Ever since 9/11 and the war in Iraq, I’ve been contemplating beliefs. I’m fortunate enough to know a wide variety of people and I get to hear a wide variety of beliefs. The events that have transpired since 9/11 have brought to the fore front some vary different and challenging beliefs. There seems to be a lot of finger pointing, blaming and harsh criticism of other human beings or their actions. Listening to this, I’ve notice a few things. First, I’ve noticed that one “side” of a particular belief does not always listen to the other side. Next, I’ve noticed that people listen to all kinds of “facts” to support their beliefs and ignore the ones that do not support them. Lastly I’ve noticed that people rarely change their beliefs no matter how well supported the opposing beliefs are.
Here is the conclusion that I draw: People believe whatever they want to believe. There are enough “facts” out there, real or imaginary, to support any belief that one wants to believe. The question that seems interesting to me is not what do people believe, but rather why do people want to believe what they want to believe. It seems to me that having a belief is a choice and that having a particular belief serves a particular purpose for the person believing it. So the question is, “Why do people want to believe what they believe? What purpose does the belief serve for them?”
After contemplating this for a long while, the answer finally came to me. Parts of the answer of why we choose to believe what we believe seem obvious to me. Beliefs give us a sense of identity in community. Perhaps, also, they are a way to rebel against authority, or stand in self righteousness. But I want to take it a little deeper, to a level of feeling. Having beliefs give us feeling. Our beliefs can make us feel happy, sad, angry, joy or any other of a wide assortment of feelings. The basic biology of feelings is a chemical reaction in our bodies that stimulate action. Feelings are a bridge between the mind and the body. The entire conglomerate of mind/body/feelings is referred to as the soma … mind/body & the feelings that bridge them. Feelings are a chemical reaction to the environment or to the imagery in our mind. Our beliefs are a part of the imagery of our mind.
Any of the chemicals in our bodies, whether foreign or naturally produced can be a form of addiction. Following this, it means that we can be addicted to the chemicals that produce feelings. Perhaps you know someone that is depressed all the time or chronically angry, happy or sad. Perhaps you recognize some of this in yourself. Our bodies become used to the chemicals that make us feel a particular way. We become addicted to these chemicals and addicted to our feelings.
My contemplation on beliefs has led me to theorize that we choose our beliefs based on how they make us feel. We choose beliefs that make us feel a familiar way, the ways that we have felt all our lives and have become addicted to feeling.
The human soma (mind/body) is a chemical “soup” that interacts and uses the chemicals of feeling to react to the environment and the other somas (human, plant and animal) within that environment. Thoughts, imagination, feelings & beliefs are all a part of the soma. They support the movement of the soma through the environment. Where we go and what we do really does not matter, as long as the soma can survive long enough to realize its purpose, whatever that may be. Beliefs are just a part of that journey that help us get from point “A” to point “B” of the journey and then released. They are not the truth. They only need to be “right” or “wrong” to the level that we are addicted the feelings that being “right” or “wrong” in our beliefs produce.