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Beliefs come in all shapes and sizes

ersonal beliefs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are rational and sensible while others are outright misguided, occasionally veering into mental pathology or emotional instability. For example:

  • When the Prime Minister of Israel suffered a stroke an American religious leader said it was God's way of punishing him for supporting foreign policy with which the religious leader—and God, presumably—happened to disagree.
  • Hundreds of times a year young men blow themselves up in order to murder innocent people partly in the hope of receiving 72 virgins in the afterlife as reward for their noble actions.
  • Members of various religious sects refuse to take antiobiotics in the faith that God will circumvent the laws of nature and miraculously heal them—in the absence of such a healing occurring many of them die or permanently lose arms, legs, eyesight, or hearing due to infection. Even worse, this often happens to the underage children in their care.
  • On the flip side, millions of believers espouse the Bible as being the inerrant and inspired 'Word of God' but rather than showing faith in the miraculous power of prayer (as instructed in the Bible) they trust instead in science and modern medicine while at the same time condemning naturalism, evolution, skeptical scientists and the scientific method. When they are 'healed' by medications and surgery they usually turn around and give thanks to God.
  • A megalomaniac president hurries into war because of inaccurate (or manufactured) intel then continues to throw good money (and lives) after bad rather than admit the entire venture was misguided (or misrepresented) from the beginning.

It is wise to remember that personal beliefs do not form in a vacuum. They are deliberately germinated and nurtured—first from one's family and then by society at large—sustained through repetition, presumption, coercion, compulsion, even complacency and laziness. How one views the world or embraces religion, science, and politics, is usually decided by the geographical and economical location of one's birthplace—sometimes very little more. Most people will simply root for the home team without giving it much thought, and so whether one becomes a Christian or a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Jew is most often dependant upon global positioning, the intersection of longitudinal and latitudinal lines, and the unique influences of family bias, social predisposition, and cultural taboos. Sociologists call this building of individual belief systems enculturation. In a few short years we come to believe that our way of thinking—our religion, our government, our system of life—is correct and every body else's is somewhow wrong, that it's our group that's going to heaven, our group that has God's ear, our group that's true blue.

Education plays an important role as well, wherein those who've earned college degrees typically hold views decidely more analytic and scientifically-oriented than those who have not. This is quite understandable. It is in college that students learn the importance of critical thinking, dedicated research, asking informed questions and the testing of hypotheses, provided their schools are not constrained by proprietary political ideology or narrow religious doctrine (both of which severely hamper the free exchange and gathering of contrary information). Degrees awarded from a parochial or state-censored education are something of a misnomer.

Too often we believe things simply because we were raised to believe them, indoctrinated and conditioned to interpret the world in a certain way. At a young age, neural paths are laid out according to the way we perceive things. As time passes it becomes more difficult for us to change or alter our belief systems because to do so doesn't feel right. We've become overly accustomed to our beliefs, and embrace them not only out of habit but because our brains prefer to keep them in line like needles following familiar tracks in old vinyl records. For this reason most people would rather continue believing in notions that are plainly irrational or unsound because the alternative can be fearsome and tiring, sometimes causing even physical discomfort (elevated heartbeat, rapid breathing, hyperhidrosis, nervous tension, etc).

The most common way to alter longstanding beliefs—cherished or irrational—is through ongoing education, training and research, the dedicated gathering of information, the reading of a great many books, stepping outside the circle of one's 'comfort zone', exploring unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory. And yet all the education and information in the world will amount to nothing unless there is an eagerness and willingness to question longstanding beliefs, a desire to acknowledge reality even if it is difficult and painful, and a determination to 'know the truth' even if it feels like the last thing you want to do. You must find the courage and strength of character to be absolutely honest with yourself. You must ask yourself this same question as truthfully as you can: Do I believe because of the evidence or because of something I hope for or desire or wish or fear? What trumps what for you? Do your beliefs trump the facts or do the facts trump your beliefs? To find out, imagine that you're hooked up to a polygraph machine and ask yourself this question: Do I really believe what I say I believe or am I really only play-acting?

This site is a tool for those who are willing to look inward at themselves, to ask difficult questions, to challenge their beliefs, and who are prepared—finally—to work towards 'truth' even if it is demanding or uncharted or scares them half to death. What awaits them on such a journey may turn out to be altogether liberating.

What is Reality?
Considering the nature of reality may be simpler than you think. All you need to do is embrace your surroundings disentangled from the artifice of language and the static of words. Return to basics. You don't need to speak, read, or write to experience life, but religion requires all these things to make itself known. If religion can't propogate without words, where does it fall within the texture of reality?
What is Philosophy?
The term philosophy comes from the Greek word "φιλοσοφια" [philo-sophia], which means "love of wisdom". Today, it's used to refer to topics such as the nature of existence, what knowledge is, how one should live, etc. Philosophical literature is characterized by its use of reasoning to advance arguments about these topics, to consider competing views and their difficulties, to discuss themes and issues underlying basic presuppositions.
What is Knowledge?
Knowledge is a type of belief—it involves concepts and abstractions in our brains. As such, the most basic prerequisite for knowledge is the existence of a conscious being. Two other characteristics appear vital: those of acquisition and verification. Since knowledge exists as abstractions, it must be abstracted from something—so knowledge is something we acquire over time rather than are simply born with, distinguishing it from instinct and instinctual actions.
What Is Language?
It has been said that language is the very essence of what makes us human. If we are to fully understand what it means to be human, then, we must understand what language is, how it works, how we use it, or misuse it. But how is it possible to misuse language? By telling lies? No, but inferring a 'representational' meaning of things that are not represented anywhere in the 'real world'—things like 'God', 'Angels', 'Devils', 'Miracles', and other supernatural expressions.
What is Truth?

When someone sincerely agrees with an assertion he or she is claiming that it is true, but 'truth'—whatever 'truth' may be—is certainly more than agreement and assertion. Or is it? For centuries philosophers have wrestled with questions concerning the nature of truth, the word 'truth', even the possibility of truth—therefore falsity too—being nothing more than a subset of language (i.e., without relying on words for description the notions of 'true' or 'false' are impossible to measure).

What is Belief?
A 'belief' as an assumed truth. As such, everything is a belief—including this statement. We create beliefs to anchor our understanding of the world around us and once we've formed a belief we typically persevere with that belief. Pschologists and researchs have shown that belief is highly entangled with language. If there is a word for something we tend to believe it must exist, as in the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Like it or not, most people 'language' their reality into existence.
What is Religion?

Religion was humankind's earliest attempt to try to understand the world and our place in it. Early people saw a bewildering and chaotic world and through a mixture of fear, awe, curiosity, and instinct for survival, looked for ways to explain their surroundings. The search for understanding was undertaken by observing, theorizing, and offering explanations. Whatever was beyond our imagination was quite naturally explained as being the work of something beyond us.

What is Faith?
Religion is not the same thing as faith which can be defined as (1) the impulse to believe in the absence of evidence or explanation, and (2) the act of accepting such evidence or explanation because it seems reasonable or fulfills some unintelligible or apprehensive need. With faith you can believe anything you want no matter how subjective or over-the-top, with religion you cannot. Religion demands that you believe a certain way, in specific things, or suffer the consequences.
What is the Soul?
Edward O. Wilson, in his book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, has identified belief in the soul as one of the universal human elements and has suggested that biologists need to investigate how human genes predispose people to believe in a soul. The idea of the soul can be found in virtually all religions as well as the occult, theosophy and new age literature. Beyond longstanding cultural tradition, is there any rational reason for believing in the soul?
What is Science?
Science [from Latin scientia, to know] is a way of obtaining knowledge by means of objective evaluation. It is systematic field of study (or body of knowledge) that aims through empirical observation, hypothesis, experiment, deduction, and classification to produce reliable explanations of phenomena with reference to the material and physical world. Always testing its hypotheses for misterpretation or error, science is dynamic and does not claim itself infalliable.
What is the Mind?
One common view is that the mind and body belong to two different realms—one physical, the other metaphysical—fused together in us as if we were a combined 'ghost in the machine' (to use the words of philosopher Gilbert Ryle). Today, most cognitive scientists, philosophers, and biological researchers assert that there is only body, that what we know as mind is actually a neurophysiological function of the brain. In other words, there is a machine but there is no ghost.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is concerned with reason, intellectual honesty, and open-mindedness, as opposed too emotionalism, intellectual laziness, and closed-mindedness. It involves: following evidence where it leads; considering all possibilities; relying on reason rather than emotion; being precise; considering a variety of possible viewpoints and explanations; weighing the effects of motives and biases; being concerned more with finding the truth than with being right...
What is Self-Honesty?
An "honest questioner" is someone who sincerely attempts to ask honest questions, seek honest answers, who consciously and deliberately strives to be honest with oneself throughout the discovery process. An honest questioner rigorously and conscientiously recognizes that he or she is a product of a specific milieu and culture and, as such, has been inculcated with a set of ideas, traits, biases, and core beliefs dynamically conjoined to his or her environment.

Please forgive the dust and powertools...

Copyright © 2009 by Craig Lee Duckett. All rights reserved
LAST UPDATED: April 11, 2009
I believe in UFOs I believe in magnet power I believe in a natural universe I believe in life after death I believe in Mohhamed I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus I believe in ghosts I believe in science and the laws of physics I believe in Krishna I believe in the Buddha I believe in magic and the occult I believe in Thor I believe in a literal six-day creation I believe the sun circles around the earth I believe in miracles and the circumvention of the laws of physics I believe I'll have another drink