The power of thought is extremely potent. Beliefs can drive people to extreme actions, or let those who lost everything pick up and carry on. Not only does this apply to religion, but all beliefs have a powerful effect on us.
The most easily observed effect is that the mind has over the body. In the 1950s, an accident occurred where a sailor was trapped in a refrigerated container on a cargo ship. There was plenty of food, but he knew he had no hope when his fingers and toes begun to go numb, and as his body started go stiff. Instead, he decided to record the pain and suffering of freezing to death on the wall using a piece of metal. By the time the ship arrived at the port, he had already frozen to death. However, the container was not refrigerated as it was not being used – the sailor had killed himself with the power of thought.
This shows how thought affects the way we perceive the world, which forms the basis of the placebo effect. If you give a patient sugar pills and tell them it is medicine, it is common to see an improvement in their health. This is due to the body’s amazing ability to repair itself, yet the brain believes the drugs helped it recover.
Thoughts and beliefs affect society as well.
Private property, the monetary system, authority and ethics are all products of the human mind. This is called the Tinkerbell Effect, where some things only exist because people believe in them. The name comes from how Tinkerbell from the play Peter Pan is revived with the belief of children.
Furthermore, believing can determine the future. In philosophy, there is something called the Thomas Theorem, which states that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”. For example, if there is a rumour that a bank will go bankrupt, people will withdraw their money and cause the bank to go bankrupt.
This theorem explains self-fulfilled prophecies, a type of prediction that causes the events to take place because of the prophecies. Horoscopes and fortune telling are largely based around this effect, where telling a person that “good things will happen” (or bad) will cause the person to think positive (or negatively) and result in them acting in favour of positive results (or negative).
This strange phenomenon is described very well in the movie “The Matrix”. When Neo visits the Oracle, she tells him “Don’t worry about the vase”. When he says “What vase” and turns around, he knocks over the vase behind him, causing it to fall and shatter. The Oracle then questions whether the vase would have broken if she had not told him about it. A similar case is seen in “Terminator” and “Back To The Future”.
As shown above, thoughts and beliefs contain immense power, and all humans need to do to make a better world is imagine and believe in such a world. However, the problem is that we seem to be unable to utilise this potential.