I was at a 4th of July Picnic recently and participated in a discussion about what beliefs are and whether a person should change what s/he believes. We weren’t long into the “discussion” before the topic of religion came to the forefront. Immediately, the discussion became more of an argument or debate. It seemed that the discussion of religion evoked a strong emotional response from almost everyone. This was especially true when I asked the question, “Do you ever change your belief?”
So, how would you answer the question? I don’t know about you, but I immediately said yes, of course I have and will change my belief. The instant I said that, there was an unbelievable response and not all of it was positive. There were some, especially those who admitted they are religious, that said they believed what their religion “said” and they would never change their belief(s). One person even said that he no longer believed what his religion taught, but he still believed it. Frankly, I found that statement to be really confusing.
So, if you really think your belief is not true, then why would you not change it? If you really believe something is true, then why would you want to change that belief? In fact, if you really believe something is true, then how can you possibly change that belief without being untrue to yourself? Wouldn’t you end up betraying yourself?
Socrates supposedly said, “be true to yourself.” As much as possible, I try to follow that “motto.” What we believe should not be fixed. We must be true to ourselves or end up living outside of reality. History is filled with examples of people not willing to change their beliefs in order to make what they believe fit reality. Examples like the “world is flat” and “the holocaust didn’t happen” come to my mind immediately.
I know some people have very deep and fundamental beliefs that they profess they would die for. Often times, these beliefs have to do with fighting for country, family or religion. In general, I am not talking about these types of core beliefs, since though we never know for sure, they usually can only be verified during “battle.” Having stated that, many of our beliefs are not matters of life and death, per se, with so much depending upon the beliefs. I use to believe in Santa Claus as a real live person who had the “gift” of being able to ride in a sleigh pulled by reindeers and deliver gifts to every home in the world. I no longer believe in a Santa Claus that has that ability. I changed by belief!
In summary, I think most of our beliefs must be assessed like any other part of our thinking. If a belief is working for us by empowering us to be better people, then leave it alone. If it isn’t, then change the belief. There are many examples in history that reflect people who had beliefs that led to great success. Use those as a starting point and create a set of beliefs that makes you a better person. Simple, yes. Easy, no.