If you are a Christian and you have read some of the posts here on this blog, how did that make you feel? Angry? Sad? Frustrated? Indifferent?
And what did it do to your beliefs? Were they severely challenged? Did you lie awake for nights on end pondering whether there is a God after all?
My bet is that it probably did absolutely nothing, or perhaps it made you feel uncomfortable for a little while… but then you moved on. Was my argument so bad? That is a certainly a possibility. But then there are many people I speak to that have said they have no good answer to my questions about the absent character of God in mission (or many other questions). They stand with empty hands and cannot answer most of the deep, profound questions that I have had.
Yet they continue to believe in the Christian God.
Is that foolishness? Wisdom? The Holy Spirit perhaps? Humility?
I would now say that if you continue to believe despite (strong) evidence on the contrary, that actually makes perfect sense. Perhaps it is a bit of foolishness, but also wisdom, mixed in. I would call it the web of the mega-belief (credits to YouTuber Evid3nc3 – watch the excellent clip here). It kept me in for a long, long time. And it doesn’t just apply to religious beliefs; it can keep atheists/humanists/socialists/communists in just as well.
The Web of the Mega-Belief
We get down to the nature of ‘faith’ itself. Why do you keep on believing what you believe? What is causing your core belief, your “mega-belief”, to be at the center of your heart and stay there comfortably?
To make a good list of reasons, perhaps it is easier to think of someone who does not share your beliefs, yet still has strong convictions. Let’s take a Hindu in mind, since I bet there are very few Hindus reading this, so that is a safe group to target. Why do they keep believing what they are believing, despite that we all ‘know’ that these beliefs do not align with reality?
- They experience the validity, wisdom or inspiration of their Holy Book on a personal level
- They see answers to prayer to their gods
- They are living in a culture that continuously reinforces their faith
- They experience true community with others, through their faith & rituals
- They interpret everything they see in the Hindu way
- They get answers or guidance through guru’s, who they hold in high esteem
- They live their whole lives to accumulate Hindu wisdom and karma
The thing is: all of this is linked to each other, and reinforces each other. It is like a spider web. If one element falls away, it does not all come crumbling down, but the rest of the web takes over. If prayer does not work, you still have the gurus. If you don’t like the rituals, there is still the karma to think of. If you don’t see the validity of the Holy Book, then there is always the community. And so on.
And although the web of belief primarily relates to religious beliefs, it works just as well for non-religious beliefs. There are many communists who completely identify with communism, and although they may not pray, pretty much everything else is in place in their web as well. Any time you hold to a certain ideology, it is easy to form a community of people, including leaders, rituals, books, teachers, lifestyle, et cetera.
When looking at other belief systems, it is obvious that it is not very helpful for people to find the truth. I honestly don’t belief that Zeus actually existed, but for the people back in Greece some 2000 years ago it was daily reality. They were in the same web of belief, and although their ideas about Zeus may sound absurd to us now, for them any major argument we could think of would fall on deaf ears. The web would take over, and their belief would still be alive and kicking… and completely false.
Over time I will do a series on this blog how this web of mega-belief looked for me. What were the elements that kept my faith going? Why did I identify as a Christian? What made it so hard for me to step out of it? And how do I now think that I am not caught in the wrong web of belief – that of an “agnostic, atheistic secular humanist who likes to be seen as a freethinker”?
What does your web of belief look like?