Monday, May 30, 2011

Belief, Doubt, Then What?

While pondering the posting I made last month re belief, I surfed to a relevant discussion at the Church of the Churchless blog. Someone had written in:
Is there anyone here on this blog who is looking to realise the truth, or are we more interested in realising how right we are, how wrong others are?

Are we into defending our beliefs and condemning others for theirs?
The blog-master responded:
Speaking for myself, and I'm pretty sure this holds generally for churchless folk, I gave up blind faith because I wanted a clearer view of reality. My motivation for ditching dogma was to find a better path to truth, not to give up the search for it.
Here's the comment I contributed:
My Zen teacher would say that of all the buttons on a calculator, the most important is the Clear button. If you don't press that "C" and return to zero, then whatever calculation you try to do will yield the wrong result.

If we start off with a dogma (a belief we won't doubt or question), then even if we analyze rationally, our conclusions will be colored by that dogma. If we can, for a moment anyway, question everything... then we can return to zero, and from there we have a chance of seeing clearly.

So why doesn't everyone embrace doubt? Because while certainty clouds our vision, uncertainty can be so... unpleasant.

We all start out with a clean slate, but as children, we can hardly prevent developing a blind belief in what our parents tell us. As we mature, we learn to question these childhood dogmas. When the doubt becomes too uncomfortable, we grab onto some replacement dogma: religious, political, whatever.

It seems to me that this process is generally repeated. We become churchless by doubting one set of beliefs. Our motivation may be the recognition that clinging to those beliefs prevents a clear view of the world. At that point, there's nothing stopping us from trading one dogma for a new one. The new beliefs will be less blatant, more subtle... but if we're holding any unexamined beliefs, our inner calculators will produce skewed answers.

Surely, sometimes we leave aside a dogma with the intention of clearing the calculator, and in fact the leaving-aside brings us to clarity/zero (or at least close to it). And at other times, we end up (intentionally or otherwise) discarding one dogma, and adopting a new one just as rigidly.

Maybe that means that it's not sufficient to question and reject a dogma, then rest on our laurels. Maybe clarity is reached by continuously questioning what we still believe in now, and repeating that questioning over and over, with each new "certainty" that arises.


Steven said...

There is, you know, a simpler response:

"Realize the truth"... about what?

What do you think is "false", and why do you think that?

Stuart said...

"Realize the truth"... about what?

Yeah. Thinking there's a "path to truth," means making a belief that "truth" is some separate thing.

rick said...

I like the calculator analogy; from time to time we need to hit the "ce" button to gain perspective on life. Let's take it a step further, the calculator needs to be created and a battery put in it before we can use any button. This is what you called "blind faith". The calculator can not produce itself nor power up without a source. The Creator of your calculator has already installed the power source for you to do it as you please. He calls it freewill. We all look for the "Truth" to make the here and now easier to cope with the calculations. Turn the device over to see who manufacturer is, He wants truth for you and with a power source through his Son that will never die. Now that's something we all want. It's all in your hands now, man. Enjoy.

rick said...

Your Zen teacher uses a good analogy with the calculator. It is good to hit the "ce" button from time to time to gain your perspective on life. Ask him to take that next step, though. The calculator would not exist without a creator nor work without a battery installed. This is what you called "blind faith". The calculator can not produce itself nor work without a power source. Its Creator gave you the device and the power to make it work in any manner you chose. This is called "Freewill". He also provides the instruction manual (Truth), to allow the operator to use it as it was intended. Turn the device over. The manufacturer name is there and he wants to hear from you on how it is working. He is open 24/7 with an instant access anytime, anyplace. Everything is in your hands now, enjoy.

Stuart said...

Hi, Rick, thanks for posting.

In your metaphor, when you claim "the manufacturer name is there," it means you claim to know who it is who created the universe. You're claiming to know the meaning and purpose of life.

If this makes you feel better, OK. But there's some virtue in distinguishing between ideas that make you feel better, and Truth. I think there's value in being clear: you don't really know where the universe came from, or why it appeared. Rather, you're pretending to know.

rick said...

Thank you for the opportunity to post. Setting the metaphor aside, most people are searching for the "Truth" to fill a void inside themselves. To give them purpose to get up in the morning or complete the day. My purpose to serve a gracious God and his creation he deems worthing serving. That is a personal choice I made over a long period of time. If it were a decision to make me "feel good", I would have quit a long time ago. For this world works hard against my faith in Him and His Truth. He hasn't changed in 6000 yrs of recorded human history as other Gods and idiologies has. His written word offers time tested Hope and guidance, as well as a way to spend eternity with our creator. Real Truth is someone you can put your unwavering Faith into and know you are protected and loved for you are, not what you have or haven't accomplished. If truth is what you are truely looking for, from a logical standpoint, one must take a deep look at God and his relationship to man. Thanks again.

Joshua said...


I am so glad I came across your blog! I have only read a few posts thus far, but I know I will be reading and commenting more in depth as it is nice to find someone with a similar realignment in perspective.