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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Belief systems (part 2) - the ultimate human response

Since my blog of March 12 (http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/03/belief-systems-known-unknowns.html), I have been struggling with the idea of using the word feelings as an alternative for beliefs. After ample thought - and some internet research during my writer's block - I realised that there is much more to the subject of feelings than I had ever imagined.

In general, when we refer to feelings we actually either mean (bodily) sensations or thoughts. Sensations are feelings that express bodily states like danger, hunger, pain, sleep or thirst. Thoughts include feelings like fear, hate, love and revenge. Sensations and thoughts are processed in different segments of our body. Sensations are dealt with by our brain. Thoughts are dealt with by our mind. To stress my point: animals have a brain but not a mind.

A further reclassification would then lead to the following:
- brain = the knowns: facts (known knowns) and intuition (unknown knowns)
- mind = the unknowns: beliefs (known unknowns) and imagination (unknown unknowns)

After some consideration, our thoughts may lead to convictions (opinions). Convictions may lead to beliefs. Beliefs may lead to lunacy or nonsense. I prefer the word non-sense however as it implies that such people are no longer connected to reality (their senses). Extremism is thus extreme belief that turned into non-sense.

I realised that there is another big difference between sensations in the brain and thoughts in the mind. It has to do with the ultimate human response to feelings:
- brain (facts and intuition): sensations like danger, hunger/thirst or poverty ==> to kill for
- mind (beliefs and imagination): sacrifice yourself for the greater good =====> to die for

Thus the essential element of any belief system is the willingness to die for your belief. After some consideration I concluded that any cause "to die for" has three different labels: wars (collective), martyrs (individual), and suicides (collective and individual).

Let's now revisit each of the belief systems from my previous blog:
1. money: suicides (e.g., depression)
2. philosophy: martyrs (e.g., Socrates) and (assisted) suicides (e.g., terminally ill)
3. politics: wars, martyrs, mass and individual suicides (e.g., Japanese seppuku and kamikaze)
4. religion: wars, martyrs, mass and individual suicides (e.g., Jonestown, suicide bombers)
5. science: martyrs (e.g., Madame Curie)
6. the truth: suicides (e.g., depression)

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyr, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_suicide, http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1107.html?pagewanted=all (science martyrs), www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/the-six-reasons-people-attempt-suicide

Some interesting quotes:
“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.” Albert Camus
“Politics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error.” Thomas Jefferson