Take a moment to think about your political affiliation. Left, right, or don’t really care?

How do you look at those who do not fit within your political affiliation? Perhaps too politically correct, bigoted, or – you still really don’t care?

If talk of politics makes you feel the need to gouge your eyes out with a plastic spoon, take a moment to think about something which rarely causes a mental or social dilemma – your religious beliefs (if any).

It’s not unlikely that a gnostic person would believe that those without faith are “lost”, or, to some extremes, the human incarnation of Satan. With that, it’s somewhat expected that those who are agnostic or atheist see those who are religious to be “brainwashed”, or like Trey Parker and Matt Stones’ Caricatures in The Book of Mormon.

It’s logical that humans divide themselves up into like-minded groups; It’s wonderful to share ideas with those who think similar to ourselves, and expand upon our understanding of the beliefs we have. However, there can actually be a danger in only speaking with those who think as you do.

In fact, a study by Jessica Keating at the University of Colorado actually found that “[personal] views become polarized after a brief interaction with someone who has similar attitudes”. In essence, those who only talk with others who agree with them gradually become more and more extreme in their viewpoints and feelings; This can cause mass amounts of disconnect with others who may not agree, as well as a false sense of justification in thing which are merely opinions. In my experience, it seems that people even sometimes being to have a sense of self righteousness in their beliefs. It isn’t necessary to mentally categorize ourselves as above someone else simply because we have conflicting ideals.

That’s not to say there aren’t gnostic persons and agnostic persons who don’t mentally and verbally live in harmony with each other as though the Fire Nation has yet to attack. To those people, I salute you all for your ability to somehow coexist despite having – brace yourself – different ideas than each other. 

However, I do understand why people choose to only stay within their comfort level of like-minded discussion. Quite honestly, it is easier to be close minded; to remain in your current state of thought and never try to challenge yourself to an opposing viewpoint.

Professor of Duke Divinity School of North Carolina, Dr .Christena Cleveland divulged into the “Vices of close-mindedness” in her article, found here. The following is one meaningful excerpt which I feel accurately describes why people choose to be close minded.

More recently, social psychologists have studied a phenomenon called need for cognitive closure, which is defined as an individual’s “need for a firm answer to a question, any firm answer as opposed to confusion and/or ambiguity.”2 The idea is that we are so uncomfortable with ambiguity that if we can find a concept to help us make sense of the world, we will cling to it—even if the concept is inaccurate or incomplete. We want to quickly close the door to ambiguity because it threatens our grasp on control. So, we often settle for an answer even if it’s not the answer.

If you take a moment to consider each side from an object perspective, who’s to say either is right? In Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, social psychologist and author, Roy Baumeister explains that “The face of evil is no one’s face, it is always a false image that is imposed or projected on the opponent”. 1

Standard ethics classes teach there is no such thing as evil. Everyone has their own set of morals which are self justified and therefore, from the perspective of that person, are correct. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that Walter White is the fictional hero of our time, considering how many people he killed and how much meth he dealt out (that theoretically ended up in small towns like ours). I’m just saying that in his mind, he wasn’t wrong. He was doing what he had to do to create a positive end result. But I digress.

Some people may feel that open-mindedness is akin to having a lack of firm beliefs; philosopher William Hare argues that “open-mindedness should not be confused with a permissive… attitude. Open-mindedness regarding one’s beliefs is not really inconsistent with firm beliefs as long as such beliefs are open to revision in the light of evidence and argument”2. So, say in terms of  religious beliefs, a Christian being open to hearing the thoughts of an atheist does not mean they will burn in hell, nor does it mean that hearing the thoughts of a Christian person make an atheist suddenly feel the need to repent for their sins. The goal of discussing beliefs openly without the need to prove a point is to become slightly more enlightened and have one’s lense of the world opened up a little more.

 

Humans have very little time on this earth; There’s no need to spend that time divided and close minded to the ideas and perspectives of other people.

Keeping an open mind is not difficult, it just requires a conscious effort. The following paragraph will likely make you want to gouge your eyes out with a plastic spoon, but bear with me.

It’s likely you will encounter someone who voted in the general election opposite to the way you voted. Each side essentially detests the other, that’s been well established. Though it may seem impossible to fathom how someone could have voted for either Hillary, Trump, Johnson, Stein, or Harambe, try to listen to their reasoning, and find some common ground. You won’t do a 180° turn on your decision, but at the very least, you will have a better idea as to how and why someone thinks differently than yourself.

Quite honestly, I don’t think it’s fair that all Trump supporters are often depicted as racists, and I don’t think it’s fair that all Hillary supporters are often depicted as PC millennial butterflies. 138,884,643 Americans voted in the 2016 general election; It’s absolutely ridiculous to believe that every single person who voted fits to one stereotype or the other.

If we are to thrive as a human race, it is imperative that we start to listen to one another – and really listen, not just wait for our turn to speak and explain as to why the other person is wrong. Keep your mind open, especially to conflicting ideas; It allows you to validate or invalidate your own beliefs; either way allowing you to learn and grow as a person.

 

 

1 Baumeister, Roy F. Evil: inside human violence and cruelty. New York: W.H. Freeman, 2013. Print. 

2 Gluck, Andrew L. “Open-Mindedness Versus Holding Firm Beliefs.” Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 33, no. 2, July 1999, p. 269. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=3253846&site=ehost-live.

 

 

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