An astute young man asked me today - "What do we have left if we are without belief?"
To clarify, this fellow and I had discussed what we considered "belief
". Our inquiry was centered around spiritual/religious belief - the various ideas that people attach themselves to regarding god(s), saviors, souls, prophets, miracles, what happens after death, etc. That is, our inquiry was not about the complete eradication of all belief. We were not considering conjecture based upon observable evidence. For instance, we understood statements such as "I believe this water will turn to ice if we lower the temperature below 0 degrees." or "I believe that if I drop this rock, it will fall to the ground." to be reasonable assertions.
What we considered was the quality of mind that has absolutely no spiritual/religious belief whatsoever.
Perhaps, to find the answer to that we must first find out why we believe. We believe, do we not?, to escape fear. Perhaps since childhood our family or our society has told us to believe and we fear standing alone. We fear being rejected by those who collectively share a particular system of thinking. To stand alone may create unrest, and in order to avoid that unrest we cling to our belief.
Perhaps we stick with a belief because we are afraid to consider the possibility that we may have been deluding ourselves for years. We may have believed something so strongly that to even question that belief would mean questioning everything we've stood for.
Perhaps we believe because we have experienced or witnessed tragedy in our lives and feel lost unless we can try to make sense of it.
In some cases, we may believe in order to deal with the fear another belief evokes. For example, we believe such-and-such happens after death so in order to make sure that our foundational belief in the process of death is carried forth in our interest, we believe in X.
These various escapes from fear we speciously label 'hope
' or 'meaning
' - for if we honestly saw our belief for what it is - an escape - we may decide to face our fear directly. We say that belief gives us hope and meaning without questioning why we feel the urge to ascribe hope or meaning to life itself.
Indeed, there may be various cosmetic explanations for belief but the common denominator is undeniably fear.
Surely, belief divides us. It never brings us together. Of course, pockets of believers come together under their particular umbrella, but for one concerned with the whole of humanity, it is clear that belief is a mechanism of division. The theists are in their camp whilst the atheists are in theirs. The communists, buddhists, christians, hindus, muslims - they all have their particular beliefs and are thus fragments in conflict with the whole of humanity. At times, they may take action that serves others outside their belief circle, but psychologically - inwardly - they see the world as 'us
' and 'them
'. Just as one may cling to national pride yet offer foreign aid, action is not whole and therefore, incomplete. The aid is but one plug that may slow the overall leak, but the fundamental fissures are ignored.
What is the quality of mind that looks directly at fear instead of escaping through belief?
One imagines the believer cleverly stating that such a mind also perpetuates the "us
" and "them
" mentality and is therefore no different. They may claim something like - the "believers
" versus the "non-believers
". But can the negation of
(not the reaction toward
- take, for instance, the atheists) be fairly lumped into the mash? Is a mind that is alone (all one) a mind that participates in the religious realm of belief at all? Is a mind that steps aside and honestly says "I don't know.
" in conflict?
What do we have left if we are without belief?
Why speculate? Let's find out.
Labels: belief, identity, religion