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Weekly Self-infliction #3: Belief (Transcript)

“If you adopt an idea or perception as the absolute truth, you close the door of your mind. Attachment to views, attachment to ideas, attachment to perceptions are the biggest obstacle to truth.” ~The Buddha

Beliefs are incredibly restricting. We’ve all been indoctrinated to think that we need to believe. Even worse, we’ve been brainwashed to believe more than we think.

In the battle against bewitchment, all beliefs, no matter how powerful or well-intended, are a hinderance to clarity and wisdom.

Better to think rather than believe. Thinking that something is probably true allows for error, fallibility, and wrongness. But believing that something is certainly true cuts us off from other possibilities. Where belief is all or nothing, predicated upon faith despite facts, thought is open-ended, taking beliefs, facts, and evidence into deep consideration and then using probability and validity to discover the truth.

More importantly, thinking rather than believing allows for healthy skepticism and further questioning. Where it might be considered blasphemous to question a belief, questioning a thought is usually considered appropriate. Might as well just skip belief altogether and simply take things into thoughtful consideration.

It is much easier to alter a thought than a belief. Beliefs have a tendency to become entrenched. We tend to get attached to them. And we do this despite truth. Thoughts are less likely to stick, and more likely to pass through deep consideration rather than end up in rigid certitude. Certainty becomes a tripwire, tripping our intellect into emotional brambles.

The key to clarity and clear interpretation, then, is to think rather than believe.

When it comes down to it, letting go of belief allows us the freedom of being wrong. We’re finally able to admit that we’re a young species that’s profoundly fallible and prone to mistakes, especially about our beliefs. We’re a confused naked ape going through the motions of its awkward adolescent phase of evolution. Our outdated beliefs are proof of this.

The fact that religions require us to have blind faith in such preposterous notions as Jewish Zombies, virgin births, and seventy-two virgins in heaven is a mockery of our intelligence and a detriment to spirituality itself. Especially when such claims are considered gospel by religious zealots.

Indeed. Even our updated beliefs are proof of this. My believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster gets me nowhere, except maybe entertained. Better to simply take it into consideration as a silly belief, and then laugh at myself. Question why I might believe that “his noodly appendage will save me from my sins.” Or why I insist on wearing a colander for a hat.

The cure for certainty is curiosity. The key to curiosity is creative detachment. And having a good sense of humor is paramount.

In the end, nobody is off the hook for being wrong. The best we can do is get better at recognizing the hook for what it is so that we are less likely to get dragged away by it. By developing and practicing disciplined strategies for cutting the line and negotiating the hook before the Fisherman of Closemindedness can reel us into his Boat of Dogmatism.


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