The following is from Raymond Smullyan’s nifty book “This Book Needs No Title.”:

One of the human phenomena I find most disturbing is that of a person whose system of thought is such that there is no possibility of his ever finding out that he is wrong—even if he is. Any rational objection to his system can be explained away by a rationalization within the system, whose validity can be known only when one accepts the very premises of the system which are in question. Consider some obvious examples:

1. A Calvinist who, when questions as to the fundamental tenets of Calvinism, will exclaim: “Of course you cannot see that I am right. Your trouble is that you haven’t been saved.”

2. A Dogmatic Theist who, when questioned as to God’s existence, will day: “Of course you cannot believe in God! You are too PROUD to admit the existence of a being greater than yourself.”

3. A believer in the existence of the Devil who will say: “Of course you don’t believe in the Devil. The first thing the Devil cleverly does is to convince people he doesn’t exist.”

4. An Atheist who will say: “No rational argument I can give you will convince you there is no God. You have a childish, superstitious need to believe in one.”

5. A Marxist who will say: “Of course you cannot accept the Economic interpretation of History nor realize that the Class Struggle is THE central issue. Your upbringing has been too bourgeois.”

6. “A Freudian who will say: “Of course you cannot see that I am right. All the reasons you have given against psychoanalytic theory are purely defensive rationalizations against realizing that which to you is most threatening.”

7. A Feminine Liberationist who will say: “Of course you cannot realize that this is a man’s world and that men are dominating women, not only on the economic level, but equally on the personal and psychological level. Of course you cannot see this; you are a man! [Or, if she is speaking to a woman: “Of course you cannot see this; you have been dominated by male chauvinist ideology, which only proves my point!:]

[8. A Devout Mormon who will say: “Of course you cannot believe in the Book of Mormon.  Once you have a spiritual testimony all of the historical conflicts and seeming inaccuracies won’t be important.  You are thinking about things too scientifically!” Or possibly, “Of course you don’t believe in the LDS Church.  It’s because you don’t trust in a modern prophet who can never be wrong!”]

I have perhaps given more than enough examples. The interesting thing is that in the majority of cases, each of the groups I have mentioned can easily see through the prejudices of the others. And surely I must be in a similar category without realizing it. I wonder what my prejudices could be?

(Example 8 wasn’t in the original.  I couldn’t resist adding it.  Other possible responses to a lack of belief in Mormonism include: “Of course you didn’t get a testimony you weren’t sincere or faithful enough?”)

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