Thoughts on Belief

Belief is a touchy subject lately because it seems to belong only to the realm of religiosity. And in this era where more people than ever before are abandoning traditional belief systems, the entire idea of belief is becoming increasingly anachronistic and irrelevant. But when we consider what Belief means in the broadest possible sense, it’s almost impossible to declare oneself devoid of belief. Philosophies, ideologies, ethical and moral identities all compromise a kind of belief because they are things we adhere to as right or proper. Moreover, our beliefs pertain to us and give our lives some sense of meaning and context. 

Holding a belief and holding others to your belief are two very different things. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with believing something. After all, facts are not truth, necessarily. What is truth for you may not be truth for me but that in no way lessens the veracity of our various beliefs when it comes to what they mean specifically to us. And certainly there is no need to independently verify that our claims are accurate or to otherwise defend them if we’re not requiring others to adhere to them. But, when we become passionate about our truth, we tend to defend that truth even when there is no justification for it outside of what it means for us and that’s when things become problematic.

So…abandon belief? Live our lives accordingly to the Scientific Method and peer-reviewed, double blind placebo studies? Well, where’s the fun in that?

Belief offers us something incredibly important: meaning. One of the things scientists wrestle with most of all is aligning their findings with narrative. Actually, the typical scientist would probably argue that narrative neither exists nor is of any importance. And that would be a kind of belief in and of itself. But narrative is the overarching purpose behind something; transcendent, encompassing multiple phenomena. If there is purpose, then the idea would be that the various components that structure our belief in that purpose would be validated. 

There have been studies that show a positive correlation between cancer survival and religious belief which would seem to speak to the tremendous power of belief and how it can aid an individual in even the most trying of times.

Even in my own life, when losing both of my brothers at different points in my earlier years, I found some meaning or point to the experience I was having. It meant something that these things happened, I thought and continue to think, and pressing forward in life was a way of unfolding what that might have been. 

I remember traveling to Sedona, Arizona and visiting a gem store. The owner explained to me in such careful detail what each stone could do. Some could inspire, some could attract love, some could heal, etc. I found myself entranced not so much with the claims being made but with  the passion the owner showed for her work. She wasn’t trying to sell me something she knew wouldn’t work; she was pursuing her beliefs and it was wonderful and powerful to watch. 

So when we encounter a belief system, instead of balking at it or immediately invalidating it through some form of logical analysis, look to the one who believes. Value the meaning they’ve found and be grateful that you were able to cross paths with someone who possesses a level of passion for their purpose. It’s exactly this kind of compassionate and inquisitive approach that will, in some way, link all of our beliefs and edify all of us, together.


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