You know what I’ve realized? All the really important things in life really come down to only one thing–loyalty. When it comes to belief, it’s no different. Think about it: what’s the big difference between someone who stubbornly clings to a specific way of seeing things and someone who cycles through perspectives throughout the course of his life? It’s the loyalty! Humans will always believe something only for as long as they can find compelling reasons to remain loyal to that belief. Nobody ever said anything about the reasons themselves–those can be anything from eminently logical and calculated to deeply emotional and instinctual. That alone can be the killer or the cure. Here again we are made to observe the staggering and alarming power of that simplest of human powers called CHOICE. Sooner or later, all of us will be forced to realize that there’s absolutely NOTHING we (or “Logic”) can do to circumvent the human capacity for choice as it regards what to believe in and why. Just try convincing someone else about one of those controversial topics we throw around (even while trying to tiptoe silently past them) these days, like homosexuality or politics or religion. You’ll swiftly find your face on the end of the jarring fist of cruel reality: what’s blatantly obvious to you is practically invisible to so many others!
Why? Because, in a sense, we choose what to see and what not to. What I mean is that we can only possibly “see” something when our minds have been reshaped, if you will, or recalibrated in the appropriate manner that can allow for such “perception”. Simply put, if you keep thinking along the same lines you always have, your mind will only ever be able to conceive of things that fall along those specific lines. It’s the difference between one who reads widely and one who hardly ever does, or between one who travels much and one who has never left his own shores. The one’s mind works very differently from the other’s, and the two can never get to each other’s points of view by simply remaining as they are now. But this recalibration of the mind is ultimately totally in the power of the individual himself (and God, but here I’m going off into one of those controversies I mentioned earlier). Because it is the individual who ultimately decides how he will react to his experiences, and thus how his mind will develop and change.
That means that we will, and do, interpret the same things differently depending on where our loyalties lie! More than half the time when we discuss things like homosexuality or politics or religion, all involved parties have already decided to stick to a certain code of belief no matter what, which is why we very often get nowhere. It’s all about the compelling reasons and not so much about the “logic”. Logic in and of itself is not automatically what one could call a compelling reason. Certainly logic is real and powerful, but too often its reality and power play second fiddle to simple human choice. Let’s consider a famous example, the once age-old debate between heliocentrism (the idea that the planets orbit the sun) and geocentrism (the idea that all other celestial bodies orbit Earth). In a classic case of human stubbornness, much of the then world’s most powerful people, including many prominent schools of philosophy and the Catholic Church, utterly refused to accept heliocentrism (and look at us now in the modern world!) for far less than any “logical” reason. It got so bad that poor Galileo faced a startling reality more difficult to come to grips with than his staggering observations about the heavens. In a letter to Kepler dated August 1610, he laments:
- “My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth.”
Here we have people who clung to their own beliefs, completely and vehemently opposing Galileo–all while refusing to even look through a telescope and prove his theories for themselves! Why? I have a sneaky feeling that at least some of them were afraid of what they might see if they had! What’s more, that’s practically the story of humanity. People will believe or not believe something simply because they are, above all else, loyal to a certain code of belief. Time would fail us if we were to search out and list every single occurrence of this astounding phenomenon. Sadly, we all have beliefs that have nothing to do with what you could really call common sense or anything else like that. In the end, belief comes down to loyalty more than anything else. We have those beliefs because we choose to, in spite of anything else that could–or should–challenge them. That being said, it’s not always a bad thing. Logic isn’t all there is, nor should it be. As much as some of the worst things about humanity stem from the irrational, some of the most beautiful things about us spring from what cannot be grasped by raw logic.
“Compelling reasons” really come down to the individual. What is compelling for you often isn’t for me, and vice versa. Also, what compels me in one go may take five or six or seven goes to compel you. I’m hoping I’m not the only one noticing this trend revolving around the individual at this point. Life is, above all else, a personal experience. No one else lives in your mind but you. No one else can walk in your shoes but you. No one else can make your decisions but you. It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. This tiny little thing called “the individual” is really the heaviest thing of all, the primary factor in the game.
You can prove to me that God exists all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. You can prove to me that the world is 3 billion years old all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. You can prove to me that Santa Claus isn’t real all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. You can prove to me that there’s an afterlife all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. It works for some folks, it doesn’t for others. Because the same things–or even the same combination of things–don’t compel everybody in the same way or to the same degree. You can show some rich people a video of starving kids in Africa and they’ll snort and make some dismissive comment about how hard they had to work to get where they are and how people nowadays need to stop playing the pity card and waiting around for handouts. Then you can show the same video to other rich folk and suddenly the tears start pouring down and they’re already making phone calls to see what kinds of initiatives or relief projects they can put in place to help those poor unfortunate souls.
And even if and when you do believe something (for logical reasons in this instance), your belief will last only as long as a more compelling argument doesn’t come along to knock your first ones out of the park. Case in point, the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism. In modern times, hardly anyone exists who would seriously challenge heliocentrism. Why? What sparked the change? The older generations who believed in geocentrism certainly had theories and what they saw as logical reasons supporting their belief. And then came along more compelling evidence. But not without much war and opposition and contention and bad-blood.
But that’s why belief is a revelation! You can’t believe something new using the same old way of thinking. Every single time the mind accepts or rejects a notion, it is transformed–it’s recalibrated. It takes on a form that is totally new. It has to, else it wouldn’t have accepted or rejected that notion. And from then on, it can never be the same again. That’s the mystery of the mind. Ask yourself: what are you loyal to? Your biases will determine your beliefs. And here we encounter yet another nifty problem.
For all my ranting and raving about choice earlier, your choice isn’t always sufficient. Ask yourself another question regarding the mystery of the mind: if we all, as humans, have what is called a human mind (which implies sameness of kind and power and potential), why is it that some thoughts that cross my mind as if it were the most natural thing in all the world never cross yours? I’m sure Isaac Newton was neither the first nor part of only a select few to have had an apple (or any other fruit, for that matter) fall on their head while sitting under a tree. So what made him so special that such a simple accident led to a revolutionary theory of gravity? Why don’t all people who have such an experience come up with the same theory, or at least some other earth-shattering idea? My opinion on that matter is that there is a Higher Power who created minds and thus has a consummate understanding of them, and that this Higher Power directs different minds in different directions as He sees fit. That’s one reason why I believe in God. There are also other superhuman powers that seek to tamper with the human mind for their own ends. That’s one reason I believe in the devil and evil spirits. And I’m also aware those are two reasons why many people out there will think I’m stupid.
But seriously. Your choice alone sometimes just isn’t enough to make a certain mental jump. We all have beliefs we hold now that we actually opposed not too long ago. Try to explain the shift. You were so certain that miracles were a myth not too long ago. Now you find yourself believing. Or You were so convinced that there just has to be a Higher Power out there. Now you laugh at how naive you were. What caused the change? Some new argument? Maybe, but for some people there was no “new argument” involved. And quite often, in these circumstances, the change is more of a grudging acceptance rather than an enthusiastic embrace. So then what?
And then things get more interesting when these two meet. Person A used to scoff at people who believe in the Divine–now he’s a believer in the miraculous and the Power behind it. Person B used to believe in the Divine–now he would laugh in the face of anyone who still believes such drivel. What accounts for the difference in the two?!
If I say things like “God” and “the devil” in response to that, I’ll find myself in a whole new kind of trouble as far as some people are concerned. But this brings me right back to the real issue: loyalty. Some will think me a fool for clinging to such archaic notions. To them I do it because I refuse to look at things any other way. And they’re not wrong. On the other hand, to me they look foolish because they refuse to look at things any other way. And I’m not wrong. But that will deserve a whole other discussion by itself.
When it comes down to it, our beliefs are really a test of our loyalties, especially in the religious sense. I’m loyal to the idea that there must be a Higher Power. To that end, I can find scores of proofs in everyday life to support my argument. He’s loyal to the idea that there cannot be any Higher Power. To that end, he can find scores of proofs in everyday life to underline his argument. And we can’t get to each other’s conclusions as we are now. Because our minds are each in different “shapes”, if you will, that exclude the other conclusion. It’s like trying to fit a square into a circular gap and vice versa. That’s why 1 Corinthians 2:14 says what it does: “But the natural man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Until a person is willing to entertain a new idea, that new idea cannot take root within him. He will reject it no matter how many times it comes at him. And in the case of a non-believer turning to Christ, that willingness has to come from outside; it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why He has to convict. We can’t arrive there on our own. John 6:44 says no man can come to God without God first drawing him to Himself. And that is why there will necessarily always be conflict between those of us who believe in Christ and those of us who don’t.