Rethinking Belief

Wether we are conservatives, liberals, believe in God in one way, another way, or not at all, much of what drives our behaviors are the beliefs that we hold as truths. Most of the time our beliefs are gut instincts rather than undeniable facts. Yet, we humans often will defend our beliefs, particularly religious beliefs, to the death. These list of resources are excellent tools to help understand what drives many of our passions and defenses of belief.

Dr. Michael Shermer is a leading researcher on belief. He explains that the brain is a “belief engine,” using all of the sensory information provided to find patterns and infuse them with beliefs. Shermer addresses everything from politics to religion to conspiracy theories to help people understand how the brain processes information and builds the foundation for what we believe to be true.

 

 

 

Another book by Dr. Michael Shermer, How We Believe, addresses the many beliefs we have from different religions, to different versions of God, to the belief in angels. This book is a study of how we view and believe in the Divine.

 

 

 

 

Bishop Carlton Pearson, once a star of the evangelical church, couldnt shake his doubts about the core beliefs of who’s in and who’s out. Bishop Pearson offers this controversial book grounded in reason, and backed by common sense theology. Even if one doesn’t agree with his outcomes, his view is worth hearing.

 

 

Religious researcher, Reza Aslan, offers a different perspective on the historic Jesus. Did Jesus actually exist? There is surprisingly little evidence. What is offered up through various religious texts presents, at times, a vastly different picture than the historical context in which Jesus supposedly lived. Dr. Aslan has many detractors, but also many fans. His perspective, however, presents a version of Jesus that is uniquely radical and transformative.

 

 

How did once-ridiculed fundamentalist Christian dogma become so ingrained in American politics? It started with a mass migration from the Bible-belt to the sunbelt. Award-winning historian, Darren Dochuk tells the story of the move of people and theology, which changed the way Americans think. This story is eerily similar to my own deeply religious and uneducated family’s journey from Missouri to California in search of jobs. They were just one family of many. This book is a great read.

 

The Pledge of Allegiance first included God in 1954. The first time God was added to the platform of a major political party was the Republican Party in 1976. Historian Kevin Kruse, through One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, provides the background and story of how Christian fundamentalism ushered in what has become today a God-infused platform for corporate political power.

 

 

Moral psychologist , Jonathan Haidt, provides well-researched evidence on how we make decisions regarding our deepest held beliefs. It turns out our deepest held beliefs are not research-based at all. The come from our gut, or intuition. Furthermore, while conservatives and liberals value the same morals, the emphasis each group places on those morals are nearly mirror images of each other. Haidt brilliantly explains his research, offering explanations that, hopefully, help us understand each other better.