What are the origins of the Canons of the Church of Belief Science?
The Canon of “consensuality” derives from post-modern thought—a movement in the humanities and social sciences that values the ways groups of people believe. Postmodern tenets hold that humans come to know truth through consensualities—actionable shared beliefs. This is the foundational Canon of the Church. The other Canons did not appear magically or by divine revelation—they stem from a rich human history and the teachings held dear by a large number of people in defining what is “good” about being human. A summary of the canons of the Church are addressed in the book, Toward a Positive Psychology of Religion: Belief Science in the Postmodern Era. Readers are directed to the book for a description and rationale for each Canon. Belief Scientists pledge to hold the Canons to be true, and they act in accordance with such standards. Adherence to the Canons is the Belief Science profession of faith.
May a member of the Church of Belief Science attend religious services and become involved in activities of other religions?
Yes. Belief Scientists may enter into consensus with other individuals about religious issues, beliefs, or values, so long as those values are consistent with the Canons of the Church of Belief Science. Regardless, when queried about religious affiliation, the Belief Scientist shall identify his or her religious affiliation as that of the Church of Belief Science, and he or she shall educate others on the nature of the Church of Belief Science. Belief Scientists avoid any religious activity that is inconsistent with the Canons of the Church of Belief Science. It is, for example, unacceptable for a Belief Scientist to accept or profess the doctrine of another church as absolute, even if that doctrine is not in conflict with other Belief Science Canons. Also, Belief Scientists may practice their religion in a number of ways. One way is to enter into communion with other members of the Church of Belief Science through formation of an Assembly. Assemblies are groups of Belief Scientist who are involved in organized activities. Assemblies may be organized around beliefs of other religions. For example, there could be an assembly of Belief Scientists entitled “Belief Scientist in the Study of Christ,” or “Belief Scientists in the Study of Islam.” Others may assemble around the study of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, atheism, comparative religions, etcetera. But any doctrine of any religion that purports exclusivity must be rejected by the Belief Scientist. For example, the Christian Bible, Gospel of John 3:18 reads: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Likewise the Koran (Sura XLVII, “Muhammad”) reads: “Who so believeth not and prevent others from the way of God—then works will He cause to miscarry.” Such doctrine conflicts with Belief Science Canons. There is no punitive attitude in Belief Science doctrine for the way people believe, but only those that embrace Belief Science Canons and share their beliefs with others can claim to be, and participate organizationally as, Belief Scientists. The Canons allow for a broad range of beliefs, and the Canons especially encourage the study of alternative ways of believing.
Is it difficult to become a priest of the Church?
No, it is not difficult to become a priest of the Church of Belief Science. Priests are “affirmed” by the Church to teach Church doctrine. (Affirmation is much like ordination in the Christian tradition.) Priests (men and women) must demonstrate a desire to learn and a desire to be educated, so a formal education is one means to demonstrate a commitment to learning and education. In extraordinarily circumstances, a person without a formal education can be affirmed by the Church as a priest, but only with agreement that extraordinary circumstances prevail. Given an acceptable education, a record free of any history of serious crimes against children, society or humanity (as ultimately judged by the Church administration) affirmation is attainable upon: (a) a documented understanding of Church Canons, doctrine, and practices through formal examination; and (b) a ceremonial pledge to uphold and to teach Church Canons. Priests are typically not formally employed by the Church and may operate freely, so long as they abide by Church Canons and do not misrepresent themselves or the Church. The priesthood is lifelong, but priesthood status may be revoked or suspended for failure to follow Church Canons.
What are the Church’s positions on abortion, the death penalty, and euthanasia?
Abortion, the death penalty, and active euthanasia all conflict with the Canon of the Church related to the value of human life. Abortion is viewed as unacceptable, as it is an aggressive and destructive act. Belief scientists hold that a child’s life begins at conception in a maternal environment or embryonic insertion in a maternal environment. The death penalty, too, shows that human life is viewed as expendable in certain circumstances, which goes against the Canons of the Church. Even individuals viewed as “evil,” those that would do harm to others or knowingly maliciously spread disease, have the right to life. Belief Scientists can take the life of another, or support the taking of the life of another, only in acts of defense (for instance, at a moment when there is serious threat to one’s self or another). Even in cases of defense, when possible and when given the opportunity, the Belief Scientist will consider alternative means to avoid or to remedy threats. At an early age, a Belief Scientist is encouraged to develop a “Shared Wish” document outlining desires related to maintenance of life by artificial or other means. Suicide and euthanasia is forbidden. IMPORTANTLY, there is NO SIN in church doctrine, so if someone, for example, has had an abortion in the past, there is no condemnation for a past act inconsistent with church doctrine. No matter what the infraction on moral grounds, people are not prevented from full membership in the church due to past actions. However, once one choses to affiliate with the church, one must abide by the Cannons, meaning there is a commitment not to act in a way inconsistent with Church doctrine. A member must not abort a child, commit euthanasia, commit suicide, or support such activities, as examples. There is no condemnation of others who commit such acts, but members hold fast to doctrinal principles and stand as examples of people who subscribe to a philosophy that values life.
Is there an afterlife?
Yes, relationships are greater than one’s self; Belief Scientist live beyond their physical lives through the lives of others. One’s influence and legacy is imbedded in the actions of all who have been touched by one’s life. Biologically one lives on through procreation. Socially one lives in perpetuity by good acts and through the Annals of the Church. But also, if Belief Scientists assemble and come to agreement about a special type of afterlife, share faith in a belief of existence beyond the physical world, then that afterlife becomes real through the actions of, and within the beliefs and actions of, the consensualizing Church members. For example, Church members may define a “heaven,” “paradise,” or “reincarnation”; such concepts become real in their everyday acting as if heaven, paradise, or reincarnation exists. This is true of all beliefs shared by Belief Scientists, so long as Canons of the Church are not contradicted. This holds true even with the Canon of Consensualizing, which is the foundation of the Church—it is agreed to by all members who pledge adherence to Church Canons. In other words, for Belief Scientists there is no universal external truth–even the “truth” of consensualizing, which is the foundational Canon of the Church, must be agreed to by all members of the Church. All truths have validity within their cultural or social context. So any belief (in heaven, paradise, or reincarnation, as examples) derives from people in communion, and it does not represent absolute external truth. So when Belief Scientists speak of a truth, they say “our truth” or “our belief” (as “our truth in heaven,” or “our belief in afterlife,” or “our belief in reincarnation”). Regardless, all members of the Church live in perpetuity through their good acts and connection and contributions to a living community of believers. This, in and of itself, is a rich legacy.
Are individuals affected by illnesses, diseases, or disabilities viewed as evil? Does “bad” always come from illness or disability?
Although illness, disease, and disabilities are viewed as evil, individuals affected by illness, disease, or disability are not viewed as evil. Belief scientists act to bring evil to an end, meaning they will make concerted efforts to seek cures or remedies for disease and disabling conditions. The individuals with such conditions are not viewed “as” the conditions or diseases themselves. Rather, they are viewed as “affected” by the illness, disease, or disability. Belief Scientists take a position that those who are “affected” are worthy of assistance and loving care. Nearly all individuals, if they live full lives, will be affected by disabilities and illnesses. All families at some time face serious illnesses, diseases, or disabilities. Belief Scientists act to seek cures and to support efforts to find cures. They are optimistic about finding cures and remedies. They act to prevent illness where possible. They aid those facing illness or disability. The “good” that comes from illness and/or disability derives from human relations—people coming together in a common effort to fight a common enemy and to love and to assist those in need. People may become very close and loving of each other during times of serious need. Illnesses, diseases, and disabilities provide opportunities for others to commit fully to people in need and to the cause of finding cures. There is no punitive attitude toward individuals with illness, disease, or disability. There is no presumption that an affected individual is deserving of the illness, disease, or disability, or that it constitutes due punishment for some past act of the individual or a family member. However, those that knowingly spread or knowingly do not prevent the spread of preventable disease are acting with evil, and they are to be avoided at all cost, isolated, and defended against.
What is the Church’s position on sexuality and partner fidelity?
Sexuality is viewed as a basic human need, and when consensual and performed safely (e.g., in a way that will prevent the spread of disease) between consenting adults it is viewed as a beautiful form of human sharing. There is no negative judgment inherent in the Church Canons about adult sexuality. Any form of adult, consensual and safe human sexual interaction is viewed positively. Partnership fidelity is a commitment by two people to maintain exclusivity, and may be honored ceremonially and by public commitment. The ultimate union of two people is in the procreant act, and with the birth of a child, parental responsibility requires that the well-being of the child prevails over other relational considerations. Partners may dissolve a union so long as it is a consensual dissolution, communicated in public, and so long as provisions are made for the care and well-being of children; whenever possible parents should remain committed until their children reach adulthood. A permanent committed loving relationship is the fulfillment of, and an example of, a promise and a laudable social consensuality.
Can Belief Scientists be involved in military service?
The Church of Belief Science allows for self defense, defense of loved ones, and defense of one’s lived territory. However, physically offensive actions are not acceptable. A Belief Scientist can only serve in defense of lived territory, which is that inhabited territory necessary for fulfillment of basic needs. Military activity, therefore, would be circumscribed by strict adherence to the principle of non-offensiveness. But military duty is not precluded, so long as the role is not offensive or supportive of offensiveness (roles that would have to be addressed through conscientious objection).
What about free will, individual choice, and individual conscience?
Any time a person is operating in language, he or she is operating in relationships. Even when one thinks one is making an individual choice, the person is really acting according to the language and traditions that speak through the action within some social context. Choosing to go to McDonalds for a hamburger, for example, is a cultural act, as people are influenced by all those who own McDonalds, who operate the restaurant, who produce the food, who market the food, and who serve it up with a smile. A person might think he or she had a choice to go to McDonalds, but it really is an action that reflects the person’s culture more than individual choice. Acting ethically, too, is a reflection of one’s connection to an ethical community. A person might feel that he or she has chosen good over evil by means of a conscience or free will, but Belief Scientists, by way of contrast, locate choice in the process of embracing the ideals of the Church, which are socially constructed and socially accepted standards in a profession of faith–joining together with others to establish an ethical community of believers. Sharing ideals is the Belief Science alternative to “individual conscience.”
Why is it called the “ Church of Belief Science?”
The Church of Belief Science is a church devoted to the study of belief systems. But the Church is not just about believing for believing’s sake—it is also about the process whereby people commit to basic ethical principles. The Church asks adherents to demonstrate their willingness to enter into agreement about some very basic principles that derive from a rich heritage of human understanding and tolerance. The principles are imbedded in the Canons of the Church. The Canons are the foundations of Belief Science, as they define the means and mode of optimal social and behavioral functioning. The Church Canons are not viewed as universal truths; rather they are principles that Belief Scientists adhere to in establishing a spiritual collective. So beyond belief in belief, Belief Scientists must demonstrate their ability to believe with others by committing to and adhering to Canons of the Church. In other words, Belief Science is about joining a belief community that embraces the Canons of the Church. The juxtaposition of the term “belief” (as in religious belief) to “science” also has message value: one derives from the other. Where science addresses what is known to be physical or material, religion addresses what is known to be non-physical or non-material. Together they form a whole, just as the yin and the yang form a whole in eastern philosophy. It also could have been called the Church of Ethical Science, but ethics can imply a norm, which in this case is not consistent with the Church Canons, which are viewed as non-normative enduring principles of behavior. So the title “ Church of Belief Science” appears to embody the full meaning of the Church—a church of people who consensualize on the belief process and on the ethical exploration of what they experience together. The term “the Science of Belief” is also used to represent Belief Science.
How are religion and science similar or different?
Religion and science are similar in that they both are “communities of understanding,” where people in groups come together in communion over ideas. Science as a system of belief is no different than religion. People act according to a set of consensualized principles that direct their actions and interactions. The difference between science and religion is that science deals with understanding things defined as “physical,” whereas religion deals with understanding things defined as non-physical or non-material. So science as an interactive human process is no different than religion—its focus or content of study, however, is different. Science is a human interactive process to understand that which is defined to be physical. Religion is a human interactive process to understand that which is defined to be non-physical. Science and religion intersect in the study of the physical nature of human understanding, or in the philosophical exercise of defining that which is physical.
What about celibacy, fasting, vows of poverty, meditation, or other acts associated with religious traditions—are they part of the Church?
There is no requirement that members of the Church must be poor. In fact, Church members celebrate human accomplishment and members are encouraged to be accomplished in their careers, which ideally would be both selfish in self preservation and family preservation, and selfless in helping others. There is no Canon of the Church which encourages people to suffer or experience pain or poverty to demonstrate allegiance to the Church—in fact, pain and suffering are to be eschewed. Likewise, adult intimacy and procreation are viewed as beautiful means for sharing, which are encouraged. Ideally, Belief Scientists live rich lives and share their wealth in ways that support the Church, its doctrine, and its causes. Church members may agree to participate in acts such as fasting or meditation as a means to study religion (e.g., Zen), to better understand their place in nature, and/or as a means to more fully relate to the environment and others. But such actions must not be understood as isolative—as they are done in communion with those that define such acts as having some value as a means to fulfillment of Canons of the Church. However, the Church encourages adherents to partake in the “contextual centering process,” a meditative ritual that involves orientation of the five senses to both the physical environment and to a survey of one’s social support network. Centering is ideally accomplished in a group format with a priest directing or facilitating the experience.
How should Belief Scientists treat circumstances where they or their families are oppressed by individuals or groups that are despotic, unfriendly, or even evil? What should Belief Scientists do when faced with injustice or limitation of their freedom to practice their religion?
Belief Scientists should seek homes in political jurisdictions that allow for the full expression of faith and open and free communication. When confronted with circumstances where political or other factors may threaten their freedom, existence, or well being, Belief Scientists attempt to negotiate to settle any disagreements, and, where agreement is not possible (allowing the safe and unfettered practice of Belief Science), Belief Scientists will consider relocating to places where they would be welcomed. Politicians, leaders, and others in powerful political positions would be unwise to ostracize Belief Scientists, as Belief Scientists, as individuals and as a group, will be highly valued citizens—those that are productive, intelligent, creative, and law abiding. Of course, if directly threatened, and if negotiation fails, Belief Scientists have the right to defend themselves, their families, and their lived territory. They may be relentless in self defense. Also, Belief Scientists will aid other Belief Scientists in need of shelter, protection, or political exile.