This I Believe

Blake - Whitefish, Montana
Entered on November 28, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

“Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” – Buddha

Teachers teach knowledge. Parents teach virtue. Friends try to teach everything. But I want to explore and teach myself what I believe. I try everyday to be inquisitive and learn first hand. I can believe what I hold to be true through testing.

When I was a young boy, my family had an electric fence encircling our large yard. My parents advised me not to touch it. Nevertheless, one day when I was outside playing around my curiosity overcame me. The inquisitiveness inside of me stretched my little finger all the way to the thin silver wire, and almost instantaneously I felt the shock ripple through me. That adolescent experiment taught me once and for all not to touch electric fences.

A time when I found something to be contrary to popular beliefs was after my first cross-country race. The general consensus of high-school students in my school was that cross-country is not a sport, but rather a group of crazy kids who can not do anything but run around. I joined despite these negative predispositions. I ran hard every day at practice eager to race against other “crazies” at the first meet. As the starter shouted the runners set call, the adrenaline surged through me. The run was excruciatingly painful, requiring every ounce of energy and mental determination to get to the finish line. It was all worth it, though, as, in the last mile I ran by scores of runners who did not have what it takes to finish strong. Crossing the finish line after a last stretch sprint shot the endorphins straight to my brain. For me, running a great race is one of the most satisfying feelings in the entire world. Someone who merely believes, because of others, that cross-country is a non-sport may never experience such an exhilarating sensation.

Many people at my school simply become “Christians” merely because it is trendy. Many accept the ideas of religion without questioning and they thus limit their opportunities to grow because they do not have to think about creating their own values. Today’s Christianity is a set of hand-me-down ideas of other mere men. At church, the pastors dictate to the ministry what to believe. They were taught by their pastors, who were taught by their pastors. This chain of knowledge gets passed down at mass to the assembly. Some who receive the Word simply close their minds to outer ideas and spirituality because of the teachings of humans – the rules imposed on them by other men – and they therefore limit their capacity to understand.

My faith is active, not passive, and I do not blindly accept the concepts. I challenge all kinds of aspects of my religious faith. When I have questions about sermons, Bible stories, or Christian beliefs I ask about them and question their meaning. This is the only possible way that I can truly believe what is taught to me; I myself must work to discover faith and spirituality to be true in my life.

Every day I ask questions, large and small, so that I can have a better handle on what I truly believe. As Gerry Spence said “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” It is much easier to succumb to popular beliefs and not do any research than to learn, explore and identify one’s own beliefs. Challenging and testing my beliefs is very important to me because it allows me to internally discover who I am and what I believe.