January 7, 2012 / The Church & Postmodern Culture
This Christmas season I had the privilege of attending a memorial service, a vigil in …
September 7, 2010
I was listening this morning to Paul Bloom’s book, How Pleasure Works, while I walked a few miles (still no running yet for me after I broke my ankle six weeks ago playing basketball – “You’re not 22 anymore!” my wife and mother said in unison).
Toward the end of the book, Bloom talks about a handy term some psychologists use called “alief,” a variation on the notion of “be-lief.”
Here’s the wikipedia entry:
Alief is a concept used by philosophers and psychologists to refer to an automatic or habitual belief-like attitude, particularly one that is in tension with a person’s explicit beliefs.
So, for example, a person standing on a transparent balcony may believe that she is safe, but alieve that she is in danger. A person watching a sad movie may believe that the characters are completely fictional, but his aliefs may lead him to cry nonetheless. A person who is hesitant to eat fudge that has been formed into the shape of feces, or who exhibits reluctance in drinking from a sterilized bedpan may believe that the substances are safe to eat and drink, but may alieve that they are not. And a person who believes in racial equality may nonetheless have aliefs that cause her to treat people of different racial groups in subtly different ways.
So, for instance, someone may be moved and transformed by an account of Jesus’ resurrection because they alieve the Gospels (and, perhaps, can’t do otherwise), even if they don’t actually believe them.
Is this terminology useful? Does it just muddy the waters?
I wonder how many of us and to what extent alieve rather than believe key claims made by the Gospels.
For my part, though, I’m suspicious that this distinction, even if – especially if? – accurate, may be a red herring in this context, a kind of lure that we might use mostly to distract ourselves and others from what really matters.
For my part, whether you believe or alieve (or neither?), it’s your fidelity to the joyful proclamation that is decisive.