Being Mentally Healthy – 13. Belief

A belief is faith in selective facts: data which the mind has chosen as credible. Beliefs are simplified hypotheses, leaving out what is known to be contradictory.

All beliefs are assumptions of surety. Uncertainty unsettles monkey-mind. Belief covers it up. English philosopher Bertrand Russell: “Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.”

Beliefs do not exist in isolation. Instead, they are glued together into a system which culminates in a worldview. Belief systems act as the mental filtration network through which new facts must flow to be accepted. Isolated facts which do not coincide with established beliefs are disposed. Only when a belief slams into a wall of indisputable actuality is a conviction shaken.

Whereas people don’t cotton much to facts, they become attached to their beliefs. Monkey-mind is proud of the cocoon of false surety which it weaves: resisting belief dissolution with rationalization.

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The idea of God as a Supreme Being was conceived in men’s minds by the 7th century before the common era. God is the foundation of a monolithic mindset in most people. American psychologists Nicholas Epley & Adam Waytz: “The overwhelming majority of people living today believe that a mindful God controls their future.”

God signifies a yearning in those who believe. The source of that yearning is suffering.

People fear death. Religion is foremost a mortality ritual. But fear of death just tops the list of reasons that divinity appeals.

Feeling small and powerless to their own inner weaknesses, believers want to enlarge their inner self. Those who have faith in God hope that their lives might serve a “higher” purpose, or at least let them feel righteous about something. In a world of inequity and casual cruelty, God-fearing folk hope for some ultimate justice. God is the proverbial answer to their prayers.

According to the story, God can do anything at any time. Therein lies a moral dilemma, which Greek philosopher Epicurus posited in the 3rd century before the common era: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Epicurus’ moral challenge cannot be answered in a way which renders God as decent. Christian dogma never managed to fruitfully address the issue, favoring instead a fable about Satan, who was an erstwhile angel who decided to have some naughty fun. This diversion does not remove the stain on God for tolerating rampant evil.

You can’t make a sensible argument for God whether he is either part of Nature or just somehow lording over it.

By any reckoning, existence is eternal and self-sustaining. If God is immanent – that is, if God is presumed part of Nature – then God is effectively eviscerated. Beyond the salve of salvation, there just isn’t a need for God.

Nature proceeds on its own accord. Physics’ pilot wave theory – where localized coherence sustains the appearance of existence – suffices. The idea of a supernatural being as the creator and constant gardener of Nature is superfluous.

When 18th-century Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop George Berkeley was challenged on his theory of subjectivism – about how it was possible – Berkeley replied that existence is “in the mind of God.” If Nature is an ongoing thought experiment, there is no reality to actuality – and again, God is incidental to our lives. Why, for instance, would God bother to judge his own thoughts as to their morality?

The final nail in the coffin of God as a Supreme Being is that belief in God falls for the deception that material objects are real. This is a premise which modern physics denies.

Nisargadatta Maharaj: “Is the world of things – of energy and matter – factual? Even if there were such a common world of things and forces, it is not the world in which we live. Ours is a world of feelings and ideas, of attractions and repulsions, of scales of values of motives and incentives; a mental world altogether.” What manifests are fabricated perceptions – the mere play of concepts. All sensed entities are actually process gyres which the mind disguises as objects.

It is this object orientation by which the game board of living is set by the mind to maximize entertainment potential – making life a challenge by a primordial deception. What better challenge than being misled by the mind and having to work against one’s own inner grain to paint the right picture of reality, and only then being able to comfortably nestle down with contentment?

God can’t ‘exist’ because Nature is a ruse. In being perceptible, objects ‘exist’, but they aren’t real – only mirages in the mind. Belief in God is a grand self-deception of simpletons.

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Belief is the conviction that an abstraction is real. Belief is a slippery slope indeed.

The mind naturally categorizes as the means of identifying objects. All these classifications are rough sketches made for remembrance. Categories don’t exist.

To think we know anything for certain is a belief, because such supposed knowledge always involves generalizations, which are construed simplifications.

The crucial question remains: which of the mind’s promotions should we prudently believe? There are 3 alternate approaches.

1st, generally believe what comes to mind. Many in the Collective do just that, with relatively rare disavowals of monkey-mind’s pandering. They do so with faith in their ignorance. It can be a comfortable obliviousness – until actuality inevitably hits with an untoward ugliness.

2nd, selectively decide which of the mind’s fabrications to believe. The more discriminating of the Collective attempt this problematic endeavor.

Psychologists remind their patients suffering from the tortures of nattermind that “it’s all in your mind,” and suggest for relief more pleasant fictions which the mind may concoct. The cycle of suffering and imagined salve never ends.

The skeptic who suffers a delusional indulgence in his cleverness proudly adopts the modus operandi of thinking he is rationally deciding what is worthy of belief, while unquestioningly accepting the bulk of monkey-mind’s presentations hook, line, and sinker. It is ludicrously ironic to have the mind decide which abstractions should be believed when reason is itself a product of the mind.

3rd, don’t believe anything. Trusting someone who has repeatedly lied to you is foolhardy. The untrustworthy monkey-mind is no different. Not believing is the only tenable course.

Beliefs are unnecessary. You can witness the world without believing any of it, and function better by skepticism than with the faith and expectations that are beliefs’ traveling companions.

Like emotions, your monkey-mind promotes beliefs to keep control of you. Belief is the cage that nattermind builds for its ignorant occupant.

Japanese Zen Buddhist monk Gido Shoseki: “Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas.”

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Eleanor Roosevelt, who was married to US president Franklin Roosevelt: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost.”

What we all seek is enjoyment. The level of entertainment we savor depends upon our grace in dealing with situations which arise. In short, being entertained is a skill – which is the next lesson.