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"When ignorant men argue, everyone loses.
When wise men argue, everyone wins."–George Lizer

The Nature of Belief

"Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones." –Bertrand Russell

The overwhelmingly important aspect of belief is that false beliefs have undesirable, unproductive, and ultimately devastating consequences. It is the truth that sets us free, not falsity. False beliefs keep us disoriented, disempowered and imprisoned, keep us in bondage to the wrong purposes and values and keep us doing the wrong things.

A simplistic example is that if we believe it doesn't matter how long or strong our bungee cord is when we jump off the bridge into a canyon, we are likely to get our head bashed in.

Out of the multitude of extreme examples, just one of these is that in Islamic cultures, because of their belief it is common for a father or brother to kill his otherwise beloved daughter or sister if she marries a Christian, or gets raped, or otherwise sexually dishonors her family and the "honor" of its males. The fabric of familial psychological peace and bonding for the survivors is usually destroyed, and of course, more and more the perpetrator is held with contempt in the wider world, and is going to a tangible prison.

BELIEVE verb: To choose to incorporate a certain conception from an issue, which is not knowable, into your belief system because you like or love the concept, from "be" meaning live or exist and "lief" meaning like or love. Secondarily this word means to retain the chosen concept in one's belief system, but just holding onto a concept that one did not consciously choose is not real believing. Specifically, in a moral and religious reference, (believe) is used in the N.T. of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul (Thayer's GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON of the New Testament, 4th edition). See belief system, know, choice, conception, idealism, religion.

BELIEF SYSTEM n: that intellectual structure of learned knowledge, indoctrinated concepts and chosen beliefs that determines our will, conscience and ultimate behavior. See definitions of choice, conscience, decision, will, religion.

As defined by The Analytical Greek Lexicon:

"to be persuaded of, to be confident of, to be induced, to be convinced, to yield belief, to assent, to be assured, to be confident, to trust, to rely on, to confide in."

Two other important issues concerning belief

What more can be said about belief? What are the issues concerning belief? When it comes to the views that we hold to be true, which are usually called "belief", there are two very clear and distinct issues. One is the strength or intensity of the conviction, and the other would be the validity or correctness of the conviction. When we look at these two issues concerning "belief" we should have no trouble seeing that the second is more important or of a much higher priority than the first. Who would argue that a strongly held false belief is better than a weakly held correct one? Wouldn't we actually say that the more strongly a false belief is held the more mischief is caused, the worse off the person is? And do we think that any reasonably mature person (the Creator?) is more pleased or impressed with intensity or "sincerity" than with correctness when we "believe" something bad or wrong about important issues, oneself, others and him?

We can confidently say that everyone has some beliefs that they hold with varying degrees of intensity or strength. When it comes to dealing with people, they may have flaws, weaknesses, unwanted proclivities, but their belief systems are generally the most problematic. People cling to and always defend their belief systems at the risk of some part or aspect of their lives, sometimes risking mortality, and tend to confuse these beliefs with themselves or their personal value. It is like they are trammeled or held captive by them. The enlightened person always has a belief system, but it doesn't have him. He is in personal control of his belief system, not it of him and he is willing to not defend it but to change it when that becomes necessary in the face of better information or better understanding.

On the other hand, the person who has not taken full responsibility for his belief system and seriously vetted it for himself is usually busy convincing himself that he believes what he thinks he is supposed to believe, or what he has unconsciously accumulated in conjunction with an unchallenged paradigm. Of course, when the chips are down, we usually find no substantial commitment to that kind of belief system at all.

Principles of Believing

To believe, or not to believe? That is the question! Would a reasonable person (God or the Creator) ask us to believe anything without a reason or justification? Sometimes belief is characterized as a "leap of faith", and so people using that metaphor usually say that we should leap in the light–not in the dark–so that the leap is an educated one.  I have come to accept the following principles: 1) Understanding ALWAYS precedes genuine belief, and 2) We should believe something only when it is more reasonable to believe it than to not believe it.

The above two principles demand that we sincerely care about our belief system and that our beliefs measure up to being rational, logical, reasonable, and intellectually defensible.

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