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Chapter 4

Beliefs.

What is a Belief?

A belief is an idea that something exists.  It also can be an attitude that something is true.  If the belief is religious in nature, it is often referred to as faith.

Fowler proposed there were seven stages of faith:

STAGE 0: Primal Faith
Young children either trust or mistrust depending on the type of care they receive.  For many, idealisms of religion appear based on parental beliefs. Future religious ideas stem from these beginnings.

STAGE 1: Intuitive-Reflective Faith
Between the ages of two and six years, the child begins to use  speech and symbols to formulate their thoughts and record there experiences.  During this time there are no logical tools that that allow for discernment or questioning. Children simply assume that what is taught is the only possible answer. Fowler gives an example.  A six year-old who describes Heaven as “a place high in the sky where God lives with the three wise men, baby Jesus and some of the saints.”

STAGE 2: Mythic-Literal Faith
A child begins to make meaning of what was previously fantasy. She can re-tell stories, but is not quite able to view the stories as not being literal, or to consider the figurative meanings of the stories. Although this stage is typical for elementary school age children, Fowler’s research shows that adolescents and some adults have faith locked in at this stage.

STAGE 3: Synthetic-Conventional Faith
This stage occurs around age 12 or 13, when children question their own thoughts as part of creating a personal identity and building relationships with the world outside the immediate family. Because these relationship are so important at this age, images of God are, in Fowler’s words, “often experienced as friend, companion, and personal reality.” Anthropomorphic images of God and the narratives from Stage 2 become more personal and less distant as a person enters Stage 3. God becomes a significant other who knows the depths and the secrets of the self, and offers companionship, guidance and support.

STAGE 4: Individuative - Reflective Faith

Here, Fowler says, “The person is pushed out of, or steps out of, the circle of interpersonal relationships that have sustained his life to that point.” This shift can trigger deeper awareness as the result of a life-altering loss, i.e., any experience that prompts someone to question established beliefs, behaviors and values.

Instead of merely seeking comfort and protection, the goal at Stage 4 is to acquire understanding. While this stage can begin as early as the late teens, it can also begin at various times during adulthood, but in adulthood many people hover indefinitely between Stages 3 and 4 because it is more difficult to make changes when relationships, habits, patterns and lifestyles have been firmly established.

STAGE 5: Conjunctive Faith
According to Fowler, people who make it through the previous stages generally arrive at Stage 5 sometime around 35 or 40 years old (midlife crisis). The spiritual crisis that began in Stage 4 has now prompted deeper questioning, which results in a growing awareness of the mystical self. Here, one looks more deeply at the traditions, social conventions and myths that were previously taken for granted.

STAGE 6: Universalizing Faith
It is a rare person who reaches this stage of faith. Fowler describes people at this stage as having "a special grace that makes them seem more lucid, more simple, and yet somehow more fully human than the rest of us.

People at this stage can become important religious teachers because they have the ability to relate to anyone at any stage and from any faith. They are able to relate without condescension but at the same time are able to challenge the assumptions that those of other stages might have.

They are apt to adapt and combine beliefs from many sources to produce a more logical and flexible personal belief system.

Instead of adhering to strong tenants, they put their faith in action, challenging the status quo and working to create justice in the world.

Robert Keeley points to people like Gandhi and Mother Teresa as examples of people who have reached this stage.

In terms of grief resilience and recovery, this stage represents an emergence from grief with a positive outcome that includes a heightened awareness and a peaceful acceptance of the natural ebb and flow of sorrow and joy.

Adapted from Terri Daniel, Unitarian Universal Religious teaching materials.  The full text of Terri Daniel's article can be found at https://www.academia.edu/. Search for Terri Daniel’s paper, Loss and Trauma as a Path to Spiritual Awareness: "Applying Fowler's Stages of Faith Development to the Grief Journey." (Copyright 2016)

 

Questioning Popular Beliefs

It is good to question what one's culture promotes as being true. 

News - Is it really important? Is it opinion or facts  Is it accurate or click bait? Is the bias recognizable?

Science - Who has done the research? Who paid for it? Are the findings supported by other research?

Nature - Are all questions answered by nature? Is there a world within us? Does a spiritual world exist?

History - Is a patriot writing this? Is it sanitized? Am I skeptic because of what I believe?

Culture - Is my culture the best? Can people have different cultures and get along?

Political Views - Am I too liberal or conservative? Can people from a different parity have good ideas?  Are some of my ideas too idealistic?

Government - Do government agendas hurt more than help? Can I participate in governmental affairs?

Religious Background - Is my religion actually dependent on where I was born, when I was born, my family, and culture?  Can I think out of the box and find better beliefs and do things that more helpful to others who are different than myself?

Parenting Style - Did my parents understand how to be parents? Should I follow their parenting styles or find better ways?

Relationships - Is there a pattern in my past relationships that could be improved?  What have I learned in each of my past relationships? How can I improve on my current relationship?

Adapted from "Dumb Little Man, Tips for Life", "10 Domains of Beliefs That We Should Be Questioning For Personal Growth.

 

Helpful Links for Finding Your Belief System

Beliefnet's Belief-O-Matic might help discover what you believe in.

American Atheists have found many Biblical Contradictions.

 

Recommended  books which support many of my ideas.

Feel free to write me if you have questions or
comments.

My email address is:

     george@deepermind.com

 

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