Belief is highly over-rated

Frank - Santa Barbara, California
Entered on July 5, 2008
Age Group: 65+
Themes: question
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This I Believe

This I believe: I believe that belief is highly over-rated. Take, even, the title of this series: This I believe. Isn’t the word order a bit pompous? It says: “look at how important, how sacred, my belief is.” We take our beliefs way too seriously: “this is my belief; this is my firm belief; I strongly believe this.” The stronger someone is attached to their belief, the quicker you should run away. A strong attachment to belief, especially to sharing your belief, indicates a strong unwillingness to examine or reevaluate that belief. What could be the reason we so desperately cling to a belief and thus have no freedom to inquire into it?

What is a belief? As an ex-monk, I have thought a lot about this question. If you turned off the radio right now, and took out a pad or your computer and started writing your definition of belief, that would be far more beneficial than continuing to listen. You would be inquiring into what you think you know. When we examine fundamental words – and of course, fundamental beliefs– it gets us beneath the surface, and we begin to grapple with distinguishing what we really know from what we think we know.

We use the word “belief” in many ways. Believing others means we accept what they say is so. Or, when we say,” I believe my child will succeed,” or “I believe IBM stock will rise,” we really mean we hope these things will happens. Fundamentally, though, what is a belief? A belief is a story we make up to help us make sense about what’s happening. That’s it, totally! I’m not saying it’s bad to make up stories. In fact, it’s good. But it’s bad when we don’t acknowledge that our stories are simply that – stories. When we reject facts to hold on to a story, that’s when something’s wrong. Once we acknowledge that our beliefs are stories we made up, or other people’s stories we choose to accept, then we can lighten up about beliefs. We might say, “Oh, this is just a story I am making up about these facts. What story do you make up?” We wouldn’t be so attached to our story, and we might even discover a better, more inspirational, one!

All of what I just said, I firmly believe. Nice story, eh? What’s your story?