Do you know what you believe? Why do you believe what you do? The human experience depends on beliefs, so the fact that people spend their careers trying to shape your beliefs shouldn’t surprise you. Even if you deliberately try to seal yourself off from the conscious world, you still have beliefs. Even denial cannot absolve you of your beliefs. Let’s look at understanding beliefs to begin uncovering why you believe what you do.
Understanding Beliefs: Where Do We Get Beliefs?
Were you born with beliefs or do you develop your beliefs after birth? Both answers have elements of truth. Beliefs come from interactions with your environment. Children adopt many of their parents’ beliefs. Peers, teachers and authority figures also contribute to the development of individual belief systems. Unsurprisingly, some people
Unsurprisingly, some people do believe in innate beliefs: Were they born that way? The answer depends on who you ask. Innatists believe that God has ingrained certain principles and structures into the human mind, so all people share a fundamental set of morals. Other people think that people come into the world with a “blank slate” that receives impressions from the moment of birth that ultimately result in beliefs. The Bible does little to settle the debate. Although human beings have a natural proclivity to sin, they with time also develop an ability to understand the difference between right and wrong.
As you grow, the majority of you believe comes from your experiences and what you have learned from other people. Still, the Bible speaks of the conscience, which naturally guides people into the proper way of living. Those who contradict their innate knowledge of the truth “sear” their conscience with a “hot iron,” willfully putting their conscience to death to make them more comfortable with the unwise choices they make.
A combination of the two beliefs, therefore, seems like a reasonable tool for understanding beliefs. Starting with birth, people experience the world and form beliefs from that experience. For example, a child quickly learns that touching a stove will cause pain. With maturity, however, people have an internal moral compass that guides them to proper conduct. Most people seem to understand the evils of murder, without specific instruction.
Understanding Beliefs: Sources of Beliefs
We’ve already mentioned two sources of beliefs: Divine revelation and innate beliefs. Do other sources of beliefs exist? How about drugs? People using different types of legitimate and illicit drugs can become paranoid or believe they have supernatural skills such as the ability to fly. A drug user might try to fly like a bird because of the authority of the drugs. Many religious people submit to the authority of God or the clergy. Children often submit to the authority of their parents. Even experience helps us develop beliefs.
Reasoning, on the other hand, gives us beliefs that arise from our thoughts. As you get older and more mature, you recognize that you mustn’t believe everything those in authority tell you. You interpret the Bible your way. You decide for yourself what constitutes acceptable behavior.
Understanding Beliefs: Moving Forward
Truth in the Word exists to help people discover the truth. The path to the truth begins with understanding beliefs and continues with recognizing how other people try to control what you believe. Come back soon to read more about beliefs, beginning with our examination of strategies other people use to control what you believe.