Our beliefs define who we are. What we think, speak, or do is shaped by our beliefs. What actions and decisions we make are shaped by our beliefs. How we perceive this world and how we interact with each other are similarly shaped by our beliefs.
Beliefs, therefore, shape our understanding of this world.
But where do we get these beliefs? We learn and observe a lot from society, and those experiences mold our beliefs.
So, let’s look into some of the societal factors that impact our beliefs:
Different cultures hold different norms and values. These values and norms profoundly impact our beliefs.
We see and interpret the world through the lens of our cultural beliefs.
Like, you may live in a place where punctuality is highly valued. So, you may value timeliness more than in a culture where flexibility is cherished.
For example, punctuality is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, where being on time is seen as a sign of respect. This cultural norm influences the Japanese people to hold strong beliefs about the importance of punctuality.
Similarly in one culture, schools may allow students in casuals, while other may enforce a dress code for schoolchildren.
Religion has a powerful influence on one’s beliefs.
Religion gives us a comprehensive worldview. It answers fundamental questions about our existence, the purpose of life, and the afterlife.
For example, if you grew up in a predominantly Christian society, your beliefs might be shaped by Christian values, teachings, and traditions.
Another example involves different beliefs about handling books. In one religion it might be okay to step on a book or touch it with your feet.
However, in Hinduism, people avoid touching books by feet. And, if an individual touch it by accident, they hold the book and touch it to their forehead and feel sorry for it. It’s because of the belief that God Saraswati — A Hindu god of knowledge — lives in books. And, disrespecting a book won’t give them knowledge.
Education is a powerful force that shapes our beliefs.
Through education, we not only gain knowledge and skills but also learn about values, different perspectives, and critical thinking abilities.
Education exposes us to moral and ethical teachings, which can shape our beliefs about right and wrong.
Consider how the education system in your country might emphasize certain historical events or cultural narratives. These teachings can mold your beliefs about your nation’s identity and history.
Media significantly influences our beliefs, whether we acknowledge it or not.
We daily interact with media and get to know about world’s information through it. Therefore, what we read, hear, and watch in the media can profoundly influence our beliefs.
Media doesn’t just deliver you the facts, it can also distort truths and frame issues in a certain way.
Think about how different media outlets may present the same news story in contrasting ways. This can lead to individuals holding different beliefs about the same issue based on their media consumption.
For example, if you primarily watch one news channel, it might present a particular viewpoint on events. Such a viewpoint could influence your perspective.
Media has the power to set the agenda by deciding which stories are important and deserve attention.
So, it can influence your political beliefs too if those in power use the media to propagate their agendas. These people could collaborate with the media to talk only about the government’s successes, and hiding problematic areas under their regime.
Peer pressure and socialization can impact our beliefs.
Consider the friend group you spend the most time with. You may realise how you adopt their tastes, opinions, or even political beliefs, just to fit in with the group.
For example, imagine you have a group of friends who are all passionate about fitness and healthy eating. Over time, their enthusiasm may influence you to adopt similar beliefs about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Peer pressure can influence our decision-making too. Your friends’ opinions and beliefs may sway your choices in various aspects of life.
For example, if your friends are all pursuing careers in information technology, you might be more inclined to believe that a career in technology is the “right” path for you as well.
I entered the field of information technology because of my friend group, because they chose it as their career, and I followed suit.
Different societies have different political climates and ideologies. And, the society you live in plays a significant role in molding your political beliefs.
If you think deeper, you may realise that you resonate with particular political affiliations or ideology. It often shapes your values and priorities.
For example, if you support the idea of liberalism, you might prioritize individual rights and social equality. On the other hand, conservatism might lead you to emphasize tradition and limited government intervention. These political and ideological beliefs can also impact your views on social issues.
Let’s say you are passionate about LGBTQ+ rights. Being a liberal, you might extend your support to them. But, if you have conservative beliefs, you might approach the issue differently.
Similarly, your political and ideological beliefs guide your economic perspectives, leaning either toward socialism or capitalism.
The economic conditions of our society can strongly influence our beliefs about economic systems and fairness.
Many economic factors can influence your beliefs, such as wealth distribution, employment opportunities, entrepreneurship, innovation, consumerism, materialism, access to education, economic crises, and global economic interactions.
For example, imagine you live in a society where a small percentage of the population holds a vast majority of the wealth. This economic inequality can significantly shape your beliefs about a society’s fairness and social justice.
Let’s take another example, if you reside in a place where there are enough job opportunities, you might hold the belief that hard work leads to success and economic security.
But, if you’re in a place with high unemployment rates, your beliefs may be influenced differently. And, you might give importance to government intervention in job creation or safety nets.
If you look into your beliefs, you might observe that historical and cultural legacy of your society has a stamp on them.
Our historical and cultural heritage shapes who we are today. Because, it shares stories, tradition, and experiences with us.
Your beliefs can be influenced by different aspects of your society’s heritage, such as cultural roots and traditions, historical events and their narratives, cultural icons and historical heroes, language and communication, art, music, literature, cultural norms and values, food, cuisines, festivals, and celebrations.
For example, if your heritage is deeply rooted in a culture that values family above all else, you may develop strong beliefs about the importance of close-knit family bonds.
Additionally, consider how the history of your country, including wars, revolutions, and social movements, has influenced your beliefs about justice, freedom, and societal progress.
Today, we are living in a world that is more interconnected than ever before. So, it has exposed societies to a wide range of cultures and beliefs from around the globe. This exposure influences our core beliefs and leads us to form new beliefs as well.
When you think, you may realize how globalization has brought diverse cuisines, music, art, and ideas to your society.
For example, you can enjoy sushi from Japan in your neighborhood. You listen to K-pop music from South Korea. You can even practice yoga, which originated in India.
Such cultural exchanges expose us to new beliefs, traditions, and ways of life around the world. They broaden our horizons and challenge our preconceived notions.
Due to globalization, we are more aware of today’s challenges like climate change or pandemics. Such challenges influence us to reevaluate our beliefs.
Globalization has an economic impact on our beliefs and it has transformed the way we work and do business.
Globalization has brought attention to human rights issues worldwide. Events like #MeToo have gained global popularity and it has led people to reevaluate their beliefs about freedom, equality, and social justice.
Furthermore, globalization has made it easy to travel to foreign countries. When we visit a foreign country, we experience different cultures firsthand. Such experiences can challenge stereotypes, promote empathy, and foster a greater appreciation for global diversity.
Your beliefs can also be influenced by the laws and political systems in your society. Because, they impact your beliefs about justice, governance, and individual rights.
These laws and political systems provide you a rulebook so that you can consider what is right and wrong. They define how you and your fellow citizens can interact with one another.
For example, if your country has laws against theft, it strengthen the belief that taking someone else’s property is wrong and should be punished.
In the presence of legal and political systems, you enjoy the rights and freedom as a citizen of your country. These in turn, shape your beliefs about individual liberty. On the other hand, in some societies there are strict legal and political systems. These may mold your beliefs about right to free speech, and you may tend to avoid it.
Society undoubtedly plays a crucial role in shaping the beliefs we hold. Socialization, education, cultural values, peer pressure, laws, government, and media all contribute to shaping our values, attitudes, and convictions.
However, it’s important to remember that you have the power to question, adapt, and evolve your beliefs as you engage with the world around you.
So, continue to learn more, explore more, and shape your beliefs in a way that reflects your unique journey in this diverse and dynamic society we all share.
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