Why Believe????

From Anna Karenina (Tolstoy). I'd like to share a few passages from the end of this novel here. These are the thoughts of the character Levin who has, not quite consciously, been seeking meaning for his life throughout the novel. Throughout the novel Levin is a self-avowed unbeliever but a casual remark by a peasant worker (muzhik) "had the effect of an electric spark in his soul, suddenly transforming and uniting into one the whole swarm of disjointed, impotent, separate thoughts which had never ceased to occupy him."

He was aware of something new in his soul, and joyfully tested this new thing, not yet knowing what it was.

`Not living for his own wants, but for God? For what God? And could one say anything more senseless than what he said? He said that one must not live for one's own wants, that is, that one must not live for what we understand, what we are attracted by, what we desire - but must live for something incomprehensible, for God, whom no one can understand nor even define. What of it? Didn't I understand those senseless words of Fiodor's? And understanding them, did I doubt their truth? Did I think them stupid, obscure, inexact?

`No, I understood him, and exactly as he understands the words. I understood them more fully and clearly than I understand anything in life, and never in my life have I doubted nor can I doubt about them. And not only I, but everyone, the whole world, understands nothing fully but this, and about this only they have no doubt, and are always agreed.

`Fiodor says that Kirillov, the innkeeper, lives for his belly. That's comprehensible and rational. All of us as rational beings can't do anything else but live for our belly. And all of a sudden the same Fiodor says that one mustn't live for one's belly, but must live for truth, for God, and, at a hint, I understand him! And I and millions of men, men who lived ages ago and men living now - peasants, the poor in spirit and the sages, who have thought and written about it, in their obscure words saying the same thing - we are all agreed about this one thing: what we must live for and what is good. I and all men have only one firm, incontestable, clear knowledge, and that knowledge cannot be explained by reason - it is outside it, and has no causes, and can have no effects.

`If goodness has causes, it is not goodness; if it has effects - a reward - it is not goodness either. So goodness is outside the chain of cause and effect.

`And yet I know it, and we all know it.

`And I sought miracles, complained that I did not see a miracle which would convince me. And here is a miracle, the sole miracle possible, continually existing, surrounding me on all sides, and I never noticed it!

`What could be a greater miracle than that?

And he briefly went through, mentally, the whole course of his ideas during the last two years, the beginning of which was the clear confronting of death at the sight of his dear brother hopelessly ill.

Then, for the first time, grasping that for every man, and himself too, there was nothing in store but suffering, death and eternal oblivion, he had made up his mind that life was impossible like that, and that he must either interpret life so that it would not present itself to him as the evil jest of some devil, or else shoot himself.

But he had not done either, but had gone on living, thinking, and feeling, and had even at that very time married, and had had many joys, and had been happy, when he was not thinking of the meaning of his life.

What did this mean? It meant that he had been living rightly, but thinking wrongly.

He had lived (without being aware of it) on those spiritual truths that he had sucked in with his mother's milk, but he had thought, not merely without recognition of these truths, but studiously ignoring them.

Now it was clear to him that he could live only by virtue of the beliefs in which he had been brought up.

`What should I have been, and how should I have spent my life, if I had not had these beliefs, if I had not known that I must live for God and not for my own wants? I should have robbed and lied and killed. Nothing of what makes the chief happiness of my life would have existed for me.' And with the utmost stretch of imagination he could not conceive the brutal creature he would have been himself, if he had not known what he was living for.

`I looked for an answer to my question. And thought could not give an answer to my question - it is incommensurable with my question. The answer has been given me by life itself, in my knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. And that knowledge I did not arrive at in any way, it was given to me as to all men, given, because I could not have got it from anywhere.

`Where could I have got it? Could I have arrived through reason at knowing that I must love my neighbor and not oppress him? I was told that in my childhood, and I believed it gladly, for they told me what was already in my soul. But who discovered it? Not reason. Reason discovered the struggle for existence, and the law that requires us to oppress all who hinder the satisfaction of our desires. That is the deduction of reason. But loving one's neighbor reason could never discover, because that is unreasonable.

`Yes, pride,' he said to himself, turning over on his abdomen and beginning to tie a noose of blades of grass, trying not to break them.

`And not merely pride of intellect, but dullness of intellect. And most of all, its knavishness; yes, the knavishness of intellect. The cheating knavishness of intellect - that's it,' he repeated.

I liked it anyway. :)

P.S. and yes, I read it because it was an Oprah-pick :D
Bigmacscanlan said:
Please don't take this the wrong way, but how many people here actually 100% believe in a God of any description?

Am I the only person who visits this site, that does not believe in God? It certainly seems that way - Why all the definate belief from you guys? Don't get me wrong, I'm no atheist, but I don't believe anything blindly. Have all you guys (and girls) seen something to make you believe? How many of you believe blindly due to your social background? Is anyone else completely undecided like myself?

- - - - please dont take this post the wrong way. I am merely curious to the reasons people believe what they do. I would never ever presume to judge or question anyone's belief system, but are you all simply going on "blind faith" - just seems strange to the likes of me - thats all.

Even I don't believe in a God.

But I believe in worshipping a God, anyways.

As long as I don't try to make someone else 'believe' in what I 'believe', I think I am perfectly alright.

For example, I love American football while I am indifferent towards soccer. That's my own perception. Similarly 'There is a God' or 'There is no God' or 'There are many Gods' are all perceptions. Even this empirical world is just a perception. The reality of this world is just relative, not absolute.

I am trying to reach ABSOLUTE REALITY(psst, in fact I am Absolute) and my personal choice of reaching that is through worship of many deities.

Freedom of thought, anyone.