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Why Do You Believe What You Believe? - - a thread to expound on your ideological background and how it has shaped your belief system(s)

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The Huddle is a fascinating place for discussions of an ideological nature. I think most online forums tend to get their biases in certain categories (age, race, gender, ideology, etc.) because most are geared towards a specific group of users and sometimes diversity is difficult to find. What makes the Tinderbox special is that it's contributed to by a contingent of posters from one of the broadest interests in the United States. All sorts of people watch football: conservatives, liberals, gay people, straight people, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, office managers, CEOs, athletes, fry cooks, fat ugly little Saints* fans that lie about their wealth (you know who you are) etc. As such we're able to discuss a number of issues without getting caught in the echo chamber inherent in clusters of opinion that are borne of similar background and experience.


That's why I like the Tinderbox: it allows you to throw your opinion, backed by your ideological underpinnings, and test it in the arena of dialogue. (This is the beauty of the internet: it allows such an exchange that was before nearly impossible.)


Which leads me to this. I've been considering, for quite some time, as I have seen my own positions on certain issues shift (some slightly, some quite dramatically) the extent to which the ideology of an individual is the product of the social structure from which he/she is derived. Stick with me here, that's a lot of sociology 101 terms, but it's really quite simple: if you're born into, say, Saudi Arabia, the process of socialization (enculturation, or the passing of cultural norms, values, beliefs, etc. from social institutions to the individual) will almost certainly ensure that the individual grows up with certain belief systems that are considered standard in Saudi Arabia. And this is true, for the most part, globally. It's plainly observable. When you're born into a system of belief, unless you are otherwise influenced (as happens in the field of discourse, often in universities) you are almost deterministically steered down the road of your social context.


This, of course, complicates things like religions (specifically Christianity, and even more specifically the idea of Hell and an erstwhile loving god.) It means that your beliefs are almost predetermined by the geographic accident of your location, condition, and time of birth. It means that pretty much the only reason you're a Christian is because you were born into a social structure that brought you up that way (or set you up to be easily integrated into it because even if you're not a Christian [no true scotsman, i know) the cultural climate makes it very easy.) Had you, the most devout Christian, arguging apologetics for your faith, etc. been born in Saudi Arabia, you'd be defending the honor of Allah with the same honest, passionate fervency which you now defend God. This, naturally, is sobering, and it makes you think further about sects of religions (looking at the ability of Protestants, Catholics, and Mormons to spend lifetimes arguing the provability of their respective religions' accuracy in a similar cultural climate and you'll realize that something is much bigger at play than simply "some people just cannot see the truth."





Ok at this point you're all like, good god PhillyB, what's the point of all this? And here's the TLDR for you: it's pretty clear that social structure determines belief. It is also apparent, I think, that the individual is shaped by the realm of his/her experiences, direct or learned. Therefore, your specific social structure is likely to have spawned you. Therefore, different social structures spawn different people with different belief systems. Therefore, much of our differences ideologically may be traced to differing social structures. It stands to reason, then, that understanding where each of us came from is critical to understanding thought processes that lead to the formation of ideology.


So with this goal in mind, the rest of this post is about how PhillyB grew up and how his experiences led him to believe what he believes to day (an ever-changing paradigm, as you will soon find out.)




I was born in 1985. I am 27 years old. My parents were in the Air Force, my mother was discharged after my birth, and my father stayed in another year or so and then was discharged as well. At a relatively young age (I was probably 2) my parents joined a church and became involved in fundamantalist christian movements and churches that supported similar doctrine (which, back in the 1980s, )


My childhood was shaped accordingly. I grew up in fundamentalist baptist churches that railed against rock music, the homosexuals, the liberals, the Catholics, etc. (the usual gamut of Satan's favorite ideologies and practices.) I grew up on radio programs from Focus on the Family (influenced largely by living in Colorado Springs for a number of years in the early and mid 90's) and found myself caught in a confluence of beliefs that increasingly radicalized my parents (my dad's religious piety combined with his hatred of Bill Clinton and his attraction to talk radio and his anger issues to create a rather volatile, nasty cocktail.)


During all this I was homeschooled, to avoid the liberal indoctrination that's forced into skulls full of mush (a Limbaugh term, iirc) with an super conservative religious curriculum that, as you might guess, takes everything "from a Christian perspective" and fundamentally alters important information. My history books were heavily jingoistic, my science books had scripture in the margins from cover to cover and railed against evolution, gleefully pointing out, chapter after chapter, that if evolution was true, then monkeys pounding on computers could eventually write a book, but they can't so DUH LIBERALS.)


By the time I hit my mid teens I didn't fit into society at all, I was quasi-suicidal, I hated everything and everyone (including my dad, who had been abusive for as long as I can remember, and had only recently stopped since I was now bigger than him) and sunk into long periods of depression. I had turned into a misanthrope. I was a racist and a hypernationalist and I remember distinctly raging in my journal after 9-11 about how much I hated Muslims.


I went into college through the community college system for the first two years before transferring to a university. My father was incensed that I chose a secular school system rather than going to Pensacola Christian College (hint: it's a cult) where my homeschool curriculum was created and published) but I was well armed with Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and Michael Savage and Mike Adams and all the other red-blooded American heroes who'd properly warned me of the evils of the university system and ivory tower liberal elitists bent on indoctrinating every single skull full of mush with Marxism and that other crap. I remember my mother rueing, on the morning of my first day of class, that the stupid liberal curriculum forced me to study "sociology and all that other liberal crap." I walked into that first day of class with a separate notebook that I purchased just for the sake of writing down all the liberal stuff my teacher said. On the first day I wrote down "teacher praised Communism" (she didn't) and considered it a victory. Sociology, schmociology. On my second day I had Western Civilization 101 and on the overview my teacher mentioned the middle east and "the area that's now modern-day Iraq" and I raised my hand and said "troublemakers then, troublemakers now," and felt proud of myself. I also recall saying "no one wants to share a foxhole with a ***" when the issue of gays in the military came up in a class on discourse. In my civics class, during the Bush/Kerry election, my teacher called me "speed boat" because at every opportunity i brought up the book Unfit for Command.


So that's how I started college. Partway through my freshman year I decided to join the Marine Corps. In my sophomore year I started looking at options. I decided to go in as an officer so I could finish my degree. I went to the officer selection office in Raleigh, did my application, and got accepted into a dual enrollment program that would allow me to do officer candidate school (the USMC officers' version of boot camp) over the summer, return, finish my schooling, and get my commission as a 2nd Lt. upon my graduation. I was ready to go join up and go kill some people. I hated people, I think that's why I joined. Plus I was a hypernationalist and I couldn't wait to fight for the good guys, even if those ungrateful foreign idiots didn't appreciate everything America does for them. I shipped off to OCS in Quantico, VA in summer 2005. I hit the ground running and made it through ok, but in the process I tore cartilage in both knees. The tears were microscopic, so I was able to complete OCS and graduate, but when I neared the end of my college degree, and geared up to get my commission, I found I couldn't run without major swelling. After several trips to the doc, I had my knee scoped and they found the cartilage tears and bone fragments caught in my knee joint. I had two arthroscopic surgeries to clear the joints and repair (or cut out) cartilage, and right beforehand the USMC dropped me from the program, announcing that if I could pass the PFT to get back in, they'd pick up where I left off.)


Crushed. My career was shot. I was left floating in the middle of a vast sphere, unsure which direction to go, without a point of reference. God, that year sucked. Everything went wrong. One of my best friends passed away unexpectedly. I ran into massive amounts of girl trouble that combined with a feud with a until-then really good friend that ballooned into something ridiculous. My grades went to poo at UNCG. Things were goddamn terrible with my asshole father to the point where I finally moved out and got an apartment in Greensboro. Following this I hit a period of great existential crisis: not knowing where I was going and what I was doing, I dropped out of school and tried to work as many hours as possible and save up some money to be successful and get security and financial soundness, and maybe then earn the respect of my father, whose scorn for my leaving the USMC (circumstances did not matter) was only rivaled by his scorn for my not having money and working at a Chick-fil-A to support myself through school. Sometime during this process I was endowed with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and began spending every night in the library at Guilford College after work, largely to avoid my asshole roommate, and from 10pm to 3am five days a week I'd study philosophy and theology and cosmology and astrophysics (i couldn't quite get that one.) I wanted to know if there was truth out there, and what it was, and if there was a place for me in the universe, some sort of purpose, I wanted to know what it was.


I turned into an apologeticist. It affirmed everything I believed until then and gave it a sense of intellectual backing, and I thrived upon this search for meaning and for knowledge. And in the process I began to get a real perspective on the frailty of human life and the ultimate existential insignificance of that which we hold as dear, and in the process I stopped giving a poo about tangible things, and this led directly to a decision, borne of a whim which would previously have been squelched by responsibility and reality, to abandon all my poo and move to Australia. So I planned it for a year, worked my ass off, saved every penny, bought a one-way ticket to Sydney for me and my rigged-up bicycle, and flew off to Australia, where I spent the next four months backpacking around the continent and then up into Southeast Asia, doing nothing but reading and writing and living out of my backpack. A bohemian existence. It suited me well.


I returned from the Philippines with twenty-six cents in my pocket and no job, and struggled for a while, and then got a job at a wings place, which I despised, and then went back to finish up my degree, and started bartending. During this time, the experiences I'd had abroad had opened my mind up to other aspects of the human condition and the universality of some of them that made me inherently more liberal (if only for the fact that I was willing to consider other arguments made by individuals, a direct result of constant dialogue with Europeans and other Americans while backpacking and staying in hostels abroad.) After graduating with my degree in history I kept working and began thinking and studying anew, and slowly the concrete foundation of a lot of my belief systems that I'd once accepted blindly began falling away. And it seemed the more chips that came of, the bigger they were, and soon cracks began to appear in the foundation, and suddenly there were certain questions that begged to be answered. And then I went back to start a new program that would lead to a pathway to getting a masters degree and eventually a phd, by studying archaeology and anthropology, and here the last bastions fell that kept me from considering reason, as I found I had to throw out mounds of evidence in other areas (like the age of the earth) that I had ultimately only ignored previously because of deliberately-encouraged ignorance. I was no longer willing to argue from conclusion, recognizing that fallibility of absolute knowledge, and realizing that the only rational thing to do was to assemble as much of a data set as possible and draw conclusions about a worldview from that, rather than from the bias inherent in simply relying on a paradigm inherited from my social structure.


And here we've come full circle. This is where I am now. I am a theist, and, some would argue, even a Christian (though far more would cast me out as an apostate. So be it.) But all this is subject to change as I examine the evidence out there and orient my secondary beliefs (the peripheral things affected directly by my understanding of the big questions: political beliefs, religious interpretations, cosmology, etc.) around the primary. This, I think, explains why I have done an enormous shift on a number of issues politically over the past five years that I've been a part of the Huddle.


Perhaps if everyone is willing to share, at some length, their story, a better dialogue, more articulate, more fruitful, may be had. Or maybe not. It's worth a shot, I think.



this IS the tl;dr.



edit: i haven't edited any of this, so excuse inconsistencies, misspellings, weird flow, etc.

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One of my earliest memories of being aware of politics was around the age of 10 when I saw on TV that Newt Gingrich was pushing a plan to take poor children away from their parents and put them into government-run orphanages. I was terrified since we were on food stamps at the time. I guess you could say conservatism got off on the wrong foot with me.


But generally speaking I am generally liberal - though describe myself as a left-leaning moderate - mostly because I grew up poor and had plenty of first-hand experience with poverty and through that came to view it as infinitely more complex than how most conservatives often like to present it. The idea that poor people are only poor because they're not working hard enough has always been downright insulting to me. I watched my mom work 2 jobs for years while raising my sister and I and never get ahead doing it and she was FAR from unique. Hard work isn't always the answer in and of itself and in fact often times people who are willing to work hard are taken advantage of and tossed aside when they're not needed anymore - at least in my experience.


I also know that the only reason I have a college degree today is because of federal student aid; there's simply no way I could have ever afforded it on my own under the circumstances I was facing at the time.


I also think my grandmother played a big role in my views. She was an old school new deal southern democrat and would always tell me stories about how bad things were in the depression and how much better they got when the government started to help people out. Those stories have always stuck with me and do to this day.

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grew up lower middle class as what i could best describe as an apolitical libertarian. went to what some might call an "elite" university, STEM major, had an epiphany, found myself utterly disgusted with the student body of bourgeois fugs and transferred out to a college that had my new preferred major.


picked up a warehouse job for a very large company while completing undergrad, then grad work. atmosphere is kind of lame but i saw this story play out in front of my eyes time after time while spending years in that grueling work environment



manager viewed me as his protege and showed me how each branch operates, i guess bc he thought i would love money more than my coworkers. instead, it had this kind of effect on me:





anyway while completing my BA i ran into several conservative professors who were allegedly social scientists and, shockingly, those were the only classes where the literature was disregarded and we just talked about our feelings. i rejected their snake-oil poo and embraced meaningful analysis.


after immersing yourself in social science research, you generally have two options: selectively reject it in favor of your dumb gut feelings (provided you have dumb gut feelings) and go on to become some flavor of right wing, or accept the literature base and become increasingly radicalized. i obviously went with the latter.

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Life story time eh? Dear lord, I don't know if I have the motivation to type all that out. 

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As a child my single mother had 2 jobs and went to U of L part time. She had a lot of friends in the hells angels so they pretty much raised me and my older brother for about the 1st 4 years. We eventually couldn't afford the home we lived in so we movedto indiana. Shorly after my mother was struck by a drunk driver and we moved to fayetteville with our dad. He was married into a true southern family. Who took really good care of us cuz he was to drunk and jobless to care. Eventually his wife got sick of his cheatin, liing and gambling. So we moved in with his parents. By the age of 12 Iwas a homeless vagabond on the streets of fayetteville. After several years and police investigations later, Iwas sent back to louisville where my recovering mother lived. The city life led me deeper and deeper into dope guns and gambling. It was a family of sauk n fox indians who took me in & began to help me understand who Iwanted to be. They helped me get back into schooling and basketball. Eventually, Imoved back to fayetteville. Where Icould now responsibly control myself in an uncontrolable atmosphere. I hadn't escaped all my demons but playing music and writing novels helped. I spent 10 yrs traveling and recording music with " shadows of the mind". Unfortunately, drugs alcohol and loose women brought it to an end. Since then, Iwork full time and raise dogs with the woman Ilove. Don't even drink or nothing. Feels like another life ago now. Through it all Ihad an interesting life. That's why Ilove everyone though. I met a million people at least in my life. And have been all over america. These days Ijust like chillin and taking it easy. Work on my books a little here and there. But mostly just workin. I have had a broad view of many lifestyles and try to apply that towards my approach to life & relationships. Funny that a dopehead musician from the poorest hoods in the southeast could turn out with conservative views. But responsibilty and self discipline are the 2 greatest things Ilearned through it all. If anybody enjoys horror novels check out " shadow of a mind- son of a devil" by Dr. Animal. I published it about 10 years ago and its nice to get a royalty check every now and again.lol!

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There is a lot of factors in particular with friends and family that has developed my ideology.

I guess the first you should know about me is that I am the youngest child of three and come from a broken home with both my parent re-married. In terms of ideology and religion it was a blessing while personally it was a heavy burden.

I think the fact that I am the youngest is important was because that is part of the reason that I became an attention seeker. And I didn't seek that attention from my family with just an eagerness to please. I tried to garner attention through humor and annoyance. I liked to make my siblings and especially my parents laugh, but I also liked to amuse myself by being a constant contrarian and annoying my family. So in PhillyB's case that he naturally inherited his family views, I on the other hand, from a very early age, garnered a desire to challenge the family beliefs if for no other reason than self amusement. But my parents were not dummies and welcomed debate, so in order to properly annoy them I would study things, either ideologically or religious, that I did not even believe in, just so I would have just enough knowledge to make a contrary argument to see just how far I could push their buttons and their own beliefs before they would just get annoyed and just tell me to go away.

That part is important to note because of this part. My parents split when I was @5 years old. They were already miles apart anyway ideologically but their second marriages even further solidified their beliefs. My father married a small town girl who had become an entrepeneur and had also worked in politics with the Republican party. My mother who worked in the political affairs department at Glaxo Wellcome and eventually worked at the North Carolina General Assemble (NCGA) married a prominent Democratic politician from Durham who later became a very influential and powerful lobbyist in NC. So my father became very conservative and evangelical in his belief system, while my mother became even more liberal.

I lived with my mom until the 7th grade and then moved in with my father for 8th-12th grade, but we all lived fairly close together so I spent plenty of time with both parents.

So point being, whenever I was around my father, I was a liberal, and when I was around my mother and stepfather I was conservative. This may sound weird for a middle school student/high school student, but I would literally sit in my room and write down arguments for both ideological sides of the same exact issue, so that if I was with my Dad I could make a somewhat intelligent liberal argument or if I was with my Mom make a somewhat intelligent conservative argument. ABOUT THE SAME FUGGING THING!!! All this for self amusement.

A little side note that is off topic. My stepfather who was a great trial lawyer, prominent politician, and then lobbyist (and generally one of the smartest people I have ever known) was actually the least pushy about his beliefs. And I tried to annoy him in the same manner as others in my family, but he would just DESTROY ME and my argument and then print off a mountain of data for me to read to back himself up. Needless to say he was not very fun to debate with for a high schooler who was just debating for a little fun, so I just quit trying. He wasn't pushy on his beliefs but if I challenged him he won 10/10 times. So to all the young people out there if you are going to challenge someone's ideology try not to do it with a guy whose entire career consists of argument and debate. It just ends ugly (even if you are actually right).

The other part of this is that I could see how being hardlined in ideological beliefs effected either side of the political spectrum to the point that people will say and believe stupid things in order to support their party. And because of that have always tried to stay away from being beholden to any political party. I was registered as a Republican for a long time because I had an affinity for Ronald Reagan, but eventually became unaffiliated and still am registered in that manner today. But even so I know it is hard to remain neutral.

Then I myself went to work at the NCGA for 5 years and my interest in politics ballooned. I really began to try and learn policy better so that i can make better decisions.

Okay I will try to be more brief about other beliefs. Socially I have had a variety of different people around me throughout my life. At one point I went 7 straight years going to 7 different schools (although some were in the same district just new level) from 4th grade to 10th grade. I spent time in private school with a bunch of rich kids and public school that bussed in kids for socioeconomic diversity which had all kinds of kids from different backgrounds and economic status. I also played basketball through college which intertwined me with the African American community throughout most of my life. My father had some money, but his personality was very blue collar and he liked to drink, laugh, tell crude jokes, and have a lot of fun. So the people whose company he enjoyed were the same. My mother and stepfather were wealthy and often rubbed elbows with the most wealthy and influential people in the state. As you can imagine house parties at each of my parents houses were incredibly different. Dad's parties were like frat parties and mom's was a whine and cheese, classical music, possibly wear a tie, type parties.

What does all that mean? I dunno. I do know that I have seen every spectrum of our society and have met some truly great people from every walk of life. My partying preference? Dad's parties all day.

Religious is also a little similar. Both parents are Christians. But Dad as he has gotten older has become a strict evangelical who goes to church every Sunday while my mother, although we pray before every meal, didn't make us go to church except for Christmas and Easter. My mom rarely talks about religion while my dad won't shut up about it.

I have become more like my mom. I pray. Call myself a Christian. But I rarely go to church and I never espouse my beliefs to other people . The fact is that while I consider myself a Christian (albeit probably not a very good one), but I hate most Christians.

There are two types of people at most churches that I go to. One is the Christian who is willing to suspend critical thinking and now only does what the church tells him to do without question because that is what is expected out of the perfect Christian. Those people scare me with their willingness to no longer think for themselves or challenge religious authority. They also are judgmental and actually mean to people who they consider sinners or don't share their belief system .

The other half are hypocrites like me. In college I would go to church, sing the hymns, take communion, and pray. All while suffering from a massive hangover and reeking of booze and perfume from the random girl I picked up at the bar Saturday night.

My dad is a perfect example. He will sit around and booze it up, tell crude jokes, drop f-bombs left and right, make some more crude jokes, and then 5 minutes later lecture me about not going to church.

So I choose to observe my God in the way that I feel is correct in my heart and avoid going to church.

That is it. I don't want to type too much and become a TLDR (too late). But that is the gist of how my beliefs came to be.

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Not that I think anyone actually read my post, but in case you think I grew out of my annoying people phase my wife literally just asked me "why do you say things to purposely piss me off?"

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You think the Huddle is diverse?


not as much as i'd like it to be. we are clearly under-represented by women (though ladypanther and cat come in and contribute from time to time, and i wish they'd be more involved.) however i'd say the realms of experience represented by various individuals is incredibly diverse. i don't know the background, race, creed, etc. of everyone on here though so i admit my perception is biased by a potential egregious lack of information in that regard.

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Though I have conservative views as stated before, Iconsider and register myself as unnafiliated. Religiously as well. Though Ibelieve in god when it comes to putting a label on it I prefer to remain unaffiliated. I found thru my walks in life that there is no certainty in any 1 particular ideology. The only constant is that what might be right for some may not be for others. It all depends on what side of the fence you're on. But maybe 1 day we'll all meet in the middle.

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