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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Vice Prez (Admin)

What is belief? When I was growing up, I was a Catholic–baptised and confirmed. This led me to believe that there was a God who was one part of a trinity, holy and all powerful. When I was young, belief for me was as good as fact.

Then I entered high school and I began to challenge my beliefs; first as a means of rebelling against my parents and my Catholic school, but second, and more importantly, in a genuine attempt to understand my world. By this point, belief and faith, at least in a religious sense, had a new meaning to me: the denial of observation, evidence and argument so that faith and belief could be preserved.

I am an atheist. That seems a little obvious after the whole “denial of evidence” point, but for me it is an important pronouncement. It is not something I decided to become, rather something I realised I always was. I am part of a rapidly growing group of New Zealanders who have no faith or religion—when we have our next census I look forward to seeing at what percentage of New Zealanders put down their preference on the form.

Religion, though, is not the only place where I have ‘beliefs’. I’m also a libertarian, I support the Black Caps (which as many of you know takes a lot of faith) and I believe whisky is the drink of kings. Some of these beliefs (like supporting the Black Caps), like my old belief in Religion, are not based in what I would call reason. Other beliefs, like my political stance, are based in what I think is very solid reason, but many others—particularly my friends at VUWSA—think is less reasonable than saying Jon Stewart isn’t funny. Such is the nature of beliefs—they are, by their very nature, very hard to prove beyond any doubt and are particular to each person.

At university, you are in an incredible position to try out new beliefs and ways of thinking. If you subscribe to socially conservative ideas, read some Hitchens. If you’re right wing, read some Trotsky or even Orwell—much maligned by the left but firmly planted in social democrat soil. Conversely, if you’re left wing, read some Rand: if nothing else read it for the trains. The point is this: now is not the time in your life to become too dogmatic in whatever beliefs you hold. Take this time to go out and challenge yourself—you never know what you may learn.

Stay safe,
Daniel Wilson
avp@vuwsa.org.nz

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