Why do we believe in anything at all?
People are full of ideas like heaven, hell, angels, demons, miracles, spirits, ghosts, and resurrection. Of course, none of these things are provable, but people keep on believing that they exist. Why? Have you ever wondered why without acceptance or denial? Since childhood we are inundated with the ideas and beliefs of others, including our parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, society, and so on. Then we just accept such beliefs as our own, most of the time without questioning any of them.
People can’t help themselves, quite literally, from believing in things that religion, spirituality, cult, philosophy, or dogmatic system instills them with.
i’m not religious, i’m spiritual
Is it better to be religious or spiritual? Many people are fond of proclaiming, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” as if religious beliefs are crazier than spiritual ones.
beliefs that are taken as truths
Spiritualism is a movement that took off in the 1850s and grew especially popular during and after the Civil War in America that left so many young soldiers dead and their friends and parents searching for an afterlife. Then, in the 1870s Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, entered the scene and became the keystone of spiritualism by forming the Theosophical Society and codifying a spiritual belief system chock full of words and concepts that are still used today. A hundred years after Madam Blavatsky, we’ve witnessed a worldwide uptick in the rise of a new breed of spiritual teachers and New Age pontificators. And, millions of people picked up on a popular ideas ranging from reincarnation to ectoplasm.
Just as with religious belief, few people seem to care enough to wonder why they accept secondhand information as true and then pass it along as if it is.
In the popular group think of Spirituality, here are some “truths:”
• we are all here for a reason
• we are all one
• we choose our parents prior to our birth
• there’s a bright light and a tunnel waiting for us when we die
• there’s something called a higher consciousness and a higher vibration
• a master can give someone enlightenment
• there’s a group of invisible beings called ascended masters
• everyone has guardian angels and spirit guides
• you get bad karma for being bad and good karma for being good
• we are all connected
• desire is bad
• judgment is wrong
• attachment creates bad karma
There are more, but these are among the more common ones. We can add to this list that individuals who attract big crowds of followers and fill lecture halls are hailed as real enlightened beings by virtue of their own claims and popularity. People don’t know any of this stuff to be true, but they believe anyway. So, are they true? The only way to know is to find out for yourself, otherwise they remain beliefs that are distractions to frightened and confused minds.
believing is not knowing; knowing requires no believing
Here’s the definition of a belief: “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.” To believe means not to know.
Obviously, if you knew something to be true then you’d have no need to believe it or take it on faith. We are all subject to believing things because we do not stop to investigate the validity of ideas or who we are as the self, which is the idea of what we are as people — who we take ourselves to be. Almost no one does this!!
By dropping all beliefs, we free up a lot of space in an already cluttered mind. This space creates energy for the truths that we face, whether it’s how we’re going to earn enough money, why we are so stressed out, how to make our children happier, or why we fear death.
the ego takes refuge in beliefs
When it comes to beliefs, whether religious, spiritual, atheist, philosophical, or materialistic, many serve to at least satisfy the self’s need for security and approval, and to provide pleasure or a way to avoid pain. To most people the world seems like a scary, crazy, chaotic, unpredictable, and way-too-overwhelming reality. When the self hitches itself to something it believes is greater than itself, including people, groups, associations, religious and spiritual leaders, spirit beings, and even ideas, then it feels more secure. God has been at the top of the list for a long, long time.
The ego, or self, can’t stand the idea that it will someday cease to exist, so ideas about an afterlife, reincarnation, good karma, and reunification with loved ones help assuage the inevitable. Does this mean that these ideas definitely do or do not exist? Believing does not give us the answer.
know before you speak
When I was growing up I heard a teacher tell an impulsive student, “Think before you speak.” I still don’t know if this is sound advice, but it seems that even sounder advice is: “Know instead of believing.”
I made a list of common spiritual beliefs above. Do we really know if any of them are true? Is it wise to go around talking about them as if we know, or regarding New Age teachers as superior human beings with special insight into things we cannot see? Beliefs can be revealed to be baseless or not, and the only way to find out is through our own observation instead of accepting the secondhand information passed along by others regardless of their intelligence or status.