We believe but do we listen?

Our beliefs are largely conditioned by our upbringing, it is as if we are born to follow our parents/family and indeed most of us do.  Political persuasion, for example, more often than not, runs in the family, once a Republican believer,  seldom a Democrat convert. Some belief systems are capable of change others run a good deal deeper, particularly religions.

Belief systems dictate the thinking and practice of lifestyle, and to a large extent define our prejudices. What is true in one belief system is not necessarily so in another. The idea of the non-believer is the epitome of conflict. It is here that the intolerance of ignorance, the refusal to listen to another viewpoint is inevitably entrenched.

The good news is that virtually all belief systems including religions are centrally tolerant, it is only the extremist who sees the non-believer as a threat. Those that see the alternative belief system as simply that, are those who the world needs.

There is,, of course, the view that beliefs if they are worth anything,  must be shared with those others outside the circle of belief.  The record of missionary exploits is not good and history shows that the extremists seem always to get the upper hand. History is littered with examples wildly extreme acts of desecration of human life and values. All in the pursuit of spreading beliefs of one sort or another.

How then are we to fight against the extremes? The answer is to learn, to listen and to tolerate those other belief systems, not necessarily to accept them. To be aware that they have a place in our world despite the prejudices of our own history.

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Don’t tread too softly.

In an age of political correctness, we are in danger of losing sight of ingenuity and new thinking.  Amongst the revisionists are all sorts of extremes, some trying to rewrite history, some trying to limit new horizons.

We must open our collective consciousness to new ideas and new sentiments even if, at first we find the ideas strange, puzzling or even repugnant.  The idea that any expression that may offend anyone should be avoided is ridiculous.  Consider the following; The Christians defaced Palmyra long before ISIS, Christianity was barbarous and cruel during the reformation and in earlier times, the theory of evolution is denied in many fundamentalist education systems.  The British Empire was largely funded on slave labor. All these statements are fact, many of them difficult to accept.

However, ‘that  Black folk in America get a rotten deal from law enforcement officials,  President Trump is unfit to be the leader of the free world’, are more contentious perhaps, but worthy of balanced debate.

There is reasonable and credible evidence to support these premised arguments but there are also alternative views. For example:

“Black folks in America live in less privileged communities that are more susceptible to criminal behavior, therefore Black Americans are more likely to be on the wrong side of the law.”

“President Trump is a radical thinker who is genuinely creative and essentially an honest man who says it like it is.”

The first is ill-informed, but nonetheless worthy of expanded debate, whilst the second is legitimate especially for those who ‘believe’ in their new President.

There are many of us who have beliefs that preclude either of these premises, but that should not excuse us from trying to understand where the protagonists are coming from. Cool heads and open minds are what is needed to hear, listen, engage and perhaps change opinion.

Who decides, what is offensive or not?  I think we have to temper our receptors and be brave enough to accept and listen to all shades of opinion, despite the fact, that there are those who are unduly influenced on either side of the moral spectrum.  Perhaps you will listen to preachers of hate and firmly reject them, others may be more susceptible and be influenced by these evil messengers. Likewise, the fundamental zealots of any religion see themselves and their messages as beyond criticism, hence to some of us, the denial of evolutionary theory is nonsense.

Who guards the gates of moral rectitude? We all do but be prepared to tolerate views that are not our own.  Be prepared to think about what these new ideas really mean.  Accept or reject them, but only after considered thought.  Don’t be afraid of the verbal bullies, gaging them won’t help, let them speak everyone deserves a platform of freedom.