Our core beliefs shape and define the inner self and the outer world. To understand our world, we must learn to look below the surface. We must take responsibility and accountability for our actions. Are you ready for this challenge?
We can look at our beliefs by dividing humanity into two groups. So, imagine humankind as a tree with two main branches. One limb we’ll call believers, the other non-believers. These are the two branches of humanity. Simple enough.
How To Group Humanity By Religion
The first branch of humanity we call believers. This group includes Deists, those who believe in a God but also believe there are natural laws that govern creation. It also includes Theists, who believe God has absolute control over creation.
The second branch of this tree is the non-believers. This branch includes everyone who does not believe in an imaginary friend. One subset of this group is called Atheists because they fail to believe in the concept of God. Another subset is called Agnostics because they do not believe it is possible to know whether God exists. You can be both an Atheist and an Agnostic.
People use the word “Atheist” to describe those who don’t have an imaginary friend. The word “atheist” is Greek ἄθεος (atheos), which means without God (s). “A” is short for anti, meaning to oppose or the opposite. The word atheist is a derogatory reference given to those who do not believe in an imaginary friend.
Interestingly, we only use this kind of terminology when talking about God. We don’t attach the Greek word anti to other terms. People do not call you an anti-big footer if you don’t believe in bigfoot. It’s the same for Aliens and Vampires. We don’t label people as “anti-alien” or “anti-vampire.” That shows the power of religion in language.
Both branches of this tree have a worldview that shapes their beliefs about the inner self and the outer world. (1) The inner self reflects our values. Mythology and superstition are the basis of the values and beliefs of organized religion. Non-believers use evidence that is considered inferior and evil to religious doctrine.
Religious beliefs definitely shape the thinking and values of the inner self. For example, if we believe God chooses us to commit violence, we will act violently and have a clear conscience. After all, we are acting on God’s behalf. So, the framework of the inner self affects the outer world in significant ways.
Belief in God is dangerous because it promotes sectarianism and religious superiority. These ideologies lead to narcissistic thinking. Unfortunately, society makes this personality disorder an acceptable mindset. We see it manifest in paranoia and a lack of empathy. This mindset escalates into more destructive thinking and violence — killing in the name of God.
No society is immune to the cancer of this mindset. We see countries reverting to a “dark age” mentality. In the USA, we see how human rights are being eroded instead of being championed. We live in scary times.
Shaping The Inner Self and the Outer World
Let’s look at how organized religion shapes culture. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism account for about 40% of the world’s population, and Hinduism accounts for another 14%. So at least half of the world believes in a higher power. However, they rarely look below the surface and investigate the historical basis of their beliefs. They affect the lives of everyone, even non-believers. They dominate the cultural narrative and control society by installing their religious prejudice via laws and regulations. Sometimes, taking over governmental control outright.
Our Core Beliefs Shape Life: A Look Below the Surface
We’ve known for several decades that organized religion is the source of all the ongoing conflicts around the world. The belief in an imaginary friend is a slippery slope that leads to delusional thinking. (2)
“Even in this secular country, the threat posed by religious fundamentalists is never very far away. Every major religious text exhorts the same principles – that of unyielding obedience to a supernatural being, and renunciation of the intellect and personal aspirations.” — Andrew Bernstein
Organized religion is a system of indoctrination. It is a tool to reprogram our core beliefs. It substitutes mythology for common sense and replaces our natural moral compass with religious values. This kind of thinking allows believers to justify bias, prejudice, and discrimination. It uses religious superiority to justify everything from genocide to genital mutilation. (3)
“There are a lot of Christian fundamentalists; there are a lot of Muslim extremists. Every religion — Mormonism — has something way on the side that’s completely using the religion as some weird backbone for their twisted faith. It has nothing to do with their religion.” — Patrick Wilson
The pathway beyond religion depends on the level of your integration. There are three distinct levels of involvement. There are three primary levels of religious belief, fringe, moderate, and extremist. See which one you identify with.
The Fringe Group
Those who have the least amount of integration are the fringe group. We estimate this group accounts for 40 to 50% of the membership of the above-mentioned organized religions. This percentage isn’t a new trend. In the 15th Century, this group made up only about 10% of organized religion. Here are the characteristics of this group:
They label themselves Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu. More often than not, they come from families and communities where these regions hold a great deal of power. So, public declarations of faith are the way to fit in. In some middle-Eastern cultures, it’s mandatory to make public affirmations and take part in regular meetings and rituals. If you do not, you can be subject to punishment, including public execution.
However, of the three types of believers, they spend the least time at services or private practice of the dogma. Nor do they align with all the doctrines within the religion. Although they make a public show of their association, they do so because of social pressure, not because they agree. Often, their ability to earn a living depends upon their religious allegiance. They have the least amount of participation in ritual and attendance. They rarely understand the origins or evolution of their religion. They do not understand how our core beliefs shape the negative stereotypes and prejudices of sectarian thought.
If they live in a culture dominated by religion, they learn how to give the outward appearance of allegiance. They know not to disclose their true feelings. Some cultures have harsh punishments for non-believers.
In order to get free from their indoctrination, they must see the facts below the surface relating to their religion. They are the most likely to leave the religion if they can. They can see how distorted thinking within the paradigm affects the inner self and the outer world.
Moderate believers account for 30 to 40% of the power base. It used to be most believers, but it has declined in the last decade. Here are the characteristics of this group.
Moderates are the financial backbone of religion. Because they attend meetings regularly, they expose themselves to high doses of groupthink manipulation, making them susceptible to extremist ideologies. As such, they are more likely to support the violent actions of Extremists. This group gives preference to religious rhetoric over scientific evidence. They distrust outside authorities in science and modern medicine. Moderates perceive their beliefs as truth rather than mythology and superstition.
Like fringe believers, many are indoctrinated into their religion as children. It also includes a large number of converts who join because of personal crises. When people are in crisis, they are more vulnerable to groupthink manipulation tactics. Moderate believers often make religion a significant attribute of their identity and are more likely to defend their beliefs with violence. Thus, they can slide toward extremist ideologies. What’s important here is that they can become extremists or fringe believers. It all depends on their level of system integration and curiosity. Because they are most of the financial support, the religion spends a large amount of time indoctrinating them. They intertwine as many relationships to various groups like single, elderly, etc.
There are fewer Extremists, but they are the most vocal, active, and violent. They may only make up 5 to 10% of the population, but they are often the most influential. Extremists gravitate to leadership within the sect. The religious sect becomes the extremist’s identity. It is difficult to change an extremist worldview using logical arguments or scientific facts. The need to believe overrides everything.
Our core beliefs shape not only our perceptions but they affect the world. It is not your fault if you are a victim of indoctrination into a religion as a child. However, as an adult, you are responsible for fixing your programming. Please do not subject the next generation to groupthink manipulation. Stop the cycle.
Have the courage to look below the surface at what is driving your thoughts. Remember, our core beliefs shape the inner self and the outer world.
(1) The How and Why of Consciousness: https://www.scienceopen.com/document?vid=bdbe5dfb-a6b9-43c3-b82f-3f120ce6b020
(2) Delusional Disorder: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539855/
(3) Religious Extremist: A Fundamental Danger: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1427998