|Many Truths ... One Church
How is Belief Science different than Christianity?
Belief Science is based on postmodern philosophy (a fully relationship-based philosophy as presented on this website), whereas Christianity is based on ancient ways of understanding the world. Belief Scientists believe that children are precious, innocent, and beautiful in every way, whereas Christians believe that babies are stained by original sin. Belief Scientists hold that people are basically good if their needs are met, whereas Christianity holds that people are prone to evil and must be saved. Belief Scientists believe adult consensual sex is a beautiful act, whereas Christianity prohibits or degrades consensual adult sexual activity in many forms. There is no condemnation or sin in Belief Science, whereas Christianity condemns non-believers (e.g., John 3:18), and people who do wrong are defined as sinners. Belief Science purports that when someone does something harmful to another person, forgiveness should first be sought from the offended person, whereas Christianity holds that an uninvolved third party can forgive someone's sins. If Belief Scientists as a community believe in god, then god is among them and between them in their daily interaction (a truth for the believers), whereas Christians believe in a universal god that represents the only truth. Belief Scientists treat all people fairly, including gays and women, whereas Christianity has a history of discrimination against gays and women. Belief Science values human accomplishment and encourages people to be successful and generous, whereas Christianity purports that being wealthy is an impediment to salvation. Belief Science values family and commitment to child rearing, whereas Christians are directed to leave their families to follow Christ. Belief Scientists are optimistic of the human condition and the future of humanity, whereas Christians believe there will be an apocalypse. These are just a few differences between Belief Science and Christianity.
What about "God" with a capital "G": Is the Science of Belief simply agnosticism?
No. Belief Science is not agnosticism. Agnosticism, as defined here, is the philosophical position that humans are unable to know, with any certainty, that a “god” exists. By contrast, the Science of Belief is clear in defining “truth” as deriving from consensualizing. There is no mystery of faith. There is no lack of understanding or knowing. What is known is known through relationships among human beings coming to believe together. There are knowable truths that come from sharing beliefs and from acting on those beliefs. So if Belief Scientists come to believe there is a god, then god is among them. Their interaction represents a truth of their god’s existence. But the god is not outside of them as a universal truth—god is in their interaction. Their god is with them in those moments that adherents share deeply with each other. Their god is with them and between them. Their god is in their language and in their actions. They embrace their god as they embrace each other. So if the question is about a “god” (agnosticism reflects such questioning), then it is clear that the Science of Belief is not agnosticism, because certain Belief Scientists can come to know and share with certainty their vision of their god. However, it is fully acceptable for some Belief Scientists to come to agreement to study as agnostics, so long as they abide by the Canons of the Church. In other words, god is knowable, to those that believe together, but it is just as valid to come together to believe that god may never be known (agnosticism), or even that god does not exist (atheism). The Science of Belief is a high order way of thinking that incorporates all ways of believing while holding to ethical principles in defining the acceptability of belief systems.
Is the Church of Belief Science a cult?
Start-up religions are often viewed as "cults" They may be viewed as potentially dangerous to newcomers. The Church of Belief Science is nothing like a cult. In fact, it is so different than a cult, it can be considered the "anti-cult." Cults, by definition, limit the nature and types of interactions between members. Communication with non-members is often limited, except for attempts to convice (or even to strong-arm) individuals to join the cult. Cults typically involve discouragement of dissent, active methods to suppress member doubt, isolation of members, punishment for leaving the group, a claim of superiority, and required devotion at the cost of self interests and family interests. There is often disregard for outside authority. The Church of Belief Science, by way of contrast, simply requires a commitment to 12 ethical Canons--easy guidelines that all encourage and enhance healthy relationships. Families and loving relationships are valued. Members may practice in different ways that allow minimal or significant interaction with other members of the Church, so there is no active restraint of members. Members may quit the Church simply by communicating to the Administration their resignation, or they may act outside of consensus with the ethical Canons of the Church (thereby nullifying their membership). There is no punishment for membership resignation. There is no claim to superiority; in fact, the ideals of the Church support the concept of many truths flowing from the foundational Canon of the Church--consensualizing. The free flow of ideas is valued and welcomed. People who want to escape cults, or individuals seeking to educate others about religions that are not cult-like, will be well-served to communicate the ideals of the Science of Belief.
What are the origins of the Canons of the
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
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
Belief Science. Regardless, when queried about religious affiliation, the Belief Scientist shall identify his or her religious affiliation as that of the
Belief Science, and he or she shall educate others on the nature of the
Belief Science. Belief Scientists avoid any religious activity that is inconsistent with the Canons of the
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
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.
What about forms of Satanism, or belief in religious doctrines that have histories that conflict with other or traditional religious belief or doctrine?
A Belief Scientist may study any belief system. In fact, the study of diverse belief systems is quite consistent with Canons of the Church. However, a Belief Scientist cannot consensualize with other individuals about the validity of ideas that conflict with Belief Science Canons. Therefore, any belief system that is not optimistic of the human condition, or that purports harm to others, or that purports superiority of one idea over another, as examples, would be inconsistent with Belief Science Canons and practice. But the study of any belief system, for the sake of study itself, would be valuable. Also, Belief Scientists are law-abiding citizens, so long as the laws are not in conflict with Canons of the Church; therefore, any belief system that purports illegal activity, especially in the absence of a Canonical challenge to the law, is not acceptable. Also, any belief system that places children in positions of potential harm, potential exploitation, harm, or exploitation would not be acceptable to the Church.
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 about politicians, or others who represent constituencies, who are Belief Scientists … can they vote for doctrine or policies that contradict Canons of the Church?
Politicians and other elected individuals have a responsibility to represent their constituencies. However, an elected official who votes or supports a policy inconsistent with the
Belief Science is acting in a way that is not reflective of belief in the basic Canons of the Church. In such cases, the politician or elected official should relinquish the title of “Belief Scientist” or resign political responsibility. In serious cases, membership may be suspended or permanently revoked by the Church administration. Members of the Church must recognize that membership and participation in the Church requires commitment to a few very basic principles, and that acting out-of-sync with those principles is professing one’s commitment to something other than Belief Science. However, with recommitment to the Canons of the Church, those that have acted inconsistently with Church Canons may again take a place along side other Belief Scientists, so long as their removal from the Church was not permanent.
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.
What if two Belief Scientists cannot come to consensus about the ending of a committed relationship or on some other matter? What happens then?
The Church, by philosophy, encourages mutually negotiated agreements. This is very important where children are involved in a relationship conflict, because high value is placed on the well being and health of children. Partners who are parents are encouraged to remain in a committed relationship to ensure the well being of their children, or they should come to clear agreement about shared parenting roles in the raising of the children. When two people cannot negotiate a reasonable settlement, then they must defer to mutually agreed upon arbitrators.
Can Belief Scientists be involved in military service?
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).
How is Belief Science different from the Unitarian-Universalist Church?
There are major differences between the two religions. Here are two differences. First, organizationally, the Church of Belief Science has assemblies that may be organized around different religions or philosophies (or any combination of philosophies or traditions). An Assembly of the Church of Belief Science in the study of Christ's teachings, for example, would look similar to a Christian Church. An assembly in the study of Buddhist ideals might appear to operate like a Buddhist temple. Unitarian Universalist congregations may address any number of religions or philosophies all within the operation of one congregation. Philosophically, there is also the issue of individual conscience, which is honored by the Unitarian Universalists, whereas Belief Scientists hold that there is no individual conscience--conscience (or mind) is in the social matrix. Decisions are a reflection of the ideals and principles held by members of a spiritual collective. So conscience is not about individual choice, it's about contextualized choice. This issue is a major philosophical difference between the two religions. Unitarian Universalists locate conscience (or mind) inside the individual, whereas Belief Scientist locate mind within the social web of relations within which one is enmeshed. Belief Scientists would point out that all decisions are made from a particular point-of-view involving past and present relationships, which are not only influential, but constitute the context for action.
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."
How is Belief Science different from the Baha’i faith?
Belief Science is based on a philosophy that is unique in its idea that what is known or understood comes from agreement through social interaction. This is in stark contrast to the Baha’i faith that believes that what is understood derives from an existing, objective god-force which takes multiple forms (as described by prophets, for example). Belief Scientists believe that any conceptions of a god as an absolute supreme being derives from consensualizing—socially coming to agreement and acting upon what is agreed as true. So therefore, any “god” would be within the sphere of social discourse; literally, the “god” would be between people and among people, but not outside human interaction. The Baha’i faith is founded on a belief in an objective god, whereas Belief Science is founded on a belief that what is understood to be “true” derives from people in communion and is inherent in relationships. It is possible that some Belief Scientists might come together to believe that there is no supreme being or god-force. This belief would be fully acceptable according to the Science of Belief, but not in the Baha’i faith. Also, although the Baha’i faith at face value teaches acceptance of many prophets in the name of God, the writings of Baha’u’llah demonstrate intolerance of some religious beliefs. For example, in Gleanings from the Writing of Baha’u’llah, (Baha’u’llah is a prophet at the foundation of the Baha’i faith) there is the following passage which is scathing of the Jewish faith:
These people of
Israel are even unto the present day still expecting that Manifestations which the Bible hath foretold? How many Manifestations of Holiness, how many Revealers of the light everlasting, have appeared since the time of Moses, and yet
Israel, wrapt in the densest veils of satanic fancy and false imaginings, is still expectant that the idol of her own handiwork will appear with such signs as she herself hath conceived! Thus hath God laid hold of them for their sins, hath extinguished in them the spirit of faith, and tormented them with the flames of the nethermost fire.
Such statements are not consistent with tolerance of diverse views. The Science of Belief acknowledges all belief systems as valid within the community of adherents. And those individuals who are outside of the Church are not viewed as inferior or defective in any way. The
Belief Science simply welcomes those that can abide by the Canons of the Church, and Church members certainly accept that some individuals may choose not to do so.
Why is it called the “
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
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 “
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 is the Church's role, and is the Church infallible?
The Church as an institution acts primarily to identify individuals who practice Belief Science. Its foremost role is to communicate the message of Belief Science and to facilitate communication between and among members. It certifies members as priests--teachers of the doctrine who may also perform rituals or functions at the requests of Church members. It certifies "assemblies" (groups of Church members) as meeting doctrinal standards. The Church holds no power over its members, except the Church corporate directors (or the administration) can decide and communicate on (a) the validity or nullity of membership; (b) the certification, suspension, or revocation of the status of an assembly; and/or (c) the certification, suspension, or revocation of the certification (affirmation) of a "priest." Decisions to suspend or permanently to ban someone from membership may be based on evidence of serious breaches of Church Canons or may be based on crimes against children or humanity. Compelling evidence that someone has breached Church doctrine essentially nullifies membership at the moment of the act. The Church is not viewed as infallible.
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.
Who is the founder of the
Belief Science, what is his role, and what is the source of his ideas?
The founder of the
Belief Science is Robert Rocco Cottone, a psychologist, counselor, and ethicist. His work is a combination of postmodern philosophy, the ideals of the positive psychology movement, and the application of ethics to practical problems of daily living. Cottone takes no personal income from the
Belief Science, although he reserves the financial rights and copyright of his publications.