chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

I have an idea…

Posted by Jason on November 9, 2008

People, seriously, why this hatred, malice and warfare over ideas? They aren’t tangible things, you can’t really own them, so what’s so important about them? I can understand greedy or, to use the euphemism, “enterprising” people or governments killing people for oil, copper, etc.; heck, I could kill for a beer right about now. But what is gained from a murder regarding someone’s ideas?

“Well Jason,” you may tell me, “a lot of people out there have very strong beliefs about certain things…” 

Ok, ok. So it’s all fine and dandy to injure, maim, or kill as long as you’ve made some interior mental changes and you upgrade some idea to a belief? Let’s look at ideas and beliefs for a bit…

An idea, as I see it, is some notion or some thing that is purely intellectual but somehow pertains to the reality of the person who generates it. Ideas are neither positive nor negative, but rather intellectually neutral entities. George Lucas had an idea about stuff that happened a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It doesn’t mean he believes that JarJar Binks was real and spoke in Ebonics.

A belief occurs when someone judges an idea to be true or false, therefore adding a component of trust or mistrust of any given idea. This belief, once incorporated into the realm of truthfulness or falsehood, then helps shape the believer’s thoughts, judgments, and actions. So beliefs happen when someone takes subscribes to an idea or claims some intellectual ownership.

Let’s talk religion, since that freaks a lot of people out. I think we can all agree that religions are sets of beliefs that work together to guide people’s lives, right? What not all of us will agree on is the idea that these belief-sets can be cracked open in order to mix and match.

Here’s an idea I’ve heard regarding religion: “Religion is a man-made institution that allows us to explain the unexplained so that your average person can function in a world of otherwise crushing mysteries. It also is helpful for unifying and controlling the behavior of large groups of people.” 

Now, all three of you reading this might either say, “Right on! I knew this guy was smart!” OR, “I can’t believe this! I thought he was a Christian…” For some reason, maybe it’s modern schooling or the media or water fluoridation, we tend to take any idea that comes to us and slap a positive or negative judgment on it, thus converting it into a positive or negative belief as soon as possible. Must we run everything that comes into our brains through our crazy belief-filters? Why can’t we allow an idea to enter our mental pastures, graze on it a little while, then move on? What is so difficult about that?

I am a Christian, of the United Methodist persuasion. The belief system I subscribe to is pretty well summed up in the good old Apostles’ Creed: I believe in the God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth… and so on. To me that’s a great statement of belief and there’s nothing in there that I haven’t incorporated into my system of beliefs and disbeliefs.

“Nobody goes to the Father, except through me.” This is part of my Christian belief system, but I do not believe it. GASP!!! My belief regarding this started as an idea which just popped into my brain one day (or maybe God put it there…what kind of paradox would that be?) and kept floating around in the idea toilet of my head, unflushable. “Don’t all major religions basically preach the same foundational messages?” I would ask myself. I feel like the gist of every major religion is, “Don’t do bad things, take care of one another, be nice and this will get you to your goal.” What if all the goals — the Kingdom of God, Nirvana, Tao — are all different ways of conceptualizing the same thing: could they all just be different facets of what I call God, Yahweh, etc.?

So this idea I had, I didn’t allow it to become a belief because it really didn’t gel with my belief system. Then I read C.S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man,” and this book rocked my world. It was as if C.S. Lewis took my quirky little idea that I didn’t allow myself to believe and wrote a long essay explaining my very idea to the world for all posterity. Heck, if C.S. Lewis, the master of modern Christian thought, was ok with my idea, then I’m ok. After reading the book and talking to several friends, I finally decided to incorporate my idea into my belief system. The casualty of that intellectual incorporation was the belief that Jesus is the only way to salvation. 

Does this make me UN-Christian? Of course not. Jesus is my way to salvation, but I cannot accept that perfectly wonderful Buddhists, Muslims, and Atheists are not going to heaven, or wherever they want to go, simply because they choose a different way. 

So back to ideas and beliefs. Just because an idea is not already incorporated into your belief system, or because it produces friction with your belief system doesn’t mean that it should automatically be distrusted or labeled as an anti-belief. The idea of religion being man-made goes very counter to my belief system, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t and don’t think about it. 

Friends, I think it’s high time that we believed less and thought more. Don’t think this means be skeptical, because then you automatically distrust. All we have to do is put those belief filters aside and let ideas flow unfettered into and out of our lives. We’re severely limiting ourselves because beliefs get in the way of some very cool ideas that make the world go round. And when you read these posts, or anything for that matter, remember: Everything is only an idea until you decide to judge it. Better to let most things be.

 Believe less…think more.


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