This wiki page started out as a message I was writing to a friend who I felt was hurting. She has a strong belief and zero tolerance approach to a serious issue dear to her heart. She feels outcast, because her friends couldn't see that she was right, and the issue was pushed so hard that she fears she's lost those friends forever. She feels victimized. I wanted her to see that people regularly have differing beliefs, but a belief is a belief. Everyone with a belief thinks they are right - that's the definition of a belief. And I don't mean this in a condescending way, because I've had many times where I have been in her situation, where I have felt like an outcast. The next time that happens to me, I'll definitely read this page to myself and breathe in some humble pie. It traps the best of us.
The difference between a happy person and an unhappy person is accepting that the people around you can be different from you and still be terrific humans. You can respect differing beliefs when you focus on the good in a person. If your core belief is good intention, then maybe your friend with a differing opinion is more wonderful than your friend with an identical belief but poorer intention.
The world would be very boring if there was zero diversity and everyone had the same belief.
The most loving and wonderful organization in the world, in my opinion, are the ones that preach the acceptance of differing beliefs. That feels like enlightenment to me. So now let's cover some examples.
The Beauty of Differing Beliefs
- Sam believes in a single god - the one with the white beard.
- Abhishek believes in five main gods, along with 1 billion others.
- Sarah doesn't really believe in any god.
- Trevor is mostly indifferent but secretly suspects he's a 5-dimensional alien frog and this whole universe is just a 3-dimensional dream or simulation.
Sarah, Sam, Abhishek and Trevor can all still respect each other, they all happen to be terrific people. All of them do different charity work at the same organization. They laugh together. None of them push their beliefs hard on the other people. Sarah sees that Sam's belief in god brings him incredible strength, Abhishek sees that Sarah has wonderful inner beauty, and so on. And who's to say Trevor isn't right?! I dreamt I was a frog once.. then I woke up and I was a human. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I woke up again from this life and was a frog. :)
PS: This is why I'm agnostic - I'm brave enough to admit I honestly don't know! Secretly I hope Trevor is right in this made-up scenario.
- Dylan is a republican who owns a gun and is a standup family man.
- Travis only votes liberal, and does amazing healing in his hippy community.
Both great people. Both have some very compelling reasons for their voting decisions when you listen to them. They are best friends.
- Tony is vaccinated.
- Sam is unvaccinated, and doesn't believe in vaccination.
They are dating.
- Jake believes only experienced fire dancers should be trusted with fire, and there should be a safety person at all times.
- Jenny believes there should be no hierarchy in fire dancing and everyone can give it a try because we are all adults.
Both really fun, cool people. They still respect each other, and hopefully see that there's beauty and merit to both lines of thought. They can both attend the same Lunar Vibes event and share their love of fire.
- Simon believes that if someone's boundaries have been crossed, we should immediately and openly reprimand the offender.
- Sally believes that unless a hard law was broken, the issue is a private issue and intervention could lead to emotional or self harm to some of the people involved.
- Andrea believes something in the middle, in using a light and loving touch to encourage people to forgive and become better.
All of them happen to be great people. None of them are ignorant, they just have different beliefs on the path to greater good. They don't harbor any ill resentment towards each other.... Only love. When a law has been broken, I believe you go to the authorities, period. You encourage your friend to go to the authorities. But in this gray area would you report a friend who you catch smoking weed?
Side note: I, more than most men, am very strong on the issue of consent, hence my Consent to Kiss initiative I hope to take further soon. I think it's terrible that men have taken advantage of women for so long. And yet, in this gray area where someone you know has behaved a little badly... well if you come at a friend with a pitchfork it may not help. It could cause devastation in your group.
This is, for me personally, the most challenging of all the examples I gave. Yes, wars have been fought over relgion, but in practical terms most of us won't start a war with our own friends over religious beliefs, but it can happen when someone acts out sexually. When someone in your group crosses boundaries with someone else, that will really test you in ways you never imagined. You could lose friends. I think you have to approach the issue with love. There are monsters in this world for sure (Weinstein, Epstein)... but there are other people who may deserve a chance at redemption and be told there is a better way. That might only happen if when you put the knives away and listen to both sides of the story from the people involved, and respect that others in your group may not want to get involved in that particular conversation. It's not that they don't believe in women's rights, they just might not aggree with your approach to it. I still believe - my belief - that you can come with something like this... and any attrocity in fact... from a loving place. If you're ever stuck in the middle of a situtation like this reach out to me please . I've been there. You will lose sleep no matter what, and you might lose friends (I won't sugar coat it).... but there are still wonderful lessons to learn at the end of that tunnel.
Why We Fear Different Beliefs
Maybe our fear of people with different beliefs is partly the subconscious realization that if you listen long enough to someone with a different point of view, you'll start to realize they have some salient points. Points you didn't really want to consider, because they make you realize no issue is black and white, it's areas of gray and color.
What is right and wrong is still evolving over time:
- In the past:
- Slavery - once okay... now known to be barbaric.
- Torture of animals and even humans - barbaric.
- Repressing women - not cool.
- Racial discrimiation - not cool.
- In the present:
- Repressing homosexuals - more countries now allow gay marriage.
- Eating meat - once never questioned... today a growing number of people say it's cruel and unsustainable.
- In the future:
- Eating plants - right now it's okay... tomorrow maybe we'll look back at people in 2020 and seem them as plant murders.
- Who Knows - marrying multipe people, mass deforestation (I think it's barbaric), euthanasia rights, marrying your dog.
We don't know the future, but it's certainly fun to imagine they will look at us barbaric monsters. So I ask you again. Are you sure you are right? Not that long ago the earth was flat. The happiest people, celebrate the diversity and different beliefs on this planet. The most enlightened people are deliciously happy in the knowledge that they usually don't know anything for sure.
- Lunar Vibes - the wonderful event I was thinking about when writing this article.