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Monday, September 25, 2023

What are Beliefs?

By Chantale Jimenez

CSMS Magazine Staff Writer

The Spanish poet Antonio Machado once noted that “under all that we think lives all we believe, like the ultimate veil of our spirits.” Although not directly saying so, he was, of course, talking about our belief systems. According to Rogers and Steinfatt, “beliefs serve as the storage systems for the content of our past experiences, including thoughts, memories, and interpretations of events.

Beliefs are shaped be the individual’s culture. Beliefs are important, as noted by Purnell and Paulanka, because they are “something that is accepted as truths.” Beliefs are usually reflected in your actions and communication behavior. If for instance, you believe that snakes are slimy, you avoid them. On the other hand, if you believe that only through the handling of snakes’ can you find God (as do some religious sects), you handle them and believe your faith will protect you from venomous bites. You might embrace the New York Times or the CBS Evening News as arbiter of the truth because you respect them.

If you value the Islamic tradition, you will believe that the Koran is an infallible source of knowledge and thus accept the miracles and promises that it offers. Whether you trust as sources of truth and knowledge the Times, the Bible, the Koran, the entrails of a goat, tea leaves, Madonna, the Dalai Lama, the visions induced by peyote, or the changes specified in the Taoist I Ching depends on your culture background and experiences. If someone believes that sitting quietly for long periods of time can guide him or her along the proper path, you cannot throw up your hands and declare the belief wrong.

You must be able to recognize the fact the cultures have different realities and belief systems. People who grow up in cultures where Christianity is the predominant religion usually believe that salvation is attainable only through Christ. People who are Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Shinto, or Hindu do not subscribe to that belief. They hold their own beliefs about salvation or what happens to the human spirit when the body dies. What is enthralling about beliefs is that they are so much a part of culture that in most instances we do not demand proof or question them. We simply accept them because we “know they are true.” And that is why we call it “belief.”

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