The Seeker in me – I don’t believe in “believing”

Posted March 8th, 2009 by Harry Baya

The Seeker in me – Harry Baya

I usually use the word “belief” to mean something that I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in “believing”. I distinguish between “believing” and “assuming”. When a person assumes something it’s usually their best guess as to what is so. In some cases it’s not even that, it’s just a guess they would like to live by for some reason. For example: “I’m going to assume that this man I just met and I are going to be good friends. I’ll approach our relationship like that, and see what happens.”

We assume things because we think that living with that point of view may be useful. We remain open to changing the assumption if our experience implies that it would be useful to do so.

Beliefs, as I see them, are not assumptions. They are fixed points of view that have somehow become part of how we define ourselves. When a person’s beliefs are challenged or threatened, they become defensive, or offensive. They will often fight, or even die, to defend their beliefs. In my view we have relatively little immediate control over what we believe. We kind of end up believing things. In my view we don’t get to choose what we believe.

I think it’s often hard to identify our beliefs. They are part of our mental paradigm. They are like a lens through which we experience reality. It’s hard to see the lens we are looiking through. Though we cannot immediately change our beliefs, we are able to make some choices about them.

(1) We can seek to identify them
(2) We can take steps to weaken, and maybe remove them.

It is my intention to identify those things I “believe” (using my interpretation above) and to change them to assumptions. Some assumptions have a very high probability of being right. For example, I assume that if I drop something, it will fall down. I don’t want to “believe” this, but I assume that it is extremely likely.

I feel somewhat the same way about faith and hope. Faith, as I understand it, is to continue to believe that something is so, or will happen, even when experience does not confirm it. I’ll be kind. Let’s take “belief” out of that sentence. Faith is to continue to assume something is so, or will happen, when experience does not confirm it, or even seems to contradict it.

If experience confirmed it you would not need faith. You could just assume it was so based on experience. I consider faith an error in judgment. A mistake. It implies the ability to base your actions on something you wish were so, rather than your experience and knowledge.

If the word faith is used to mean “to live as if something were so, even though we don’t believe it, or doubt it,” then I can see that faith could be useful. I think there are often opportunities to make assumption that might be useful to live by for an individual.

I have one of those. I choose to live my life in a certain way. I don’t think it’s what others should be doing. It’s what I choose to do. Here it is:

I choose to do all I can to never lie to anyone about anything, except in humor. I don’t have “faith” that this will make my life better. I choose to “assume” that it will make my life better. If I got strong evidence that it was not working, I would stop. So far, I think it has been useful to me.

Hope, on the other hand… seems like a good thing. Hope is where you are able to see what you want to be, or want to become so. I like that.

Having hope that something will work out can be a good thing. Having “faith” that it will work out seems foolish to me, unless it means..”I will choose to live my life as if it will work out, even though the odds of that happening are unknown, or low.”

One difference is that if you faith in something and it does not work out, you can feel betrayed, or somehow diminished. If you chose to live it as if it would work out and it doesn’t, you just made a bad choice. Unfortunate, but not a betrayal.

Ok, so I don’t want to believe anything. Given that, how do I relate to the beliefs that seem to be an important part of most major religions : God, hell, heaven, sin, celestial policemen, life after death etc.

First off, I don’t want to belief any of that stuff. I also don’t want to have faith in any of that stuff. However, I may sometimes choose to live my life as if some traditional “beliefs” are correct.

Operationaly I am an aetheist. Technically I guess I am an agnostic. I don’t “believe” that there is no omniscient being who is aware of my every act and rewards me for some and punishes me for others. Rather I think it is extremely unlikely that such a being exists and acts in that way. I choose to live my life based on the assumption that no such being exists.

This means, for me, there is no one to pray to in hope that they will respond. Prayer can still be good. It’s a wonderful focusing experience. Positing a being who could help can be useful in praying, in focusing on what you want to be so. But I don’t “believe” in such a being.

My problem with the word atheist is that it sounds like it is opposed to something. It’s a negative sounding title. Like being the “anti-christ” or the “anti-god”. I’m not in active opposition to the believers of my world. I think they are very likely to believe a pack of lies, but so what. Those beliefs do not seem to make them less able to lead fulfilling lives, or be successful. I only have a problem when those beliefs result in bad things happening to others who don’t hold the same beliefs. I have some concern that the believers of this planet are going to have a major role in destroying it.

Just because a relgions belief structure is based on a pack of lies does not mean that their morals, values, and goals are all wrong. It just means that some of them could be wrong, but they would be unable to judge them fairly.

I have not had a positive sounding label that I can use that would imply that (a) I think most of the belief structure of traditional religions is a pack of lies and that (b) I still think there are some wonderfully “spiritual” aspects of life and consciousness. By spiritual I mean to imply things like awesome, transcendent, deeply satisfying, bonding to universe, expanded awareness, and all that stuff.

Based on recent reading, it looks like the label “Humanist” is the best I will find for now. So I guess I am a humanist.

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