What is the Destructive Force of Belief?
A brief perusal of history manifests for us the destructive force of belief. Technology increases the destructive force that we humans have; plus the obvious fact that technology changes our environment with lightening speed, whereas our intellectual sophistication is stuck in the mud of our ‘beliefs without wonder’.
The word “belief” has many definitions; we can develop a scale of belief that meanders between the extremes of casual guesswork about both mundane and important matters to beliefs that we willingly live, die, and kill for.
‘I believe that it is going to be good weather for the picnic’ to ‘I believe that the planet is getting warmer fast’. Beliefs at this level are about matters of little or great consequence but the belief itself is not about certainty but is about matters still uncertain.
The content of our belief does not determine its place on our ‘belief scale’. It is our degree of certainty regarding our belief, which determines its position on the scale.
Belief systems are often characterized by an absolute certainty of truth by many of their members. A sense of certainty plus a sense of being surrounded by treacherous unbelievers are characteristic of many belief systems. Nazism and Marxism contained these features; there is no circumstance or situation in history that cannot be fitted into their ideological views.
The mention of Nazism and Marxism as examples is not meant to imply that all belief systems are uniformly dangerous. These systems of belief run the whole spectrum from the trivial and harmless to unrestricted evil; from Boy Scouts, to partisan politicians, to Civil War. The important point is that these systems of belief can be exceedingly powerful and the membership is often dedicated to exploiting political action to achieve the group’s selfish goals.
“The act of belief is always an act against; it requires an opponent who holds the contrary belief.”
If we (Americans) watch the verbal ping-pong game between the Republicans and Democrats we will quickly comprehend that you can’t have one without the other. If there is no itch to scratch who would be scratching? If there were no socialism what bogyman would capitalism use to define capitalism? Could Protestants exist without a Catholic Church?
True believers are dedicated to the destruction of the unbelievers. Because belief is always against unbelief, it then is in fact unbelief. The believer and the unbeliever are two sides to the same coin. Each belief is defined by its opponent’s belief. “Both sides depend on each other to know what they believe…belief marks the line at which our thinking stops…”
Quotes from The Religious Case Against Belief by James P. Carse