Friday, August 6, 2010

How do you believe the things you do, and are they things you can change?

Alrighty then - it's Friday night, so pop open a beer, or pour glass of wine (or other beverage), or if you are like me, get a cold glass of water - and put on your thinking pants.

Here are some philosophical articles to begin the weekend. Have fun.

Can we choose what we believe?

How do you believe the things you do, and are they things you can change?,

Hindu devotees offer prayers during the Makar Sankranti festival in Allahabad, India

Hindu devotees offer prayers during the Makar Sankranti festival
in Allahabad, India.
Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

The question

Some of our beliefs we hold after conscious deliberation. Others just seem to have been there forever, as a natural part of life. And sometimes, beliefs seem to take hold of us, almost against our wills. But how is the balance struck? Faith positions, whether positive or negative, can take of these forms. There are careful, slow rational conversions and losses of faith; there are sudden moments of enlightenment, and for some people faith or lack of it is entirely taken for granted. No one here has to explain why they are not followers of Astarte.

So this week we are interested in personal answers: how do you believe the things you do? Would it be better to believe them in different ways – more rationally, or perhaps with greater feeling? Is that in fact something you can change? A lot of Christian advice deals with strengthening the different components of faith, so that it is both intellectual and emotional. Do atheists need the same kind of disciplines? Do Muslims, or even Buddhists? What works and why?

Monday's response

Julian Baggini: The more we scrutinise our own decisions and attend to inconvenient facts, the more we can be said to have acted freely

Tuesday's response

Usama Hasan: Faith is not simply a question of rational choice: emotion and practice are enormously important

Thursday's response

Harriet Baber: I've decided to embrace Christianity because I'm fascinated by it – and because it's the logical thing to do

Friday's response

Ophelia Benson: Belief isn't a wormhole to knowledge about God – it's a cognitive function that should be flexible and open to correction

To me, and this goes for all areas, not just religion or spirituality - belief is what happens when we stop asking questions. I do it - you do it - we all do it. But wouldn't it be better on the big issues to keep asking questions, to be agnostic rather than religious or atheistic?

Would it not be better to keep an open mind - to keep asking questions (or start if we haven't yet) - about what it means to be a man, to be masculine, to be a human being, to be alive?

Are not these questions about which we might better be open to saying, "I don't have the answers?"


~noms said...

I love the post-post modern approach to religious life and to a great degree, I believe I even live it and experience it with wonder and awe, but there is no sense of "belief" or having "faith" in something. I've been calling myself "religious without a religion" for a long time now (because i can't get with "spiritual but not religious"). In any case, I do seem to believe and I do have faith in one thing - Emergence.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that belief is what happens when we stop asking questions; though the point that the author might have been making about perhaps the clinging to a particular doctrine or way of being/thinking. Bad things definitely happen when people stop asking why for a long enough time. I would propose that belief is the sum total of what a person has found to be true/real/effective in their lives. Without a tangible belief, there is no solid base from which to have an open mind from. If we have an open mind with no foundation, we are everywhere and nowhere, orphans with no home lost in an unfathomably large universe. Forgive me if I'm missing the point.