Is belief an essential human need? Why do so many people harbor beliefs that are antithetical to scientifically proven facts? How does society preserve the sanctity of truth in the midst of widespread misinformation and delusion? These substantial questions drive the new documentary Reasons to Believe, a fascinating study of the many forces which form our political, religious and moral ideologies.
The film features insights from experts in the fields of science, psychology, sociology, and neuroscience. Each interview subject addresses the aspects of belief that are as old as humankind itself, and continue to define who we are and how we relate to the world today.
The need to believe seems to be stitched into the fabric of our DNA. The film sets forth the notion that our beliefs are often based on raw emotional need rather than rational thought and logical reasoning. We choose our beliefs based on how they make us feel, how they are reinforced by those around us, and how they help us integrate into our chosen group. Any scientific evidence that contradicts our strongly held belief systems are easily dismantled, dismissed and distorted. We will go to any lengths and embrace any illusion in order to justify our core beliefs.
We've witnessed this disturbing phenomenon play out in recent times through our politics, and the growing dismissal of the science behind climate change. Ideologies have made us more divided than ever before. But these tendencies express themselves in more than just political debate. They form the basis of all magical thinking, superstitions, conspiracy theories, and cult mentalities.
The film takes its time in exploring the facets of the human experience that enable our beliefs, including the role of evolution, the divide between perception and reality, the battle between fear and reward, and our need to discern patterns from chaos. Most interestingly, the film debates the rights of the individual to choose and practice their own beliefs even if they run of the risk of endangering the masses.
Reasons to Believe is an absorbing examination of human need, the pressures of group-think, and how we can break free of the social and psychological ties that distance us from truth.
Directed by: Ben Fama Jr.