F*ck Belief! Overcoming Narrow-Mindedness

“At the core of all well-founded belief, lies belief that is unfounded.”~Ludwig Wittgenstein

Fuck religion. Fuck dogma. Fuck trying to make yourself feel better by injecting an imaginary friend into the already confusing equation of existence. Focus instead on becoming a better person. Focus on thinking. Focus on action. It’s less about placation and more about taking things into deep consideration and then letting that shit go. Even then, it’s less about pigeonholing truth and more about self-discovery.

Don’t get me wrong. Spirituality is vital. Be spiritual. But spirituality doesn’t require anyone to“believe” in it. Religion does. Spirituality is flexible; religion is dogmatic. Spirituality is liberating (courage-based); religion is authoritative (fear-based). Spirituality is painful growth; religion is comfortable stagnation. Spirituality is open-minded; religion is close-minded. Spirituality is interdependent; religion is codependent. Spirituality speaks a language older than words; religion speaks a language limited by words. Spirituality allows the Great Mystery (God) to be truly infinite; religion attempts to pigeonhole it into a finite construct. Most important of all, spirituality is full of questions (thought); religion is full of so called answers (belief).

If this seems harsh. Tough shit! I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear. I’m here to tell you what you need to hear. As renown philosopher Daniel Dennett said, “There is no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to a folly.” So buckle up, buttercup. Let your little snowflake heart melt all over the place. Make a goddamned mess. You’re in for a ride.

The dangers of belief:

“It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society, it is belief.” –George Bernard Shaw

Think about it. When has disbelief ever hurt anyone? And I don’t mean feelings. Fuck feelings too. Now, ask yourself, when has belief hurt anyone? Take a moment. Think it through. Get the point?

Belief is dangerous precisely because if you believe in something completely, you’ll do anything, however irrational and however evil (ironic much?), to keep that belief in tact. You can’t be persuaded, because you believe.

Let’s say you believe in some arbitrary authority (God, queen, president, cop). You believe that they are righteous and good. You believe in their religion, politics, or laws. You believe in their infallibility. That belief is so deeply entrenched in you that nothing that authority could do would persuade you to believe otherwise.

Now, let’s say that authority convinced your pure “faithful” heart to do something that, had anyone else told you to do so, you would think it immoral. Like the Christian God telling Abraham to kill his oldest son to “test his faith” for example. What then? Careful, now. You’re on a slippery slope into Evil Town. Like Voltaire famously said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Don’t get me wrong. Be confident. Be cool. Be calm, collected and controlled. But you don’t need belief for that. You don’t need faith and certainty to have confidence and achieve self-improvement. If anything, belief will hold you back. It will keep you from questioning things. It will keep you from thinking. And that’s the crux. That’s the kick in the pants. That’s the brain-dead fly in the proverbial ointment. If you cannot think, then you cannot be free.

The freedom of letting go of belief:

“Don’t believe yourself, and don’t believe anyone else. If you don’t believe, what is not true will dissolve in front of your eyes. Only what is true will remain, because what is true doesn’t need anyone to believe it.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz

Now, I know you’re probably shitting cognitive dissonance all up inside your Mormon magical underwear at this point. But take a deep breath, pull your brain out of your forefather’s ass, and think about the big picture for a second. As Samuel Coleridge said, “You do not believe; you only believe that you believe.”

The truth is that reality is the way it is despite your beliefs. I’m not saying that I know the way reality is. I’m saying that it is most certainly the way it is (whatever that is) despite what you believe. It’s self-evident. When you let go of belief, you’re simply rolling with that fact. You’re allowing that to be the case, despite your indoctrination, conditioning, upbringing, or brainwashing.

When you let go of belief, you let go of expectation, and you allow yourself to simply be with the naked, harsh, unforgiving truth of reality. The cold and hard truth of “you don’t know.” The pulsing blister of “you are going to die!” The answers to which should be: “Okay, let’s figure it out by weighing the evidence and then using probability as a guide to see if our “answers” are valid according to universal laws, and then keep questioning,” and, “Okay, I’m going to die. Great! I better get busy living the healthiest life I can live because I simply don’t know if this is the only chance I get to live a life well-lived or not.” Neither of which require belief. Both of which require you to sacrifice belief.

Not believing in anything is absolute freedom precisely because neither our intellect nor our imagination can be diminished by the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation.

Not believing in anything frees us to take everything into consideration. We become logically liberated, scientifically set free, and our rationality is relieved. We’re free to dig deeper into reality without the shame and guilt of dogmatic belief hanging over our heads.

Healthy skepticism and an intimacy with probability become our shifting bedrock, our foundational quicksand, our liberated measuring tool. We’re free to swim in the waters of uncertainty rather than remain chained to the pillars of certitude.

When it comes down to it, letting go of belief allows us the freedom of being wrong. It’s finally admitting that we are a species that is profoundly fallible and prone to mistakes. We’re a barely evolved naked ape going through the awkward motions of its adolescent phase of existence. We’re a floundering and confused species.

Indeed. My believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster gets me nowhere, except maybe entertained. Better to simply take it into consideration as a silly belief that some people might have, and then laugh at it. Laugh at myself. Poke holes in it. Question why I might believe that “his noodly appendage will save me from my sins.” Or why I insist on wearing a colander for a hat. As with all things, a good sense of humor will set you free.

The importance of reasoning rather than believing:

“Belief is when someone else does the thinking.” ~R. Buckminster Fuller

Caveat credentis: believer beware. Rather than believe in things, take things into consideration. It is simple to alter considerations, but it’s almost impossible to alter beliefs. And altering both considerations and beliefs are vital for the healthy, progressive evolution of our species.

Taking things into consideration is far superior to believing in them because we are a fallible, ever-changing, still-evolving species. We happen to be a species with a big brain, which gives us a false sense of security that we have discovered answers to complex questions. Along with the false sense of accomplishment that we’ve evolved to a peak state.

But when it really comes down to it we are merely big-brained mammals stumbling through a vast cosmos of which we have barely even scratched the surface.

That’s why we must take things into consideration rather than believe in them. Belief is limiting. Taking things into consideration is limitless. Belief is mental slavery. Taking things into consideration is mental liberation.

The best way to maintain a healthy, reasonable skepticism, and not devolve into an ignorant, sycophantic, violent mess of a human, is to take things into deep consideration and then question them rather than believe in them. When you come up with what seems like a solid answer, simply take it into consideration rather than believe in it. In other words: entertain the answer without accepting it. Then use the “answer” as a tool so that it doesn’t turn you into a tool.

In the end, believing in nothing frees you up to rethink and re-imagine, regardless of the cultural, political, and religious boxes seeking to contain you. Believing in nothing frees you up to be truly alive, in the moment, rather than merely waiting to die. It opens something up for you to explore. It gives you something to question. It gives you something to have an adventure with.

Believing in nothing liberates you from the chains of dogma so that you can discover the courage of self-improvement. It releases you from the bondage of certitude so that you can gain the wherewithal of self-confidence in the face of uncertainty. It’s having the vulnerable mettle of courage despite the invulnerable metal of faith.

Believing in nothing is absolute freedom because you can finally see how everything is connected to everything else, and how attempting to stuff infinity into the finite nutshell of a belief is done in vain. It’s perhaps the vainest act of all. Better to not be vain in the first place. Better to remain in a state of constant awe, in love with the moment, bewildered and astonished by the grandeur of the unknown.

Imagination liberated. Intellect untethered. Love unmoored. Humor dethroning all gods. Unlimited by belief but limited by cosmic law. Allowing the universe to be the way it is despite our beliefs, because the universe is going to be that way anyway. So we might as well get better at living in accordance with it.

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Waking Up From Religion

Often our religious beliefs are handed down to us by family and culture, and by the time we are old enough to consciously choose, it’s too late because we are already brainwashed with pre-ordained beliefs that seem to be set in stone.

Ideally, the true purpose of any religion should be to facilitate a direct connection with the “Divine,” and to support spiritual awakening. Unfortunately, few, if any religions, fulfill this purpose. If they did, many more of us would be awake by now, or at least intimately connected to the Source of who we really are. Even with the prevalence of “new age” spiritual practices today, few of us have attained full spiritual awakening and direct Divine connection.

What’s wrong with this picture? Maybe that answer lies in the reasons why humanity seeks out religion, or structured spirituality, in the first place…

Seeking the answers to the unknown can be a scary business – where do we come from, why are we here, and especially, where do we go after departing? The further we travel down the “rabbit hole” in our quest for spiritual truth, the more lonely, confusing and frightening it can become. Religion preys on this fear and confusion; by providing premade answers designed to give us a false sense of security, it offers a reprieve from that inner quest, but in exchange for that spiritual crutch, we must give up spiritual sovereignty and the freedom to choose our own beliefs. We must give up the very thing it saves us from – finding our true selves.

In many ways, my spiritually convoluted childhood was a gift in disguise. Although my mother was raised strict Roman Catholic and my father was raised strictly Jewish, I was baptized Christian, and when it was time to send me to school, I was sent to a very Catholic school run by tyrant nuns. Neither my mom, nor my dad, considered that they were sending me to a Catholic school, where I would stand out like a sore thumb — with a very Jewish last name and a nose to match. I was treated differently by the nuns than the other kids but I was too young to understand why, and by the end of first grade, even the other kids formed an alliance against me. This overt judgment from nuns and peers went on for years, and as result, I did poorly in school, I had no friends, and I believed that there was something very wrong with me.

In fifth grade, the ongoing emotional stress caused me to have a nervous breakdown and, as a result, my parents enrolled me in public school, and also allowed me to figure out this “religion thing” on my own. By the time I was twelve, my immense search for truth was underway.

Up until that time, I had been taught that God was to be feared, and if you sin or break any commandments, you would be punished, and maybe even sent to a fiery hell to repent eternally. It was quite convincing, but something inside me said, it just wasn’t true.

My long and relentless search for spiritual truth delivered me to a sacred space that was, not surprisingly, void of all religion and the imprisoning dogma that keeps one from discovering the truth for oneself.

Why is it that religions often keep us from the very thing they should be doing? Instead of empowering us to a full connection with the Divine and supporting us to Wake Up and remember who we really are, they keep us asleep, buried under piles of disempowering beliefs that they programmed into our vulnerable minds.

If we are fighting to prove that we are worthy of God’s love or we must depend on a “go-between” (priest, rabbi, guru etc…) in order to communicate with God, how can we ever attain a deep spiritual connection with the Divine?

Programming Religion 

Most religions operate through mechanisms of control, but often the dynamic of control is so covert that you cannot recognize it, and if you cannot recognize it, you might easily fall for the religion’s sales pitch. Or if you are a long time follower, leaving the religion can be like extracting yourself from emotional quicksand.

Most religions, and even some spiritual practices, keep people asleep through a program of shame and secrecy. The program includes an ingenious control formula, based on disempowering beliefs, such as unworthiness, powerlessness, judgment and exclusion, all resulting in painful and debilitating emotions that can last a life time.

Installing Beliefs

Most religions install beliefs about “right and wrong,” “good and bad” and “sinful and saintly,” causing followers to believe that their well-being or salvation is dependent on their behavior, and if they disobey, they are judged and punished with the equivalent of karma or an eternal afterlife of unwanted proportions, but that is not even the worst part! The defiance of your religious beliefs automatically invokes feelings of shame, guilt, obligation or regret. These feelings, or the fear of these feelings, can be a more powerful deterrent than even the threat of physical torture.

The deepest part of the control mechanism is through manipulating emotions, so that you actually punish yourself.

For example, if your religion says that it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage, and you have pre-marital sex, you will automatically punish yourself through feelings of deep shame, guilt, regret and unworthiness. In fact, if you even think about going against the religious doctrine, these powerful emotions will induce feelings of impending regret, and make you think twice.

The same goes for things like regular “attendance”, tithing/donations and any other conditions or requirements of your religion. Your fear of feeling guilt or regret controls your behavior and makes you do things that maybe aren’t right for you, or maybe keeps you from expressing your real self. The thing is, if you are emotionally manipulated, how can you even know what is best for you? Only through free-will can you ever be inspired by your own inner being.

Because the control is coming from inside you, in the form of your own beliefs and emotions, you probably don’t even realize that you are being controlled, which is what makes this type of control even more diabolical than if someone threatened you with a knife. When you can identify an external control source, it is clear that you are being controlled, but when you have been willingly programmed with beliefs, and these beliefs are causing painful emotions, it is almost impossible to discern that an external source is in control of your life.

Taking Advantage of the Young and Vulnerable

Most people are programmed with religious beliefs either when they are too young to question those beliefs or at a very vulnerable time in their lives. For example, people seek spiritual answers when they are experiencing emotional pain or confusion. Religions feed off this, and even take advantage of this vulnerability, seducing seekers with the promise of security and comfort, for this life and maybe even the afterlife.

Sacrificing Power in Exchange for Salvation

Most religions ask that you give away your power, and that you trust the religion and its leaders more than you trust yourself. You are taught that in order to connect with the Divine, you must depend on non-physical deities, or religious leaders. If you want a prayer answered or you seek forgiveness, you must use a “go-between” because you are not worthy, or pure enough, for direct communion with the Divine. Worst of all, the message is, “Don’t trust yourself,” and, as long as you don’t trust yourself, you remain powerless to external authority.

Ruled by Conditional Worth

In most religions, there is an unspoken decree of worthiness that all practitioners agree to. Your worth is dependent on how well you follow the rules of your religion – if you do as you are told, according to your religion, or your religious leader, you are deemed worthy, and if you go against, or question the rules or beliefs, you are deemed unworthy. Unworthiness induces deep feelings of shame which leads to secrecy.

Use of Judgment

The fear of being judged, shamed or the subject of gossip is commonly used to keep followers in line, creating secrecy and keeping followers from sharing their “indiscretions” with each other. Because judgment feels like death to the ego, we will do almost anything in order to avoid being judged. As a result, everyone pretends to be a good follower, while secretly hiding any “bad behavior,” and, because no one is sharing openly, it appears that everyone else is saintly, making it impossible for you to speak your truth.

 

No Room for Doubt or Questions

If you believe that your fellow practitioners will ostracize you, or report you to religious leaders, you will not likely share any feelings of doubt about the religion or its leaders – you will silently keep your questions or uncertainty to yourself, never knowing that your friend, neighbor or family member feels the same way. Judgment, and fear of being judged, supports division. As the saying goes, “Divide and conquer,” and, at all costs, keep those already conquered from coming together in rebellion. Silence and separation allow religious agendas to operate unnoticed.

Exclude Non-Believers

What about the threat of non-believers that are not part of the religion? Often, followers are well-trained in converting non-believers, with programmed answers for any, and all, objections that might come from the one they are trying to convert. Followers are often taught how to prey upon vulnerabilities, with promises of salvation, but, if that doesn’t work, the non-believer is viewed negatively, cast aside as ignorant and excluded. This type of righteousness, where the believer is right and the non-believer is wrong, is just another form of judgment and exclusion in the name of God.

The motto often is: “Either believe and join us or be excluded and judged as sinner.”

I am not saying that you should leave your religion, or even think about it – that is not the point. The point is, if you want to awaken to the truth of who you really are, you must free yourself from disempowerment. This means taking back your power from everyone and everything –including religion.

It might seem easy to blame a religion for keeping you powerless, asleep, or disconnected but religions only exist because we seek answers outside of ourselves. From the deepest perspective, religions are set up to fail you, so that eventually, you will look in the only place where you can ever find the answers you seek. Deep inside.

Religion says, “You are unworthy unless you meet certain conditions.”

Awakening reveals, “You are unconditionally worthy.”

Religion says, “You are powerless to external sources.”

Awakening reveals, “Your power is accessed as you take responsibility for your life.”

Religion separates, judges and excludes.

Awakening and Oneness are synonymous.

In awakening, you remember that who you really are is the Divine, and if you judge yourself, or others, you are really judging God.

How do you know if your religion or spiritual practice supports spiritual empowerment, Divine connection and spiritual awakening?

Most importantly, your religion or spiritual practice should work for you, and only you can decide what that means, but here are some suggestions for you to consider:

  • Your spiritual practice gives you freedom, and space, to find your own answers, even if those answers disagree with the spiritual teachings.
  • You are not judged, punished or excluded for thinking differently, or questioning ideas.
  • Your spiritual practice moves you toward love and oneness, providing the space for you to forgive yourself and others, as you let go of old heavy baggage which no longer serves you.
  • The spiritual teachings uplift you to new heights of awareness, while also inspiring you to express yourself.
  • Spiritual beliefs are offered through lessons of empowerment, and not through fear of karma, punishment or any form of disempowerment, nor should you be manipulated through guilt, obligation, or impending regret.
  • Your spiritual teacher does not encourage dependency on him or her, tell you what to do, how to think or make other spiritual teachings wrong or less than.
  • You are not asked to judge, reject or exclude others in order to remain in the religion, nor are you punished for loving those who don’t obey the rules of your religion.
  • You feel honored and respected by your teacher and peers, and you never feel as if the teacher, or spiritual practice, has power over you, or that your worthiness is in question. .
  • Your practice empowers you to discover who you really are, and supports you in developing an intimate and personal relationship with the Divine, where you experience yourself as unconditionally loved.
  • If your intention is spiritual awakening, your spiritual practice must not only empower you to discover the door of awakening, it must also encourage you to let go so that you can enter. In order to fully awaken, you must be willing to let go of even the sacred practice that got you there.

The bottom line is, does your spiritual practice direct you inward? Does it make you feel closer to the Divine? Does it empower you?

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

If you have left your religion, or you are thinking of leaving, don’t confuse leaving the religion with leaving God. Just as the saying goes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Don’t throw God out with the religion. God has been tainted by all sorts of disempowering beliefs – from crazy rules to unreasonable nonsense and everything in between. You can leave all that behind and you can find God on your own terms, in a way that feels particularly right for you.

Losing community

Sometimes we stay in a religion well past its expiration date because if we leave, it probably also means that we must leave our community. Tolerating rules and dogma that no longer fit for us might seem like a small price to pay in exchange for the love and support of community, but that price is much higher than it appears. If you are compromising your freedom, hiding your true feelings, or constricting your expression in order to be accepted in a community, sooner or later, you will likely experience deep spiritual wounds that arise from betraying your own true spirit.

Yes, there might be a period of time where you don’t have the support of community, but I promise, your most ideal community is out there waiting for you. A massive wave of people all over the world are waking up, and leaving situations and environments that no longer fit. Just like you, they are looking for that place where they belong. It is time to come together to form empowering paradigms of community where we can all thrive, and be who we came here to be.

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