Right out of the gate, I do want to relate, in honesty, some of the things that I know are NOT true about believers:
- I know that believers are not unreasonable
- I know that believers are not irrational
- I know that believers are not illogical
- I know that believers are not uneducated
- I know that believers are not ignorant
- I know that believers are not stupid, moronic, or silly
- I know that believers are not all the same
That being said, I’d like to point out that while I know that believers are not these things, the beliefs themselves, sometimes, are all of these things. Mine included, which is why I choose to write about these topics. And furthermore, some things that I realize that believers, like myself, are likely to be:
- I know that believers are likely to be sensitive about their beliefs
- I know that believers are likely to be confident in their beliefs
- I know that believers are likely to be defensive about their beliefs
- I know that believers are likely to be caring in regard to sharing their beliefs
And lastly, some things that I know believers can possibly be, myself included:
- I know that believers can possibly arrive at their beliefs for bad reasons
- I know that believers can possibly be wrong about their beliefs
- I know that believers can possibly act in harmful ways to themselves and to others because of their beliefs
So, it’s true. I’m positively and shamelessly fascinated by believers and their beliefs. My questions are “Beliefs of what?” “Believers in what?” “Why?” I certainly do not hate Christians. Nor do I even remotely dislike Christians, nor Muslims nor Jews nor liberals, conservatives, hipsters, scientists, devil worshippers, musicians, or any other blanket label for a group of people that you want to name. I do understand that there are stereotypes built around all structured groupings of people; this misinformed and ignorant means of fitting every individual from these groups into one like-shaped box seems, to me, to be hopelessly unavoidable. While I realize that I too am subject to my own biases, I should express how important it is for me, in my writing and in my life, to try my hardest to avoid this trap: the trap of assuming that any one person from a given group necessarily holds the same beliefs as any other person in that group. Or if it is true that they do in fact have a shared belief, to avoid assuming that they have arrived at that same conclusion for the same reason. Similarly, I do not assume that just because an individual chooses to identify with a certain group, that this necessarily excludes them from holding beliefs contrary to their group’s supposed belief set. To make a point, I recognize that right now there are over one thousand denominations of Christianity alone. Some of these sub-sets do not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of god, but rather that he was a person who was anointed by god. Believers of the Christian doctrine do not all believe exactly the same things! We should not make the mistake of assuming that a Muslim can not at times be racist, or that all Christians adhere to all of the teachings of the bible, or that all atheists are liberal. When we remove labeled macro groupings such as “Judaism” and “republican”, the group stereotypes disappear along with the labels, allowing groups of people and their beliefs to be addressed as individuals. I truly enjoy people, and I also enjoy inquiring about the “hows” and “whys”, that is, the nature of each individual’s belief.
We’ve coined this term “believers” to mean a person that adheres to a certain religion, and in America that usually translates to some form of the Christian god. In reality, however, we are all believers, every single one of us. But again, believers of what? Some of my personal beliefs are: that the world is a spheroid shape, all humans are not born with an inherent equality, race is a social construct, the scientific method is the best tool that we have right now to suss out what’s real and what’s not, etc. These beliefs, while they are attached to who I am, do not define my character. You see, it is not the entirety of the character of the believer that I’m calling into question when I delve into the specifics of a religion or other belief set, but the beliefs themselves that I care to address.
Some of my fellow humans who, coincidentally, also consider themselves believers, claim that my words serve as some sort of an attack. In response, if you’d like to consider the fact that I do not hesitate to call certain beliefs into question an “attack”, then I suppose I can not persuade you otherwise. But let it be known, friend or fellow, that I am indeed sorry if it is received as such, because this is not my intention. And while you might allow yourself to become entirely consumed by your beliefs, so as to be personally insulted when they are called into question, I do not, from my perspective, allow your beliefs to define you.
Far from an attack, this is to be considered a response. A response to the factual observation that the majority of people in this world believe some things that may lead (and have lead) an individual to cause some form of harm to a fellow human or themselves. Our beliefs inform our actions. This is an undeniable fact. We do not wait until we have knowledge to act, we find belief a sufficient enough justification for action. So it is because some beliefs are arrived at for bad reasons, and because these beliefs may influence an individual to harm another individual, that I point out the contradictions and immorality in the literature that these beliefs are created around. Because beliefs inform our actions, I call into question the reason for believing that this literature is true, and question whether or not we should even consider this literature good at all. Again, I persistently insist, that I do not condemn believers for benignly believing, nor am I assessing the entirety of their character when I suggest that their beliefs may be negatively influential, or held for bad reasons. What I do condemn are actions committed by people that compromise the well being of oneself or others, and in those cases, I do condemn the beliefs that have informed those actions.
I consider myself a humanist. To attain the best possible state of well being is what I wish for all of my fellow human beings. Some (I’ll say most) of my friends and family, loved ones, are believers of some things supernatural, spiritual, and pseudoscientific. While it is true that they may hold some few beliefs that differ from my own, the love that I have for them, the want for them to attain the highest possible state of well being, is not diminished in the slightest by our differences in beliefs. This goes for all of my fellow human beings. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that on the whole, if we were to sidestep for a moment spirituality, superstition, religious dogma, and pseudoscience, my fellow humans and I share most of the same beliefs.
I hope that this helps to clear up any misperceptions regarding my perspective on believers.