What Do You Believe? Why?


What Do You Believe? Why?


Leonard Zwelling

It is clear that different Americans believe different things. Many people believe that Joe Biden is the legitimate President of the United States. Many others do not. So, what do you believe and why?

I’ve been mulling over this for myself and have concluded that there are three reasons that people believe things.

First, people believe things that they perceive represent reality. My Dermatology professor J. Lamar Calloway always teased me when he made a correct diagnosis from across a room. I would ask how he knew what that rash was.

He would point to the telephone and ask me what it was. I would say, “a telephone.”

He would ask, “how do you know?”

“It looks like a telephone.”

“Aha,” he would answer.

People believe that big metal airplanes can fly. They believe that several tons of metal called a car can be propelled by gasoline to reach speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour. They also believe this latter behavior is a bad plan because they also believe that a police officer might be around and give them a speeding ticket. This is reality.

Second, people believe things that are consistent with their core values. I believe that medicine is a force for good, but also that that good can be compromised (see my new novel, Conflict of Interest, ordering info below). I believe that the American form of government is flawed, but is among the best on Earth. I believe in the United States Constitution and I believe in many of the regulations produced by the executive branch of the federal government particularly as they apply to the performance of human subjects research.

Third, people believe things that make them feel good. There is considerable overlap between reason two and reason three, but I distinguish the two because you can believe in the rightness of laws and rules without necessarily being made to feel better about their existence. This is not, for example, the same as religion where, to summarize briefly, followers are called on to believe in things that cannot be demonstrated with empiricism and which they may not wholly embrace in their core values, but which provide comfort. You can be religious and yet still break a few of the Ten Commandments every now and then–especially the one about adultery. This does not mean the religious are not faithful. The good thing about most religions is that some form of repentance and forgiveness is usually included.

I seem to be always questioning what I believe in when it comes to all three categories.

I try to follow the news to get some sort of a grip on reality, but I find that increasingly difficult when the Republicans deny the guilt of their leadership (he must have done something wrong) and Democrats deny the failures of liberal giveaway programs and the concomitant failures on our southern border. Republicans will not do anything about gun control. Democrats seem to object to strengthening our military adequately. I have no idea who’s right, but it is clear that the views of reality held by the two opposing parties are incompatible.

As to my core values. That medicine is a force for good in the world is my greatest core value. But as doctors become providers, inordinate time is spent by doctors on record keeping and clerk work, and the key decisions about patient care seem to be shifted to insurance companies and large corporate health systems, my faith in medicine is fading.

As for religion, I have happened on a belief there, too. First, I have come to believe that religion is hard-wired into our DNA and has been for thousands of years. Even cave men were trying to understand the origins of the universe. We still are. At some point science reaches a limit in its ability to explain things. That’s when we latch onto a set of beliefs without empiric proof that serve to comfort and guide us in life. Which faith system you choose is less important since the message is usually the same. There is a force in the universe beyond the understanding of man, but we have been given a set of principles and laws about how to live. Follow them. Having this set of beliefs to draw on can be quite clarifying in a world that is ever more confusing and reality is so much more difficult to know. If the principles of a religion become your core values, you may be on your way to a balanced life.

What do you believe and why? It’s an exercise worth doing.

Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:


on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle,


directly from the publisher Dorrance at: https://bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com/conflict-of-interest-money-drives-medicine-and-people-die-pb/m

6 thoughts on “What Do You Believe? Why?”

    1. Leonard Zwelling

      Not sure I know how, nor know how you got on the list. I am not sure that I know you. Just delete your self on the bottom of the web page. Was it something I said?

  1. I will always stay subscribed because you challenge me to think and to consider my own biases.
    This op-ed is particularly engaging and important in a time when some have lost their course in life because they have either never had core values and some connection to a Higher Power or have lost it.
    Whether we look at Native American beliefs, at Islam, at Judaism, at Christianity, at Hinduism, etc. there are similar values of how we treat one another respectfully and how we bear the trials and joys of the human life. Each has a focus on “the truth,” seeing the reality of what is around us and NOT distorting the truth to fit our selfish needs. Lack of self awareness is one the most common faults in so many now, and every effort to guide them toward looking beyond themselves with empathy, respect, and caring for others should be made. Finally, like you, I still believe in the mission of medicine to help others.

  2. Len,
    Nice job about the priciples about believing. It makes on think about their life and what they do and why.
    I am not very religious but I believe in a higher entity and I pray to that entity when I have to do risky procedures like GI procedures hoping if he or she listens things will go well. This is not reality but it strikes my core values and I feel good why and what I prayed about.
    I am very superstitious and doing things in unconventional ways at times to satisfy mysupertition…this is definitely not reality and probably ot a core valu but it gives me pleasure.
    I believe in giving to those less fortunate to me and not taking from others…this satisfies all 3 reasons for me to believe !
    I, ike you, believe in Medicine doing good for people and this is reality but it is compromised by all the BS that exists surrounding the process of caring for patients.
    You keep me thinking and I appreciate that. Keep up these wonderful blogs
    Have a happy 4rth and best to Genie-speak to you soon!


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