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Don’t believe in “world belief”

From the October 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Imagine there’s someone outside your house, loudly and belligerently declaring that something you know to be true is nonsense. In particular, suppose that something is Christian Science. As someone who studies and practices Christian Science, you’d likely strive to separate the attitude from the person. You’d pray to understand that this individual is as much a child of God as you are, and that the false impression they’re voicing has no power to harm them or you. You’d pray to see that any falsehood, any false state of thought, must and will be destroyed, replaced with the joy of spiritual truth. 

Now imagine two such individuals, or three. Perhaps that wouldn’t be too different—you’d handle it the same way. But what about ten? What about a mob, such as Christ Jesus and, later, Paul faced on several occasions? What about millions or even billions of people all telling you, directly or indirectly, by means of advertisements, entertainment, social media, casual conversations, etc., that you’re a fool if you think there’s any reality beyond what the material senses tell us, or even that you’re crazy if you think there’s a God at all? 

In theory, it shouldn’t matter. Truth is true, regardless of who does or doesn’t believe it. But the pressure of feeling persecuted, misunderstood, or even ignored may tempt us as students of Christian Science to feel worn down, or to question our faith and trust in God. We might even feel tempted to doubt Christian Science—or perhaps, more subtly, our ability to practice it. 

Christian Scientists sometimes refer to such mental pressure as “world belief,” and these beliefs come in many forms. Some involve humanity in general—beliefs connected with aging or with contagious disease, for instance—while others are very specific in feeling and expressing contempt or even hatred for religion, including (or even particularly) Christian Science.

Mary Baker Eddy doesn’t use the term “world belief” in her writings, but she covers the basic concept in a number of places. For example, on page 155 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she writes: “The universal belief in physics weighs against the high and mighty truths of Christian metaphysics. This erroneous general belief, which sustains medicine and produces all medical results, works against Christian Science; and the percentage of power on the side of this Science must mightily outweigh the power of popular belief in order to heal a single case of disease.” 

How can we pray consistently and effectively, so as to “outweigh” the mental burden of the “popular belief” consisting of many millions of contrary human opinions? If it were really a case of our own personal minds pitted against countless antagonistic minds, the situation would be discouraging and even overwhelming. But that’s not the case. 

“World belief” is not a thing to fear or fight against. It’s a term describing an illusion that has no intrinsic reality.

In fact, “world belief” is itself a false belief—an illusion or suggestion which seems true and real, but which ultimately has no substance because it doesn’t come from God, who is the only Mind, the one true consciousness. 

Now, you might be thinking, “Hold on a minute. All those people in the world who believe mainly or only in what the material senses tell them—their feelings and opinions are somehow not real?” Well, the individuals, as creations of God, are real; but the seeming state of mind that believes in matter as reality is not real because it isn’t sourced in Spirit, God, and therefore doesn’t constitute any individual’s true identity or consciousness as the image and likeness of the divine Mind. 

Recall the example of people outside your house: God couldn’t and didn’t create even one flawed or misguided individual, and it follows that God certainly didn’t create millions of them! 

The idea that a world full of misguided or bad people is illusory is comforting, but we need more than a mere intellectual grasp of that idea. We need solid conviction, a profound feeling not just in our minds but in our hearts that it is true. 

How can we attain this conviction? For one thing, by endeavoring to express in our daily thoughts and actions the qualities of God, good, such as compassion, integrity, patience, persistence, purity, and so forth. As we do this, goodness becomes more real to us, more tangible, more natural, more firmly established as our identity, and evil in all its forms correspondingly dissolves. As we progress spiritually, the claims of any reality apart from God fall away, and we see more clearly that those claims can be no part of us or of anyone else, individually or collectively. 

It’s also important to realize that we ourselves are not the source of the spiritual qualities we express; God is. Nor does the expression of those qualities depend on our personal efforts or willpower. As Paul says in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” These two things—the sincere effort to grow spiritually, and acknowledging God as the source of the desire and ability to do so—will go a long way toward helping us see through the impositions of world belief.

Nobody in history has experienced more mental opposition or hostility than Jesus. He was also openly harassed, ridiculed, and threatened by the religious and political powers of his day. But those so-called powers couldn’t prevent him from healing multitudes and performing works that seemed miraculous to the human mind, because he acknowledged only one Mind, God. On more than one occasion he walked unhurt and unseen through enraged crowds intent on killing him. He didn’t fear popular opinion in any form, because he knew it had no power; it was based on the lie that evil is real, but he defined evil or the devil, which can be regarded as another term for mortal mind and its associated beliefs, as a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, Modern English Version). 

In short, “world belief” is not a thing to fear or fight against. It’s not a thing at all. It’s a term describing an illusion that has no intrinsic reality, like the terms “green unicorn” or “flying pig.” They describe something that doesn’t really exist. 

In God’s kingdom—the only real dwelling place for each of us as God’s creation—there are no individual mortal minds and therefore no collective mortal mind, and consequently no effect from mortal thoughts or opinions, expressed or unexpressed. Above all, we’re not lonely spiritual ideas living in a material world populated by mortals. When we’re as certain of these statements as we are of the fact that pigs don’t fly, we’ll be affected less and less by world belief or beliefs.

The question may arise, If world belief doesn’t have any reality or power, why do we have to deal with it at all? Why can’t we just ignore it? For the same reason we can’t ignore a mistake in a math problem. From the point of view of a good mathematician, the mistake is in some sense not real. It certainly isn’t true, and it’s definitely not part of the discipline of mathematics. But the mistake must be seen as a mistake and corrected, in order for the problem to be worked out properly. So it is with world belief. It has no ultimate reality, but it must be seen as unreal and replaced with the truth that God is the only Mind.

Consistent, daily prayer is needed in order to counter and eliminate false suggestions. Mrs. Eddy makes many references to this need. For example, in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, she says: “One thing I have greatly desired, and again earnestly request, namely, that Christian Scientists, here and elsewhere, pray daily for themselves; not verbally, nor on bended knee, but mentally, meekly, and importunately. When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread, it is not given a stone,—but more grace, obedience, and love” (p. 127). (See other references to such mental defense in our Leader’s writings: Manual of The Mother Church 40:11 and 42:4–8; The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany 128:30–32; Science and Health 442:30.)

The opposition we face today may come in different forms, but it really is not new. Mrs. Eddy was many times called deluded and worse for writing Science and Health. The Bible is the story of the contest between Spirit and “the world.” The Old Testament prophets were often ostracized. And, as mentioned above, Jesus himself was persistently persecuted and eventually crucified. But that wasn’t the end of the story. It was the beginning, because three days later he rose from the grave and a new age dawned on humanity. 

In the sixteenth chapter of the book of John, Jesus tells his disciples that they will face troubles and persecutions in the world after he is no longer with them humanly. But he also tells them something that is just as encouraging today as it was two thousand years ago: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (verse 33).

Jesus expected his followers to follow his example, and through daily dedication, we can and we joyfully will overcome anything worldly that claims to separate us from the reality that God, Love, is all.

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