World Religions and Systems of Belief
The definition for belief is the psychological state in which an individual concludes something to be true. It is critical for us to understand how, after we can observe something, we are able to determine an interpretation of its reality and meaning.
This is the difference between science and philosophy, or a ‘system of belief,’ science can go no further then observation, and state the reality of something’s existence. It is after science has done its job, that philosophy (or belief) must take place to make the determination of its meanings or to place a value on it.
Our beliefs shape the way we think, act and live our lives. It is the determining factor of our own morality, values and character. Our beliefs shape our reality because it is the very way in which we define reality.
World belief systems encompass everything that people are able to interpret, process and relate a meaning to. This is why everything from:
And the like are all classified within this category; of ‘World Belief Systems,’ or ‘Human Belief Systems.’
RELIGIONS & PHILOSOPHIES
Both religions and philosophies are different types or groups of ‘Systems of Beliefs.’ There are differences and similarities between the two.
The primary difference being that religion typically focuses on a more extroverted or spiritual aspect, attributing meaning to a higher level. Where philosophies focus on more introverted subjects, typically focusing more on things that appeal to humanity and the material world. However, in many cases one can easily encompass the other.
All major world religions & philosophies can be broken down into these main 4 categories:
- Abrahamic Religions
- Dharmic Religions
- Ancient Myths and Folk Traditions
- Philosophies & Alternative Systems of Belief
Within each of these 4 primary categories we can explore the ideas or beliefs of the major ‘World Belief Systems’ and examine the evidence and criticism of each of their claims.
PERSONAL BELIEFS & PRACTICES
Everyone in the world has a set, personally defined system of belief. This is because we interpret information through observation & experiences, and the way that we interpret that information becomes our set, personal system of belief.
Based on this line of thinking we can easily see that everything we do, everything we believe (or trust) in, and the dictation of or morals and values are founded on our own personal belief system. i.e. Something as simple as choosing our breakfast cereal; we trust the doctor who told us we need to switch to bran cereal to increase our fiber. There seems to be enough evidence for it to work in favor of our health, and our doctor only seems to have our best interest in heart so we trust them. This trust creates a new set of ideas which lead to new experiences in our lives, resulting in a new belief about the cereal we choose to eat in the morning.
With this type of practice in mind the more important questions come into view; where did I come from (origins of life), what is my purpose (morals, values and direction) and where am I going (afterlife?)? From the personal viewpoints of the most devout Atheist to the most fundamental Theist, a personal belief system is followed primarily based on personal perception of
- Observational evidence,
- Personal convictions and
- Personal desires.
Sometime ones of these three points will outweigh others, causing conflicting practices of a particular belief, or trust issues in a personal conviction. This is why it is imperative to understand the rationale behind your personal beliefs and to test your own convictions to approve their validation.
The most difficult being the counter-intuitive nature of personal desires. Even though we may know something is good, and there is strong evidence for it, our desires are capable of steering us in the wrong direction or making counter-intuitive decisions. If we know bran cereal is best but we really want that sugar cereal, our personal desires will redirect our actions, and we will work on convincing ourselves of something that isn’t true, or we will withhold our personal convictions to satisfy our personal desires.
In a similar fashion, when we examine the belief systems of a particular religions or philosophy. Just because you have been taught something by someone whom you chose to trust or listen to at a specific time, doesn’t always mean they were correct, or fundamentally, 100% correct. When you do find a personal conviction of something, are you willing to work on aligning your desires with the truth?
Christian Apologetic Research Ministry – World Religions a Christian Perspective