Comparing Beliefs

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Belief is a funny thing. It’s a word that gets tossed around in a lot of discussions, debates, and outright arguments without ever being properly defined. Granted, the idea of belief is a slippery concept to begin with, especially since it is so easily personalized and adapted to fit almost any mindset. In onset of the holiday season, combined with my recent read of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and rewatching Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, got me thinking about the nature of belief and its place in stories.

As someone who is trying to be a good skeptic and humanist, I’ve developed a weird, slightly uncomfortable relationship with stories about the importance of belief. I read and watch a lot of stories that emphasize how important it is to believe in something fantastic, even if there doesn’t seem to be a good reason or at least nothing solid. Thanks to films like Toy Story, I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt for not playing with my Barbies, dinosaurs, Hot Wheels cars, and My Little Ponies anymore, but I still won’t donate them. I feel like I’d be giving up on them, or that they would feel sad (never mind the fact that they’d probably prefer to be played with!) Dream a Little Dream by Piers Anthony and the film version of The Neverending Story feature worlds and characters whose very existence depends on being believed in by real people, especially children. If that belief fails, they don’t just die… they cease to exist. Being forgotten is worse than death. For someone with a highly active imagination, I think stories like this compounded a bunch of my weird neuroses (which thankfully got used to fuel writing rather than sending me to the loony bin. Although that could still happen…)

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Modern Mythology

In case anyone missed the Twitter memo (and I’m sure some of you did), I will not longer be posting an entry here on The Cat’s Cradle every week.  Life has just gotten too insane for me to keep up that kind of pace. At least, not and maintain some quality control.  So, from now on, I’ll be posting every other week, roughly 2 entries per month.  I hope that you’ll all stick around and continue to enjoy them!

With things in my own life fluctuating madly, I thought it rather relevant to say that we live in an increasingly uncertain world.  As Don Henley says, “The more I know, the less I understand.”  Nihilism and existentialism isn’t new, but I personally feel it encroaching further and further into the human psyche.

What do we have to believe in?

If you watch the news, not much.  Every day there appears to be more death, destruction, and wanton waste of life.  Corruption and exploitation run rampant.  Ignorance and idiocy walk hand in hand as common sense becomes more precious than gold or diamonds.  The honest and the honorable are pushed to the sidelines, trampled on, or ridiculed.  And in an increasingly secular world, faith doesn’t seem to have a place anymore.

So, what can we believe in?  Who can be role models?  What can inspire us to become more than we are, better than we are?  Or to at least help us make some kind of sense of this insane world of ours?

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