Closed belief system
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A closed belief system is a meme (i.e. a set of beliefs) which includes the belief that criticism of the meme is wrong and must be discouraged, i.e. a belief in epistemic closure.
Closed belief systems are a powerful tool for causing large numbers of people to take actions that are generally harmful (or even against their own best interests) while believing they are doing so for a greater good. As such, they are very attractive to powermongers, who often use promotion of a specific closed belief system as a way of gaining personal power. The relationship between powermonger and meme is symbiotic: the meme gains promotion from the powermonger, and the powermonger gains power through control of the meme-infected population.
Fundamentalist branches of most religions are, almost by definition, closed belief systems.
Although the pattern is not strictly limited to religion, any belief-system which includes epistemic closure is likely to be seen as "like a religion" by outsiders.
Closed belief systems tend to have the following characteristics:
- They have key tenets that are sacrosanct.
- Disagreement with the belief system is likely to result in ostracism or even demonization (dissenters are evil, alien, unpatriotic, or "outsiders").
- Empirical evidence or arguments that show flaws in the system do not have to be addressed if they violate key tenets.
- In defense of the key tenets, it is permissible to use:
- emotional arguments (e.g. ad hominem) and logical fallacies
- extreme anger, vitriol, or even violence
- outright untruth (e.g. "Liars for Jesus")
- There is usually a system of epistemic closure, i.e. a support structure (formal and/or informal) where stories that validate the system are circulated, largely unchallenged.