Are Your Beliefs Changeable?
I was once at a social gathering where I 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 introducing the topic of religion evoked a strong emotional response from almost everyone. This was especially true when I asked the question: “Do you ever change your beliefs?“
How would you answer the question in the previous paragraph? I don’t know about you, but I immediately said: “Yes, of course I have and will change my beliefs.” 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: “I no longer believe what my religion taught me, but I still believe in my religion.” Frankly, I found that statement to be really confusing.
So, if you really think your belief isn’t 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?
Shakespeare, in his play, Hamlet, wrote: “To thine own self be true.” As much as possible, I try to follow that motto. I think that what we believe should not be a fixed belief. 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, as examples, 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. Although we never know for sure, beliefs that we would die for can usually 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. For example, I used to believe in Santa Claus as a real live person who had the gift of being able to ride in a sleigh pulled by reindeer 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.
I believe a comment is in order. :-)
Great entry Ron. I believe we constantly change our beliefs. When we learn, we find we didn’t know everything, whether it be economic theory, political issue or religion or otherwise. Religion is a tough one because many tend to be pretty close minded about their beliefs, still they will go to Bible study every Sunday and Wednesday, and frequently encounter someone with supposedly “superior” knowledge explain the meaning of a scripture in a different light than they had ever before heard, and if they respect this teacher, they may change a long held belief. Over the course of the last 2000 years some basic core beliefs of Christianity have remained constant, while others have changes, this is evidenced in the large number of different churches we have today. So while a person may staunchly deny that they would ever change their belief, they may not realize that the root and origin of these seemingly unchangeable beliefs have changed and evolved much.
Excellent points, Rich! Thanks for the comment.