Beliefs are tricky little beasts. The longer we hold a belief the more foundational that belief becomes. The more foundational a belief is, the more we have to lose if that belief is proven wrong. The more we have to lose, the more emotional we get when defending the belief and less rational.
This is one of my favorite stories from Emo Phillips:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off.
So I ran over and said “Stop! don’t do it!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!”
He said, “Like what?”
I said, “Well…are you religious or atheist?”
He said, “Religious.”
I said, “Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?”
He said, “Christian.”
I said, “Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?”
He said, “Baptist!”
I said,”Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?”
He said, “Baptist church of god!”
I said, “Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?”
He said,”Reformed Baptist church of god!”
I said, “Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?”
He said, “Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!”
I said, “Die, heretic scum”, and pushed him off.
Belief is powerful. Belief is divisive. Belief is fundamental.
If we are not guarded from the power of our beliefs we can allow them to control us, instead of guiding us. Beliefs need to serve as a foundation for knowledge. But they also need to be adaptable.
Beliefs are a tool of salvation and a weapon of mass destruction
There will come a time, and you may have already had this happen, when you find someone that you love, believes everything that you do… except for one thing. It may even be a conflict on the one thing that you hold most dear. And at that moment you have to decide will you continue to embrace and love them? Or will you push them off the bridge? (metaphorically)
I want to be clear here. I’m not talking about the old saying “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” I’m not suggesting that you are the person to judge another. If you fall into a belief system that involves the concept of ‘sin’, then that belief system dictates that it is God’s job to judge and not yours. So cut it out (said with love).
What I am suggesting is more radical and introspective, the person that must be reviewed and held up to a higher standard in these situations is you. I’m also not suggesting that you must change your beliefs based on those around you, this exercise is about awareness and acceptance. Perhaps the exercise will result in a change belief, or perhaps you will come to the conclusion that there is more than one way to believe on the subject.
The longer we have held a belief the more we tend to revere that belief. Revere/Take For granted. And beliefs that contradict are regarded as heresy. Heresy is a powerful word. It doesn’t bring to mind level headed behavior. When you consider the response of a person to another that they regard as a heretic, that response is not rational. The response to a heretic is emotional, and powerful emotion at that. Rage, Fear, Distain, all emotions brought to mind by the very uttering of the word heretic.
So I encourage you to believe. Belief make us strong, it gives us purpose, it enables us to live fulfilled lives. But practice mindfulness within your framework of beliefs. Consider, are your beliefs making you a better person? Are your beliefs making the world a better place? Lastly, what emotions do your beliefs engender in you and those around you?
If you find yourself surrounded by heretics are you being the change in the world that you wish to see? Or are you part of the problem?