“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”
― William James, The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy
Meditation: “Meditation is like floating on the meniscus between sky and water, between heaven and earth, between spirit and flesh, between knowing and believing.”
verb – accept that (something) is true, especially without proof. Oxford English Dictionary
One of the unexpected casualties of the UK referendum on British exit of the EU or ‘Brexit’ was truth itself. Prominent ‘Leave’ campaigners unapologetically misled voters with the trumped up claim that the £350m weekly EU budget would be redirected to the NHS if Britain left the EU. 52% of the British electorate believed the lie and won the day to Leave. The day after the result the claim was removed from the Leave campaign website and one of its most prominent mouthpieces, Nigel Farage, the then leader of the UK Independence Party, disowned it on TV. Who believes a politician?
It is not only political careerists who are not trusted. In a populist anti-intellectual tide sweeping western democracies it is fashionable to trash anyone who is presented as an ‘expert’. We no longer put any store in the pronouncements of pollsters, academics and economists. “People in this country have had enough of experts” was how Michael Gove, one of the leading figures in the campaign to leave the European Union, infamously responded to warnings against Brexit from economists.
It is not only in the secular world that the currency of belief has been devalued. In his 2016 book Brian McClaren calls for a spiritual migration from a system of beliefs to a way of life. “What we need is not simply a new set of beliefs but a new way of believing.” He is not suggesting having a belief is wrong (unless, presumably, it is the ‘wrong’ belief which for him is everything else except Christian) but he is suggesting if we use our system of beliefs as our primary way of gatekeeping those who are “in” or “out” of our exclusive club called the ….. (insert name of religious group here) we are missing the true meaning of believing in Jesus as the way into the Kingdom. “Belief systems perform practical survival and political functions that are completely independent of the truth of their component beliefs.”
So when the evangelical (or the atheist come to that matter) asks “what do you believe in?” it is not a theological question more a sociological question. Are you one of us?
This way of believing you might call dogma and it appeals to the mind. There is a different way of believing which appeals to something beyond mind which you might call spirit. When Nicodemus came to Jesus under cover of darkness he wanted to keep his options open. When Bob Hope was asked why he did benefit gigs for all religions he said he didn’t want to ruin his chances of eternity on a technicality. Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews but felt attracted by this radical rabbi. If Jesus had a direct route to God he wanted some of it. He used flattery to draw him out but Jesus cut through his double mindedness. “Unless one is born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus took him literally at mind level. Jesus challenged him to go beyond earthly things if he was to enter the kingdom of heaven. It required a response beyond belief in earthly understanding. “Whoever believes in the Son of Man may have eternal life.” A belief beyond belief.
Jesus was not asking Nicodemus to accept a new belief system to upgrade his old belief system … Judaism 2.0. He was inviting Nicodemus to accept that He was the fulfilment of the law and the prophets and that He and the Father were one. To ‘know’ this is not so much mind’s assent to dogma. Rather a spiritual ‘ascent to the cave of the heart’ as French Benedictine mystic Henri le Saux titled his journal.
“I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross and therein I found Him not. Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else.” Rumi