Our beliefs are the operating assumptions of our lives. If your beliefs are built around ‘articles of faith’, that does not automatically mean they are not useful to you, it just means that you never personally ‘chose’ them. You inherited them or ‘adopted’ them. Beware of the overly convinced who have never chosen their own beliefs. (Winston Churchill defined a fanatic as someone who won’t change his mind and can’t change the subject.)
For centuries there have been serious, often violent, conflicts between those who maintained that we are ’saved’ on account of the correctness of our beliefs (judged by who here on earth, I wonder) — recursively including the belief that we will be ’saved’ by someone else like a messiah (Jesus, for instance). An opposing camp maintains that we are only really ’saved’ by our own good works. This has been an ongoing debate within christianity for centuries. The fact that people are willing to get violent about such differences of opinion goes to the heart of how much power humans have traditionally given, and continue to give over to their belief systems — religious and otherwise.
The point here is not so much how powerfully motivating emotion-backed beliefs can be (the effectiveness of placebos certainly proves this) but considering that power, how important it is to be an adult and consciously decide what beliefs make sense to you, lest you get manipulated.
Never feel that you have to commit yourself to one way of thinking forever. What makes sense to YOU right now? — including how has what I have been believing been limiting me — is the recurring question for every intelligent being who wants to be deeply happy or successful on their own terms.
Unless we allow our beliefs (i.e. our operating assumptions) to be subject to questioning and revision in the face of new learning, those beliefs may be worth a lot to our masters but be of no value to our own soul. If you allow yourself to be coerced into committing to any belief system or ideology, you shall not be saved for that — you shall only be manipulated (perhaps with the promise of being saved).
Let’s stop worrying about what other think and allow our own beliefs to evolve. Trust yourself. Even if it feels ’sinful’ to doubt your beliefs because of the way you’ve been fearfully brought up, feel the fear and do it anyway. Changing your mind is a good thing — in fact, it’s a necessary ingredient of every miracle. To the extent we become more ‘reality-based’, we will get better results in the real world … and I can attest that does seem miraculous!
We don’t have time to defend rickety old belief systems that don’t make sense any more (2012 is coming :-). Nor in a free society should we have to defend ourselves against those who insist that we support their tired delusions. Beliefs and ideologies are not so important, except to the power-hungry, manipulative ego. They’re certainly not nearly as important as whatever promotes Love, whatever works for both our personal and the common Good.
Let us review our beliefs then. Put them in their place, appreciate them for what they are — provisional placeholders — and get real!
(There is a whole chapter on beliefs and how to choose them in my book Divination available at Amazon, etc.)