshes with what we already have adopted. From day one of our intellectual development, we have been building our personal belief systems to accord with all that has gone before.

Studious people, exposed to much more information than normal, may compartmentalize it into more headings than they can handle with ease, and find a need to ‘clean house’. That task may take years and require several iterations (judging from subjective personal experience) for the person to investigate the dross and toss out the garbage—while still requiring it to agree with information held to be truth.

In that way, belief truly does get in the way of learning. But, a traumatic experience can undo all of it.

It’s not the US Navy’s fault that I fell sick under their indoctrination process. I had not been prepared to be so smothered with rules, regimentation, confinement, multiple bosses, all supposedly aimed to prepare seventy-two of us to share life aboard a ship. From a barracks of half a gross of gross boys, they shipped me to a hospital, let me marinate a few weeks, gave me an evaluation, and sent me home.

I think that stay at the hospital had the most profound effect on me. I met people with all kinds of conditions, beliefs, outlooks, and stories. I was allowed to coach a boy named Raymond, who had given up, back to health. The doctors had given up on him because of his negative attitude, he cried and whimpered so much nobody wanted anything to do with him. I can’t help feeling sorry for someone like that, and volunteered to share his room. I don’t know from where my coaching words came, other than a composite from my bookworm past. We became friends, compared our very similar problems, and helped each other overcome. I believe my effort did as much good for me as it did for him.

If there was a trauma involved, it came from returning home. Mom had converted to Dad’s sect, and both insisted I must do the same. Neither any longer matched what was in my head, and I became confused. Still quite ill, I determined I would discover the truth for myself, no matter where I found it, and promised the god named God I would accept whatever it might turn out to be.

If a god exists, then, truly, She called me to be an atheist, and arranged circumstances to assure that result. If no god exists, I have kept my promise.


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