The cut, finalized copy of the work I wrote for a speech tournament.
| Imagine this. You’re walking down the street, just minding your own business, when suddenly; a man taps you on the shoulder. “Greetings!” he says. “My name is Hamlet Vivaldi! After my family endured several generations of seclusion from society, I have returned to reclaim what is rightfully mine– for I am the heir to the throne of the lost city of Atlantis! My goal is to raise the ancient city from the ocean depths, and restore it to its original beauty. And all I need from you is your credit card information.
There are likely many responses to such a scenario. Some would shrug him off and walk away. Others would openly laugh at him. Shy people would probably cringe, stammer a bit, and shuffle away from the guy. I would play along with him for a while – after all, I don’t have a credit card.
However, you might have noticed something about all those varied responses. Not one of those hypothetical people took him seriously. And to be honest, who would? The instant this “Hamlet Vivaldi” had opened his mouth, he was instantly categorized as a joker, a con artist. To believe such a ridiculous thing would be, well, ridiculous.
But how different is this from the stories and facts that we hear every single day? We’ve been told that the world is round when it seems flat to all of our senses. We’ve been taught that everything in the universe consists of miniscule particles, invisible to the naked eye. After one takes into account all the crazy and wild things they have already accepted about life, it’s not so much of a step to believe in the words of “Hamlet Vivaldi” – and his story isn’t even the craziest.
In order to dig deeper into this subject, we have to know what we’re actually talking about. “Belief”, as defined by the convenient and modern resource, dictionary dot com, is: confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. Now, dictionaries seem to enjoy using big words, which confuses me, since I thought their purpose was to explain things in a simple way so people could actually understand it. But what the text says is this: a belief is something that someone considers true, but isn’t known to be a universal fact. There’s room for opinions, which is where the fun part comes in. Discussion. Disagreement. Debate. You, and everyone else in the world, can call one belief utter nonsense, then turn around and call another belief utter fact. It’s a sign of how far human civilization has progressed – no longer do we see the truth of statements in black or white, but rather in varied shades of grey that differ between each person.
I chose to write my original oratory on belief and faith simply because it has always fascinated me. The fact that something can be held as truth, without sufficient evidence or proof, is remarkable to me. The fact that the same belief can be held by millions of people just boggles my mind. What are the effects of this phenomenon? How could it be good? How might it be bad? What I hope to convey to you all today is my urgency for society to begin questioning its beliefs. I shall compare both the positive and negative benefits of such ideals, and then explain the path society should take regarding it. This is the weird, wonderful world of faith and belief.
Faith and belief can have amazing effects. It can bring someone assurance, confidence, self-esteem, even happier lives! It’s said that much of the quality of your life depends on your outlook on it. If that’s true, then belief possibly might be the best way to improve anyone’s life.
Religion makes another appearance in this sub-topic, because of the positive, in fact, miraculous, effect it has on believers. The prospect that beyond this life lies another one is extremely appealing, and provides a huge incentive for its followers to live fulfilling and constructive lives. This not only benefits the person, but entire the community at large. It creates a sense of peace and happiness, which would be difficult to obtain any other way. In short, belief can be powerful factor in leading a positive life, which immediately makes it one of the most important factors of anything – what’s more important than a better life? You’d be hard-pressed to find an answer.
Of course, belief isn’t just an angel showered in glowing light. Like everything in the universe, there is a flip side to faith, an opposite side of the coin. The concept of belief is a two-edged sword – it can both help and hurt you.
While faith in things in itself is a good thing, the situation can instantly plummet depending on what you’re believing in. Religion makes yet another appearance here, in possibly its most controversial form. It’s true that billions of people believe in some sort of religion or another, but having more people believe in the same thing doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing. Religion has created unity and peace between people many times in history, but at the same time it has generated wars and dissent, separation and hate.
Everything that ever was considered evil in history started from the thoughts of one person – the ideals of a person – believing that whatever act he or she was doing, it was actually the right one. When Adolf Hitler commanded a German force into exterminating Jews – people he thought were inferior to the Germans, he truly believed that he was serving the greater good. That belief of his caused the deaths of over six million Jews. Beliefs can separate people, trick them into following incorrect facts, force them to make bad inferences and terrible decisions. They are the base cause to some of the most horrific events in human history.
Imagine again that you’re walking down the street. No, there’s no strange man called Hamlet Vivaldi this time, but what you do see is this: a large, gaping hole in the sidewalk in front of you. Nobody feels comfortable walking around a giant hole in the ground, right? So what you do is take a very thin layer of cement, and use it to cover up the hole, making the sidewalk look as good as new – or so it seems. The question arises…what happens when you walk down the sidewalk?
The primary problem with belief is that it fills blank in your mind – a hole – with something unquestionable. There’s no point in questioning what you already know, after all. And if you’re correct about your belief, then you lucked out. You’re fine. But what if you’re wrong? What happens then? That thin cement layer crumbles as you try to rely on it. You fall into the trap set by that belief. You fall into the same mindset as Adolf Hitler. You suffer, without even realizing it, because you don’t know where the problem is, because you don’t see anything wrong with your belief! Think about it! This, these beliefs, they are the reason for all of mankind’s conflicts, all of mankind’s difficulties. And we have to fight it.
Personally, I firmly “believe” that fighting for each truth is much more fulfilling than simply accepting a belief, however widespread it might be. I don’t wish to cover up that hole in the sidewalk with just a thin layer of cement. I wish to fill it up, bottom to top, no matter how long it takes. And that is what society has to do as well. If humankind is to truly advance past the level of civilization that we currently have, we need to drop the old habits that no longer fit this age. Civilization needs to start questioning what really is true, and what is only perceived as such. Once we reach that stage, humankind will be ready to work together as a whole, and fully deserve to call themselves an advanced species. But it starts with us. So as I wrap up my speech, this is my question to everyone here:
What will belief mean to you?