How I Believe

Formally, I could be called a skeptic, in that I do not believe I know anything. This is because, in my analysis of the nature of belief, I’ve found that in every case where I declare something to be “the truth,” I am speaking too quickly because I have not yet heard every possible opposition there might be to said claim. I do not know if there is some masterful argument that has not come to my attention or whether someone will come up with one long after I’m dead. I do not know if I have even given proper attention to the arguments that have been presented to me. I find making such a judgement to be a grave injustice to all that I don’t yet know, which is a lot. So, in a formal setting, I will never state that I “know” whether or not God exists, whether the moon is made of cheese, whether the world exists at all, whether the sun will come up tomorrow, whether the theory of evolution is factual, whether anything is “good” or “bad,” etc. I don’t believe that I will ever know these things, and that is okay with me.

Now, even though I’ve just stated that I don’t believe I know anything, in order to function as a human being I am required to form beliefs about many things in my day-to-day life. So what do I base my beliefs on, if not on what I “know” to be true? I base my beliefs on what seems most probable according to my experiences and what I’ve read/heard/learned. I believe that the sun will come up tomorrow because it always has. We all know that this could never be formally proven, but there doesn’t seem much point in worrying about whether or not we will be seeing the sun the next day. So, my beliefs are formed based on what seems most probable, acknowledging that sometimes what seems the most probable to me isn’t always correct. For example, someone I know may consistently treat me very nicely and I come to trust them. Then one day they ask to borrow something from me and I say yes, because based on their past behaviour it seems most probable that they will return it, but then they never return it and begin to treat me harshly. There are many such instances where a person balances out the probabilities and then is mistaken, because our experiences and knowledge of every subject is always limited by our own human mind, which is only capable of being aware of and/or storing so much information. It is true, though, that the more experience one has with something and the more knowledge they’ve attained about it, the more likely it will be that what they believe to be most probable is what will actually happen. [Note: This paragraph closely resembles the philosophy of Hume, if anyone is interested in reading more on it.]

Now that I’ve explained how I choose what I will believe, by balancing probabilities, I would like to explain how I choose what I will form a belief about and how quickly I will do so. Since there are an infinite amount of truth claims in the world it is impossible for one person to form a belief about every single one. It is certainly impossible to give equal consideration to every truth claim one encounters. It is necessary to pick and choose which are worthy of thought and consideration, and which are not. Truth claims that are to me seem utterly absurd (the moon is made of cheese) or irrelevant to my life (nothing at all exists) receive little consideration. In many cases, my judgement of the truth or falsity of a claim is made instantaneously, even though more research could be done. The truth claims that do receive my attention are those which to me seem to have a degree of possibility (the theory of evolution) and/or are related to a topic which is of interest to me (philosophy). This is the way that I pick and choose where my thoughts will go, since I do not have the mental capacity to give equal attention to each truth claim that comes my way.

In summary, what I believe is…whatever seems most probable based on my experience and what I’ve read/heard/learned. This used to include Christianity. Now it no longer does and the truth claim of Christianity, in my mind, does not currently have the degree of possibility to be considered above any other world-view.

The future excites me, because I am looking forward to seeing where my experiences and the knowledge I will gain will take me. What I believe is a constantly changing phenomenon because each day I learn something new, and IT IS AWESOME.

Next up: the topic of hell.

[Note: In order to keep a respectful dialogue, comments will be moderated before appearing on the site.]

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4 thoughts on “How I Believe

  1. I’m very much enjoying reading about your journey. While not as entrenched in philosophy as your are, I’m at a similar crossroads in my spirituality. Feels funny typing that. It’s refreshing to read such eloquent and clear statements such as yours. Thank you for sharing – hereon subscribed to your feed…

  2. talk about talking in circles… anybody else’s head spinning? With your view it would seem totally logical that you would think that you will never die. Same as you saying that you “believe the sun will come up tomorrow because it always has,” you can believe that you will continue to wake up every morning… because, for as long as you can remember, you always have! Whose keeping track of time anyway?

  3. What I believe about never dying is the same thing I believe about the sun coming up tomorrow. Because there is no instance that I know of where a human has lived forever, I presume that I won’t either, based on probabilities.

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