One of the things that make me cringe is when I read something from a scientist, academician, teacher, or reporter and they use a form of belief instead of a form of think.

A reporter might include in a sentence: "Scientists believe that..." or "It is the belief of historians..."

Someone giving a lecture might say: "It is believed by people in the field..." or "We currently believe that..."

A seemingly innocuous word used in a casual manner can have an impact on how we interpret the world as a whole. I think it is a great idea to actively try and purge everyday use of belief in favor of more accurate and useful alternatives.

(See how I started that last sentence with "I think" instead of "I believe.")

I have been doing this for a number of years now and it has resulted in a new way of looking at the universe. It is still difficult, though. Once in a while a form of belief works its way in to my conversations, but now I immediately recongize it and make a mental note not to do it next time.

My atheism is actually a subset of this way of thinking. By purging my 'self' of all beliefs, atheism was just a natural result. A lack of belief is what atheism is, so it was inevitable.

This website's name, "Think Atheist," is what got me to join because of the similarity to my way of thinking.

Belief is a poor substitute for knowlege, but too many people accept a belief as a valid alternative. Once someone incorporates a belief into their sense of self, then it becomes nearly impossible to change it. When someone tries, the person can take it as a personal attack because it's too closely tied to their self. They will defend their self, just as if they were being physically attacked.

However, if we use knowledge as a measure of worth, then we can easily accept new information because our sense of self has not had incorporated into it anything except the search for more knowledge. Anything new we learn would be happily accepted because our self would be open to it, always wanting more. Belief puts a plug in the search for more knowledge.

Some may be thinking that I'm taking this too far. Maybe so. But there are plenty of studies out there showing how language can shape our thinking and views. This idea just might be worth making an effort to see if others see the results I've seen in myself.

Views: 16

Comment by CJoe on September 22, 2009 at 5:36pm
I think this is a great idea! Initially, my subconscious reacts to hearing "So-and-so thinks..." because it sounds a bit egotistical. But you're right; trying to cast "think" in a better light than "believe" is the kind of progress humans should make. A belief can be held passively, and for no reason. To "think" is definitely a more active process. A thought can be challenging while a belief is taken on faith. In fact, "doubt" of your beliefs is considered negative, and Science welcomes doubt and criticism so it can come as close to the truth as possible.
Comment by Doug Reardon on September 22, 2009 at 5:53pm
To paraphrase DeCarte: I think I think, therefore I think I am!
Comment by Nix Manes on September 22, 2009 at 10:51pm
CC,
Thanks for your reply...and your enthusaism! I don't normally get responses like yours to this idea. I usually get either an "I'll think about it" answer, one that thinks it's irrelevant, or that I'm just wrong. All of that is just fine, btw. People don't need to see things as I do--but it's nice to read when someone gives an idea thought and a positive response.

On another topic, I saw the Ayn Rand videos on your page. I would be interested to see a blog entry from you about her. If you do I'll post some thoughts there rather than here. Since you went through the trouble to embed some of her videos, I thought I'd see if you wanted to get something started.

Thanks again.
Comment by Wesley on September 23, 2009 at 1:22am
Hey NixManes, great post and great idea. Its such an overly-used term thats become a subconscious habit for most people..(I'm definately guilty of it) You are absolutely right that it needs to be brought to peoples attention.
Comment by Dave G on September 23, 2009 at 11:05am
Definitely something to think about, Nix. The constant use of 'belief' when knowledge is meant not only undermines knowledge, but unduly elevates belief, particularly beliefs not based on evidence, to undeserved status. One of the faults with English is its overloaded words, it makes confusing meanings far too easy to create.

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