The Disease of Blind Faith

-by Michelle Graham

Since the September 11th attack on the U.S., many people have been offering their ideas of why and how something that horrendous could happen. People are pointing fingers in many different directions, perhaps in hopes of finding a cause so that it wonít happen again. I know I have sort of pieced together my own version of what international relations could have led to this, but I have no idea how accurate it is, or if it really matters that I know the real story. Looking at all the parties involved and what we know about their past interactions can become very confusing if one is trying to pinpoint one particular cause or one party to blame.

So in order to try to avoid confusion, I am focusing this article on just one part of the whole story. How is it that the hijackers could do what they did? Was it truly was wrong for them to do such a thing if they really believed in their hearts that they were serving their God? After all, the U.S. military has also killed many people over the years in the name of Democracy and Freedom. Which reasons are okay to kill for? Is it ever okay to kill? How can we know when we are really doing something for a good cause, or when we are just creating more suffering? My teacher has told me that even the simple, seemingly innocuous act of gardening is selfish, since we decide to disturb a piece of the earth and its small inhabitants to plant what we decide should go there. But gardening can also be beneficial to many other beings. So then, how can we know what we should do from moment to moment? How could the hijackers know whether it was right or wrong for them to do what they were told to do?

Perhaps one way to try to answer the question is to look at the real intention behind the action. It seems that there can be only two types of intention: the first is an intention to do what one sees as benefiting only a subset of the universe (usually oneself or oneís own group), without figuring others into the equation. The second is an intention to do what one honestly sees as the best possible action while attempting to take the whole universe into account. The first intention seems to be an indication that the individual on some level has decided consciously or unconsciously that they do not need to be concerned with how well they co-exist with certain others in the world. Perhaps this is because they do not deem those who are not the same in their views, religion, ethnicity, or lifestyle as being worthy of an equal right to existence here. The second intention is an indication that the individual has decided that they do want to be concerned with how well they co-exist with the rest of the universe, most likely because they see all beings as having equal rights to existence here, regardless of any beliefs, race, or ways of living. Therefore, an individual with the first intention does not allow feedback from certain others to affect them. Individuals with the second intention, however, find it very important to see how they are affecting others, and to honestly try to use all of the information they are aware of. Since most of us do not seem to have had an upbringing that teaches the second sort of intention, it can be a learning process, and so one is probably never perfect at it. However, if one is open to listening and learning, it seems that consistent improvement in the ability to be more honest and to account for more of the universe would naturally follow.

A belief based on blind faith is a good example of the first type of intention. If one is consulting an idea in oneís head rather than observing what is actually happening in the moment, then one is most likely ignoring certain parts of the universe. If we view the world as one body or organism, then blind faith belief systems can be likened to a disease like leprosy. Leprosy deadens the nerve impulses that would normally keep a person from harming oneself. And in the same way, blind faith beliefs cut off the feedback one would normally receive from others, which then can create very harmful situations. Individuals who make decisions based on preconceived ideas, and who omit information from beyond their own interests, are capable of creating great suffering for others, as well as for themselves. It would follow then, that in order to survive together as a healthy organism, we need to use checks and balances both individually and collectively. It is important to constantly challenge our assumptions and beliefs, and to be willing to see the effect we have on others with as open a mind and heart as we are capable of having.

It seems that some sort of extremely strong blind faith beliefs played a major part in the September 11th attacks. No one could carry out such a mission that involves killing oneself otherwise. These kinds of blind faith beliefs can be in any name: Allah, God, Democracy, Communism, Capitalism, U.S., Islam, White Supremacy, Hale Bop, etc. They can create a dangerous autopilot situation. No one is running the ship; just an idea acting as auto-pilot is left at the helm to make all the decisions. In that regard, it also seems to allow one who is taking action based on beliefs to wash their hands of any responsibility for the effect they have on others. After all, they didnít really decide to do the action, someone else told them to do it. One can then seemingly justify any kind of atrocity in the name of a particular belief or cause.

A self-observation or mindfulness practice can be a key to gaining an intention that takes the entire universe into account while making decisions. This is because when one is agreeing to be more present and aware of what one is doing, then one really starts to see what is behind the decisions one is making. It becomes obvious when one is pulling a decision out of oneís head based on an idea, versus when one is using information from outside as well as inside oneself to synthesize a decision. If we want to exist with other people, animals, and plants in a mutually beneficial way, then we need to see them, and we need to see ourselves clearly in the present moment from a neutral point of view. Otherwise we can become like diseased and deadened parts of this organism we call our world.