On belief

I came across this post today and found this insightful, provocative statement on belief:

“Believing something is not an accomplishment. I grew up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they’re really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because “strength of belief” is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you’ve made it a part of your ego. Listen to any “die-hard” conservative or liberal talk about their deepest beliefs and you are listening to somebody who will never hear what you say on any matter that matters to them — unless you believe the same. It is gratifying to speak forcefully, it is gratifying to be agreed with, and this high is what the die-hards are chasing. Wherever there is a belief, there is a closed door. Take on the beliefs that stand up to your most honest, humble scrutiny, and never be afraid to lose them.” –David Cain

We all have believed things that turned out not to be true, from small inconsequential trivia to major life-shaping philosophies. Santa and fairies and such just don’t work as reasonable options for most adults.

There are 7 billion people on this planet. Consider all the conflicting beliefs that exist, all the misplaced certainty. All the meanness and pain and wasted opportunities spent on cherished beliefs.

I remember arguing passionately when I was in college for beliefs that I now no longer hold. As I’ve aged and grown in knowledge, and I may be an exception, believing has been less of a force in my life. I would rather know something than believe it. And that ends up leaving me with a lot more questions than answers. While I may no longer have the fixed stars I once used to navigate through life with, I’m okay with the mystery, with not knowing.

It is harder, though. Having your beliefs locked in is much easier. Less thinking required. And it’s kind of cozy and comfortable and safe. But, it’s also a lot less interesting, and, ultimately, it’s not real.

It’s okay, healthy and normal, exciting even, to question what simply has been handed to you as truth and move further into not-knowing. It takes courage to ask tough questions, but if a belief can’t withstand honest inquiry, it’s not worth holding on to.