THE RICH AND THE GREAT, THE WISE AND THE VIRTUOUS

 We desire both to be respectable and to be respected. We dread both to be contemptible and to be contemned. But, upon coming into the world, we soon find that wisdom and virtue are by no means the sole objects neither of respect; nor vice and folly, of contempt. We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent. To deserve, to acquire, and to enjoy the respect and admiration of mankind, are the great objects of ambition and emulation.
Two different roads are presented to us, equally leading to the attainment of this so much desired object; the one, by the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue; the other, by the acquisition of wealth and greatness. Two different characters are presented to our emulation; the one, of proud ambition and ostentatious avidity. the other, of humble modesty and equitable justice.
Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behavior; the one more gaudy and glittering in its coloring; the other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline: the one forcing itself upon the notice of every wandering eye; the other, attracting the attention of scarce anybody but the most studious and careful observer. They are the wise and the virtuous chiefly, a select, but a small party, who are the real and steady admirers of wisdom and virtue. The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness.
The respect which we feel for wisdom and virtue is, no doubt, different from that which we conceive for wealth and greatness; and it requires no very nice discernment to distinguish the difference. But, notwithstanding this difference, those sentiments bear a very considerable resemblance to one another. In some particular features they are, no doubt, different, but, in the general air of the countenance, they seem to be so very nearly the same, that inattentive observers are very apt to mistake the one for the other.
Abilities will even sometimes prevail where the conduct is by no means correct. Either habitual imprudence, however, or injustice, or weakness, or profligacy, will always cloud, and sometimes depress altogether, the most splendid professional abilities. Men in the inferior and middling stations of life, besides, can never be great enough to be above the law, which must generally overawe them into some sort of respect for, at least, the more important rules of justice. The success of such people, too, almost always depends upon the favor and good opinion of their neighbors and equals; and without a tolerably regular conduct these can very seldom be obtained. The good old proverb, therefore, that honesty is the best policy, holds, in such situations, almost always perfectly true. In such situations, therefore, we may generally expect a considerable degree of virtue; and, fortunately for the good morals of society, these are the situations of by far the greater part of mankind.
It is from our disposition to admire, and consequently to imitate, the rich and the great, that they are enabled to set, or to lead what is called the fashion. Their dress is the fashionable dress; the language of their conversation, the fashionable style; their air and deportment, the fashionable behavior. Even their vices and follies are fashionable; and the greater part of men is proud to imitate and resemble them in the very qualities which dishonor and degrade them. Vain men often give themselves airs of a fashionable profligacy, which, in their hearts, they do not approve of, and of which, perhaps, they are really not guilty. They desire to be praised for what they themselves do not think praise-worthy, and are ashamed of unfashionable virtues which they sometimes practice in secret, and for which they have secretly some degree of real veneration. There are hypocrites of wealth and greatness, as well as of religion and virtue; and a vain man is as apt to pretend to be what he is not, in the one way, as a cunning man is in the other.
To attain to this envied situation, the candidates for fortune too frequently abandon the paths of virtue; for unhappily, the road which leads to the one and that which leads to the other, lie sometimes in very opposite directions. But the ambitious man flatters himself that, in the splendid situation to which he advances, he will have so many means of commanding the respect and admiration of mankind, and will be enabled to act with such superior propriety and grace, that the luster of his future conduct will entirely cover, or efface, the foulness of the steps by which he arrived at that elevation. In many governments the candidates for the highest stations are above the law; and, if they can attain the object of their ambition, they have no fear of being called to account for the means by which they acquired it. They often endeavor, therefore, not only by fraud and falsehood, the ordinary and vulgar arts of intrigue and cabal; but sometimes by the perpetration of the most enormous crimes, by murder and assassination, by rebellion and civil war, to supplant and destroy those who oppose or stand in the way of their greatness. They more frequently miscarry than succeed; and commonly gain nothing but the disgraceful punishment which is due to their crimes. But, though they should be so lucky as to attain that wished-for greatness, they are always most miserably disappointed in the happiness which they expect to enjoy in it.
(Adapted from The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith)

 

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SENSE OF PROPRIETY

When we see a stroke aimed and just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another person, we naturally shrink and draw back our own leg or our own arm; and when it does fall, we feel it in some measure, and are hurt by it as well as the sufferer. The mob, when they are gazing at a dancer on the slack rope, naturally writhe and twist and balance their own bodies, as they see him do, and as they feel that they themselves must do if in his situation. Persons of delicate fibres and a weak constitution of body complain that in looking on the sores and ulcers which are exposed by beggars in the streets, they are apt to feel an itching or uneasy sensation in the correspondent part of their own bodies.
Pity and compassion are words appropriated to signify our fellow-feeling with the sorrow of others. Grief and joy, for example, strongly expressed in the look and gestures of any one, at once affect the spectator with some degree of a like painful or agreeable emotion. A smiling face is, to every body that sees it, a cheerful object; as a sorrowful countenance, on the other hand, is a melancholy one.
The furious behaviour of an angry man is more likely to exasperate us against himself than against his enemies. As we are unacquainted with his provocation, we cannot bring his case home to ourselves, nor conceive any thing like the passions which it excites. But we plainly see what is the situation of those with whom he is angry, and to what violence they may be exposed from so enraged an adversary. We readily, therefore, sympathize with their fear or resentment, and are immediately disposed to take part against the man from whom they appear to be in so much danger.
What are the pangs of a mother, when she hears the moanings of her infant that during the agony of disease cannot express what it feels? In her idea of what it suffers, she joins, to its real helplessness, her own consciousness of that helplessness, and her own terrors for the unknown consequences of its disorder; and out of all these, forms, for her own sorrow, the most complete image of misery and distress. The infant, however, feels only the uneasiness of the present instant, which can never be great.
We sympathize even with the dead, and overlooking what is of real importance in their situation, that awful futurity which awaits them, we are chiefly affected by those circumstances which strike our senses, but can have no influence upon their happiness. It is miserable, we think, to be deprived of the light of the sun; to be shut out from life and conversation; to be laid in the cold grave, a prey to corruption and the reptiles of the earth; to be no more thought of in this world, but to be obliterated, in a little time, from the affections, and almost from the memory, of their dearest friends and relations.
Man, say they, conscious of his own weakness, and of the need which he has for the assistance of others, rejoices whenever he observes that they adopt his own passions, because he is then assured of that assistance; and grieves whenever he observes the contrary, because he is then assured of their opposition. But both the pleasure and the pain are always felt so instantaneously, and often upon such frivolous occasions, that it seems evident that neither of them can be derived from any such self-interested consideration. A man is mortified when, after having endeavoured to divert the company, he looks round and sees that nobody laughs at his jests but himself. On the contrary, the mirth of the company is highly agreeable to him, and he regards this correspondence of their sentiments with his own as the greatest applause.
When we have read a book or poem so often that we can no longer find any amusement in reading it by ourselves, we can still take pleasure in reading it to a companion. To him it has all the graces of novelty; we enter into the surprise and admiration which it naturally excites in him, but which it is no longer capable of exciting in us; we consider all the ideas which it presents rather in the light in which they appear to him, than in that in which they appear to ourselves, and we are amused by sympathy with his amusement which thus enlivens our own. On the contrary, we should be vexed if he did not seem to be entertained with it, and we could no longer take any pleasure in reading it to him. It is the same case here. The mirth of the company, no doubt, enlivens our own mirth, and their silence, no doubt, disappoints us.
The man who resents the injuries that have been done to me, and observes that I resent them precisely as he does, necessarily approves of my resentment. The man whose sympathy keeps time to my grief, cannot but admit the reasonableness of my sorrow. He who admires the same poem, or the same picture, and admires them exactly as I do, must surely allow the justness of my admiration. He who laughs at the same joke, and laughs along with me, cannot well deny the propriety of my laughter. On the contrary, the person who, upon these different occasions, either feels no such emotion as that which I feel, or feels none that bears any proportion to mine, cannot avoid disapproving my sentiments on account of their dissonance with his own. If my animosity goes beyond what the indignation of my friend can correspond to; if my grief exceeds what his most tender compassion can go along with; if my admiration is either too high or too low to tally with his own; if I laugh loud and heartily when he only smiles, or, on the contrary, only smile when he laughs loud and heartily; in all these cases, as soon as he comes from considering the object, to observe how I am affected by it, according as there is more or less disproportion between his sentiments and mine, I must incur a greater or less degree of his disapprobation: and upon all occasions his own sentiments are the standards and measures by which he judges of mine.
A stranger passes by us in the street with all the marks of the deepest affliction; and we are immediately told that he has just received the news of the death of his father. It is impossible that, in this case, we should not approve of his grief. Yet it may often happen, without any defect of humanity on our part, that, so far from entering into the violence of his sorrow, we should scarce conceive the first movements of concern upon his account. Both he and his father, perhaps, are entirely unknown to us, or we happen to be employed about other things, and do not take time to picture out in our imagination the different circumstances of distress which must occur to him. We have learned, however, from experience, that such a misfortune naturally excites such a degree of sorrow, and we know that if we took time to consider his situation, fully and in all its parts, we should, without doubt, most sincerely sympathize with him.
Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges of the like faculty in another. I judge of your sight by my sight, of your ear by my ear, of your reason by my reason, of your resentment by my resentment, of your love by my love. I neither have, nor can have, any other way of judging about them.
Mankind, though naturally sympathetic, never conceive, for what has befallen another, that degree of passion which naturally animates the person principally concerned. That imaginary change of situation, upon which their sympathy is founded, is but momentary. The thought of their own safety, the thought that they themselves are not really the sufferers, continually intrudes itself upon them; and though it does not hinder them from conceiving a passion somewhat analogous to what is felt by the sufferer, hinders them from conceiving any thing that approaches to the same degree of violence. The person principally concerned is sensible of this, and at the same time passionately desires a more complete sympathy. He longs for that relief which nothing can afford him but the entire concord of the affections of the spectators with his own. To see the emotions of their hearts, in every respect, beat time to his own, in the violent and disagreeable passions, constitutes his sole consolation. But he can only hope to obtain this by lowering his passion to that pitch, in which the spectators are capable of going along with him. He must flatten, if I may be allowed to say so, the sharpness of its natural tone, in order to reduce it to harmony and concord with the emotions of those who are about him. What they feel, will, indeed, always be, in some respects, different from what he feels, and compassion can never be exactly the same with original sorrow; because the secret consciousness that the change of situations, from which the sympathetic sentiment arises, is but imaginary, not only lowers it in degree, but, in some measure, varies it in kind, and gives it a quite different modification. These two sentiments, however, may, it is evident, have such a correspondence with one another, as is sufficient for the harmony of society. Though they will never be unisons, they may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or required.
Society and conversation, therefore, are the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self-satisfaction and enjoyment. Men of retirement and speculation, who are apt to sit brooding at home over either grief or resentment, though they may often have more humanity, more generosity, and a nicer sense of honour, yet seldom possess that equality of temper which is so common among men of the world.
(Adapted from The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith (1759), Part I: Of the Propriety of Action Consisting of Three Sections, Section I: Of the Sense of Propriety)

MAN’S INABILITY TO SIT STILL IN A ROOM

The common man, after all the ages, is still very common. He is ignorant, reckless, unjust, selfish, easily misled. All public affairs bear the stamp of his weakness. Especially is this shown in the prevalence of destructive strife. The boasted progress of civilization is dissolved in the barbarism of war. Whether glory or conquest or commercial greed is war’s purpose, the ultimate result of war is death. Its essential feature is the slaughter of the young, the brave, the ambitious, and the hopeful, leaving the weak, the sickly, and the discouraged to perpetuate the race. Thus all militant, nations become decadent ones. Thus the glory of Rome, her conquests and her splendor of achievement, left the Romans at home not the sons of the Romans, but of the slaves, scullions, the idlers and camp-followers whom the years of Roman glory could not use and did not destroy. War blasts and withers all that is worthy in the works of man.
When we look at human nature in detail we find more of animal than of angel, and the “veracity of thought and action,” which is the choicest gift of Science, is lost in the happy-go-lucky movement of the human mob. “To see things as they really are” is the purpose of the philosophy of Pessimism in the hands of its worthiest exponents. But we know what is, and those alone, even were such knowledge possible, is not to know the truth. To the philosophy of Pessimism, the child is a mere human larva, weak, perverse, disagreeable, the heir of mortality, with all manner of “defects of doubt and taints of blood,” gathered in the long experience of its wretched parentage.
According to Schopenhauer, we move across the stage of life stung by appetite and goaded by desire, in pain unceasing, the sole respite from pain, the instant in which desire is lost in satisfaction. To do away with desire is to destroy pain, but it also destroys existence. Desire is lost where the “mouth is stopped with dust,” and with death only comes relief from pain.
(Adapted from Project Gutenberg’s The Philosophy of Despair, by David Starr Jordan)
Take a cursory glance at the news headlines for any random day, and it’s not hard to develop a pessimistic attitude towards your fellow man. The endless reports of thieves, bombers, murderers, bigots, racists, and bullies is enough to make you lose all hope humans are capable of one day living in complete peace and harmony. Are we genetically predisposed towards “evil” behaviors like selfishness, violence, and cruelty? Or, is it an unfortunate side effect of our society? Not even those who make a living studying human behavior (psychologists, anthropologists, etc.) can come to a consensus on our inherent nature.
There were an astounding 237 wars between 1900 and today, starting with the Boxer Rebellion and continuing to the war in Afghanistan.
After watching any of the military training documentaries on the Discovery Channel, it indeed appears like some men were born for battle. They absolutely thrive under the high-pressure, aggression-filled environment of war. Not to mention, they really, really like their weapons. It makes you wonder what these men would do if there was no need to fight—could they even survive a desk job.
In some ways we aren’t much different than the ancient Romans with their gladiator games and fascination with blood and gore. For instance, prime time TV is full of shoot em’ up cop shows and gruesome crime scenes, most news agencies stick with the ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ philosophy, and one of the most violent sports in existence, mixed martial arts fighting, has been dubbed the fastest growing sport in the world. Without a doubt, we have a definite attraction to violence.
While most of the research regarding violence in entertainment has to do with how viewing it affects our behavior, perhaps the bigger question is why we like watching it in the first place? Maybe we’re drawn to it as a way to vicariously live out our savage instincts, or possibly we’re not so much attracted to the violence as we are the excitement. Some scientists argue our humdrum, civilized lives lack sensation and the thrill of conflict and danger provides a type of escape. The only problem with that theory is it doesn’t explain why native people also have ritual violence—unless it breaks up the monotony of their days too.
Towards the end of his life, Freud became largely disenchanted with the human species and considered us one of the worst types of animals. Granted, a lot of his feelings were based on the tumultuous time period in which he lived, as he witnessed World War I and died just as another major war, World War II, was getting started. In his 1930 book, Civilizations and its Discontents, he wrote “…men are not gentle creatures, who want to be loved, who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness.”
Hundreds of years before Freud, philosopher Thomas Hobbes had a similarly pessimistic view of humanity and famously wrote that the life of man in his natural state is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Essentially, he believed all men were equally capable of killing, and when two people want the same thing the inevitable outcome is war. In his mind, government and civil society were the only ways to curb the brutishness, yet he admitted even governments and the elite were full of corruption.
So, if we ignore Freud and Hobbes for the moment and assume other thinkers are correct, like Jean Jacques Rousseau who thought humans were naturally good or John Locke who believed we all started as a blank slate. Then it makes sense to presume babies—people who have been influenced the least by the world—would lean towards goodness or neutrality. But, is that really the case? It’s difficult to say because, if you’ve spent any time with a toddler, you know at one point in the day he might be smashing his brother on the head with a wooden block and then five minutes later he’s generously offering you the soggy portion of his half-eaten cookie. Also, we have to teach them how to behave in a socially acceptable manner (i.e. don’t hit, bite, steal, and always, always share). If humans are naturally good, why do we have to spend so much time teaching children how to behave?
The simple fact that we have any type of government suggests we believe society would spiral into absolute mayhem if there wasn’t someone making and enforcing laws. Essentially, we have very little trust in our fellow man to not kill or steal from us, so we willingly give up many of our own personal freedoms for the sake of protection. This in itself is pretty strong evidence that we believe a large portion of people isn’t innately good.
But would pandemonium actually ensue if we abolished government and lived in an anarchist state? It’s hard to say since hardly any major anarchist groups have existed throughout history—and perhaps that’s proof enough they don’t work. Even most hunter gatherer and tribal people, like the Australian Aborigines, rely on a group of elders to guide their community.
(10 Reasons Humans Are Naturally Evil, S. Grant May 23, 2013 at listverse.com)
Now there are definitely degrees of evil. Some degree of evil is all around us. We notice some degree of evil almost every day. This does not mean that we (or anyone) must retreat and become a hermit — in order to extinguish all evil from our lives. That choice would be sub-optimal. There are too many folks who have some evil in them, but still harbor some good, for us to write them off wholesale — upon their first evil act. The things to watch out for are a person who militantly avoids introspection or any questioning of their motives, while simultaneously offering up others as sacrificial animals. The key is consistency. Truly evil folk are completely consistent in their behavior. They are almost predictable.
The easiest historical example of evil might be Adolf Hitler who, through militant evasion, irrationally held that the Aryan race was superior and entitled, while holding down the Jews as the scapegoat for any and all of society’s ills. Dealing with evil is unavoidable; dealing well with evil is something we ought to learn how to do well. It has been said that the only thing that evil “listens to” is brute force or coercion — that all attempts at persuasion with “the evil” are doomed a priori. Rand herself said that compromise with evil was, itself, evil.
(Human Evil: The Only Kind There Is, Human Evil: The Only Kind There Is by Ed Thompson at rebirthofreason.com)
We prefer to think great evil is limited to a few depraved individuals, but that’s not true. Large populations commit heinous crimes.
In the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1989, the number of people killed for political reasons or who died in prisons or camps ranges from 20 to 26 million. These staggering numbers include the 6 million Ukrainian citizens whom the Soviets forced to die of starvation in 1932-1933.
No mercy was shown the starving peasants. During the famine, detachments of workers and activists were marshaled in the countryside to take every last bit of produce or grain. Activists and officials went through peasant homes with rods, pushing them into walls and ceilings, seeking hidden stores of food or grain; yards were dug up or poked with rods in the search; and dogs were brought in to sniff out food…. Baked bread was taken. All reserves and the seed grain needed for planting were seized. The peasants were left with nothing. To isolate the victims, the Ukrainian borders were sealed off to block the importation of food. The peasants simply starved slowly to death throughout the Ukraine.
One party official wrote, “The most terrifying sights were the little children with skeleton limbs dangling from balloon-like abdomens. Starvation had wiped every trace of youth from their faces, turning them into tortured gargoyles; only in their eyes still lingered the reminder of childhood. Everywhere we found men and women lying prone, their faces and bellies bloated, their eyes utterly expressionless.”
Was this inhuman? No. Humans did this.
Under the Chinese communists a conservative estimate is that 26 to 30 million “counterrevolutionaries” were killed or died in the prison system. Of course, a statistic doesn’t capture the horror. Consider the words of Mao Tse Tung who boasted in a 1958 speech to the communist party, “What’s so unusual about Emperor Shih Huang of the Chin Dynasty? He had buried alive 460 scholars only, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars.” Burying people alive must be a metaphor! But further research proved that burying people alive was a common method of execution.
Within a few weeks beginning in December of 1937, the Japanese army raped, tortured, and murdered over 300,000 Chinese in the city of Nanking. The Rape of Nanking should be remembered not only for the number of people slaughtered but for the cruel manner in which many met their deaths. Chinese men were used for bayonet practice and in decapitation contests. An estimated 20,000–80,000 Chinese women were raped. Many soldiers went beyond rape to disembowel women, slice off their breasts, nail them alive to walls. Fathers were forced to rape their daughters, and sons their mothers, as other family members watched. Not only did live burials, castration, the carving of organs, and the roasting of people become routine, but more diabolical tortures were practiced, such as hanging people by their tongues on iron hooks or burying people to their waists and watching them get torn apart by German shepherds. So sickening was the spectacle that even the Nazis in the city were horrified, one proclaiming the massacre to be the work of “bestial machinery.”
The Rape of Nanking, as it is called, was front-page news across the world, yet most of the world did nothing to stop it and Japan officially denies it today. But humans did it.
(We Don’t Take Human Evil Seriously so We Don’t Understand Why We Suffer, Clay Jones at clayjones.net)

SUPERFICIAL LIFE

Is there a deeper kind of life than the one you are currently living? Is there more to life than acquiring all the material things you could possibly get your hands on?
The truth is, when things are going well in our lives, we don’t give it any thought. We seldom stop to think about life’s meaning when things are great.
Society has taught us to live in a world of fantasy; therefore, we find ourselves living in a superficial world without any substance and without any love for ourselves and others.
If you only find happiness by having instead of being, you may want to look at your life and consider shifting your focus. Instead of focusing on finding fulfillment through external things, try to focus on the happiness that comes from within.
Feeling the need to accumulate things in life in order to feel loved and satisfied will only leave you craving for more, because when the excitement wears off, you will likely find yourself empty and dissatisfied. It’s like being thirsty and drinking only soda or coffee to quench your thirst. Nothing can quench your thirst better than water. You cannot rely on soda or other liquids to do an adequate job, because you will always be thirsty.
(Dr Alex ledgister at dralexledgister.com)
Superficial means being fairly shallow in character and attitude. It means focusing on the surface reality and not what lies beneath. It means that there is not much substance. It means that you are only concerned with seeing the obvious without exploring any underlying issues and circumstances. It means that you are only appearing to be real, but you are not truly being real.
(Jedha Dening at EzineArticles.com)
CB contributed the following poem at associatedcontent.com (a poem to emphasize that there is more to a person than just looks):
“I write this because like many of you, I too am tired of reading messages from strangers talking about my looks, Oh you look good? Can we be friends?’- Both from men and women. LOL. To those strangers – I am privileged that you feel so and thank you for those compliments. But when I get these messages, all I think is – You don’t even know me! I just wished people stopped being superficial.”

THE BEGINNING…..
O’ Stop being Superficial
Stop being so Tri-vial.
Just because I look so hot
Does not mean I have no brains
Just because I’m NO model
Does not mean you can call me names

I may be blond and dumb
I may be blond and wise
How do you really know?
That I won’t take you by surprise?

I may not look too exquisite
I may not be a model
I may still be the sweetest person
You encounter in this life

O’ Stop being Superficial
Stop being so Tri-vial
Learn to see beyond the layer
Only then will you be smarter
I hope when you look at me
A wonderful human is what you see

Most of us have at least heard the saying “It’s not what’s in the outside that matters, but what’s in the inside is what matters“, at least once in our life. This saying may be true, but our society has made us believe that the outside matters a lot.
Many girls read magazines and see that beautiful air brushed models, they want to become that dream girl…that doesn’t exist, and some will take drastic measures…to become that size zero girl, even if it means becoming anorexic.
Our media is full of beautiful, size zero girls, but they fail to realize that most regular teenage girls don’t look like that. In our society the first impression is what matters. They judge us by our exterior, forcing some young girls to feel self-conscience about them.
Girl self-esteem is one of the easiest things to break, they are already judging themselves too harshly, and the media doesn’t help them at all, seeing perfect models, only makes them wish they looked like that. We have to emphasize to teenage girls that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes; you don’t have to be a size zero to be beautiful. Beauty comes from within, but the media and our society don’t help the cause, they are creating the “perfect girl” that doesn’t exist. Now days, we are judged too harshly on just our physical appearance. Some people don’t even take our personality in consideration, which is sad and unfortunate. We cannot stop the media from putting out airbrushed pictures of perfect models, but we can stop being so influenced by them, and realizing that we are beautiful in our own way.
(princess6 at teenink.com)
Are you surrounded by shallow people? Are you in an intimate relationship with a superficial individual? You like that person, but the superficial nature of that person is a barrier to any genuine relationship. This situation is a case where actions speak louder than words. Why is this case? Well, you see them saying the right words and attempting to do the right things. However, sooner or later, their superficial disposition comes out, and you can’t believe they are that way. If you were honest with yourself, you knew that person was pretty hollow in the beginning, but you didn’t want to accept it. Let’s analyze this situation closer.
First, there are no physical characteristics that can identify a superficial person. Clearly, shallow people come in all shapes and sizes. They have varying backgrounds. They live in every community. However, these people all have a common characteristic; they are externally-driven.
In the frantic pace of modern living, many people are in the pursuit of the wrong possessions. The media bombards us with the notion that “We deserve it all.” When this philosophy is believed, it creates a generation of inwardly focused people. We become a “Me” generation. Because this person feels he is entitled to be happy, he focuses on what can make him happy now. Obviously, it is far easier to pursuit things (money, power, right clique, etc.) in terms of happiness because they are tangible to the eyes. However, this short path is not a road to fortune but perhaps a highway to destruction. If you are in relationships with outward-focused people, you can be assured that your intimacy will lack depth. Your relationship may feel like the real thing but over time the truth usually will reveal itself.
Sadly, some people do not have this deepness of character. They exist on the shallow end of the spectrum; they rarely make serious relationships. Why is this factor the case? These people are more concerned with what’s on the outside of an individual than what is on the inside.
(Daryl Green at articleslash.net)
Human personality is like an onion. It consists of multiple layers that become denser as you go deeper within. Manners are a thin veneer on the surface, a set of formalized patterns of action and response demanded of each of us by the society we live in, regardless of how we actually feel inside, which is often very different from the outward manners we exhibit.
Though manners are superficial, perfect conduct even at this level is extremely difficult. We may exhibit good manners on important occasions or with important people, but few are capable of maintaining perfect conduct all the waking hours with close friends, intimate family members, work colleagues, casual acquaintances, servants, etc. The world worships appearances and gives utmost value to good manners, even when they conceal the very opposite inner disposition. Self-restraint, soft speech, humble considerate behavior towards all, thoughtful gestures are extremely difficult to maintain as unvarying conduct. One who is a perfect master of good manners can by virtue of that endowment alone secure international fame and recognition.
Manners are on the surface. Behavior is on the depth of the surface. Whereas manners reflect conduct that the world expects or demands of us, behavior is conduct expressive of our inner attitudes and beliefs. What the society demands as manners develops into genuine behavior in the individual. Friendly manners may disguise inner anger or anguish because society frowns on their expression, whereas cheerful, warm behavior expresses genuine happy, positive attitudes towards oneself and others.
(Garry Jacobs at mssresearch.org)

WE ARE OUR OWN WORST ENEMY

Almost all human beings do have something to ask for from Almighty. Some have a craving for some lawful worldly objects, some have to ask for solutions of their problems, some longing for remedy of illness and getting good health, while some have the far-sight of asking favors of the next world. Thus everyone has something to ask from his/her own angle of view.
(boltwolf.tripod.com)
Imagine for a moment that you find yourself with a flashlight in your hand in a room that is totally dark. You turn on the flashlight and see a beautiful painting hanging on the wall. You might think, “Sure, this is a wonderful work of art, but is this all there is?” Then, all at once, the room becomes illuminated from above. You look around and see that you are in an art museum, with hundreds of paintings on the walls around you, each more beautiful than the last. As these possibilities stand revealed to you, you realize you have a lifetime of art to study and love. You are no longer constrained to view just one painting lit by the weak glow of your flashlight.
(Excerpted from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire by Deepak Chopra. Copyright © 2003 by Deepak Chopra at deepakchopra.wwwhubs.com)
Can anything be classed as real when our perceptions differ greatly on so many things? Just because we see something a particular way does not make it so. We can be so insistent sometimes that our way of seeing something is more right than someone else’s way.
Let’s take the example of war. There are some people who believe that war is necessary sometimes to get peace and then in order to keep the peace. There are other people who will believe that war is evil and should never be entered into no matter what. Who is right? Is war right or wrong? That’s just an example…..
What you see as real is only defined by your belief structure. Your version of what is real is only your perception of it; not what is so.
Here’s another example: Let’s say an event occurs in your life. You have the choice about how you respond to it. Let’s say you have a death in the family. You can choose to see that event as something terrible and tragic to which you will respond accordingly. Or, you can choose to see that event and something that inspires you to make something more of your life; living every day as if it was the last, so to speak.
From that example you can see that you may or may not have control over the events in your life but you can certainly take control of how to respond to them. That part of life will always be within your power. This is where life gets interesting because you shape your own reality through your beliefs.
Your belief structure determines your perception which then ultimately determines how you respond to events. Going by that sequence you can then see that there is another place to start. You can choose to examine your beliefs and then choose to change them.
(Adaptted fron Perception vs Reality by Amit Sodha on March 22, 2006 at unlimitedchoice.org)
We have a very narrow view of things. Naturally, the imperfect existence cannot be the source of perfect consciousness. The imperfect perspective of the human mind cannot be expected to give a complete picture of things in their true state of affairs.
There is a habit of the mind by which it looks at things in a linear fashion, in a line or a straight vision, as it were, as a series of objects, a line in space and time, and this is what may be succinctly called the three-dimensional perspective or the individualistic perception of the human mind – to look at things as bodies, as isolated existences, with the feeling that you and I are different, that things are isolated from one another in such a manner that there cannot be intrinsic or organic connections among them. This is perhaps the historical way of things. There is no organic connection between events in history. They are mathematically or causally related, so that one follows the other.
(An Analysis of Our Perception of Historical Personalities by Swami Krishnananda at swami-krishnananda.org)
The ultimate source of our problems is in thought. Our thinking determines our actions and our actions determine the quality of our relationship with each other. Society is the result of relationships. Problems arising out of human relationship appear to be intractable. There is conflict at all levels of human relationship. There is conflict between husband and wife, between parent and child, between one group and another, between nations, religions and within the same political and religious organizations. There is enormous confusion, violence, brutalities, the wars, terrorism and endless division of religion and nationality. Roots of disorder lie in the state of human mind.
Unfortunately we use the same thinking ability to find solutions to the numerous complex and intricate problems that thought has created. Past history clearly demonstrates that despite all the knowledge and experience accumulated through centuries, man has not been able to produce a harmonious and healthy society. We do make some improvements here and there but the overall situation remains grim. The momentum at which the problems are being created is quite overwhelming. It is obvious that there must be a serious flaw in the way we think.
It is amazing that two distinct systems of thought operate within the framework of human consciousness, one that creates the problem and the other that tries to find solution to the problem. Both arise out of the same source. That source is self-centeredness. Thinking arising out of self-interest, self-concern creates numerous problems. Problems like greed, jealousy, anxiety, anger, hate and violence arise out of the conditioned state of mind. Any problem that arises in the mind poses a challenge and there is an automatic response to meet the challenge. This response generates thought process that has no clue as to how the problem got created.
It is extremely important that we should understand the nature of the self because most of our actions spring from this center. Our perceptions and responses to the challenges of life and our basic urges, desires and demands are determined by the nature of the self. Human relationship is based on the operation of thought that is self-centered. Only a profound understanding of the nature of the self can bring about inward revolution.
(Adapted from Clarity of Perception by SardarSingh, September 17, 2009 at lifeisrelationship.com)
One of the things people are quickly becoming aware of is the media’s nonstop repetition of the same old themes and always trying to keep us scared and manipulated, whether it be who to vote for in an upcoming election or the suppression and total disregard of information which paints things in a different picture to the one that they are trying to impose on us. Another is how democracy is just two sides of the same coin so to speak, they offer us choice but that choice is limited inside of their choices.
Freedom is more than a word. It is everything and the only thing that is in our way of obtaining it is our own perception. What we perceive is what believe. Consider this, if we were walking along and spotted a house and someone said that it was a nice house and you disagreed, and then which one of you is right? The thing about perception is that more often than not it is not even your own perception; it was manipulated from the day you were born and constantly conditioned by outside forces, from parents to school and work. We are being bombarded with influence and the problem with that is we don’t realize it until we become someone else’s perception altogether and we cry out inside to ourselves.
If someone said the words planet earth most people would immediately conjure up visions of the earth from space as we know it, a giant sphere covered in ocean, dotted with land and surrounded with clouds. But what if you could see ultraviolet light, or x-ray or even gamma rays? Than earth would look incredibly different to you and would therefore provoke different thoughts and feelings, you see everything is symbolic and just because you see something does not mean you see all aspects of something; you just have an idea of how it is and this is one of the biggest problems in the world today as Governments, Media, religion and society in general are constantly trying to take other peoples freedom to see things from many angles and points of view and limit them to only the ones they want them to see. Parents are some of the worst offenders for this.
Everything expresses itself in many shapes and forms and your perception is the only thing that holds it in that myopic and preconceived view you have. You must open yourself up to possibility and when you do that you can let the information flow freely and make an informed judgment. But that is not the world we live in now; the world we live in now is the same world that burnt people alive at the stake for ideas just a few hundred years ago, and although we may not be as physically brutal anymore, fear of changing the way we look at things is still alive and kicking in today’s social structure.
(Adapted from How Everything is a Symbolic Representation of Your Perception, by AndrewCalvisi Mar 2nd, 2010 at bukisa.com)

A MAN’S VALUE TO SOCIETY

A journey through life is like a journey along the track way of a retreating army; here a valuable ammunition wagon is abandoned because a careless smith left a flaw in the tire; there a brass cannon is deserted because a tug was improperly stitched; yonder a brave soldier lies dying in the thicket where he fell because excited men forgot the use of an ambulance. Life’s chief destructions are in the city of man’s soul.
Men differ, of course, in ways many—they differ in the number and range of their affections, in the scope of conscience, in taste and imagination, and in moral energy. But the original point of variance is physical. Some have a small body and a powerful mind, like a Corliss engine in a tiny boat, whose frail structure will soon be racked to pieces. Others are born with large bodies and very little mind, as if a toy engine were set to run a mud scow. This means that the poor engineer must pole up stream all his life. Others, by ignorance of parent, or accident through nurse, or through their own blunder or sin, destroy their bodily capital. Soon they are like boats cast high and dry upon the beach, doomed to sun-cracking and decay.
Man begins at zero. The child thrusts his finger into the fire and is burned; thenceforth he learns to restrain himself in the presence of fire, and makes the flames smite the vapor for driving train or ship. The child errs in handling the sharp tool, and cuts himself; thenceforth he lifts up the axe upon the tree. The child mistakes the weight of stone, or the height of stair, and, falling, hard knocks teach him the nature and use of gravity. Daily the thorns that pierce his feet drive him back into the smooth pathway of nature’s laws. The sharp pains that follow each excess teach him the pleasures of sound and right living. Nor is there one infraction of law that is not followed by pain. As sharp guards are placed at the side of the bridge over the chasm to hold men back from the abyss, so nature’s laws are planted on either side of the way of life to prick and scourge erring feet back into the divine way.
Temptation is another teacher. Protection gives innocence, but practice gives virtue. Scientists say that the glowworm keeps its enemies at bay by the brightness of its own light. Man, by his love of truth and right, becomes his own castle and fortress. Cities no longer depend upon night-watchmen to guard against marauders and burglars. Men trusted to safes and iron bars upon the windows. Now bankers ask electric lights to guard their treasure vaults.
Life’s teacher also includes newness and zest. First, man lives his life in fresh personal experiences. Then, by observation, he repeats his life in the career of his children. A third time he journeys around the circle, re-experiencing life in that of his grandchildren. Then, because the newness has passed away and events no longer stimulate his mind, death withdraws man from the scene and enters him in a new school. Vast is the educational value therefore attaching to the newness of life. Thus, each new day is a new continent to be explored. Each youth is a new creature, full of delightful and mysterious possibilities. Each brain comes clothed with its own secret, having its own orbit, attaining its own unique experience. Ours is a world in which each individual, each country, each age, each day, has a history peculiarly its own. This newness is a perpetual stimulant to curiosity and study. For some, once a picture or book has been seen, the pleasure ceases. Delight dies with familiarity. Such persons look back to the days of childhood as to the days of wonder and happiness. But the man of real vision ever beholds each rock, each herb and flower with the big eyes of children, and with a mind of perpetual wonder. For him the seed is a fountain gushing with new delights. By a strange paradox men are taught by monotony as well as by newness.
History tells of a thousand men who have maintained virtue in adversity only to go down in hours of prosperity. That is, man is stimulated by the crisis; conflict provokes heroism, persecution lends strength. But, denied the exigency of a great trial, men who seemed grand fall all to pieces. Triumphant in adversity, men are vanquished by drudgery. Life’s crowning victory belongs to those who have won no brilliant battle, suffered no crushing wrong; who have figured in no great drama, whose sphere was obscure, but who have loved great principles midst small duties, nourished sublime hopes amid vulgar cares, and illustrated eternal principles in trifles.
Man learns to swim by being tossed into life’s maelstrom and left to make his way ashore. No youth can learn to sail his life-craft in a lake sequestered and sheltered from all storms, where other vessels never come. Skill comes through sailing one’s craft amidst rocks and bars and opposing fleets, amidst storms and whirls and counter currents. English literature has a proverb about the incapacity of rich men’s sons. The rich man himself became mighty because he began in poverty, had no hand to help him forward, and many hands to hold him back. After long wrestling with opposing force he compacted within himself the strength and foresight, the frugality and wisdom of a score of ordinary men. The school of hard knocks made him a man of might. But his son, cradled in a soft nest, sheltered from every harsh wind, loving ease more than industry, is in danger of coming up without insight into the secrets of his profession or industry.
The extremes and contrasts of life do much to shape character. Ours is a world that moves from light to dark, from heat to cold, from summer to winter. On the crest to-day, the hero is in the trough to-morrow. During man’s few years, and brief, he experiences many reverses. He flits on between light and dark. It is hard for the leader to drop back into the ranks. It is not easy for him who hath led a movement to its success to see his laurels fall leaf by leaf. After long and dangerous service men grown old and gray are succeeded by the youth to whom society owes no debt. Thus man journeys from strength to invalidism, from prosperity to adversity, from joy to sorrow, or goes from misery to happiness, from defeat to victory. When men combine gold and goodness, greatness and godliness, genius and graces, human nature is at its best
The measure of strength in any living thing is its highest faculty. The strength of the deer is swiftness, of lion strength; but to the power of the foot the eagle adds wings, and therefore is praised for its swift flight. To the wing the bee adds genius for building with geometric skill, and its praise lies in its rare intelligence. Thus man also is to be measured by his highest faculty, in that he has power to see things unseen and work in realms invisible.
The soul is like a lost child. It wanders a stranger in a strange land. Full of it is heartsick, for even the best things content it for but a little while. The soul is a city, and as Thebes had many gateways through which passed great caravans laden with goodly treasure, so the five senses are gateways through which journey all earth’s sights and sounds. Therefore man loves and guards the physical house in which he lives. The heart, going forward, leaves behind some treasure, and perfumes its path. Memory hangs upon the tree the whispered confession made beneath its branches. No palace so memorable as the little house where you were reared, no charter oak so historic as the trees under which you played, no river Nile so notable as the little brook that once sung to your sighing, no volume or manuscript so precious as the letter.
The mind loves truth, and the body tempts man to break truth. The soul loves honor, and passion tempts it to deflect its pathway. Man goes forth in the morning with all the springs of generosity open; but before night selfishness has dammed up the hidden springs.
In the morning man goes out with love irradiating his face; he comes back at night sullen and black with hatred and enmity. In the morning the soul is like a young soldier, parading in stainless white; at night his garments are begrimed and soiled with self-indulgence and sin. As there is a line along the tropics where two zones meet and breed perpetual storm, so there is a middle line in man where the animal man meets the spiritual man, and there is perpetual storm. There clouds never pass away, and the thunder never dies out of the horizon of time.
Hunger compels men to ask what food is in the river, what roots are in the ground, what fruits are on the trees, what forces are in the air. The body is peremptory in its demands. Hunger carries a stinging scourge. Necessity drives out the evil spirits of indolence and torpidity. The early man threading the thickets in search of food chanced upon a sweet plum, and because the bush grew a long way from his lodge he transplanted the root to a vale near his home. Thence came all man’s orchards and vineyards.
Shivering with cold, man sought out some sheltered cave or hollow tree. But soon the body asked him to hew out a second cave in addition to the one nature had provided. Fulfilling its requests, man went on in the interests of his body to pile stone on stone, and lift up carved pillars and groined arches. Thence came all homes.
Material life and civilization may be said to literally rest upon man’s bones and sinews. Mental brightness gives facial illumination. The right act or true thought sets its stamp of beauty in the features; the wrong act or foul thought sets its seal of distortion. Moral purity and sweetness refine and beautify the countenance. The body is a show window, advertising and exhibiting the soul’s stock of goods. Nature condenses bough, bud and shrub into black coal, compacts the rich forces of air and sun and soil into peach and pear.
In the kingdom of morals, there are people who seem to be of virtue, truth and goodness all compact. Contrariwise, every day you will meet men upon our streets who are solid bestiality and villainy done up in flesh and skin. Each feature is as eloquent of rascality as an ape’s of idiocy. Experts skilled in physiognomy need no confession from impish lips, but read the life-history from page to page written on features “dimmed by sensuality, convulsed by passion, branded by remorse; the body consumed with sloth and dishonored with selfish uses; the bones full of the sins of youth, the face hideous with secret vices, the roots dried up beneath and the branches cut off above.
It is as natural and necessary for hidden thoughts and deeds to reveal themselves through cuticle as for root or bud in spring to unroll themselves into sight and observation. Here and now everything tends to obscure nature’s handwriting and to veil it in mist and disguise. Most men are better than we think, but some men are worse. As steam in the boiler makes itself known by hisses and so the evil imaginings heave and strain, seeking escape.
Many forbear vice and crime through fear; their conscience is cowardice; if they dared they would riot through life like the beasts of the field; if all their inner imaginings were to take an outward expression in deeds, they would be scourges, plagues and pests. In the silence of the soul they commit every vice. But they who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind; the revealing day will come when the films of life shall be withdrawn, and the character shall appear faithful as a portrait, and then all the meanness and sliminess shall be seen to have given something to the soul’s picture.
All the majesty of the summer, all the glory of the storms, all the beauty of galleries, is as nothing compared to the majesty and beauty of a full-orbed and symmetrical manhood. Man’s history has been a history of selfishness and sin, and his body bears the marks thereof. His features are “seamed by sickness, dimmed by sensuality, convulsed by passion, pinched by poverty, shadowed by sorrow, branded by remorse.
Men’s bodies are consumed by sloth, broken down by labor, tortured by disease, dishonored by foul uses, until beholding the “marks” of character in the natural face in a glass multitudes would fain forget what manner of men they are. For the human face is a canvas and nature’s writing goes ever on.
Men are anxious to be scholars and hurry along a pathway that leads straight to the grave. Men are anxious to find pleasure, but they find the flowers were grown in the yard. Men are feverishly anxious for wealth, and, coining all time and strength into gold, they find they have no health with which to enjoy the gathered sweetness. Haste in cooking the dinner has destroyed the appetite. We are told that “moderation and poise are the secrets of all successful art,” as they are of all successful life. Give the rein to appetite and passion, and satiety, disenchantment, and the grave quickly come.
(Adapted from Project Gutenberg’s A Man’s Value to Society, by Newell Dwight Hillis)

LOGIC

Human life is full of decisions, including significant choices about what to believe. Although everyone prefers to believe what is true, we often disagree with each other about what that is in particular instances. It may be that some of our most fundamental convictions in life are acquired by haphazard means rather than by the use of reason, but we all recognize that our beliefs about ourselves and the world often hang together in important ways.
If we believe that whales are mammals and that all mammals are fish, then it would also make sense for us to believe that whales are fish. Even someone who (rightly!) disagreed with our understanding of biological taxonomy could appreciate the consistent, reasonable way in which we used our mistaken beliefs as the foundation upon which to establish a new one. On the other hand, if we decide to believe that Hamlet was Danish because we believe that Hamlet was a character in a play by Shaw and that some Danes are Shavian characters, then even someone who shares our belief in the result could point out that we haven’t actually provided good reasons for accepting its truth.
In general, we can respect the directness of a path even when we don’t accept the points at which it begins and ends. Thus, it is possible to distinguish correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning independently of our agreement on substantive matters.
An excessive reliance on emotively charged language can create the appearance of disagreement between parties who do not differ on the facts at all, and it can just as easily disguise substantive disputes under a veneer of emotive agreement. Since the degrees of agreement in belief and attitude are independent of each other, there are four possible combinations at work here:
1. Agreement in belief and agreement in attitude: There aren’t any problems in this instance, since both parties hold the same positions and have the same feelings about them.
2. Agreement in belief but disagreement in attitude: This case, if unnoticed, may become the cause of endless (but pointless) shouting between people whose feelings differ sharply about some fact upon which they are in total agreement.
3. Disagreement in belief but agreement in attitude: In this situation, parties may never recognize, much less resolve, their fundamental difference of opinion, since they are lulled by their shared feelings into supposing themselves allied.
4. Disagreement in belief and disagreement in attitude: Here the parties have so little in common that communication between them often breaks down entirely.
We’ve seen that sloppy or misleading use of ordinary language can seriously limit our ability to create and communicate correct reasoning. As philosopher John Locke pointed out three centuries ago, the achievement of human knowledge is often hampered by the use of words without fixed signification. Needless controversy is sometimes produced and perpetuated by an unacknowledged ambiguity in the application of key terms. We can distinguish disputes of three sorts:
• Genuine disputes involve disagreement about whether or not some specific proposition is true. Since the people engaged in a genuine dispute agree on the meaning of the words by means of which they convey their respective positions, each of them can propose and assess logical arguments that might eventually lead to a resolution of their differences.
• Merely verbal disputes, on the other hand, arise entirely from ambiguities in the language used to express the positions of the disputants. A verbal dispute disappears entirely once the people involved arrive at an agreement on the meaning of their terms, since doing so reveals their underlying agreement in belief.
• Apparently verbal but really genuine disputes can also occur, of course. In cases of this sort, the resolution of every ambiguity only reveals an underlying genuine dispute. Once that’s been discovered, it can be addressed fruitfully by appropriate methods of reasoning.
(philosophypages.com)
If deception is the process of misleading others in order to get them to accept something as true even when it is false, then self-deception is the process of misleading yourself so that you will accept something as true even when you should acknowledge that it is false.
An important thing to watch for in arguments – both our own and those offered by others – is the influence of bias or vested interest. Both are variations on the same sort of problem, although there are differences that require mentioning each separately. Bias occurs any time that facts are interpreted in a way that unreasonably favors one position over another; vested interest is a cause of bias in which one will personally and specifically benefit if people adopt a particular position.
It is also important to listen when someone points out possible biases because, quite frankly, we often aren’t good at noticing when we have biases that influence our thinking. Biases inappropriately influence our reasoning, but much of the time we tend to think that our perspective is the only correct one — a perspective which everyone should have. Thus, whatever “biases” we have represent biases everyone should have.
(Austin Cline at atheism.about.com)
Sometimes, people seem to think that the more they repeat an idea, the more likely it is that someone else will believe it. In other words, they are trying to convince people of something not based upon reasons or evidence, but instead upon sheer repetition. But why do some think that such a tactic will work?
Very often, debates become embroiled over what appear to be very minor issues. Sometimes this may be appropriate and sometimes it may not – when it is not, there is a strong possibility that no further productivity will occur in the discussion. When someone moves a discussion into an inappropriate and unproductive focus on minor issues, he can be accused of pedantry.
Strictly speaking, pedantry is not simply a deep concern with details; instead, it is a concern with details at the expense of genuinely important and significant issues. Sometimes, the details are the important issues. A person with an abiding interest in important details is not a pedant, according to the standard definition.
Instead, being called a pedant is used pejoratively as a claim that someone is avoiding the issues that are central to the discussion — perhaps even deliberately in an attempt to evade acknowledging his own faults and errors, or that someone else’s position is actually more reasonable. For example, a person might avoid dealing with someone’s arguments and instead point out that the argument contained a couple of grammatical errors.
It would be nice if people formed beliefs based on hard evidence and reason, but they don’t. Some elements of belief formation aren’t rational but they are understandable — trust in traditional authorities like teachers, family members, religious leaders, etc. Other may also be understandable but far less justified — one’s own personal self-interest, the interests of their social and ethnic groups, the protection of one’s self-image, a need to maintain a consistency with other beliefs, etc.
There are a lot of different rhetorical and reasoning tricks that people can use to exercise the aforementioned control over their beliefs to bring beliefs into alignment with their self-interests or preserve that alignment. People can’t voluntarily “choose” beliefs by an act of will, but there is a lot they can do to influence how beliefs form or develop: evidence is weighted in a particular direction to produce a preferred outcome, certain sources of information are preferred while others are ignored, fallacies are used to dismiss certain ideas or sources, weak anecdotes are used instead of rigorous scientific studies, etc.
(atheism.about.com)