It’s always a mistake to sell the other side short. There is no question in my mind about the sincerity of the great majority on both sides of the political fence. Whether the ideas are based on religious belief, differing economic theories or whatever, whether we agree or not, whether we think them wonderful, crazy, or just plain wrong, there is no reason to doubt that most of us are good people who are doing what we believe to be right — regardless of whether we are liberal or conservative. Those labels alone are inaccurate. No one is totally one or the other. People who abhor the thought of abortion use birth control. People who call this a welfare state contribute to charitable causes. And all of us are, to a degree, hypocrites. None of us live up to the beliefs we claim 100%.
I am seriously put off by the common acceptance of the idea that Conservatives/Liberals are nuts, or trying to run other people’s lives, or whatever. While those things may be true from our point of view (or theirs), they are no more deserving of attention than are convictions to the contrary. They’re just differing opinions about how the country should be governed, and how its moral direction should be determined, and demonizing those who think that way simply prevents us from learning from each other.
It’s the refusal of people to see their opponents as having a point of view that may have some merit, and instead downgrading them to “ignorant,” or “stupid,” or “religious,” or “Atheist” that has led to the current state of politics. It has to stop someplace, and it needs to begin with individuals who have sense enough to understand the difference between discomfort with another point of view and intrinsic error.
When we stop perpetuating the black and white mythology and begin to understand the shades of gray that color all human thought and interaction, we’ll be on the way to solving problems. Thinking of our opponents as the lesser side of any question blinds us to truths, prejudices our ideas, prevents us from gleaning anything useful from people with whom we disagree, and generally marks us as same sort of ignorant folks we’re ranting about.
For a number of years, after I finally reached the conclusion that there was no religion to which I could give allegiance, and no metaphysical theory that made sense to me, it was my conceit to make snide remarks about organized religion — especially Catholicism, the religion into which I was allegedly born. I’m not sure why I did that, but I suspect it involved lingering guilt about having set aside the faith of my forebears, and that it was more about me and my issues than it was about the church.
There is absolutely no question, and there never has been, but what religion in general has been used unskillfully by many, and cynically by many more. Continue reading →