Factbelief or fatebelief

The importance of not conflating important distinctions


Can you imagine the transportation breakdowns that would occur in servicing our automobiles if we used the same word to describe water and gasoline, especially if we were not clear that these were two distinct liquids to be used for different purposes and in different ways to keep our car running?


If we were also not clear about the criteria for distinguishing water from gasoline, we could easily treat water as gasoline because it can be acquired much more cheaply. Or we might do the opposite, treating gasoline like it was water and putting it in our radiator.


We have conflated the word "belief"

This, I submit, is the case with the word “belief.” Unknowingly, we use this word to denote two very separate, yet interrelated distinctions. Not only does this wreck havoc in our ability to think and act clearly, but it is also the source of immense conflict between people, where one person is using the word "belief" (or what they say is true) to indicate a factbelief, whereas the other person is using the same word to indicate a fatebelief.

Given this undistinguished meaning of the word "belief" or "truth," there is no possibility of mutual understanding and cooperation may be severely limited.


Factbeliefs live in the domain of assertions 

The first meaning of the word belief lives inside a domain of distinctions called assertions. An assertion is a statement of fact that one is willing to provide evidence for, either directly or indirectly.


I have coined the word factbelief to un-conflate this type of belief.


Here are examples:

  • “I factbelieve that this floor is wet.”

  • “Scientists factbelieve that water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen.”

  • “I factbelieve that the square root of 144 is 12.”

  • “I factbelieve that my mother was 79 years old in 2001.”

  • "I factbelieve that if I go up to this person on the street and ask them for directions to the nearest public toilet, they will probably agree to provide me directions if they know themselves."

  • “I factbelieve that I could buy an airplane ticket from Shanghai to Tokyo in 2001.”

  • “I factbelieve that I am feeling sad right now.” (spoken when I was feeling sad)


To the extent that our factbeliefs are valid, we're able to survive and have a great life.

Fatebeliefs live in the domain of declarations

The second meaning of the word “belief” lives inside a domain of distinctions called “declarations.” A fatebelief is valid and powerful if, in believing and speaking of it, we are empowered in our daily life with little or no associated costs.

Although we often can gather "evidence" that a fatebelief seems to be factually true, we could just as easily gather "evidence" for the opposing proposition. And whatever evidence that we provide, one way or the other can never clearly establish the belief as a factbelief.

I have coined the word fatebelief to un-conflate this type of belief.


Fatebeliefs live largely undistinguished as such, often presenting themselves as factbeliefs inside the subcultures of our family, inside the culture of our society, inside our religions, and inside other schools of thought.

Fine turning the distinctions of factbeliefs and fatebeliefs

It's powerful and important to distinguish our fatebeliefs from our factbeliefs.


A factbelief, which can provide varying degrees of certainty, is based on the available evidence that one is willing and able to provide or point to in support of that factbelief.


A fatebelief, in contrast, which can provide complete certainty, is based on declaration alone, and the only way to assess the validity of a fatebelief is by asking yourself, “If I live according to this fatebelief, given my other fatebeliefs and factbeliefs, is it likely to empower me in living a fully expressed and joyous life?”


One must choose fatebeliefs carefully so that they are not contradicted by any factbeliefs and are congruent with one’s other fatebeliefs.


Factbeliefs and fatebeliefs must "mind their own business"

A fatebelief must stay in the domain of declaration and not wander into the domain of assertion. And vice versa for factbeliefs.

Factbeliefs provide the content of our lives. Fatebeliefs provide the context of our lives.

Together, they determine the quality of our lives. Mistaken factbeliefs and disempowering fatebeliefs can damage our lives. Accurate factbeliefs and empowering fatebeliefs support us in living lives of accomplishment and self-expression.


Here's one of my important and empowering fatebeliefs

“I fatebelieve that everything that occurs in my life is a gift.”

Can I prove this as a factbelief? No, I cannot. Can I disprove this as a factbelief? No, I cannot. This fatebelief is not open to absolute proof or disproof as a fact.


However, the more that I speak and act according to the idea that everything in my life is a gift, even when something occurs at first as a goft, the more I find "evidence" that this is so.


It is also easy to demonstrate that, if I live according to the idea that everything that happens is a gift, then the life that I live, the life that lives me, will be a life fully worth living.


The age-old conflict between science and religion

Science is a formalized methodology for discovering and propagating certain types of factbeliefs. Religion and culture, to some extent, have been the vehicles for propagating our broader-based fatebeliefs.


Science, for the most part, despite some significant breakdowns, has been clear about the appropriate criteria for establishing valid factbeliefs. Religion and culture, on the other hand, in order to make people feel more secure and feel hope, have often propagated many fatebeliefs that are life-suppressive and divisive.


The fatebelief of devil and hell

For example, millions, maybe billions of people fatebelieve strongly in a devil and a hell. We find this fatebelief often propagated by both Christianity and Islam.


Can you factbelief prove there is a devil and hell? No. Can you factbelief disprove there is a devil and hell? No.


It is obviously a fatebelief. It is not a factbelief. Some Christians or Muslims might say, “You must have faith.” But that is equivalent to saying it is a fatebelief, although a disempowering one, even though it does have some benefits.

Certainly one can begin to see how belief in a devil and hell could make one feel safer, especially given one's already existing not-so-valid fatebeliefs.


A simple way to test this, assuming you already believe in a devil and hell, is to ask yourself how you might feel if it were proven that there was no devil and no hell. It could call into question your relationship with and the knowledge of other important people in your life and might make you feel very unsure about how to make important decisions since, up until now, you were able to rely upon the sense of safety that you felt with this agreement and belief in others.

Personally, I have known many Christians, including a few Mormons, who faced immense fear when they began to question the fatebeliefs of the other important people in their life who believed in the devil, hell, and so on. It called into question the issue of what was good, what was bad, and how could they know the difference.


At what cost?

And there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel safer. But at what cost?


Anyone who has taken the devil seriously and later stepped back to assess the results of this belief will attest to the incredible suffering it had caused in his or her life before they created a new fatebelief like, "God is all-powerful And whatever happens in my life is created by Him to serve me. Consequently, this idea of devil and hell is hogwash."

I have a good friend whose mother and father lived several years in Africa as missionaries. She told me that, as her mother grew older, every day she felt the terror of the approaching hell she was going to face because she was sure she had not been "good enough." And she still continued to believe and was terrified until her death. 

Benefits of some Christian fatebeliefs

I know some Christians who feel great solace and support in believing that "Jesus Christ is always there loving me and supporting me no matter what happens or what I do. He will never let me down."

This fatebelief is valid and supportive in and of itself, without any necessary connection to other Christian beliefs which can be less so and often entail unneeded costs. I am happy that these people have this great fatebelief to support them in their life.


Keeping the distinctions clear and separate

Both water and gasoline have very important functions in the operation of a car, yet they must be kept separate and distinct in order for your car to function best, or even function at all!

Similarly, both valid factbeliefs and fatebeliefs have essential functions in the operation of our life, yet they must be kept separate and distinct in order for us to live the best life.


The most common error is to treat a fatebelief as if it were a factbelief. We almost always do this to help us feel safer and more comfortable momentarily, even though the facts often come back to bite us later. 

Fatebeliefs, in some sense, can rather easily be changed just by creating a new declaration. Factbeliefs, in contrast, are much more cut in stone and have an existence independent of our speaking them and listening to them.

Example of a fatebelief masquerading as a factbelief

Let’s take a common fatebelief that many of us factbelieve about ourselves: “I’m not good enough.”


  • You may point to your not achieving many of your goals.

  • You may feel bad about how you haven't achieved what many of your peers have.

  • You may tell others about all the things you failed at.

  • You may regret that you didn't have the courage to ask for what you wanted many times.

These occur to you as "proof" that "I'm not good enough."

Creating new fatebeliefs that are empowering and self-reinforcing

But I submit that if you choose courage to take on the new fatebelief, "I'm always good enough," acting in such way to express yourself in alignment with that belief, then step-by-step you will discover all "proof" that you are "good enough," and in fact, were always "good enough."

Write down a list of 25 things you believe about yourself. Question rigorously each of these beliefs, asking yourself, “Is this a factbelief or a fatebelief?”


If it is or could be a fatebelief, then ask yourself, “Would I wish my best friend to have this fatebelief about themselves? If my best friend really believed this, would it empower and serve their life?”


If the answer is “no,” what new fatebelief might you create and choose courage to believe and act from to replace this old and disempowering fatebelief?


Do that now.


See the video Factbeliefs and Fatebeliefs.

See Interpretations, glasses, and beliefs.

See Byron Katie resources.


"The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents and the ocean was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge."

-Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-, American historian)


"Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not to be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism, and doubt."

-Henri Frederic Amiel (1821–1881, Swiss philosopher, poet, critic)