One of the most overused words during the last holiday season (and actually all the time) was the word Believe. Put that word next to a sports team logo and you have an ad for the fans. Put it next to a picture of Santa Claus and it becomes a Christmas message and put it under a picture of two people and a baby standing in a stable with a star shining above and it becomes a religious message. It is a favorite of motivational speakers everywhere. Believe in the product. Believe in the program. Believe in the company. Believe in yourself! There’s even a popular T-shirt with “I believe” on it.
What does it mean to believe? According to the dictionary to believe is to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so. Certainly, most those who run around all year with “Believe” T-shirts (or sweatshirts if one lives in the North) on for their favorite sports team believed in their team. Some still do and think that they got robbed of the chance to go all the way to whatever final playoff game or context exists for that sport. We all go through a time in our young lives where we believe in Santa Claus, some more than others out of hope in their desperate situations as much as belief.
We all, at some time or another, also need to take stock in what we believe in the religious sense. I have a hard time fathoming how those who claim to have no religious beliefs at all reconcile the inevitable end of life. They may state that what they believe is that when you die, that’s it, that’s the end, there is nothing else. Wow, talk about a dead-end belief (pun intended). Having no religious beliefs at all also leaves big questions unanswered – the How and Why type questions about life.
The concept of religions almost seems to be an innate human characteristic, something that is inevitable as human beings everywhere and anywhere cope with trying to understand the world that they live in. While I don’t have time here to go into a deep dive on that thought, I will someday. What I would present temporarily, as proof of that statement, is the spontaneous and autonomous rise of religious beliefs and the creation of rather complex religious ideologies that grew up around the world within totally isolated groups of humans.
When the first explorers arrived to the New World in North America they found a native population that had developed a complete religion around the concept of The Great Spirit – maker and keeper of all things in nature. To the south the Spanish and Portuguese explorers found very complex and ritual-oriented religious worship of the Sun god (note, not the Son) in place. Obviously those religions grew out of a common need of man to explain things beyond his comprehension and control. Other religions in other parts of the world sprang out of the same need, some creating elaborate hierarchies of deities, but all aimed at the same end – to provide an explanation for what man could not understand or explain himself. Most of these religions also had provisions for the concept of a soul or spirit within man and some form of existence after earthly death or even rebirth. People involved with all of these “religions” believed; because to not believe leaves one with nothing – no explanations, no sense of underlying order and no afterlife.
What things do you hold to be true, even though you cannot prove that to be so? It’s OK to have beliefs and even to share them with others. Joining other people with similar beliefs in organized worship is both a reinforcement of your beliefs and comforting. We all need to believe in something, because the alternative is unfathomable and frightening. Every week in my church service we recite a creed that states our beliefs. It starts, “I believe in…”
So, what do you believe in?