Why do we have beliefs?
I like to refer back to the movie "Dogma" when people always ask about beliefs, but first I think it would be wise to analyze your argument rather than just bash religion (which is understandable people do terrible things in the name of it). I could write a thesis about the question, but I think this metaphor gets my point across, its sort of like saying "why do you drive a car from your house to work." The car acts a mechanism, and that mechanism varies; a belief is a mechanism for a person to grow get from a lower state of mind to a higher state. Why? Who knows, thats the meaning of life and no body… no body can answer that.
So then the immediate next question is, which is the right set of beliefs? There are none, all paths, roads… beliefs lead to a higher state of mind, but some are more gradual than others (twist and turns). Next (in my mind) I ask, "well are there a wrong set of beliefs?" Now this is a tricky question because it is subjective, to me I don’t want to tell a person what to believe do what suits your path, but (and this is a big but) do not impede my path/mechanism. I can learn, we can learn and maybe improve, but my path is in my hands alone and if I want to take the long route then so be it.
I hope this isn’t too much of a rant. In the end religion is like being on the highway in a car, some people are kind and courteous, and others will run you right off the road? Who is right/wrong? Who knows, just know that you could have walked… you ALWAYS have a choice.
The clash of belief systems seem to be at the core of much of the ills of the world. At least, that is impression one gets from media reports. This network seems to be populated by thoughtful people so I am curious to know why you think we have beliefs.
Also the subconscious has one trait that makes it work very fast. but isn’t condusive to well thought out rationial ideas. it cant tell the difference between the real world and your thoughts. to the subconscious a unicorn, once thought about, is a very real thing, that myth is then dispelled when thought about rationally. I wrote a thing about this a while ago, something i got really interested in for a while.
That’s a very interesting question Eric :) And I think you’re right on with it being at the core of much of the ills of the world. Why do we have beliefs? I guess first we’d have to define “belief”: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.
The ‘reason’ we have beliefs I suppose is to guide our behaviors. If you believe certain things, ex. what takes priority over other things, what’s more important or meaningful to you, it will guide ‘what you do, and don’t do, everyday.’
Where it leads to problems: I think humans have this inherant flaw to always have to be right–and if someone challenges their belief, an argument occurs. Many arguments, at the root, are over such trivial things. So, the more and more and more beliefs we have-the more likely we would be to have them clash, which would lead to argument, which leads to war etc etc..
Language is a beautiful tool we use for communication, but it gets in our way a lot too. The more “words” we have in our vocabulary, the more we can describe the world around us and form “beliefs.” I think people try to explain their description of the world (or beliefs, if you will), and even if someone else may agree with it–they misunderstand because they use the words a little differently to describe it. So we defend our beliefs and argue with each other and half the time there’s nothing to argue about, we’re just misunderstanding each other. So—we need to respect each other’s beliefs, even if we “believe” that someone else’s beliefs are “wrong.”
So, why do we have beliefs? It’s a really hard question, I don’t think there’s an answer. Beliefs just exist, not for any “reason.” Why do you think they exist Eric?
aren’t beliefs another crutch people use to try and pretend that they understand the inexplicable, in part to avoid having to experience it freshly each day?
I think people choose to have beliefs (I don’t believe – ha! – that beliefs just exist) because it makes this whole “life” thing easier to manage. just as religion gives people rules (so they don’t have to think as much), and people follow dietary restrictions of one kind of another (to limit the millions of answers to the question “what will I eat?”), beliefs are people’s way of putting a stake in the ground and saying “I am right, I figured it out, this is the way the world works!”
and then people get attached to those beliefs they have worked so hard to polish and perfect, and don’t want to give them up lightly because it’s part of how they define their self and their worldview. so I guess another problem is that the word believe is always preceded by “I”, and who is I?
I think the whole thing is just people faking themselves out. Even if I believe I’ve just typed these words, it doesn’t necessarily make it fucking so!
@dave. just my point. though i wouldn’t be so quick to say that your beliefs are your choice. Look at kids that get religion pumped into their head vs… well… people who don’t. I’ve seen guys drop their beliefs after a single recognition, but those beliefs were necessarily dropped as an observation (which i would deem) closer to reality superseded them.
Interesting responses so far. And you are validating my view that there are thoughtful people here :-)! As to Em’s question, I suspect that it has to do with our ignorance. We are inquisitive beings and want to “know”. We want this so much that we will fill in the gaps when we are faced with ignorance, especially with metaphysics. Simply remaining in the “I don’t know” state is very, very difficult. Add all the cultural peer pressure and you can get a sense of why we latch on to beliefs. I may be wrong about this of course, but it seems to fit what I have observed.
Yes, everything you guys all say compliments the others very well. Dave I never really noticed how “believe” is always preceded with “I.” Good point. Martin I agree that we don’t choose our beliefs. Eventually, once we gain enough awareness, we might. But the average zombie, is just pumped with information from the minute they’re born, and think little for themselves. Eric I think there’s a lot of truth to what you say. We’re slaves to what we don’t understand. And most fear what they don’t understand. Boy it looks like we’ve got a big problem here :)
I try to be very careful with my pronouncements. I only report what I observe in myself and in asking question of others. So I have found that a question about beliefs is best experienced as “why do I believe X?”. The next, and more challenging question is “why do I have a belief at all?” Personally reflecting on these questions resulted in the view I expressed about ignorance and my discomfort with it. Whether this thought process is applicable to any of you…..only you will know. Don’t take my word for any of it. Observe beliefs and their effects directly within yourself.
“Beliefs are candles that man uses to ward off the surrounding darkness. They are the charms we use to hold infinity at bay, to dispel the black cloud that hovers over every head.”
“I’m not telling you the black cloud is okay, I’m telling you it’s infinitely big and infinitely black. I’m not saying you can live with it, I’m saying that the black cloud is reality so deal with it and if it kills you, so the fuck what?”
I just got thinking how what you believe in has a huge effect on how you’re treated which is pretty crazy. If my job knew my real feelings about certain things, I would so get fired. There was a Deputy Director of Probation, who was also a former cop, in some state (sorry don’t remember but I did read the story) not too long ago who was actually fired on the spot bc he signed a petition in favor for medicinal marijuana. Some people in the south years ago were afraid to be nice to african americans for fear of being treated as a “nigger lover.” People are murdered bc they believe abortion is a personal choice! Beliefs aren’t even real, it’s a concept—yet these “invisible beliefs” kind of rule the world. Crazy.
I think we form beliefs to try and rationalize what is ‘good’.. to try and communicate what is ‘good’ to us, and to try and replicate it with other people to make it more concrete..
Figuring out what is ‘good’ should be so easy to figure out! Shouldn’t it..? Beliefs are there to try and discover the truth.. and should not be used in other way but as an opinion..
Em made my point above.. I think the problem is when people think they are right, when they are wrong for starters, but mainly when they don’t take outside information into considerance with their own beliefs.. I wouldn’t say that’s ignorance because I think that is not knowing and not caring.. I would say it is just plain stupid.. Like Em and Dave were saying.. people have to be right.. But I acutally think there is a ‘right’ way.. like concerning enviornment and economy especially and they are very important.. but your beliefs are not meant to influene these things.. they are meant to obtain conflicting beliefs to find FACTS.. but things get run on few people’s beliefs all the time.. seems retarded to me.. we should communicate our beliefs to find facts.. and from there create solutions…
Matt, you’re actually just describing honesty. though i’d interchange where you said “belief” with “idea” in a few places there. i have ideas all the time that don’t necessitate me believing them, i share them with people to see what they can take from it or to test the ideas validity or even just to say it out loud so that a new idea can form around it while talking. stream of consciousness is a great place for ideas, but only as long as you know not to necessarily believe them.
I think too much of what is observational or reasoned in nature gets lumped unduly in with belief. Like creationism vs evolution. only a stupid scientist would claim that evolution is an indisputable bulletproof fact. while thats exactly what creationists think of creation and expect biologists to engage in debate with them knowing thats their immovable position. the nature of a theory, like evolution for example, isn’t that its exactly whats happened, its just that its the best description of whats happened that we can come up with based on the evidence presented. And it does have discrepancies like any other theory which biologists hold their hands up to and say “we don’t have a perfect answer for that”. whereas creatioinists take these things and twist them to say they are admissions of defeat because they are extremists and see things in black and white, right and wrong not realising they’re actually picking purple and… wrong.
(sorry for the rant, i dont usually get the opportunity to rant about not only that creationists are stupid, but the very specific reasons as to why they are stupid… dishonest too… dicks.)
I think there may be some confusion on my end. Are we talking about ordinary beliefs? Like I believe that I am conversing with other individuals and not an elaborate computer program, and I believe the Earth rotates around the Sun because although I cannot get a birds-eye view of the solar system, there is sufficient evidence and research to support it. Or are we talking about Faith? Faith in an Invisible Man Floating in the Sky.
I believe we have Faith because we are taught what to have Faith in, and we do not necessarily ‘choose’ our Faiths, but we choose the lesser ‘beliefs’ because we choose what to remain ignorant about. Without fully investigating the Universe ourselves, we will always have some beliefs that based on facts others have collected before us. And we can occasionally change our Faiths through investigation. Faiths are usually replaced by some other Faith or a new web of lesser beliefs. But for the most part, Faith is taught to us, just like another language is taught to us in high school.
And so I learn everything I can about everything I can, and I keep learning. I form my beliefs and try to have Faith only in what is truly unknown.
I’ve always thought that the reason there are conflicts between beliefs is because of our own insecurities. Religion, for example, cannot, for the most part, be scientifically proven or justified. This creates an area of insecurity and lack of confidence in our belief, in the logical part of our minds. When someone with an opposing idea comes along and challenges our already vulnerable belief we react with hostility and project our insecurities on to other people by trying to disprove their beliefs.
But anyway, to answer your question: I think we have beliefs for the same reason we have instincts. So that we can go through our daily lives without having to constantly introspect every decision we make. We have a set moral boundary (that is subject to change) that guides us through daily activity, like our autonomic systems control our involuntary actions (heart rate, breathing, etc.)
Also, Em: Beliefs are about as conceptual as our minds are. I don’t think you’re making a very good point with that.
We believe what we are told to believe… education is the only escape from this fate. Intellectuals advertise their intelligence as virtue, and though I agree to a certain extent, it is incorrect to assume that a specific mind always has the capacity to find truth. It is nice to think of intelligence as a ubiquitous potentiality, but some people will never have the chance to question whether their knowledge is justified; they will have no cause to question what they’ve been taught. Think about these 15 year olds who join Al Qaeda training camps and become suicide bombers… are they evil, are they ignorant? Certainly they have been brainwashed to believe what they have been taught… but does that make them evil? They are capable of evil and have been taught delusional beliefs, but the injustice lies with the teacher, not the student (though I acquiesce to the fact that this does not exclude appropriate punishment for action. IE: a serial rapist is still responsible for the crime, regardless of psychological damage inflicted from his parents). So, back to the question of why we have beliefs… I think adolescent beliefs are taught, and only with a broadened sense of perspective (which stems from education) can one hope to question these beliefs; on the other hand, mature beliefs, those based on inquiry, are discovered through self-analysis.
I value intelligence and tolerance as the two greatest virtues (which is why I love everyone on this site)… but I fear too many people let their intelligence/beliefs become ostentatious and label themselves superior to those who didn’t even know there was a competition going on. Beliefs are easily instilled, but they move towards the objective only when questioned, and they move towards the sublime only when considerate of inferior beliefs.
Note: I’m a little drunk and debating whether any of this makes sense…Did I even provide and answer to Eric’s question??? I’m going to bed now.
somethings seriously up xD i’ve been trying to write a reply to matt since last night and cant poist the one i want. what a pain in the dick.
Here’s a better description of what i mean by the word honesty.
Great link Martin… really interesting read. I liked the statement at the end, it is very Buddhist:
“Stare deeply into the possibility that it might be true. That there is no you in any sense. Stare into the possibility. If it isn’t true, you don’t need to worry. If it is true, you’ll never need to worry again… this is the only kind of honesty worth the name.”
Was huh….. I always thought of honesty as what was the truth.. but the truth is we don’t know what the truth is… so how can we be honest… therefore! honesty is being able to see another point of view as true without any bias. This honesty will show you what is really true.. Had to re=drill that in my head…..