CONVICTION – strong belief


con·vic·tion noun  kən-ˈvik-shən

1:  the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law

2 a :  the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth

b :  the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth

3 a :  a strong  belief,  opinion,  or persuasion

b :  the state of being convinced (the feeling of being sure that what you believe or say is true)

late Middle English: from Latin convictio(n-), from the verb convincere (see convince)

pref·er·ence noun ˈpref(ə)rəns

1: a greater liking for one alternative over another or others.

2: LAW a prior right or precedence, especially in connection with the payment of debts.

late Middle English (in the sense ‘promotion’): from Old French, from medieval Latin praeferentia, from Latin praeferre ‘carry in front’ (see prefer).

Wisconsin v. Yoder  406 U.S. 205 (1972)

“The traditional way of life of the Amish is not merely a matter of personal PREFERENCE, but one of deep religious CONVICTION, shared by an organized group, and intimately related to daily living.”

So the Supreme Court Justices basically said there are two kinds of religious BELIEFS; PREFERENCES or CONVICTIONS.  The court defined the test as this. “Every single religious belief is one of two types. It doesn’t matter what your belief structure is, or who you are, every single religious belief you have is one of two types.” They said it is either a religious CONVICTION or a religious PREFERENCE.

In the United States of America only religious CONVICTIONS are protected by the Constitution; religious PREFERENCES are not.

The court said that if you can change a belief, that belief is a PREFERENCE.

The court said a CONVICTION, on the other hand, is a belief that you will not change.

I would like to move to general BELIEFS; PREFERENCES or CONVICTIONS

A PREFERENCE is something that you prefer; pure and simple. It only requires that you prefer something. I don’t see a lot of danger with this type of belief.

A CONVICTION is a strong belief, opinion, or persuasion; the state of being convinced. It requires far more of its adherent. I see a lot of potential for “good” or a great danger for “bad” with this type of belief.

Convictions of a “good” type are not a problem and I encourage all people to develop them. These bring you great value in your life and to your soul. They give purpose to your lives.

Convictions of a “bad” type are a danger and are the subject of the rest of this essay.

If we say that someone is convicted of something it usually has penal consequences. How does a person become convicted in a court of law? There must be evidence present to convict as you are innocent until proven guilty. The word convicted evolved from the word convinced, which meant to refute or to prove. The word convinced comes from the Latin convincere.  Vincere means to conquer. When you think of the definition of conviction; you must think in terms of refute, prove, conquer, or convince because they are inextricably linked.

When you speak of absolute truth you speak from an attitude of conviction. A preference is something that you can easily change; a conviction is not easily changed.

A conviction is a very personal thing. I think its corruption starts when you think you can impose your conviction on someone else. Somehow you develop an attitude that your conviction is superior and you must refute, prove, conquer, or convince others to your conviction. When you are unable to do this you get defensive, belligerent, or even feel victimized. Most of the violence in this world is, in the minds of the perpetrators, reasonable and justified. Most perpetrators actually consider themselves to be victimized.

Picture this: Internally you make yourself judge and jury. Your conviction is the evidence. You then convict others of wrong and false beliefs; which require punishment. © 2016 Russel Steffy

Luke 6:37  “And stop judging, and by no means shall you* be judged. Stop condemning, and by no means shall you* be condemned. Be forgiving, and you* will be forgiven.

The Psychology of Moral Conviction (‘moral mandates’)

The psychologist Linda Skitka and colleagues define a moral conviction as “a strong and absolute belief that something is right or wrong, moral or immoral”. Moral convictions are not just another kind of strongly held belief; they possess three features other attitudes do not share.

The first feature of moral conviction is UNIVERSALISM. You believe that this conviction as to what is right vs. wrong is not mere personal preference. You believe that EVERYONE must conform to the moral standards you believe in.

The second feature is that moral convictions are experienced as FACTS about the world. That is, people experience moral convictions, valuations of good and bad, much as they do scientific judgments. Good and bad are seen as objective features of the world. In short, good and bad is just CLEARLY APPARENT. That is, these “facts” carry the judgment that things “ought to be” or “ought not to be” a certain way. Thus, if someone violates a moral conviction of yours, you have a justification for trying to stop them.

The third feature of moral conviction is EMOTION. Moral convictions involve very strong influence and emotion in both defending and protecting the moral standard. This strong influence can both blind reason and motivate impulsive behavior.

Religion is where most people get their collections of moral convictions. The single biggest cause of human violence and cruelty is religion. Religions create a wide variety of moral convictions and, given the psychology of moral convictions, violence will erupt. Most of us are not going to kill the people who violate our moral convictions. But there are other kinds of violence; Subtle and not so subtle kinds of psychological “killings” that are done in our own hearts or in the public arena. Like the demonization of a US President by most of the opposition party.

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. From Nietzsche’s Human, all too Human, s.483, R.J. Hollingdale translation

Conviction can make you a convict in a prison of your own making. © 2016 Russel Steffy