We all have individual beliefs. Even I, although I like to promote rationalism and reason, still have beliefs that can’t be verified 100%. I assume that my senses and the senses of everyone around me are trustworthy. I still recognize optical illusions and the ways your mind can fill in the gaps to create false senses, but for the most part, I assume that if I can corroborate my sense of sight with touch and vice versa, odds are the world I live in is real. This belief is one that I’ve found compatible with most people, even those that espouse some kind of “brain in a vat” theory as, for all intents and purposes, our world functions as if it is real. But what happens when these beliefs aren’t compatible? Where should we draw the line when we “live and let live” and when we need to make a stand against someone else’s beliefs?
It’s no small secret that my fellow liberals and I can get a bit particular about everyone holding the same beliefs. Figures like Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Dave Chapelle seem to be almost instantly disavowed as soon as they say anything problematic, while the right wing welcomes them into their fold with open arms. One republican Senator even went so far as to refer to Maher as an “honorary republican” as if he hadn’t spent the last 8 years promoting liberal views.
Of course, this openness to accept any figure who happens to say something to “trigger the libs” is really just a sign of how much the conservative side is losing the culture war. The majority of people in America don’t hold many conservative views. The backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a great indication of that. The Republican party hasn’t won a presidential election with a majority vote for nearly two decades. So, since they no longer have any chance with the majority they’ve learned that beggars can’t be choosers; they’ll take what they can get. Still, there’s something to be said about the tendency liberals and leftists have to ostracize would-be allies over seemingly innocuous issues.
The question is, where do we draw this line? Surely there’s somewhere we can point to in regard to what issues are the most pressing or whether it’s worth it to have the support of certain figures? In reality, this is much more nuanced than a simple line in the sand would have you believe, but I think the main issue exists in how we interpret beliefs compared to our values.
My beliefs are fairly simple: as a humanist, I believe humanity should be valued above all and the promotion of rational, scientific processes can lead to a better society if followed. But what about values? Aren’t these the same thing? Not at all. There are many Christians throughout the nation that would agree with my values of promoting science, giving women bodily autonomy, and the importance of LGBTQ and civil rights. On the flip side, there are many professing humanists as we’ve seen with Dawkins who, although they agree with me on paper, differ greatly when it comes to the values they hold. At the end of the day, whether someone believes in a god or is an atheist like me has no bearing on whether or not we can work together to push for societal change.
A lot of the nuance comes in when I try to push back on people’s beliefs. I still believe that religion as a whole is irrational and detrimentally harmful to the development of children. But is my tweet about Peterson’s ridiculous quandary of the bible being “true in a metaphysical sense” going to push the conversation in a healthy direction or am I better at focusing on where we differ on values. After all, what values are held are what’s going to eventually push society one way or another.
I don’t think we need to forget beliefs entirely. Beliefs are what give us our values in the first place, but I feel these conversations are ones that shouldn’t be held in 240-character tweets but rather in conversations, debates, and blog posts. These are all places where there is the freedom to express tone or clarify what one is trying to get across in a statement.
At the end of the day, there are too many varying degrees in beliefs among different cultures for us to ever come to one uniform set of consistent beliefs. But if we could at least recognize the nuances of our own worldviews versus the values we would like to incorporate into society, we might just start moving in a direction of more harmonious coexistence.
Or at least, that’s what I believe.