The concept of belief versus knowledge, and the use we make of it has fascinated, and sometimes appalled, me for a long time. We have all experienced dreams and visions that have seemed very real. Afterward, we have generally either forgotten them or attributed them to some conscious event. Sometimes the experience has been so realistic that we passed it on. Over the ages, of the millions, now billions, of people that have had these experiences, some have recorded them and they have been passed along to later generations. Some have become the bases for religions, and the followers of these religions believe them. Note that there is no real effort to prove these beliefs. There doesn’t have to be, for that is the definition of belief. Unfortunately, all over the world, many people are acting as though their beliefs are knowledge. When their beliefs involve what God wants, they go about punishing others’ assumed transgressions, as though God had no power to do so. Other than being incredibly arrogant, this ignores the belief versus knowledge problem.
If you hold sincere beliefs, by all means follow them. But always be aware that there is a border that you should never cross. All those other people, over 6 billion of them, also may hold sincere beliefs. It is no more reasonable for you to try to force them to follow your beliefs, than for them to force you to follow theirs. If you happen to believe that God agrees with you, then let God handle others’ transgressions. Don’t behave as though God were powerless to enforce God’s wishes.
For thousands of years some people have tried to discover how things work. Sometimes they failed and sometimes they succeeded, and some who succeeded were punished because what they discovered disagreed with the dreams, visions and beliefs of sincere people of the past. Today, we have computers, aircraft, videodisks, Teflon pans and other miraculous products of the quest for knowledge. Please, when the visions of those in the distant past that we choose to accept in our beliefs, appear, by some interpretations of old writings, to violate our discoveries, don’t punish the discoverers, nor keep our children from experiencing the knowledge that humanity has gained. Don’t let the apparent meaning of age-old visions rule over the discoveries of those who have actually attempted to learn and to figure things out. There is no conflict of knowledge with religion, only with dogmatic beliefs. There will always be the question of the prime mover. If there was a big bang, then why was there a big bang? Could the answer be because God, of whatever religion or sect, or of all religions and sects, decided there should be a big bang, and everything that has followed, including our discoveries?
Belief is not Knowledge.