I choose NOT to believe.
I have often wondered whether a better title for this series could be found, since the word BELIEVE is often misused. While much less poetic, THIS I PRESUME or THIS I ACCEPT seem to be the appropriate terms.
I am wary of believing in anything, because this is not an awareness of truth, but rather an acceptance of one’s limited observations or someone else’s ideas. I think preconceived beliefs (to which we all are subjected) must always be questioned, challenged, and modified in the light of new observations, discoveries, and experiences.
I know that the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and other religious texts contain wisdom of the ages, from which we can learn a great deal. However, many of the presumptions (“beliefs”) in these texts are attributed to people who lived in ancient times, and are no longer valid except in the minds of adherents who deny modern observation and science. In some critical ways, the organized religions on which they are based, no longer serve the needs of humankind because they exclude others from their “in-group”, which inevitably leads to conflict. Many of the current and longstanding conflicts are clearly based on religious differences.
My reservations are salient in view of recent religious/cultural clashes; but in fact, this trend of bitter conflict has been repeated throughout human history, in contradiction of the very principles of the great religions. So, I wonder, why are people so inclined to BELIEVE?
Believing in SOMEONE is a misuse of the language, because this really means TRUSTING. I suggest that one must know and trust in oneself first, and then extend that trust to others, to the extent they merit it. Even then, there is always uncertainty about one’s own perceptions and another person’s true feelings, both of which are subject to change.
Believing in CONCEPTS is artificial. One must test the validity of a concept before accepting it, and even then, it is subject to further testing based on new information.
Believing in GOOD and EVIL might help me to understand aspects of the world and other people that nourish or undermine my humanity, but ultimately I wonder how we can evolve beyond moral constructs, which limit the solutions we can apply to serious problems such as overpopulation and wars where men brutally kill one another, each claiming the moral high ground.
THIS I KNOW: humankind is limited in time and space, capacity to reason and intuit, and ability to influence our future outcome. We strive to learn about Nature and the Universe, but ultimately the whole scope of reality will always remain beyond our comprehension. Beyond the realm of knowledge is BELIEF, but should we venture into that territory, we risk assuming that what we perceive to be true or accept on faith is universally true. And that is wrong.
We do not know whether humankind will continue to survive, because of our inability as individual cultures and nations to change our behavior in the interests of all life on earth. It is conceivable that our entrenched beliefs may actually be the cause of our self-destruction.
Therefore, I choose NOT to believe, but to remain open to the dynamic world of phenomena and potentialities that we discover through science and art. I choose NOT to rely on scriptures or prophecies from the distant past, except as a point of departure, beyond which there is a plethora of inspiring literature.