I understand how a person could be indoctrinated as a child into believing a lot of crap about gods and demons and angels and talking snakes and Noah's ark and a worldwide flood and a virgin giving birth and the history of the earth and our Super Special place in it. Believe me, I understand it perfectly, because I was such a child. But why is it that by young adulthood (or even earlier) some of us effortlessly begin to take these stories less and less seriously, some are compelled to go beyond that and seek out satisfactory explanations for the glaring inconsistencies and baffling nonsense of religious doctrine, and yet others become ever more enamored with those absurd myths taught to them in childhood? And why do some people, in the face of mountains of compelling evidence from multiple scientific disciplines that directly contradicts these myths, dig in even deeper and spin ever more farcical rationalizations like 'Adam and Eve must have lived with dinosaurs and they were all happy vegetarians until Eve sinned and god had a big tantrum?'

Iris Vander Pluym, Let's not refer to conservatism as a mental illness because why, again? PerryStreetPalace, March 5, 2012

Why, indeed, do adults continue to believe things that were part of childhood indoctrinations that are, at least to some of us, confounding if not incomprehensible?  

I have no idea. I suspect a good answer would be quite complicated. The consensus seems to be to show respect for the beliefs of others, regardless of how glarin the inconsistencies or baffling the nonsense of doctrines and myths taught in childhood. I have, over the course of almost three-quarters of a century, come to the conclusion that this is not in the best interests of society or one's sense of free speech. Respect for others is one thing - and I embrace it fully; respect for beliefs sincerely understood but deemed to be hazardous in one way or another is quite another. I think it's one's patriotic duty to initiate a civil dialogue or at least to advise those attached to what appear to be illusions to consider a reality check. In short, I favor initiating discussions that might in time enable some to come out of closets of unreason into the light of the natural world. 

Promoting wellness while taking a detour around dysfunctional beliefs invites diminishing returns. 

I like the phrase diminishing returns. It's so useful. I often find myself deciding, after a period of time reading a book, visiting a website, even watching an overpriced movie, that it's time to move on - well before the end arrives. More energies invested in certain books, websites or movies-or other matters of diverse kinds, seem unlikely to facilitate much new knowledge, information or pleasure. Returns, in other words, will diminish.  

Wellness promoters - take note. A lot of people, that is, most of us, have been indoctrinated in negative ways as children - and many have not gotten over much of the malprogramming. The result is a population not just mired in superstitions but also stuck in a wide range of secular illusions, such as astrology, homeopathy, conspiracy theories, UFO visitations by pillaging Scientologists from planet Orgone in the Thetan Galaxy z12 and so on and on. Such adults generally do not, at first, welcome reasoned explanations at odds with their beliefs. They care little that their treasured world-views lack scientific support. At first, anything that's different from what one knows and is used to tends to be defended. Take the long view. 

The indoctrination that enables the spread of odd belief systems continues in the modern age. Legions of well educated-and undereducated adults, remain chained, mentally, to dysfunctional, absurdist beliefs and unhealthy attitudes-and I'm not referring only to the Republican presidential primaries. Lame expectations and assorted illusions are not limited to politics, or even to gods, demons, angels and talking snakes. Childhood propaganda, also known as cultural norms, transmit little recognized but deeply held beliefs about how and what to eat, whether to be active and how to respond to stress-all baseline issues that affect lifestyle practices and health status.

Americans would be well served if wellness enthusiasts broadened their agendas. I'd like to see wellness enthusiasts devote part of their mission to undermining systems that place undue faith in experts, in government and in childhood propaganda. Faith, after all, is believing without evidence, without knowledge or, as Mark Twain put it, in what you know ain't so. Arthur Schopenhauer observed, Faith and knowledge are related as the two scales of balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down. (Parerga and Paralipomena.) Schopenhauer compared the conditions for faith to the environment of glow worms, creatures that shine only when it's dark. He saw faith as reliant on a certain amount of ignorance ... the element in which alone they can exist. 

Let's promote an attitude of healthy skepticism as a default setting for everyone. Vast numbers of people believe utter nonsense. There's no way to dance around

this. People who think like Alice in Wonderland may believe otherwise: There's no use trying, one can't believe impossible things. Of course, we know that is not true, in the real world or in Wonderland. To quote the Queen, I dare-say you haven't had much practice. When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. 

My suggested partial remedy is to recommend REAL wellness as a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Let the wellness concept be a starting point for initiating interesting discussions about psychological as well as physical well-being.  

REAL wellness is a sound basis for a healthy lifestyle, yes, but it is much more. It's a mindset focused on four key dimensions: 

1.       A reliance on reason (thinking critically and respecting evidence-based knowledge) instead of faith and superstition.  

2.       Living life with joy and exuberance rather than settling for simply coping with or trying to avoid illness.  

3.       A lifelong commitment to athleticism, that is, becoming and remaining very physically fit while eating wisely.  

4.       Always promoting liberty for oneself and others (e.g., safeguarding the separation of state and church).


These elements are vital to uncommonly high quality of life and therefore should be raised and artfully discussed, especially with strangers to such an orientation. 

In your own modest fashion, you can make a REAL wellness difference for someone, or several persons. The bold approach I recommend for professional wellness promoters or anyone seeking to have a positive affect on someone's life, is to speak/write and otherwise be honest, frank, truthful and explicit. Don't shy from politely observing that only a lunatic would believe such and such! Ha ha. I'm kidding. You have to be polite, likable, charming and suave, as I hope to be someday in advancing REAL wellness ideas amongst my relatives, friends, associates and anyone else whose attention I capture for a possible teachable moment. 

Americans have long been credited with having a willingness to deal with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values. Yet, much of what Americans believe is based on propaganda that shaped our formative years. Some of these things are bright and beautiful, others not so much. As part of wellness, let's get ideas out of the closet for closer scrutiny. Everyone is free to believe what he/she wishes, but not all have had equal opportunity to ponder the case for reason, joy, personal freedoms and freethought. Let's scrutinize so-called revealed truths, some of which might be just a little suspicious. John F. Kennedy favored this approach. He often spoke of encouraging others to decide what is sound and what is bogus. He said, We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. Just so.  

Let's display our true colors, prove our mettle as change agents and guide as many as we can to assess if they might inadvertently dwell at times in closets that inhibit their richest possibilities for an examined life. 

Be well, look on the bright side and consider this, from Matt Frewer: Never knock on death's door, ring the bell and run away! Death really hates that!




Donald B. Ardell, Ph.D., is the Well Infidel. He wrote High Level Wellness in 1976 (Rodale Press) and a dozen more books since, including Die Healthy, 14 Days to Wellness and most recently, Aging Beyond Belief and REAL Wellness

High Level Wellness helped spark the wellness movement. Since 1984, Don has produced approximately 700 editions of the Ardell Wellness Report. The four major quality of life dimensions addressed in this weekly newsletter are reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty. Don's website at SeekWellness is the largest repository of wellness essays in the world. 

Don is a long-term member of the board of trustees of the National Wellness Institute. He is one of ten Americans given the Healthy America Fitness Leaders Award in 1991 by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. In 2010, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Prize by the German Wellness Association in Dusseldorf; in July 2011, he was honored with the Halbert L. Dunn Award by the National Wellness Institute.

Don has won numerous national and four world championships in triathlon and duathlon, his most recent world titles coming in Australia and Hungary in 209 and 2010, respectively.