By Walter Sorochan
Posted December 17, 2011; updated December 24, 2011. Disclaimer The information presented here is for informative and educational purposes only and is not intended as curative or prescriptive advice.
Majority of Americans, as of December, 2011, do not believe in their government, are discontent with their elected officials, question the economic system and are confused about their health care system. Gallop: political Polls Americans have a value-belief crisis! And this lack of trust, honesty and belief makes us most vulnerable to economic, health and political catastrophes.
This article attempts to briefly explore the belief system crisis and how it affects us. .
Below is a U-Tube briefing on the different beliefs:
What is a belief system?
A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. Belief is defined as a "state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing." Wiki: belief system Belief is the mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another. "It can also be something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons." Online dictionary A belief may be an opinion, view-point or a bias adopted from others but without real supporting evidence.
A belief system is formed from the support of like thinking individuals about a thing or idea. Many persons sharing similar or like ideas will have similar values. It is the coming together of similar belief persons that evolves behaviors, habits and ideologies or beliefs; such as health habits, belief in vaccinations, belief in democracy, belief in capitalism and so on. A person's belief system is often based on trusting their friends and other messengers of information, in believing what friends tell them as true, on the assumption that the information is true and that the person as a source of information is honest. The opposite can also be true!
Kinds of beliefs:
A simplistic example of a universal belief system is summarized in the table below. Four major systems were recognized as major problems in United States. These are inter-related and help to define the belief system of the American culture. Within each of these major systems may be lesser belief systems, as exemplified below:
The classification of examples in the table is arbitrary and incomplete. There are some belief systems that have been left out, such as education.
All belief systems are based on theories and ideologies. For example economic theories are tagged as mostly beliefs. Economics has been characterized by Anantha Nageswaran as a social science that influences and is influenced by human behavior. Nageswaran: Economics belief system
Additional examples of belief systems controlling social behaviors are health belief systems Elgee: health belief systems and political systems. Rawls: theory justice Rawls: another interpretation of Rawl
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Wiki: Political corruption
Beliefs can be misconceptions and misleading. Below are a few examples of how beliefs can be misconceptions: Wiki: list misconceptions
What does a belief system do?
People around the world have very
different belief systems,
different lives and ways of living. People live their lives according to what they believe to be right
and wrong. They often follow the rules of their countries main religion-culture-political-economic system.
Belief systems bind us together, structure our values, give us support, give us faith and a desire to live. A belief system gives each of us an identity of who we are!
Toupin has very eloquently summarized what belief systems do: Toupin: need for belief system
Evolving a belief system
A baby is born without values and without a belief system. The baby's brain is free and neutral, without biases or opinion or knowledge. From the moment you come into the world, you begin to learn from your surroundings and significant others, and you begin to develop your belief system.
It is widely understood that most beliefs you hold have not originated with you. Rather, you have primarily adopted what makes sense to your experience and understanding at the time. You continue in developing your belief system largely by agreeing with ideas that come into your awareness. Inspired Personal Development
Once established, beliefs are accepted as fact and are rarely subject to scrutiny. They become our “personal operating system.” Much like the operating system on your computer, our beliefs control how we sort and file every bit of input data.
Everything we see, experience, think and feel is adjusted to fit with our beliefs. In other words, our version of reality is a creation of our beliefs. Our personal operating system disassembles and reassembles all input data to conform to what we believe.
Having a common belief system with others bonds people together as organizations, churches, gangs and other special interest groups. Young persons, in their formative years, are especially vulnerable to unique or special groups that may include street gangs, fitness and diet clubs and cults.
Although the perceptions about how we acquire beliefs may seem simplistic, the validity of such beliefs is not. A good illustration of this is the belief of many persons that the world will come to an end in December, 2012. Who created the mystery idea that the world will end in 2012?
To unravel this mystery, we need to view the history of the Maya civilization. It is known for advanced writing, mathematics and astronomy, and flourished for centuries in Mesoamerica, especially between A.D. 300 and 900. Its Long Count calendar, which was discontinued under Spanish colonization, tracks more than 5,000 years, then resets at year zero. To the Mayans, resetting their calendar was to begin a new era of time in their society. It was not an end but a rebirth! This interpretation of rebirth has been interpreted by a few persons in this century as the end of the world in 2012. Since the Mayans are no longer around, which messenger of truth do we believe in the interpretation of the Mayan calendar? Who qualifies as the credible interpreter of Maya truth?
On the one hand we have anthropological scholars who attempt to provide credibility about the Maya predictions by seeking the truth. As scholars they publish their findings in books like The Return of Quetzalcoatl, and fuel Mel Gibson's December 2006 film about Mayan civilization, Apocalpyto. MacDonald: Maya calendar predict 2012 These are attempts to present information more so than express an opinion. The revision process of the modern calendar Mayan calendar has been questioned by Gerardo Aldana, a professor at the University of California. He questions the process conversion of data from modern calendar Mayan calendar and points out that the interpretation of the calendar end may be wrong by 50 or even 100 years. This would call into question the historicity of events 2012 and the Mayan apocalypse. Fact, fiction or opinion?
On the other hand, we also have differing interpretations from different sources whose credibility may be in question. The interpretation of "end of the world" is an opinion, without a sound rational to back up the interpretation. Fact or fiction?
Taking this "end of the world" belief one step further, gives us a view of how beliefs work. Suppose that a ladies group meets regularly for lunch once a month and they discuss this mystery topic. Now the end of the world in 2012 is spread by word of mouth by the ladies. None of the ladies has credentials as a scientist or researcher. Although there is a lack of subject matter credibility, no one questions the truth of this gossip. The ladies believe that the world will end in December, 2012.
The point of the Maya calendar example is that many beliefs are opinions that are not supported by scientific evidence and may be misinformation. The guardians of "right and wrong" are often persons in power, authority figures, TV commentators, our elders, medical doctors and politicians who espouse opinions and not facts. "Its true because I said so!" Most persons have been taught to accept the information published in newspapers and what they hear on television as the truth, and not question it. They fit the information into their already working belief system and life goes on!
Conclusion: Belief system today
It was deemed essential to understand the nature of belief systems in order to understand what is happening in United States today.
The belief systems that emanate from our culture shape the way we think, live, act and interact with each other and with those outside our culture. Our beliefs can be opinions that reflect our values and biases. Grouling: American values Many beliefs are opinions without a logical or scientific basis! It is important to be aware that a biased opinion can close our minds to accepting other ways of thinking and doing. Bias and prejudice, in turn, can stifle progress and success.
Our culture has a set of mutually supportive beliefs that people assume to be true. A classic example of acting on belief is depicted in a novel written by John Steinbeck in 1939 'The Grapes of Wrath' and celebrated as a Hollywood film in 1940. It depicts the economic struggles of people during the 1930's economic depression. An Oklahoma share-cropper's family, desperate for work, read about jobs in California in a one-page flyer. Believing that the information about work in California was true, they packed all their belongings onto a truck and trekked to California. But they had difficulty finding work. The film depicts the breakdown of all sectors of society at this time.
An economic-social breakdown similar to the1930's has occurred 2008 - 2012 in the housing and banking industries. Corruption in high offices has trickled down to youths and main street! Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 are more complex than mass media perceptions of "1% vs 99%." The chaotic circus of Republican party debates reflect confusion about core social values among politicians and the public. Whom do you belief? It should not be a surprise that many Americans have lost faith in the political system.
Today, the majority of people do not believe in their government, congress and the political system. Attempts to fix the economy with financial bailouts, thereby hopefully providing jobs, is not working because we are NOT fixing the entire belief system, the ensuing behaviors, habits and values. We need to restore trust, honesty and civility into our value system. Morality is a good place to start at the highest levels of society. Political government, national economy and the health care sub-systems are the three major systems that need most immediate fixing.
British philosopher Stephen Law has described some belief systems as drawing people in and holding them captive; so they become willing slaves. George: inerview Stephen Law inellectual black holes This makes it very difficult to change people when they are part of a bigger peer 'belief' system!
The author, as an independent researcher, found investigating the belief system to be daunting, complex and difficult. But the difficulty of the task was not sufficient to avoid doing it. The author is aware that some readers may have a different take on belief systems than that expressed herein. But critics should always ask themselves if what they express as their operating belief system is a point of view, an opinion, truth or a fact?
Caswell Thomas, "World belief systems," NY Regents Prep, Regents Prep: 9 belief systems This site is designed to aid students in reviewing nine of the world's major belief systems in preparation for the New York State Regents Exam in Global History and Geography.
Converse Philip E., "Changing conceptions of public opinion in the political process," Public Opinion Quarterly, 1987, vol 51, Issue part 2: Supplement 50th Anniversary Issue, S12-S24. Converse: Public opinion
Corexcel, "Health belief systems." Nursing course: Spirituality, culture and health, ALLEGRA Learning Solutions. 1999. Corexcel: health belief systems
Elgee Neil J., " Health belief systems and the pyschobiology of war," The Western Journal of Medicine, June 1984, 140, 6. Elgee: health belief systems
George Alison, "A field guide to bullshit," New Scientist Magazine, June 13, 2011, issue 2816. George: inerview Stephen Law inellectual black holes
Grouling Thomas E., "American values." American Hospitals. Grouling: American values
Inspired Personal Development, " Inspired Personal Development
Layton Julia, "How Cults Work," How Stuff Works. Layton: Cult deprogramming
Leading Edge International Research Group, "Belief systems and social perception structures." March 19, 2011. Leading Edge: Belief systems
MacDonald G. Jeffrey, "Does Maya calendar predict 2012 apocalypse?" USA TODAY, March 27, 2007. MacDonald: Maya calendar predict 2012
Mayan Calendar: Wikipedia: Maya Calendar "There are a variety of popular beliefs about the year 2012. These beliefs range from the spiritually transformative to the apocalyptic, and center upon various interpretations of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Contemporary scientists have disputed the apocalyptic versions."
Nageswaran Anantha V., "Economics is a belief system," MintLive, Jul 5, 2011. Nageswaran: Economics belief system
Sabin Bruce M., "REVIEW OF PHILIP E. CONVERSE'S "THE NATURE OF BELIEF SYSTEMS IN MASS PUBLICS." Sabin: nature of belief systems
Science Museum, "Belief in Medicine," History of Medicine. Science Museum: belief in medicine
Sheldon Michael, Belief systems," Chapter 6. Sheldon: medical belief system
Toupin Edward B., "The Need for a Belief System ... a system of organization for your experiences!" Self Growth. Toupin: need for belief system
Wikipedia, "A Theory of Justice" A Theory of Justice is a book of political philosophy and ethics by John Rawls. Wiki: John Rawls Theory of justice
Wikipedia, "Belief system." Wiki: belief system A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs may be religious, philosophical, ideological or a combination of these.
Wikipedia, " A list of common misconceptions." Wiki: list misconceptions List of current, widely held, false ideas and beliefs about notable topics which have been reported by reliable sources from around the world. Each has been discussed in published literature,
Wikipedia, "Political corruption." Wiki: Political corruption