Popping the Balloon of Belief

I'm really excited. I just got a bigger soapbox, and I wanted to invite the rest of you to get up here on it with me.

You may remember I was recently talking about how beliefs are at the core of our conflicts, yet those beliefs are built upon less-than-complete information. What is known is not all there is ? there's always something more. Yet we try to explain what we think we know by constructing complex belief systems around them, and fight to defend them against those who believe another way. Our egos are so fragile that we'd rather fight than consider that the foundations of our thought and society might be built upon shifting sands.

Maybe this seems farfetched. But let's look at the Middle East. The interplay of beliefs give us a prime example.

One set involves religion, where ideological descendants of a common ancestor have fought for centuries under the guise of righting a perceived assault upon their God. Each fights to eradicate the other side, and hopefully the differing beliefs they hold. Superimpose upon this age-old fight an internal Muslim war between sects, along with a regional struggle between clerics and secularists, and the complexities grow immense. But that's far from all.

Let's also not forget that most in the area live deprived of what many believe are basic human rights, often repressed by brutal regimes that crush dissent to maintain power and the status quo. All this while their citizens are awakening to an inner call to explore their own potential, fueled by worldwide communications that show what others already enjoy. Many are crying out to end this. Some even resort to terrorism, further complicating the mix.

Now add in geopolitical struggles for money and power which are impacted by the area's crucial location over large deposits of oil. This lifeblood fuels mankind's technological march into the future, and allows us to enjoy a standard of living not even dreamed of in centuries past. Instability of any kind triggers fears our way of life may be impaired or lost altogether.

Whew, it makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

We've given the existing institutions of government and religion a chance, and look what they've done with it. They've showed us the answer is not in diplomacy. And it certainly isn't in war. Or in greater religious fervor. Or in any of the tools at their disposal.

So let me suggest another way. What if everyone asked themselves, "Why do we believe this stuff anyway?" It couldn't hurt to just consider the possibilities.

What if people found a way to connect to God and find meaning without religions that inherently pitted them against each other, whether intended or not? Not to replace one religion with another, but to find an inner spirituality that didn't need the institutions or structure? Where we all knew and felt connected to our source, so that all religions could go quietly into the night?

What if people accepted that others who were different could live among them, and that this diversity both honored and accentuated the best characteristics of each? And that diversity was accepted as a gift to better know themselves, rather than an irritant to be tolerated?

What if there were no struggles to govern among groups or sects because each truly enjoyed the ability to be itself without having to worry about either defending its differences or imposing them on others?

What if governments were not run by either despots or leaders that curried popular favor by castigating opponents and fomenting social discord? Rather, their peoples were guided by an inner force (not an outer one inflamed by religion or politics) that allowed them, and their leaders, to find the seeds of peace within every conflict?

What if people everywhere knew and trusted that their needs would be met as they arose, and that they could explore meaningful pursuits without bumping up against the efforts of others?

This may be a dream, but it is certainly one that is within our reach. You know it as well as I do. But to make it happen, we each have to first hold out a vision of what can be. And then to commit ourselves to make it happen.

Sure, there will be many objections and roadblocks. Religious institutions and governments will fight hard against it. Fear will bring resistance and maybe even greater strife in the short run. Patience and persistent effort will be needed to see it through. But who says the best things come easy?

Isn't it time we stopped leaving the evolution of humanity up to chance, or at least quit pretending it's out of our hands? We're at a point now where people worldwide can share ideas and visions. So why not work toward those that go beyond predatory commerce, politics, and religion? Why not believe that which serves us and our ideals, and promotes the common good, rather than sows the seeds of conflict and destruction?

If this is a world where people go to war over beliefs, isn't belief there's a better way worth fighting for? I sure think so. What about you?

Copyright 2004 by John Dennison. John is a voice for those who do not hear or know they have an inner voice. Author of Whispers in the Silence: Living by the Light of Your Soul, he can be reached at [email protected] or visit him at WhisperZone.org, home for those who know their own way.

In The News:

A Ban on Religious Garb in Public  The New York Times
In God We Divide  The New York Times
Americans' Views on Trump, Religion and Politics | Pew Research Center  Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project
Wars of Religion  The American Interest
Put religion on hold  Daily Pioneer

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