Friday, May 09, 2008

What You Believe In

What you believe in clearly has a lot to do with where you put your willpower and what direction you decide to chart in life. Or maybe not. I have met many people who act on – or are governed by – assumptions they don’t consciously hold or recognize.

But let’s focus on conscious beliefs. If I believe in reincarnation, I won’t be so against abortion, since I believe souls will find their way back one way or another. If I believe that homosexuality is sinful, I won’t tolerate gay rights. If I believe that climate change is truly a threat, I will give up meat, since this is the single most significant act to fight global warming that most people could take.

It is said that if a fool were to persist in his folly, he would become wise. So let’s follow our beliefs to their conclusions, and see where they lead. First, I invite you to try on some beliefs, and see if they fit.

The universe is beautiful and supremely ordered, with meaningfulness at every turn, if only we could see it clearly.

There is spiritual help and guidance available at all times, if we want it and are open to it.

We can build our willpower, by meditating and taking the time to search within for the obstructions to acting according to our positive will and intent.

Do you share these beliefs? Do you believe they are completely true, or only partially true? Do you doubt them, but want to believe?

The Guide says it’s important to examine our beliefs, conscious and unconscious, partial and complete, doubting and inbued by faith, because our beliefs shape our view of the world and our possibilities in it. Find the beliefs and you find the man, or woman.

A belief is not just held: it is generally reinforced. Such is clearly the case with the powerful world views which hold sway in our society. We are being indoctrinated every day with society’s beliefs and assumptions: it seems only fair for us to take the time to consciously decide which beliefs are beneficial and which are harmful to us – and to indoctrinate ourselves with the beliefs we hold important.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a wonderful indoctrination, by a great American, in the values of probity and thrift, effort and dedication, sustaining faith in good works, intellectual curiosity and the essential worth of people. Who can read that book without profiting from it, and who can argue, after having read it, that Franklin did not consciously mold, refine, and reinforce his beliefs? Should we do any less than try to emulate his example of self-reliant study and action on our beliefs?

We need to take our “positive will” and engage it, by asserting the life-affirming things we believe and act on, as Franklin did. Conversely, understanding the danger of negative and destructive beliefs, we should take steps to avoid them or at least to not reinforce them habitually.

Political and moral questions in our society tend to be framed in the discourse of the surrounding culture – but those assumptions may be ones you don’t hold, or wouldn’t hold if you examined them closely. Many beliefs are actually prejudices, as history has shown so well. Unquestioned beliefs are dangerous beliefs. Let’s find out what we truly believe.


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