Belief and trust are intrinsically connected. To believe someone is to trust their words to be true; to believe in someone is to trust a person’s actions and character. The only way to objectively know if a person is trustworthy is to compare their declared intentions with their consequent actions. The nature of this comparison builds a person’s character. It is possible to trust someone without knowing their character. This type of trust is blind until verified, otherwise known as faith. Confidence artists, or “con-men”, take advantage of people’s faith for their own gain. If not for con-men, the only opponent of faith would be the objective reality. The objective reality is the sharpening stone on which the majority of people’s beliefs are shaped. People are free to believe what they want about their subjective reality until that belief contradicts known characteristics of the objective world. These reality-contradictory beliefs are in no way worthy of respect for the very fact they are baseless.
A person can say he believes he was born on the planet Mars, but however strongly this belief shouted a small part of the person will know it to be untrue (psychologically-impairing conditions notwithstanding). This belief about the location of birth, however false, may be a cherished and important idea to this person, but it is has no foundation in facts and that is a problem. His birth certificate may say “Mars, Pennsylvania”, but this is merely a trick of words. The truth is no human has been known to visit the planet Mars and anyone honestly claiming to have originated there is either a liar or insane. But why should intellectual honest beliefs be valued? Is there any detriment to holding fallacious beliefs?
Humans have an innate ability to evaluate integrity, though they are not necessarily aware of this sense. It is based off all the conscious and unconscious cues a person has become aware of that they feel indicate integrity. Note that these intuitions are not necessarily correct because they are based off experiences which may have not been evaluated correctly and feelings which are not to be trusted as evidence. Without critical thinking, the human ability to sense integrity is exploitable. This is what makes the con-man so dangerous: he has figured out how to fake integrity. For his own gain, the con-man leads people to act against their own interests by convincing them they are actually helping themselves. The con-man’s persuasive but hollow arguments quickly collapse under the scrutiny of a critical thinker. Critical thinking is more than storing data; it is processing and analyzing information into a continuous reality that makes logical sense. For an intellectually honest individual, new information that conflicts with known constants in one’s reality must be verified and integrated, invalidated though logic, or categorized as unexplained.
It has been observed that some people are capable of an immunity, conscious or not, to new knowledge or facts which contradict their belief systems, often due to confirmation bias: they see only what they want to see and nothing else. Con-men take advantage of this immunity by riding on top of a wave of confirmation bias; they relentlessly spread lies and some proportion of people will believe them regardless of evidence to the contrary. Usually, dogmatic beliefs like these are held because of the feeling the belief has inspired inside the believer. The expulsion of this belief would theoretically prevent the person from experiencing whatever feeling the belief causes, a great loss to this person. However, the inherent problem of irrational beliefs is exposed when action must be taken upon those beliefs. If a man believes his entire life that he can dodge bullets, when he finds himself at the end of a gun barrel he will be shocked at his lack of superhuman speed. Rather, he would be shocked, but a bullet to the brain kills before the sound reaches the dead man’s ears. The man dies, still believing in his super-speed. Does his inability to observe the resulting test of his beliefs somehow validate their existence? Of course not, but this same argument is used en masse by religion as a justification for an afterlife.
If someone refuses to change their beliefs because of how those changes would make them feel, they are intellectually dishonest. The feeling a belief creates inside a person has no bearing on whether a belief is rational. The addition of contradictory evidence to a subjective reality will cause that person’s reality to change without their consent. This will change a person’s feelings about their reality and this new feeling may be blamed on the contradicting information when, of course, the rational mind is the real culprit. The feeling of changing beliefs can be uncomfortable to some, though to others it can prove one of life’s greatest thrills. If a person identifies their self with their beliefs, of course an attack on beliefs will feel painful. If a person only holds beliefs as logical conclusions then there is no pain when they change, only the thrill of discovery.
When presented with flawless contradictory evidence to a belief, any personal reality that rejects the evidence in favor of the belief is a fictional one. Many theologians struggle when they feel “their faith is being tested”, which is a way to avoid saying their rational minds are attempting to reassert control over their irrational worldview. To succeed in triumphing in a “test of faith” is to consciously deny truth and to create an artificial reality in one’s mind. For thousands of years, theologians have claimed a person mustn’t believe in their deity to experience Its wrath; these theologians have been waiting thousands of years for this claim to be verified. Until reproducible proof of actions inciting a deity’s wrath is found, this claim should not be taken seriously. By accepting what is found to be true as such and holding skepticism concerning baseless claims, it is possible to experience reality with intellectual honesty.