Zinnia Jones gave me a fine bit of insight with her blog post:

Those with No Allegiance to Reality

It reminded me of an interesting way that some of my previous students would use the term “belief”.  Many of them would say, “That’s just a belief,” or “Everyone has a right to their beliefs,” or “That’s a belief, not a fact.”

At times there seemed to be no assumption that a belief was true or even thought to be true.  There was certainly not an acknowledgement that “beliefs” ought to be internally examined – much less be subject to external scrutiny.

The idea, it seemed was that “belief” was what you had left after you accepted “facts”.  “Facts” were not “beliefs”.  “Facts” devoured “beliefs”.  If a strongly held “belief” didn’t fit the facts, the “facts” were accused of being NOT facts, but beliefs.

If “belief” is defined in this way, the way it was presented to me as a child makes more sense.  It was presented as a choice.  How could you choose to be convinced of something or not?  I can’t just decide to believe that I just won the lottery, or am currently sitting on a beach in the Bahamas, or any number of things that are counter to direct observation.

To do so would lead to insanity.  Right?

Not so, if you decide to define “belief” as some sort of idea or concept that does not require honest conviction, evidence, or even….for lack of a better term…..belief.