Religious Beliefs

Beliefs are collections of thoughts or ideas we hold to be true. We’re not born with them – all beliefs are learned, many in childhood.

Nothing we believe is ever certain. Beliefs are transitory in nature, and millions have died for beliefs that no longer hold water, for instance that the world is flat, heavy objects can’t fly and metal ships can’t float.

Having adopted a belief, we take it for granted. We make the ‘facts’ fit the belief and ignore any evidence that doesn’t support it. That’s the essence of religious belief – giving sanction to an idea that doesn’t bear rational scrutiny and then clinging to that idea despite the evidence.

Religious beliefs form when people gravitate towards a set of ideas that appear to explain the some or all of the mysteries of our existence. These beliefs are reinforced by rules, rituals and social pressure; fear of punishment too in some circumstances. Minds close and an ‘us and them’ attitude forms.

Most regions are inspired by high ideals, but, like all beliefs, they must be open to analysis, appraisal and criticism. All contain SOME truth, but none contain the WHOLE truth because this has not yet been revealed to us at this stage of our evolution.

How do we know what religion we are?

A friend told me of an incident that took place many years ago when he attended Sunday School as a child. The teacher asked, ‘How do we know we’re Methodists and not Catholics or Church of England?’ He retorted, ‘How do we know we’re Christians and not Muslims, Hindus or Jews?’ The teacher had no satisfactory reply.

The religion to which we subscribe depends largely on where were born and what our parents believed. I was born in England at a time when Christianity was the dominant faith. If I had been born in Southern India, I would probably have been brought up a Hindu; in Nepal, a Buddhist; in Israel, a Jew; in Saudi Arabia, a Moslem, and so on.

Nowadays, less than one in five Brits claim to follow an organised religion, and these include virtually all Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs who take their religion very seriously. Those born in today’s Britain outside the Asian community are likely to be raised with no religion at all.

Is this a bad thing? That’s a matter of opinion. Truth does not depend on our belonging to a particular religious group!

Religious symbolism

How do we account for the animosity that exists between various religions and even between different denominations of the same religion when 90% of their teachings is the same? The explanation lies in the fact that the living message of spirituality is all too often hidden beneath symbols and metaphors that are mistaken for reality and rituals that divide rather than unite.

Look behind the superficial differences in religions

Look beyond the superficial differences to what the religions have in common. For example, all major religions teach modesty in dress. That’s why men and women are expected to cover their legs, shoulders and sometimes their heads when visiting a place of worship. Some religions take this further, insisting that women cover their hair when outside the home. The underlying motivation is the same – only the expression is different.

Just because another person’s faith doesn’t resonate with you doesn’t mean it has no value. There are many paths leading to the same Truth. If someone wants to argue that one religion is better or worse than another, tell them you see the good and bad in all religions and want everyone to be free to find the truth for themselves wherever they may find it.

As we grow in spiritual awareness, religious differences fall away, leading to a common experience that encompasses all.


©David Lawrence Preston, 11.11.2016

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The traveller and the monk – an ancient tale

One day a traveller was walking along a road. As he walked he noticed a monk working in the fields beside the road. The traveller turned to the monk and asked, ‘Excuse me, do you mind if I ask you a question?’

‘Not at all,’ replied the monk.

‘I am travelling from the village in the mountains to the village in the valley and I was wondering if you knew what it is like in the village in the valley?’

‘What was your experience of the village in the mountains?’ asked the monk.

‘Awful,’ replied the traveller. ‘I found the people most unfriendly. The villagers don’t take kindly to strangers. So tell me, what can I expect in the village in the valley?’

‘I am sorry,’ said the monk, ‘I think your experience will be much the same there.’ The traveller thanked him despondently and walked on.

Later that day another traveller was walking down the same road and he also came upon the monk.

‘I’m going to the village in the valley,’ said the second traveller. ‘Do you know what it is like?’

‘I do,’ replied the monk, ‘but first tell me – where have you come from?’

‘I’ve come from the village in the mountains.’

‘And how was that?’

‘Wonderful! I felt very much at home. Everyone was so helpful and the people were kind and generous. I am sad to have left there. And what of the village in the valley?’ he asked again.

‘I think you will find it much the same,’ replied the monk. ‘Good day to you.’

‘Thank you,’ the traveller replied. He smiled, and continued on his way.

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The Power of Beliefs

Beliefs are collections of thoughts, or ideas which we hold to be true. All beliefs are learned, mostly in childhood. Most of our beliefs come from our elders. Nothing we believe (as opposed to know) is ever certain.

Millions have died for beliefs that most of us no longer accept, for example:

  • People were once tortured and killed for challenging the conventional belief that the world was flat.
  • The Romans believed it was perfectly acceptable to watch their fellow humans being torn apart by wild animals as a form of entertainment.
  • In South and Central America, it was once believed that the gods looked favourably on sacrifices which could include tearing out the hearts of live human beings.
  • In Europe in the Middle Ages, it was considered God’s will to burn and drown women who showed signs of heightened intuition.
  • In the so-called ‘Age of Reason’ (17th and 18th Centuries), white Europeans thought it right and proper to buy and sell their African brothers and transport them as cargo thousands of miles into slavery.

Having adopted a belief, we take it for granted. We make the ‘facts’ fit the belief and ignore any evidence that doesn’t support it. That’s why unquestioned beliefs are shaky foundations for living.

 Three types of belief

 There are three main types of belief:

  1. Beliefs to which we subscribe in public. We may not truly believe them all, but go along with them to impress, avoid upsetting others or creating a bad impression. We’re normally aware which of our beliefs fall into this category.
  2. Beliefs we tell ourselves in private, which may differ from what we believe in front of others. We may not be aware of some of these since it is possible to lie to ourselves.
  3. Beliefs which are so deeply ingrained we don’t even think about them. We may not even be aware that they are just beliefs. They affect most of what we do whether we’re thinking of them or not.

Self aware people are fully conscious of which beliefs fall into which category and are able to identify negative and self-limiting beliefs and work with them. Sometimes a therapist is needed to bring dysfunctional beliefs to the surface and resolve them.


When a belief is expressed repeatedly with emotion, it becomes an attitude. People with a positive attitude see the world differently; they enjoy the best life has to offer, not because more good things come their way, but because they see the good in whatever comes their way. They also create better circumstances for themselves.

How do you feel when you approach a situation with a positive attitude compared with when you approach it from a negative point of view? As long as we have the ability to think for ourselves, we can choose our attitude. We can establish causes intended to bring specific results. This is how we co-create, with universal forces, our circumstances and experiences in life.

Power of Beliefs

That’s how powerful beliefs are. They define who we think we are, what we think of others and how we think the world works. And yet nothing we believe is ever certain, prompting the philosopher Bertrand Russell to write, ‘I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.’


©David Lawrence Preston, 10.11.2016

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The Third Principle of Relationships

The Third Principle of relationships is:

Unless you have a genuine interest in others, your relationships will never be fulfilling.

Your attitudes manifest in the way you conduct yourself and is sensed by others.

It’s simple: if you dislike people, have little interest in them and are constantly judging and criticising, you alienate them.

Relationships as a mirror

Relationships are like a mirror reflecting back the way you are. E.g. if you’re the kind of person who thinks most other people are selfish, it’s probably because you have a tendency towards selfishness yourself; similarly, jealousy says a lot more about your insecurities than the people you’re jealous of.

Once we learn to see relationships reflecting back the way we are, then we’re on the way to genuine personal growth. No more snapping at people because we’ve had a hard day; no more blaming someone else for our failures or unhappiness.

Place the responsibility for your relationships exactly where it lies – with yourself. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator, decide what needs to be changed and go ahead – change it. It’s your choice, and no-one else can do it for you.


©David Lawrence Preston, 2.8.2016

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Secrets of a Long Life

A wise sage once said that it was his intention to die young at a great age! And there are indeed many octogenarians and older who still look good, are active, healthy, trim and have all their mental faculties.

Ageing is a fact of life. No-one looks forward to getting old, and some people go to drastic lengths with scalpels, implants and drugs to try and avoid it. But is there really anything we can do to retard the ageing process and prolong life, or is disguising it all we can do? Should we embrace the ageing process, or fight it? Should we grow old gracefully, disgracefully or under heavy disguise?

Life expectancy has been rising. Today, British men and women can expect to live well into their eighties, women longer than men. Is there anything we can do to deliberately prolong life and maintain good health into our eighties, nineties and beyond? Well, barring accidents there is.

young fitness woman running on sunrise beach

What’s the secret?


Attitude is one of the things that thriving senior citizens have in common. Ageing expert Dr Marios Kyriazis says, ‘Our attitude towards old age plays an important part in our own longevity. Many people consider advanced age to be a disadvantage instead of a positive asset. They expect old age to be a period of decrepitude and suffering instead of a period of new challenges and new experiences.’

Choose your parents and grand-parents wisely!

Medical evidence suggests that longevity runs in families. A major French study of centenarians examined every aspect of lifestyle and psychological make-up and found only one common factor – they all came from families of long-lived folk.

Some people seem genetically programmed for a longer life. Some scientists believe that every person is born with an individual biological ‘clock’, preset to a certain expiry date. They are confident that one day they will find a longevity gene, and when this happens we will be able to extend our natural lifespan to one hundred and thirty or beyond.

We cannot do anything about our genes, but we know that certain lifestyle changes keep the main life threatening diseases at bay.

Refuse to accept the effects of ageing

People with a strong desire to stay young take better care of themselves. And people who look younger than they are have more energy, suffer less anxiety and make love more often than those who look their chronological age.

Stay slim

Recent research suggests that you will live longer and be healthier if you get your bodyweight down to around twenty-percent lower than the current recommended weight, while maintaining a full intake of vitamins and minerals.

Keep laughing

You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing!

A Sense of Purpose

People who have a sense of purpose, know what they want, are self-motivated and take responsibility for themselves are more likely to live long. Senility is rare in people who have maintained a lively interest in the world around them. This is probably the greatest factor of all.

‘Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished:

If you’re alive, it isn’t.’

 Richard Bach

 ©David Lawrence Preston, 16.7.2016

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Most of us think we know what makes us happy, but do we?

I spotted a competition in a newspaper recently. ‘Change your life forever!’ it announced in huge letters. ‘Win a new home, a car, a dream holiday, £20,000 a year for life to help you maintain your new, luxurious lifestyle, and enjoy VIP treatment from celebrity experts.’ Well, obviously if you won this handsome prize your life would be different, but would you be any happier?

History suggests you would not. Possibly you would feel better for a few months, but more likely the effects would be temporary. It would still be you with these things. If you were unhappy before, happiness would still elude you.

We seek happiness by pandering to the senses, but if we knew what really made us happy, we would crave very little. Why? Because happiness cannot be earned, owned, travelled to, worn or consumed. It is the experience of living every moment with love, style, and gratitude. And it comes not from external things, but from within. Research shows that happiness is largely influenced by non-physical factors such as our values, attitudes and beliefs. For example:

  • Across all cultures, people who have a happy marriage, spend time with their families, enjoy caring friendships, a varied and rewarding social life and worthwhile goals which are enjoyable to pursue tend to be happier than average.
  • People only grow happier as they get richer if they start below the poverty line. Lottery winners, for instance, are no happier than the rest of us, and despite the massive increase in wealth in developed countries in the last fifty years, levels of happiness have not increased.
  • Age, gender, wealth, education, nationality and race are unrelated to happiness.

Spiritually inclined people are generally happier because they have a sense of meaning that brings hope, purpose and optimism, all of which are closely linked to happiness. Once, this would have surprised me since my religious programming taught me that life is suffering. But I now know that suffering is not inherent to life. We bring suffering upon ourselves through ignorance. We let our ego control our behavior and we flout the spiritual laws – Cause and Effect and Attraction. When we let go of unhealthy desires, accept ourselves and other people, and stop resisting ‘what is’, we allow life to flow.

Take responsibility for your happiness

We gain a wonderful sense of freedom when we understand that it is not events and circumstances that determine our happiness. We have no control over what others think, say or do, and if we cannot rely on these for our happiness. As the philosopher Epictetus said, ‘There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of your will.’

Happiness comes from inside. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you are unhappy with yourself, you will be unhappy with what you do, where you are, who you’re with, what you achieve or what you have – with life, in fact.

Happiness is an attitude

Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that, ‘Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’

Broadcaster Hugh Downs, concurred. ‘A happy person is not a person with a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.’

Attitudes are spectacles through which we see the world. A person with happy attitudes sees things which justify their happiness; an unhappy person sees mainly things that justify their unhappiness. Bad things happen to everybody, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy. It’s dwelling on the negative that wrecks lives.

Western culture spreads unhelpful beliefs about happiness. We are taught that it has to be earned, paid for and deserved, otherwise we are expecting something for nothing. Not so! Happiness is our birthright and is available to all. Claim it! This is not a selfish attitude. If you don’t have happiness, how can you share it? And how can you make anyone else happy by being miserable?

Happiness is a journey, not a destination

There’s an Eastern proverb, ‘There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.’ It reminds us to treasure every moment.

If you believe that your happiness depends on getting somewhere, you’re mistaken. When you arrive at your destination, you find that the elation soon wears off and you’re no happier than before. Why? Because achieving your goals takes place in the future, but happiness can only exist in the present.

Take pleasure from achieving your goals, but don’t allow your happiness to depend on achieving them. Instead, enjoy the process. If you succeed – great! If you don’t, you’ve had fun trying, grown as a person and probably done some good along the way.

Some things I’ve learned about happiness

Happiness is not an absence of problems; it is faith in our ability to deal with them. Problems are part of life. Every problem has something to teach us. If you’re waiting for all your problems to be solved or hoping for a life without problems, you’ll wait in vain. Part of happiness is enjoying challenges, overcoming difficulties and learning from the process.

Don’t confuse happiness with fun. Sure, happy people have lots of fun, but happiness and fun are not the same. Happiness is a lasting and stable state of being, while fun is transitory. Fun pastimes bring pleasure for a while, but the effect wears off once the activity ends. To be happy, we don’t need everything to be fun. It’s necessary to experience tedium from time to time. I’ve laboured in factories, lifted heavy bags of stinking manure from a leaky barn onto a lorry, done mind-numbing office work and sold household products door to door. All these jobs were unpleasant but I knew they were just stepping stones.

Many people are drawn into fun activities like getting drunk, eating, drugs and sex, only to find that they merely distract them from their problems and in the long term make matters worse. Instead, focus the mind and lay down the right causes. This is the way to find enduring happiness.

Count your blessings. Look for the blessings in everything; there always are some. You may not be able to see the bigger picture, but behind the appearances all is in order. The world is a beautiful and bounteous place. Be grateful for it all.

Be cheerful. Happiness is infectious; cheerfulness attracts happy people. Be cheerful even if you’re not feeling 100% inside. Why let your physical or emotional state spoil someone else’s day?

Smile a lot. Look for the funny side in every situation. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Laugh loud and often. Laughter is good for you. It can help deal with many things including depression and stress. It stimulates the organs as you take in more oxygen, and leaves you with a pleasantly relaxed feeling.

Buy yourself a Laughing Buddha. The Laughing Buddha is a wandering monk who symbolises happiness and smiles knowingly at the absurdity of human behaviour. According to legend, if you rub his pot belly, you will have prosperity and good luck. The Laughing Buddha reminds us that life not to be taken too seriously. Play well, but remember that much of our behaviour is a game in the wider scheme of things.

Music and song. Some music has an uplifting quality, and some (e.g. heavy metal, gangster rap, electro-disco beats etc.) has been shown to weaken the body’s immune system and bring on depression. So choose what you listen to carefully. Singing and chanting are also good for you.

The Inner Smile – not a movement of the lips, but an attitude. Imagine your whole body smiling and project the smile into the world around you. The Inner Smile dissolves inner blockages, invigorates, and enhances your ability to love and be happy. Start by relaxing your forehead and imagining your brow chakra open and smiling. Let the smile spread into your eyes, down the entire length of your body, and into your internal organs. Then let it radiate into your aura.

The ancient Masters of India and China taught special meditative techniques to enhance the Inner Smile. It is said that the enlightened Masters had incredible smiles which came from within and affected everyone in their presence.

Stop making comparisons. Commercial interests have a great deal to gain by making us feel dissatisfied. They encourage us to compare ourselves with others knowing that only an unsatisfied need motivates. Advertisers skilfully encourage us to want what others have

Happiness, though, has nothing to do with one’s appearance, wealth, achievements, possessions and so on, so why compare? What’s the point of weighing one set of delusions against another? Dropping comparisons from your thinking and speaking is guaranteed to increase your happiness and wellbeing.

Let happiness come to you. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, ‘Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you sit down quietly, may alight on you.’

Happiness is an attitude, a state of consciousness. Have you ever tried chasing an attitude?  When we discover what makes us unhappy, stop doing those things and endeavour to act in harmony with Universal Law, happiness comes and gently sits on our shoulder.

Before he came to power, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that in the not too distant future, governments will be judged on how they contribute to the happiness of their electorate!* Now there’s a thought!


©David Lawrence Preston, 17.4.2016

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*These fine sentiments evaporated, though, once he came to power!