I love ‘Firefly’, there isn’t another show that is like it. ‘Firefly’ and the movie, ‘Serenity’, have some wonderful quotes in them. The other day, I was struck by two involving Shepard Book. For those who haven’t see the show, Shepard Book is a Christian monk who was taken up with the crew to step out into the world. Mal, the captain, is an atheist and both come to respect each other. Neither changes beliefs, and there is a bit of tension, but there is a deep respect there.
Here’s the first one:
Mal Reynolds: Ah, hell, Shepherd, I ain’t looking for help from on high. That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.
Shepherd Book: Why when I talk about belief, why do you always assume I’m talking about God?
I think the good Shepherd Book asks a very important and interesting question. Why is it when we talk about belief, we tend to refer to a belief in a deity? The word has taken on a religious patina. Belief is so much more than that, though. It is what you think you can and can’t do. It is what you think others can and can’t do. What organizations, businesses, and governments can and can’t do. Also, what they will and won’t do. Belief is a big word for having only six letters. It contains motives, abilities, will, strength, weakness, and existence.
Let’s expand some of that now. Existence, all of our social structures exist because enough people believe they exist. They have the power they because enough people believe they have that power. Why does the United States exist? Because over two hundred years ago, enough people came together with belief. Because enough people over the years have had a belief that the United States exists. Most importantly, because people who believed came together and worked together. Our whole economy is based on belief. The belief that little pieces of green paper have value. That if I give someone some of these pieces of paper, then I will get what I want in return. We believe that people are basicly honest and good and won’t actively try to hurt each other.
And there is belief in a god or goddess or gods or that there isn’t a god. In some ways, I think this sort of belief is a small thing, a weak thing. It’s not what belief does best. It is merely the belief that something out there exists, or doesn’t. Where it becomes important is where it intersects with the actions based on these beliefs. Does our belief in a higher power lead us to help one another, or hurt one another? Do we strive to our world a better place for all, or merely gather riches for ourselves? Do our beliefs make a bigger person, or cause us to retreat inside of us? This goes for everyone, the Christian, the Buddhist, the atheist, the pagan, the polytheist, the pantheist. What your beliefs are doesn’t matter as much as what you do with them.