Belief is an interesting thing. It’s personal and subjective, but most of all, it’s incredibly powerful. To say that you think, or suppose, or even know something is true is one thing. To say that you BELIEVE in it is something else entirely.
Cultures rise and fall on the premise of belief. Wars are fought, lives are lost, and hatred is fostered all because of one six letter word. I’m not writing this to rip into religion, or those who practice it. Admittedly, I’m not a religious person; I tend to fall more in line with the science crowd. But I do understand and respect the need people have for it, have always had for it, since the beginning of modern human existence.
What I have a hard time comprehending is the notion that believing in a particular thing somehow trumps basic morals and human decency. This strange occurrence crosses all religious and party lines. Mob mentality takes over without a mob even being present. And it’s always been that way. Blame the anonymity of the internet all you want, when it comes to political and religious beliefs, people have always been more than willing to turn into assholes to defend their cause.
In the last few years we’ve been battered over and over again with belief. Each side insists they are right, and that you are somehow morally bankrupt if you believe anything else. Family and friends turn against each other without a second thought, attacking each other with shocking vitriol.
The other night I watched a documentary on the tribes of New Guinea (because that’s how I prefer to spend my Friday nights thankyouverymuch). At the time of the filming, the tribes had little to no exposure to people outside of their society. They knew nothing of Western science or religion. They believed that women were impregnated by forest spirits and that cannibalism was the only way to destroy the evil inhabiting a murderers’ body. Their cultures had followed these beliefs for thousands of years, untouched by the outside world.
So, do these people, these “savages” who run naked through the forest, practicing their own form of cannibalistic justice, need saving? Are we so much better off?
We eat each other alive every day, online and in the media, under the guise of debating religion and politics. We hide behind belief to justify hatred and discrimination. In our supposedly more “civilized” world, we turn fear of the unknown into an unmovable system of belief that clouds our consciences and warps our morals. We spend our lives screaming at each other, trying to sway the majority to our way of thinking because belief is a static thing that cannot evolve with the changing times.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Belief doesn’t have to narrow our minds and limit our scope. The whole concept of belief is an incredible testament to the ingenuity of the human mind. The world is full of strange and wonderful things beyond our basic comprehension. Instead of holing up in a cave somewhere and living in fear of the wonders of nature, our ancestors theorized and hypothesized, fitting the miracles of this world into a framework that made sense to them, and still makes sense to so many.
Over the centuries, many of the original ideas about our creation and existence have given way to scientific evidence. We know so much now, about ourselves and our universe, it’s mind-boggling. We’ve discovered that the Earth is round and older than comprehension and that we are literally made of star dust. Yet, incredibly, there is still so much to learn. That gap, the space that science has yet to (and may never) explain, is filled with belief.
The notion that people can take an explanation that they can’t see, hear, or touch and believe it with every fiber of their beings is truly beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s been sullied by people in positions of power who manipulate it to fit their agendas. Belief is the currency with which our morals are bought and sold.
If we were, for just a moment, to reflect on its intended purpose, perhaps we would not allow our beliefs to be dictated so easily. If we were to recognize that we are all merely humans, trying to find meaning behind our existence, trying to feel worthy of the divine spark that lives in us all, perhaps we would treat each other a little more gently.