Invisibility Cloaks: “Faith”, “Mindfulness” and “Research”

Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak

Faith” is a word that Christians throw around to cover all sorts of different situations — they must have 7 different uses of that word.  It is a comfort word for Christians — it is a holy signal.  Likewise, many Buddhists use the word “mindfulness” similarly.  Both words have a sanctimonious sense that allows the believer to use the word to say whatever they want.  Sly little words.  These cloaks of invisibility allow people to hide from scrutiny.

“Research” has a bit of this quality among people who value science.  ‘Believers’  say “research shows us” ….. but offer no references.  They assume that once the holy word “research” is said, that all heads will bow and eyes will close (Christian allusion) or, if put in Buddhist terms,  all spines will straighten and eyes will lower to a downward gaze. 🙂

We should challenge sanctimonious language.  Nothing is sacred in that it is closed to discussion or to approach.  Do not let the cloak of sanctity stop dialogue and escape scrutiny.  Using loaded words to sanctify thought and close down conversation should not be tolerated and all of us should try to avoid such practices.  Sure it feels great as an in-crowd rallying word — it builds a sense of security and strength, but such security is deceptive.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

13 responses to “Invisibility Cloaks: “Faith”, “Mindfulness” and “Research”

  1. johnl

    So, when Matthew said ‘If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible to you’ that was just baloney? When Peter Pan said you have to believe in fairies and clap your hands for Tinkerbell to get well, that was not true? Or those dreams, where you can fly if you just focus your energy and concentration to the utmost–that will never really happen, right?

  2. Jen

    @ johnl–I have a funny anecdote to follow: When I was 8 I took the grain of mustard seed thing to heart and spent an hour an the local public swimming pool trying to walk on water just to prove it. What? You didn’t hear about the amazing water-walking girl that year in the news? Media conspiracy!

    Sabio–another fine post. As an elementary school teacher I get the “research-based” phrase quite often, usually by curriculum publishers out to selling their wares. We’re supposed to be mystified and buy even if the material we already have is adequate or better.

    It is inconvenient and often mighty uncomfortable to open up and look past our cloaks of comfort. I’ve had an interest in Buddhist meditation but try to be “mindful” : ) that I not precondition the exploration of my mind with cloaks of preconception.

  3. Tim Smith

    The nail has been hit on the head! Faith, mindfulness and research, as words, can be and quite often are used as a cloak of sanctimony, hiding our intent, abruptly closing down conversations as we seek to validate underdeveloped ideas. How true! Conversely, these words also have viable applications where they are perhaps the best suited terms for a given context. Being mindful, for instance, can carry the pragmatic intention of focusing, of paying attention to the task at hand; none of the nebulous notion of ‘being in the now’ is germane in this usage. ‘Being in the now’ may have meaning or it may not. Is time without change or content a concept? Perhaps. Yet does the phrase ‘be mindful’ have practical value when juggling knives. You bet it does. Ditto I’m sure for faith and research if we dig for application(s). This goes to your ‘resonating quote’ regarding definition of terms. Interesting post.

  4. Ed

    Sabio… I am happy to see that you included science in this post… as in “science tells us that…” or “research proves”…

    Of all of these types of invisibility cloaks, the science-religion irks me the most. I guess we expect this type of statement from religions but not science.

  5. @ johnl :
    Indeed, and if someone tells us that “research shows blogging boosts improves your social life”, we should remain skeptical.

    @ Jen :
    Love the stories about the publisher research bluff! Love it !

    @ Tim :
    Glad you enjoyed

    @ Ed :
    Indeed. The most difficult deceptive words to see through are the ones respected and treasured by your own culture. It is easy to see through the foolery of “the other”.

  6. Boz



  7. i am pleased that you call out atheists as well. we all have our golden cows and language to go along with them (mooings?). these words seem not to have just one definition but a revolving set of meanings that never really comes to a resolution, or at least a resolution that is contextual. research is a little more exacting in this matter than faith or mindfulness, yet can lead down the same path.

  8. imarriedaxtian

    Bravo. A sublime post. Like being awakened from my dozey daydream by a huge “thwack” by my Zen master. 😉

  9. imarriedaxtian


    I agree. These three words have been cheapened by frauds.

  10. @ zero1
    Not to be too picky, but I am calling out only some atheists. And remember, the only thing that makes most of us atheists is that some theists are trying to tell us what we should believe. (but, gloriously, you aren’t one of those.)

    @ I_married
    Wow, glad you liked it. Thanx.

  11. i do need to be more exact in my word choice. your insertions of some are exactly right!

  12. Like this post.
    I wonder, can what looks like a cloak sometimes be a verbal shortcut?
    But yes, often a general word feels weightier than a more specific (honest?) term. And can carry undeserved connotations of legitimacy. General is bigger. And bigger is more whole-y, if not holy.
    In terms of specificity, sometimes those better terms are lacking. Or require effort to dig up. Using qualifiers can help. Yet these too require more time and energy to voice.
    Other semi-sanctimonious terms that came to mind: “They say . . . ” Oh yes, they always say, don’t they? The wisdom of many, unseen others. Or, a very common one: “Scientists have found…” All of them found it?
    I also wonder whether there are degrees of cloak-i-ness. For we have a pretty good idea what “scientist” means. “Research” a bit less so. With words like “faith” things get even more fuzzy. And I suspect that fuzzy terms make better cloak of sanctity.

  13. Hey Andrew
    Fuzzy makes for warmer cloaks! Thanks for the comment. I agree.

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