HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Religion & Spirituality » Religion (Group) » If You Have To Believe, I...

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:01 AM

If You Have To Believe, It Probably Isn’t Real

When I was little, my parents taught me to believe there was a person who was always watching me, keeping record of all the good things and bad things I do. I couldn’t see him, they told me, but somehow he could be anywhere and everywhere without any limitations of time or space. I shouldn’t bother looking for him, they said, because he wouldn’t show himself to me under any circumstances. It was some kind of principle for him, I guess. But this person was going to either reward me for being a good boy or else punish me for being bad. At one point I began to question the existence of this person but I was told I had to believe. It was crucial in order for the magic to work. If I didn’t believe, I wouldn’t receive the benefit of the magic. For some reason, my believing was essential to the work of this all-seeing, ubiquitous, yet practically invisible person. It finally occurred to me one day that this person is totally made up. Whom am I talking about? I can think of a couple of options for whom this description fits very well. But at this point in my life my conclusions about both are the same: If you have to believe in something for it to become real in any practical sense, it’s probably just in your head.

At Christmastime we are bombarded with movies and stories touting the importance of believing in Santa. If you don’t believe, they tell us, he can’t do his thing. My kids love Polar Express, and like most movies about Santa Claus it reminds us that Santa’s magic only works if you believe in it. It’s not that he will cease to exist, mind you; it’s just that you won’t personally benefit from his work if you fail to acknowledge his existence. Grown-ups know this is a fairy tale of course, but we continue to pass this tale on to our children anyway because, hey, our parents did it to us. It makes Christmas more exciting and fun, and there’s the added bonus that sometimes it persuades kids to straighten up and act right. It works quite well on kids. But if a grown-up still believes this fanciful tale, well, that is the stuff of great comedy. That’s why the movie Elf is so funny. The very thought of a grown man bouncing up and down, excited about Santa coming to town is just hilarious.

--snip--

I also remember that when I was a Christian, I was told that I must believe in order to reap the benefits of the Christian faith. I was told I was a very bad person—so bad, in fact, that I deserve to be punished for all eternity (good grief…I know I have my bad days but come on, now!). That was the bad news. The good news was that if I’d only believe, I could receive in myself the benefit of a magical transaction which would erase, at least temporarily, the deleterious effects of my own awful wickedness. I say temporarily because after I performed my part of this initial transaction, I was informed that future mistakes still had to be paid for in some way or another (that part was very vague, mind you). But the benefits of my new membership in the Chosen People Club were always tied to how much I believed. God was real, I was told, regardless of whether or not I believed in him. But without the believing, I would receive little or no outward evidence of this person’s presence in my life.

Hmm. This feels very familiar. I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

Prayer works. But you have to believe.

People can be healed. But you have to believe.

You can be saved! But you have to believe.

The Holy Spirit can make you a new person! But you have to believe.

You can have a relationship with God and he can speak to you and guide you. You can “hear” his “voice.” But you have to believe.


--snip--

It took me till my mid-thirties before I finally realized that, if you have to believe something is real in order to make it real, it’s probably not real at all. It’s in your head. Oh sure, I know there’s power in positive thinking, and sometimes you can accomplish greater things if you keep a positive attitude and learn to visualize achieving your goals. My old football coach used to chant before a big game, “You gotta believe!!” And to some degree he was right. We’ve even learned that sometimes the expectation that you will recover from an illness can speed up your recovery. The human immune system is an amazing thing, and sometimes a dose of optimism is all it needs to kick it into high gear and do its job. But for most things it just doesn’t matter what you believe—whatever is, simply is. If I swallow arsenic, it won’t matter what I believe about arsenic…I’ll be a goner. If I believe I can fly and I jump off a tall building, I’m gonna be a pancake in the end. If I believe I have a million dollars in my bank account, it won’t do me any good and the debt collectors will still keep calling me until I present them with real money. And it didn’t matter how firmly anyone ever believed the sun goes around the Earth, the reality is still what it is no matter what you “think in your heart.” For most things in life, believing doesn’t make things true.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/12/17/if-you-have-to-believe-it-probably-isnt-real/



More at link.

10 replies, 1146 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 10 replies Author Time Post
Reply If You Have To Believe, It Probably Isn’t Real (Original post)
cleanhippie Dec 2014 OP
PumpkinAle Dec 2014 #1
cleanhippie Dec 2014 #3
rug Dec 2014 #2
cleanhippie Dec 2014 #4
rug Dec 2014 #5
edhopper Dec 2014 #6
rug Dec 2014 #9
cleanhippie Dec 2014 #7
rug Dec 2014 #8
cleanhippie Dec 2014 #10

Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:06 AM

1. People believe all kinds of things

and that isn't necessarily bad. Sometimes when people are in dire straits or bad situations they do need to have a belief they are not alone and that someone/something is with them; no it may not pay the bills or make someone better, but sharing a trouble (with a real or an imaginary friend) can help people get through.

It is when people try to force their beliefs on others that things take a turn for the worst.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to PumpkinAle (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:09 AM

3. The author addresses that.

He discusses the power of positive thinking.

But thats not the type of belief he is talking about.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:08 AM

2. Nobody has to believe.

 

He's simply saying, in many words, the only truth is material evidence.

That's a bankrupt position.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to rug (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:10 AM

4. If thats what you believe...

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to cleanhippie (Reply #4)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:11 AM

5. That's what I know.

 

Start with human sensory limitation.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to rug (Reply #5)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:17 AM

6. I am waiting for someone

to castigate you for claiming to "know" something with certainty.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to edhopper (Reply #6)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:21 AM

9. Castigate? In here? Why, I didn't even mention Christmas.

 

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to rug (Reply #5)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:18 AM

7. I know you believe that.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to cleanhippie (Reply #7)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:20 AM

8. Sorry your belief was bruised.

 

Reality and all that.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to rug (Reply #8)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 11:25 AM

10. Don't stop believing

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread