In Praise Of Narrow Minds


Jonah Goldberg, in his The Tyranny of Clichés relates how Andrew Sullivan quoted approvingly a story from an old book whose moral was that one should not believe morals of stories from old books, particularly those books which advocate restrained behavior. Ancient and merely old morals are held only by those who have narrow minds, you see.

“MissionGathering Christian Church IS SORRY,” screamed a billboard noted by Timothy Dalrymple, “for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of THOSE WHO DENIED RIGHTS AND EQUALITY TO SO MANY IN THE NAME OF GOD.” The folks responsible for the billboard were displeased that North Carolina had voted against “gay marriage.”

Sullivan, the angry parishioners at MissionGathering, and most of the rest of us moderns just won’t tolerate the narrow-minded. The term is everywhere one of opprobrium, when it should be one of approbation.

What irritates many, and what seemingly gives justice to the insult, are those narrow-minded folks who have chosen to believe what is absurd. The Van Jones 9/11 “truthers” who insist that a mustachioed Dick Cheney personally planted thermite charges in the World Trade Center; the Oliver Stone groupies who are convinced that JFK was murdered by Marilyn Monroe using a gun concealed in her brassiere; or abductees who believe they have been taken forcibly on a three-hour tour of the upper atmosphere by grey aliens and who describe in nauseating (yet loving) detail the precise placement of probes into their persons.

If you think these people do not know all the facts, if you believe that all you have to do is to present to these stalwarts all the relevant evidence and that they will then recant, then it is you who are mistaken. These passionate people know everything about their subjects, more than you could hope or ever want to learn. They have at the ready angles, trajectories, time-lines, weights and measurements, the various chemical considerations of steel, family trees, all woven into theories more intricate than any Byzantine tile.

And this is usually the case when a man believes something which is false. His mistake is not in collecting clues, but in how he ties these threads together. This is why naive-minded programs to “educate” the mistaken fail, and will always fail. Education is in these instances like attempting to untie the Gordian knot, like attacking the enemy where he is strongest and most fortified, when what is needed is to cut the thread which holds the knot to the man’s desires. What bothers us about these people is not their narrow minds, but their embrace of error.

Now there is nobody as narrow-minded and as dogmatic as a mathematician. This is a man who just will not open his mind to hearing about new methods to square the circle or to show that two plus two is sometimes not four. He will rebuff, sometimes angrily, arguments which claim triangles have four sides. What a judgmental bigot! It is as if this man is in thrall to a religion, who actually has hold of Truth and believes it come what may. A truly closed mind.

We should all have minds as narrow. To possess and hold Truth—and not to be talked out of it because of faulty, frivolous insults, or because many have decided to be against you.

Just think: If you have ever been called narrow-minded then you know that your interlocutor does not want to broaden your scope, to open your mind, to make it fuller, more “accepting.” What your adversary wants is for you to change your mind, to believe differently but just as narrowly as he does, to reject what you previously believed.

The parishioners at MissionGathering have made up their minds that it is certainly the case that men should be allowed to marry men, and that all should embrace this new custom. This is a very narrow view, just as narrow as dogmatically insisting that circles have no corners. This being so, these parishioners cannot really be angry that their adversaries have narrow minds. They are incensed only because somebody believes differently than them.

And the same is true for Andrew Sullivan who would have you reject those books with which he disapproves, but who would have you embrace those books with which he approves. Sullivan would have you narrow your mind, to become as judgmental as he.

Of course, it might be true that it is Sullivan who holds the truth and that the ancients and our elders who were mistaken. In that case, we should narrow our minds, and change them in the direction Sullivan et alia point. But we have one large clue that Sullivan and others like him are wrong. And that is they can do no better than to employ logically absurd abuse when confronted with opposition.


  1. Carmen D'oxide

    “Enter by the narrow gate; broad is the way that leads to destruction.” Oops. Sorry. That pearl is from an old book of which some disapprove…

  2. Reminds me of GK Chesterton’s assertions about mad-men. They are the most reasonable of all; they have a reason for every insanity and they could defend them to the ends of the earth. They are also the most wrong of all.

  3. conard

    Dr Briggs,

    Hanging your argument on Truth is a dodge; try Pursuit of Happiness.

  4. Wits' End

    I think this post conflates several different issues.

    Andrew Sullivan and others think that gay marriage is a matter of ‘rights’ or perhaps ‘rights’ denied.

    While I agree that education will not help someone like the ‘Unabomber’ the problem is not one of education but what I take to be the ‘Unabomber’s’ mental illness. I suspect, but do not know, that other people sharing similar conspiracy theories may also suffer from some form of mental illness.

    I don’t see how statements about ‘2 added to 2 always being 4’ are related to either the issue of ‘gay marriage’ or the bizarre elements of the thought patterns of a convinced conspiracy theorist. In a Euclidian system the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In a geometry dealing with curved space the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. It all depends on the axiomatic assumptions.

    The issue of marriage involves different matters and is more complicated. There are several different issues. In Roman law circa 10 A.D. a couple registered their marriage with a magistrate for reasons having to do with issues of property. If the marriage dissolved the man or woman could retrieve or retain the property they brought to the marriage. The religious ceremony might have been in a temple of Isis or other god. The magistrate (i.e, the civil authority) was not concerned with the religious ceremony.

    In some modern Christian theology what a church does is ‘bless the union’ of two people marrying each other. “Do you take …?” “I do …” “Bless O Lord …”

    The ancient issue of property rights is handled by ‘registering the marriage’ which can be handled (in the jurisdiction where I live) by a civil authority or by the delegation of that authority to a priest, rabbi, minister and so on).

    If you accept the separation of church and state, as I do, I leave it to the religious organizations to decide which unions they wish to bless and which they decide not to bless. If a church has chosen not to bless same sex unions that is the decision of that church and I don’t see how ‘rights’ are the issue. I also leave it to the members of that church to decide to discuss or not to discuss the issue.

    The property issues that are involved can be described in contractual terms as they were in Rome circa 10 A.D. In 2012 I don’t see what the issue of sex has to do with a contract between consenting adults. I’m not a lawyer but I think the existing provisions of contract law are sufficient.

    As a citizen I do have a concern if there are children involved but that is another topic.

    I have generalized hugely for which I apologize but life is short and there are other tasks.

  5. Tim Lambert

    Joshua you beat me to it.

    This reminds me of Chesterton’s “The Maniac” chapter in Orthodoxy.

  6. Ray

    I am curious about how a gay marriage is consumated. In the common law consumation ment intercourse. If this did not occure the marriage was not considered valid. Can any lawer out there explain?

  7. brent

    Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been a “Breeder?”

    Brendan O’Neill, the editor of spiked, writes a furious and fascinating book review asserting that some neo-Malthsuian progressives are valorizing homosexuality as eco-friendly. Why? Because gays and lesbians are less likely to have children and children despoil Mother Earth. O’Neill notes that he had encountered this sentiment before in Anthony Burgess’ dystopian novel, The Wanting Seed, in which the state harshly discriminates against heterosexual breeders and promotes homosexuality in a future overpopulated Britain. Now O’Neill argues that some anti-ferility elite opinion is beginning to advocate turning dystopian fiction into dystopian fact. As evidence, he cites Guardian columnist George Monbiot who wrote in response to a papal bull calling homosexuality unnatural and immoral:

    Our Brave New World of Malthusian madmen

    From Burgess’s Wanting Seed to Huxley’s Brave New World, the wacky Malthusian ideas of dystopian literature are now everyday beliefs.

    Reading an op-ed in an American newspaper last month, which argued that gay marriage should be legalised because it will help reduce overpopulation (homosexuals don’t breed, you see), I knew I had heard a similar sentiment somewhere before.

    ‘Given the social hardships of our era, the benefits of homosexual marriage could be immeasurable’, the op-ed said. ‘Even America, though its population pales in comparison to that of other nations, is considered overpopulated because the amount of energy each of its citizens expends in a lifetime is enormous. Obviously homosexuals cannot, within the confines of a monogamous relationship, conceive offspring.’ So, legalising gay marriage would ‘indirectly limit population growth’ (1).

  8. Luis Dias

    Mr Briggs, calm yourself down. Your banging on the table insisting that 2 and 2 is 4 and nothing else won’t do anything to convince people that gay marriage is an oxymoronic concept. And let’s not forget those who will insist that 2 and 2 ain’t 4, but actually 11. I mean, unless you are about to prove that base 10, not base 3, is the correct absolute right way to count (I’d love to see that proof btw).

    OTOH, there’s nothing like seeing two types of narrow minded people banging their heads against each other, pretending each to know the Moral Truth that the other is just denying or plainly stupid to realise. It’s somewhat a silly spectacle, but I enjoy it nevertheless. Keep at it ;).

  9. Luis Dias

    Reading an op-ed in an American newspaper last month, which argued that gay marriage should be legalised because it will help reduce overpopulation (homosexuals don’t breed, you see), I knew I had heard a similar sentiment somewhere before.

    If I’m ever to agree to the proposition that gays should be able to marry, this is definitely not why I would ever vote for it.

  10. mt

    Good thing (or maybe unfortunately) you put in the paragraph about the mathematician, or this would have been a very different post.

  11. brent

    Hi Luis,

    One may not agree with this rationale. I don’t either. However it’s best to recognise the underlying core agenda which IMO is quite real. Nor does the populution (sic) advocacy limit itself to promoting homosexuality to limit population.That’s so old hat/stale!. It’s gone much further already. Any practice will be endorsed and redefined as a “lifestyle” provided it’s non procreational.

    Dateline 2002
    The United Nations are promoting a new handbook for 10 year old
    how to have sex with animals in order to prevent teen pregnancy

    UNICEF’s Other Agendas
    Wed Oct 30, 2002 12:15 EST

    Last May at the UN Child Summit in New York, Washington Times writer George Archibald confronted Bellamy with a UNICEF sex education manual distributed in Latin America. That manual endorses abortion, homosexuality and sex with inanimate objects and animals, seriously offending the region’s majority-Catholic values.
    The manual counsels: “Here we should insist that there is no ideal or perfect relationship between two or several people; (just) the one that gives us the most satisfaction.”
    Bellamy admitted UNICEF had produced the sex manual, but said it had subsequently been withdrawn from circulation. She was then flatly contradicted by the former chief health officers of both Mexico and Nicaragua, Archibald said, charging that UNICEF still distributes the manual through the region”UNICEF was simply dishonest in denying they were still involved,” said Archibald from his office at the Washington Times. “They were simply dissembling about what they were doing, encouraging children to become sexually active at a very young age despite all the statistical evidence of the health risks that involves.

    It’s Official: ‘Diversity’ Includes Sex With Children and Sex With Animals
    June 2001
    People used to laugh when told that “diversity” was going to expand to include 1) sex between men and boys and 2) sex between humans and animals.
    But they can’t laugh anymore. No one is sure how far “diversity” will continue to go before the citizens understand.

    WGBH is advocating man/boy sex in its television show about a “love affair” between a man (29-years-old) and a boy (15-years-old), complete with graphic sex scenes.
    A professor of ethics at Princeton University is advocating sex with animals. The president of PETA writes approvingly of his thesis.

    Much of this “diversity” was predicted in 1979 by two scholars, Dr. C. Everett Koop and Dr. Francis Schaeffer, who said that adult/child sex would be normalized in the 1990s. This was inevitable, they said, because we no longer had a “Judeo-Christian base.” Instead, we had moved to humanism with no fixed standards of values and morality.

    Shag the Dog

    Heavy Petting
    Peter Singer
    Nerve, 2001—-.htm

    UNICEF sure didn’t waste much time putting the new Bio-Ethics Priesthood proclamations into practice!

    Population Control and Reproductive Freedom
    From autumn 1998 – Population Control and Reproductive Freedom : (pp15-21)
    The World Bank is now allied to the UN in this global social engineering and is prepared to withhold loans in order to force nations to accept what they would otherwise want to resist. James Wolfensohn, World Bank President, said during a press conference at the 1996 Rome Food Summit, ‘From now on, the business of the World Bank will primarily be social reform’. When asked by reporters what this meant, he admitted that population control activities are a sine qua non for any social policy to be considered sensible.[19]

  12. Luis Dias

    brent, sorry I cannot confirm your surreal news story that may well be a fake anyway. And even if it isn’t, check the date. 2002? Come on. Right wing nut sites are pretty much as insane as left wing nut sites. Just dump them into the garbage in garbage out category, and you’ll be much wiser.

  13. brent

    Hi Luis,

    I’ve known about this since the time it happened and saved some links. (and I’ve got more, cross referencing etc).
    I’ve also done quite a bit of digging regarding Bio-Ethics although this was some years ago now. The reason I did this was I finally got fed up with all the Orwellian BS, so I wanted to examine in some detail for myself, to confirm what was really going on.
    Suffice to say it’s much worse than reasonable people would want to imagine and I had a difficult time . I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing.

    Hint; if you want to cut to the quick, identify the elite opinion formers and carefully examine their doings and sayings. The followers can be ignored as far as setting agendas. Their role is just as useful idiots, and PR purposes to gain a following.

    I don’t say this to infer to you that you should take my word for this or anything else. In fact I’d say the opposite. You are fully responsible for your own thoughts etc as I am for mine.
    If you want to take the time to research you will. If not you won’t . Up to you.

    Btw I was trying to find an excellent article titled :

    The Curse of Relativism
    “A Legal Scholar deplores the Charters’s Grip on the Supreme Court of Canada”

    I found it finally. I’ve got it in hardcopy, but unfortunately this issue is not available on the web.

    It’s a book review by a legal scholar concerning the outcome In Canada of judicial activism following the implementation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

    If you can get it in Hardcopy It’s in the Literary Review of Canada
    Vol 12 No 5, June 2004.
    It’s superb.

    It’s a review of this book


    Small Snippet.

    The judges of the Supreme Court of Canada are “a collection of arrogant and unprincipled poseurs, largely out of control” who “amend the Constitution at will, rewriting it or inventing new principles, as if the Constitution were their private possession or plaything” Their decisions have been “capricious arbitrary, unpredictable, and largely ad hoc.

  14. Luis Dias

    brent, sure I like your epistemological attitude, which seems to be very similar to mine. Nighty night.

  15. Bob Ludwick

    This quote from Theodore Dalrymple seems to explain a good deal of the patent insanity that is being exhibited in western society in general and the US specifically:

    “Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”

    Theodoer Dalrymple

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *