Most of us end up with beliefs the same way an overly energetic toddler gets a glaring bruise – that is to say we often believe in many things without much thought; and a great deal of these are likely an unconscious mirroring of our family, friends and authoritative figures. And they are, despite good intentions, likely to be wrong. Aside from very specific situations, we are rarely required to justify why we do what we do.
Yet, where we clearly stand on an issue is very important. Our answers to “Is downloading music illegally acceptable?” or “If God created everything, who created God?” determine a great deal of what sort of person we think we want to be. And these cross examinations don’t require profound academic knowledge nor sagely wisdom – all it needs is a willingness to take a deep breath and think.
However, thinking about an issue is often an inadequacy. It’s even more difficult to fully embody our beliefs, and even harder to realise when we need to take a more insistent (but open-minded) approach. Staying silent or choosing to abstain often leads to a worse outcome – it’s often (and rightfully) understood as quiet approval.
I once had a deeply enriching conversation with someone who stated that though she wasn’t religious and found the doctrines nonsensical, rather than state her arguments, she would opt to merely walk away if someone became pushy with their beliefs. But walking away is a deflection, and a nod to religious proselytisation. Though I never found out if her opinion(s) differed later on, it’s clear that we need to know more than just where we stand on our beliefs. How should we act?
Despite how we choose to validate a belief, we are very likely to, sometimes paradoxically, hold on to comfortable mental conflicts. Someone who preaches constantly about living a moral life can very well be illegally torrenting (downloading) copyrighted material; a person who believes in the sanctity of marriage may at the same time, be unaware that his responses invite the wrong interests and intents; sometimes we want to be loved by others but we mock the concept of trusting people.
How we choose to act, and what steps we take to reconcile these conflicts are for every individual to discover themselves. These answers cannot be given, but must be happened upon as we continue to live and dwell on our lives. It’s less rewarding than living life by default or that pretending we have all the answers, but there is at least an admirable satisfaction in having undertaken this painful labour.
So have you thought (HYTA) about whether your beliefs can be justified?