Related concepts and fundamentals:
Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be
the case with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that
something is the case with factual certainty. Another way of defining
belief sees it as a mental representation of an attitude positively
oriented towards the likelihood of something being true. In the
context of Ancient Greek thought, two related concepts were identified
with regards to the concept of belief: pistis and doxa. Simplified, we
may say that pistis refers to "trust" and "confidence", while doxa
refers to "opinion" and "acceptance". The English word "orthodoxy"
derives from doxa. Jonathan Leicester suggests that belief has the
purpose of guiding action rather than indicating truth.
In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to
personal attitudes associated with true or false ideas and concepts.
However, "belief" does not require active introspection and
circumspection. For example, we never ponder whether or not the sun
will rise. We simply assume the sun will rise. Since "belief" is an
important aspect of mundane life, according to Eric Schwitzgebel in
the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a related question asks: "how
a physical organism can have beliefs?"
Euler diagram which grants that truth and well-justified belief
may be distinguished and that a part of their intersection is
Knowledge and epistemology
2 As a psychological phenomenon
3 Epistemological belief compared to religious belief
3.2.1 Economical belief
4.1 The conditional inference process
4.2 Linear models of belief formation
Information processing models of belief formation and change
5 Justified true belief
9.1 Forms of religious belief
9.2 Approaches to the beliefs of others
10.1 Gilbert, sociological perspectives
11 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
Knowledge and epistemology
Epistemology is concerned with delineating the boundary between
justified belief and opinion, and involved generally with a
theoretical philosophical study of knowledge. The primary problem in
epistemology is to understand exactly what is needed in order for us
to have knowledge. In a notion derived from Plato's dialogue
Theaetetus, where the epistemology of
Socrates (Platon) most clearly
departs from that of the sophists, who at the time of
Plato seem to
have defined knowledge as what is here expressed as "justified true
belief". The tendency to translate from belief (here: doxa – common
opinion) to knowledge (here: episteme), which
the dialogue) utterly dismisses, results from failing to distinguish a
dispositive belief (gr. 'doxa', not 'pistis') from knowledge
(episteme) when the opinion is regarded true (here: orthé), in terms
of right, and juristically so (according to the premises of the
dialogue), which was the task of the rhetors to prove.
this possibility of an affirmative relation between belief (i.e.
opinion) and knowledge even when the one who opines grounds his belief
on the rule, and is able to add justification (gr. logos: reasonable
and necessarily plausible assertions/evidence/guidance) to it.
Plato has been credited for the "justified true belief" theory of
knowledge, even though
Plato in the
Theaetetus (dialogue) elegantly
dismisses it, and even posits this argument of
Socrates as a cause for
his death penalty. Among American epistemologists, Gettier (1963)
and Goldman (1967), have questioned the "justified true belief"
definition, and challenged the "sophists" of their time.
As a psychological phenomenon
Mainstream psychology and related disciplines have traditionally
treated belief as if it were the simplest form of mental
representation and therefore one of the building blocks of conscious
thought. Philosophers have tended to be more abstract in their
analysis, and much of the work examining the viability of the belief
concept stems from philosophical analysis.
The concept of belief presumes a subject (the believer) and an object
of belief (the proposition). So, like other propositional attitudes,
belief implies the existence of mental states and intentionality, both
of which are hotly debated topics in the philosophy of mind, whose
foundations and relation to brain states are still controversial.
Beliefs are sometimes divided into core beliefs (that are actively
thought about) and dispositional beliefs (that may be ascribed to
someone who has not thought about the issue). For example, if asked
"do you believe tigers wear pink pajamas?" a person might answer that
they do not, despite the fact they may never have thought about this
This has important implications for understanding the neuropsychology
and neuroscience of belief. If the concept of belief is incoherent,
then any attempt to find the underlying neural processes that support
it will fail.
Lynne Rudder Baker has outlined four main contemporary
approaches to belief in her controversial book Saving Belief:
Our common-sense understanding of belief is correct - Sometimes called
the "mental sentence theory," in this conception, beliefs exist as
coherent entities, and the way we talk about them in everyday life is
a valid basis for scientific endeavour.
Jerry Fodor is one of the
principal defenders of this point of view.
Our common-sense understanding of belief may not be entirely correct,
but it is close enough to make some useful predictions – This view
argues that we will eventually reject the idea of belief as we know it
now, but that there may be a correlation between what we take to be a
belief when someone says "I believe that snow is white" and how a
future theory of psychology will explain this behaviour. Most notably,
Stephen Stich has argued for this particular understanding
Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong and will be
completely superseded by a radically different theory that will have
no use for the concept of belief as we know it – Known as
eliminativism, this view (most notably proposed by Paul and Patricia
Churchland) argues that the concept of belief is like obsolete
theories of times past such as the four humours theory of medicine, or
the phlogiston theory of combustion. In these cases science hasn't
provided us with a more detailed account of these theories, but
completely rejected them as valid scientific concepts to be replaced
by entirely different accounts. The Churchlands argue that our
common-sense concept of belief is similar in that as we discover more
about neuroscience and the brain, the inevitable conclusion will be to
reject the belief hypothesis in its entirety.
Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong; however,
treating people, animals, and even computers as if they had beliefs is
often a successful strategy – The major proponents of this view,
Daniel Dennett and Lynne Rudder Baker, are both eliminativists in that
they hold that beliefs are not a scientifically valid concept, but
they don't go as far as rejecting the concept of belief as a
predictive device. Dennett gives the example of playing a computer at
chess. While few people would agree that the computer held beliefs,
treating the computer as if it did (e.g. that the computer believes
that taking the opposition's queen will give it a considerable
advantage) is likely to be a successful and predictive strategy. In
this understanding of belief, named by Dennett the intentional stance,
belief-based explanations of mind and behaviour are at a different
level of explanation and are not reducible to those based on
fundamental neuroscience, although both may be explanatory at their
Strategic approaches make a distinction between rules, norms and
beliefs as follows: (1) Rules. Explicit regulative processes such as
policies, laws, inspection routines, or incentives. Rules function as
a coercive regulator of behavior and are dependent upon the imposing
entity’s ability to enforce them. (2) Norms. Regulative mechanisms
accepted by the social collective. Norms are enforced by normative
mechanisms within the organization and are not strictly dependent upon
law or regulation. (3) Beliefs. The collective perception of
fundamental truths governing behavior. The adherence to accepted and
shared beliefs by members of a social system will likely persist and
be difficult to change over time. Strong beliefs about determinant
factors (i.e., security, survival, or honor) are likely to cause a
social entity or group to accept rules and norms.
Epistemological belief compared to religious belief
Historically belief-in belonged in the realm of religious thought,
belief-that instead belonged to epistemological considerations.
To "believe in" someone or something is a distinct concept from
"believing-that." There are at least these types of belief-in:
Faith - we may make an expression of 'faith' in respect
of some performance by an agent X, when without prejudice to the truth
value of the factual outcome or even confidence in X otherwise, we
expect that specific performance. In particular self-confidence or
faith in one's self is this kind of belief.
Existential claim – to claim belief in the existence of an entity or
phenomenon in a general way with the implied need to justify its claim
to existence. It is often used when the entity is not real, or its
existence is in doubt. "He believes in witches and ghosts" or "many
children believe in Santa Claus" or "I believe in a deity" are typical
examples. The linguistic form is distinct from the assertion of
the truth of a proposition since verification is either considered
impossible/irrelevant or a counterfactual situation is assumed.
Economic beliefs are beliefs which are reasonably and necessarily
contrary to the tenet of rational choice or instrumental
Studies of the Austrian tradition of the economic thought, in the
context of analysis of the influence and subsequent degree of change
resulting from existing economic knowledge and belief, has contributed
the most to the subsequent holistic collective analysis.
Insofar as the truth of belief is expressed in sentential and
propositional form we are using the sense of belief-that rather than
Delusion arises when the truth value of the form is clearly
Delusions are defined as beliefs in psychiatric diagnostic
criteria (for example in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders). Psychiatrist and historian
G.E. Berrios has
challenged the view that delusions are genuine beliefs and instead
labels them as "empty speech acts," where affected persons are
motivated to express false or bizarre belief statements due to an
underlying psychological disturbance. However, the majority of mental
health professionals and researchers treat delusions as if they were
In Lewis Carroll's
Through the Looking-Glass
Through the Looking-Glass the White Queen says,
"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before
breakfast." This is often quoted in mockery of the common ability of
people to entertain beliefs contrary to fact.
We are influenced by many factors that ripple through our minds as our
beliefs form, evolve, and may eventually change
Psychologists study belief formation and the relationship between
beliefs and actions. Three models of belief formation and change have
The conditional inference process
When people are asked to estimate the likelihood that a statement is
true, they search their memory for information that has implications
for the validity of this statement. Once this information has been
identified, they estimate a) the likelihood that the statement would
be true if the information were true, and b) the likelihood that the
statement would be true if the information were false. If their
estimates for these two probabilities differ, people average them,
weighting each by the likelihood that the information is true and
false (respectively). Thus, information bears directly on beliefs of
another, related statement.
Linear models of belief formation
Unlike the previous model, this one takes into consideration the
possibility of multiple factors influencing belief formation. Using
regression procedures, this model predicts belief formation on the
basis of several different pieces of information, with weights
assigned to each piece on the basis of their relative importance.
Information processing models of belief formation and change
These models address the fact that the responses people have to
belief-relevant information is unlikely to be predicted from the
objective basis of the information that they can recall at the time
their beliefs are reported. Instead, these responses reflect the
number and meaning of the thoughts that people have about the message
at the time that they encounter it.
Some influences on people's belief formation include:
Internalization of beliefs during childhood, which can form and shape
our beliefs in different domains.
Albert Einstein is often quoted as
having said that "
Common sense is the collection of prejudices
acquired by age eighteen." Political beliefs depend most strongly on
the political beliefs most common in the community where we live.
Most individuals believe the religion they were taught in
Charismatic leaders can form and/or modify beliefs (even if those
beliefs fly in the face of all previous beliefs). Is belief
voluntary? Rational individuals need to reconcile their direct reality
with any said belief; therefore, if belief is not present or possible,
it reflects the fact that contradictions were necessarily overcome
using cognitive dissonance.
Advertising can form or change beliefs through repetition, shock, and
association with images of sex, love, beauty, and other strong
positive emotions. Contrary to intuition, a delay, known as the
sleeper effect, instead of immediate succession may increase an
advertisement's ability to persuade viewer's beliefs if a discounting
cue is present.
Physical trauma, especially to the head, can radically alter a
However, even educated people, well aware of the process by which
beliefs form, still strongly cling to their beliefs, and act on those
beliefs even against their own self-interest. In Anna Rowley's book,
Leadership Therapy, she states "You want your beliefs to change. It's
proof that you are keeping your eyes open, living fully, and welcoming
everything that the world and people around you can teach you." This
means that peoples' beliefs should evolve as they gain new
Justified true belief
Justified true belief
Justified true belief is a definition of knowledge that gained
approval during the Enlightenment, 'justified' standing in contrast to
'revealed'. There have been attempts to trace it back to
Plato and his
dialogues.[clarification needed] The concept of justified true
belief states that in order to know that a given proposition is true,
one must not only believe the relevant true proposition, but also have
justification for doing so. In more formal terms, an agent
knows that a proposition
is true if and only if:
is true, and
is justified in believing that
This theory of knowledge suffered a significant setback with the
discovery of Gettier problems, situations in which the above
conditions were seemingly met but that many philosophers disagree that
anything is known.
Robert Nozick suggested[year needed] a
clarification of "justification" which he believed eliminates the
problem: the justification has to be such that were the justification
false, the knowledge would be false. Bernecker and Dretske (2000)
argue that "no epistemologist since Gettier has seriously and
successfully defended the traditional view.".:3 On the other hand,
Paul Boghossian argues that the Justified True
Belief account is the
"standard, widely accepted" definition of knowledge 
An extensive amount of scientific research and philosophical
discussion exists around the modification of beliefs, which is
commonly referred to as belief revision. Generally speaking, the
process of belief revision entails the believer weighing the set of
truths and/or evidence, and the dominance of a set of truths or
evidence on an alternative to a held belief can lead to revision. One
process of belief revision is Bayesian updating and is often
referenced for its mathematical basis and conceptual simplicity.
However, such a process may not be representative for individuals
whose beliefs are not easily characterized as probabilistic.
There are several techniques for individuals or groups to change the
beliefs of others; these methods generally fall under the umbrella of
Persuasion can take on more specific forms such as
consciousness raising when considered in an activist or political
Belief modification may also occur as a result of the
experience of outcomes. Because goals are based, in part on beliefs,
the success or failure at a particular goal may contribute to
modification of beliefs that supported the original goal.
Whether or not belief modification actually occurs is dependent not
only on the extent of truths or evidence for the alternative belief,
but also characteristics outside the specific truths or evidence. This
includes, but is not limited to: the source characteristics of the
message, such as credibility; social pressures; the anticipated
consequences of a modification; or the ability of the individual or
group to act on the modification. Therefore, individuals seeking to
achieve belief modification in themselves or others need to consider
all possible forms of resistance to belief revision.
Without qualification, "belief" normally implies a lack of doubt,
especially insofar as it is a designation of a life stance. In
practical everyday use however, belief is normally partial and
retractable with varying degrees of certainty.
A copious literature exists in multiple disciplines to accommodate
this reality. In mathematics probability, fuzzy logic, fuzzy set
theory, and other topics are largely directed to this.
Different psychological models have tried to predict people's beliefs
and some of them try to estimate the exact probabilities of beliefs.
For example, Robert Wyer developed a model of subjective
probabilities. When people rate the likelihood of a certain
statement (e.g., "It will rain tomorrow"), this rating can be seen as
a subjective probability value. The subjective probability model
posits that these subjective probabilities follow the same rules as
objective probabilities. For example, the law of total probability
might be applied to predict a subjective probability value. Wyer found
that this model produces relatively accurate predictions for
probabilities of single events and for changes in these probabilities,
but that the probabilities of several beliefs linked by "and" or "or"
do not follow the model as well.
Religious belief refers to attitudes towards mythological,
supernatural, or spiritual aspects of a religion.
Religious belief is distinct from religious practice and from
religious behaviours – with some believers not practicing religion
and some practitioners not believing religion. Religious beliefs,
being derived from ideas that are exclusive to religion,[citation
needed] often relate to the existence, characteristics and worship of
a deity or deities, to divine intervention in the universe and in
human life, or to the deontological explanations for the values and
practices centered on the teachings of a spiritual leader or of a
spiritual group. In contrast to other belief systems, religious
beliefs are usually codified.
Forms of religious belief
While it is popularly conceived that religions each have identifiable
and exclusive sets of beliefs or creeds, surveys of religious belief
have often found that the official doctrine and descriptions of the
beliefs offered by religious authorities do not always agree with the
privately held beliefs of those who identify as members of a
particular religion. For a broad classification of the kinds of
religious belief, see below.
Main article: Religious fundamentalism
First self-applied as a term to the conservative doctrine outlined by
Protestants in the United States of America,
"fundamentalism" in religious terms denotes strict adherence to an
interpretation of scriptures that are generally associated with
theologically conservative positions or traditional understandings of
the text and are distrustful of innovative readings, new revelation,
or alternate interpretations.
Religious fundamentalism has been
identified[by whom?] in the media as being associated with fanatical
or zealous political movements around the world that have used a
strict adherence to a particular religious doctrine as a means to
establish political identity and to enforce societal norms.
First used in the context of Early Christianity, the term "orthodoxy"
relates to religious belief that closely follows the edicts,
apologies, and hermeneutics of a prevailing religious authority. In
the case of Early Christianity, this authority was the communion of
bishops, and is often referred to by the term "Magisterium". The term
orthodox was applied[when?] almost as an epithet to a group of Jewish
believers who held to pre-Enlightenment understanding of
now known as Orthodox Judaism. The
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church of
Christianity and the
Catholic Church each consider themselves to be
the true heir to Early
Christian belief and practice. The antonym of
"orthodox" is "heterodox", and those adhering to orthodoxy often
accuse the heterodox of apostasy, schism, or heresy.
Renaissance and later the Enlightenment in Europe exhibited
varying degrees of religious tolerance and intolerance towards new and
old religious ideas. The Philosophes took particular exception to many
of the more fantastical claims of religions and directly challenged
religious authority and the prevailing beliefs associated with the
established churches. In response to the liberalizing political and
social movements, some religious groups attempted to integrate
Enlightenment ideals of rationality, equality, and individual liberty
into their belief systems, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth
Reform Judaism and
Liberal Christianity offer two examples
of such religious associations.
Main article: Superstition
A term signifying derogation that is used by the religious and
non-religious alike, "superstition" is the deprecated belief in
supernatural causation. Those who deny the existence of the
supernatural generally attribute all beliefs associated with it to be
superstitious, while a typical religious critique of superstition
holds that it either encompasses beliefs in non-existent supernatural
activity or that the supernatural activity is inappropriately feared
or held in improper regard (see idolatry).
Christian Churches strongly
condemned occultism, animism, paganism, and other folk religions as
mean forms of superstition, though such condemnation did not
necessarily eliminate the beliefs among the common people and many
such religious beliefs persist today.
In Buddhism, practice and progress along the spiritual path happens
when one follows the system of Buddhist practice. Any religion which
follows (parts of) the fundamentals of this system has, according to
the teachings of Buddha, good aspects to the extent it accords with
this system. Any religion which goes against (parts of) the
fundamentals of this system includes bad aspects too.
Any religion which does not teach certain parts of this system, is not
because of this a 'bad' religion; it just lacks those teachings and is
to that extent incomplete.
A question by the monk Subhadda to the Buddha:
"O Gotama, there are Samanas (wandering monks) and Brahmanas
(religious leaders) who are leaders of their sects, who are
well-esteemed by many people, such as
Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala,
Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sancaya Belatthaputta and
Nigantha Nataputta. Do all of them have knowledge and understanding as
they themselves have declared? Or do all of them have no knowledge and
The Buddha replied:
"Subhadda, in whatever teaching is not found the Noble Eightfold Path,
neither in it is there found a Samana of the first stage, nor a Samana
of the second stage, nor a Samana of the third stage, nor a Samana of
the fourth stage."
As a religious tradition,
Hinduism has experienced many attempts at
systemization. In medieval times, Shankara advocated for the Advaita
system of philosophy. In recent times,
Tamala Krishna Gosvami
Tamala Krishna Gosvami has
researched the systemization of
Krishna theology as expounded by Srila
Prabhupada. (See Krishnology)
Some believe that religion cannot be separated from other aspects of
life, or believe that certain cultures did not or do not separate
their religious activities from other activities in the same way that
some people in modern Western cultures do.
Some anthropologists[who?] report cultures in which gods are involved
in every aspect of life – if a cow goes dry, a god has caused this,
and must be propitiated, when the sun rises in the morning, a god has
caused this, and must be thanked. Even in modern Western cultures,
many people see supernatural forces behind every event, as described
Carl Sagan in his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World.
People with this worldview often regard the influence of Western
culture as inimical. Others with this worldview resist the influence
of science, and believe that science (or "so-called science") should
be guided by religion. Still others with this worldview believe that
all political decisions and laws should be guided by religion. This
last belief is written into the constitutions of many[which?] Islamic
nations, and is shared by some fundamentalist Christians.
In addition, beliefs about the supernatural or metaphysical may not
presuppose a difference between any such thing as nature and
non-nature, nor between science and what the most educated people
believe. In the view of some historians[who?], the pre-Socratic
Athenians saw science, political tradition, culture and religion as
not easily distinguishable, but as all part of the same body of
knowledge and wisdom available to a community.
Approaches to the beliefs of others
Adherents of particular religions deal with the differing doctrines
and practices espoused by other religions in a variety of ways. All
strains of thought appear in different segments of all major world
See also: Exclusivism
People with exclusivist beliefs typically explain other religions as
either in error, or as corruptions or counterfeits of the true faith.
This approach is a fairly consistent feature among smaller new
religious movements that often rely on doctrine that claims a unique
revelation by the founder or leaders, and consider it a matter of
faith that the religion has a monopoly on truth. All three major
Abrahamic monotheistic religions have passages in their holy
scriptures that attest to the primacy of the scriptural testimony, and
indeed monotheism itself is often vouched[by whom?] as an innovation
characterized specifically by its explicit rejection of earlier
Some exclusivist faiths incorporate a specific element of
proselytization. This is a strongly-held belief in the Christian
tradition which follows the doctrine of the Great Commission, and is
less emphasized by the Islamic faith where the Quranic edict "There
shall be no compulsion in religion" (2:256) is often quoted as a
justification for toleration of alternative beliefs, while the Jewish
tradition does not actively seek out converts.
Exclusivism correlates with conservative, fundamentalist, and orthodox
approaches of many religions while pluralistic and syncretist
approaches either explicitly downplay or reject the exclusivist
tendencies of the religion.
People with inclusivist beliefs recognize some truth in all faith
systems, highlighting agreements and minimizing differences. This
attitude is sometimes associated[by whom?] with Interfaith dialogue or
Ecumenical movement, though in principle such
attempts at pluralism are not necessarily inclusivist and many actors
in such interactions (for example, the Roman Catholic Church) still
hold to exclusivist dogma while participating in inter-religious
Explicitly inclusivist religions include many that are associated with
New Age movement as well as modern reinterpretations of Hinduism
and Buddhism. The
Faith considers it doctrine that there is
truth in all faith-systems.
Main article: Religious pluralism
People with pluralist beliefs make no distinction between faith
systems, viewing each one as valid within a particular culture.
Extracts from the Sri
Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Sikh Holy Scriptures),
"There is only the One Supreme Lord God; there is no other at all"
(Pannaa 45). "By His Power the
Vedas and the Puranas exist, and the
Holy Scriptures of the Jewish,
Christian and Islamic religions. By His
Power all deliberations exist." (Pannaa 464). "Some call Him, 'Ram,
Ram', and some call Him, 'Khudaa-i'. Some serve Him as 'Gusain',
others as 'Allaah'. 1 He is the Cause of causes, the Generous
Lord. He showers His Grace and Mercy upon us amen." (Pannaa 885).
Main article: Syncretism
People with syncretistic views blend the views of a variety of
different religions or traditional beliefs into a unique fusion which
suits their particular experiences and context (see eclecticism).
Unitarian Universalism is an example of a syncretistic faith.
Existence of God
Typical reasons for adherence to religion include the following:
Some see belief in a
God as necessary for moral behavior.
Many[quantify] people regard religious practices as serene, beautiful,
and conducive to religious experiences, which in turn support
Organized religions promote a sense of community among their
followers, and the moral and cultural common ground of these
communities makes them attractive to people with the same values.
Indeed, while religious beliefs and practices are usually connected,
some individuals with substantially secular beliefs still participate
in religious practices for cultural reasons.
Each religion asserts that it is a means by which its adherents may
come into closer contact with God, Truth, and spiritual power. They
all promise to free adherents from spiritual bondage, and to bring
them into spiritual freedom. It naturally follows that a religion
which frees its adherents from deception, sin, and spiritual death
will have significant mental-health benefits. Abraham Maslow's
World War II
World War II showed that Holocaust survivors tended to
be those who held strong religious beliefs (not necessarily temple
attendance, etc.), suggesting that belief helped people cope in
Humanistic psychology went on to investigate
how religious or spiritual identity may have correlations with longer
lifespan and better health. The study found that humans may
particularly need religious ideas to serve various emotional needs
such as the need to feel loved, the need to belong to homogeneous
groups, the need for understandable explanations and the need for a
guarantee of ultimate justice. Other factors may involve sense of
purpose, sense of identity, sense of contact with the divine. See also
Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, detailing his experience
with the importance of religion in surviving the Holocaust. Critics
assert that the very fact that religion was the primary selector for
research subjects may have introduced a bias, and that the fact that
all subjects were Holocaust survivors may also have had an effect.
According to Larson et al. (2000), "[m]ore longitudinal research with
better multidimensional measures will help further clarify the roles
of these [religious] factors and whether they are beneficial or
Main article: Apostasy
Existence of God
Existence of God § Arguments against belief in God
Typical reasons for rejection of religion include:
The fundamental doctrines of some religions are considered by some to
be illogical, contrary to experience, or unsupported by sufficient
evidence, and are rejected for those reasons. Even some believers
may have difficulty accepting particular religious assertions or
doctrines. Some people believe the body of evidence available to
humans to be insufficient to justify certain religious beliefs. They
may thus disagree with religious interpretations of ethics and human
purpose, or with various creation myths. This reason has
perhaps[original research?] been aggravated by the protestations of
some fundamentalist Christians.
Some religions include beliefs that certain groups of people are
inferior or sinful and deserve contempt, persecution, or even death,
and that non-believers will be punished for their unbelief in an
after-life. Adherents to a religion may feel antipathy to
unbelievers.There are countless examples of people of one religion or
sect using religion as an excuse to murder people with different
religious beliefs. To mention just a few, there was the slaughter of
the Huguenots by French
Catholics in the sixteenth century; Hindus and
Muslims killing each other when
Pakistan separated from India in 1947;
the persecution and killing of
Shiite Muslims by
Sunni Muslims in Iraq
and the murder of
Catholics and vice versa in Ireland,
(both of these examples in the late twentieth century); and the
Israeli–Palestinian conflict that continues today. According to some
critics of religion, these beliefs can encourage completely
unnecessary conflicts and in some cases even wars. Many atheists
believe that, because of this, religion is incompatible with world
peace, freedom, civil rights, equality, and good government. On the
other hand, most religions perceive atheism as a threat and will
vigorously and violently defend themselves against
religious sterilization, making the attempt to remove public religious
practices a source of strife.
Some people may be unable to accept the values that a specific
religion promotes and will therefore not join that religion. They may
also be unable to accept the proposition that those who do not believe
will go to hell or be damned, especially if said nonbelievers are
close to the person.
The maintenance of life and the achievement of self-esteem require of
a person the fullest exercise of reason—but
morality, people are taught[by whom?], rests on and requires
A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs
of any such system can be classified as religious, philosophical,
political, ideological, or a combination of these. Philosopher
Jonathan Glover says that beliefs are always part of a belief system,
and that tenanted belief systems are difficult for the tenants to
completely revise or reject.
Gilbert, sociological perspectives
A collective belief is referred to when people speak of what 'we'
believe when this is not simply elliptical for what 'we all' believe.
Émile Durkheim wrote of collective beliefs and proposed
that they, like all 'social facts', 'inhered in' social groups as
opposed to individual persons. Durkheim's discussion of collective
belief, though suggestive, is relatively obscure.
Margaret Gilbert has offered a related account in terms of
the joint commitment of a number of persons to accept a certain belief
as a body. According to this account, individuals who together
collectively believe something need not personally believe it
themselves. Gilbert's work on the topic has stimulated a developing
literature among philosophers. One question that has arisen is whether
and how philosophical accounts of belief in general need to be
sensitive to the possibility of collective belief.
Jonathan Glover believes that he and other philosophers ought to play
some role in starting dialogues between people with deeply held,
opposing beliefs, especially if there is risk of violence. Glover also
believes that philosophy can offer insights about beliefs that would
be relevant to such dialogue.
Jonathan Glover warns that belief systems are like whole
boats in the water; it is extremely difficult to alter them all at
once (e.g., it may be too stressful, or people may maintain their
biases without realizing it).
Glover suggests that beliefs have to be considered holistically, and
that no belief exists in isolation in the mind of the believer. It
always implicates and relates to other beliefs. Glover provides
the example of a patient with an illness who returns to a doctor, but
the doctor says that the prescribed medicine is not working. At that
point, the patient has a great deal of flexibility in choosing what
beliefs to keep or reject: the patient could believe that the doctor
is incompetent, that the doctor's assistants made a mistake, that the
patient's own body is unique in some unexpected way, that Western
medicine is ineffective, or even that Western science is entirely
unable to discover truths about ailments.
Glover maintains that any person can continue to hold any belief if
they would really like to (e.g., with help from ad hoc
hypotheses). One belief can be held fixed, and other beliefs will be
altered around it. Glover warns that some beliefs may not be entirely
explicitly believed (e.g., some people may not realize they have
racist belief systems adopted from their environment as a child).
Glover believes that people tend to first realize that beliefs can
change, and may be contingent on their upbringing, around age 12 or
Glover emphasizes that beliefs are difficult to change. He says that
one may try to rebuild one's beliefs on more secure foundations
(axioms), like building a new house, but warns that this may not be
possible. Glover offers the example of René Descartes, saying about
Descartes that "[h]e starts off with the characteristic beliefs of a
17th-century Frenchman; he then junks the lot, he rebuilds the system,
and somehow it looks a lot like the beliefs of a 17th-century
Frenchman." To Glover, belief systems are not like houses but are
instead like boats. As Glover puts it: "Maybe the whole thing needs
rebuilding, but inevitably at any point you have to keep enough of it
intact to keep floating."
Glover's final message is that if people talk about their beliefs,
they may find more deep, relevant, philosophical ways in which they
disagree (e.g., less obvious beliefs, or more deeply held beliefs).
Glover thinks that people often manage to find agreements and
consensus through philosophy. He says that at the very least, if
people do not convert each other, they will hold their own beliefs
more openmindedly and will be less likely to go to war over
The British philosopher
Stephen Law has described some belief systems
(including belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, and alien abduction)
as "claptrap" and said that they "draw people in and hold them captive
so they become willing slaves to victory... if you get sucked in, it
can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again".
This "see also" section may contain an excessive number of
suggestions. Please ensure that only the most relevant links are
given, that they are not red links, and that any links are not already
in this article. (December 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this
Theory of justification
Value (personal and cultural)
^ Schwitzgebel, Eric (2006), "Belief", in Zalta, Edward, The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford, CA: The
Lab, retrieved 2008-09-19
^ Leicester, Jonathan (2008). "The nature and purpose of belief".
Mind and Behavior. 29 (3): 219–239. Retrieved 29 December
2015. The purpose of belief is to guide action, not to indicate
^ Compare:  – "The 'mind-body problem', for example, so central
to philosophy of mind, is in part the question of whether and how a
purely physical organism can have beliefs." Retrieved 01 July 2016.
^ Oxford Dictionaries – definition published by
^ http://www.friesian.com/knowledg.htm – Copyright (c) 2007, 2008
Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All
^ Gettier, E. L. (1963). "Is justified true belief knowledge?".
Analysis. 23 (6): 121–123. doi:10.1093/analys/23.6.121.
^ Goldman, A. I. (1967). "A causal theory of knowing". The Journal of
Philosophy. 64 (12): 357–372. doi:10.2307/2024268.
^ Bell, V.; Halligan, P. W.; Ellis, H. D. (2006). "A Cognitive
Neuroscience of Belief". In Halligan, Peter W.; Aylward, Mansel. The
Power of Belief: Psychological Influence on Illness, Disability, and
Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
^ Baker, Lynne Rudder (1989). Saving Belief: A Critique of
Physicalism. Princeton University Press.
^ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army (2012). Information
Operations. Joint Publication 3–13. Joint
Doctrine Support Division,
116 Lake View Parkway, Suffolk, VA. p. 22.
^ Price, H. H. (1965). "
Belief 'In' and
Belief 'That'". Religious
Studies. 1 (01): 5–27. doi:10.1017/S0034412500002304.
^ MacIntosh, J. J. (1994). "Belief-in Revisited: A Reply to Williams".
Religious Studies. 30 (4): 487–503.
^ Macintosh, Jack. "Belief-in". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy.
p. 86. ISBN 978-0-19-926479-7.
^ Peter Taylor-Gooby – ECONOMIC BELIEFS AND SOCIAL POLICY BEHAVIOUR
Economic and Social Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council (Economic Beliefs and behaviour
research programme) [Retrieved 2015-08-09]
^ R. Arena & A. Festré. Knowledge, Beliefs and Economics. Edward
Elgar Publishing 1 Jan 2006, 288 pages, ISBN 1847201539.
^ L. Bortolotti. Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs.
2010, 299 pages, ISBN 0199206163, International Perspectives in
Philosophy & Psychiatry.
Truth Definitions, LOTH Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
^ Introduction to
Logic and to the
Methodology of the Deductive
Sciences" Alfred Tarski Dover 1995/41, Ch. I, § 2 Expressions
containing variables—sentential and designatory functions and Ch. II
On the Sentential Calculus in its entirety
^ Delusions in the DSM 5 A blog by Lisa Bortolotti & Ema
^ a b c Wyer, R. S., & Albarracin, D. (2005).
organization, and change: Cognitive and motivational influences. In D.
Albarracin, B. T. Johnson, & M. P. Zanna, The Handbook of
Attitudes (273–322). New York, NY: Psychology Press.
^ Gelman, Andrew; Park, David; Shor, Boris; Bafumi, Joseph; Cortina,
Jeronimo (2008). Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why
Americans Vote the Way They Do. Princeton University Press.
^ Argyle, Michael (1997). The Psychology of Religious Behaviour,
Belief and Experience. London: Routledge. p. 25.
ISBN 0-415-12330-5. Religion, in most cultures, is ascribed, not
^ Hoffer, Eric (2002). The True Believer. New York: Harper Perennial
Modern Classics. ISBN 0-06-050591-5.
^ Kilbourne, Jane; Pipher, Mary (2000). Can't Buy My Love: How
Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. Free Press.
^ see Kumkale & Albarracin, 2004
^ Rothschild, Babette (2000). The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology
of Trauma and Trauma Treatment. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
^ Rowley, Anna (2007). Leadership Therapy: Inside the
Microsoft. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 69.
^ The received view holds it that Plato's theory presents knowledge as
remembering eternal truths and justification reawakens memory, see
Fine, G. (2003). "Introduction".
Knowledge and Forms:
Selected Essays. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 5–7.
^ Chisholm, Roderick (1982). "
Knowledge as Justified True Belief". The
Foundations of Knowing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
^ Bernecker, Sven; Dretske, Fred (2000). Knowledge. Readings in
contemporary epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 3.
^ Paul Boghossian (2007), Fear of Knowledge: Against relativism and
constructivism, Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press , Chapter2, p 15.
^ a b Wyer, R. S. (1970). "Quantitative prediction of belief and
opinion change: A further test of a subjective probability model".
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 16 (4): 559–570.
^ a b Wyer, R. S.; Goldberg, L. (1970). "A probabilistic analysis of
the relationships among beliefs and attitudes". Psychological Review.
77 (2): 100–120. doi:10.1037/h0028769.
^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2007). Lectures and Conversations on
Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. University of California
Press. p. 53. ISBN 0520251814.
^ Braithwaite, R. B. (1975). An empiricist's view of the nature of
religious belief. Norwood Editions (Norwood, Pa.).
^ "'The Fundamentals: A
Testimony to the Truth'". 2012-11-27. Archived
from the original on 3 December 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
^ "Roy Moore: 'We Have No
Morality Without an Acknowledgment of God'".
Christianity Today. 2005-03-07. Retrieved 2006-05-19.
^ Miller, David Ian (2005-02-15). "Finding My Religion: Steve Georgiou
on his faith and mentor, minimalist poet Robert Lax". SFGate.
Retrieved 2006-05-19. External link in publisher= (help)
^ Repa, J. Theodore (1998-10-18). "Building Community: The
Religion and Education". Retrieved 2006-05-19.
^ Note for example the concept of a cultural Christian.
^ Larson, David B.; Susan S. Larson; Harold G. Koenig (October 2000).
"Research Findings on Religious Commitment and Mental Health".
Psychiatric Times. 17 (10). Retrieved 2006-05-19.
^ Russell, Bertrand (1927-03-06). "Why I am Not a Christian". Archived
from the original on 2006-11-19. Retrieved 2006-05-19.
^ For example, some Muslims believe that women are inferior to men.
Some Christians share this belief. At the time of the American Civil
War, many Southerners used passages from the
Bible to justify slavery.
Christian religion has been used as a reason to persecute and to
deny the rights of homosexuals, on the basis that
God disapproves of
homosexuality, and by implication homosexuals. Compare
^ Beauchamp, Philip (pseudonym of Jeremy Bentham) Analysis of the
Influence of Natural
Religion on the Temporal
Happiness of Mankind,
1822, R. Carlile, London, at page 76: "Of all human antipathies, that
which the believer in a
God bears to the unbeliever is the fullest,
the most unqualified, and the most universal"
Faith is the commitment of one's consciousness to beliefs for which
one has no sensory evidence or rational proof. When a person rejects
reason as their standard of judgment, only one alternative standard
remains to them: feelings. A mystic is a person who treats feelings as
tools of cognition.
Faith is the equation of feeling with knowledge.
To practice the "virtue" of faith, one must be willing to suspend
one's sight and one's judgment; one must be willing to live with the
unintelligible, with that which cannot be conceptualized or integrated
into the rest of one's knowledge, and to induce a trance like illusion
of understanding. One must be willing to repress one's critical
faculty and hold it as one's guilt; one must be willing to drown any
questions that rise in protest—to strangle any trust of reason
convulsively seeking to assert its proper function as the protector of
one’s life and cognitive integrity. The human need for self-esteem
entails the need for a sense of control over reality—but no control
is possible in a universe which, by one's own concession, contains the
supernatural, the miraculous and the causeless, a universe in which
one is at the mercy of ghosts and demons, in which one must deal, not
with the unknown, but with the unknowable; no control is possible if a
person proposes, but a ghost disposes; no control is possible if the
universe is a haunted house. A person's life and self-esteem require
that the object and concern of his or her consciousness be reality and
this earth—but morality, people are taught, consists of scorning
this earth and the world available to sensory perception, and of
contemplating, instead, a "different" and "higher" reality, a realm
inaccessible to reason and incommunicable in language, but attainable
by revelation, by special dialectical processes, by that superior
state of intellectual lucidity known to Zen-Buddhists as "No-Mind," or
by death. A person's life and self-esteem require that this person
take pride in their power to think, pride in their power to live—but
morality, people are taught, holds pride, and specifically
intellectual pride, as the gravest of sins.
Virtue begins, people are
taught, with humility: with the recognition of the helplessness, the
smallness, the impotence of one's mind. A person's life and
self-esteem require the person to be loyal to their values, loyal to
their mind and its judgments, loyal to their life—but the essence of
morality, people are taught, consists of self-sacrifice: the sacrifice
of one’s mind to some higher authority, and the sacrifice of one's
values to whoever may claim to require it. A sacrifice, it is
necessary to remember, means the surrender of a higher value in favor
of a lower value or of a nonvalue. If one gives up that which one does
not value in order to obtain that which one does value—or if one
gives up a lesser value in order to obtain a greater one—this is not
a sacrifice, but a gain. Remember further that all of a person's
values exist in a hierarchy; people value some things more than
others; and, to the extent that a person is rational, the hierarchical
order of the person's values is rational: that is, the person values
things in proportion to their importance in serving this person's life
and well-being. That which is inimical to their life and well-being,
that which is inimical to their nature and needs as a living being,
the person disvalues. Conversely, one of the characteristics of mental
illness is a distorted value structure; the neurotic does not value
things according to their objective merit, in relation to the person's
nature and needs; they frequently value the very things that will lead
them to self-destruction. Judged by objective standards, they are
engaged in a chronic process of self-sacrifice. But if sacrifice is a
virtue, it is not the neurotic but the rational person who must be
“cured.” They must learn to do violence to their own rational
judgment—to reverse the order of their value hierarchy—to
surrender that which their mind has chosen as the good—to turn
against and invalidate their own consciousness.Waldau, Paul (2001).
The Specter of Speciesism: Buddhist and
Christian Views of Animals
(American Academy of
Religion Books). Oxford University Press, USA.
^ a b c d e f g h "
Jonathan Glover on systems of belief", Philosophy
Bites Podcast, Oct 9 2011[permanent dead link]
^ Elizabeth A. Minton, Lynn R. Khale (2014).
Belief Systems, Religion,
and Behavioral Economics. New York: Business Expert Press LLC.
^ 'Philosophy, Beliefs, and Conflict' , JonathanGlover.co.uk
New Scientist (magazine), 11 June 2011 A field guide to bullshit
Robert Audi. "Dispositional Beliefs and Dispositions to Believe",
Noûs, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Dec., 1994), pp. 419–434.
Elisa Järnefelt, Created by Some Being: Theoretical and Empirical
Exploration of Adults' Automatic and Reflective Beliefs about the
Origin of Natural Phenomena. Diss. University of Helsinki, 2013.
Fred Leavitt, "Dancing with Absurdity: Your Most Cherished Beliefs
(and All Your Others) are Probably Wrong. Peter Lang, 2015.
J. Leicester, "What beliefs are made from". Sharjah, UAE: Bentham
Science Publishers, 2016.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Belief.
Wikiversity has learning resources about Knowing How You Know
Wikiversity has learning resources about Seeking True Beliefs
The dictionary definition of belief at Wiktionary
The dictionary definition of belief system at Wiktionary
Schwitzgebel, Eric. "Belief". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
"The Aim of Belief". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Links to related articles
Augustine of Hippo
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