The Levels of Conviction

We all have beliefs that dictate what we say, think and do. These convictions are a part of our identity. We define ourselves and others, and the world defines us, based on professions of belief.

We hold beliefs regarding a diverse array of subjects, for it is our nature to form an opinion when we encounter anything that seems abhorrent, praiseworthy or peculiar – we just can’t help it. Even if we were to take the position that we have no belief about a given topic, that position reflects the belief that a conclusion on the matter is either unattainable or unimportant.

Our beliefs reach across history, language and culture, to every event, ritual and habit. Common subjects of belief include religion, war, sexuality, drugs, politics, health, eating animals, economics and toilet paper orientation. Though our convictions can apply to anything, unirregardless of relevance or proximity, the level of our conviction can vary greatly. These are the four levels of conviction:

Disposition Frequency of Practice Summary of Belief
Level 1: Casual Participant Relaxed Sporadic All beliefs on the subject are equally valid. It’s okay for others to believe whatever they want, if it makes them happy.
Level 2: Earnest Zealot Aggressive Constant Other beliefs on the subject are distorted or fabricated. Unbelievers must be converted.
Level 3: Docile Apostle Tranquil Regular Other beliefs aren’t entirely accurate. Unbelievers shouldn’t be forced to convert.
Level 4: Disenchanted Cynic Apathetic Sparse or Nonexistent All beliefs are equally invalid. No one should believe too strongly about anything and just be happy.

Many of us are familiar with the image of the derelict doomsday prophet shouting from the street corner, or the hypocritical churchgoer who, upon exiting the doors of the cathedral, immediately reverts to their deceitful and indulgent self. Though it’s possible that both of these stereotypes could profess similar beliefs, there is an obvious disparity in conviction. In fact, it’s a disparity of exactly two levels.

The four levels are not ranked according to effectiveness, popularity or validity, but according to chronology. Of course, it is possible to descend down a rank or skip levels entirely, and each individual is inclined to progress at a different rate, but the order does reflect a general trend of familiarity, zeal, devotion and, finally, indifference. Not everyone will reach the fourth level; some will never make it past the first. Again, a higher rank does not imply superiority, but merely a point further down the path.

Each position has its own advantages and complications, but determining the correct level of conviction is something that you have already begun to work out.

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