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How Do I Choose What I Believe?

Ask yourself this question, and don't give up until you are more certain about it than you were before you were asked: 

how do I choose what I believe in?

I was looking at the moon last night. It's an amazing sight. The atmosphere makes it difficult to see in its full self because it is blurred somewhat and looks slightly artificial. And I cannot see it in a way that convinces me it is there. Nonetheless, I believe it is there as we are taught, totally. If anyone tells me its just a 'Truman Show' I would see them as dangerous.

But, likewise, if the same person were to say to me "so prove it is really there then - prove it!", I would be totally at a loss. I cannot prove it. All I can do is express a belief it is there 250 thousand miles away. A belief being something which someone else already believes in and has told me to believe in too! In an infinite regression of beliefs since the first genetic belief. 

12 astronauts landed on the moon we are told and I believe this. The astronauts hold the genetic knowledge which they pass on to me and this I receive as a belief that it actually happened. What I now have is a belief the astronauts landed on the moon. It is not knowledge I have not experienced it myself. I have not seen it myself. I am compelled to take it on faith.

The only way I could know the moon is true, would be to travel there and touch it. There are only 12 people in all of history who claim to have done this. And though I believe them, again, I still rely on a received belief that they actually did it - that what they are telling me to believe they did, is true. That is all I have. A belief.

So we're presented with a challenge - that everything is a belief. And the question about if beliefs are knowledge. And if there's a difference between the two, observing it is a form of knowledge in itself. A genetic knowledge which anyone can deduct independently of out outside help. 

Knowing this small piece of knowledge by myself, could be seen as more than I knew about anything important before. The first time I recognised something myself without requiring the assistance of beliefs. 

A belief in something, does not mean I know about something - that I have knowledge. I am just believing what someone else tells me to believe, is true. Knowing something for certain, no matter how small that thing is, has a transforming potential for me. Because I have seen for the first time, for certain, there is a higher order of understanding in life, which if I so choose, I can nurture for the benefit of my world.

Many times a day, I go through a decision making process about what I 'believe' is true, things which are real to me, actualities. I do this to help me get through everyday life, to plan for the future, and to determine what about my past was a virtue or a mistake and caused me or someone else good or harm.

Seems like a good thing right?

But how can I be sure what I believe is actual? What things do I use to cross check what I believe in, is actually true?

Well, hardly anything. Most of what I believe in is decided unconsciously and intuitively. My final decision will be primarily informed by unconscious activity. Does this make me any different to the great masse of people... the democratic majority?

Here is a list of things I could use to decide on what is real, I might not be using them, but they are things I can think of that I have used in the past when I'm trying to find out about something or looking for meaning. I've listed them in order of priority of knowledge or certainty.

Are there any others? Which ones have the most merit. Does it actually matter if I cannot know about everything I would like to know about?

  1. knowledge: what I can 'see' in front of my face
  2. beliefs: ideology, worldview, religion, cult, politic, science
  3. fear
So what can one say about beliefs and what we all really know for certain. When everything we think we know, is just... a belief?

I'm not saying beliefs are good or bad. I am saying that is all they are... beliefs. They are not knowledge. And this doesn't mean beliefs are not useful. Most beliefs have a great deal of utility. That is, believing some things at face value can be very useful in day to day life.

But there are also, equally, beliefs I can have which if acted on, are very harmful to me and the world around me. With beliefs, there is always a risk analysis or cost benefit analysis to be done, because beliefs are not knowledge but guesses. And I 'believe' we all do this intuitively for everything we believe in, in everyday life. 

There are other things we think about more carefully and out in the open. But these are merely coloured by other things we already believe in, in an infinite regression and we call this activity politics, religion or teaching. We're more careful with these things because they have the potential for material gain. I confess,  I never use this pathway to think about a higher order of gain.

So how do I decide between which beliefs are good, and which are bad? I simply do not know this. Nor does anyone else know. So other people certainly cannot teach me about them, though many do for material gain - look at all the celebrity guru's no matter how kind they seem. Avoid the guru's at your peril. The allegory of Jesus as a teacher or guru is a mistake because it makes him out as merely a passer on of beliefs. Jesus IS the teaching - the teacher IS the teaching. He IS this knowledge. Or put another way, a higher order of understanding about the world and the potential that has for transformation - the evolution of man.

All I can know for certain is very little indeed. That might not matter in everyday life. And usually that little is perfectly good enough for anyone to lead a really good life. Because prior to gaining that tiny amount of knowledge, all I had was beliefs.

The problems start, and accelerate quickly into a positive feedback loop, when thought informs me that what I believe is TRUTH. Because then I will start trying to force others to believe in what I believe in, on pain of social exclusion, growing into the law, or death through war even. 

THIS is where all the worlds social problems are rooted - just beliefs.

So how do you choose what you believe in?