THE ETHICS OF BELIEF

William Kingdon Clifford

PART VII

The harm which is done by credulity in a man is not confined to the fostering of a credulous character in others, and consequent support of false belief. Habitual want of care about what believe leads to habitual want of care in others bout the truth of what is told to me. Men speak the truth to one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other's mind; but how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it, when I believe things because I want to believe them and because they are comforting and pleasant? Will he not learn to cry "Peace" to me, when there is no peace? By such a course I shall surround myself with a thick atmosphere of falsehood and fraud, and in that I must live. It may matter little to me, in my cloud-castle of sweet illusions and darling lies; but it matters much to Man that I have made my neighbors ready to deceive. The credulous man is father to the liar and the cheat; he lives in the bosom of this his family, and it is no marvel if he should become even as they are. So closely are our duties knit together, that whoso shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. To sum up; It is wrong always, everywhere and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

"But," says one, "I am a busy man; I have no time for the long course of study which would be necessary to make me in any degree a competent judge of certain questions, or even able to understand the nature of the arguments." Then he should have no time to believe.

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End

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