Beliefs…Undesireable ?

Posted July 24th, 2005 by Harry Baya

I don’t believe in beliefs. I define beliefs rather narrowly for this.. but that’s OK. There is something I don’t like and I need to give it a working label. “Beliefs” is close enough..and I’ll let the readers make the distinctions needed.

I distinguish between “beliefs” and “assumptions”, as the terms are used here. There are a number of differences. The biggest one is that no- one get’s to choose what they believe. They can discover it, and they can work to change it..but, as I see it, they are basically stuck with their beliefs being whatever they are at any moment. In contrast, we choose our assumptions. We choose to live, or act, as if an assumption was true. We assume it is true and follow through. Some assumptions, such as how gravity affects us, have a very high probability of being correct (i.e. always true).

One of the problems with “beliefs” as I define them is that when people believe something then part of their self definition is involved. If someone challenges, or questions, a belief, then the believer is threatened. They tend to get hostile and defensive. Beliefs are often things we want very much to be so (e.g. “There is a God.”) Assumptions, on the other hand, are just points of view we choose to work with. If someone can show us that our assumption is false, we would, hopefully, appreciate the information.

I have a lot of trouble with a lot of beliefs, especially those tied up with religion. It seems to me that these “beliefs” are the basis for a lot of the prejudice and hostility in our world. And it is such a crock. Most of the beliefs associated with religion (God, Heaven, Hell, angels, prayer, grace etc.) are a complete crok in that there no possible way of being verified, or disproved. To go to war over something as unproven as this is worse than a crime, it’s a tragedy. Ahhh… but I do have a suggestion.

It’s OK to live your life “as if” an assumption is true. E.g. It’s OK to live your life as if there were a kind, caring, omniscient being who is looking after you. It this makes your life work better, then do it.. but don’t BELIEVE it. I know this is messy. Perhaps some things only work if you believe them… and don’t work if you don’t (sort of like the placebo affect). Well, my view is that those things are bogus and should be avoided. If something is only so if you believe it.. then it’s not really so. It’s just a form of self-delusion. I guess I should say that it’s OK with me if others want to live with self-delusion because it make their lives more worth living… but I don’t want to do that. I want my life to be based on (a) objectivly verifiable reality and (b) conscious choices, not on self deception.

I’m sure this ground has been well covered and disected by heavy duty philosophers…any of whom could probably completely undermine this point of view in a converstaion with me. Thank goodness they are not here to do that. However, even with that admission, I like to think their is grain of important insight in this musing and the fact that I am not equipped to defend it against stronger powers does not make it less important.

I also wonder if anyone other than me will ever read any of this. Harry 7/24/2005

One Response to “Beliefs…Undesireable ?”

  1. Rick Randall

    > “I also wonder if anyone other than me will ever read any of this.”

    Wonder no more!