As we look at the unrest and dysfunction in the world around us today and as we pay attention to some of the same less than effective and loving experiences that we express in our individual lives we find ourselves asking the question that serves as the title for this article. What do we (really) believe? Do you ever find yourself asking this question?
You see, in our experience when the majority of us are challenged on the strength of our beliefs a significant number of us react strongly, at times passionately, dramatically, and even on occasion, heatedly. In fact, sometimes the reactions of ‘believers’ are so strong that we argue, fight, wound and even kill each other in the name of our beliefs – especially our belief in God, Source, The One or whatever name we use.
Indeed, much of our world’s history is a record of this kind of strong and violent interactions between those who hold different beliefs in God. Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now suggests that as a species we managed to kill well over a hundred million people during the last century and much of that killing was done in the name of one God or another. Unfortunately, this same history, this same level of conflict and violence appears to be continuing unabated in this century. So we find ourselves wondering how it is that we have been able to get away living with this giant contradiction for so long.
Do you also find it strange that in defending our individual beliefs in God we can exhibit and justify behaviors that contradict so many of fundamental tenants on which these beliefs are founded?
So as we take a few next steps along the road toward living consciously and aging wisely, we invite you to examine the implications of this question. We invite you to also ask – how any of us – especially those of us who weren’t born yesterday – can expect to find genuine joy and contentment and a true sense of meaning and purpose in our lives if we continue to justify and practice this level of hypocrisy?
And here is another question. We assume that many of us who believe in God believe that our God is, at least in some ways, more knowing and powerful than we are, and therefore anything we have ever done, do or are about to do, our God must know about. We also assume that anything we have ever done, do or are about to do, our God could do at least as well if not better than what we are doing or will do. So if our God is more knowing and powerful, and if we believe in this God, why don’t we trust Him/Her? “We do!” we say often with great conviction and enthusiasm. “We trust God!”Well, if we trust God why do we worry about things and expend so much energy trying to control them? Why do we spend so much time, effort, energy and talent in pursuit of security and safety? If we trust and believe in God why are we so intent on manipulating and forcing others to believe what we believe? And why do we support systems and policies that create and contribute to scarcity, hunger, disease and poverty?
If we believe in God why are we so afraid and what exactly are we so afraid of? Why are we afraid of aging and of dying? Why are we afraid of those who have different beliefs, different cultural practices, and different colored skins? Truly, if we believe in God, why do we accumulate far more than we need, hoard and misuse the natural resources of our habitat and defend our right to do so?
You see what we mean with our question – What do we (really) believe? And lest you think we are picking on you, please understand that we ask ourselves these very same questions and when we do we find that we often come up short. So we write these words not as critics, but as fellow travelers on this road to living consciously and aging wisely. We write these words not from some height above the fray, but as imperfect beings who struggle with the same kind of challenges and opportunities that you face. And most of all, we write these words and wonder what our lives and this world would be like if we genuinely trusted and served, celebrated and honored the God we claim we believe in.
If you ever wonder the same thing, then we invite you to do a simple exercise. As you move through you day today trying making this commitment – “Today, I will demonstrate my belief and trust in God through my thoughts, words and actions. I will do my best to serve every person, object and event I encounter. Today, I will do my best with each breath I take to be at one with the God I believe in.”