“Opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one” the old saying goes. Where do they come from though? Careful synthesis of rational thinking and personal experience? Intuition? Faith?

I believe Merton’s observations about this are superb:

Instead of having faith, which is a virtue, and therefore nourishes the soul and gives it a healthy life, people merely have a lot of opinions, whcih excite the soul but don’t give it anything to feed it, just wear it out until it falls over from exhaustion.

An opinion isn’t one thing or the other: it is neither science nor faith, but has a little bit of either one. It is a rationalization bolstered up by some orthodoxy which you happen to respect, which, naturally, starves the mind instead of feeding it (and that is what people who have no faith imagine faith does, but they don’t know what they are talking about…)

H.G. Wells has tried to spend his whole life telling people “What he believes,” that is, trying to get them to accept this own confused opinions about the purpose of human life, if any. Since, from what I hear, he isn’t even a particularly good scientist, he hasn’t even got the basis he things he has for all his other statements; but even if he were a good scientist, his science isn’t a sufficient basis for the metaphysical and moral statements he tries to make. At the same time he complicates his position very curiously by denying that metaphysical or morals are really relevant at all.

-Thomas Merton, Secular Journal, May 30 1940

His description of H.G. Wells could be applied to many of our pundits today including Bill O’Rielly, Al Franken, and about half the people on Fresh Aire.