Why do people believe what they believe? It surprises me how many people believe in something without ever really knowing why they believe it. Why do they believe in the religion that they do? Why do they believe in the politics that they do? Why do they believe in the morals that they do? Why do they believe that anything at all is right or wrong?
Today’s discussion is not about religion. It’s certainly not about politics. And it’s not about any other individual topic, either. It’s about beliefs, where they come from, and why we hold onto them. That’s all.
For almost three decades I lived a religion and claimed its beliefs as my own. I was born into the religion. I was always taught that it was the only true and correct way to think and believe. A great deal of the world (no matter what religion) was brought up the same way.
A couple years ago, I was out to dinner with a friend who had recently switched to a different faith. Knowing why people have the beliefs that they do has always interested me, so it was only natural that we began to talk about it over the course of our meal. I asked him why he switched religions, he said, “because I was living somebody else’s beliefs.” I asked him how he knew that he had it right this time around. Instead of answering, he turned the table on me. “Dan, why do you believe what you believe?”
I answered that it was what I had been taught. I answered that I believed in it because it felt right. He replied, “Have you ever questioned it?” I told him I had. He then repeated his question. “Have you ever really questioned it?” I began to fidget uncomfortably. “I mean, have you ever really had the courage to learn how you might be wrong at the same time that you’ve worked so hard to prove yourself right? Have you ever really had the courage to accept the possibility that something else might actually be right?” I had to think for a minute. I told him I didn’t know and that I didn’t really need to because I was confident in my beliefs.
He looked at me and smiled. “Dan, would you bank everything you have on your beliefs?” I told him I thought that I would. “Are you so sure of your beliefs that you would give your life for them?” He was very serious. I didn’t answer. “Would you bet your son’s life on your beliefs?” I didn’t answer. “Would you lose everything, including the people you love most to stand behind your beliefs?” Again, I didn’t answer.
Instead, I silently attempted to gauge my beliefs without showing my own sudden vulnerabilities. Would I give up everything when it actually came down to it? Would I die for these beliefs? Did I really believe what I believed that I believed? I finally looked at him and said, “No, I wouldn’t.”
His reply was simple, and I’ll never forget it. “Then they’re not really your beliefs. They’re somebody else’s beliefs. They’re borrowed beliefs. And until you make them your own, you’re living somebody else’s life.” I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t really want to go where he was taking me. I’d been avoiding it most of my life. He took advantage of my continued silence. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, Dan. It matters how you believe and why you believe. And until you honestly, and I mean honestly question your beliefs, including how they might be both right and wrong, you can’t truly claim those beliefs as your own.”
I went home that night and found a way to forget about the conversation. After all, actually questioning what I believed wasn’t something I wanted to do, and while I had opened myself up to such discussion for the moment, I wasn’t ready to go there quite yet.
But I couldn’t forget about my friend’s mandate for long. He had accused me of claiming beliefs that weren’t my own. He had straight up told me that my beliefs belonged to somebody else. I didn’t know whether to be thankful or overly offended. One night, after it had really been eating at me, I sat down with a notebook and did a journaling exercise.
I wanted to know why his words were disturbing me so much. I wanted to know the truth about what I really felt, since I know from experience that what I think I feel and what I actually feel are usually two very different things. I also wanted to know what I really feared when it came to scrutinizing my beliefs, and where I really wanted to go next with it.
And as I journaled, it became overly clear that my friend was right. “My beliefs” weren’t actually my beliefs at all. In fact, when I got deeper and deeper into the journaling, I discovered that the real reason I was holding onto those beliefs was out of fear. Fear of rejection from my family. Fear of rejection from my friends. Fear of rejection from my neighbors. Any time I made those beliefs work for me, everything always went so much smoother in all the dynamics of my life, which I suddenly understood was the dominating reason I always fought to believe what I did in the first place.
I continued journaling. I discovered that when I fought to believe those beliefs, the fight was the complete depth of it for me. I was always fighting for harmony in my life with those I loved. Nothing more. I was never fighting to make the beliefs my own because they weren’t. I had always known it, and never wanted to honestly admit it.
And so, liberated and rattled by the exercise, I decided that I didn’t want to spend the next three decades of my life believing beliefs that weren’t my own. I took my friend’s advice and began questioning my beliefs, both how they might be right and how they might be wrong. It was perhaps the scariest thing I had ever done. But, with every question came deeper understanding, and with deeper understanding came beautiful freedom that I hadn’t experienced before.
I didn’t pussyfoot around the tough questions. I asked every question boldly and honestly. I sought out answers from sources that were neither in favor of my beliefs nor against them. With time, I started seeing a much greater picture being painted from the answers I was receiving. I started believing something different than what I had always been taught. I started seeing truth in far many more places than I knew could exist. And, in the end, I left my religion, and those beliefs, behind.
I left my religion at the point when what I truly believed wasn’t right about the religion outweighed what I truly believed was right about it. When the balance tipped in such a way, I no longer could bear the thought of fighting to believe in something I didn’t actually believe in anymore. Believing beliefs that weren’t my own became disruptive and even mentally painful for me.
My favorite part of this blog post is that you never said what you believe in or used to believe in. You just make people think and that's why I read your blog in the first place. Thanks for this one. I have to admit, at least until now I was scared of questioning my beliefs. But I do consider doing it now...although I'm very sure nothing is gonna change since I would give up everything and everyone for my beliefs.
I'm not sure if I agree when you said: "There is nothing that is correct that questioning won’t make stronger. And there is nothing incorrect that questioning won’t make weaker." I think that's true if you're genuinely and deeply evaluating yourself and why you believe what you do, but quite often, asking questions just leads you to dig a pit of despair because I don't believe we as human beings will ever know the answers to the most important questions that plague us (such as "why is there suffering?" or "what is the meaning of life?" or "what happens after we die?"--all the questions that are the foundation of belief), and searching too tenaciously for those answers would just lead to frustration and despair. Sometimes the only way to find the peace and contentment you talk about is just to realize that sometimes you just have to let go of those questions and realize you just can't answer them.
201 comments, yet not as much as the "I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay" article. Dan, the first time I read your blog was with that post. I said to myself "this is going somewhere" and since then I've read your blog every once and awhile here and there. (and yes, I know I'm reading them completely out of order) Questioning ones faith is (I believe) a crucial point in one's development as a human being. The hardest part for me, I think, was letting go of Christianity. What Jesus said, for me, just resonated with so much love, grace, forgiveness, and.. Divinity. It was with a very heart that I left the Church behind, it's just that I could not stand how Pharisaical so many Christians have become. Looking deeper, I found myself finding the gods particularly the god Cernunnos and the goddess Elen, and the strangest thing was was that I found myself reading my bible even more, clinging even more to the words of Christ, and diving head first into philosophy and theology. I began researching the history of the church, in some cases the original Hebrew and Greek, and even finally allowing myself to forgive myself for being bisexual. For so many years I have hated myself for being bisexual, sometimes I even wanted to kill myself for it, because no matter how hard I tried I couldn't alter it, but.. Reevaluating my beliefs brought me peace, and it has even made a better person out of me. I know that post was a little spiritually charged, personal, and a little rambling, maybe too much so. But you had asked us to share, and I couldn't help myself, I've never really talked about this as an experience before. So um... Thanks Dan, for giving me an opportunity to ramble. -Morguean Hatch
It's interesting to me that we seem to have gone down similar roads, Dan, but with very different results. I was raised in a reasonably religious family and sent to religious schools (both primary school and high school). When I was still in high school I started to question what I'd always been taught to believe, although in my case I suspect it was at least partly because of some particularly odious teachers who were ramming it down my throat. But whatever the initial motivation, question I did. Before too long, I'd decided that those beliefs weren't really my beliefs at all but just a bunch of stuff I was saying by rote because I'd been taught that that's what you do.
So I started looking at the other major religions in the world, and a number of the minor ones, trying to find one that had beliefs that felt right. Beliefs that I could comfortably call my own. And (possibly unsurprisingly) I didn't. So I decided that I was hovering somewhere between agnostic and atheist and pretty much left it at that.
Oddly enough, it never occurred to me to do what you did and examine each separate belief on its own merits and come up with something that was truly me. Maybe the bit of my upbringing that I hadn't been able to shake was that religion/belief was an all or nothing game: you either were a true believer or you weren't a believer at all. Although I have to admit there's a lot of stuff in the news right now that's making me question THAT belief as well.
You've given me a lot to think about, as you so often do. Thanks. :)
I suppose that I should add that as I read this, I have postmormon.org open and am reading exit stories as well...
Ah, if only I could force the world to read this post...and the comment by Kate, especially " Would you LIVE your beliefs out in the open, every day, regardless of what others think of you?"
Interesting article. When I was younger I choose another religion than that I was raised with. I say raised with loosely as after I was thirteen we didn't attend service regularly anywhere. With my religion of choice I found that it put me in places that were unhealthy for me. I look back now and see all the people I knew in it were in this religion because they could do many immoral things and feel fine about it. The other thing is even though many of the beliefs appealed to me, it never really felt real. I wandered out of that before long into no religion for several years.
In my early twenties God reached out to me. I started talking about God in ways I never did. I know now many people were praying for me and God was knocking on the door to my heart. I am thankful I answered and through Him revealing Himself to me I know He is real. He is not merely a belief or a choice of religion.
My question to you is, during this time or another have you prayed to God and asked Him to reveal Himself to you? For God to reveal His truth to you and be open to the answers? In our world of hundreds of religions, we like to think we can pick the religion and therefore the God that we want. That somehow the one we feel the most draw to will make that God real. However, if one believes there is a God I think one should ask God to reveal Himself to them instead of trying to choose what feels right to them or coincides with a person's beliefs at a given time. If I were God, I would want to be called by my name. Anything less is just worshiping a made up God of our choosing based on our desires and morals, not Gods.
The brain is wired to accept beliefs: electrical stimulation of parts of the temporal cortex produces profound religious experiences. A person brought up in India will be a Hindu, a person brought up in Iran will be Muslim, a person brought up in Salt Lake City will be Mormon and a person brought up in Italy will be Catholic. They can't all be right and they'd fight each other for the 'truth' of their own beliefs. So what's to say any is right? Maybe all belief is merely delusion - a comfortable delusion to make us feel wanted and cared for in a grander scheme that nevertheless revolves around ourselves. Why do people insist belief and faith are laudable and valuable qualities to possess? Why do people think that if you hold something to be true without any rational reason to do so, that is a good thing? If depth of conviction is a measure of wisdom and nobility, the people who think they're Napoleon or Jesus who get locked up in mental institutions because otherwise they'd be dangerous to themselves and others would have to be be the most wise and noble of all and that's clearly not the case.
I think it's important to keep in mind that some things may be hard to believe, but that doesn't make them untrue or incorrect. I've found that over time some things I've struggled with have become a lot more clear and understandable as I grew. I think a strong belief in whole truths will help in strengthening us when we're not sure about smaller ones.
I also think that beliefs can be overthought. This might sounds stupid or strange to some of you, but it makes sense to me. I was always told in school that if you're not 100% sure about the answer to a question, to put down the one you thought of first because it's more often correct than if you second (or third or fourth etc) guess it. I think too many people listen to the harshness of today's world that screams if it can't be proven it can't be real, or that believing in one thing limits you from the truth of others.
Trust yourself, and don't panic if you come across something in your beliefs that you're not sure about or that doesn't make sense. I say, think about it enough to know it's there and then put it on a shelf in your mind. Then as you grow and mature, you can continually pull it back out until you're either okay with and if you aren't to put it back on the shelf. I've seen and heard of too many people who have given up beautiful and true beliefs because they couldn't get over one little thing or another.
I believe that almost everyone in this world is doing what they believe to be right, and true. Everyone. From the plummers, the teachers, the scientists, the drug lords - yes even the drug lords. Even the African tribes that practice female circumcision (genital mutilation) on young teenage girls without anesthesia. Even the Islamic extremists that are working hard to destroy the lives and livelihood of others. There is no forgiveness in their belief set, and in their minds they are protecting their families. They have families they are trying to provide for just like most of us... they all believe what they are doing is right. So what does that mean??
It really does matter what we believe. There is truth in the world. It is not all relative. To the one who brings terror to another, there is a perfectly good reason why they are doing what they are doing - in their mind, and their beliefs.
So you might ask whether these people ever question their beliefs or whether they were handed down? Maybe some of both. Regardless, there is truth and it comes from the Source.
I question all of my beliefs as a child and teenager, and again as an adult. REALLY questioned them and went a far ways away from them. Ultimately, I came back to what I felt - and what I believed, which was that God is real. He is my guide. He encourages me to listen to my heart. He would never come between me and my family because families are his plan.
I think it's okay to know that we don't know it all right now - and that there are parts of us that might resonate with something that is wrong. So we have to constantly test, and trust. The same way I want my child to trust me when he gets his heart set on something that would be painful. Of course he will get to choose whether he listens and trusts or experiences for himself, but I hope he will forgo the hurt. We all need a guide. There are things we cannot understand. Our minds are well developed, our hearts, in this culture, need a lot more attention.
This is probably one of my favorite posts of yours. I find that as I experience life I am constantly reevaluating my beliefs. I always believed if I was in a certain situation I would react a certain way, then life puts me in that situation and I do not react the way I always believed I would. Sometimes you don't know what you really believe until it's put to the test.
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I think asking if you'd die for your beliefs is the soft option--even people who don't examine their beliefs die for them, every day. The key question should be Would you LIVE your beliefs out in the open, every day, regardless of what others think of you? That's a more dangerous question, no matter if we're talking about political, religious or other types of beliefs. I find people fear rejection far more than simple bodily death (sort of like the fear of public speaking, it's all about exposure).
Why do I believe what I believe? Hmmm. I'm a Jungian Introverted Thinker (INTP), which means I spend 95% of my day in useless navel gazing, so I've thought my beliefs out pretty thoroughly. The idea of believing something simply because I'm told or out of fear of social reprisal is...strange to me. It's not like I walk around with a list of my beliefs written on my forehead, so they won't know unless they ask me directly if my principles conflict with their own. Who cares then if what I truly believe deep down is going to offend someone? If I offend them, then obviously their principles will offend me in return, and the best we can hope for going forward is polite civility. I certainly don't want to be friends with them--unless they can be open minded enough to enter into polite, "agree to disagree" dialogue with me, because I find being respectful can overcome most ideological disagreements.
And how can people fear their own thoughts? They're YOUR thoughts. What do you think you're going to do, strangle yourself in your sleep? No matter what everyone around you says, you aren't out of control of yourself, not if you give yourself your head (as they say in horsey circles). It's when you tighten the reins that you get stroppy and start doing things that are really scary, like excessive drinking or unsafe sex with prostitutes or buying an entire house of furniture on credit. Let yourself out of the mental stall, to continue with the horse metaphor, before you beat yourself to death on the stall door.
Trust yourselves, people. If you can't trust even yourself...well, you need to fix that before you come to real grief.
Thank you for a great article! I grew up in a very religious and politically conservative household and was fortunate enough to move away when I was a young adult to a very liberal and culturally diverse part of the country. Living in a new place, I had the thirst to learn all I could about other people's cultures and beliefs. This made me start to question my own beliefs as I realized they had been my parents beliefs and their parents before them. My parents belief system had been ingrained in them for decades and no one dared to question it or step outside of it. Well, I did and I couldn't be happier. I feel a sense of freedom I never had growing up. I always felt like something was stifling me growing up but didn't know what it was or why. It wasn't until I moved away and experienced a different way of thinking that I found true meaning to my life and happiness. I think everyone should have the courage to question their beliefs and to embrace others who believe and live differently than themselves.
It is interesting to read all the replies and notice that most are about religious beliefs. What about the political believes our parents tried to get us to believe? How many of you have questioned them? What about beliefs about different races? I was brought up in a very prejudiced household - black people were just not as good, as capable as white. I questioned that belief and found it to be very small minded and based on fear of the unknown. If my parents could be so off base on something like that, what else were they wrong about?
I will show my age by remembering the presidential race between John F Kennedy and Eisenhower. My father could not imagine voting for a catholic. My mother would not say who she was voting for. For the first time in her life, she stood up to my father. I was impressed so I did some research on my own. At 16 years old, I started my search for my own political beliefs and am still searching today. I am dishearten at today's soundbite politics where people make decisions based on little or no information or misinformation.
Thanks for the post. I hope it will encourage people to really think about all their beliefs - not just religious ones.
How appropriate! I'm in a period of examining my beliefs now. It's an ongoing process for me, and not all of it has to do with religion. It also has to do with what do I want to pass onto my kids about how to get along in the world. My beliefs will inform that.
Thanks for being so authentic about this.
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How appropriate! I'm in a period of questioning my beliefs and figuring out what I truly believe right now. Not all of it has to do with religion or even spirituality. It's an ongoing process for me. It wouldn't hurt to journal about this myself. Thanks for being so authentic about this.
Well, I can't say I'd die for what I believe, because I honestly don't know what I would do if I was put in a position like that. But that doesn't mean I don't believe with all my heart. I'm human. I'm also a wimp at times. My favorite verse goes something like this. "I believe.... help my unbelief".
I was forced to question my beliefs before I got married twelve years ago. I had been raised believing something, and even though my fiance' and I grew up in the same church, he had come to a different conclusion about certain things. When I went back to college for another degree, I was face with a lot of opposition about my belief. And I had to say--to my entire class--that I would put my own life and my husband's life on the line for what I believed. Having no children, I can't address that aspect; but having been forced to question my beliefs changed them radically from how I was raised, and have made my new beliefs stronger than before.
No one should live under someone else's beliefs. I did for nearly thirty years, and it hurt to question them, particularly when classmates and professors scoffed in my face as I laid bare my deepest and most controversial beliefs. I cried a lot, then. I was confused. But I will never stop questioning my beliefs, because if I do, I will never see a better way. I'm not perfect, so there must be more for me to learn. I want to be moldable, not so stolid in my beliefs that I am cemented in one place. I want to be moved.
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I left my religion at age 18 when my parents said it was up to me if I still wanted to go to church with them. Back then, it was all about being with my friends, hanging out, etc. What I realized later was what they believed in so highly, I did not. There were too many questions no one could answer for me so I walked away.
It took many years but I have finally found where my beliefs lie,(lay, not sure which is correct) and I stick to them. I do not push my beliefs on my children. I just answer questions as they come up with "well what do you think about..." and it opens a whole new dialogue.
One belief I have is rock solid and always has been and I am now in a position to do something about it and I do every day.
Dan, thank you for this post. I am definitely sharing it with everyone.
Thank you, Dan, for sharing this.
I did question my beliefs. I questioned everything I was taught, everything that was shown to me. I questioned them until I realized that I just could not put my faith in them anymore....they just did not suit me, my lifestyle, my personal beliefs, the beliefs I always held that seemed to deviate from what I was taught.
I first started changing my beliefs around the age of 14, but lacked support and reverted back to beliefs I did not feel connected to, for sake of family relations.
Then I realized I was denying my true beliefs. I was old enough to stand up for the beliefs I truly felt fit me, and I did. It took me nearly 6 years to become strong enough in myself and my beliefs to outwardly proclaim my beliefs when asked, but I am.
I would not necessarily die for my beliefs, but I most certainly will fight for my right to believe them. If I lost my life in the process, then I did die for my beliefs....I would not allow a child of mine to die for my beliefs, because my beliefs are not their beliefs to die for....
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I think your friend was over the top about questioning the validity of "belief" (when in my opinion he's more talking about faith than beliefs... and there's a huge difference). If the whole world somehow comprised of only dogs, and the only humans are me and my child, then it's safe to see we're the only ones who can see the full extent of color (since dogs lack the red and green cones in their eye or something? i forgot science class but basically they're color blind). If the dogs somehow try to question our belief in color and told me to bet my son's life on it, I would never, despite the fact that i'm 9000% sure. You can't prove the existence of a rainbow to a dog, yet you know it's empirically there.
The fact that you're not willing to die for your beliefs does not make them any less authentic. It just means you have faculties of reasoning and contemplated how much your life is worth. As Carl Jung said "I don't believe God exists. I kNOW god exists." But let me bet you he wouldn't kill himself to prove it either.
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I think it's important to note that while no one should place themselves in a box and that questioning your beliefs is good, there is a point where we cannot find all the answers ourselves because we are mortal and imperfect. Be it God, Brahma, Allah, Zeus, Baal, etc, if someone believes in a higher power, they must also understand that somewhere, sometime, they must submit themselves to whatever the higher power is that guides them. If there is no higher power, then....I'm not sure. I haven't put in much thought to that, honestly.
I also think we shouldn't blame organized religion for any overall problems that "religions" have. They are run by people who make mistakes, but it doesn't mean we do/don't have to follow everything they say.
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I have spent a lot of time on my beliefs and values. I found it relatively easy to change my political affiliation from my family's and did so by the time I was 20. I have never found a formal religion that matched my beliefs though. What I have done, though is define my beliefs for myself and I continue to look for a community that I will fit within. The funny thing is that my sons have decided they are atheists (not my belief) but they live their lives with such strong values that they often hear from other students that they should be Christians. I think it is telling that these students equate living a good, clean life with being Christian and not with just being a good caring person.
I think you've hit the nail on the head in many ways -- it's never enough to just live the culture of your beliefs. You have to find out for yourself, always. The events in my life and in our family over the past few years have motivated me to do that very thing again and again. For me, the proof is in the pudding -- being willing to die for something is certainly admirable, but what happens when you LIVE for it? And I'm not talking about the cultural stuff. I'm talking about the deep down core beliefs that make you who you are, not just what others see about you.
I appreciated what one commenter said, about how faith doesn't come in an instant and you have to work to build it all your life. I also liked what you said about "There is nothing that is correct that questioning won’t make stronger." The questioning and strengthening of faith is a huge part of our purpose here on earth.
Okay, I'm going to stop rambling -- I really don't have my thoughts together on this...
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What kind of friend would ask you if you would bet your beliefs on your son's life?! Your son's life isn't for you to bet on at all! If you wouldn't bet on your son's life that does not at all mean that it's not your belief!
Yes, I agree that if you are going believe in something it should be your own belief and not that of your parents, because that's what this life is all about, but wow. Just wow.
I want to respect the author's wishes not to mention any religions by name. I hate religion. I think religion messes up everything that God has and wants for us. Religion is man's way of trying to get to God the way he/she thinks is the best way, or how they were raised to believe. On the other hand, the incarnation of God in the Man Jesus Christ, has nothing to do with religion. It's a relationship - one of grace and peace that surpasses all understanding. So, without mentioning any religions whatsoever, I invite anyone reading this to put away all rituals, traditions, the have-to-do-this's and the can't-do-that's - and discover the greatest love relationship anyone can have - a love relationship with Jesus Christ. Religion sucks, it's man's invention. Jesus is everything, man is His invention, and His redemption. FYI, I have renounced my faith I grew up with for 26 years for this relationship and at times at great cost...I have never made a better decision.
Interesting, thought provoking post, Dan. I will say that I think about this a lot. I also think about my "faith" vs. my "religion" because they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. I belong to a church that has some antiquated thinking, but my ultimate belief and faith are what keep me there. I don't think I'll ever be done questioning and challenging them both.
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Beliefs change. *All* beliefs change. Our understanding of those beliefs changes. Ideologies for which I would have given up everything a few years ago, now mean precious little to me. Beliefs I have now I will probably scoff at sometime down the road.
That is the best thing about being human! I have the intelligence to question, search, and grow, and the free will to Change My Mind based on the things I have learned.
Kudos to you, Dan, and everyone else who has the courage to question.
I live on faith a lot of the time. I was born into a church, I believe it is true, but there is a lot I don't fully understand. However, the basics are what matters- family is most important, love others, be honest, keep your mind and body clean and healthy- and I truly do feel good about living on faith for the rest.
I have questioned what I believed, I tested many different views and standpoints, listened to how others spoke of their beliefs. I wasn't raised in a household that really stood strong on anything expect drugs and having a good time. Ina way I'm thankful that I walked away from that situation and was able to discover who I was at a very young age, and why I believed what I believe. In fact I'm still discovering where I stand on a lot of different areas; parenting, politically, as a spouse. The only thing I'm 100% sure of is my faith, and due to some certain episodes in my life, I have come to accept the fact that my children are not my own and my spouse is not my own, but borrowed from the God I chose to believe and follow, just as my life is borrowed.
How I practice and show that faith, the areas where my opinions differ from that of other in my religion are constantly being tested and tried, but the core values remain the same.
Yup. I went through a major period of questioning. I am now at a place that I truly would die for my beliefs. But it was a long, bumpy journey to get here. And while I try hard to share my beliefs with my girls, I know they will have to go through their own long, bumpy journey until they are able to feel strongly about what they believe.
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Thank you. I recently switched from a devout Christian lifestyle (from my family) to an Atheist lifestyle. I know it's an extreme case but I felt like I didn't truly FEEL what my "beliefs" led me to feel. My family did not understand the switch but this post tells EXACTLY how I feel. Thank you for putting it into words. I hope that by sharing this to my family, they can better understand me.
p.s. This almost makes me excited for the next time evangelists come to my door. I'll have these questions ready!
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This is suuuch an epic post. Your friend is brilliant. So are you. & if your previous religion was the (extremely family- and community-oriented) one I'm guessing it is, it must have been intensely difficult and scary for you to go through this!
I had this inner battle in high school-- I realized I had no reason to believe [my church]. But since then, I haven't put much effort into figuring out what my beliefs really are. I should get on that.
Definitely sharing this!
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will say that questioning is a good thing. Following blindly is wrong. You have to establish your own testimony. If your testimony is one that you have acquired through following your parents or friends or whomever it will not hold up.In the world we live in it is hard enough to stand for what you believe in with all your heart it will be harder if not impossible to stand up for what you don't believe in your heart.However just because someone is not ready to give up everything for what they believe does not mean it is wrong or that it is not what they believe in.Just because you answer no when questioned if you are sure enough that you would give up everything that does not mean that you are on the wrong path it merely means they are on A Path. Faith (no matter the religion) does not come in an instant and should not be dismissed just because it is not full. Knowledge does not come all at once and should not be dismissed because you don't have all the information all at once. Life is a journey, it is a gift and there are few people who believe or know anything with enough of a certainty that they would sacrifice everything they care about none of that means that what you believe in does not come from your heart.
It's interesting. I've explored and questioned my religion and many of the fundamental traditions passed down by my family and others -- not all, but a lot. But then I was really struck by the comment Cary made: Question the core belief of who you are?
I don't think I have.
I've questioned and redefined my roles many times over. I'm very happy with where they are now. But I still harbor some beliefs about myself that I've picked over the years that... I've never questioned.
I'm going to have to think about this.
My recent post Sick
I was brought up with other people's (My Mom's) beliefs, but at a very early age (14) I realized I didn't fit into the mold of those beliefs. I spend a good part of my late teens & early 20's questioning all of my beliefs. Once you do that, you can really understand what feels authentic and what doesn't. In addition, it helps with every other belief system I come across. People share tidbits of their beliefs, I sit with it, see if it feels authentic to me and accept or release it. It is a wonderful way to live. Today, I know I am faithful to myself and I encourage my 3 year old (and will encourage my 18 month old son) to do the same.
Personally, I don't think anyone should feel that they would die for their beliefs. That's a bit extreme isn't it? I mean, if you ask me if I believe in my kids, and would I die for them? Of course, just like any parent. But would I die for religion or any other belief? That's a little whacked if you ask me, especially in the world we live in today.
Like most people, I am the same religion and political affiliation that my parents are. That's that way it usually goes. But I have also doubted it to the extent, without the real desire to reconcile my beliefs, that I haven't really exposed my kids to religion much at all. I think a lot of people in our generation are the same, right or wrong. I would call myself "spiritual", int he sense that I believe there is a higher power, but it could be Zeus for all I know!! Not necessarily this "God" we speak of. :)
My recent post Divvying up co-parenting chores
This post reminded me of a quote from Thomas Jefferson. He said, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
I grew up being taught a certain way. I made it a matter of serious study and sincere prayer. I totally agree with you. It made my beliefs stronger because my studies and introspection backed them up. It was a process, and I did reject a few of the teachings of my parents, but my core beliefs became even more ingrained after I truly made them my own.
My recent post My Secret Weapon
I agree with you completely, Dan. (And I think I know what your previous beliefs might have been. :-) ) I will say that boldly questioning ones own beliefs is always a good thing. One should never, ever, do something just because other people are doing it. I was raised in a very similar situation to yours. I came to question those beliefs when I was in high school. And when I did, I found them to be my own.
I can say with complete confidence, that I WOULD give up everything I have, material or not, for those beliefs. As morbid as it might sound to some, I would even risk my own life, or the lives of my family and loved ones for the beliefs I hold. I know without a single doubt that they are true. I feel it when I speak of them, and I can feel it now, even as I write of them.
I hope you can reach this point of surety in your own life. I know it's weird, and uncomfortable to think that anything could be more important, or as important to you than your son. I love my little boy dearly, and while the thought of risking his life, or leaving his life for anything is painful, there are a few things, beliefs, that I would do it for. And knowing these things brings me comfort that I couldn't feel any other way.
Thanks for posting, Dan :-)
As always, a great job Keep it up.
My recent post Kids Do the Darndest Things
I grew up with a general religion, but it was never enforced, practiced, or even talked about very much. Because of this, I think it was a lot easier for me to question it and accept less mainstream faiths at a younger age. I was able to think about my own philosophies and decide the big parts about what I believe, before actually looking for a religion to match my beliefs. And that's how I came to have such strong faith in my less popular religion, despite all the criticism I've gotten from it.
On another note, kudos to all of the readers of this blog! I expected to scroll down to the comments section and be faced with all kinds of hate and debate from fanatics.. Instead, I'm seeing a lot of acceptance and people who are really taking your words to heart. I'm pleasantly surprised. =)
Because of what I believe, I could give up everything. I don't need any of it if that's what is necessary. I don't need my wife (and I love her dearly) and I don't need my life (even if I enjoy it). I believe what I believe, not because I was raised to believe it (because I sure as heck wasn't) but because it's what I found to make the most sense in a world full of confusion and change.
My recent post A Smidgen of Regret
Not sure what Dan's questions were, but I found this website with 50 very tough, thought-provoking questions.
Your comments were very insightful and thought provoking...especially what you said last about people giving up their beliefs over something small. And especially what yo said about over-thinking your beliefs, because I think the opposite of what Dan was saying is also true - if it becomes so challenging and frustrating to question what you believe, then maybe it's because your own faith is stronger than you give it credit, and you're trying too hard to ASK questions instead of just trusting what you believe. There has to be a balance there--constantly asking questions will get you nowhere.
Eisenhower ran against Stevenson - both times. JFK ran against Nixon. Other than that, I love and agree with everything you wrote and thank you for sharing it. :)
While it is dangerous to focus on religion to the exclusion of a personal relationship with Jesus, the opposite is also true. Seeing it as just a "relationship" suggests an emotional connection, and Jesus requires and wants so much more than that for those who love Him. Religion provides a framework to live by; God never meant for us to just take a shot in the dark with Him, and that's why He gave us the Bible and the doctrine that it contains. Dogma does have a place for the authentic follower of Christ, it just shouldn't be the sole focus.