Designed to Believe Part 1

The Mind was Designed to Believe

They say humans are “intelligent creatures” yet many people believe in bigfoot, aliens, god, and other theories that some would say are crazy and others would stake their life on as true. We raise our children with fantasies like Santa Clause and the tooth fairy. But it’s not meaningless lies; all stories teach us morals that help us live in community with one another.

The universe is huge and our minds cannot fully understand all of its complexities.  Myths and monsters arise from events that humans witness but don’t fully comprehend so that they can warn others. Jesus told parables so that more people could understand the philosophical concepts he taught. We are imaginative creatures always seeking reason and explanation, being inspired and creating things as a way to express and further understand ourselves and the world around us.

Faith—the belief in something we cannot know for sure—is an inherent human characteristic, not a learned trait. From a young age, we believe in things we cannot see and we even create imaginary friends. As we age and understand the world better, we still have hope that there will be another day, that things can change, that things will get better. If we didn’t believe in anything, we would not be able to make complex decisions or find purpose in our lives.

Science of the Mind: How We Believe

Memetics theorize that the human mind evolved to be able to imagine, specifically with the ability to imagine external minds, in order to better survive as groups of people. Humans are social creatures, empathetic creatures. From a young age, before speech is even fully developed, most humans can interpret another’s emotions just by observing their facial expressions. This goes beyond human interactions, if you ask a child what an animal or inanimate object is thinking or feeling, their minds are capable of imagining and coming up with whole dialogues. However, there is a fine line between creating fantasies and deducing truths but both are based in our ability to imagine.

How do we know what is true? We believe it.

Scientists rely on the scientific method to deduce fact from fiction; religions rely on spiritual discernment and literature to say what is true and determine how best to act; others rely—whether consciously or subconsciously—on social or political views of the world or a person in a position power to tell them how to live. No matter how you come to “know” something, it is usually influenced by your “belief” in a common idea (read more on “meme”).

Does that mean everything is fake/wrong and nothing is right? No, the world is complex and nothing is simply right or wrong, which is why we have minds like we do that are capable of duality and complex narratives. Our minds are so powerful current theories argue that belief alone can change reality (read more at Forbes).

The pursuit of right or wrong is not essential, it only becomes an issue when individuals pursuing power control others by telling them what they believe is “right” so that they can rally their like-minded people against other people who believe what is “wrong”. The power of shared consciousness is what causes protests, riots, revolutions, war, racism, but also what allows us to have peaceful negotiations and forgiveness. Life is not so much about what we believe but how we act on what we believe.

How best to use belief?

I, like many, believe in a singular God but do not fully understand it. I have not had a huge epiphany moment in coming to Christianity, but it’s more than others telling me the same stories repeatedly. I feel something inside of me and in nature that tells me that there’s something greater out there that connects us all.

If I set aside all of my feelings and beliefs in a divine being, the troubles of the world and a lack of hope are so stifling that I do not want to live another day. Believing that there is a creator, who made me to care for the rest of creation, and that this creator designed the world to be complex and diverse and have the ability to evolve and heal gives me the hope to keep living and striving to do better for the planet and the ones I love.

Christianity and environmental groups provide me a community of support with like-minded others to discuss and learn from and literature to read to seek answers on how best to live my own life. Others may find purpose and hope in other groups or switch groups and beliefs throughout their life. We are social creatures on a planet with limited resources so we cannot exist in a vacuum; conflict will continuously arise from opposing views on how to live. If we have open minds to empathize, compromise, and love one another, we can make the world a better place and live together in harmony even when our beliefs differ.  

Are humans the only creatures that can believe? Read Part 2!

Sources

Cover Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

All concepts discussed are my own ideas inspired by the following sources:

YouTube Channel “Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science” Dr. Andy Thomson talks on memetic analysis of religion

YouTube Channel “Test Tube Plus” Series on Science and Religion

Note that these sources may or may not be the most credible as all things discussed are still opinions of the speakers. I encourage you to delve into your own research using sources you trust if you are interested in learning more. Also note, the science of memetics is not universally accepted in all scientific circles as it is still all theoretical without much way to undoubtedly prove it.

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