So Dilbert.org has a very funny post about justifying ones own beliefs.
It's funny in sort of a "look everyone is full of it except you kind of way". Yet it pokes fun at you too, when you aren't looking.
Everyone believes in something. It's the justification for your personal belief that's being explored here. So what do I believe?
I believe in one God... well that's a prayer, and a belief statement but what's asked is why I believe in one particular God when so many believe in another. Or, more specifically why I believe in one God, this particular way. For a good piece about what I believe read this. I have some shadings of belief that diverge slightly from that. But on every major point that's what I believe.
So why do I believe this way, when so many don't. The fact is I struggled with what type of Christian I was quite a lot from the time I was confirmed till the time I picked a church that was mine. The reason's I picked this church are, I felt it was most consistent with what I had learned about Jesus from:
- The Bible
- The behaviour of people I knew (Christian and non-Christian alike)
- What made the most sense to me
I don't expect the rest of the world to agree with me. I don't even expect the majority of other Christians to agree with what we as a church believe, but of course I think this is the right way, or I wouldn't have affiliated myself with it.
So the person posting the question, Scott Adams, offers some possible justifications to explain someones particular beliefs, I won't entirely requote them here but just use the first lines (you can follow the linkback to his post for more detail). If these reasons offend you, please comment on Scott's blog, as they are his suggested reasons and I'm quoting him directly on them.
- People are gullible by nature.
- All religions are basically the same.
- I and my fellow believers are well-informed and smart.
- God is stronger than the devil even though the devil has 4 billion people fooled while my God is sucking the hind tit.
- We are the chosen people.
None of these work for me, as they read to me like he's suggesting a glib response, to provocate a more considered response. Yet certainly these are, in and of themselves good enough reasons to believe in something.
I believe in what I believe because:
Not believing in anything, for me, feels like a cop out.
I tried it, and I know it works for many people, but at the end of the day just saying "well I guess I don't know for sure so I guess I'm wrong, so therefore I don't believe in anything." is, for me, dishonest. I do believe these things becuase, well because I believe them. If I could prove they were true, they would be called facts, not beliefs.
I should be able to explain what I believe to others
This is kind of key for me also. If I believe in something I should be willilng to defend it and explain it in the face of a differing belief. Otherwise what I believe has less meaning for me. When faced with a different viewpoint, I should be able to integrate that idea into my own personal faith, and figure out if it is part of my beliefs or, for me, in conflict with my personal beliefs. If I can't do that, I know my faith will become too soft and eventually I'll forget what it is I believe. Once that happens it will stop guiding my life and then, I don't understand what the point of the belief is anymore, because it's not mine.
Other peoples beliefs can be wrong, on everything or something, without my belief being proven entirely wrong or entirely right
The only way to find out for sure is to get dead. So what's the point in justifying to the world why what I believe in is right or wrong. It's personal in a very fundamental way. It's between me and God. How I behave communicates, for more effectively, what I believe.
I can't fully know why God is believed in, in any other way by any other person
If I could know that someone elses beliefs are absolutely proven true in this world, and it turned out what they believed was something I would consider to be "wrong" in my mind, then I guess I'd have to conclude God was manipulating me, and why. What I believe in really doesn't allow God to behave manipulatively for the sake of fooling me, or fooling others. So even if I could know that God asks someone to believe a "wrong" way, it really doesn't change how I have been called to believe in God, and I'll never know why I've been called this way.
God doesn't pit our beliefs against each other, we do, and it's silly
Scott's suggests that one of the justifications for my beliefs may be:
All religions are basically the same
And this sounds similar to what I'm saying here, but hopefully you will understand that it's very different. It seems pretty clear to me that God's reason's are beyond human comprehension. Saying that all religions are basically the same is a playful use of language that sounds like it means something but doesn't actually say anything. The trap here is that I would be limiting God, by implying that he can't have personal relationships with everyone, so therefore, he must be just be "mass marketing" himself by having us create religions. To me the creation of a religion is the human evidence of the peronal relationship God creates with each of us.
Belief is not necessarily Religion, Religion is human, Belief is spiritual
Religions are not created, managed, marketed, or even justified, by God. So to me, it's arrogance against God to even try to explain in human terms, why God calls other people to believe differently. God creates, what I would clumsily call, the framework of the relationship we have with God, and we improvise and embelish that relationship when we particpate in our beliefs as humans. One of the ways we do that is to create and/or affiliate ourselves with a religion that we feel best matches up with what we as individuals believe. I don't believe God is as interested in our reasons as much as he's interested in our actions. After all, he already knows our reasons.
Have you ever heard someone say, "Deep down, we really all know the difference between right and wrong." To me that's a sentence that speaks directly to the personal relationship we have with God. I believe we all do know what is right and wrong inside ourselves, and that our innate sense of rightnes or wrongness is not entirely seperated from how we chose to demonstrate that belief by practicing a particular religion. I think that this innate sense is evidence of God's active involvement in our lives. And that what we do with that active involvement is fundamentally different than religion.
So, bottom line, how do I explain that others believe differently than I do? Rereading the above I guess I would say:
(I've edited this last section for clarity, after talking with my sister Jennifer about it. I had originally said:
God wants others to believe differently than me
I believe God intentionally gave us all the ability to believe, but wants us to choose for ourselves how and what to believe.
God wants us to believe in God as a direct result of our having a personal relationship with him. Many people choose to believe differently than I do. Obviously I believe my choice is the more correct one, but I will never know for sure in this life.
The reason so many people believe(d) differently than I do is because God leaves it up to each of us. In fact there's more than 4 billion different ways to believe in God. Everyone that goes to my church believes in God differently than I do. Everyone that has ever lived has believed in God differently than I do.