There are many opposing beliefs about many things in life. Ideally two people who disagree can discuss it and come to an agreement, realising that they did not understand the issue as well as they thought, or even that they were wrong. If we do not discuss such issues though, or if we do not discuss them properly, This divides us into ideological groups who think each other are wrong and never attempt to communicate with each other.
There seems to be a trend where people are taught that everything is subjective and that there are no right answers. They rightly think that everyone can have their opinion, but they do not recognise the difference between subjective matters of opinion and objective facts. They are right that everyone should be allowed think for themselves, hold the beliefs they choose, and come to their own conclusions, but they conflate these things with everyone’s beliefs being correct. Just because you have the right the your opinion doesn’t make that opinion correct.
They consider any attempt to question that opinion as imposing your beliefs on them. To them, all beliefs are subjective, so none are more right than any others. Worse, to them all beliefs might be sacred. Expressing doubt or asking questions about someone else’s beliefs is pointless to them because you already have your own beliefs and they already have theirs, and they see no need to change them. If you try to do so they might think you’re trying to change their mind, or that you think they are wrong, and this change is seen as imposing or controlling, or just offensive.
Consequently they live in denial of reality, where people can think whatever they want even if it is objectively false.
Some people consider their beliefs to be the only way for good or right people to think, often only because:
- Their cause is noble, so the rest of their beliefs are justified because of that.
- They are too cynical to believe any other method will work, that other methods are not extreme enough.
- They think their beliefs are objectively right without justification.
Anyone who disagrees with their strongly held beliefs is an outsider, and they assume that since these outsiders disagree with any part of their belief, they oppose their noble cause, are weak and inefficient, or just wrong.
These are wrong because:
- Having a noble cause is not sufficient for any ideology to be true or work. They may simply have good intentions but flawed methods.
- Extreme methods are not necessarily the only ones that work, and they are often very harmful. They can even do more harm than good.
- Objectivity must be proven, not assumed. If someone offers a counter argument, it must be considered and compared to your view to determine which is true.
Thinking that you are right and that they are wrong without giving it much thought is simply dogma. While there are certain things such as human rights that one could argue are important, if not objective and universal, this does not mean that every broad belief you hold relating to human rights is consequently valid.
You can have good intentions but be wrong about how you go about implementing them. Not every detail of your beliefs is necessarily right, even if they have good reasons. There are times when certain important, necessary, and good policies don’t make sense and can be harmful if implemented at the wrong time or if done poorly.
You should not make assumptions about someone simply because they disagree with you. Just because someone supported Trump doesn’t mean they were racist. There are many misguided reasons to have supported someone who promoted a racist agenda. If we say that all Trump supporters are racist, we are assuming that they support all of Trump’s policies, which is often not true. If someone does not agree with the healthcare system in the US, it does not necessarily mean they want to deprive the poor of healthcare simply to pay less taxes. They might simply have issues with some of the policies or how it is implemented. The important thing is not to assume, but instead to ask why. Asking is a simple way to determine the truth and does not cost much more than some time. Some discussions might take far longer than others, but ultimately all our beliefs rely on other more fundamental beliefs. We should not be satisfied with shallow reasoning or claims, instead we should care about the more important reasons that determine how we think and act.
It Harms Us
If we avoid people simply because we disagree with them, then we end up with isolated groups who all think they are right. Individual and social progress stops, and we become dogmatic and close minded. In this case If we only associate with people we agree with then we limit our thinking and become closed to different ideas. By avoiding different people we avoid different opinions. If we are content with our beliefs then we are gambling on our beliefs being right. We may have settled on true beliefs, or the beliefs may be flawed, but either way we are stuck with them.
In a way we aren’t even allowing ourselves or them to be in a position where we can be open or close minded. By not allowing ourselves to receive new opinions, we never get an opportunity to reject new information, so instead of being close minded we are more permanently isolating ourselves.
It Harms Everyone Else
By doing this, we are not only limiting ourselves but others too. The same way that our beliefs become stagnant, so do those of the people we disagree with. They are not exposed to the ideas you believe are true, so if they are wrong they never get an opportunity to know that. We are essentially depriving them of new ideas and forcing them to live in a divided world where differences are seen as irreconcilable. At best, groups of like minded people stick together and never communicate with each other. At worst, these groups skip discussion, the purest form of conflict resolution, and instead devolve into subjugation, or worse, silencing or eliminating those with dissenting opinions. Differences become heresy, and humans become enemies. This leads to murder and war.
Reasons to not Discuss
Sometimes it is not worth discussing things with these people because we don’t have the time, it is harmful for us to interact with them (emotionally or physically), or because they will not consider what we are trying to tell them.
If we don’t have the time to discuss things with someone then trying to do so will likely result in negative consequences for ourselves by us missing something more important than explaining this to the person. If the person is racist or otherwise harmful, us trying to have a discussion with them might result in them being mean to us, or us being exposed to toxic messages that make our lives harder to deal with. They might also try to physically or emotionally harm us if they are malicious. In these cases, even if we do come to a conclusion through dialogue with them, it might not be worth it for the damage we sustained. And if the dialogue does not result in anything, then we got hurt with no benefits.
If however they simply won’t listen to us, then they may be close minded and trying to discuss things with them will be pointless.
However, all of these reasons, especially the last, are all subject to our perception of the situation. Many people mistakenly assume that someone who has justifications for their beliefs, or someone who asks for more explanation or evidence, is someone who is close minded. Discussions that require a long time or a lot of explanation can make someone desperate, especially if they think they are explaining something so clearly that the only way the other person can not agree is if they are close minded. This is often not true, and makes people judge others poorly, prematurely, and mistakenly.
We should not mistake all opinions as being subjective, or that our opinions are always objective. Doing so leads us to isolate ourselves from others, becoming close minded and limiting our knowledge, essentially denying us the truth to us and to others. If they’re right, find out. If you’re right, share it.
Be open to new opinions to make sure you have the truth.