Popping the Balloon of Belief

I'm really excited. I just got a bigger soapbox, and I wanted to invite the rest of you to get up here on it with me.

You may remember I was recently talking about how beliefs are at the core of our conflicts, yet those beliefs are built upon less-than-complete information. What is known is not all there is ? there's always something more. Yet we try to explain what we think we know by constructing complex belief systems around them, and fight to defend them against those who believe another way. Our egos are so fragile that we'd rather fight than consider that the foundations of our thought and society might be built upon shifting sands.

Maybe this seems farfetched. But let's look at the Middle East. The interplay of beliefs give us a prime example.

One set involves religion, where ideological descendants of a common ancestor have fought for centuries under the guise of righting a perceived assault upon their God. Each fights to eradicate the other side, and hopefully the differing beliefs they hold. Superimpose upon this age-old fight an internal Muslim war between sects, along with a regional struggle between clerics and secularists, and the complexities grow immense. But that's far from all.

Let's also not forget that most in the area live deprived of what many believe are basic human rights, often repressed by brutal regimes that crush dissent to maintain power and the status quo. All this while their citizens are awakening to an inner call to explore their own potential, fueled by worldwide communications that show what others already enjoy. Many are crying out to end this. Some even resort to terrorism, further complicating the mix.

Now add in geopolitical struggles for money and power which are impacted by the area's crucial location over large deposits of oil. This lifeblood fuels mankind's technological march into the future, and allows us to enjoy a standard of living not even dreamed of in centuries past. Instability of any kind triggers fears our way of life may be impaired or lost altogether.

Whew, it makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

We've given the existing institutions of government and religion a chance, and look what they've done with it. They've showed us the answer is not in diplomacy. And it certainly isn't in war. Or in greater religious fervor. Or in any of the tools at their disposal.

So let me suggest another way. What if everyone asked themselves, "Why do we believe this stuff anyway?" It couldn't hurt to just consider the possibilities.

What if people found a way to connect to God and find meaning without religions that inherently pitted them against each other, whether intended or not? Not to replace one religion with another, but to find an inner spirituality that didn't need the institutions or structure? Where we all knew and felt connected to our source, so that all religions could go quietly into the night?

What if people accepted that others who were different could live among them, and that this diversity both honored and accentuated the best characteristics of each? And that diversity was accepted as a gift to better know themselves, rather than an irritant to be tolerated?

What if there were no struggles to govern among groups or sects because each truly enjoyed the ability to be itself without having to worry about either defending its differences or imposing them on others?

What if governments were not run by either despots or leaders that curried popular favor by castigating opponents and fomenting social discord? Rather, their peoples were guided by an inner force (not an outer one inflamed by religion or politics) that allowed them, and their leaders, to find the seeds of peace within every conflict?

What if people everywhere knew and trusted that their needs would be met as they arose, and that they could explore meaningful pursuits without bumping up against the efforts of others?

This may be a dream, but it is certainly one that is within our reach. You know it as well as I do. But to make it happen, we each have to first hold out a vision of what can be. And then to commit ourselves to make it happen.

Sure, there will be many objections and roadblocks. Religious institutions and governments will fight hard against it. Fear will bring resistance and maybe even greater strife in the short run. Patience and persistent effort will be needed to see it through. But who says the best things come easy?

Isn't it time we stopped leaving the evolution of humanity up to chance, or at least quit pretending it's out of our hands? We're at a point now where people worldwide can share ideas and visions. So why not work toward those that go beyond predatory commerce, politics, and religion? Why not believe that which serves us and our ideals, and promotes the common good, rather than sows the seeds of conflict and destruction?

If this is a world where people go to war over beliefs, isn't belief there's a better way worth fighting for? I sure think so. What about you?

Copyright 2004 by John Dennison. John is a voice for those who do not hear or know they have an inner voice. Author of Whispers in the Silence: Living by the Light of Your Soul, he can be reached at john@WhisperZone.org or visit him at WhisperZone.org, home for those who know their own way.

In The News:


The Economist (blog)

Greece, religion and geopolitics
The Economist (blog)
AS MY last posting noted, the first edgy thing which the new Greek government did was to downgrade, albeit very politely, its relations with the church. The second thing was to upgrade a relationship whose historic roots are at least partly religious ...


BBC News

Nigeria elections: Mixing religion and politics
BBC News
"However, I will make a choice between that Christian leader and a Muslim leader who may not guarantee freedom of religion… so to that extent I may lean to the Christian leader but that is not how it should be," the father of two young children adds ...

and more »

CBC.ca

Muslim says he's not allowed to practise religion at Baffin Correctional Centre
CBC.ca
Inmates at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit say tensions are reaching a boiling point because basic rights — such as practising their religion, and having access to fresh air and recreation — are being denied. CBC News has agreed to withhold ...

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Raw Story

Famed biologist: Religion 'is dragging us down' and must be eliminated 'for ...
Raw Story
Biologist E. O. Wilson, who is known as the “the father of sociobiology,” said recently that the Earth was suffering “the death of a thousand cuts” because of religion. In the most recent issue of New Scientist, Wilson explained that his next book ...
E. O. Wilson: I'm not an atheist but religion should be eliminatedInternational Business Times UK
EO Wilson: We should “diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths”Salon

all 3 news articles »

Christian Science Monitor

Laser pioneer Charles H. Townes sought to fuse science with religion
Christian Science Monitor
A devoted member of the United Church of Christ,Townes drew praise and skepticism later in his career with a series of speeches and essays investigating the similarities between science and religion. "Science tries to understand what our universe is ...
Charles Townes, inventor of the laser and friend to both science and religion ...The Register

all 317 news articles »

Voice of America

Myanmar MPs Debating Controversial Religion Laws
Voice of America
The upper house of parliament in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has begun debating two controversial interfaith bills that critics say could escalate conflict between religious groups in the country. The bills, introduced by the government of President ...
Civil Society Groups Urge Myanmar to Drop Bills to 'Protect' Religion, RaceRadio Free Asia

all 3 news articles »

Religion News Service

Science vs. religion? There's actually more of a three-way split
Religion News Service
(RNS) Meet the “Post-Seculars” — the one in five Americans who no one seems to have noticed before in endless rounds of debates pitting science vs. religion. They're more strongly religious than most “Traditionals” (43 percent of Americans) and more ...


BurlingtonFreePress.com

Opinion: Is religion the problem?
BurlingtonFreePress.com
11, 2001, biologist Richard Dawkins wrote an essay for London's Guardian newspaper in which he compared the religious conditioning of the 9/11 hijackers with B. F. Skinner's WWII research on pigeon-guided missiles. The challenge, Dawkins wrote, is to ...


Science vs. religion: 1 in 5 Americans like a little of both
Tulsa World
The study uses three years of data from the General Social Survey of 2,900 people from diverse religious faiths and views. Researchers are from the University of Evansville in Indiana and the University of Wyoming. It was funded by the National Science ...


Rappler

After Charlie Hebdo, Balancing Press Freedom and Respect for Religion
Pew Research Center's Journalism Project
Coming at the issue from the opposite perspective, the most common reason offered by those who say it was not okay to publish the cartoons is religious tolerance and respect. About two-thirds of those who disapprove of publishing the cartoons named ...
Criticizing religion in light of Charlie Hebdo attackRappler
A cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo says that terror attacks are “the worst ...CTV News
VIDEO: Charlie Hebdo cartoonist El-Rhazoui talks religion, racism, and global ...BCLocalNews
The Inquisitr -Times of Malta -Interfax-Religion
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