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What Is Belief?


Explanations > Beliefs > What Is Belief?

What are beliefs? | Beyond belief | Beliefs and language | Disbelief | So what?


What are beliefs?

Here's a simple definition:

A belief is an assumed truth.

Hence everything is a belief -- including this statement.

We create beliefs to anchor our understanding of the world around us and so, once we have formed a belief, we will tend to persevere with that belief.

Beyond belief

The corollary of our definition of belief  is that if we know something to be true, then it is more than a belief. The tricky question now is 'How do we know that something is always true?' Just because in our experience it has always been true, it doesn't necessarily follow that it will continue to be true.

We usually belief that things will happen as they have previously happened, because it is useful to do so. As such, this means that everything is a belief. Which is good, from a persuasion standpoint. Because beliefs can be changed.

Beliefs and language

Belief is highly entangled with language. If there is a word for something then we believe it exists, as in the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. We thus 'language reality into existence'.

This is one reason why people from different countries have difficulty understanding one another, as the beliefs they hold are built into the language and the culture.


When we believe in one thing, we will usually disbelieve in anything that contradicts the primary belief. This can result in us having one belief system and many disbelief systems. For example if a person believes in one religion, they accept all the tenets of that religion. They also disbelieve in all other religions, rejecting outright (and often without any understanding of) the things that believers in others systems hold to be absolute truths.

So what?

So understand that people's beliefs are what they are assuming to be true. Challenge them. Reframe them. They can be changed.

See also

The Formation of Belief, Use of Language, Disbelief


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