Whether we are aware of it or not, our lives are driven by what we believe…and we all believe in something. What we believe determines how we expect the world to work, what we call good or bad, what’s real, normal, out-of-bounds, etc. Ultimately, our beliefs determine what we think and how we behave. But why do we believe what we believe?
We like to think that our beliefs are based in facts. We imagine that we’ve objectively reasoned our way through data and have formed sound conclusions. However, we humans are not objective. Instead, we bring assumptions and biases to to our calculations. These assumptions (like people are basically bad or basically good, or like God exists or doesn’t) are the result of our experiences which create an interpretive grid. This grid is fueled by desires necessary for us to survive and thrive. Think of it like an operating system that manages data for our welfare. Yes, we really do believe what we want to believe. Belief becomes a decision, not a conclusion. As disturbing as this may sound, we humans have no other option.
This means that we’d do well to test our beliefs differently than we may have thought. Facts, logic, reasonableness and other data should be considered, of course. And we should listen to the perspective of others because identifying their underlying assumptions can help us discover our own. But we need to take the step most often neglected: We need to ask ourselves why we want to believe what we believe. After all, we all live according to some system of belief. Discovering why can change everything.