Stephen Hawking, physicist and cosmologist, recently ridiculed the idea (belief) of the existence of what we call heaven, and wrote it was a figment of imagination. It may or may not shatter the belief of most of us that we can rest in heaven peacefully after our journey on this planet comes to an end.
But, one thing is sure, it is just a belief, and beliefs are neither correct nor wrong.
Taking the same yardstick, one can happily claim that there can be no place called ‘hell’ as well. Because heaven and hell are like the two sides of the same coin and that one can’t exist without the other.
True, nobody can prove the existence or non-existence of heaven and hell, just as one can’t prove the existence or non-existence of God.
It’s all a matter of faith and conviction for the believers and a matter of “reasoning” for the non-believers.
And none can say with authority that one is right and the other is wrong. One must respect those who believe in the existence of ‘beings’ that may or may not be there; and the latter too must respect the first for their belief in there being nothing beyond what one can see and feel.
My point is if you believe in, say God, then God is there. And, if you don’t believe, then God is not there. That tells us that belief primarily refers to the attitude one has on something. Whenever one takes something to be there, rightly or wrongly, belief is said to have formed. Under ordinary circumstances, most of the things we believe in are quite mundane and are universally accepted as true, even if wrong.
Belief is central to the mind-body functioning. No physical organism can have beliefs without direct and close association with mind. That explains why very young children don’t have beliefs.
Most contemporary philosophers describe belief as a “propositional attitude.” That again tells us that beliefs are nothing but thoughts turned into a more acceptable form of proposition. And hence, one can say beliefs can be justified and acknowledged as knowledge.