Belief is a form of gambling !
Some people think they have a certainty, and they are sure that their teacher or sacred book is THE ONE, and so they stake everything on that being correct - that they will go to heaven because of their correct beliefs. Others are equally certain only about one of the other teachers or books.
For myself, I've evaluated all the possibilities and think that reincarnation is rather more likely - in gambling teams I have bet £1 on it - not a lot compared to the fortunes that others seem to bet on their beliefs !
It's an unusual phenomenon, and worth examining in more depth.
What is the Mechanism of belief ? We have a thought and then we invest some or all of our energy into it. This seems to be the essential mechanism of belief
I think there is an additional element to this - we have some thoughts that are fixed, and others that are changeable. In general, our beliefs are fixed thoughts. From my own experience, once I have fixed a particular thought (eg that rich people exploit the poor), then it is very difficult to un-fix it and replace it with a better / truer / more useful thought. Generally, I try not to fix my thoughts any more - some of them may be firm, but I hope they have not hardened, and that I'd be able to change them if a better idea comes along. In theory at least, all my thoughts (and everything I've written on this site is a "work in progress")
What is the role of belief in our lives ? Essentially, we ask hypothetical questions – some of us are cursed with this habit. Questions like “what happens when we die ?”, “”where do we come from ?”, “what is the purpose of it all ?”.
There are 3 stock or standard types of answers to these questions
- Belief in a divine person or a set of statements which we trust – many believe we are judged and go to heaven or hell, etc.
- Some version of the scientific method – generally this proposes a hypothesis, makes predictions on the basis of the hypothesis, and performs experiments to see if this hypothesis is correct
- a hybrid “gamblers hypothesis” or an investment-based strategy (!)
Then, given our original question, and our way of answering it, then we put our energy into it
In general, it’s best to only put your money and energy into what you want, rather than what you don’t want. This is why life insurance is very bad – you are betting that something bad will happen !
In fact, these questions are very hypothetical, so we don’t really have an answer, and we could get along without dealing with them for most of our lives until perhaps the answers or “truth” will reveal itself to us eventually. However, many of our social rituals are bound up in forms that rely on social structures, religions and rituals that involve fixed answers to these questions, so if we want to get involved in these social structures, we have to deal with these big questions (or at least appear to !)
How does your “gamblers hypothesis” work ?
Let’s take the case of what happens after death. Essentially, from the gamblers viewpoint,
- many religious people put all their money on going to heaven – this is great for them if they are right, but a very big risk if they are wrong (if they do unselfish work for the world, they may be OK, but if they only invest in their own interests, they may not be)
- many scientists decide that there is nothing after death – unfortunately this seems like a very poor investment
- I think re-incarnation is most likely (see my “Earth is a School” page). However, I am only betting £1 on this – essentially it’s a hypothetical question that I don’t need to answer – it isn’t going to matter till I die, and then I’ll know for sure. In the meantime it’s useful to me to have a bigger perspective, to consider the teachings and curriculum in the school, think about how to make progress in it, and so on. The actual reincarnation aspect seems subsidiary and, to be honest, a bit of a red herring compared to my gain from having a more open-ended idea
I must add a personal note. Despite all I have written above, I sang in choirs for many years, including in many of the great choral Masses and Requiems (Verdi, Faure, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Lassus). All of these include the Christian Nicene Creed, so I had to think about whether it was right for me to do this. I came to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with the Nicene Creed (though perhaps it goes better in Latin). It’s a good summary of the Christian faith, and I agree with it - though some of my other ideas may be heretical, I don’t think this is important, however, as you may imagine, I don’t have a strong investment in it. It also seems to me that the four Noble Truths of the Buddha are valid, insofar as I have understood them.