“The institution of religion provides an excellent example of the dividing effects of belief systems, no matter how well-intentioned their origin.“
Beginning With Religion
Once upon a time, humanity fell from a place where we saw the Divine everywhere—in everyone and everything—to a place where we only saw our differences.
What immediately followed? Shame, and enmity toward all of that which was unlike us. For an innumerable length of time, this has been the condition of humankind—wary, and distrusting of “the other.”
Some traditions call this the fall of man. Others refer to it as the deceit of “maya,” which translates to the “great illusion.”
All cultures have a way of describing that fateful moment in time: the departure from unity with all; a shift so massive that it changed the destiny of humankind forever.
The original intention of religion was to dissolve this separation.
Religion, in its purest form, seeks to foster true spiritual practice that eventually reunites the devotee with God.
In its best-intentioned interpretation, religions all over the world instruct followers to dispel the illusion of separation from God in every way they can, urging them to realize that God is everywhere and in everyone. All ancient religions state that God is in every living being, permeating every space, dwelling in every heart. Indeed, any true believer would be more inclined toward unity than separation, based on those values.
Additionally, becoming One with God is a surprisingly similar process across all religions. To do so, one must make the conscious choice to stop dwelling in “illusion” and “separation” and instead, recognize the overwhelming presence of The Great Spirit and surrender to it.
Sadly, the day human beings handed over their inner guidance system to their leaders, the true objective of religion was obscured.
Instead of functioning as a personal, intimate compass toward The Divine, leaders realized that religion could be best utilized to manipulate the masses for the acquisition of further material power and control. Religion quickly became a tool to create division amongst humankind—often wiping out entire cultures and groups of people who chose not to bend over and accept it—and in doing so, became the very antithesis of its original objective.
It should be noted…
The institution of religion provides an excellent example of the dividing effects of belief systems, no matter how well-intentioned their origin.
Here are some examples of common belief systems today, all ripe with the potential to divide humanity:
- Subscribing to any religion
- Subscribing to any political party or ideology
- Any set worldview
- The acceptance of common stereotypes
- Acceptance of a media or conspiracy theory narrative
Beliefs shape our reality.
We subscribe to them because they reassure us that things can be explained: that there is a reason for peoples’ behaviors, a reason for the unfolding of world events, and a truth that condones our own motives and actions. Most of us use our beliefs to justify our lifestyles—sometimes excusing us for what others might call underperformance, at other times, explaining why we must do so much.
The interesting thing is, our belief systems are for one person, and one person only—ourselves.
Oftentimes, our beliefs don’t make sense to others. They are so individualized, so crafted by experience, that they live in perfect cohesion only in our minds. Indeed, if you’ve ever objectively observed the way others live, it is frequently in contradiction to their own belief system. The same can be said of us, and although it is uncomfortable to examine the contradictions within ourselves, an honest evaluation can leave us sitting with glaring inconsistencies.
Additionally, beliefs can never be forced on the unwilling.
No matter how strongly we believe something, we cannot convince anyone else of it. Just as someone else can’t shake our foundational beliefs, we cannot shake someone else’s—and yet, so many of us devote our lives to correcting, informing, and foisting our personal truth on others.
Why do we do this?
There are many psychological explanations for this phenomenon of trying to thrust our doctrine on others.
For some, it is caused by deep-seated insecurity. Because we don’t truly believe (but want to so badly), we feel compelled to recruit as many others as possible into our truth and strengthen the collective perception of reality. When many people believe the same thing, our confidence is increased.
For others, we believe in something so deeply that it can be the only truth. We cannot tolerate the possibility that it is inaccurate, as this would cause our entire worldview, and consequently our reality, to crumble. Many of us have based every decision we’ve ever made—including the hard and painful ones that involved sacrifice, self-denial, and repression—on our belief systems. Can you see, then, how desperately we must protect these hard-fought realities?
Thus Unfolds the Division
With a world of humans clinging to their different individual realities, it is no surprise that our need for belief-validation is so high. We are constantly evaluating the beliefs of others, quietly determining whether or not associating with them will be good for the reality we’ve crafted. When we encounter those who won’t accept our narrative, we separate ourselves from them literally or figuratively: with physical space, or with a mental flag that diminishes the value of their perspective in our mind.
Even when we aren’t outwardly showing it, many of us are silently scoffing at the beliefs of others, rising higher and higher on our internal podiums, cementing a wall of self-made doctrine more and more thickly around ourselves. Eventually, this wall becomes so thick that we can’t even relate to others anymore—and then we wonder why we’re lonely.
How This Relates to Current Events
The world doesn’t realize just how insidious the limiting and dividing effects of beliefs are.
There’s the obvious: the danger of believing wholeheartedly in stereotypes, or of believing in radical and violence-promoting propaganda—even the danger of falling into the media or conspiracy theory narratives; two extremes which create a massive black and white chasm around the grey area that really holds objective truth.
Then there’s the far-less obvious, where our beliefs actually limit us the most: unconsciously. How many of us consciously realize that we have been interacting with a whole group of people in a specific way—women, for example—based on our experiences with one person…our mother? How many of us unconsciously withdraw our trust from a whole group of people because of an interaction with one microcosmic part of that group, which could never accurately represent the whole?
And most insidiously—how many of us unconsciously distance ourselves from others who don’t share our beliefs because we don’t want to put forth the energy required to convince them that they’re wrong—or at the very least, convince ourselves?
A Surprisingly Simple Solution
At first, it seems almost heinous to consider the possibility that we can be deeply connected to people we don’t agree with—even recognizing them as good people. As a society that has been conditioned to reject “the other”, this is a jolting prospect.
It has been instilled in us—primarily through fundamentalist religious values—that associating with those of differing beliefs is dangerous, and that it will dilute our own conviction.
When we step back and realize the ways in which religion has been utilized to control the masses, however, we can contextually confirm that this is merely a divisive ploy. While the original texts of most religions advise a firm connection to other believers, they loudly advocate the ultimate goal of living as an example of the faith, a lifestyle most powerful when—you guessed it—one lives among those of differing belief systems. When people restrict themselves to only interacting with those of the same beliefs, a cult is created—the unbalancing effects of which often result in severe psychological damage.
It’s healthy to interact with people of different beliefs, but only when we have decided that those beliefs do not threaten our own.
We have gone to war with other human beings because we reject the ideas in their head, and this has caused us to reject the body, soul, and creative potential of that individual. We reject the whole of them—their infinite nature—because we are afraid of a part of them, a finite thought, which is all a belief is. A thought trapped in time.
Think back on the things you know. What do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Knowing is different than belief, and is not to be taken lightly. You cannot “know” your belief, you can only know what you know.
You know that you love the taste of a certain food. You know that getting a little sun and fresh air makes you feel stronger. You know that certain spiritual rituals bring you harmony and joy. These are examples of things you know. They can never be taken from you. Rely on that which you know—not believe—to guide you.
Everything else is just extra.
Stop taking your beliefs so seriously. If they can divide you from another human being, they have already failed you.
Let them die.
Yes, your current reality may crumble. But what was so great about it, anyway? If it has ever caused you to live in fear; if it has ever made you hold someone at arm’s length, or look down your nose at another infinite being, then it never served you.
Human beings yearn for connection. Above all else, they desire to be validated: seen, heard, and loved for exactly who they are. There is no difference between us. There is no divide here. Irrespective of all else, this is what we desire. All other aims are just secondary, and are roundabout ways of meeting that very need.
So why take the long route? Why play all the games? Why try to match everything by its similarity? A painting can never be created that way. A piece of music can never be made that way. Do you want to be one lonely note, or do you want to be the whole scale? Do you want to be one letter, or do you want to be the alphabet? Do you want to be one instrument, or do you want to be the orchestra?
The thing that is keeping you from wholeness, from connection to the Divine, is you. If you want to see perfection everywhere, then start seeing it. If you want to feel The Great Spirit everywhere, then start feeling it. If you want to know God, then start knowing God. Not believing—knowing.
Let the externalization of your truth die. Beliefs create a limited version of reality. They ask you to invest in something outside of yourself, to keep something that someone else has created alive. A finite thought, trapped in time, demanding your energy to survive.
But you are infinite. Ever-changing. Ever-growing. Ever-learning. Pure, unlimited potential.
Ever-consistent in your inconsistency.
Own it. Love it. Be free.
And have a great life.
“Human beings yearn for connection. Above all else, they desire to be validated: seen, heard, and loved for exactly who they are. There is no difference between us. There is no divide here. Irrespective of all else, this is what we desire. All other aims are just secondary, and are roundabout ways of meeting that very need.”