The knowledge of good and evil as represented by the tree in the Garden of Eden has certainly left us with a powerful, if detrimental legacy. Most of us succumb routinely to the notion that our opinion of what should be done, how the world should unfold, how others should think and act is a perfect reflection of the truth. We see this everyday in raucous conversations about religion, government, economics, justice, human rights, ad nauseum. People on all sides of the spectrum, in religion and politics in particular, routinely label those who disagree as fools, villains, criminals, and traitors. In fact, within the media we have any number of promoters who have made an industry out of fanning the flames of partisanship on every imaginable point of debate. The public grows every more excitable, and the pundits simply grow rich.
Of course, the "know it all" attitude which we all occasionally display is often seen and described as adherence to principle, a noble sounding terminology. However, unquestioning reverence for consistency and unswerving self assurance often simply masks an underlying arrogance and smugness which supports our high opinion of our own opinions. Any measure of humility, graciousness, or empathy should cause us to pause in our certainties and consider our own blind spots and pre-conceptions.
As in so much that mars our society, I perceive a theological basis for our penchant to intellectual arrogance, the term I choose to use to describe how we honor our own opinions and automatically reject and even belittle opposing ones. In traditional theology, certainty of correct knowledge and action is essential to spiritual well being and security. Anyone who embraces this religious concept will naturally extend that necessary certainty into other areas of their life. If my spiritual identity and authenticity demands unwavering assurance of rightness, then my worthiness in other areas requires the same. If there is no room for compromise in spiritual understanding, then compromise and any willingness to consider opposing views on other subjects is likewise prevented.
From the anti-intellectualism of the religious right to the self elevating superiority of the liberal left, we see ample evidence of contempt for others and their feelings and beliefs. None of this is a real expression of nobility, regardless of the underlying opinions. It's great to have guiding principles and the willingness to express and share those is appropriate. However, to consider those opinions as sacrosanct and never subject to reconsideration is a rejection of the sum of human history, which is a catalogue of the evolution of human thought and opinion. Additionally, to honor one's own principles does not demand that I condemn and reject all those who hold opposing views. Any insistence that my views receive cart blanche acceptance by others is not a matter of principle at all; it is simply an effort to impose my will on others by claiming an unquestionable intellectual superiority.