Fearing the Unknown

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

― Marie Curie

A reader emailed me a response to yesterday’s post (“Was This Dense, Dumb Or Stupid? Or Not.”), where I questioned the intelligence (I thought it stupid) of a mother forbidding her daughter to participate in her school’s Social Studies comparative religion study of Islam because it “violated” her “personal religious [Christian] beliefs”, resulting in her daughter failing the class for not doing the assigned work.

The reader said that it wasn’t stupidity on the mother’s part, it was fear, fear that “an impressionable teenager…isn’t old enough to fully understand there is only one true way to believe…that [if the daughter] is exposed to other religious ideas [the daughter] may want to explore those ideas and eventually move away from the ‘one’/’correct’/’true’ way to believe” as she’d been taught by the mother.

The reader is probably right. I still believe it was a stupid mistake for the mother to allow her daughter to fail a class (for any reason), but the email got me to thinking about – and doing a little research about –  just what is it that might make the mother so fearful. And I’ve found something to explain and it applies to everyone.

Scientist who study fear’s causes and effects have found that when faced with the need for their continuation of scholarly education, most educators avoid doing it and they would rather just teach things they’d been taught than to research and learn more.

It is a “comfort zone” thing, and the fear that if they delve deeper into a subject they might find something that might affect what they were once taught, it might force them to rethink what they were sure of and accepted as all there is to know, or that what they’d been taught is (at least) partially wrong and now require them to think and teach differently.

So, if it is fear, and not stupidity, that is behind the mother’s actions, just what is she so fearful of? That her daughter’s exposure to another religion might cause her daughter to “fall away” from what she’d taught her? 


Or is it that the mother is fearful that she, herself, might discover that there are other truths and value systems out there that would force her to assess the “truths” that she, herself, had been taught and maybe find that what she believes may not be the one-and-all everything?

 It is the unknown we fear. Sometimes we fear to learn.

And, in fear of learning about something, we can wind up being stupid in our ignorance.

– Bill


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