The concept of “belief” makes 1000% more sense if you replace the word “believe” with “trust” in every circumstance.
Trust is just a far clearer description of what’s going on than “believe.”
I believe the COVID vaccine is safe. —> I trust the COVID vaccine is safe.
The word trust makes it clear that one is making oneself vulnerable. A belief feels like an identity or an in-group, whereas trust is a personal action that has personal consequences. The word “trust” reminds us what an innocent, sacred, and vulnerable thing we’re doing when we “believe” something.
I believe the moon landing was real. —> I trust the moon landing was real.
Implied here is I trust the government wouldn’t lie to this extent + I trust those nice astronauts wouldn’t lie to me + I trust all the physics and astronomy I’ve ever been taught isn’t severely compromised + etc
The word trust implicitly reveals the supply chain of the trusted. When we talk about beliefs like supply chains of trust, we remind ourselves to audit those supply chains.
I believe God exists. —> I trust God exists.
People who trust God exists, trust God. They rely on Him to provide hope in hopeless times, to provide meaning in suffering, etc. And they offload difficult emotions and situations onto God, trusting His wisdom to handle things better than they could by themselves.
By contrast, people who merely “believe” God exists might have a certain self-identity and belong to a certain ingroup, but otherwise live like atheists in their hearts and with their actions.
What’s going on here?
The word Trust shows the relationship between an idea, and your behavior inwardly & outwardly.
Trust describes what you do with an idea, emotionally:
You give willful consent to this idea to be your guardian and guide. You trust this idea to bear some measure of your anxiety about an uncertain and complex world. You expose yourself to being hurt, confused, scared, and disoriented if it turns out to be false.
Trust describes what you do with an idea, materially:
You are betting some part of your life this idea is true, and expecting to be rewarded, or at least not-punished. You are taking a leap of faith, and expecting this idea to catch you. You are letting this idea lead you by the hand through the world. You are trusting that actions taken because of this idea will not cause yourself or others irreparable harm, or require too humiliating an apology.
Trust describes what you do with an idea, epistemically:
You’re trusting the scientist, the priest, the news anchor, the renowned author, the parent, the friend, the raw footage, the Tweet — that provided this idea. You’re trusting your understanding of this idea, and your judgment of it when compared with alternatives.
Trust is a metaphor we can understand, because we’re used to trusting things in our lives — people, institutions, governments, etc. We know how it feels for trust to be rewarded, and for trust to be betrayed.
When we use the word ‘trust’ to describe beliefs, it makes it easier to remind ourselves our beliefs should be examined on the basis of their faithfulness — Do they betray us? Do they fulfill our expectations? Do they exceed them?
Everything we “trust” humans to do for us when we use the word trust, we trust ideas to do when we use the word believe.
So let’s just use the word “trust.”
P.S. I’ll pay you $50 to build a browser extension for Brave/Chrome that replaces the word “believe” with “trust” everywhere on the internet. First response wins.
P.P.S. I’d like to get back to sharing more, but finding it hard to predict what I’ll share. I might start sharing some vulnerable spiritual personal reflections soon. If you’d absolutely hate that, please reply “noooooooo”
Love this, thank you for writing it – great reminder of something I already understood but didn't carry into daily use.