This I believe:
I believe in the freedom to think, the freedom to listen to whatever argument I feel has merit, the freedom to come to my own conclusions. I am particularly aware of this freedom because I had to go for a period of time without it.
I grew up in a very conservative denomination of the Christian church. Although there are several teachings in that church that scarred me, one of the most horrible tenants with which I grew up was the “de-emphasis on outside literature.” That meant an official policy of no television, no plays, and no music, except for those officially sanctioned by the church. Books and Internet were allowed, but only with extreme caution on the part of the individual. Fortunately, these rules are official in the same way that dress codes are official, and I had a comparatively liberal family in a comparatively liberal branch of the church, so I was allowed access to pretty much any “outside literature” that I wanted. It was that exposure to other ideas that caused my downfall.
You see, some of those outside ideas made more sense to me than the teachings of the church. No matter how much I tried to convince myself of officially sanctioned doctrine, no matter how many tears I shed because a false idea just seemed more true than the true one, no matter how much I tried to believe, the evil literature of man made more sense than the holy teachings of the church of God. I kept committing sins of thought. I kept committing ThoughtCrimes.
I just recently came across George Orwell’s 1984, and was moved to tears. To me, it was not a horror story of disappearing privacy nor was it a political statement against communism. It was a record of what I had to deal with on a daily basis. I was not trying to understand how 2 and 2 made 5; I was trying to understand how God ordained women to be in skirts. There were so many doctrines, so many teachings, so many traditions that I just could not understand, could not force myself believe. I was committing sin after sin of thought, ThoughtCrime after ThoughtCrime, each time inching closer and closer to eternal damnation.
Finally, I gave up my membership with this church, and felt the most incredible freedom. The freedom of press, of speech, of petition, of assembly, of religion, these all protect the more fundamental right of people to think, and it is for this freedom that I gave up my membership. Now, if I am free to expose myself to any argument I want, and to honestly consider the pros and cons of that argument, with the option of believing it. I am free to think.
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