Following the attack against Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, passions ran high. On the one hand there was freedom of expression, on the other hand there was respect for beliefs. Which prevails? When we take too much liberties, we can slip into unfair and stupid defaming campaign. When we believe too much, we can fall into blind and violent fanaticism. Fortunately, politicians have reacted quickly, they will still lay laws to "protect" us. And that is my big obsession. I fear the day when laws will be enacted to "protect" the respect of beliefs.
If such laws are enforced one fine day, will I be allowed to claim that my grandmother was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ? Will I be able to jail anyone who will dare to giggle when I will announce MY Good News? Which beliefs deserve to be respected and which should be considered superstition? Will there will be quota? From 100,000 faithfull, your whims have the right to be respected whatever they may be? Is there going to be an official stamp to declare that this is a religion whereas that is a cult? Is it the government that will decide what God is and what it is not?
A belief is something that can not be shown or proven, yet I decide to consider it as an absolute truth. So by definition, it is something that I need, which may possibly be true, but which is likely to be wrong. Can I force the whole world to respect my delusions?
As it is impossible to concretely check them, beliefs are almost exclusively based on imagination. Therefore, not only are they perfectly suited to my deepest desires, but in addition they put into action my most intense emotions. Touching my beliefs is touching my innermost emotions. So it makes sense that I feel like running away or fighting when someone dares to question my beliefs.
I think that we use the beliefs in an unhealthy way. It is pleasant to drink some alcohol when we have something to celebrate. Alcohol has uninhibiting effects, so I it can temporarily give me the courage that I miss in daily life. But drinking round the clock, 7 days a week, inevitably causes damages. Similarly, beliefs are like drugs that plunges us into an abstract, delirious, moving universe. Beliefs can momentarily bring us to surpass ourselves. Raving occasionally may do good, staying permanently is necessarily harmful in the long term.
Belief is always opposed to knowledge. What we know is verifiable, what we believe can never be. Beliefs can play a vital role in our life, provided that they are temporary. When our prospects become too limited, when we need to move forward, we can temporarily reject knowledge, to cling blindly to strong beliefs that propel us beyond our usual boundaries. That is how visions allow science to make spectacular progress. This is how a people can make fun of tanks and overthrow the dictatorship despite its apparent invincibility. This is how we can blindly believe that we are healed and thus sweep away a disease which consequences should have been dramatic.
After the belief has played its part of magic propulsion, it is no longer useful. It is time to examine what has happened to update knowledge. Once the vision has resulted in an uplifting experience, one must delve into the demonstrations to reproduce the scientific phenomenon at will. Once the dictatorship is neutralized, it is necessary to set foot on earth to build a harmonious country. Once health is back, it is necessary to look at the events to understand how to maintain balance in our biological functioning.
We can think of it as a journey. Usually we walk on earth. And then we use a toboggan, a bike, a car, an airplane. For a moment, our feet are off the ground. We go very far in a short time, it's exciting, it's exhilarating. Then we leave the transportation to walk again. Similarly, experiences teach us a little more each day. And then one day a belief takes us to uncharted heights. After the exploration, comes the moment to integrate the acquired knowledge, while going back again to our daily path.
But what happens if we want to spend our entire life in the car or in the plane, because they provide us with intense, pleasant and reassuring sensations? What happens when we want to cling permanently to a belief?
If the belief is permanent, then it is primarily focused on its own survival. The human being doesn't matter anymore. The sustainability of the belief in time is the only thing that counts. Let it live as long as possible, even if it means sacrificing human lives. We become like slaves in charge of keeping it alive.
Since it is essentially based on human imagination, the belief could disappear at any time. The only way for it to survive in the long term, is to exist in the largest number of brains. We can aim at the industrial quantities of mass religions or at the selective quality of secret societies. The result is the same. The faithful must stagnate into blind gullibility for ever and ever.
When the belief wants to be permanent, it is more or less forced to stay cloistered in its bubble. There are things in the world that could threaten it. It's dangerous for it. It must protect itself from the world. The faithful world shrinks. It comes down to what is likely to maintain the faith or at least what is harmless for it. The rest is not welcome. We must deny the realities or reinterpret them, we must destroy the disbelievers or avoid entertaining to keep the "purity" of the faith. Permanent belief necessarily implies a permanent fear, fear of disappearing, fear of death. When a belief manages to colonize billions of faithful then it can proudly show itself because it is convinced that it is eternal.
It seems to me that belief should obey to the same rules as the attraction and repulsion. Attraction is permanent, it draws us toward a goal. Repulsion is temporary, it pushes us anywhere. Similarly, knowledge should be permanent in our lives, whereas belief should be temporary. When we reject knowledge, we can believe anything. This is what makes the power of belief. This can enrich us exponentially, it can free us spectacularly, it can reveal us unfathomable mysteries. But if the belief becomes permanent then it turns into an aberrant trap where knowledge, truth and reality no longer have their place.