That was a beautiful post-- thanks.
And to even consider that there might be an essential truth inherent (but not totally encompassing) to the thoughts and beliefs that someone
else is loyal to, would mean some sort of unforgivable treason in the arena of their own personal doctrine.
That's probably the best explanation of that specific dynamic I've seen.
All too many people adopt a viewpoint, whether religious or political or cosmological or what-have-you, then can't or won't even tolerate
alternative views. It seems that they define themselves too much by those viewpoints-- they invest too much of themselves, or at least their
self-image, into those beliefs, and that self-image is therefore at risk if they were to even entertain the notion that even some small facet of that
belief was even potentially in error.
I like to use a visual analogy for that process. Imagine each individual as an orb. This orb defines both their self-image and their image as
conveyed to others. It's composed of all of the individual beliefs and values and ideas that they have, all interlocking (to some degree or another)
to form a whole that defines the extent, the borders and the shape of each individual's persona.
In most instances, the various pieces that comprise this whole don't entirely fit. Some of them are truly defective-- they're false beliefs or
irrational desires or whatever-- while others are reasonably stable pieces, but don't fit particularly well with the other pieces out of which the
individual has built her/his life. Some few people have a facility for finding those pieces and replacing them with ones that fit better, most people
can do this at least in extreme cases, and some people simply can't or won't even examine the pieces that make up their orbs, much less attempt to
repair or replace them. So every orb is, to some degree or another, unstable or incomplete, but in some cases, this instability is so pronounced that
the person inside the orb has to take action to protect that orb from the ravages of the world. They use any number of tactics to do this, one of
which is to attack any belief or viewpoint that might serve to cast a negative light on one which they already hold. As you say, their hearts become
stony-- they create a series of walls and wires and traps and buttresses and supports and barriers to protect these ill-fitting pieces from
examination and potential destruction.
And these walls and barriers, designed to keep the outside world out, come to be a prison, just as inviolable from inside as from without.
And the ironic thing is that the truth shall indeed set you free. The whole thing is based on an irrational fear-- for whatever reason, these people
feel that any threat to any piece of the orb they've built around themselves is a threat to them, when the reality is that it's the ill-fitting
pieces themselves that are the threat. It's entirely painless and ultimately quite simple to remove the ill-fitting pieces and replace them with
others that fit better, and doing so makes the entire structure that much stronger and the person inside it that much more stable and safe. I truly
don't understand people who refuse to do such a simple and ultimately beneficial thing.
I liked your reference to the Bible too. While I'm comfortably agnostic, I too hold the Bible as the single best source I've ever seen for simple
advice on how to live one's life. While it's a shame that it has been subverted by power-hungry people for their own purposes, that's no
legitimate condemnation of the message. All creeds, all beliefs, all organizations, easily fall prey to the machinations of power-hungry people. If
more people honestly examined their beliefs and their viewpoints, rather than simply ascribing to them, inserting the appropriate pieces into their
orbs, and defending them at all costs, that would not only serve to dampen the misplaced blame that the anti-religious place on religion for the
actions of those who manipulate it for their own gain, but would serve to make the followers of those religions-- those who stand idly by while those
same power-hungry people engage in their manipulations-- more able to stand against them without fearing that going against their leaders equates to
going against their faith.
And, as a final note-- all of the above is just as true of political and social issues as it is of religious ones. The same deliberate closed
mindedness is behind partisan divisions, racial divisions, class divisions... In all of these, as you so succinctly expressed it, "to even consider
that there might be an essential truth inherent (but not totally encompassing) to the thoughts and beliefs that someone else is loyal to, would mean
some sort of unforgivable treason in the arena of their own personal doctrine."