I am grateful for my own views of tolerance and inclusion. I am thankful that my world view is one of peaceful cohabitation. Today’s entry in the gratitude journey is going to wade into the murky waters of beliefs and extremes. Careful, you may not like what you read.
Are you right? Are you left? In the end, are you so stuck to an ideology that it blinds you or clouds your judgement? These are provocative questions. Am I trying to incite a conflict? Heavens no. I have people in my life that span the whole spectrum of political beliefs. The far right hard line conservative to the leftist leaning hippie. (Note, I am not placing a value judgement on those labels). For me, the whole thing gets frustrating when someone buys into the entirety of one side or the other. These are the people that discount any idea or initiative if it happens to be endorsed by the opposite ideology. Wow. Really? Does that mean what is good in our society is a Venn diagram where the two circles have NO OVERLAP at all. To me that is ludicrous. This deep entrenchment in either the right or the left precludes a phenomenal amount of unexplored middle ground. It is sometimes painful for me to engage in conversation with either extreme due to all of the blanket judgements that have to be overcome before you can even have a meaningful discourse on the subject. My own political beliefs have spent time exploring the far right and the left. There are some great ideas on both sides of the polarized spectrum, trouble is that they will have a hard time gaining traction by the other side. Many times the best course of action is held hostage to maintaining a hard line stance on an ideology where compromise or movement would be construed as weakness or a failing of their cause.
This is another touchy subject. I want to make this perfectly clear. I respect everyone’s right to choose and follow and practice their beliefs. That is important. I also include atheists and agnostics. There is room for all views and all beliefs. I do not think I need to say this, but I will anyways. I do not include people who engage in destructive or extreme practices in the “name of” their belief system. They are just fanatics trying to rationalize their own despicable behaviour by hitching to a cause.
My spiritual beliefs are very unique. I never feel the need to broadcast them to the world as they are personal to me. However, if you are truly curious, feel free to ask me. I am not opposed to discussing my beliefs. Here is the rub though… most people only want to know what you believe so they can construct arguments to dismantle your beliefs. They want to do this to “convert” you to their beliefs. That is where I lose respect for people quite quickly. I think I am okay, I do not need to be “fixed”.
“I have most respect for the person who is so confident with what they believe that they do not feel a need to convert others. They have a path of private conviction that allows them to interact with the world more respectfully.”
Over the years I have met religious zealots and over-zealous atheists alike. I do not need to be converted. I do not need to be educated. If I am curious, I will ask. Mine is a path of tolerance. In all sincerity, I am more interested in the conduct of the person I am interacting with, not their beliefs. In the last few years, I have to say that the most annoying are the atheists who are passionately trying to dismantle or refute the belief systems of others. I am an advocate of science and the scientific method, I am all for the progression of our collective understanding of the universe, but I do not understand the need to dismantle someone’s belief system to progress. And some of the arguments about the harm of religion are getting old. Yes, we all understand their were very bad things done by people of various institutions. The same could be said of any demographic or organization though. Religious organizations do not hold a monopoly in this regard. Just for the record and by way of disclosure, I never attended church growing up and I do not attend church now. That does not mean I cannot see the value in it. On another note, I am the event chair person for an annual charity that feeds those in need. They happen to be a faith based charity. I have had a few people take issue with supporting a Christian charity. Really? They are feeding those in need. I judge the organization based on what it DOES not by what it BELIEVES. They are doing good in the community and that is the yardstick by which I measure things.
In the name of tolerance, let us quietly, with grace and confidence, walk a path of our own beliefs while allowing others to do the same. Each person should feel free to own and practice their beliefs without the fear of persecution.
This is a bit more esoteric for me, but is closely linked to the other two sections I wrote above. Live and let live. Be who you are and allow others the same courtesy. I cherish the variety of views, knowledge, beliefs, ideas, cultures, and values of others. They all provide opportunities to learn and grow. My views are largely an amalgamation of the bits I have borrowed from the world around me, ergo, the more tolerant and open I am to that world, the more I can continue to shape and mold myself.
My gratitude today goes to all of the people I have connected with over the years, you have all helped shape me. Tolerance leads to understanding, learning, and growth.