The danger of belief

In one of our book club meetings recently, we discussed belief and how what a person believes in can actually be a dangerous thing. I’ve always thought that a person can believe what they want to, as long as I’m allowed to do the same and our beliefs don’t cause each other physical harm or distress. I guess it’s a little more complicated than that. Some beliefs, while not being demonstrated by outward abuse or violence, can simmer below the surface and hinder the progress of others.

There are many times during my workday that I feel like the most enlightened person in the room. I know that sounds egotistical, but you would have to meet some of the people that I work with to understand that it’s not. It seems that my village has more than its fair share of idiots and that most of them work with me.

Yesterday, two coworkers informed me that neither they or anyone they knew would be voting for a woman or a “n*gger” for presidential office. Knowing that I would have no problem supporting either Clinton or Obama, I was appalled that anyone would so blatantly admit to their racism and sexism without a hint of embarrassment. I immediately informed them that they didn’t represent the majority of people in this country, a weak attempt to make them feel as insignificant as the minorities they were railing against.

The conversation morphed into a discussion about religion and “the truth”, which they informed me was anything found in scripture. I said that truth means different things to different people, while one claimed that his thirty-something pastor could always tell the truth by referring to the Bible. I countered that reading the Bible is all about interpretation, and was then told that there was no point in discussing the “truth” with someone who doesn’t believe in the infallibility of scripture. As the conversation was quickly deteriorating to the point of argument, I decided that it was time to bite my tongue.

While I am flabbergasted by many of their beliefs and consider them to be extreme, I’m sure they think the same of mine. The difference is that I try to err on the side of justice, kindness, and reason while many of their beliefs are rooted in discrimination and ignorance. I can’t help but wonder how they came to feel the way they do about certain issues, while I feel so completely different. Did personal experience or parental coaching help mold their beliefs into what they are today?

I know I’m not always right or that what I consider truth is superior to others, but I can defend most of my beliefs with something more than a gut feeling or a random Bible verse that is taken out of context. The search for truth which my coworkers referred to is so much more complex than their narrow concept of it. While they consider it to be absolute and tangible, I consider it to be relative and just outside my grasp. Yes, there are universal truths, but a combination of experience and reason usually brings forth a personal truth – something that we believe wholeheartedly, even if it’s wrong.

I sincerely hope that none of my beliefs are damaging to another person. Racism and sexism hurts other humans and homophobia hurts our brothers and sisters, yet some people still live and breathe those ideologies. I pray that I am not so steadfast in my opinions that I wouldn’t even consider changing them if presented with evidence to the contrary. That doesn’t make me wishy-washy, it just makes me open-minded and willing to evolve. That’s a characteristic that seems to be sorely lacking in my neck of the woods.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 11 years and three fabulous felines.

4 thoughts on “The danger of belief”

  1. Brian,

    I will be praying for you to “shine as light in the darkness” at your workplace. I was immediately reminded of the conversation on your blog a week and a half or so from part 2 of your study group–about using scripture, reason, tradition and experience to get at truth and establish a belief system.

    Some folks are “scripture only”; they either believe exactly what the bible says (without trying to figure out what it means) or they find a verse to support their already set-in-stone opinion.

    Whether one is using the Koran, the Bible or some other “holy book” that can be a dangerous thing–especially when people with opposing belief systems find with each other–explosive.

    You’re right on track when you say, “I try to err on the side of justice, kindness, and reason” and “I sincerely hope that none of my beliefs are damaging to another person.”

    Keep shining. Hang in there!

    JimT

  2. Just so you are aware, women are not a minority. In fact, in this country they are a majority. This does not mean they do not suffer from unjust discrimination.

    In regards to religious views I want to refer you to the following three resources of thought.

    1. A satirical response to Dr. Laura quiting the bible on the blasphemy of homosexuality (it’s been around a while and you may have already heard it)

    Dear Dr. Laura:

    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When people try to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to follow them:

    a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev.1:9).The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Lev.15:19-24).The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    d) Lev.25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

    e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

    f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev.11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

    g) Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

    h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    i) I know from Lev.11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread cotton/polyester blend. He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev.24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)

    I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

    2. A link to a thought on Christ Consciousness from the non-physical collective “Abraham,” who channels through Esther Hicks.

    http://abraham-hicks.com/audio/cd1/cd1_16.mp3

    3. From The Center for Spiritual Awareness in Sacramento, CA, a church based on the teachings of the Science of the Mind.

    “Everything is either a call for love or a cry for love”

    It’s all just bits of thought that might be helpful and definitely are interesting.

    WS

  3. WS,

    Oops! I guess I did imply that women were a minority group. It’s easy to make that assumption since they are so discriminated against.

    The Dr. Laura letter is great! I posted it on here a few months ago, but addressed it to Pace and Brownback (both were in the news for making anti-gay remarks).

    I’ll check out the other things you mentioned, too.

  4. Beliefs have to do with emotion and influence and not about truth. Once a belief is proven is stops being a belief and becomes knowledge. The Bible cannot be proven, therefore it is not evidence of truth or knowledge. Beliefs are personal and truthfully, I doubt God really cares about all that you believe in.

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