Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:September 10th, 2010 15:48 EST
IDENTITIES: How Governed, Who Pays? Identity of Belief Systems Chapter 9

IDENTITIES: How Governed, Who Pays? Identity of Belief Systems Chapter 9

By HB Paksoy

09. Identity of Belief Systems

by H.B. Paksoy

     1. Belief systems exist for the purpose of explaining phenomenon otherwise unfathomable to the uninitiated.

     2. A belief system will have an authority, a central figure, or a collective set of values dominating the explanations provided therein.

     3. Not all belief systems will have a deity or deities.

     4. Not all belief systems will have an authoritative users manual, or doctrinal reference book.

     5. All belief systems will have associated rituals.

     6. The existing belief systems, for the convenience of discussants, have been divided between revealed or other.

     7. A revealed belief system includes a text containing the doctrine.

     8. Those belief systems that do not have a doctrinal text will substitute rituals instead.

     9. A belief system, more often than not, will have been imported by the polity adhering to it.

     10. A belief system imported from another culture will be modified by the receiving polity to suit its needs and requirements.

     11. A belief system does not need to have a governing hierarchy.

     12. A belief system with a governing or administrative hierarchy will be more authoritarian than others.

     13. This is also true for the ecumenical belief systems.

     14. The doctrinal belief systems will incorporate expansionism as a part of their ecumene.

     15. Some belief systems will reject accepting adult converts to their ranks.

     16. In displaying fear of accepting adults into its ranks, a belief system displays a distrust in the motives of humans not belonging to its ranks from birth.

     17. A number of belief systems seek to perpetuate themselves only through natural increase among their adherents.

     18. Some belief systems aggressively seek converts as a means of expansion or even survival.

     19. Some belief systems do not pay any attention to conversions or defections.

     20. A number of polities will adopt a particular belief system as the bases of its support, or even existence.

     21. When a belief system is elevated to the status of official doctrine of a polity, it will become more intolerant of other systems.

     22. In the case of an official belief system, the governing strata of a polity will wish to inject that belief system into the identity of the polity.

     23. Belief systems will interact with each other, regardless of the intentions of their founder(s), adherents or enforcers.

     24. Due to the interaction between belief systems, each system will borrow ideas, rituals and doctrines.

     25. Belief systems will borrow from each other due to the practices of their adherents.

     26. When a new belief system is overlaid on another by authoritative or even voluntary action, the previous system is not replaced wholesale.

     27. Dual practices of worship and ritual will continue, upon the arrival of a new belief system in a polity.

     28. At first flush, the commentators defending a newly formalized belief system will attack the old.

     29. Failing to eradicate all traces of the old belief system, commentators of belief systems will formalize some of the prevailing melange.

     30. Ideas from unrelated periods and belief systems will be borrowed during the commentary process.

     31. New influences will enter into a belief system during the commentary process, and those influences will eventually filter into the rituals.

     32. Those individuals seeking answers to the imponderables of the belief system will invariably contribute to the melange of belief systems.

     33. Comments and observations on a belief system will eventually be read, misunderstood, distrusted, condemned; nonetheless, they will be disseminated.

     34. The ensuing misunderstandings will prod others to produce additional commentaries in support or refutation.

     35. Those commentators whose works are widely read will be elevated to the status of geniuses.

     36. When the governance strata of a polity perceives the doctrines constructed by the widely-read commentators to be useful in the governance process, those doctrines will be co-opted as standard policy of the concerned polity.

     37. In time, the officially sanctioned and adopted doctrines will be replaced by others, similarly developed.

     38. The older ideas are never completely purged or forgotten. They will always have a following even after long spans of time elapses.

     39. The older doctrines will be revived periodically as the perceptions of the governance strata or the members of the polity at large evolve or undergo cycles in response to changing conditions.

     40. The revival of older doctrines or creation of new ones are born by the desire to make a change or to retain familiar and traditional modes of life.

     41. Efforts expended to bring about change are affected by the desire to improve living conditions, materially or spiritually.

     42. This is to preserve what was received in the form of the identity; to purify and advance the polity`s identity, to aid its survival into the future.

     43. Altruism plays little part in the process. Altruism is fed by a desire for immortality.

     44. Not every development in the affairs of humans can be foreseen.

     45. Only general patterns will be discernible, and precautions taken can be effective only in the most general sense.

     46. The changes in the conditions cannot be effectively foreseen due to nature`s random design.

     47. Nature maintains a random pattern in human affairs so as to prevent a straight-jacket, fossilized doctrinal path to development.

     48. It is the unforeseen, out-of-pattern developments that affect the human affairs most.

     49. The driving force of those unforeseen developments is the ideas; their reception, understandings or misunderstandings and the mode of their application to the lives concerned.

     50. Artifacts and documents indicate that each identifiable culture possessed a belief system; an effort and an approach to explain phenomenon otherwise unfathomable.

     51. Each belief system designated a focal point for the purpose. Earliest systems relied on visible imagery for their foci. These ranged from an image (mountain) to a combination of an image and a belief (Aton as solar disk and Pharaoh as Aton`s earthly representative).

     52. Even when the belief system relied on imaginary personages, as most polytheistic systems do, their concrete images were also created for visual reinforcement in the form of statues and statuettes.

     53. Transition from multiple-deities to one-god may be credited to better awareness of the surroundings, understanding of the causes of physical events (fire can be created by the humans as well) or improvement of mental faculties.

     54. Monotheistic systems are largely founded on an act of faith, willingness to entrust one`s future to one unexplainable authority instead of many.

     55. This economizing in the number of deities may have simplified worship procedures.

     56. On the other hand, reduction in the number of deities increased the rigidity of the worship ceremonies and led to the suspension of a series of `flexibilities,` such as the ability of an individual to choose one personal deity out of many.

     57. Belief systems need not have deities. A set of principles attributed to a person or `path` will do just fine. (Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism); or a given combination of one or more will be acceptable.

     58. The story is familiar: A young man falls in love with a beautiful young lady. She is from a wealthy family, and he is of exceedingly modest means. Her father forbids the union. The culture is not amenable for elopement. The young man persists. In desperation, to dissuade the young man, her father sets impossible conditions. If the young suitor can perform those specified and superhuman tasks, then the father will permit the marriage. The young man, in his fervor, tackles the assignments; He moves mountains, he drains oceans. Against all odds, he succeeds in outdoing all that was asked of him. Somewhere along the line, the life-view that so thoroughly dominated the young man`s vision, abruptly shifts. He is no longer in love with the beautiful young maiden. He has not only outgrown the maiden, but his emotions and the societal norms and earthly concerns. For all practical purposes, he has become a saint; and often he is so recognized. This approach of `trial by fire` has been used in more than one culture and belief system to construct its own foundations, and identity.