This essay presents new understandings of belief systems, which determine our beliefs, and in turn determine our behaviors. These understandings are of existential interest in that they present a novel approach to the understanding of religion and of politics. The essay speaks to questions such as why do some people believe in God, while others are non-believers, and why are there two major political leanings: liberal and conservative? The answer offered here is that we have inherited two belief systems, with each contributing a set of beliefs.
My interest in how belief systems work began in 2002 when, while musing about 9/11 of the previous year, I asked myself “What makes me (or anyone) tick?” I became so absorbed in seeking the answer to the “tick” question that I retired from the practice of medicine in order to do so. It took eight years of vigorous searching before I found the fundamental concept that provided an answer to that question. In 2010, I published The Primal Instinct, which proposed that, because of natural selection, all human behavior is based on security, so that security is the Rosetta Stone for the understanding of our beliefs and behaviors, and of the belief systems, which determine the beliefs. I have subsequently placed a series of essays on my website, www.mdjaffe.com, which clarified, rectified, and expanded concepts introduced in the book.
Belief systems introduce an interesting and extremely useful new method for understanding and categorizing beliefs and behaviors. The task of this essay is to explain, on the basis of a security paradigm, how belief systems, beliefs, and behaviors actually work. If that task is successfully met, it will also explain how placebo deception influences religious and political beliefs, and how cultural evolution, which results when the cognitive belief system (CBS), which is an upgraded form of the emotional belief system (EBS), increasingly dominates belief and, thereby, transforms us from a savage to a civilized state – and much more.