Friday, January 27, 2012

Belief

"The teenage girl was visiting her grandfather; a revered orthodox rabbi and a leader of his community.
'I don't believe in God' she said, defiantly.
'That's alright, He believes in you' was the rabbi's response."
(I do not remember where I first read this, it may have been on the Aish website.)


“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”
Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

Belief is a funny thing.  Especially in American society, we appear to give it high value and want to see it in others, as if a persons ability to believe (and here, we are talking about belief in a Deity of some sort) is a function and proof of a higher morality.  But belief is much like gnosis.  You can have it, you can experience it, but there is no form of proof of such possession.  Any outward behavior that might be taken as manifestation of belief can be faked, at least for a period of time.

And then there is the idea (belief?) that the Gods NEED our belief in them.  Excuse me?  Is it even possible that a more self-centered philosophy could be created?  We may need to believe in order to propitiate a Deity properly, so that we might receive assistance, but that is far different from from the idea that an unbelieved in God dies, or no longer exists.

What do I believe in?  Here is where I am tempted to quote the long passage in American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, where Sam Black Crow tells Shadow all that she is capable of believing in, but it is a long passage (and best heard read by Mr. Gaiman himself) and enumerates only what it is possible for her to believe in, not what she actually believes.  So instead,

I believe I will go make myself a cup of tea.

5 comments:

Harzgeist said...

Nice post! But are there really people outside of Pratchett's "Small Gods" who believe that the gods need us to believe in them? If yes, I'm seriously doubting humanity...^^

Lavanah said...

Gaiman implies the same thing in American Gods, but whether anyone actually believes it for truth, I couldn't tell you. (and, thank you for the "nice post!" comment!)

Endovelicon said...

Dion Fortune said that when people cease to believe in a God, it´s only His astral form that dissolves, not the God Himself -- He just waits until people start believing Him again, re-building His astral form, and then He comes and vivifies it; I think this makes more sense that the superficial understanding of that statement ;-)))

Kallan said...

Loved this post! Now, I'm off to see if I can find Neil Gaiman reading that passage.

Julie (Calenth Brynaama Dragonsprite) said...

This idea was explored by Raymond E Feist in his books also, although they are pure fantasy. The idea of "dead" gods because nobody believed anymore. But that in truth they still existed but were just waiting. It is an interesting concept, I guess it depends on how you view gods and deity. Can we really say someone's belief is completely wrong?