What do you believe?

Article in Stretton Focus, January 2020

I will lay my cards on the table. I believe that ‘believing’ is an overrated and even dangerous religious practice. Overrated, because saying that you believe something or other doesn’t make it true. At one time people said they believed that the earth was flat, or that the earth was the centre of the universe and the sun went around it. And they believed this with such conviction that anybody who said otherwise could be burned at the stake.

To quote the Biblical scholar Marcus Borg “believing that something is true has nothing to do with whether or not it is true.”

Even religious people saying that they believe in God is not telling us anything about somebody called God: it’s just telling us about the person who has the belief.

It is also dangerous because religious beliefs can be held so firmly that the person holding the belief might be willing to die for it; or worse still to kill for it, which is not unknown in our world today.

When beliefs are written in stone, or in infallible scriptures and in unquestionable creeds, religions become competitive. People themselves are treated like ‘religious fodder’ and the religion comes first. Under such conditions, extremists can off-load all kinds of fantasies and delusions into their beliefs.

What to do about it? We should hang loose to our beliefs, and be ready to change our minds when there is a good reason to do so. But above all, we should believe in ourselves and look for those qualities that will make us the best that we can be. And at the end of that search, who knows what else we might come to believe?

Donald Horsfield

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