In a dictionary sense, thinking is to “direct one’s mind toward someone or something; use one’s mind actively to form connected ideas, “he was thinking about Colin”.
In this piece I will use the term “bedrock belief”. I have found that phrase to be a useful description of those religious, political and social beliefs that are the basis for other beliefs and one’s world view. Bedrock beliefs are not subject to rational discussion. They are our basic truths upon which other “truths” are built.
Everyone thinks. We think about what we need to do to get through the day. And we’re generally good about not going deeper than is necessary to accomplish our present tasks; what to wear, what to eat, whether or not to return that phone call, and so on.
There’s another level of thinking that most people seldom, if ever, achieve, or even attempt. That is the “use of one’s mind to actively form connected ideas” that are subtle and nuanced. Or to form opinions that do not come from preconceived positions in which the “thinking” takes the form of back filling with already held ideas that justify the conclusion. As John F. Kennedy said, “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Our opinions tend to spring fully formed from our “bedrock” beliefs, such as religious, political and social teachings. The tenets are the basis of our other beliefs and are not subject to being “thought” about themselves.
In politics, I have always thought of the difference between our two major parties centered around the degree of power and involvement the government, mostly the federal government, should have in our lives. The differences between the parties have multiplied and hardened. The only thought that now goes into political issues is “what does my party think?” Almost all true thought about right/wrong, good/bad, and helpful/harmful is gone.
In society, fortunately it’s only a very small and self-elected elite that are still vitally concerned about who wore what and if all the forks are in in their proper places. Our view of society does, however, continue to give us “bedrock” beliefs on issues such as race, the place of women in society, sexual preference and so on. The thinking on these issues is nonexistent where the opinions have been passed on as truths to form bedrock beliefs. For anyone who will take the time and energy to closely examine his or her beliefs (assuming that any significant number of people have the desire to do that) the revelations can be significant.