Are you a believer?

Do you have a belief? Some may say yes, some may doubt, and some may say, ‘No, I do not believe in anything.’ The response depends upon what we think belief means, of course. To deny that we believe is usually based on the assumption that belief must be in a particular religious concept, but if we look more closely, we discover that this is an incomplete view of both belief and religion.

A belief is something that one accepts as true or real, and the root of the word is ‘to hold dear’ or ‘to love.’ Therefore, everybody will have beliefs, for everyone holds dear loved ones and family, or country or some principle or their own comforts, or life itself. By extension, it also means something we feel we can rely on, as for example when we say that we believe in chicken soup as a remedy for a cold. And in the same way, we all have elements in our life upon which we rely – or in other words, in which we believe.

As for the word religion, it is very ancient, and slightly different theories have been offered for its root. One suggestion is ‘to read with attention,’ a sense that could relate to both our attitude toward any scriptures that we hold sacred, and also to the unwritten manuscript of life. This is not far from another root, which means ‘to be careful’, as opposed to being negligent. And a third possible origin is, ‘a bond’ or ‘an obligation that ties us to something,’ All three of these shades of meaning relate to the recognition of something central in life, something to which we should pay attention, and to which we feel an obligation. Therefore many people who would say they are un-religious will nevertheless be practicing their own form of religion, paying attention to some element which they hold central to their life, such as physical health, or the environment, or their family or perhaps some form of art. One might say such people don’t worship a god, but this again is a matter of terminology. ‘God’ means that upon whom or which one calls, and we all call upon something to aid us. Indeed, rare is the person who is able to call upon the One Being; even those who consider themselves religious often place their faith upon a concept of a concept. As we find in Gayan Chalas, Among a million believers in God, there is scarcely one who makes God a reality.

Each person will have their own belief, and their own form of religion; there is no such thing as a ‘non-believer.’ So the real question should be not, ‘do you have a belief?’ but ‘do you make a reality of your belief? And in what do you believe?’ If one’s belief is in the material world, then, like a piece of furniture, a sofa perhaps, it gives some convenient support, but not much more. If one’s belief is alive, then it naturally confers life upon us, and gives us purpose and guidance, and helps us to rise above limitations to discover the spiritual reality for which we yearn. As it says in Gayan Chalas, True spirituality is not a fixed faith or belief; it is the ennobling of the soul by rising above the barriers of material life.

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