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Why Identify What You Believe?

Posted on January 8, 2016 at 12:40 AM

It may seem to some to be futile mind-numbing work to examine the fundamental story that lies behind most of our individual behavior and thought.  And don't get me wrong.  It IS a lot of work.  It's hard to face some of the basic, simplistic questions and answers that we wrestled with at a time in our lives when we were very dependent on others for our survival.  

Most of us have compromised on what we truly wanted because of a real or perceived threat from how someone(usually a loving caregiver) responded to our own "story", ideas, motivations.  Quite often we never go back and revisit those stuffed ideas because we have reached an age where those memories have either all but receded, or are written off as childish ideas.

And yet, if you observe children, they have some of the most honest and interested motivations because they DON'T have a well-developed story-line/worldview (aka belief system) that they have to defend against threat (real or perceived).  So why should we brush aside an honest childlike desire just because it's personal?

If as individuals we can get to the basic storyline of the purpose of our own life we may find not only some things that no longer serve us - we may also find solid gold among the forgotten desires of our childhood.  

For instance, in the process of walking away from the religion of my upbringing, I have had to not only take off the label, I have also had to sift through the whole ethical hierarchy of what is right and wrong and why.  I have not come far in the excruciatingly minute sifting through the rubble to find what is still valuable to me.  But what I have come up with is a series of statements of things that I believe.  Some of them I have included here.  

I believe that what is right and wrong can be defined by a basic respect for individuals. This gets hairy the more individuals there are interacting in an environment because statistically-speaking the ability for their goals, identities, and values to mesh harmoniously spikes dramatically. But I stubbornly believe it is possible for people to have different perspectives and still respect each other. I would love to see it demonstrated more often and be a part of a group like that. Unfortunately, most of us have a hard time with self-examination in order to make real change in the only people we have control over – ourselves.

I believe religion is a control system and an attempt to help people modify their behavior. Self-improvement could be said to be one of its goals. And I have seen it fail over and over again if the desire for change is not resident within the person who adheres to the religion.  I have also seen it fail when the desired change does not serve the individual and their current situation, when the desired change is imposed by others, and when the desired change is completely unnecessary.

I believe religion also serves a community function and that this is the aspect that holds people inside religion. Because without a community that lends support, it is very difficult for individuals or even lone families to thrive.  I believe there are many people who adhere to religion not because they agree with the tenets of the faith but because they are too afraid to move away from the community.

I have come to learn that "my way is the RIGHT way" is not something that religions have a corner on. It seems that any adherent to any worldview may feel that their way is the ‘right’ way of thinking to the exclusion of all others. Because of my indoctrination I thought that black and white rigidity was a hallmark of religious belief systems. I am encountering the same kind of attitude in all kinds of worldviews (belief systems) whether associated with a deity or disassociated with a deity or not influenced by a deity at all. There is a spectrum within any worldview that runs from exclusive, fundamental, zealot, black-&-white dualism all the way to the other end which is more inclusive, liberal, open to interpretation, and loose. Both ends of the spectrum have their strengths and their weaknesses.

I believe that although most of us try to find a label of belief that helps us identify others that believe similarly - we actually pick and choose subpoints under these 'labels' so that each one of us actually has a unique system.  Whether or not the system is coherent is irrelevant - especially since it is usually unexamined.  It's in the examining our various beliefs and how we interact with them daily that we discover how our beliefs inform our thoughts, which in turn produce emotions and quite often a lot of stress.

I believe that doing the work of digging into our own beliefs can help each one of us reprogram our own thoughts and beliefs and lose a lot of personal stress.  In addition, I believe that we can rebuild new beliefs and thought patterns that help us reimagine our lives and achieve the goals and ideals that we hold in high regard.

I hope to share some of my personal sifting process and currently held beliefs tomorrow.

Categories: Belief Systems, Symbolic Guidance, Inner Authority