Clipping #34 — Born to Believe

This is the title of a book by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman*. The authors affirm that, “We begin our lives without beliefs, yet our brains come equipped with a natural propensity to believe.” Though we are not born with a specific belief system, what we are taught in early childhood shapes our worldview and the behaviors that emerge from that. They add that later influences can alter our belief systems. They wish to remind us how powerful any belief can be.

The human brain is a believing machine, they say, and add, “We believe that people who engage in spiritual practices are learning how to alter neural patterns of cognition voluntarily, in ways that promote measurable degrees of happiness, compassion, and peace.” Adapting the famous statement of Descartes, they conclude that neuroscience leads us to the affirmation, “I believe, therefore I am.”

The brain is the control center of our lives. It is where we think, where we remember, where our emotions are registered and managed, and where our behavior is guided. The authors seem to be affirming that what we believe shapes and energizes what our brains define us to be.

Questions: How serious are your beliefs? What do you strongly believe? What are you doing to reinforce your beliefs? What levels of happiness, compassion, and peace does what you believe provide you? If you were to affirm, “I believe, therefore I am,” what would be the marks of your identity?

*Footnotes: 2006, Free Press (New York)

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