The simplest, most basic questions tend also to be the deepest and most difficult to answer.
Though many accuse philosophers of pointless rambling on such abstract questions, I think it is a matter of simple fact that what we believe all but dictates how we behave. The man who steps out his front door, and sees a passing crowd of his fellow human beings will not react the same manner as his companion, who sees an ignorant mob.
It could even be argued that the world one sees is the essential part of one’s character. That being the case, it is worth it to dig a little deeper into the question.
In my view, one of the more troubling positions in our culture is materialism. That is, the idea that only the physical exists. When I step out my front door, I don’t see only a crowd of physical people. I see spiritual beings. I think this has an effect on how I treat them.
I also see ethics. The idea that morals are simply what society says is right or wrong doesn’t carry weight with me. I have no experience with that at all. Rather, I see a world where some things are truly good, and some are evil.
Of course, I’m not for a moment saying that one must see things as I do to be a good person. I mean only that I see a world that is not empty, but filled with love and meaning.
It strikes me as odd, then, that we are so quick to try to destroy the views of others. Yes, I can certainly understand the desire to share our own views, to get people to see our truths – this helps us connect to and understand one another. I can also see the basic desire to state what one believes to be the truth.
But neither of these, unfortunately, fully explains the forceful, often vitriolic, nature of debate.
There is definitely an element of pride, on all sides, in arguments over belief. Even more than that, I think, there is a certain justification project. One feels affirmed in a belief after winning a debate, and I don’t expect that the most deeply confident are tempted to mock or scorn opponents. Rather, this is an act for a superficially intense, but shallow, belief.
If this seems a harsh judgment, I can only say that it is made with empathy. I, too, have been in such a place, and I can find no better explanation as to why we might relish the idea of casually, even recklessly, devastating the dearest beliefs of another human being. Even in the unlikely event that we are as right as we think, this is cruel.
And here we have the state of so much of what I have seen across the web. One-upsmanship and attacks abound, and still it is an effort to abstain – to not try to educate, to not try to argue a point.
Looking back at so many failed attempts at convincing others, I wonder if, perhaps, I should have been less interested in trying to convince them of my beliefs, and more concerned with understanding the stakes for both of us. Ultimately, a glimpse of the deepest beliefs of another is a sacred thing.
For me, to deny God would be to deny every part of me that says there is more to this life than atoms slamming against each other.
While one may, perfectly reasonably, disagree, I can’t imagine why someone would wish to rip that idea apart overnight – and can only conclude that those that do simply do not understand how deep the thought goes. It is the frame on which all the greatest part of my soul rest, and I find that I do resent anyone that would hammer at it without respect for those things which it supports.
And, perhaps, this is why respect is so badly needed. Without it, there can be no depth of understanding, and change, if it comes at all, is bound to be catastrophic.