Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.
True Nature of Believing
Due to religion, politics, commercialism, and first of all our primary caregivers in childhood, "belief" has gained a dignified significance as a "reflection of reality in our souls or psyches". People hardly ever bother questioning the real nature of it, and if they did, they might come to this simple realization that belief is nothing but a natural expression of an inherent ability.
Just like at certain age we start walking because it's a part of our default nature of upright walking beings, so there is an age when we start connecting our impressions into beliefs. And since our impressions are known for the possibility of being wrong, so can our beliefs as well.
Maybe the best example for that would be, if we could imagine our visiting any of those still savage tribes in jungles, and succeed to show them something like a cell-phone---before they would eat us.
What would happen? In all likelihood of human nature, they would fall on their religious knees in front of us thinking that we were "gods". Or better say---they would instantly "believe" in it. You see, believing is simply a part of our survival mechanism, and at early age we start gathering those useful information which are life-promoting---or life degrading, depending on the nature of our belief.
Those savages, with their survival instinct being extremely trigger-happy like in animals, would instantly form a belief about "somebody supernatural", because only their witch-doctors are showing similar abilities. Our cell-phone would be enough to form such a "belief".
In case of more civilized specimens a little more persuasion is needed to indoctrinate us into followers of this or that religion, this or that political party, or anything else on the culture market. However, as for the basic mental action, the same process is involved---we are just born to form beliefs.
How Beliefs Are Working for Us (or Against Us)
As we all know, there are two kinds of belief---positive and negative one. When it's positive we call it "trust", and the negative one we call "suspicion", while both are equally catering to our survival. When our son was little, before he would start eating a new food he would ask us: "Will I like it?" He needed us to help him trust that food.
Both positive and negative belief can work for us or against us. The positive belief, no matter how pleasant feeling of trust it may produce in us may be "wrong", and in that case we are "deceiving" ourselves just because we like the feeling of it. And the negative one, no matter how bad feelings it gives us, can also be wrong and misleading---for example when we believe that "we are ugly and no one could possibly love us".
On the good side of both, they are extremely useful for us as we are maneuvering through interacting with others with learnt social skills and finding our place in society, which is all heavily based on our "belief system". If I believe that physical culture is of an utmost importance in life, you will see me jogging, working out in gym, and frequenting a health food store. And then I am bound to seek the company of those who are of similar beliefs. My negative beliefs will be wrapped around "physical neglect", smoking, drug abuse, wrong foods, etc.
If I am religiously oriented, the similar will happen---my religious beliefs will dictate my interacting in society and my activities. As for negative beliefs, I am bound to criticize anybody not being religious, because my survival instinct will guide me to believing that they are somehow a threat to my psycho-physical survival.
The story goes on with political followers, whose faith in one political party is also creating a suspicion, criticism, and blame for the opposite party. Mind styles and life styles are all dictated by our belief system.
With one important point to be emphasized that---beliefs are deliberate and subjective, and they don't mean "knowing". It's different when we first know something for an objective fact, and then we believe it because we know it. Objective reality is the one that everybody on earth is agreeing upon.
Mathematics, for instance is a perfect example, because it's not a subject to belief, since 2+2=4 is equally valid among Christians and Moslems, Liberals and Conservatives, meat eaters and vegans.
How Can Religious Folks Benefit from Knowing about Beliefs
When Jesus stepped "on" water and walked, he did not forget what his everyday belief system was telling him how "objects happen to sink when placed in water". What he had to do was to "create" a belief that would override all other beliefs.
When I do my self-hypnotic session, I am fully aware that I am about to deceive myself with a bunch of very beneficial but false statements about my health, my looks, my mental and emotional states. And then all those statements are only as effective as I am capable of lulling into sleep that censor in me that would say "You must be kidding".
The trick in that self-deception is in creating an artificial belief---and ALL beliefs are artificial except for those that are backed up by knowing. Since I am well familiar with how subconscious is impersonal and non-judgmental, and will execute any belief that can slip through the guard of the censor, I am simply using my nervous organization to implant some good models of psycho-physical functioning into my nature.
There is nothing supernatural, nothing spooky, or even unnatural in that, because we anyway operate on the basis of our beliefs, and I am just choosing mine consciously, not relying on my knee-jerk impressions about life.
How can religious folks benefit by knowing all this? They might as well see that their belief system is an act of mind that they can use positively by believing in their religious teachings---as long as they are not contradicting that belief with some others which would create an inner harmful conflict.
In a paradox that is noticeable all around the globe, religious people are preaching about love but making wars, or a whole string of less bombastic conflicts. They talk about tolerance, compassion, peace of mind, but contradict that with intolerance for those who dare to think differently, believe differently.
Hey, it's not even a "moral issue" as much as it is psychological, because they are making their faith ineffective. Indeed, many believers don't realize how all their believing is good for nothing because by the "brain's technology of believing" they are doing it a wrong way.
Nothing of all this article has atheistic overtones, as I am not questioning the existence of god here, but rather the quality of believing in god, no matter of which variety that deity could be. Brain can't accommodate opposite beliefs, as simple as that. So, we either choose to trust god that he will save us from evil, or we fear the evil by impressing ourselves with "all that evil present in this world".
You see my point? If during my self-hypnotic sessions I would tell myself how I am enjoying a vibrant health---but then mention how I am going to "beat every cancer cell or a virus in my body", that negative image would cross out that positive one. Again, believing is simply a mind's construct, not something like a "reflection of ultimate reality on our soul". So we can either do it right or wrong way---it's up to us.
Psychology of Believing
During my short lasting debates with religious, or politically oriented folks I couldn't help noticing how they keep contradicting themselves. This last election in the United States was showing that perfectly. There is not a single American who would not "agree" with their Constitution which clearly gives freedom of speech to everyone---and yet it looked like a circus of denying that right to those who dared to believe in their "wrong" candidate.
It's even more noticeable in the world of religion, where every means, including artillery is being used to intimidate folks of different faith---even though every holy book in existence is talking against killing, about love, and acceptance, and equality of all human beings.
So, what "freedom" are those pissed-off voters preaching about, if they are denying freedom? And what "love" are religionists expressing by being fixated on "evil"?
Again, let us leave aside all moral side of it, because in a strictly psychological sense we are confusing the hell out of our normal state of mind, our emotional equilibrium, our capacity to function rationally. We can't psychologically afford to harbor contradicting beliefs in our minds and give them a strong emotional charge. It's insane.
At one point we all have to back up for a moment and examine the very fabric of our belief system, since our all-powerful subconscious nature, all 90-something percent of all our functioning, is blindly following our beliefs.
So, when those beliefs are in a mess of contrasts, we are getting an inner environment spelling stress, unease, sickness, unhappiness, and low capacity for good relationships. That's how powerful our beliefs are. They can make us or break us. Our inner arrangement of what is beneficial for us to believe is an ultimate parameter of our general state of well being, and consequently every aspect of our life.
We can do it consciously or allow others and impressions to push our belief buttons, but beliefs will always be right after our consciousness the next strongest force in the hierarchy of our human nature. Why not make use of knowing it?
Michael-Milec on September 19, 2015:
Very fine elaboration on belief; apparently we might face them many more, while every 'believer' would have to lean toward the one which is true.