I’m attempting to write out my “core beliefs and values” which I have to say is far more difficult than I thought it would be. From a psychological point of view, beliefs are a determining factor in our thoughts, emotions, behavior, and actions. Religious and spiritual beliefs and practices aside for a moment — the beliefs we hold about ourselves, society, politics, religion, spirituality, the natural world, morality, and every other facet of life determine how we interact with each of these things. I think that religious and spiritual beliefs are a completely separate entity because they deal with intangible, often mystical experiences that, at the core, provide an individual with the basis for forming beliefs about everything else. However, our beliefs about religion and spirituality influence our interaction with even religion and spirituality. Does my view make sense?
Let me try to give an example in order to make this a little clearer. I can only use my own life as an example because it’s what I’m most familiar with. This is only one example. I’m sure I could come up with several. And just because I’m using this as an example doesn’t mean that I still adhere to the patriarchal views of my Christian upbringing; but those beliefs did influence me greatly for the majority of my life. Note that I’m not certain my reasoning here is sound. Like I’ve said before, logic and reasoning are NOT a strength I possess. Feel free to explain any logical fallacies that I might be missing here.
Example: I grew up in a Christian household, specifically a Pentecostal home. My religion taught me to have certain views about a “woman’s role” in society because God said it was so, e.g. women — like children — are to be seen, not heard (especially in the ministry); women are the property of their parents first, husbands later; a woman’s place is in the home, taking care of her children and husband; women are basically evil because of Eve’s original sin; etc. There’s a long list of the “woe’s of women” in the Pentecostal mindset, and the Bible, for that matter. These beliefs influenced my beliefs about me, as a person, because I am a woman, e.g. I’m bad; I’m worthless; I must submit, obey; etc. My beliefs about Christianity and myself influenced my thoughts, emotions, behavior, and actions in regard to every other aspect of life. Specific to this example, I believed my place in society was to marry and raise children. My beliefs that I was already bad and worthless caused me to unconsciously rebel as a young adult, acting out my badness and worthlessness. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I rebelled as I feel I should have when oppression limits an individual’s self-worth, happiness, and understanding of life; but I had no understanding, or comprehension, of why I was doing any of the things I did.
It’s not so easy to discard indoctrination. Often, I find myself fluctuating between past beliefs and present beliefs, which are much harder to define and often result in cognitive dissonance as I feel conflicted in what I should believe. I’ve never sat down and written out, defined, exactly what I “believe,” at least, not in a manner such as what I’m attempting to do. The main reason for this is simply that my beliefs constantly change, as I believe they should. My beliefs evolve as I do.
I try to never hold onto a belief so rigidly that I lose sight of love, compassion, and understanding of the natural Universe and all it entails, including humanity.
Because my beliefs have changed so drastically over the years, I can only write down my beliefs at any given moment, this moment. Ask me tomorrow or a year from now and it’s quite possible that at least a few of my beliefs would have grown into something completely different. In fact, it would be easier to write out what I do NOT believe than what I do.
Growing up I believed solely in what I was taught at church and Sunday school which was based on the Bible (with an emphasis on certain scriptures over others) and the Pentecostal mindset. I didn’t always agree with my pastor or Sunday school teachers; but for the most part, I took their word on most things. I attended a total of 4 different churches throughout my childhood and teens. If you wish to read more about my early Christian upbringing, feel free to head on over to My Story – Part 1 (Childhood Background) and My Story – Part 2 (Off to College & Getting Married Too Young) for a section where I discuss questioning my religious upbringing.
I think even as a child I questioned the religion within which I was raised; but my fears of hell and displeasing my mother prevented me from vocalizing my doubts to anyone other than God, usually in prayers to relieve my doubtful mind. By my teens, I often felt that Christianity distanced itself from God, making It unattainable. (I will NOT attribute a gender to something I consider gender-less, IF It exists at all — I am agnostic to the knowledge of a God, have been for several years; and I am an atheist to the belief in any God that man has created thus far, including the Christian God.) Rather, as I grew older, I had a nagging sense that God is within each of us, a collective consciousness of all that is, no one thing greater than another.
The problem with religion is that it tries to “manipulate” a person’s emotions into changing that person’s beliefs. I recently read that “psychology is experimental philosophy.” I tend to agree. Religion, like psychology, is a lot like this, experimental philosophy. I doubt that either emotions or belief will ever be quantifiable from a scientific perspective as each are subjective, but both have the potential to either do great good or cause great suffering. I think it’s also important to note that 99.9% of the time, most of our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence our lives with little to no conscious awareness of them. This is why so often people react to situations with such strong emotion that it feels like we have no control over our emotions. And often, I would agree. Without that conscious awareness, we don’t. We have no control over our emotions unless we are consciously aware of what is going on inside our minds.
This is an incredibly difficult task to accomplish. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
I’m certain that I will write more on “belief” at a later date because it’s a topic that fascinates me, like religion and psychology. Perhaps, it will become a series of posts as I work out exactly what I believe, as I challenge beliefs that no longer serve me well. I still may be no closer to defining exactly what my beliefs are; but I find myself questioning more often than not what I want those beliefs to be.