How strong are your convictions?

In my last blog, I wrote that I “choose” to believe in reincarnation. Like so many things we believe, I cannot prove it, so therefore it becomes a “choice” to believe it. Oh, sure, I choose it on the basis of the fact that a) it passes some sort of “common sense” test for me (if only because it makes me feel more sane to believe that there is meaning to this life, value in what we learn, etc.) and b) it makes me feel and function better to believe it.

So I believe in reincarnation, but I would certainly never fight over any disagreements about it. I would never go to war with Christians or atheists who deny reincarnation. I guess you could say that my belief in reincarnation has not risen to the level of a “conviction.” And, as we have all learned from the story of martyrs, the strongest convictions are the ones you’d be willing to die for.

Call me a coward, but I’m not willing to die for any belief that I have. I can’t prove any of them. I choose to believe them because they work for me and that’s that. Obviously, many of of my beliefs, which are super progressive, are not working for others who will not even consider them. They’re working for me now, but I don’t know if they’ll be working for me later. If you gave me the choice to die or shift beliefs (for a while), I’d shift in a heartbeat because they wouldn’t be working for me then … and beliefs are not so important, at least not to me any more.

Yes, that’s right … I’m saying that beliefs are not worth fighting for. Hardly any of them can be proven. At best they are our operating assumptions, subject to change as we learn things … at worst, they are prejudicial opinions … socalled Fox News and talk radio are primarily about the vitriolic spewing of scary or hateful opinions.

A “conviction” is a belief on steroids. Ironically, we consider it to be a positive trait when someone holds “strong convictions” … this was one of the complimentary things often said about G.W.Bush. But I don’t look at it as a positive thing at all. In fact, I consider strong convictions to be a type of learning disorder! The stubborn unwillingness to look at things in different ways and learn new facts is nothing to be proud of and has gotten us into deep economic and social trouble.

Usually, people of conviction go there because they are addicted to feeling that they are ‘right’, or that they are going to be saved, or something like that. (Buddhism saves us from needing to be saved, except by our own karmic merits :-). And the righteous cannot get really nasty about it — when they start trying to impose their belief system onto others.

Just because you feel really strongly about a belief doesn’t make it any more true, even if the tradition of your family’s religious identification goes back thousands of years. Getting all excited about the righteousness of your particular operating assumptions is silly. Instead, why not study the historical origins of your belief system or religion, something which is never taught in the churches of the world.

Re-examine whatever you believe in, over and over, and let your current opinions always be subject to change. Changing your mind — in spite of the bad reputation that stubborn believers give it — is a VERY good thing. You just don’t have to let your learning be limited by what you were taught to believe by your parents and other well-meaning people of conviction. You’re smart. You can be bigger than that. Comments?