I Believe That I Don’t Believe In Anything. Or Do I?

As previously expressed, my firm belief is that, as a 20-year old, it’s almost impossible for me to have firm beliefs in anything. My inexperience in most things is enough to keep me from ardently believing in any one thing. Some may call this laziness or an excuse to not have any opinions; I call it having an open mind.

I was exposed to a variety of different experiences growing up. My brief encounters with different lifestyles and beliefs have allowed me to make opinions about many, both good and bad. Ironically, this has prevented me from completely dismissing any particular one. For example, my parents divorced when I was 13 and now my mom is happily remarried. I’ve seen the negative and positive aspects of marriage and now I have a hard time deciding whether I think it’s a “positive or negative” institution.

My family was never associated with any one religion and they often encouraged me to learn about the subject on my own. As a result, I’ve had brief opportunities to experience a few different types of religious practices, mostly within the Christian faith. Because I’ve seen aspects that I like and dislike in each, I have yet to choose one faith as my own.

When it comes to politics, my family consists of members from both sides of the political spectrum and thankfully, I feel that most are fairly well-educated about each of their party’s viewpoints. Never have I felt pressure to commit to any one political belief. As a result, I’ve found that I agree with and respect certain aspects from both sides—if we’re limiting the political discussion to only two.

I suppose it’s safe to say that my family has had a strong influence on my determination not to firmly commit to any one belief. The independence they have given me to choose my beliefs has consequently allowed me to briefly experience many different types of viewpoints. But I do not, and will not, speak for everyone.

Not all people have trouble committing to a belief, and I often envy those whose lives have, what some may call, a “purpose.” For instance, maybe they’ve had solely positive experiences with marriage, believing that it’s entirely possible for humans to share a lifetime with only one other person. Others may have only experienced the negative attributes of marriage and don’t associate anything positive with it. And there are those who aren’t given the independence to decide their beliefs, or lack thereof. This pressure to choose can come from the family, community, classroom, religion, etc. Growing up in a family or community that believes in all the same things—i.e. a community of one religion or a family of one political party—will definitely influence whether or not you’re likely to believe in them too. In that case, you most likely wouldn’t know any different. Once again, I can’t speak for everyone because I know there are places where, even if you do know differently, you’re forced to accept the standard. People in countries that are ruled by force and oppression, for example, have no choice but to believe in whatever it is that allows them to survive.

I don’t mean to suggest that ardent belief in one thing is always the result of force. I’m sure there are people who have had more experience in something and have enough knowledge of it to decide that it’s the right belief for them. Others may have been so profoundly touched by their experiences in something that they may have been lucky enough to have a kind of spiritual or intellectual awakening. For instance, someone who defeats cancer or survives a catastrophe is more likely to have faith in something than I ever could.

Like you said, many say it’s important to have drive or a core of deeply held beliefs and sometimes, I agree. My experiences have taught me that it’s important to find things that give you peace with yourself and others (whether it’s religion, politics, morals, etc). Here’s what I do believe: you shouldn’t have to define yourself, or others to one, unchanging belief. Some may disagree and I encourage it! That’s the point! At the end of the day, I can only commit to what’s right for me.

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2 thoughts on “I Believe That I Don’t Believe In Anything. Or Do I?

  1. Hannah,

    This is a great start, but you stopped halfway through the process of writing the assignment. You’ve settled on your deeply held belief: “My firm belief is that, as a twenty-year old person, it’s almost impossible for me to have firm beliefs in anything. I’ve had little enough experience in most things to make me believe that my ignorance is enough to keep me from ardently believing in one thing. Some may call this laziness or an excuse to not have any opinions, but I call it having an open mind.” You’ve decided that it’s good and important for people, young people in particular, to keep open minds and hold off on firm intellectual/personal/ideological commitments.

    In the wake of WWI, the poet William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called “The Second Coming,” in which he wrote this:

    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Do you think he might be right about this? Is it good to insist on firm beliefs, even when people smarter and wiser than you believe the opposite? It’s easy to look around the world and see that most human misery is caused by misplaced conviction.

    On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine many very smart and wise people saying the opposite–that whatever you do in life, you ought to have a purpose, a sense of drive, a core of deeply held beliefs.

    Think about this some more and try the assignment again.

    To receive a grade of S, this post must be revised to meet the requirements of the assignment. You have until September 24 to complete the revisions, but I strongly suggest submitting them ahead of time in case a second round of revisions are necessary. After you’ve edited the post, inform me in-class and I’ll mark it for review.

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