Believe it or not


“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.”

e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”

Essay on Tolerance, Voltaire (1694-1778)

I don’t mind what other people believe in or don’t believe in, as long as they don’t force their beliefs down my throat or use them to justify harming or exploiting other people. I won’t refer to the law here, because our laws are not always perfect.

Some of my school friends and acquaintances are fans of Jesus and like to advertise the fact, but surprisingly they were not the ones who directly challenged my personal beliefs when I first ventured out of the Tarot closet and later became interested in Paganism. Admittedly, unless they have made an effort to get to know me they probably assume that I am a Christian.

When I mentioned in my family circle a few years ago that I didn’t consider myself a Christian, I was asked to keep that fact to myself. I have also been asked by a family member not to mention “that” (Tarot) in front of them. Needless to say, I don’t talk to them much at all any more. There was also an incident at work where a Christian team member tried to convert a Hindu team member. Fortunately I only learned about it much later, otherwise I would have been compelled to take disciplinary action against the Christian employee which would have been unpleasant.

My main challengers were people who expressed concern and surprise that I should have spiritual beliefs that they personally view as bogus. I doubt that they would dare to challenge their Christian friends who believe in something far more elaborate. This reminded me of an incident from my school days when a teacher said to me “I never expected this from *you* Helen” when I was caught breaking the rules and having some fun. Since when does an academic aptitude imply that someone is a sheep or has no soul?

“The power of spiritual forces in the universe – how active it is everywhere! Invisible to the eyes and impalpable to the senses, it is inherent in all things, and nothing can escape its operation.”

Confucius (c 6th century BC)

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

Voltaire (1694-1778)

Religion can provide our lives with meaning and comfort.

I happen to believe in God, angels and saints and pray to them regularly. I also believe that my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents on the other side hear me talk to them. I have enough evidence to convince me and am not particularly bothered whether anyone else believes it or not.

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

“Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them.”

Dictionnaire philosophique, Voltaire (1694-1778)

“This is the great object held out by this association; and the means of attaining it is illumination, enlightening the understanding by the sun of reason which will dispel the clouds of superstition and of prejudice.”

Order of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830)

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.”

Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970)

We all need to exercise a great deal of critical thinking and discernment in our daily lives, whether it relates to religion or what we read in the newspaper.

I can remember questioning the superiority of Christianity when I learned that Christians are in the minority in terms of the global population. It seemed absurd to me that everybody else was going to Hell.

Depending on which definitions you choose to use, there is a fine line between what constitutes religion and what constitutes superstition, and I am wary of labelling anything that is unexplained or doesn’t conform with my personal beliefs as mere superstition.

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition. But certainty is an absurd one.”

Voltaire (1694-1778)

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Scepticism is not the same thing as cynicism. Scepticism implies having a questioning mind that is open to possibilities, while cynicism implies arrogance, defensiveness and a dismissive closed-mindedness. A sceptic will also tell you that they require evidence to believe in something, but if one applies this logic to religion then they will never believe in anything.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

I have found in my studies, my work and my life that operating in a state of suspended disbelief has helped me to understand situations and find solutions to problems. It is like completing a jigsaw puzzle by starting with the pieces that you can fit even though there are parts that seem impossible, all the while having faith that all the pieces will eventually make up the bigger picture on the box.

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery – even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.”

The World As I See It, Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

This article was first published in August 2011


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