Beliefs Matter: Part 3

Updated: Mar 22, 2019



For the next few weeks I'm going to be sharing a series of thoughts on the topic: Beliefs Matter.

This is Day Three

One of the most governing beliefs a person has is their belief about God, and the most powerful purveyor of beliefs in our world is religion.

Humans want answers to life’s deepest existential questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? How should I live? What is death? What happens when I die? Is there a god, and, if so, what is this god like and want does this god want?

Having answers to these questions provides a sense of security about our fundamental existence and future. Without these answers the world feels frightfully random and absurd, and our lives meaningless and futile. Religion delivers. Religion presumes to answer life’s essential questions in a spirit of abject certainty.

We want our beliefs to be “right,” and our answers to be absolute. If they aren’t, how can they be real or true? Without universality, we fear our particular beliefs lack validity. Our entire story becomes suspect and may come tumbling to the ground. Every set of answers can’t be right, since the answers are often distinctly different. The Christian and the Atheist can’t both be right about “God.”

We accept a source outside ourselves for answers because it creates a sense of legitimacy. If our answers come from a long-established and authoritative institution, our beliefs feel more sound and justified. Religion holds the two most important cards for asserting its credibility:

1. There is a God. 2. We speak for him.

My background is in religion. I hold a Master of Divinity degree and served many years as a professional Christian minister. I proclaimed the Christian religion’s answers to life’s deepest questions, chiefly about God. These answers became beliefs, which people adopted, and which governed their understanding of themselves, others, the world, life, death, and life after death.

I left organized religion because I ultimately came to realize that the answers and beliefs that

religion teaches, sabotages a person’s ability to live a free, whole, fulfilled and responsible life.

Looking to religion for answers to existential questions requires two assumptions that I believe

are false:

1. That there are universal and factual answers to existential questions.

2. That the source of these answers is outside ourselves.

There are no universal and factual answers to life’s existential questions. Religion doesn’t actually provide answers, it disseminates beliefs and insist they are answers. Even within the Christian religion there are tens of thousands of different denominations throughout the world with divergent beliefs. Everyone can’t be right. This is the root cause of religious division, hatred, war and terrorism. People will kill and die for their beliefs because they think their beliefs are the universal and factual answers to life’s deepest questions. Any contrary beliefs are a direct threat and abomination.

The first claim is false, making the second claim pointless. The “God” of religion does not exist and anything said about or on behalf of that “God” is empty and irrelevant.

I put the word “God” in quotes and qualify it with “of religion” because “God” is a common religious word used to identify a Supreme Being or Higher Power. This idea of “God” is most closely associated with the Theistic belief-system. Theism generally holds that God exists realistically, objectively, and independently of human thought. This God created and sustains everything, is omnipotent and eternal, but is also personal and interacting with the universe through, for example, religious experience and the prayers of humans. Theism holds that God is both transcendent and immanent; thus, God is simultaneously infinite and in some way present in the affairs of the world.

Beliefs are choices and people choose to believe in the “God” of religion or Theism. At first glance this belief seems harmless but the devil is in the details. Just a cursory stroll through history reveals how religion has used the idea of God as a means of social control and preservation of power."

© Jim Palmer


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