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June 29, 2021

On Politics and Religion

I mostly use my very minor platform online to talk about things like technology, free and open-source software, and the like, but one thing that has become so ingrained as part of people's identities these days include politics and religion. These are highly personal parts of a person's life, but they are increasingly becoming parts of people's identities, and this can spell trouble for civilized conversation.

Think about it - have you ever tried to speak to someone who wouldn't hear a negative word about their favorite politician or something to do with their religion? It is not necessarily because anything you are saying is untrue, it is because to people like this who let their beliefs define their identity and personality, you are effectively insulting them when you "speak ill" of their favorite political figures or anything to do with their religion. When someone takes genuine criticism of a political figure or party, or a religious dogma, and turns it into a personal affront on themselves and their character, you know you are dealing with someone who is just like this.

The issue with this line of thinking is how it kills any form of real communication. When you "insult" someone's beliefs in this way, they become impossible to talk to. It is almost like attempting to argue with a stop sign in that you aren't going to get any further in the discussion by trying to carry on with it. While you might be trying to entertain a healthy debate and actually learn something from the party (this is how any good discussion should be), the other party is silently thinking everything you are saying about their beliefs is wrong, and they might be taking it as you insulting them in some way.

The important thing to do here is to remember that you aren't the problem - folks who think in this way are. They have let their minds become so closed to other opinions and lines of thought that they no longer have the ability to have a real conversation about these beliefs, only how to defend them when they feel as though they are the ones being insulted. In reality, you could be simply asking them questions about these beliefs in an effort to garner further understanding of how the person thinks in relation to these issues.

A Simple Thought Experiment

Let's have a quick thought experiment. Let's say I am a hardcore conservative, voting for "Candidate A," and you are a more open-minded independent voter trying to get me to take a look at your preferred candidate, "Candidate B." You could spend so much time telling me all about how Candidate B feels about issues that are important to you, how you think Candidate B is going to help change the country, and all of the good things Candidate B might or not do during his time in office.

However, despite your best efforts, I have it so ingrained into my mind that because Candidate B is not part of "the correct party," he will never be a good leader for the country. I have it in my head that Candidate A is the only option because of which side he chooses, and nothing you say is going to change that, because I have built such a distrust and personal bias against any political figure who isn't a member of "the correct party" in my mind. Candidate B could be the very best presidential option we have ever had as a country, but because he is a member of "the other party," I am never going to see any of the good things he might do in comparison to Candidate A.

Does this sound familiar? I wouldn't be surprised if you said yes - after all, this is a frequent occurrence in the modern spectrum, at least in the United States. People have become complacent, too sensitive about their own beliefs, and if you have a different set of beliefs or something that doesn't line up with their view of the world, you are the enemy.

I have personally seen family members disown and want nothing more to do with each other over stupid arguments like this. I have seen friendships die on the vine because one friend didn't agree with the political choice another friend made when voting. If this sounds like any "friendship" you have went through, understand that these people weren't your true friends to begin with. A real friend will be happy to hear your views on things and make an effort to understand those views, not merely push their own views onto you without any reciprocation. Real friends should be able to have healthy debates about topics like these without feeling personally attacked when their beliefs don't line up together 100%.

Maybe this has more to do with my location (I live in the southern United States). I see myself politically as a centrist, and I have no religious affiliation. I couldn't care less about what party a political candidate identifies with, I will vote (or not vote) based on the character of the candidates, and about their policies on issues that are important to me. I think the two-party system is one of the dumbest things we ever enacted, and has done nothing but divide as a country instead of doing anything to further what should be the goal (unification).

Of course, it doesn't benefit those in power to see any unity among the country's citizenry. If they keep us divided and keep us fighting, it is much easier to keep us distracted from the real issues at hand. If we were all united with one another, we would quickly wake up and see just how this two-party system does nothing for anyone but those who already have acquired some level of power in government.

As far as religion goes, I have no personal care or opinion on it. In America, we have the freedom to practice whatever beliefs we would like - so I only say that as long as you aren't proselytizing to me, we're good. I hold no religious opinions and don't follow any creeds, though I also am not arrogant enough to think that I know for certain what might happen after we die. Maybe there is some form of afterlife, maybe there's not. Who knows? Maybe reincarnation is a thing. I'm not going to claim one way or another to know, because I have never died.

In short, without rambling on too much further on this topic, simply try to respect your fellow humans. There is nothing wrong with anyone holding their own set of beliefs on an issue, no matter your stance on the same issue, or no matter how silly you think someone else's stance might be. If we all respected one another's opinions and had healthy debates about them instead of wild arguments, the world would be a much better place, and we would be able to have real conversation instead of sticking our fingers in our ears every time someone brings up something uncomfortable about our belief systems.

Keeping an Open Mind

Open your mind up a little bit when conversing with others about how they see the world. You might just be surprised to find out that when you open your mind up to others' perceptions, they might be willing to have more of an open mind about yours. We don't always have to agree with one another, but we should try to give one another at least a modicum of human decency when it comes to how we approach highly personal subjects like religious beliefs and political affiliations.

A world with more human decency, harmony, and mutual respect? Now that's a world I want to live in.