Why do people believe the things they believe?

First and foremost, ‘belief’. Belief is related to two main thing: about-self-belief and individual belief. The first is such as the belief on individuals in themselves when they plan ahead with one year. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ Firstly, alive, and that is taken for granted and unquestioned when thought about, although we are all aware of how highly fragile human beings are. One harder hit and that was us for life. Individuals are supposed to believe that they make it through some specific event, that they will achieve their set goals, whichever they would be. This is grounded in psychology and less in philosophy. The human mind is programmed to do things, but it will not do a thing unless it thinks it can. And that is belief. Belief in self comes, psychologically, from proof. It also comes from the religious ‘God(s) believe in me’ and other versions, but this will be discussed in the second part of the article. The proof one needs to believe is result. One could wish to touch the moon yet there is no real chance of that, and thus socialization made sure to teach us. Belies in this sense of personal existence comes from, and even when it was not called such, rational knowledge. Societal conduct teaches children what they can and cannot do and leaves everything up to choice indeed. Traditional societies had people believe in themselves even though everything was sort of pre-set and unchanged (if your family’s ‘business’ was growing potatoes, you’d be growing potatoes no matter what because you wouldn’t be aware of anything else). Their beliefs were more tamed, accorporated by religion; again, see the discussion in the next part of the article. These about-self-belief are what encourage and support life. Having time passed and societies growing in complexity, individuals could afford more.

Even if industrialization took over and institutionalized life so that humans became objects in production processes, the growth and availability of knowledge, combined with the lie of freedom, let people have various self-beliefs such as ‘When I grow up I want to be…’, ‘I hope I will achieve…’. Mostly these aims could be reached, but now they are almost easily achieved in a way or another for the society kept changing until the point when the division of labour, complexity of bureaucracy, and moral society life grew all so much that the lie of freedom escalated a couple of levels. Humanity is at a point where indeed individuals can choose their path, if they afford it (reference to economic status), can choose their religious belief, if they afford it (societal strings such as the Indian political party who claims its secularity yet disregards any non-Hindu Indians and persecutes them), can choose their romantic partner, if they afford it (see sexual rights, homosexuality issues in various countries); the point is, individuals can choose as long as they afford it and there lies the lie of freedom, as one can choose, if. The price is not even money, although they make the world go round (reference to Simmel’s modernity), but is the hard-working and not-questioning state in which statistically most of us find ourselves in. Society today needs this about-self-belief more than ever, therefore it will not disappear. Not only because is naturalized (see next paragraph for explanation), but because society became so complex that it’s needed that individuals do not question too much, do not search too much, yet in the same time, they do. Science took the most important place because it gives the knowledge, and not only “knowledge is power” (Bacon, 1597), but individuals are supposed to have it in order to get specialised and serve somewhere in the dramatic division of labour. Politically, people are supposed to have belief in particular parties so that the world is continuous in the system – the lie of freedom is essential for it prevents the revolution which Marx himself was implying that should happen. The society today must continue in its belief and the powerful parties ensure it for it is essential that this

All these are written from the perspective of humanity constructing their social being, part of which are their beliefs. Beliefs themselves are a human product that undergoes in time to become ‘natural’. This phenomenon, of specific ideas becoming to feel real and outer human although they are humanly created, is explained with much clarity by ethnomethodologists and phenomenologists. The very first idea to be stated is that people are attentive and wide-awake for their here-and-now and do not pay much attention to habitual every-day life things. Inglis (2012: 87) exemplifies it very clear through the ‘I am taking the bus’ statement. Everyone knows what a bus is, yet no one particularly plans to travel by it – only when the bus is late does an individual start to think ‘Oh, bus isn’t here. I am late for work. What am I doing?’, therefore providing his/her wide-awake-state with here-and-now planner thoughts. The second idea to be stated is that any belief is human made. The key to beliefs-construction is social interaction, the process in which human actors create reality ensuring it’s meaning by shared identification (Simmel); that is, as Bruce (1996) would argue, a society can deeply believe in and worship a squid (yes, squid) if one can find unanimity within the society and, most importantly, lack of contact with the outside. If one plays god, he than can do successfully do it by creating a society in vid, meaning no contact with other societies shall be allowed, so that the individuals in experiment can share and procreate specific given data. The slightest contact with the outside turns their strong belief to fragile ideas that can be changed (Bruce, 1996).

How does, though, the society create its own beliefs through? Again, no one can (yet?) righteously go back in time and find out how some belief appeared, but experts would tell us that it is all psychological. Well, they are right, the human mind is complex enough to give birth to ideas that touch the supernatural and put them as part of the human life – now all who read thought of God and Gods, but, more or less, pseudo medicine touches the supernatural and still requires individuals to believe in it. The fact that the latter slightly touches some scientific explanation is absolutely no argument to destroy the fact that it is supernatural. The more individuals will definitely be cured of illnesses by, for example, acupuncture, the more God and Gods become real. As practically all the philosopher and social scientists claimed, Gods, supernatural existences, are no more than individuals’ conscience to moral lives. Religious beliefs are born for two reasons: 1. To confer a way of organizing the society (this article is not expected to analyse the usage of religion through history within various societies), and 2. To set in humans’ minds moral standards by which to live (again, this article is not supposed to analyse how tragic the reality turned out). Given these two, having individuals believing in Divinities that dictate good and wrong seemed profitable to keep the societies to a standard of living.

Throughout history, not only did religion dramatically switched the scenes and became a tremendous institution that judged, discriminated, and terrorized humanity, but also humanity forgot that itself created religion; it became naturalized in their spirit (see the example of the bus, the wide-awakeness in the here-and-now). Meanwhile, have had analysed societies and societies dramatically changed themselves and went from highly agricultural arrangements to the capitalist chaos we do not even meet today. Some fascinating reason for capitalism is the Protestant reformation which emphasised the idea of individualism (in the eyes of God) and therefore reinforced egalitarianism and practically raised the beginning of alienation by letting individuals act for themselves mostly and lose the sense of society as a tight unity. Secularization became a thing as the effect of modernization, but the latter couldn’t be possible without religion; Weber attributes to the Reformation facts such as the democratisation of knowledge, and is very well based, as the reformation did indeed try to purify Christianity of the supernatural and therefore rationalize the beliefs. Weber also says that the reformation is its own grave-digger, for the reformation encouraged the idea that the material world is self-governed and ordered, which allowed individuals to forget God(s) and left science to be the embodiment of rationality. Secularization, then, is not brought by philosophers and the scientists did not even existed in their ‘real’ form in that time, but it was brought by the subtle but deep changes in the social structural support of religion. Societies became more and more complex for the industrialization and the huge ‘era’ of Fordism. Considering Marx, people were more and more alienated from life itself, from their work, from their ones’ alike, and from themselves mostly; routine gained access into people’s lives and daily diaries registered ‘going to work. Sleeping. Going to work. Repeat’, which practically stopped individuals from, for example, practising religion at certain times, or even spend time with one another. Romantic partnership became a simple ‘living with someone’ rather than a ‘having a life with someone’, the difference being that, the first only implies actual habiting, while the second implies constructing a common ground, a common routine, why not, a common anything.  Religion became a consumer product for people could afford to choose whether they believed or not – the bureaucracy (the no. 1 reason for which religion appeared) was already covered by appointed institutions, and the moral life (the second reason for which religion appeared), was now reinforced by law institutions to which various rules were added in order to comply the capitalist society that has been built. Having in the complexity of societies growing even more, individuals came in contact with various other beliefs (see the idea of squid-worshiping society), therefore it has been harder and harder for them to only admit and commit to their ‘old’ belief. Even hearing that someone thinks different than you unconsciously makes you wonder, therefore religion lost importance in people’s lives and became individual choice, but individuals continue to believe in religious ideas and will do so even if in smaller and smaller number. This is because religious belief gives a sense of morality being awarded by, for example, going to Heaven. Psychologists would say this is the concept of positive punishment (a kid given a candy each time he/she says ‘thank you’ versus the negative punishment, a kid slapped each time he doesn’t say ‘thank you’).

To sum these parts up, beliefs in terms of religion appeared  to construct a structured reality and faded in time for other institutions took their role. There is no actual proof even by claim that science ever tried to ‘demolish’ religion, religion itself declined because science explains the bits that religion put under mystery (Bruce, 1996). Moreover, religion has history, as straight forward and obvious it can be sad – tradition says religion is there and is so much naturalized in the mind of people that perfect atheists wouldn’t exists without religion. There is no such thing as society today without religion and religion did, does, and will affect humanity. As far in time as one can think, religious beliefs will fade for the lack of religious knowledge, but there will always be historians who would awake ideas, psychologists who would use a concept, sociologists who would analyse its workings on then past societies. As any other event and fact of the society, religion and religious beliefs are transcendent from generation to generation, yet transformed by each and given forward different and for different purposes than receive.

The overall conclusion is then that beliefs, any that would be, are both social constructs and habits naturalized and more or less rationalized and as long as the human brain will function in the almost same way as it did until now, any belief will continue its existence, may it be rational or mystical.

About alexandra-bucur

My religious, political, and any other belief are ‘sociology’, meaning that, as the person I’ve taught myself to be, critical thinking is in my nature. I am highly keen to leave people with this feeling about me, that I don’t own a certain belief be it about anything, as it is harder to believe but as true as it gets. Since a child, I never believed something, but always asked and tried to find out different versions of a fact, therefore I got to the point when I relised that everything can be true for certain people, and everything else for others, but yet the both cannot be true in the same time as generalities, therefore beliefs are social constructs. And there is when my sociological studies actually started. I have also seen around many indoctrinated by advertising people, so I pay much attention to marketing as well. Moreover, my tiny psychological knowledge is enough to get me to understand that the mind indeed prouces facts for itself if needed and it also created facts by itself at the impuses of various others. Therefore, I do see how marketing works very well and I can see its effects on masses but also individuals. [Note] To make sense of all, these articles are written from a social perspective and as any other sociological paper, they do not analyse by ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and they do not claim anything to be an absolute truth. The articles are as general as they can statistically be and affirm the exceptions if the case provides.As less subjectivity of the writer is left throughout the work, yet if the subject in topic allows, personal opinion of the righter might matter to the final conclusion. [/Note]
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