top of page
  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Changing Beliefs



My childhood beliefs


When I was a child, my dad was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) and imparted his religious beliefs on my sisters and me. While many other children at the elementary school I attended apparently believed in Santa Claus, I was taught that he was an imaginary character, much like the Tooth Fairy.


Not one to refrain from citing biblical instruction which supported his faith-based position, my dad taught that lying about Santa’s existence was an affront to Jehovah. For instance, Psalm 101:7 states, “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.”


Aside from tales of Santa and practice of other pagan-influenced traditions, my dad taught me of Colossians 2:8 which states, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” As such, those adhering to JW doctrine set aside traditions of men.


Pagan influence on Christianity was said to have been an unclean disruption on Jehovah’s doctrine. This was backed up with 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”


Likewise, my dad educated me about 1 John 2:15 which states, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Love for Christmas and other holidays was not of Jehovah.


Regarding this, Matthew 6:24 stated, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Thusly, Christmas was seen as an inappropriate display of wealth and wasn’t in accordance with biblical teaching.


Moreover, JW celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice of death. As such, I was taught not to celebrate the birth of Jesus in customary practice of the Magi who were thought to be sorcerers and who weren’t observers of Jehovah’s doctrine.


My childhood beliefs were influenced by strict biblical teaching. As such, Santa, a Christmas tree, gift-giving, and other such practices were forbidden by my dad; although, my mom disobeyed my dad’s JW faith and allowed my sisters and me to celebrate holidays.


My adulthood beliefs


The Internet became available to the public when I was in high school and with it people were able to disseminate information about the actual origins of Christmas tradition. By early adulthood, I was able to show people with secular beliefs truth which didn’t stem from the Bible.


What I discovered is that people—in particular Christians—would often state something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t celebrate because of that reason,” as rationalization for their actions was supported by irrational beliefs. Of this experience, I wrote in an old Instagram post:


This year, I contemplated about not engaging in written information concerning Christmas. Years ago, I learned the realistic truth about this holiday (holy + day) and denounced the celebration of it completely. Furthermore, I attempted to educate others about Christmas’ actual history—providing evidence to support my claims—and quickly discovered that people often simply do not care to know the realistic truth about this holiday and/or refuse to stop participating in its festivities even when that are unable to refute the convincing evidence presented to them.


At the time when I posted that realization, I was self-disturbed by my beliefs regarding other individuals. I maintained that people should, must, or ought to change their minds when newly-introduced evidence is received and which challenged previous beliefs.


Because people weren’t open to changing their beliefs in accordance to Bayes’ theorem, the unhelpful demandingness beliefs I used led to frustration and irritability.  After all, I valued the process of changing beliefs, in accordance with what one source states, “Bayes’ theorem provides a way to revise existing predictions or theories (update probabilities) given new or additional evidence.”


Ultimately, I upset myself by reasoning that since I valued the process of belief change, others should also be open to changing their minds. However, it was irrational to conclude such a thing, let alone to have forced my views upon others.


Thankfully, I’ve since stopped using the influence of rigid and unreasonable beliefs about Christmas to impact my emotional and behavioral response to such assumptions. As far as I’m concerned, people are welcome to change or maintain their beliefs as they see fit.


Bayes’ theorem


Recently, I was made aware of an X (Twitter) post that relates to Bayes’ theorem and the process of changing minds. For the benefit of visual learners, I’ll include the chart contained in the tweet:



The post claims that “beliefs are updated by multiplying two curves: 1. The prior (your current belief). 2. The likelihood (new evidence).” Keep in mind that Bayes’ theorem is a mathematical formula that provides a method of revising existing beliefs when new evidence is presented.


Per the post:


Imagine your prior belief is strongly held and concentrated in one area, resembling a sharp peak on the belief curve. When new, contrasting evidence comes in, it might be so different from your existing belief that the brain treats it as ***noise*** and largely ignores it. The reason? When multiplying the two, “zero times something is still zero.” (See examples). This means the contrasting evidence barely influences the original belief. If you repeatedly encounter such contrasting evidence, your belief remains largely unchanged due to its dominance.


Suppose that child X strongly believes that Santa is real. When contrasting evidence is received from child Y, the information may be so difficult for child X to consider that the individual’s mind treats it as “noise” and simply ignores it.


The post posits that the reason for this is because “zero times something is still zero,” meaning that child Y’s newly-presented information is multiplied with child X’s rigidity to accepting the knowledge (represented by the number zero), thus child X’s belief remains unchanged.


The post continues:


In contrast, if new evidence is closer to your prior belief and is introduced incrementally, each update nudges the belief curve slightly. Over time, these small shifts can cumulatively move your belief significantly.


Given this clarification, if child Y were to slowly introduce information about Santa’s nonexistence, rather than forthright declare that Santa isn’t real, child X would probably be more open to considering the proposition. How might this occur?


Suppose that instead of child Y saying to child X, “Santa isn’t real,” the kid instead asks child X, “How do people with no chimneys in their home receive gifts when Santa uses a chimney to get into the house?” Child X would need to figure out how to explain this logical inconsistency.


Now imagine that on another day, child Y asks, “Have you ever thought about how Santa could possibly deliver presents to every child in the world in a single night?” Child Y doesn’t stick around to debate child X’s response, though merely plants a seed of doubt.


On yet another day, child Y asks, “Do you know any older kids who still believe in Santa?” On a separate day still, child Y asks, “Why can’t Santa bring you the first toy firetruck ever made?”


After repeated questions over time, child X would be more likely to dispel belief in Santa Claus. With small shifts in understanding that are more manageably processed than the initial strategy of saying Santa isn’t real, child X would be less likely to filter out new evidence.


The post concludes:


Thinking about this further it’s essential to remember that beliefs aren’t held in isolation; they interconnect and reinforce each other, creating a paradigm—an apparently stable conformation of individual beliefs. Shifting a critical mass of these beliefs can lead to a sudden state change in the overall paradigm, much like how proteins can fold into certain stable configurations. This means that while individual belief updates are incremental, when enough of them shift, the overarching paradigm might undergo a transformative change.


The process of changing beliefs isn’t always as easy as introducing new evidence to prior beliefs in order to form new beliefs. As I can attest in my practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), the process of change takes time.




As a child, my dad didn’t need to contend with non-factual information when informing me that Santa wasn’t real and that Christmas wasn’t actually a Christian holiday—which it certainly isn’t. Therefore, his lessons were accepted by me with ease.


As an adult, I attempted to change the beliefs of other adults about Christmas, though my brunt approach was highly ineffective. Because I used unproductive demands about this matter, I wound up self-disturbing about what I perceived was the unwillingness of people to consider truth.


Now, with less rigidity and improved understanding about Bayes’ theorem, I realize that the process of changing beliefs takes time. Small belief updates occur incrementally and once these considerations are accepted over time, transformative change can eventually occur.


One reason I consider this post relevant is to remind myself of how difficult it may be for others to change their minds. For instance, many of my fellow United States (U.S.) citizens still believe that the events of January 6, 2021 constituted an insurrection when those actions most certainly did not.


Without availability of all video evidence, names of federal agents and informants who participated in the event, and testimony of people whose narrative contradicts misinformation and disinformation espoused by the mockingbird media, it may be virtually impossible to change beliefs about that day. These aren’t necessarily stupid or malicious people.


Therefore, I can use rational compassion with individuals who erroneously belief false narratives. As well, I don’t need to upset myself with “what if” scenarios about the coming year, as I suspect bogus information will likely result in catastrophe within the U.S.


Some people don’t want to change their beliefs about Santa Claus. Some don’t want to believe anything other than the notion that their sociopolitical opponents are terrible, horrible, or awful people.


Changing my beliefs about this truth can help me unconditionally accept reality. If I can accomplish this, so, too, might you. Would you like to know about how to change your beliefs?


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





Chefin. (n.d.). These 6 Christmas traditions are actually pagan customs. Retrieved from

Hayes, A. (2023, August 10). Bayes’ theorem: What it is, the formula, and examples. Investopedia. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 8). Information overload. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 19). Mockingbird media. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 22). On empathy. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 11). What would it take to change your mind? Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Kelly, T [DrTimothyKelly]. (2023, September 8). Just off the phone with a mathematician friend who shared some profound insights into why it's hard to change deeply held beliefs […] [Tweet]. X. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (n.d.). January 6 United States Capitol attack. Retrieved from

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page