Ongoingly, we receive emails from women who have left an extreme faith and who are grateful to connect with others sorting through the quagmire of “what do I believe now” or “how do I recover from decades of patriarchal oppression.” Below is one woman’s musings on “beliefs” and how to examine whether or not a belief is helpful.
Beliefs grow from tiny seeds planted in a fertile mind, watered by other people’s opinions, and only when they come to maturity will we know if they are weeds or flowers.
Just call me a weed picker – because that’s what I’ve been doing for several years now. It is no easy job since some of those suckers were well anchored and no matter how hard I pulled, a root or two would stay deep down and threaten to regrow. You know how weeds are – they can creep up and take over an entire garden.
Everyone has beliefs about the world around them, about other people, about ourselves, about who and what God is. We have political beliefs, religious beliefs, scientific beliefs, social beliefs and we form opinions from them.
There is a difference between knowledge and beliefs. I was watching a television show about conspiracies and they were sharing information regarding Area 51, a highly secretive section of Edwards Air Force base in Nevada. There are theories that this area houses aliens from other planets that landed in the Nevada desert in the 1950s. While I have knowledge that such a place exists, and may have personal opinions about it, I have not formed a belief whether it is true or not.
Beliefs are our personal convictions, often passionately held and defended against all other opposing thoughts. Very often our beliefs have been handed down to us by our parents, society and ethnic traditions; we embrace them without so much as a thought – could these beliefs be wrong?
We must face the possibility that many of our inherited beliefs have been formed from prejudices, biases and other people’s experiences. They certainly can’t all be true otherwise there wouldn’t be so many different religions, political structures, and scientific schools of thought. Even within every group there are major disagreements and they form little sub groups to protect “their truth”. Again – they can’t all be right?
In the field of science there is a group who believes (strongly) our planet is experiencing global warming and are doing their best to save us from cataclysmic destruction – others in the scientific community, equally as intelligent, believe the first group are just fear mongers and climate change is a normal evolution. We won’t really know which side is right until either we melt away or die from old age, waiting for an environmental Armageddon.
Our political beliefs vary, from country to country, from democracies to dictatorships. One designed to bring freedom, the other tyranny. And yet, even in our wonderful democratic society, we are polarized by opposing beliefs and can seldom even find the middle ground as both Democrats and Republicans fight for their brand of truth, at the expense of the people they have sworn to serve.
Perhaps the greatest of all differences in beliefs are found in the thousands of religions around the world all knowing they are the only ones who have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They would ALL be wrong!!!!!
Beliefs can and should change as we get older, wiser and no longer (hopefully) need fairy tales. If adults still believed that babies were flown in by storks – we’d be in trouble. But the jump from stork delivery to the whole reproductive process may be phased in a little at a time as we grow into maturity.
Our college years are often the first time we are exposed to passionate, opposing views that force us to look squarely into the eye of the nucleus of often outdated and worn out beliefs, that may no longer serve us. To examine our beliefs, we need to ask a lot of questions like:
Whose belief is this anyway?
Why do I believe this?
What if I believed something different?
Can I examine other beliefs, openly and honestly, without inserting my own dogma?
What if I discover that some of my beliefs are wrong – can I embrace new ones?
I find myself spending a lot of time taking care of my own garden these days and I’m delighted as I watch the new growth, watered carefully from pure sources. I have no time to worry about pulling other people’s weeds, I’m still taking care of my own.
Mary Agnes is an ongoing student in the School of Life with an under graduate degree in “Hard Knocks”. She continued her studies to the Master level of “Getting Over It” and has entered her Doctoral phase of “Getting On with It”. Mary left home at sixteen to attend Bible College and spent many years in rigorous study in a very strict Pentecostal environment. She did hands-on-training inside of a Jonestown-style cult for seven years where she graduated to her Master Level. The “Getting Over It” program took many years of intensive self-searching to determine what if any of her initial beliefs were true. Part of her life curriculum included watching her young daughter battle ovarian cancer. She has had many life teachers, but credits her four children for teaching her how to love genuinely, and her eight grandchildren for teaching her how to fully receive love. It wasn’t until 2010 that Mary entered her Doctoral program and is busy studying every day as she knows her graduation time is fast approaching. There is much she still hopes to accomplish but is taking life…one glorious day at a time.