I’ve been thinking about how people come to hold the beliefs that they do. What processes are involved in this evolution and how much of it is within our control?
Surely much of what we believe when it comes to our spiritual life is a product of our social conditioning.
We tend to make things fit into our confort zones. I’m talking here both about those who have come to faith later in life, and those who have found that their foundations of belief have shifted, either slightly or seismically as they progress through their life.
Does everyone eventually find a religion that fits within their cultural and societal milieu? And if we do, does that mean that we manipulate religion to fit within those things that make us comfortable, or that God deliberately makes himself understood within a context that we are each familiar with?
Social justice, equality and inclusion are pivotal to my belief system, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much these are emphasised in the Bible. How much does Jesus mention homosexuality? Never. How often does Jesus stress that we should help others and give to the poor? Literally hundreds of times.
But I also realise that people are able to justify their own beliefs through a different reading of the bible. If you want to read it literally and if you prefer not to see much of it as metaphor, then you can justify another set of beliefs, so aligning yourself to a particular philosophy can have little discernible effect on your life, other than convincing yourself that you will go to heaven.
It does seem that I am motivated by consideration of what religion can do to make the world a better place, doesn’t it? From my particular vantage point, I think that, if what the gospels preach is really important to us, then you should try to improve the lot of the disadvantaged. If all you are worrying about is getting your ticket to heaven, and once you have pledged your faith then you disconnect from the world and live a selfish and insular life, then that’s essentially pointless.
What I’m interested in are those people who have radically changed their lives as a result of finding faith. Sold their belongings and moved to a slum to
practise medicine. Those people who risk their lives to live the gospel, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
I suppose though, that it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as this. it could be a milder form of ‘right action’. Given that I’m an introvert with a comfort zone only slightly larger than a block of chocolate, then doing the volunteer work that I consider to be important is actually quite difficult. Ok, admittedly not Bonhoeffer type difficult, but still….
So, what do you think; should faith push us out of our comfort zone?