Reflections on Beliefs

Reflections on Beliefs

by Charles Sumner

We start out in this world without beliefs.  As newborns we have a “clean slate” - the tabula rasa of John Locke.  Religious concepts are acquired over the years. The beliefs of the parents influence the beliefs of the child, and of course, outside influences, such as Sunday school, help in determining religious beliefs.  At a certain age we may be asked to affirm our belief in a certain religion or denomination.  Based on what we have been exposed to, brought up with, and even where we live, we may subscribe to the concept.  We may actually “believe.”  Belief can be defined as conviction or persuasion of truth; intellectual assent.  The difficulty with belief is that it is individual (if the person is honest with himself or herself.)  It is rare that any group can claim uniformity of belief, because groups are composed of people who are individuals and whose thought processes are not uniform.  Sometimes people are forced into saying that they believe just as everyone else believes, but beneath that solid exterior of belief are almost certain to be variations.  Often people outwardly conform to a belief because they think that in the entire scheme of things, their disbelief is not significant, and that the harmony of the group or family or the good done by the group is a reason not to express any dissent.  Yet there sometimes comes a time when an individual decides “To thine own self be true.”  For me, that was the time to change to Unitarianism.