|Brian Joseph Johns|
Having watched one of my favourite movies of all time on Saturday, it once again caught me off guard with the depth of its questions and philosophy which is a pretty rare thing for me. The film in question is Contact, the movie adaption of the story by Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan which became the novel by Carl Sagan.
One of the major themes and premises of this movie questions the very nature of belief which it does very well by building an equivocal allegory of belief between religion and science. I won't get into details about that aspect of the film so if you haven't seen it, you don't have to worry about dodging spoilers in this article.
Perhaps one of the most important questions of humanity would be: is there a sentient and omnipotent force or consciousness responsible for the existence of both everything and the nothing implied by the fact that there is an everything. I certainly do not seek to answer that question here because in this case the question itself is more important and says a lot about us, especially with regard to what we believe to be the answer to that question.
Consider that everything that we state (including what I am writing here) is a well crafted and staged approximation of our core values and beliefs, and more importantly what we want to limit others knowing about us or of what we want to convince them. With planned communication between people in such a sense, it does tend to be difficult to elicit ideas and concepts when this is the case. When you're trying to protect something about yourself that makes you vulnerable to others. Like your beliefs and nowadays there seems to be no end to people who'll exploit those vulnerabilities, perhaps for the purposes of consciousness hacking (in the negative sense rather than the positive) or some other equally socially cruel experiment. So most of what we communicate is well worded and phrased so as to protect those vulnerabilities. Kind of like a contextual firewall.
Because of the nature of the world and reality, it pays to have as many allies as you can in life. The problem is that people are by their very nature unique each and unto themselves, organizing themselves into many interlocked groups of varying topography eventually and up until we reach the global scale. The cohesion of those groups is all based upon some kind of rules or structure that differentiates one group of people from another through a series of yes no questions that eventually leave only the individual having answered enough of them honestly and accurately.
In this world a solitary individual can be said to be very vulnerable to many social trends and activities unless they number themselves a part of a group that can protect them through their numbers. So the only way to isolate ourselves is by revealing the true nature of our beliefs and secrets because they are ultimately what establish our individuality from other people and groups. So in this sense we have different ways of communicating and at different levels with people based upon the trust relationship that we've built with those people and the sincerity of our communication is directly related to that trust and to the context of what information we're sharing.
If we're sharing something that is useful to others, like knowledge or skills that have no implicit indication about the nature of our beliefs and secrets, then we don't really need to worry about trust issues with regard to our communication. We're not sharing anything that would likely isolate us from other people if that knowledge became public or was in the hands of people who would use it against us. The latter group may include people that we do trust that are using our beliefs and secrets for their own selfish purposes. That may be related to an investment of emotions (as with a romantic partner) or to maintain the illusion of membership to a group of which we're a part and they are not. Just the implication of friendship carries a lot of connotations with regard to our levels of trust. So our beliefs carry a lot of potential security risks for our own well being and hence this tends to limit the nature of our communication with others based upon our level of trust with them.
This is often the key motivation for computer hacking. Gaining knowledge of someone's secrets without the requirement for a prior agreed upon trust relationship. Until the explosion of hacking, most people had used computers, business and home computer alike for the keeping of their personal and business secrets much the same as in the 1970s and earlier most people likely kept their doors unlocked to their home. So the rush for computer security resulted from hackers who would gain social advantage by gaining access to the personal secrets of other people. First starting with the rich and famous, then gradually working its way through the financial and class ladder to the wider population.
Thanks to the turbulence around turn of the millennium, finding protection amongst other groups of people became of tantamount importance ever increasingly amongst the population. People were divided amongst many different lines as the world became ever increasingly paranoid with regard to violence and the risk of war. Not to mention that the lines through which we were divided became so radically different from the ideals that resulted in our political borders that society itself was at risk. Dividing people according to their political beliefs, their religious beliefs, their gender, their cultural identification and their generation. Depending upon where you ended up amidst this turmoil would determine many factors and limits about a person's future. For instance if you were a part of the movement against terrorism then, your options now could potentially be very limited. Likewise if you were against LGBTQ rights. That would affect your current affiliations and opportunities. It was like the very merit of espoused beliefs about the nature of a world and global society were being tested on the individual level and many of us stumbled under the pressure when we should have held fast in the face of hatred and radicalism that sorts us out along such lines.
The truth is that we still do need such boundaries between us while others we do without. We need political and administrative boundaries because of the nature of the distribution of resources and the administration of local law and policies. We need boundaries to denote the concept of the ownership of property upon which the real estate market is based (there's likely many that would argue this point). Most natural resources exist on plots of land and that fuels much of the market required to drive an economy that supports millions and billions of people even in socialist states. We need boundaries between us and our neighbours. After all, what you do in the comfort of your own home provided that it isn't violating any laws or the rights of others should be protected from scrying by others who have no right to that information.
If you're married and regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you wouldn't want the life or the secrets that you and your partner share to become exploited by others who once again have no right to those secrets. That's the very nature of your privacy and that knowledge could potentially limit the groups of which you are allowed to number yourself. We are all here as the result of sexual intercourse between our parents (with the exception of those whose Mother's egg was fertilized by other means whose secret in that regard is just as important). That means that you are here because at one time or another, your parents got frisky before getting busy in an act that many people line up to watch online all in order to produce you. You wouldn't want those secrets as their children to be leaked to the public or misused, would you? There's some more boundaries for you that delineate our interpersonal boundaries that protect us romantically. Most people have a good idea of what goes on between two people romantically, but they don't know specifically and that's the nature of that boundary.
Those secrets should not end up in the hands of the youth or children for obvious reasons much the same that there are boundaries earned while growing up that allow you to establish your individual personality that should be respected by your parents regardless of who pays the rent or mortgage. There are two more boundaries for you and very important ones. The boundary that defines the romantic life of your parents from your own life as a child growing up, and your boundaries as an individual child from your parents. Protected so that you may form your own opinions and a self identity knowing that there are boundaries that you have that even your parents don't have the right to cross. When as a youth your boundaries begin to outgrow the limits or restrictions of the rules imposed upon you by your parents for living in their space, that's usually when you start to rebel and further define yourself, most often by moving out and hopefully going to school or university, or by getting a job or assistance while you finish your education.
So as we can see, there are many boundaries that are required in life that protect the specific secrets of individuals, couples, families, municipalities, cities, provinces/states, countries and planets or natural satellites (assuming that we populate another one within the next century). We let people based upon their level of trust with us through most of those boundaries. Fellow citizens, acquaintances, friends, family and lover or spouse (with the last two hopefully being the same person). Ultimately that trust level determines the sincerity through which we communicate with each other and that does not mean that people are insincere with each other. The sincerity with which we communicate is directly related to our comfort and honest familiarity with ourselves and our confidence in the comfort and honest familiarity we believe that those who we trust and care for have with themselves for that determines how our secrets can impact our lives negatively or in a damaging way that may create divisions between the people and groups with which we have no quarrel, but from whom we have a different point of view.
That brings us back to the topic of this article and that is the God Question. Do you believe in God but more importantly, should you answer that question honestly with just anyone? Again that depends upon the aggressiveness with which others treat those who possess different beliefs to their own and your proximity to people of differing views to your own their ability to impact your life negatively should you profess different beliefs to their own and remember that professing or denying a belief in God can say much about what religion you are a part, if you consider yourself a part of organized religion at all. So professing your belief in that regard has some astounding implications for you as an individual within society. Though we as people in society are governed by our rights and the laws that protect them, how do we really know that someone might not discriminate against you just because of what you believe in that regard? After all, there are some religions that have openly professed that it is their duty to God, to rout people who do not believe in their religion even if doing so violates the rules and laws of the region. So professing your beliefs may have dire consequences where they are different from those of the majority or conversely they may benefit you if they coincide with the same.
Let's face it. To whom do you owe an honest answer to that question? Lets separate spirituality and religion for the sake of this question. Religion is a doctrine with a spiritual component that tends to explain our creation, morality and consciousness and a dogmatic component made up of rules and a code of good conduct. The question of God is more of a spiritual nature than a dogmatic one. After all, whether you believe in a God or not does not determine the nature of your code of conduct or what you view as being right or wrong. There are many people who believe in a God whose identity violates the dogma of many religious beliefs, such as being an educated Woman with the right to vote that may believe in God despite the dogma of their religion that contradicts such a Woman's rights to either have an education or take part in due process and vote. There are members of the LGBTQ community as well who believe in God but whose gender identity is a violation of the dogma of most religions the world over. So being spiritual can exist without the need for having a belief in a rigid dogma and does not even require a belief in a God.
Often the delineation of what we believe in terms of the existence of a God and any corresponding religion actually relates to and is supposed to represent what we accept and do not accept as being right or wrong, and where our personal boundaries are within such a framework with regard to ourselves, our God and most importantly, other people. The truth is that the boundaries of right and wrong are better defined administratively and with regard to the laws that protect and respect our rights as individuals in society. Our beliefs are of a personal and subjective nature and fighting over them is reminiscent of fighting over what is the best colour? What is the best music? What is the best painting? These are things that we may find some vagaries through which to coincide in our point of view, but when it really comes down to it, what we believe is our own. What we believe about God is actually between us and God (whether there is a God or not). Therefore what we honestly believe about God is our individual secret and we do not owe it to anyone else to answer that question truthfully.
The measure of your conduct and being where it regards any word or action that does not violate the rights and laws protected by the region in which you live that coincides with the universal declaration of human rights, if you do so have a belief and a religion is between you, yourself, your code of conduct and your God.
When it comes to this question when confronted with their own mortality, all people consider it thoroughly. When it comes to your own conduct in life whether you possess a conscience of your own or a socially induced conscience, the bottom line is that in life you can run from everyone but yourself. Ultimately when you meet the end of your days, that's the person to whom you're going to have to answer, regardless.
How you take that statement will say a lot about how you feel about your own conduct to other living entities in the world, the world and its resources and how you treat yourself.
So be fair to all of them and don't let the noise and gossip that happens between every meaningful connection in your life take anything of worth from you. Your beliefs are truly yours.
Brian Joseph Johns