Beliefs Are Important
What are beliefs? Why are they important?
Dictionaries define belief as “The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another person or in a truth.” In other words, beliefs are based on someone you trust or something you hold as true.
Beliefs Are Not Opinions
During the last couple of centuries some people said beliefs are only your opinion. These people call themselves freethinkers. How can they be so wrong on something as simple as beliefs? Their freethinking isn’t worth much. Many of these “thinkers” are atheists.
Beliefs are not opinions. Opinions are merely thoughts molded by your experiences, environment, and emotions. Beliefs grow from truth. We may not have the same beliefs. We may disagree regarding basic truth. But we cannot dismiss another person’s belief by calling it “just their opinion.”
Opinions are more superficial. Opinions are casual ways to approach daily problems. These opinions usually grow from your beliefs. Or they may not. They are easier to change than beliefs.
Beliefs are firmly held but often may be straightforward and simple. For example, let’s say you firmly believe that violence is wrong. In a perfect world you believe there would be no violence. People would work together and arbitrate their differences. Gentle responses would replace anger. Peace would abide.
Then there is a school shooting somewhere in America. You remember that this is not a perfect world. Something must be done about these school shootings. Our leaders propose various solutions. Some of them could lead to more violence, such as arming teachers. Some people think violence is a good way to curb violence. Others are not so sure.
What is your opinion? Should police officers be stationed in the schools? Should we install metal detectors at all school entryways? Should we allow some teachers to carry guns? School shootings must stop! You believe violence is wrong. That does not change. But in the midst of a violent situation, answers are not so black and white.
You form an opinion. It is based on your belief but it is molded by the situation. During the next few weeks as you learn more about the situation, your opinion may change. Opinions are flexible. They change and adapt according to the need of the moment. Your beliefs stay the same. Opinions apply your beliefs to a given situation.
Truth is the anchor for your beliefs. How do you find truth? Search for it. Search with intensity and honesty. Search passionately. Your beliefs depend on it
Atheists say your beliefs are only your opinions. Why do they say that? Atheists deny the existence of truth. Every real thing is found in the physical world. That’s their belief. If there is no truth, beliefs lose their foundation. Beliefs become weak and flexible. Without truth, beliefs are little more than opinions. Moral systems topple. Values are defined by the marketplace and the loudest voice.
Beliefs Undergird Values
If you want good values, you have to start with good beliefs. If your belief is unsound, your values will fail.
Atheists since the Seventeenth Century have blamed religion for the world’s ills. They thought, if we can just get rid of religion, the world will be a better place. Religions come up with rules and laws and morality. Atheists wonder how any religious person can enjoy life. Religious people have all those rules to follow.
And why do religious people follow those rules? “Because God said so,” the atheists sneer. “Well,” the atheists gloat, “we don’t have to listen to those rules any more. There is no God. There are no absolutes. People are free to do anything they want to do.” But if there are no moral absolutes, values such as right or wrong are decided by the loudest, the strongest, or the mob.
During the Nineteenth Century, atheists tried to find a scientific basis for morality. They came up with new moral systems. These systems ignored God. They claimed to be “scientific” but were based on atheist beliefs and values. They all failed.
A French atheist named Auguste Comte developed a philosophy called “positivism.” Positivism believes all truth and all reality can be verified by science. According to positivism, human society developed in three stages. They are the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive.
The theological stage used superstition to define truth and to explain the inexplicable. The metaphysical stage employed abstract thought to answer these questions. According to Comte, society has evolved past superstition. We no longer have to depend on abstract thought. Positivism seeks answers to these questions by discovering the fundamental laws of the world. Science is the partner of positivism.
How can we find values through positivism? Comte says, the science of sociology will help us. Sociology will examine the way we live. Then it will discover and develop the best ways for us to live. We will follow the moral values laid out for us by science and sociology.
This plan was soon abandoned. Science cannot teach moral values. Science is not a world-view. It does not answer the important questions of life. Science is a method for exploring the physical world. Science does not have the ability to find truth. If truth cannot be found, there is no sound basis for morals and values.
The British philosopher Jeremy Bentham lived around the same time. He founded a moral code called utilitarianism. Utilitarianism teaches, “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people in a society is the measure of right and wrong.”
What is “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people?” Who decides that? What if the greatest number of people are wrong?
What if we lived in the American South before the Civil War? Most antebellum southerners (both black and white) believed slavery was the greatest good for Southern society. Utilitarianism’s moral code would justify slavery. What if we lived in Nazi Germany? Utilitarianism could justify killing Jews for racial “purity.”
Utilitarianism proved one tenet regarding morality: Bad beliefs produce horrible moral systems. Let’s look at one more attempt to define morality in a world without God.
Around 1860, Charles Darwin made evolution popular. Evolution was not presented as a belief system. It was a scientific explanation for the development of life on earth. Its central feature was natural selection.
Herbert Spencer replaced the term “natural selection” with his own phrase—“survival of the fittest.” Spencer’s new phrase stuck in the American mind.
This phrase became the basis for many personal moral codes. It continues to dominate Western society.
But survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle. Many people are natural predators. They prey on the weakness of others. “Survival of the fittest” justifies their cruelty. And now much of the Western world is a jungle. There are no rules. Only the strong survive.
Beliefs undergird values. As you can see, unsound beliefs result in flawed values. Positivism cannot produce a value system because it is based on the objective truths of science. Utilitarianism justifies the values of the mob. It supports the ruling class and justifies the denial of natural rights for the oppressed. Evolution rationalizes the domination of the rich over the poor. Survival of the fittest? Who are the fittest? Those who are rich.
Beliefs Begin within Your World-View
All of this—beliefs, opinions, values—are developed from a person’s world-view. Why did these three men hold to these beliefs? Their beliefs were a natural outgrowth of their world-view.
What is your world-view? It’s the unique way you see the world. Your world-view answers all of life’s most important questions, such as, Who am I? Why do I exist? Does God exist? Do absolutes exist? What is right and wrong? How should I treat others?
Why is world-view important? How does it help us think? Why does it guide how we live?
Imagine that your mind is a big, open space with no structure. That space is filled with all sorts of ideas, values, beliefs, knowledge, emotions, and other things. There are scraps of knowledge picked up from school, television, talking with your friends. All that “stuff” whirls around in your mind. There is no organization, no prioritizing, no structure.
What a mess! Nothing fits together. Nothing makes any sense. Your mind is a haphazard, arbitrary pile of “stuff.”
A person’s world-view provides structure. This structure helps organize all of the “stuff” that’s in your mind. Your world-view enables you to rank your ideas in order of priority. It gives you a matrix for incorporating new “stuff” into your mind. It helps you make sense of the world.
What goes into a world-view? Your world-view begins with the ideas you hold as basic truth. Consider one of the most important truths: Does God exist? If you answer “yes,” many new questions come into consideration, such as: Does God know that I exist? Does God care? How does God want me to live? Is God involved in my daily life? Is there a heaven? What is “good” or “bad” according to this God?
Another fundamental truth concerns what is real. What is reality? Of what does it consist? Atheists believe reality consists only of physical objects or things shown to exist by science (radio waves, black holes and magnetism, for example). Some people extend their definition of reality to include will and emotions. Christians believe in the existence of God and metaphysical truth.
A third fundamental truth answers the question “What is man?” Are we made in the image of God as Christians believe? Are atheists correct when they say we are nothing more than evolved pond slime? Your answer to this question profoundly affects your dealings with other people.
Your world-view provides a framework for your values and beliefs. It governs your actions and the choices you make every day. This seems logical. The way you answer life’s most important questions has a huge impact on how you live.
The Effect of World-View
World-view dominates the development of your beliefs. What was the impact of world-view on the beliefs of the three men mentioned earlier?
These three men—Comte, Bentham, and Spencer—held similar world-views. Comte and Bentham were atheists. Spencer was either an atheist or an agnostic. All three believed reality is limited to the physical world and the discoveries of science. They all were materialists.
They also held rather low opinions of man as a creature. Man was the product of evolution. Although Darwin did not publish Origin of Species until 1859, theories similar to evolution were commonly accepted among atheists. The Greek atheists Democritus and Leucippus taught such theories as early as 400 B.C.
These three philosophers believed man was just another species of animal. Nothing made man special except a slightly larger, more developed brain.
The cornerstones of their world-view were no-god, materialism, and man is just another animal. Their atheistic world-view goes a long way toward explaining the philosophical systems they produced.
Also understand that when atheists invent a moral code, they begin by leveling the playing field. They start with nothing. There is no good or bad. There is no right or wrong. But how can anyone build a moral code if nothing is good or bad, right or wrong?
Positivism, developed by Auguste Comte, searched for truth in the physical world. He believed that mankind no longer needs to explain natural events in terms of superstition. Storms do not arise as a duel between storm gods. Science is able to explain the development of thunderstorms.
Reality, for Comte, is limited to the physical world. There is no need for us to invent demons or gods or scary metaphysical powers, according to Comte. Science frees us from this kind of thinking.
Jeremy Bentham applied these new powers of science to morality. Why must we resort to ancient lists of do’s and dont’s? According to atheist belief, there is no God to enforce these rules. Moses invented them based on legal codes even more ancient.
Those old commandments are so negative, says Bentham. Besides, the old rules never worked. They never produced a peaceful, moral society.
Let’s replace them with something that works. It needs to be something simple and scientific. Bentham produced this new moral code: “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people in a society is the measure of right and wrong.”
Bentham built his moral code on something he thought would be readily observable—the greatest happiness. People immediately realized the shortcomings of this new moral code.
First, people define happiness in many different ways. In addition, whatever makes me happy may decrease your happiness. For example, suppose my football team wins the Super Bowl but your team loses. My happiness grows at the expense of your happiness.
Third, this code justifies mob rule. It supports tyranny by the majority. Although I believe in democracy, the crowd does not always know what is best. For example, during World War II the majority of Californians supported the internment of Japanese-Americans following the destruction of Pearl Harbor. They felt it was essential to their happiness. But it ignored the rights of a minority.
Utilitarianism sounds good but it does not work.
Herbert Spencer applied atheist beliefs to social evolution. He justified the domination of the strong over the weak. The strong deserved to be in charge because they were “better.” It’s just “survival of the fittest.” Man is only an animal. The strongest will survive. This belief is called “social Darwinism.”
“Survival of the fittest” justified the amassing of wealth by Carnegie, the Morgans, the Rockefellers, and others at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The rich deserve to be rich. The poor have no rights.
According to social Darwinism, the masses of poor keep society from moving forward. The poor are holding us back. We need to prevent them from breeding. Thus, the eugenics movement was born. It was organized and directed by atheists. At least 30,000 citizens were forcefully sterilized in America. According to eugenics, inferior people do not have the right to breed.
Hitler brought this movement to its final form. Eleven million Jews, Gypsies, mentally retarded and physically deformed individuals were murdered in Nazi death camps. Hitler believed there were inferior peoples. Christians who hid Jews also were exterminated for being traitors. These groups deserved to die for the good of future races. The gene pool must be made pure.
After World War II the world came to its senses regarding eugenics. When Hitler’s attempts to improve racial purity became public, the eugenics movement quickly died.
The Bible says “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (I Corinthians 15:33) Consider the effect of an atheist world-view on the morals and values of society. Is there another alternative?
The Christian World-View
What are the basic truths of the Christian world-view? Like many religions Christianity starts with belief in God. But the God of Christianity is unlike the god of any other religion.
The web pages following this will attempt to describe the Christian world-view. This world-view is so simple that a child can understand its essential elements. This world-view also is so complex that some of the greatest minds in Western civilization have never exhausted its complexity.
One unique aspect of the Christian world-view is its foundational premise. In Luke 6: 46-49 Jesus says anyone who hears His words and does them is like a man who builds his house upon a rock. Rock is the best foundation. Hearing and obeying the words of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian world-view.
The apostle Paul adds in I Corinthians 3: 11,“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ, Himself, and His words provide a bedrock truth. Jesus Christ is the firm foundation of the Christian world-view. This foundation is the strongest rock. Build your beliefs on this truth. Build your world-view upon Jesus Christ. When the storms come, this foundation of truth will stand.
Without a firm foundation and a basic structure your mind remains a pile of odd thoughts and random ideas. Your mind needs a firm foundation and an organized structure. These are provided by your world-view. Your truths and basic beliefs are developments and outgrowths of your world-view.
This section of the web site will describe the Christian world-view. These are my beliefs. This is my world-view.