Sacred Science is one of the most fascinating of Robert Lifton’s Eight Criteria of Thought Reform, because it exists not only in coercive relationships and groups, but is widespread in our culture.
We all have sacred cows: beliefs that we simply won’t question. As Lifton noted, sacred science “greatly simplifies the world.” Any system that offers complete, absolute, and, above all, easy answers can be tantalizing indeed.
A predator uses sacred science to create a set of unquestionable beliefs that keep us from thinking for ourselves. Usually these beliefs are all-encompassing: a closed system of ideas, which claim to explain all human experience and behavior.
In sacred science, a central belief is elevated to absolute truth; questioning the validity of that belief is forbidden. Although many manipulative groups will claim to “welcome” questions, various forms of manipulation—from thought-stopping to emotional blackmail—will be used to drive home the point that you can ask any question you like, but you must be satisfied with the answer given.
In the realm of politics, sacred science happens whenever questioning the beliefs of your party becomes tantamount to “hating” your country. It happens in an abusive relationship, when questioning your partner’s right to make all the decisions is shouted down with a hurtful, “but I thought you loved me!”
What this means for those wishing to practice healthy skepticism is that we must never take any claim for granted, and ask for proof whenever we have doubts.
Many “self-evident” statements have no basis in fact. If unexamined, they can be used by predators to build whole systems of belief, elaborate castles in the air, which would come tumbling down if anyone poked at their foundations too hard.
Bluntly speaking, too many sacred cows end up being just plain baloney. It is up to us, as critical thinkers, to examine the facts, question the answers, and be on guard, if the response we are given amounts to “don’t ask!”
What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about sacred science that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!