The word “Believing” is used here as one singular cornerstone of the “Four B’s,” the criteria people use when they evaluate their lives. The other crucial B’s are, “Being,” “Belonging” and “Benevolence.” When all four are achieved, they culminate in an evolved human being. I recently wrote about Being and Belonging, and readers have asked for comments on Believing.
Simply put, people who have a sense of Believing have a set of ethical values and principles guiding their lives.
Millions of people venerate (some kind of) God, who gives them support and hope, and provides them with answers to existential questions, such as where they come from, and ethical rules for conduct.
However, one needn’t believe in God in order to embrace humanistic behaviors like faith, hope and charity. Research has shown that religious followers are no more humane, compassionate and honest than agnostics and atheists, nor are the latter more malevolent than the former. We are all incongruous mixtures of the shoddy and the sublime.
Religious beliefs can be comforting and serve as a moral compass, but fervent worship of God has - paradoxically and tragically - fueled conflict and carnage in the name of that very God.
Many people wonder at times about the meaning of their lives, especially when stressed by the demands of family, career, bills, health and other pressures. They wonder if there is more to life than materialism and the proverbial rat race. (Peggy Lee memorably sang, “Is THAT all there is?”)
People often search for meaning, inner serenity and enlightenment in their lives. If not in a deity, many find their moral underpinnings within a community, an ideology, or within themselves through meditation, mindfulness, or sensory or spiritual paths. Others find meaning through reverence for the awesomeness of our beings and the cosmos.
Microscopic photographs and cell samples from our bodies are remarkably complex and beautiful, and in some uncanny symmetry and synergy mirror photographs from Hubble and other exploratory telescopes, as well as cell samples from the universe. They are each beyond comprehension, yet they form an uncanny connection in beauty and awesomeness.
Our lives can be rewarding and challenging, and are so important to us, yet we are in reality merely tiny specks living amidst countless infinite universes. It is thus not surprising that we need some meaning to our existence lives. It is clear from history, anthropology and archaeology studies that human beings have always had a profound need to believe in something beyond their material selves.
This need is not confined to the worship of an all-powerful and often-personified deity. Non-religious individuals are not necessarily non-believers: Many agnostics and atheists yearn for non-material or transcendent rationales which can explain, enhance and transform their lives.
Just as with religious followers, people with secular values need meaning in their lives which gives them a sense of grounding, satisfaction and security. When we search for meaning in our lives, we remove ourselves from the frenzy and fray of everyday life and transport ourselves to a more serene and fulfilling realm.
Both religious and secular traditions and rituals enhance our lives so much that we wish to pass these along to our children. Believing in core values which guide our behavior and finding meaning to our lives enable us to move beyond the material and appreciate the wonderment of our existence (nature, love, art, cosmos), and enhance our health and minds.
A sense of believing means that we live according to values which enhance our humanity (honesty, tolerance, compassion, empathy). In so doing we benefit ourselves and our human community: we leave a Positive Emotional Footprint.
*One caveat: A so-called “True Believer” can be an absolutist, intolerant zealot, the antithesis of our Sense of Believing. More on this in my next column…