What Does True Belief Mean?
By Ben Wexler
The Collegian met with Dave Thomas, professor of theology at Walla Walla University, to consider if true religion only occurs when one is a representative for their religion and acts out their beliefs. The following is a transcript of the conversation, with edits made for clarity.
Q: What does it mean to truly follow your beliefs or religion?
Thomas: I think it means living in harmony with your beliefs and deferring to those beliefs so that your life is guided by the things you believe. You don’t want to have a big difference between what you profess and what you practice.
Traditionally, Christianity, for example, has taught us not to focus on self. That self is a dangerous place to focus because it will get you caught up in all kinds of things that are self-destructive. The idea of being in this world to be of service and not just to please yourself are very important elements. This structure proves to be a guideline that shapes how one should think and act. I think that’s how religions work. The specifics I’ve talked about pertain to Christianity.
Q: Can you provide an example of someone who is guided by their religion?
Thomas: Desmond Doss from the movie Hacksaw Ridge comes to mind. To me the movie serves as a very graphic example of how religion informs people’s living and how they sometimes, even at great personal cost, try to adhere to those beliefs.
Q: Is it acceptable for people to carry out their religion privately?
Thomas: Sooner or later the way you live runs into the public sphere, and I’m not suggesting that you make a big scene about your religion, but I don’t see how it can be completely private.
We can’t handle moral choices because whatever you decide is going to offend somebody. Secularism says that science produces facts and religion only produces opinions. You can think that the moon is made from cottage cheese, and as long as you keep that at home, everybody will be nice to you. But if you bring any opinions into the public sphere that run counter to the tenants of secularism, you’ll get hammered.
Q: How should people navigate religion in their public life?
Thomas: It certainly doesn’t call for people to be aggravating and to try and stick their religion in other people’s faces, but to simply refuse to go along with things that contravene your religious beliefs.
Integrity is achieved when you live in harmony with what you believe, not when you compromise what you believe. If you have a set of beliefs and you live in harmony with them, you will live with a sense of integrity. Otherwise, you will live feeling like you’re a hypocrite.
- Interview with Dave Thomas, 4/8/2022.
- Reflecting on your faith and beliefs can reveal the responsibilities you hold as a follower of religion. https://aswwu.smugmug.com/2018-2019/Fall-2018/Spiritual/Week-of-Worship/Week-of-Worship-100218/i-dkJ4VrS/A. i-dkJ4VrS-X4.jpg
Hey! My name is Ben. I'm from Los Angeles and studying business with a focus on marketing. When I'm not writing for The Collegian, you can find me making green smoothies and working on my side hustle reselling old clothes.