Let’s keep it civilized

Christen Mullett

I spoke recently with a friend about religion, and although we have very different views on the subject, our conversation was completely civil, unlike many religious discourses that occur these days. The simple truth is that people with different beliefs have been fighting for millennia – probably since humans have had language with which to squabble. I will not argue my religious beliefs or sit here and claim that mine are the best and none of you had better think differently (or else). I will, however, point out how most people who consider themselves especially religious will claim that theirs is the only way and if you don’t agree, well you are headed straight to hell. (For the purposes of this short column, I will refer mostly to Protestants, if to any religion in particular.)

I guess my main point in this article is that religious discussions do not have to leave everyone steaming. It is possible to come away from such a discussion with positive feelings about others’ beliefs and perhaps even a sense of having learned something about ideas different from one’s own. These encounters need not lead to an argument of who is right and who is wrong, but rather to a greater understanding of, and respect for, another’s point of view. When the aim of such a discussion is forming a connection with another person, the opportunity is presented to us to come to understand the world in a broader and more complete sense. Isn’t that what we are all trying to achieve here at college? Exposing ourselves to different people, places and ideas all allow us to become more well-rounded and complete individuals.

Sometimes it seems like people just cannot help getting angry with those who disagree with their strongly held beliefs. I have seen several column articles this year erupt into a comment storm of trash talking. Maybe there is something inherently wrong with the way we regard our beliefs if our instincts about them require us to defend them ferociously at the expense of others’ feelings. When we can step back and regard another person’s differing beliefs as valid and deserving of respect, no matter how much they stray from our own, then we can say that our religious beliefs are mature. I do not think it matters how vigorously one can defend his or her beliefs, but how much respect one holds for beliefs unlike his or her own. I believe it is a greater mark of maturity to be able to converse with another person about contrary religious ideas and not have one’s feathers ruffled. It does not really fit with Christian ideals (at least) to become incensed over religious differences. Isn’t that a mark of pride to argue a point at another’s expense? Our goal should be peace and respect for others’ beliefs and choices about life. Like the old cliché goes, “at least we can agree to disagree.” If only that could be true for all of us.

Christen Mullett is a senior psychology major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].