What Do You Believe? Who Do You Believe? Why Do You Believe?

What Do You Believe?

Who Do You Believe?

Why Do You Believe?


Leonard Zwelling

A fair portion of the reactions I get to my blog via the comments section of the web site or direct notes to my personal email wonders how I can believe what I say I do in the blog. I often try to persuade the writer to my way of thinking which is usually unsuccessful.

This caused me to wonder about what people believe, who they listen to, and why.

The current conflict in Gaza is a perfect example. I believe that the overwhelming sentiment in Israel after October 7 mandated a violent response upon those who perpetrated the horror. I thought this based on what I read in newspapers or their web sites and on the electronic media as well as in person commentary from clergy. I believed that the Israelis believed that they had to strike back.

But, what if Israel had done nothing except try to use an intermediary to get the hostages back? Would we be in a better place today? Certainly, Gaza and its population would. I was convinced that military action was necessary. Was I right? Were the Israelis right? If they were not, what can they do now? What the Israelis believed on October 8, and what Americans believed on September 12, 2001, may not have been the best position from which to make momentous decisions of war and peace. What we believe, to whom we listen when forming those beliefs, and why we believe what we do really matters.

I believe that academic medicine has grown soft. I believe that the limiting of hours that house staff work is short changing trainees’ understanding of the natural history of complex diseases and that in turn leads to a constant stream of consultations by doctors to other doctors who were better trained or have more specialized knowledge that I would have been expected to have had myself when I was a trainee in internal medicine.

I also believe concepts like professionalism and DEI have caused more harm than good because they were taken to extremes with outside independent arbiters of behavior rather than be integrated into the culture of academic medicine in service of a better health care force in America.

Finally, there is the forced belief in a supreme being that seems to undergird the American political, legal, and social system especially from those on the right. I have no problem with anyone believing in God. It’s a personal decision. It need not be justified to anyone and certainly no one needs to explain why he or she believes in spiritual higher power. However, such a belief should not be forced on anyone. If our laws supposedly derived from God, who wrote the Constitution? Men (yep, no women).

So, when I am confronted with someone who questions my beliefs, who I got them from, or why I believe them, I am fine having to justify such beliefs when they have to do with politics. It should not extend to religion which really is the idea behind this from the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Thus, I am deeply troubled by laws surrounding the access to safe medical abortions when the life of the mother is in jeopardy or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Since so much of this restrictive regulation is based on religious belief, I wonder if any of it is constitutional. From a medical perspective it is certainly not beneficial to patients or for doctors trying to help save their lives and also stay out of jail.

What you believe, who told you, and why matter a great deal. Be ready to explain yourself. I try to be.

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