Wednesday, 14 February 2018

#444 Beyond belief

A recent conversation had got me thinking about what my beliefs were, if I had any. I'd tried once already to write them out with limited success.

The reason I had trouble determining what beliefs I held was that whenever I thought about one of them, the thought turned into an essay. Then I had to stop and think even harder.

Every single thought had an opposing viewpoint and none of them belonged to me. Or, if they felt like they did, they immediately seemed like a gross over-simplification of whatever they represented. Was there another way of identifying beliefs?

It could be claimed that beliefs were underpinned by behaviour but this prompts the question of whether the behaviour is consistent across situations and timeframes, which could be difficult. Unless it was claimed that beliefs were fluid but such fluid beliefs might better be described as whims, reactions or impulses.

When asked about beliefs, one of the most common responses among people would be a reference to God. Yet if each person were to try and describe what they meant by that, there'd be differences in their responses. This can be seen in two ways. Either they're describing a complicated thing from different perspectives or they're not describing the same thing at all.

Like Obi-Wan tells Luke in Return Of The Jedi, "Your're going to find many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view".

In my experience, Obi-Wan is right. When we account for our own interpretations and generalisations, it becomes harder to put a finger on what we believe.

If indeed, we believe anything at all.

4 comments

Fizzfan said...

The only thing I really believe in are facts, ie, feet make walking easier than stumps. I have no idea why that came to mind. Possible a good example of how ridiculous our minds are really.

I prefer the phrase ‘I like to think’ to ‘I believe’.
‘I believe’ sounds so Billy Graham, and he along with a whole raft of other preachery nut jobs are only made possible because of our liking to be told things in mass meetings. Personally they make me VERY uneasy, but a lot of folks clearly love being buoyed up by others believing in what they believe, or what I prefer to call, indoctrinated into.
The phrase which springs to mind is Echo Chamber.....I nicked it off my my son who was moaning about Twitter and saying it’s just an echo chamber full of neo liberals incapable of independent thought. I am quite impressed by him sometimes.

Obi Wan sounds cool, but the ‘truth’ is a horribly slippery jagged little rock that we possibly spend an awful lot of time avoiding anyway. Social etiquette is thankfully far more important, unless of course you have nothing to lose, in which case you can drop a truth bomb like a handy little grenade.
I suppose you can believe what you like really, but it’s definitely impossible to put into words because as soon as start thinking about what it is, you’ll run into a reason to question it.
They’re a bit rubbish really, but then again, if you didn’t have anything to question, where would your curiosity for life be?
Best to believe in as little as possible!?

Dan Copping said...

Echo chamber indeed. It probably describes the state of the media at large.

I couldn't agree more about words being a blunt instrument as far as describing certain kinds of truth is concerned.

Believe as little as possible; yes, certainly when it comes to the kind of ideological beliefs that can alienate others and blind people to reason.

I would caution against wholly writing off religion in favour of science and vice versa though. Each have their uses and blind spots.


Fizzfan said...

I think we’re on the same sort of page.
My thoughts on religion are quite liberal really as in if it floats your boat it’s fine.
My little ship just never had any help in leaving the harbour and it was left to rust into a bitter little blob of this is what actually happens in the real world.
A colleague asked me if I was religious not long ago. I was rendered speechless. How could he ask such a question? Of me!
I didn’t have time to answer because the phone rang.
On another occasion however, I did have time, and out popped the considered response of ‘No, I think it’s a form of lunacy’.
A Muslim colleagues head nearly swivelled off.
I’m not in the least bit bothered by people believing, I just don’t.
Having said that I sometimes wonder if I’m missing out on something and I could well be blinded by cynicism, but as Eddie Izzard said ‘If God does has a plan it’s remarkably similar to someone who doesn’t have one at all’

I think we might be prey to the comfort of just having an invisible friend, no harm in that, or is there?

Dan Copping said...

"My little ship just never had any help in leaving the harbour and it was left to rust into a bitter little blob of this is what actually happens in the real world" - that's unusually poetic of you.

Faith may be unprovable but I think you've touched upon something important when you've cited cynicism as the alternative. Is it a good alternative? Well it might be if you're happy. If you're not, too much cynicism can turn a person rotten.