Some are of the view that one should never discuss beliefs. As one can believe in many different things, including people, political systems, communities, religions, financial systems, families, countries, sporting teams and the list goes on. As there are so many beliefs, I will not deal with any particular one, but cover the underlying reasons why some people can have such strong beliefs, to the point that they believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. Before I go any further, I should make it clear that I believe that every individual is entitled to their opinions or beliefs, although that does mot mean they have any right to declare that everyone who differs from there belief or opinion is wrong. My four large dictionaries basically describe a belief as, in this usage at least, as “Something believed or accepted as being true”. Those definitions are basically saying, in a structured religion at least, that that belief relies on a person accepting what they are told or taught. So this begs the question – Does accepting anything you are told make it true, accurate or a fact, or is it just someone’s opinion?
For a starters, I need to declare my position on beliefs. I cannot honestly say that I have strong beliefs in anything outside of the importance of me being honest, practical, hard working, reliable, community orientated, patient, a good provider and a considerate person. I try and stay on neutral ground on matters such as religion, political systems, countries and financial systems, because I find that there are many facets to every question, and something positive is often found in every one of them. I believe that taking a strong position on any of these matters, when you are unaware of all the facts, means that you have not logically assessed all the various points and have made a conscious decision based on what you believe. Unfortunately, most beliefs have very few facts attached to them. That is why they are called beliefs, and not facts.
Let’s deal with some of the above beliefs that I outlined in my second sentence. People, regardless of who we are talking about, are very complicated when trying to describe who they really are, in other words, what they think on one hand and what they do on the other. That person who you strongly believe in is probably not who you think they are. Usually, they have a public persona in which you believe in, but do you know enough about that person to really make that judgement, or are you just following others who believe as you do? As an older person who was living in California at the time, and can remember the early 1960’s well, I was a strong supporter of John F Kennedy. But over time, and as I grew older, I realized that, while he had some great qualities, the many other sides to the man became obvious over time and my support waned somewhat. In other words I was somewhat blinded by his early activities and his public standing, and I did not have sufficient information to make a logical and reasoned evaluation.
The next one on my list is political systems. Other than religion, this is probably one of the hardest beliefs to discuss, as it can bring out the worst in all of us. It is one area where true believers often have fixed ideas about a political viewpoint, which emanates from who knows where? It can be a part of a family tradition, it can originate from a difficult personal experience, it can be because of the influence of friends, it can be influenced by an organization one belongs to, it could be in reaction to other people’s actions or a combination of more that one of the these. What I am really saying is, it is not usually because one has evaluated every side or angle of the position taken in a reasoned and logical manner. It can be based somewhat on political dogma, which in itself, can blind a person to believe that everything espoused by that organization is true, correct and the best answer to a particular problem, and that the other side, as it were, are always wrong. That belief, in itself, is problematic.
Communities is the next belief on my list. While one would think that communities are somewhat immune from strong beliefs, that is not always the case. There are some people who believe that a certain community, whether it is particular suburb or area, or a particular band of people, are just unworthy of their support. They believe the worst in everybody who lives in that community on principle. They usually have very little first hand knowledge of most of the residents in that community, but they believe the worst anyway. Residents of suburbs in bigger towns are sometimes expected to only support a particular sporting team. That often extends to “our suburb is better than your suburb”, without any real discussion, thought or evaluation of either. In other words, it is a belief. This belief can even extend to neighbors, who they believe to be the worst you could imagine, usually influenced by one particular occasion or situation. Do they actually know enough about that person to make such a strong decision?
Now I will deal with religion. Not one religion, but all religions. When one takes a stand on any religious matter, there are always plenty of people willing to take exception to what was said. As a religion is very much a belief, how can anyone logically take offence at any one else’s opinion or belief. One belief is just a valid as any other belief. One is not just right, and the other wrong, because they are both just beliefs. There are many, many different religions in this world, some have hundreds of millions of devotees, others are very small and locally based. Some religions believe that all their teachings are correct, and that all others are not. Some also believe that those who do not believe as they do, should be encouraged to change their beliefs in favor of theirs.
As religion of one kind or other is one of the most common belief structures, it begs the question – Why do so many of the world’s population have strong religious beliefs? What is it about any religion that appeals to so many? Why do so many devotees believe so strongly that they are willing to kill other human beings in its defense? Why is that so many bloody wars have been fought in the name of a religion? What is it that binds an individual to any belief where they then readily accept such dramatic and drastic actions? These types of questions are very rarely asked and one wonders why? Because written history only goes back some 5,000 years, we have very little knowledge of the beliefs of pre-history man. Did human beings have strong beliefs some 50,000 years ago or more, and if so, what were they? As all us humans lived a very simple life in those times, would they been able to construct any form of religion more sophisticated than simple superstitions? Were their lives influenced by their beliefs to the extent of modern man? I would love to have some answers on those questions!
Financial systems, and their social implications, seem to be another area where strong beliefs often dominate a person’s thinking. While this is an area that can be studied and where facts are readily available, often people are pulled one way or another by their beliefs. Like politics, this is one area where people often think of themselves as liberal or conservative, or of the right or left. Money, or the lack of it, often preoccupies people’s thinking, and how they think about financial systems probably has a lot to do with their own personal circumstances and experiences. Due to most people’s inexperience in this area, they often have strong beliefs that are just not based on learnt knowledge, but rather on the people around them. and their joint experiences. Their politics may also influence their beliefs, as different political parties often have different policies, and they are often influenced by beliefs rather than cold hard financial facts.
I will not deal with the other, more minor beliefs, such as families, countries, sporting teams etcetera, at this time, as the above is enough to think about at this point. Please feel free to comment on any of the above, both positive and negative comments are welcome. Do not be afraid to speak out, because everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.