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The foundations of a personal belief system

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He turns them round and round upon the wheel of Maya. Take refuge utterly in Him. By his grace you will find supreme peace, and the state which is beyond all change. As the above quotations indicate, almost all of the world's religions, in their own sacred writings and scriptures, say that they support "peace".

  • Is there a biblical definition for religion?
  • The globalization process of the last 50 years has led to a dramatic increase in global governance structures, including an expansion of the multi- faceted United Nations UN system, an increase in scope of regional economic and political organizations, such as the European Community EC and the North American Free Trade Area NAFTA , and the continuing proliferation and development of International Governmental Organizations IGOs;
  • And so they don't succeed;
  • When you go back to your home environment, ordinary routine will click in and many of you will find that the things you intended to do, the changes you intended to make, somehow are swallowed up in the ordinary routine of things.

Yet it is a known fact that war and violence have often been undertaken historically, as well as at present, in the name of religion as is discussed further below. Yet religions profess to want peace. So what is 'peace'? And how have religions historically helped to promote peace, and how might they help create a more peaceful world in the 21st century? These are a few of the questions that this paper will attempt to explore. Traditionally many people focus on how wars and conflicts are seemingly undertaken for religious reasons, or at least undertaken in the name of religion.

Indeed, it is not difficult to find data and statistics in support of this hypothesis. Quincy Wright, in his monumental study, A Study of Wardocuments numerous wars and armed conflicts that involve a direct or indirect religious component, Wright, 1941 as does Lewis Richardson in his statistical treatise, Statistics of Deadly Quarrels.

  1. Thus many mystical traditions focus on ways to quiet the overactive mind in meditation, and thus bring one's inner self to a state of peace. What did they do?
  2. Your thoughts are always provocative.
  3. The structure of this conference suggests some of the most important dimensions of this vision.
  4. The uncritical believers are many. You can focus on it in a dysfunctional way --- that is not critical thinking.
  5. If there's no question we're trying to answer, why are we thinking?

Richardson, 1960 As the Cold War has ended and inter-ethnic conflicts have re-emerged in many parts of the world, it has indeed been a popular thesis of different writers to argue that these inter-ethnic conflicts often have a religious component.

A few examples of such recent writing include: Ethnicity in International Politics; and R. Following UNESCO's lead in holding two conferences on "The Contributions of Religions to a Culture of Peace" both held in Barcelona, Spain, in April 1993 and December 1994and other interfaith dialogues between different religions that are occurring in a serious way around the planet--including the World Parliament of Religions, in Chicago, August 1993; 1and the ongoing work of the World Council on Religion and Peace--this paper will focus instead on how religious and spiritual traditions can contribute to creating a more peaceful world via an exploration of the foundations for both inner and outer peace in the twenty first-century.

The paper will have four parts: In considering the external aspects of religion, principles from the field of intercultural communication are used to explore the creation of tolerance, understanding and valuing of diversity concerning different aspects of socially learned behavior or culture, including religion. Fundamentalism or religious extremism or fanaticism--when religions claim their version of religion is the only one--are seen as an extreme form of the socially-learned aspect of religion and one not conducive to creating world peace.

In considering the internal or esoteric aspects of religion, it is noted that all the world's religions began with someone who had a mystical enlightenment or revelatory experience, which they then tried to share with others, leading often to the formation of new religions--even though this was not the intention of the original founder.

Parallels between new scientific paradigms and ancient mystical traditions from the world's religions are then noted to illustrate how contemporary dynamic, interconnected, whole systems ways of experiencing and viewing reality can be seen as providing necessary conditions "within the individual" for creating an external global culture of peace in the world. Here, three different topical areas are explored: The conceptual shift involved in moving from peace as absence of war through peace as absence of large scale physical and structural violence negative and positive peace respectively to more holistic definitions of peace that apply across all levels and include both an inner and an outer dimension, represents a substantial broadening of the peace concept in Western peace research.

Part III then uses the above evolution in the concept of peace as a framework to explore different dimensions of "a culture of peace," as well as different dimensions of "nonviolence. An Agenda for Future Peace Research--Based on the Need to Focus on Both Inner and Outer Aspects of Peace Part IV argues that Western peace research has focused almost entirely on outer peace, but that in future it needs to deal with both inner and outer aspects of peace in a more balanced way.

In order to do this, it is suggested that peace research elaborate on the different dimensions and levels of inner peace, just as it has done for outer peace, and that it expand its methodology to include other ways of knowing besides social scientific methods only. Finally, peace research the foundations of a personal belief system to redress the inbalance between negative and positive images of peace by exploring not only what it wants to eliminate, for example war and starvation, but also what it wants to create in a positive sense.

Please note that this paper is an ongoing project that will become a book. At present, some sections of the paper are developed more than others, but the basic framework is here. Please contact the writers in the future for later elaborations of this writing.

We offer this version of the paper with humility, aware that further revisions and elaborations are necessary. First, there is religion as socially-learned behavior, i. When religious beliefs the foundations of a personal belief system the form of rigid dogma, and the believers' beliefs and behavior are known to be right, while those of non believers, or other religions--or even different variants within one's own religion--are known to be wrong, this leads into what has been variously called "fundamentalism" or "fanaticism" or "extremism"--a global trend in almost all of the world's religions today.

At the other extreme are mystical traditions which are based on direct inner spiritual experiences. Here, such mystical, revelatory, or enlightenment experiences rather than socially learned behavior and beliefs constitute an important part of one's spiritual life. Such spiritual experiences have also occurred in mystics from all the world's religions throughout the ages. Indeed, the founders of the world's religions were themselves usually mystics, i.

Given these considerations, it is possible to look at any religion as having a potential spectrum of different forms within it, each discussed separately in the paper, as follows: Spectrum of Potential Perspectives Within Any Religion It is interesting that mystics of all religions can usually communicate with each other and appreciate the spiritual or God force operating within each other--no matter what religious tradition the other mystics come from.

Organized religion is often tolerant of different religious traditions, as seen in ecumenical movements around the world, but there can be misunderstanding between religions based on differing beliefs and practices. These misunderstandings can be lessened by educational programs focusing on the appreciation and understanding of cultural and religious diversity.

But fundamentalism often stresses how one particular interpretation--of religion, scripture, and religious practices--is right and other interpretations are wrong. This difficulty of fundamentalists, from any religion, in dealing with diversity in a tolerant manner presents a major problem for peaceful relations and understanding between religions and cultures and hinders the creation of a global culture of peace.

If the whole world were mystics--who tend to honor the mystical experience in people from all the world's religions--world peace would be easier to achieve than it is today. But mystics are a very small percentage of the world's population and so misunderstandings, conflicts, and wars have often resulted historically, in part at least, over the foundations of a personal belief system religious interpretations of what constitutes proper beliefs, practices, rituals, and organizational forms, i.

In this way, religion is shared by a group of people, learned and passed down from one generation to the next, and is clearly reflected in both religious organizations and beliefs. The agents or institutions of socialization include language, a factor individuals are often least conscious ofpolitics, economics, religion, education, family, and media.

While Anthropologists have often studied one culture, including its institutions, in depth, others have undertaken cross-cultural, comparative studies.

Can People Be Sincerely Wrong?

While cross-cultural studies deal with comparing some aspect of life, such as religious institutions and beliefs, from one culture to another, intercultural communication deals with the dynamic interaction patterns that emerge when peoples from two or more different cultures, including religions, come together to interact, communicate, and dialogue or negotiate with each other.

There are general principles of intercultural communication. There are also studies of particular cultures interacting, based on a belief that when persons from any two specific different cultures come together to interact with each other, that they will create their own dynamic interaction process, based on the underlying values of both groups, just as any two individuals will also create their own dynamic interaction process.

A significant problem with organized religion and belief, as this relates to peace and conflict, is individuals and groups often confuse the map their socially-learned version of reality or culture or religion with the territory or ultimate realityas elaborated below.

Thus people believe that their personal or subjective version of reality or religion is valid, while other views are invalid. Instead it can be argued that the many maps are different, but possibly equally valid interpretations and attempts to understand the same underlying reality or territory. Taking Organized Religion and Beliefs into Dogma Fundamentalism seems to be a trend in almost all the world's religions today.

The term "fundamentalism" had its origins in "a late 19th and early 20th century transdenominational Protestant movement that opposed the accommodation of Christian doctrine to modern scientific theory and philosophy. With some differences among themselves, Christian fundamentalists insist on belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, the foundations of a personal belief system virgin birth and divinity of Jesus Christ, the vicarious and atoning character of his death, his bodily resurrection, and his second coming as the irreducible minimum of authentic Christianity.

For example, radical Islamic groups, such as Islamic Jihad, are seen as examples of Islamic fundamentalism, although a different term is preferred. In the Islamic tradition the word fundamentalism, when translated into Arabic, has a completely different and positive meaning.

In Arab countries the appropriate word for describing literal religious fanaticism is "extremism.

Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief

Because fundamentalists in any religion turn the beliefs of their religion into dogma, and also tend to interpret the scriptures of their religion in a literal way only, thus missing the many subtle levels of meaning as well as analogies with teachings from other world religions, they can end up stressing primarily how they are different from other world religions, and even from different interpretations within their own religion, rather than stressing any commonalities they might share with other world religions.

This more limited interpretation of their scripture can then lead to dogmatic views that their interpretation of religion, and reality, is correct and everyone else is wrong.

An interesting and important question for peace research and future studies is why there is such an upsurge in fundamentalism in so many of the world's religions in so many different parts of the world today? Of the many possible explanations for this phenomena, two hypotheses will be explored here.

The most obvious hypothesis would argue that people are overwhelmed by the increasing pace of change today, and are desperately seeking something that they can believe in as a mooring to help them through all this change in the outer world which is uprooting their lives and creating great insecurities in their lives. In the case of fundamentalism, this can involve returning to some over-idealized vision of their religious roots, which may never have existed in the idealized form that they remember, and trying to literally enforce that interpretation of reality on all the members of their group.

In such situations, people may need time to try to go back to a stringently defined earlier way of life and see if they can make it work, and only when they see that the world has changed too much to return to the past will they then be ready to move forward into the future. This hypothesis is consistent with the view that any religious or spiritual tradition needs to be constantly adapted to the world in which it finds itself--if it wishes to remain a living, breathing, spiritual force that people experience in their lives, rather than become an outdated institution based on dogma or rules.

A second related hypothesis, to explain the rise of fundamentalism in the world today, relates to the dual trend the foundations of a personal belief system both globalism, as well as localism. The globalization process of the last 50 years has led to a dramatic increase in global governance structures, including an expansion of the multi- faceted United Nations UN system, an increase in scope of regional economic and political organizations, such as the European Community EC and the North American Free Trade Area NAFTAand the continuing proliferation and development of International Governmental Organizations IGOs.

The growth in IGOs and the increase in size and scope of United Nations activities, such as the expanded scope of United Nations Peace Keeping operations, has had a major impact on international relations. A similar expansion of activities can be seen in the work of various international scientific, educational and cultural organizations, as indexed by the continued growth in International Non Governmental Organizations INGOs. Millions of individuals are routinely engaged in the work of INGOs, whose activities span the whole range of human experience, including agriculture, art, communications, economics, education, environment, health, music, politics, religion, sport and transportation.

Additionally, the world has witnessed the growth of an increasingly integrated global economy, as manifested in interdependent national economies and the evolution of multinational corporations MNCs and transnational corporations TNCs operating in just about every country worldwide.

Many of these companies are economic giants, dwarfing all but a few of the world's national economies. An apparently contradictory worldwide trend towards local identity and ethnicity has also emerged as a major factor shaping events in the world today.

In the wake of the foundations of a personal belief system end of the old East-West Cold War confrontation, we are witnessing a worldwide increase in local ethnic conflict, sometimes nonviolent but too often violent and very bloody, and often involving a religious dimension. These "local conflicts" are often proving to be intense and intractable, embedded in centuries of mistrust and hatred, and too often crystallized around and sanctioned, implicitly or explicitly, by particular religious institutions.

This localization process is every bit as profound as the overarching trend towards globalization, and in fact it is perhaps best conceived as neither in opposition to, nor separate from, that process.

Globalization and localization are so interconnected and interdependent that localization is best conceptualized as an essential complement of the globalization process. This view suggests that the integration of the big system, the creation of a new world order, requires a sense of meaning at the local level, requires human beings to experience coherence and balance within the local socio-cultural context.

The rise of fundamentalism, it can be argued, is associated with this interdependence of the globalization and localization processes and the resulting pressures to achieve coherence at the local level in the face of the vast scope of the global supersystems. The coherence in individuals' lives is, to a greater or lesser degree, associated with culturalization, with what the world means and how meaning in life and death is interpreted.

Multicultural interpretations of the globalization - localization interdependency argue, as a consequence, that religion should not be the same in all societies, that it will and must have personal, local and global dimensions that manifest themselves in a rich variety of cultural forms and expressions. This paper will subsequently further argue that the diversity of organized world religions--if also recognizing a deeper spiritual unity that connects this outer diversity--is a necessary requirement for the creation of a new culture of peace in the 21st century.

If, as many believe, the underlying spiritual reality of the world's religions is the same, it can be argued that the cultural expression of that reality in the material world, the world's organized religions, must necessarily be different, in tune with the rich tapestry of our many global cultures, if we are to sustain the dynamic globalization-localization balance in a nonviolent, multicultural form.

Major belief systems

Individuals each carry around some different version of "reality" or culture in their heads, based on socialization or learning by the different agents or institutions of socialization in their culture, including religion, and based on different individual and collective life experiences. This worldview provides a sense of values and meaning about life.

The way that this reality is known is through one's perceptions of it. Unfortunately, perceptions based on evidence from one or more of the five senses are often distorted.

Individuals also selectively perceive ideas and information, often accepting information which fits with their preconceived worldview and blocking out information which challenges that worldview--a worldview that they have spent a whole life time putting together.

  1. Such spiritual experiences have also occurred in mystics from all the world's religions throughout the ages.
  2. The paper will have four parts. This description, interpretation, and evaluation sequence of events, which individuals do quite often without even realizing they are doing it, is often called DIE for short.
  3. This was reporting on departmental performance of a class... Because fundamentalists in any religion turn the beliefs of their religion into dogma, and also tend to interpret the scriptures of their religion in a literal way only, thus missing the many subtle levels of meaning as well as analogies with teachings from other world religions, they can end up stressing primarily how they are different from other world religions, and even from different interpretations within their own religion, rather than stressing any commonalities they might share with other world religions.
  4. We must be living a life of obedience to God; otherwise our religion is nothing more than a vain show, and we deceive ourselves. At the other end, reality was "ideational," by which Sorokin meant spiritual in the sense that the eternal infinite spiritual reality is real, while the material world is an illusion.
  5. Every so often I walk over and I pick up the deck of cards. A significant problem with organized religion and belief, as this relates to peace and conflict, is individuals and groups often confuse the map their socially-learned version of reality or culture or religion with the territory or ultimate reality , as elaborated below.

It is often the case that in everyday interactions individuals, even from the same culture, can misperceive each other. When they come from totally different cultures, including different religious traditions and belief systems, the danger is even greater. It is thus a basic tenet of intercultural communication that "The message sent is often not the message received" It is understandable that individuals tend to expect others to behave the way they would in a given situation or say what they would say in that same situation.

When they do not, there is a strong tendency to interpret the motivation or meaning behind the behavior of the other person in terms of what that behavior would mean in one's own culture rather than in terms of what that behavior actually means in the other person's culture, since the other's culture is not really understood.

The next step can involve taking a mistaken interpretation of the other person's behavior and then evaluating or judging that behavior, often negatively. This process thus involves moving from a simple factual description of the behavior of someone from another culture, to an interpretation of the meaning of that behavior often a misinterpretation, based on what that behavior would mean in the individual's own culture, not in the other person's culture. A final step in this model involves a move to evaluation or judgment of that behavior, as the foundations of a personal belief system or bad, in turn often based on an incorrect interpretation.

This description, interpretation, and evaluation sequence of events, which individuals do quite often without even realizing they are doing it, is often called DIE for short.