Everybody ‘believes’. It is as innately human to believe certain things as to know certain things, and very often the distinction between the two is blurred. Even those who would tell us that the only things we can know truly are those things that can be scientifically, empirically shown to be true, are expressing a belief. Their very assertion is one of blind faith and is even self-refuting; it cannot be empirically verified and thus there is no reason to accept it as true under its own criteria. They believe by faith that their dogma is true, and by that belief undermine the very foundation they attempt to build.
Like it or not, we all believe. Even when the things we believe have been established on empirical evidence, this is usually based not on our own observations of the evidence, but on acceptance of the findings of others. This is especially so in this increasingly specialised world.
The study of why we believe/know the things we believe/know is called epistemology. We believe some things by conditioning, they are the things we have been taught to believe. We believe them because our parents, our culture or someone we respect or who was influential in our lives believed them. We might call this conformity. We also believe some things out of pure contrariness to what others believe. We might like to label this as non-conformity although some might call it rebellion, often in reaction to beliefs of parents or teachers, regardless of its credibility or lack thereof.
If we are honest, we would have to admit that even some of the things we ‘know’ to be true, are actually beliefs we have absorbed from the common consensus of our family, culture, club, collegiate or congregation. This is knowledge that we have absorbed passively or under pressure. The approval of our peers, acceptance, funding, prestige, promotion and fear can all be powerful influences of what we choose to believe….
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