Psychological Self-Help

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7
sacred ground reserved exclusively for "persons of the cloth" and God.
The place inside where we store our values and our conscience is a
scary place to which we invite few people, resenting those who intrude
and question our values or preach to us. Perhaps, values are a touchy
topic because our own guilty conscience, when aroused, can hurt us. It
is true that many people loosely "expect" their religion to keep them
moral, but, on the other hand, insist that religion shouldn't get too
deeply involved in their "private" behavior or challenge their
rationalizations for selfish, immoral behavior. Most importantly, I think
we avoid discussing our values because we are unsure of them and
afraid our self-serving denials and illusions will be revealed by an open
airing of our beliefs. 
From my teaching, I have an illustration of how the human mind
protects its beliefs: I have indicated many times in many ways to my
students that I have doubts about God. Although thousands have
come to ask me about other concerns, not one student has ever
approached me to find out more about my reasons for doubting God or
my explanation of peoples' beliefs in God. Quite a few have come to
"save" me, but they only wanted to talk, not listen. When was the last
time you heard of a church inviting an atheist or agnostic to join them
in discussing the existence of God? We maintain many of our beliefs by
avoiding questions and doubts, by closing our minds. Perhaps closed-
mindedness is a good coping mechanism in terms of religious beliefs,
but I doubt if a locked mind is the best processor of ideas to guide our
lives. It is hard to even help yourself, if you have a mind that is afraid
to think. 
A leading researcher of values, Milton Rokeach (1973), believes
that it is often necessary to become dissatisfied with yourself before
you will change your behavior, attitudes, or values. That makes sense,
but it means one has to (a) create a problem (self-dissatisfaction) in
order to (b) solve a problem of morals (e.g. becoming more
considerate). Naturally, we will be tempted to take the easy way out
and avoid dealing with both "problems," but this chapter will try to
stimulate and confront our thinking in such a way that each of us can
arrive at a consistent, meaningful, just, and motivating set of values to
live by, day by day. If we are successful, however, each of us will
surely feel some uneasiness during the process of clarifying our
values. That is to be expected. 
As you know, there is a bewildering assortment of values thrust
upon each of us, e.g. by family, religion, teachers, friends, ads, media,
movies, music, etc. And, many people and groups take their beliefs
and values very seriously. They are certain they are right. If you reject
their beliefs, you may encounter serious, real threats, e.g. "you'll burn
in hell" or "get out of my house" or "you'll never be happy" or "how
can you look yourself in the mirror?" or "that will end our relationship."
This is playing hard ball. Sometimes, especially when the other
person's values and purposes have not been clearly revealed to you
early in the relationship, their moral judgments, rejection, and threats
can be very powerful. I will not deceive you about my beliefs nor will
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