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robmandu's avatar

What's wrong with your belief system?

Asked by robmandu (21262points) October 5th, 2010

You’ve been thinking about it for a while now. There’s something in particular about your belief system that’s bothering you. Maybe it’s a question you don’t know the answer to, or some outcome that’s not what you’d predict, whatever.

In replying to this question, please DO NOT CRITIQUE THE BELIEF SYSTEM OF OTHER PEOPLE. Let’s just each of us focus on what bugs us about our own individual beliefs in particular.

If you think you have an explanation for someone else’s response, please try to answer the person by name, without judgement, and ideally citing a reference for followup.

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59 Answers

YoBob's avatar

I don’t think that my belief system has anything particularly wrong with it. However, language often gets in the way when trying to describe the subtleties.

Take the word “God”, for example. One generally accepted definition of God is an entity that is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. That definition of God fits quite nicely with my belief system that “God” is simply the sum total of life the universe and everything, otherwise known by some traditions as “The Is”. However, when I have a conversation about “God” it is often assumed by the other party(ies) that I am talking about the proverbial old man in a white beard that sits on high doling out blessings and punishments. That one minor conceptual difference often makes it difficult to converse with many who lable themselves avowed atheists, especially when they really do believe in something larger than ourselves but are under the misguided impression that calling it “God” implies that they have a belief in some mystical sky daddy.

tinyfaery's avatar

I guess the major problem is I don’t really have a belief system. Sure I have ideals and my own morality, but those are not really the result of a belief system. Instead I feel I live according to my conscience and my experience.

So what’s wrong with all that?

Zyx's avatar

@YoBob Christianity and similar religions don’t really have any room for abstract thought. An image of Jesus’ dad and a burning bush is all you get.

According to my current belief system time shouldn’t exist and my life should be a lot weirder. On the other hand, I might just not be me. In which case what’s wrong with my religion is my inadequacy as a messiah. Matter of fact that mind be what’s wrong with my head too.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m not sure what comes to mind when you say belief system, for me. I suppose I would have to consider my philosophy on life and the only thing wrong with it is that it wouldn’t be the correct philosophy for other people aka it is not universally applicable. However, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

The_Idler's avatar

I know only that the world outside my mind is unknowable.

I suppose that means I have no belief system, as belief is not compatible with what I know.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I am just fine with the way I think…have been for years.;)

JustmeAman's avatar

My belief system comes from my own personal experience and from reading and study. I live and learn progressively and am a firm believer that science and spirituality go hand in hand. Though science lacks in understand things that are not physical and cannot be measured by the scientific methods. I’m a firm believer there is so much more to life than the one we live in a physical world.

The_Idler's avatar

@JustmeAman I’d like to know why.

ucme's avatar

Nowt, essentially.

wundayatta's avatar

Like most people, this question doesn’t make sense. I mean, why would it be your belief system if you didn’t believe in it? I’m afraid I don’t believe in things I don’t believe in. It changes in response to new data, but it’s also kind of amorphous, so it’s hard to track the changes.

Having said that, the problem is that I don’t have a belief system. I don’t believe in believing.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

cookieman's avatar

The problem with my (lack of) belief system, is that it occasionally draws ”tsk tsks” from my mother-in-law, head shakes and deep sighs from my aunt and nervous denial from my wife (who, while not religious herself, would rather I not anger the big guy – just in case he does exist).

The only place I know folks with similar (lack of) belief is here on Fluther.

mammal's avatar

i generally try to avoid absolutism, only a Sith deals in absolutes

The_Idler's avatar

@cprevite America is a strange place…

Still, I am surprised at the number of people here rejecting all belief. I mean, it makes perfect sense, but most people don’t make much sense. But then, this is Fluther.

JustmeAman's avatar


Why, because it has been my own personal experience.

The_Idler's avatar

@JustmeAman What makes you believe that your personal experience is truly representative of an objective reality?

JustmeAman's avatar

Don’t really care if it truly represents an objective reality. It is the reality that I live.

YoBob's avatar

@The_Idler, I think it has to do partly with our cultural ideal of separation of church and state along with our social desire not to offend or discriminate based on religion that causes us to tiptoe around the subject. The solution for many is to simply not admit to any formalized belief system so they can’t be ridiculed by those who don’t share that belief, or worse yet, offend somebody who has a differing one.

This is somewhat related to the frustration I initially voiced about language and cultural pre-conceptions getting in the way of discussing things of a spiritual nature. Believing that we do, in fact, have a higher spiritual nature is not necessairly imply an attachment to any particular religious dogma.

MeinTeil's avatar

Not everyone seems to have what it takes to adopt it.

The_Idler's avatar

@JustmeAman you said:
“I’m a firm believer there is so much more to life than the one we live in a physical world.”

So do you believe that, in objective reality, there is a non-physical aspect to my (&everybody’s) life?
or just that, in “your” reality, there is a non-physical aspect to my (&everybody’s) life?


@YoBob “Believing that we do, in fact, have a higher spiritual nature is not necessairly imply an attachment to any particular religious dogma.”
I haven’t met anyone worth speaking to, who thought that spirituality implied attachment to dogma.

JustmeAman's avatar


I 100% know that there is a spiritual reality (World) that we come from and return too.

The_Idler's avatar

How did you come by this knowledge, and how can you be sure it is not a construct of your imagination?

JustmeAman's avatar


I think this is getting off topic if you want to know IM me.

The_Idler's avatar

I don’t particularly want to know about you personally, but as the question is unanswerable, we are discussing belief in general, and you, exhibiting as you did the most confusing – and therefore most interesting – perspective on belief, now have the opportunity to explain it to everyone else, from your perspective.

This will be generally enlightening and therefore good.

JustmeAman's avatar


No my experiences have been taken very lightly here and treated with the utmost disrespect and I will not do that again. It is called casting your pearls before swine. Not to say that anyone is a swine it is referring to what is sacred and important to me others make light of.

crazyivan's avatar

I think there is something wrong with ‘belief’ in general if it is not backed up by tangilble evidence. If you just stick with what has been proven to be true, you (or I) will not have that particular problem. It’s when you (or I) start taking things on faith that you (or I) start getting that feeling of dread.

Blackberry's avatar

The only thing wrong with my beliefs is that more people don’t believe in it lol….

To be honest, it’s hard to find a fault in secular beliefs, in particular, atheism and secular humanism. If someone could point some out to me, I’d appreciate it.

The_Idler's avatar

Well I reckon “I 100% know… [categorical statement regarding the fundamental nature of all existence] could come only from someone who has far too much faith in either his data or his intelligence.
To the point of arrogance. You know, do you?

I’ll just remind you that your life is probably an unimaginably tiny and insignificant bubble in the roiling mass of a billions-of-years-long overblown chemical reaction, known as Life on Earth.

And that Earth is the third planet (~12,740km diameter) from Sol (~1,392,000km diameter), which is one star of ~100,000,000 in the Milky Way (~945,425,495,548,800,000km diameter), which is one galaxy of ~100,000,000,000 in the observable Universe (~879,829,142,000,000,000,000,000km diameter).

The scale is impossible to grasp. And that’s just in one direction.

Human knowledge is absolute arrogance.

JustmeAman's avatar


I just know what I have experienced how can one acknowledge anything else? Yes I do know 100% because I have been there and brought back and can now communicate with those that are currently there. We have always been those billions of years you speak of and will always be. We are more than just a physical thing on a physical planet. Our knowledge is so very limited to what is available for mankind to eventually learn and experience. Our science is very limited. There are brilliant minds but often times they try and explain that which cannot be explained because they can’t measure it with anything we actually know. If it is not physical how can science examine it? Though we cannot see air we know it is there from the molecules that can be measured and examined. But how do they measure or examine that which is not of this world?

This is enough of my answers I can see it will get no where so my beliefs are mine and I have the experiences I do and that is all I can go by. If something I experience does not match up to science then maybe science has the problem? Sure it may be me but how else does mankind know things that science cannot explain? I do KNOW what I have been through and what I experience still.

flutherother's avatar

I am quite happy with my belief system (if it deserves so grand a title) I have had it all my life though it only found expression when I was in my late teens. Its strength is that it is extremely adaptable its weakness that it has little practical value.

downtide's avatar

My belief system contradicts itself. I am basically atheist, and generally do not believe in the supernatural, but there are one or two things that stick from my years as a pagan. Belief in reincarnation being one of them. No, I can’t rationalise it or explain it, but I still believe it. I wish I could either rationalise it or abandon it, but I can’t manage either.

Kardamom's avatar

My own “belief system” seems to work OK for me. I guess the only problem is that there are lots of questions that will forever remain un-answered. But that seems to be more of a problem for others trying to understand my beliefs. For me those un-answered questions just exist, but don’t cause me any anxiety. An example: Where did we come from? I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter at this point, we’re here.

The_Idler's avatar

@JustmeAman “how else does mankind know things that science cannot explain?”
We don’t even know things that science can explain.

Anyone who believes in the truth of a scientific theory is just as much a fool as the next believer (of anything).

In light of the fact that you are far, far smaller and less significant to the Universe, than an indeterminate piece of dirt under the nail of my left ring finger is to me, I find the idea that you 100% KNOW anything fundamental about the universe to be really quite absurd.

Your experiences might mean everything to you, but you mean nothing to the universe.
Putting the importance of your existence (and so the relevance of your experience) into perspective on a cosmic scale is like dividing by infinity.

Describing your experiences as “pearls before pigs” and claiming they have given you a profound knowledge concerning the fundamental nature of all existence is supreme arrogance. You should consider yourself honoured to be an indeterminate piece of dirt on the fingernail clippings of the Cosmos, such is the unimaginable scale and grandeur of its existence.

You should be bowing down before it and weeping with humility, not purporting to KNOW its deepest secrets!

We are not special, we don’t have some kind of magical connection to the universe, and to imagine that you do is so incredibly narcissistic, I’d call it mental illness if it weren’t the human condition.

josie's avatar

There is no such thing a belief “system”. There is only what you know to be true, and everything else (what you wish to be true, what might be true, what you pretend is true to please your friends etc.).

AstroChuck's avatar

Not a God damned thing.

Berserker's avatar

I don’t know enough about anything nor do I have enough experience with much of anything to have a properly informed belief system of any kind, and most of what drives it is me being narrow minded and biased. So that’s a great wrong right there I’d say.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I grew up Methodist, but have since identified as more of a Humanist. However, for some reason I still get visions of hellfire and damnation when I contemplate uttering “I do not believe in God/Jesus” See even now I am getting visions of St. Peter at the gates pulling up Fluther archives and pointing the finger of judgement at me (and that’s just from me typing it!)..... If I truely don’t believe, why the concern?

Blackberry's avatar

@KhiaKarma This is why some propose religious prosyletizing be labeled child abuse lol. The concern is from your past, having that stuff instilled in you at a young age when you didn’t know anything except what your brain absorbed from the people around you.

“Still….to this day…I feel weird having sex on Christmas. I just feel like Jesus is looking down on me like, ‘Aw come on just don’t fuck on my birthday…...’” – Bill Maher

Jabe73's avatar

I perhaps would label myself as a nonreligious theist. I do not have any particular belief system and I am constantly changing opinions. If something is scientifically proven (I don’t believe in absolutes) I acknowledge it then as fact. I have no religious dogma that interferes with evaluating something on my behalf. In fact I do not even believe in a literal “God” so to speak.

KhiaKarma's avatar

@Blackberry brainwashing is a bitch. The teachings somewhat valid pertaining how to treat one another, etc- the guilt and fear, not so much.

truecomedian's avatar

I think that if I wait long enough everything will be given to me. I’m gambling on a miracle.

Austinlad's avatar

What often worries me about many of my beliefs is that they are based only (or mainly) on what I think I know (and feel). The older I get, the more I realize there’s far too much I don’t know to be able to believe I know enough to be certain of my beliefs. My only defense against this worry is to try to keep an open mind and wish for others to do the same.

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Dog's avatar

[Mod Says] Please respect the asking party and adhere to “In replying to this question, please DO NOT CRITIQUE THE BELIEF SYSTEM OF OTHER PEOPLE. Let’s just each of us focus on what bugs us about our own individual beliefs in particular.”

Please keep it civil and about ourselves not others.

Cruiser's avatar

My belief system is rock solid and my kids think so too. Granted it went under a major overhaul when I cut the cord to my Catholic brain washing…but that is a whole other discussion.

NaturallyMe's avatar

Besides the fact that i like to take the bits and pieces that i like of different beliefs and choose to believe in them only? Not much really. I don’t believe in any one particular belief system anymore, and as time has passed, yet again (maybe i’ll still find one that i like as a whole and adopt it). For me, i can’t believe in something that there’s absolutely no proof of. I also don’t think it matters that i don’t believe in one particular thing to the exclusion of everything else. All that’s important to me is that life is respected, and that you are a good person towards others (including animals and earth), or in the very very least, you don’t contribute malicious bad things to life. In the mean time, i’ll adopt the different bits and pieces that i find amuzing, fun or that make sense to me, and be a nice person along the way (as much as i can).
So actually, i find nothing wrong with my beliefs, since i’m harming no one in the process, and since we’re not discussing what others may find wrong with my beliefs.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

cockswain's avatar

I’ve evolved into a full-blown agnostic, and so far it seems the most sensible belief system to me. Occasionally I get bogged down in an existential funk, but I like feeling I’m not being brain-washed into an illusion. I’m persistently troubled by the fact that there may be no difference as to Hitler’s fate vs Gandhi’s in death. I’d love to have spiritual beliefs that made me feel my consciousness won’t be eradicated, but haven’t seen any evidence to make me believe it won’t (although there exists the possibility it won’t).

So I guess the downside to agnosticism is needing to remind yourself you are integrated into the fabric of the universe, and wrap my brain around ideas like my life is equally significant to that of an ant or squirrel, and there may be zero justice for greedy Wall Street execs vs. humble people who volunteer in their community.

By the way, if anyone has some advice for coping with these thoughts, I’m open to hearing them for sure.

syz's avatar

Hmmm. I’m not sure what my “belief system” would be. I believe blind faith is foolish, so maybe my belief system would be “Question Everything”. I believe that gluttony, greed, intolerance, and the drive for power (think most politicians) are evil, so perhaps my belief system is “Be a Good Person”. I believe that I am ultimately responsible for my own health, happiness, and welfare, so perhaps my belief system is “Take Responsibility for Your Life”.

Is there a label for all of that?

crazyivan's avatar

@syz strangely enough, they call it common sense, despite the fact that there’s nothing common about it…

augustlan's avatar

My belief system closely mirrors @syz.‘s Probably the biggest ‘problem’ with that is that it is always evolving. As new information comes in, old beliefs are discarded. I don’t really think of that as a problem, though. Maybe the need for vigilance? After all, if I don’t go in search of new information, my beliefs are likely to become outdated, or at least stagnant.

downtide's avatar

@augustlan a changing, evolving belief system is a good thing. It’s proof that you’re open to evidence and reason, and prepared to reasdjust your beliefs according to the accumulated evidence. Too many people won’t do that.

augustlan's avatar

@downtide I agree with you, 100%. I was just trying to look for a ‘downside’. :)

mattbrowne's avatar

The misunderstandings it might cause.

MeinTeil's avatar

Merely needs more publicity.

GracieT's avatar

I agree with @Cruiser! :o) I was raised Catholic, ran away screaming, but after everything that happened, I needed to find out why I lived and why I received my injury. I decided that yes, God did exist, and I received my injury because of where I was and what happened. It was an accident. I did come back to Christianity, but am not a Catholic. I still have episodes of guilt, and think that I shouldn’t do some of what I do, but know now that it is mainly do to my early exposure. I also realize now that God has given me a gift that I do not deserve, but my faith has caused me to believe in that being grace, not a reward.

Earthgirl's avatar

How many questions do I not have the answer to? Many, many, many.
In fact, people who claim to have all the answers are scary to me. Let’s just have the humility to admit that while one of the tasks in life is to understand what it is all about and to search for the meaning of existence there will always be the unknowable and ineffable. The problem with any rigid belief system is that it causes us to discount new information and experiences which might conflict with it. We invest ourselves in that belief system. We identify ourselves with that belief system. And if anything contradicts it, at least for some people, that feels like a threat to sense of self.
Look at the belief system of White Supremacy. I am always blown away by how, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, racially bigoted people of all stripes persist in their biased viewpoints. I call it willful ignorance. There is no use arguing with such people. If you argue until you are blue in the face their ultimate answer is “well that’s just what I believe, and I have a right to believe it!” Yes, you do. But if it harms other people we have a right to institute laws to protect the rights of everyone else against the folly of your bigotry.

That said, it dismays me when someone states their opinion as JustmeAman did above and even though they are just answering the question and not cramming their belief system down everyone’s throats, there seems to always be someone in the crowd who has to “call” then on it. As if they had said, “I believe this and you all are stupid or evil to not believe it too!” Then they get into a debate about how can you say that if you can’t prove it? I can understand it when the person has said something flagrantly offensive or when they are proselytizing , Otherwise, it’s not really fair nor is is in the spirit of what this OP in particular has asked.

Ultimately, as far as my own belief system goes my biggest problem would be that I tend to see lots of gray. I am very wary of people who see eerything in black and white. I am very wary of simple answers. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any beliefs or convictions. I just try to have an open mind at all times. I am human, so I don’t always succeed…So the problem with my belief system is the struggle to live and let live and yet reconcile that to making the world a better place by fighting injustice and bigotry. And how can you do the one without impinging on someones right to live as they choose? Where do you draw the line?
A good example of this issue is when you run up against cultural differences. There is a movie coming out soon (already premiered in Europe) called Desert Flower. It’s based on the true story of a young girl from an African nomadic tribe who ran away from an arranged marriage. Her name is Waris Dirie and she ultimately got to England and became a supermodel. She was subjected to FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) as a child. Her story of survival is incredible. As I read it I became so angry about this cultural practice. One of Waris’ sisters actually died from the procedure. Even if done in a doctor’s office it is brutal and barbaric. That’s my opinion and if you read more about it most people will come to the same conclusion. Waris has become a spokewoman in the fight to end this practice. (If you are interested check her website) FGM is NOT the female version of circumcision. Anyway, sorry if I go on too long. I am just trying to illustrate a point. In general I like to accept cultural differences. There are some who accept this and say we can’t force people to live by our code of conduct, our laws, and our beliefs. They are free to choose. Normally I would agree with them.But Waris and other girls like her are not free to choose. It is forced on them against their will because culturally the mothers are afraid their daughters will not be marriagable if they do not have the procedure. When these cultures make their way to the United States they don’t always assimilate and change. They continue in a practice that I can only categorize as child abuse.
I don’t want to impose my belief system on anyone else, but if there is a moral imperative as in this case it becomes necessary to take a stand.

The ability to shift your belief system based on new information can get you the label wishy-washy or in politics, flip-flopper. I don’t know how you would diffentiate between a politician who sincerely believed in somethin but changed their mind and one who just took a different stand because it was politically expedient to do so. I suppose you would have to go by the actions they take vs just the words coming from their mouths.
Did I answer your question? I’m not sure, lol.

kitszu's avatar


I’d guess that would be most peoples answer (unless they find themselves suddenly conflicted about it).

We believe things for many different reasons. Blind faith won’t allow you to question what is dictated to you; that is absolute faith.

Rational faith requires you to listen. Listen to internal cues, your instict. I read a book once that called them “bells of truth”. I could never get that image out of my head. That litle nagging voice, no doubt it’s a pain but don’t write it off.

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