Sunday, December 12, 2010

This I Believe

For a few years I’ve been listening to the podcast This I Believe. Each episode is a statement of belief from an individual, some famous, some just everyday people like you and me. It was originally an American radio program done by Edward R Murrow in the 1950s, and was brought back by NPR in the 2000s. Some statements I nod in agreement with, others make me want to argue with the speaker. But they are all heartfelt and considered, and they all make me think.

After reading one of In the Pink’s posts, I was inspired to write my own statement of belief. If you have the time, I’d be interested to hear what you believe in too.

More than anything, I believe in the power of the truth. And I believe the best things come when the truth is spoken and acted upon. Without truth, we have nothing.

I believe that all we are is a brain in a body, in the physical universe. No souls, no gods, no angels and demons. Just the world around us. And the world around us is plenty. In a lot of ways I think we trivialize the world when we anthropomorphize it.

Contrary to what many would like to believe, there is no skydaddy, nor guardian angels or spirits of our ancestors coming to save us. It is essential to realize that any saving will be done by ourselves or by the real people in our lives.

I believe that there are many things wrong with the world, and that to be a fully satisfied human being it is necessary to stand up and be counted when wrongs are being committed. I believe that the apathy, cowardice, and selfishness that I see so often displayed in the world around me is unacceptable.

I believe in treating others as I would wish to be treated, and I do this as much as possible. I believe that ethics do not require any supernatural backing to be valid. To the contrary, I find the actions of the god of Christianity in particular to be terribly immoral. A being of infinite capacity that needs to be worshiped by his puny creations, and who tortures them for eternity if they refuse? For a long time I have failed to see how such a being would be worthy of respect, much less be capable of generating a workable moral code.

I believe that in a civilized society we all have the right to freedom of speech, association, religion, and expression. This rights have generally been gained through struggle, not given from on high. I also believe that we have the obligation to make our voices heard as citizens, and to speak truth to power. For those of us fortunate enough to live in democracies, I believe that voting is a duty, not only a right.

Finally, more than anything, I believe that action is the only thing that changes us or the world around us. Talk is cheap. Thought is even cheaper. Action is the only thing that matters in the end.


  1. First let me say I am honored you linked to my blog. Thank you!

    Second, to each his own. I am not bashful in admiting I believe in God (though I doubt my fiance believes) but I accept all beliefs. Weather the belief is in a God or in the nature of mankind.

    You make me smile when you call what I believe to be God a Skydaddy. I think I will now call Sky Momma!

    And it cracks me up when people claim things to be done in the name of God. Like Abraham claiming God gave him the land.....if so why didn't She tell anybody else that. Would have stopped a great many religious wars.

    Loved you post.

  2. I agree with you about treating others as you wish to be treated. I think all the religions that exist, or most of them, say something to this effect, yet, more harm has been done by religions than good since the majority of followers do not follow this guideline. I also agree that action is necessary and people in democracies have a duty to vote. It's very sad how many apathetic people there are in the world. People forget that many before us suffered through long battles to win the most basic of human rights for entire demographic groups, and people take those rights for granted.

    It's funny you wrote this post because I was recently reading the "This I Believe" website and there are some really insightful, even brilliant pieces of writing there. I have never heard the program on the radio, only saw it online, so I did not realize it was on NPR radio.

    I also do not believe there's a "skydaddy" coming to save us all. I believe we have to save ourselves, and we can do a lot to help each other (which many of us often do not bother to do), but I don't believe there is a savior out there somewhere who will solve all of our problems if we follow his rules. I think when people want an easy answer as to why things happen the way they do, why "bad things happen to good people", and where we all orginated, it's an easy answer to think there is a god. But I don't believe there is.

    At the same time, I do believe we have souls. I also believe it's okay to change what you believe in, as people learn and grow more as they get older, and people's experiences can make their beliefs fluctuate.

    I believe it's totally okay for other people to disagree with me on everything I said here, too, as many do. But I think we all need to respect each other's beliefs, unless you're talking about someone who believes they have the right to harm others which is not a belief deserving of respect.

  3. Sorry to take up a lot of space in your comment section here, but I also wanted to say, I believe in resiliency and hope. I think that a lot of what is potential for humans to accomplish can be seen in nature. The blooming of flowers for existence. The reason I have the nickname I do is I believe in things like daisies, which grow through sidewalk and cement cracks and are trampled over all the time, but continue to grow, unlike the more prissy prim and proper flowers such as roses.

    I think there is a lot of beauty in the world, and I believe that you have to open your mind to be able to see that beauty and the capacity for good that human beings can achieve, which is enormous, but is something we never get near, most of the time. I believe that one must have hope for the future, and that when things get as bad as they can get, the only way out is up and things will inevitably get better, but you have to pull yourself up too, not just wait for a miracle.

    I believe that there are great tools at our disposal such as medications for diseases that we may have, and that it's smart to make good use of those tools because we're lucky to have them. I also believe that people deserve second chances, at least most of the time. I don't believe most people who are in prison actually belong locked up in cages. I believe that treatment and rehabilitation is the answer to crime - not jail cells.

    I believe that guns should be abolished, and that the only way we will ever have peace in the world is if corporations have no more power over governments and military is not seen as more important than social services and weapons are no longer created (as they are, largely, by the United States where I happen to live).

    I believe in other things too, but this is getting a bit lengthy!

    Thanks for the post, D.R. This is a really good topic for conversation.

  4. Great post, and comments! Thought provoking.

  5. "Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness."

    I believe strongly in the future of mankind, in mankind's real happiness, in this life, not in an afterworld. I believe in equality. I believe in a centrally planned economy which serves humanity, instead of a profit system that serves human greed.

    I agree with you that rights and laws are determined by struggle, not a gift from a god or a government, and that struggle is the only machine of social change. And I agree with you that there is no excuse for apathy, that action is the only thing that matters in the end.

    I don't believe voting is a duty or an obligation. I don't feel filling out pre-selected bubbles on a ballot qualifies as political participation. I believe governments are weapons of the economic class in power, but that they can be used from time to time.

    I believe the end justifies the means.

  6. I've always been skeptical about many things people claim they need to have for happiness, like romance, religions, family and so on. I think there were some times when I tried to convince myself that I needed some company for survival. In fact, I think I strongly believed that for the first few months of my depression.

    Over the months, however, I've changed my view on the importance of company. I enjoy communcating with people online, but I've come to realize that there are many other things in real life that I enjoy a lot more than online ocommunication. Online communication is good, but I think too much of it can be actually counterproductive. I've started to spend less time online and instead spend more time actually doing something offline that helps me focus on the present.

    I think I'm beginning to believe in myself, although it is difficult. My parents would tell me when I was younger that I was naive and too helpless to do anything, but I now try to talk back those voices from them when they attack me in the brain. I'm amazed to discover that I'm actually a lot more functional than I had long thought.

    I hope to gain some more self-confidence and keep strong enough to take action when I face my issues. Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed it!

  7. Hello In The Pink you're welcome, your post really gave me the push to put down in writing my own beliefs. I could have written more, but I think the core of what I believe is covered pretty well in this post. If you are interested in sharing your reasons, I'd be interested to know why you believe there is a god.

    Hi Jen, I agree with much of what you wrote. In addition to the existence of god remaining undemonstrated despite millennia of people believing in all kinds of different gods, I don't think it really solves the issues of life. It doesn't explain the universe, because they you have explain where god came from. It doesn't explain morality, because even if a supernatural mob boss with the ability to torture you forever or put you in a luxury penthouse forever depending on whether you please him exists, the fact he has more power doesn't make his actions moral. It simply means he has power.

    I'd be interested to know why you believe a soul exists. Of course, I don't want to die, but I have yet to see any demonstration of anything beyond the physical. On the issue of respecting people's beliefs, I don't really agree with that. People are worthy of respect. Beliefs are not. If they are logical and I agree with them, I will respect them. If they make no sense, I may or may not comment on them, but I certainly won't respect them.

    The origin of your screen name coming from the resilient daisy is an interesting one, thanks for sharing that. Keep on keeping on!

    Hey Lil, thanks for your post - I'd be interested to hear your own beliefs someday.

    Greetings Anonymous, I know where you are coming from and while I am not a Marxist, I am certainly on the liberal side of politics. But I agree that the focus on this real world is of utmost importance. Given that I have seen no compelling reasons to believe the many and extreme claims made by the religious about deities, an afterlife, and so on, I am forced to conclude that all we have is the physical world, and the only means we have of making change are our own efforts, and the efforts of those we work with. When people unite and take action, amazing things can happen.

    Hey Takashi, I think that part of happiness is accepting that life is a struggle. I'm glad to hear that you have discovered that offline things can be very rewarding, and that spending too much time online can be counterproductive. I think especially in the first few months your blog served as an essential tool to vent your pain and reach out. And it is still obviously useful, but you have progressed since that time, which is great to see. Keep it up man!

  8. D.R. I think I will have to to a full post on my blog cause I do not want to fill up your space but here is how I see it. I was first indoctrinated to believe in God because my family took me to church. I later saw the hypocritical aspects of my religion and questioned my basis for believing. I was in religious limbo for years. Then I met Patrick my love, and then my nieces were born. They filled my heart with such joy that I began to believe again. I know this sounds very corny but remember I have blind faith not religion. I do not believe in the Bible 100% maybe not even 50%. I was also in 2 really bad car wrecks where I broke my hip in 3 places and to this day I can without crutches. I must again tell you that I realize there is no scientific evidence to support what I believe...but there is also no scientific proof that bipolar disorder exist. I could go on and on but I will stop here.

    I look forward to chatting more with you on our different beliefs.

  9. "I can walk without crutches" is what I meant to say.

  10. Hi ITP, thanks for your reply, I appreciate it. I think childhood indoctrination is the reason why the vast majority believe in whatever religion they happen to follow.

    I'm glad that you managed to get through two major car accidents and still be able to walk without crutches, and I'm glad that you've found love in your life. But I don't really see the connection between these things and the existence of a god. Good things happen and bad things happen - I would be interested to know what makes you think these are tied to anything beyond the real world around us.