A Discussion on Beliefs

An Exchange Between Friends

The following are extracts from emails that were sent between  various people, stimulating thoughts and ideas from each other as they went along.

Herb Sorensen

But there is more to the issue of insults than maybe is apparent.  It is easily possible for someone’s views to so deeply challenge something that you hold near and dear, that no possible expression of those views would, to you, be anything less than insulting.  Everyone should recognize that, and realize that maybe the insult they feel was first felt by the other, because of YOUR views.  But in a situation where the majority are of one mind, the force of this “insult” mentality almost guarantees that there will be no serious consideration of alternatives.

William Ferguson

I’ve said in the past, beliefs are like babies that people protect in their brains.  There’s something very primal in the reactions people have to challenged beliefs.  People will kill, maim or die to protect a belief.

Someone recently described beliefs as “a strong emotional attachment to facts and/or opinion”.

It’s the emotional attachment of beliefs that make them so difficult to shake when faced with better evidence and better information.

Ritual seems to strengthen this emotional attachment.  I’m not saying ritual is bad, but it does present problems when better evidence is later encountered by the believer.

Henry Hasse

Thanks, Bill.  These are the kind of insights that amaze me in this group – sort of like the old Navajo who witnessed the mushroom cloud rising above the New Mexico desert.  He was silent at first and then responded, “Wish I had said that.”

William Ferguson

The insights come from a lot of pain of watching well meaning people attack each other, estrange families and friends over words in a book.  I struggled for years with what I witnessed

All I knew at first was that there was no “liars for Jesus”.  I saw a lot of people become the metaphorical devil in the name of fighting the devil – and if there is a devil – he must have been laughing all the way at the sight of it all.  “One True Church” became “Many One True Churches” and they all hated each other.

Near as I can tell sectarianism comes down to a combination of the way our brainstem works with beliefs, and the incompleteness of binary logic (I say incomplete as it is mathematically correct but it is incomplete because paradoxes flourish and a paradox is a sign of incompleteness in knowledge or understanding, or a limitation of the logic mechanism – we do not yet have HAL 9000).  Binary logic (Aristotelian logic) excludes the middle and favours the extremes.  It favours zealots and demeans balance and balanced people with common sense.

Wendell Krossa

Bill, I got that Brinsmead spirit you noted below from the first Present Truth back in the mid 70s. “Bob has repeatedly said letter kills and spirit gives life (and I get his point) but the letter in those early Truths and then Verdict communicated a lot of life.  And it was a certain type of life- without bitterness or rancour, often it communicated a smile.  No zealotry, no overwrought argumentation, and often a lot of gentle but worldview-disturbing suggestions.  And yes, at times Brinsmead and fire, especially on the pigpen or prison of religion.

Where I would have often flipped the bird (its a form of salute actually) the Brinsmead clan appeared more serene and mellow.  Are they now giving us a proper picture of all Australians? Are there no pissed off Australians?

But those Brinsmead aphorisms communicate a lot- like, “I am not a bitter old man”, or “I will not be a bitter old man”. What an ideal aspiration.  Like the man I just read about in my re-read of Van Lommel.  He could hardly breathe any more as he lay dying from a failing heart but he continued to counsel and cheer all his visitors, right up to his last breath.

Herb Sorenson

I loved the whole post, Bill, but especially this line:

“God has a funny way of working all circumstances to the best of each human.”

This is the incredible complication of life we have to deal with, and we needn’t be too particular how “God” is dealing with others.  Remember those final lines in the gospel about Peter and Jesus?  Peter, “What about these people?”  Jesus, “That is none of your beeswax.  You just keep close to me.”

So, like Peter, I’m casting about, whacking the people who are out of line – according to my lights.  It’s not because I don’t know that’s wrong, but because I haven’t yet achieved my own ideal.  My head knows that the best way to deal with people is to encourage them in their truth, and ignore the rest.  But my heart is still trying to reform them, rather than removing the beam from my own eye.  But I’m comfortable with that, looking for a better me, but realistically not expecting it in this life.  But. WooHoo! I’ll be grateful for any foretastes in the here and now.

Bob Brinsmead

The word “follower” is a word that irritates and disturbs me. I have seen so much damage done to people who became followers – of some guru or some ism.

For sure I was once connected with some kind of intra-sect movement, and my voice seemed to become its focal point, but if anyone confessed that he was a Brinsmead follower I would chastise him as a fool. I chased followers away.

For a long time I have not been comfortable where the NT indicates that Jesus had disciples or the implication that he was a guru who sought disciples.  Why did he say not to call anyone “father” which I take to mean fuerer, leader, guru, master? Maybe we get something out of the Australian bush that makes us very uncomforable with hierachialism, verticalism, authoritarianism, and this whole leader/follower thing.

Herb once put it that anyone who wanted to trek with me would have to bring his own lunch and not become aggrieved that I would not look behind to see if he was coming or not. Hey, this is my journey that I am taking.  When writing anything I have been thinking aloud to myself. That makes it easy not to intrude into the other person’s journey and to tell him what to believe or how to live.  Everyone has to work this out for himself.  In this frame of mind you don’t have to get upset about the way people react to your expression of faith – its the journey that matters, not the guff that is thrown around.

I love that story in the OT about that bandit called David pursuing some enemy who had stolen their possessions, including women and children.  Some could not keep up with the pursuit, they got tired, were too old or too scared, so they “stayed by the stuff” as David and others continued in hot pursuit.  Was David angry with them because they did not keep up?  No.  When he and those with him returned with all the booty from the battle, some of his mates said, “Lets give them back their wives and children, but let us not give them any of the spoils of our battle because they did not come with us.  David would not have any of this suggestion. He declared that those who stayed by the stuff would share equally in the spoils with those who had gone on.

Only from my vantage point of course, there are a lot of past friends and fellow journeyers who have stayed by the stuff. Some are still back there in the 1960’s way of thinking, some are still there in the JBF revival of the 70’s and some are in the more law/religion free mode of the 80’s and only those who are really mad are still on the path beside me.  It can’t really be said that anyone is better off than the other.  I can’t now live where I was in that 70’s mode of thinking; but I am not judgmental of those who are still in that mode – I take it that it must be best for them. None of this determines our ultimate destiny.  The only advantage is that an enhanced understanding of anything can make the journey more comfortable, can make a better contribution to the human condition, and not least to me, may make the ride more exciting.

Wendell Krossa

One of the great freedoms in leaving religion (sorry Herb, just sit and fiddle uncomfortably while I say this 🙂 is the freedom from having to convert others.  As a pagan I never felt any such obligation.  Then in religion it became the center of my life- saving souls, much like Greens trying to save the world and needing to convert all to the cause.  But in returning to “paganism” that burden has been lifted.

No one is damned anyway.

Herb Sorenson

One of the things I learned from visiting a lot of churches after a 3 year hiatus, was the incredible variety.  A lot of the kicking about religion comes from how we related to religion back then, and finding validation for how screwed up we were by finding similar specimens littered about.  But then there are all the people in religion doing just as nicely as anyone on this list. Obsession with “converting” others is an organizational imperative.  As long as you remain disorganized, you will never get too obsessed with the idea of growing.

I might be reading this wrong, but, Wendell, you pretty regularly mention the content of the list, and inviting others, etc.  It’s the human thing.  Everyone seeks validation of their own experience by wanting others to want it.  It’s not bad, but a characteristic of belief in whatever it is you believe or do.

Wendell Krossa

I have no doubt people choosing to remain inside even after the gates were unlocked (oh, I just can’t resist being a stirer) are doing just fine.  We all create a worldview that works for us and enables us to do the best we can.  That is commendable.

Herb Sorenson 

I’ve read articles, but don’t know if there have been any large scale studies of the black population after the Emancipation Proclamation.  I do know that some ran like hell and never looked back.  Others liked living on the plantation just fine. Freedom means freedom according to your own lights, not what someone else thinks.  I always think of this when some babe in a full burkha explains how she loves being a doormat for her man. And then comes the battle for the young.  What right do you have to saddle your children with your own ideas of “freedom.” We’ve got some people here in Oregon that have just been convicted of manslaughter for refusing simple medical care to their sick children.  But how about the freedom to inculcate ideas in your kids?  Does the rest of society want you to turn your brood over to the rest of us after you have totally screwed with them?

Hard cases make bad law!  (An old saying.)

William Ferguson 

I see this in my own life.  My daughter has completely different views on gay people than either her mother or myself.  I can’t blame this entirely on “liberal education systems” – my daughter is very discerning about agendas.   As parents we don’t think its right to discriminate against gays or even spread hatred about them, but we still feel queasy with the subject.

I realize now that this is much like me and my father regarding the civil rights movement.  Dad didn’t like oppression of blacks, but he didn’t want them in his neighborhood either – felt they should be with “their own people”.  Perhaps it takes a new generation to change the mindset of humanity?

Herb Sorensen

I think my karma ran over your dogma!  Seriously, two things, the dogma often becomes the believer’s own dogma.  This is a matter of serious group cohesion.  Secondly, dogma and anti-dogma seem to be seriously related.

And then comes the battle for the young.  What right do you have to saddle your children with your own ideas of “freedom.”

Bob Brinsmead

That’s includes religious dogma – a lot of it formed by goat herdsmen in a primitive, superstitious and pre-scientific age. Like the myth of the devil!

When it comes to religion as some ready-made package passed on from generation to generation, I’m an incorrigible trasher.  It is possible to care for the people who are enslaved by a system, even as the prophet cries, “Break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free.”

‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.’
– Steve Jobs.