Who Needs a Belief System?

“We don’t need no stinkin’ belief system.” I’m riffing on the classic line from John Huston’s 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where a band of  outlaws posed as Federales. When those being robbed asked to see badges, one of the outlaws replied, “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”

It’s a funny line, and it went on to become part of our cultural lexicon. And it’s true when it comes to spirituality – we don’t need a belief system.

When I experienced a spiritual coming to, I thought, “Gees, what do I believe?” I knew there was a presence about me, and I had started to learn how to increase the experience of that presence. It was changing my life remarkably. But what did that make me? A Buddhist? A Hindu? A New Ager?

I started combing books on spirituality to figure out what I believed. Since I was having all of these spiritual experiences, I must believe in something, right? Looking back, that seems a bit silly, but I truly did associate spirituality with belief or faith.

What I found in my search of world religions and spiritual practices is that the roots of most belief systems touched upon experiences similar to what I was going through. Yet once religions became well-established they tended to avoid or diminish these direct, raw spiritual experiences in favor of narrow doctrine. But when most religions were young, they tended to be a bit wild with radical awakenings.

I came away from my investigation with the sense that spiritual experiences or awakenings are quite different from belief systems, spiritual organizations, or religions.

That’s fine. While it’s a pleasure to spend time with people who are also experiencing spiritual breakthroughs – and I learn from every person I meet in spirituality – I don’t need to have no stinkin’ badge.


10 thoughts on “Who Needs a Belief System?

  1. This is so true. When I was a child I talked to Jesus and the disciples in my backyard, one of many direct spiritual experiences. But when I tried to talk about it in Sunday school I was told it wasn’t real. I couldn’t figure out how they were so excited about Moses and a burning bush and I had Jesus in my backyard and that wasn’t considered a big deal 🙂 It seemed like one the spiritual teacher had their experiences, no one else was allowed any but had to funnel their spirituality through those past experiences. That feels so dead to me and so wrong.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    • So many of those who put spirituality first as adults had spiritual experiences as a child. I have yet to meet anyone who had a spiritual experience as a child and also had that experience taken seriously by parents or other adults — or even other kids.

  2. There is not an autonomous and separate STINKING “ME” to have a STINKING BELIEVE system. You see, the whole appearance of the universe including the stinking “YOU” , stinking “ME and the stinking believe system are merely appearances in consciousness. The problem is that the appearance of a stinking “ME” have a stinking believe that these stinking “ME” or “YOU” is real. What a show! — What a show!

  3. Great read…childhood spirituality not taken seriously…..or believed….Now you have me thinking about the way I school and parent. Thanks. No badges here either.

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