Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Root of All Evil

Beliefs are the root of all evil.

Now that I have your attention, allow me to clarify. Attachment to beliefs…, or Personal identification with beliefs…, or Belief that beliefs are “truth” and not just opinion… is the root of all evil.

Most, if not all, of the conflict we witness on a daily basis (that which is not based on fighting over subsistence issues, such as food and water) is the result of the zealous defense of personal beliefs. Whether on the local, national or international stage, when people feel they have to protect the value they have placed on their beliefs in order to preserve the value of their own existence, conflict is inevitable and often leads to violence.

Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that some people hold beliefs that help them deal with their daily lives in ways that are more meaningful to them than would be the case without those beliefs - something along the lines of “Being kind to each other makes us more human.” These benign beliefs are very personal and don’t have much impact beyond the circle of the person who holds the belief or those who share the belief. If the belief were somehow to be proven untrue tomorrow, the individual(s) might struggle to make new sense of the world, but it would be a personal struggle, not a major disruption of world events.

The type of destructive, malignant beliefs I’m talking about are those beliefs that are used to manipulate political or religious power to control the behavior of large groups of people and create “us vs. them” separation in order to bolster the sense and importance of “us.” Beliefs such as “life begins at conception” or “my prophet is more right than your prophet” take on the mantle of “truth” when professed ad nauseum by people in power. And the Believers gladly back up these opinions with threats and acts of violence as ways of “proving” their beliefs are “right”.

I believe that a massive re-education of humanity is needed on the definitions of “truth”, “belief” and “delusion”. I also believe (there’s that word again) we all need training on how to embrace uncertainty as a mystical, magical part of life that does not need to be feared or explained away with fantasy and superstition. I don’t know how this amazing planet got here, or why I’m here, but it’s a fun project trying to find out.


  1. Wow. Thought-provoking and worth some self exploration.

  2. Excellent. I see the truth of this observation every day in comments posted around the Internet, with folks drawing up sides and screeching the exact same arguments at each other. It inevitably devolves into invective and threats. Seems we are never too far removed from the kindergarten playground.