29 June 2005 by Published in: in my life 2 comments

Inspired by NPR‘s “This I Believe” series, a resurrection of an older series from the 50’s, here’s a list of things I do not believe (just in case you thought I was ceasing to be contrarian):

  • I do not believe in Renaissance Men (or Women). One can achieve a wide range of core competencies, and one or two excellencies, but no one can master a dozen fields.
  • I do not believe that there’s any correlation between wealth and happiness, wealth and intelligence, or intelligence and happiness.
  • I do not believe animals have souls. I do not believe, either, that this lack makes them lesser beings. In the same fashion, I do not believe the animal is greater than the plant because it has its own locomotion, nor that the plant is greater than the rock because it lives. I understand that this is probably a weird way to look at things. I do believe that hierarchies and taxonomies, while useful for categorizing and numbering what we see, are inherently flawed ways of looking at the natural world.
  • I do not believe anyone gets through life unscathed.
  • I do not believe in literal interpretations of anything, most especially seminal works such as the Bible and the Constitution of the United States. I think naming your interpretation as the literal one is an act of hubris destined to earn you torment, and an acceptable notion to hold only once in your life – probably when you’re about sixteen.
  • I have not decided whether I believe we, as the human race, are morally worse than our ancestors or ethically better than they. There is plenty of evidence for both sides. I’m not sure what this suggests. I strive each day to put a few notches in the “getting better” column, but I am grateful it is not really my job to judge these things and decide, or there’d have been twenty floods and thousands of Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s by now.
  • I do not believe that science will ever explain to any of us the why of things, but that it does a decent job at explaining the how of them. The why of things has always been the more interesting question to me.
  • I do not believe world peace is achievable, but I continue to be a staunch and determined pacifist.
  • I do not believe there is a point to suffering. I do not believe it makes people better artists, better human beings, or better people of faith. I don’t think it strengthens you. I don’t get Job. I’m also aware that I may be a counterexample to what I claim not to believe. This contradiction doesn’t keep me up nights. I understand that suffering happens to everyone and that it’s unavoidable, but I still see it as unnecessary. Maybe that’s what getting thrown out of Eden was all about.
  • I do not believe that hell is other people, though I will concede that they can get pretty annoying sometimes.
  • I do not believe that being young is better than being old. Each has its rewards. “To every thing there is a season” and all that.
  • I do not believe that just because my child is a gift to me that she is “gifted“. It troubles me that so many people seem to want to correlate these, as though some external label or statistical validation of the value of your child is necessary to make them wonderful to you.
  • I do not believe there is something I want to declare to everyone within range every time I step into my car, and for this reason bumper stickers (and vanity plates) boggle me. When I want to say something to people, I’d rather wear it on a shirt, which allows me to face people when they read it, and which I can take off and wash when the sentiment I’m expressing has passed. One like this would be nice, or perhaps this.

Lastly, I do not believe one’s beliefs are fixed. I believe that they evolve over a lifetime, and they change in some great ways and many small, and this is a consequence of being a human and not a symptom of hypocrisy. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to evaluate your own beliefs, because it may tell you how you’re changing.

And speaking of NPR, here’s the game of “good news, bad news“.

By the way, this exercise has surprised me in at least two ways: I did not expect it to be so biblical, and I did not expect myself to take the crass commercial detour on the t-shirts I want since I usually pride myself on my lack of materialism. If you are so inclined, please feel free to contribute your own disbeliefs, either in the comments here or in your own playground, if you’ve got one. And that’s about as meme inviting as you’re ever going to see me get.


Big Bro
Thu 30th Jun 2005 at 3:17 pm

That was fun! A few of my own: I don’t believe in the pre-tribulation rapture. I don’t believe private companies are inherently more efficient than public ones.

Fri 01st Jul 2005 at 5:18 pm

I don’t believe I’ll be made to withstand suffering for my sins–that is, not beyond their consequences, and not beyond the not-inconsequential suffering I put myself through. It’s sometimes a difficult thing not to believe.

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