Looking Beyond Belief


Religion, and the way that it is presented to the public, is constantly being altered. What it means to be a “believer” or a “nonbeliever” has changed drastically in the recent past. In her article Belief is the Least Part of Faith, T. M. Luhrmann, describes her findings at witness to this new modern belief system.

Having gone to church all my life, there are certainly aspects of Christianity that I take for granted. The belief in a God has always been a given in my life. Not until reading about her thinking about the beliefs of religious people did I realize how different my belief system is from the traditional beliefs that we learn about it history class. Believing in God has changed from, as Wilfred Cantwell Smith put it, “‘Given the reality of God as a fact of the universe, I hereby pledge to Him my heart and soul”, to ‘Given the uncertainty as to whether there be a God or not, as a fact of modern life, I announce that my opinion is yes”. The existence of a higher being has become the focal point of our faith system, as opposed to what that being might do for us.

In the eyes of the author, this isn’t what we should be focusing on. Whether or not you believe should not be the extent of your religious feelings. See the world as a place of joy and goodness. Belief is often the jumping off place for such vision, but it should only be the beginning. While I am not of the Evangelical faith, I can see this idea being used in so many cultures and communities around the world. It should be the goal of humanity to not focus on the “how” or the “why” of a certain phenomenon, but instead to live a life of goodness and joy. In much of the ethnographic research we have looked at this year, we have seen the “how” and “why” of a certain culture, focusing on their beliefs. This way of looking ignores the more important idea of the joy and goodness in these communities which are being studied.

However, as the author states, “to be clear, I am not arguing that belief is not important to Christians”, just as the mechanics of a culture are not important to that culture, but “because we think that belief precedes action and explains choice” we sometimes overlook the simpler facts of happiness and peace of mind that come out of a belief or culture. These are the important things. Not how you believe, but how you act in that belief. This is how we truly understand ourselves, and those around us.