What “They” Believe

It’s not as simple as just being “wrong”


I ran across this comment via social media the other day.

You don’t have to approve of other people’s choices. You don’t have to like their hair color, their tattoos, or their piercings. You don’t need to agree with their style of dress or how tight their leggings are. You’re not required to agree with their non-traditional lifestyle or their relationship decisions. And you don’t need to like their religion, faith, or spiritual beliefs. What you DO need to do is respect that other people don’t have to live by your rules, because they’re no more important or relevant than anyone else’s. Acting like a decent human being and letting people live their lives should be an easy decision for everyone.

Here’s the problem: if you understand what “they” believe and why they believe it, you’ll quickly see it’s not an easy decision. Not at all.

Let’s say it’s your job to sell widgets. These widgets are used in some kind of life safety device. Your widgets are not just the best, they’re the only widgets that actually work. Anyone using any other type of widget will be killed because of their widget failing.

So, you sell the hell* out of your widgets, because you don’t want anyone else to die.

The problem, of course, is that most folks don’t believe that your widgets are superior. In fact, some even believe widgets aren’t needed at all.

But you don’t want people to die. You desperately don’t want people to die because of their use of low-quality widgets, or no widget at all.

This isn’t about giving them a choice, it’s about life and death. You know that only your widgets will ensure safety. All other widgets ensure death. It becomes your moral imperative, and that of your widget-selling company, to save as many people as possible from inferior widgets. There’s simply no other solution possible. Yours is the only widget that will save people.

Regardless of whether those using other widgets agree with you, you must convince them to use your widget, or you will have failed, and they will die.

There is no alternative. You must evangelize your widgets, or you’ll be letting innocent people die.

Of course, you can see where this has landed.

  • widgets are a variety of evangelical and similar religions
  • dying is eternal damnation
  • living is your eternal reward, typically “heaven”

Many religions see themselves as the only correct belief. Only by believing in and following their precepts — i.e. using only their widgets — will you be rewarded in heaven.

Only theirs. There is no compromise, there is no alternative. It is only their belief system that they consider the correct belief system.

All others are wrong.

If you believe anything else, or nothing at all, you’re damned. You’re a heretic. You’re destined for an eternity of anguish, or whatever that religion believes happens to non-believers.

Now, their members really do care about you. They want you to make it to heaven. But the only way they see that happening is if they successfully convert you to their way of thinking.

Sometimes, that includes by force, if necessary. (Whether force can actually change belief is a topic for another day.)

Acting like a decent human being and letting people live their lives should be an easy decision for everyone.

To these folks, “acting like a decent human being” explicitly means they cannot just “let people live their lives”. In their view, a decent human being will save others from eternal damnation by converting them to The One True Belief.

Now, you may disagree with all that. I know I do.

But please don’t let that disbelief stand in the way of understanding.

What’s important here is not whether we agree or disagree. What’s important here is understanding what “they” believe, and how unshakeable that belief may be.

Asking them to be a decent human being is doomed to failure when we fundamentally disagree on what it means to be a “decent human being”.

Anger will not change their minds. Logic will not change their minds. Reason will not change their minds.

I don’t know what will change their minds.

But whatever it is it begins with understanding what, exactly, they believe.

*) No pun intended. Honest.

1 thought on “What “They” Believe”

  1. This is simple and true. The only thing we can do for people thinking different is – to help them, in the best case – to educate them. But not to change their minds. To change we can only ourselves.
    Quote: “I don’t know what will change their minds.”
    I do know: teach them the basic laws, the basic laws and principles accepted (sorry, not always and everywhere!) as commonly known, as true, as facts. Is there some other possibility? If they don’t know and don’t want to learn your laws and facts, – No, there is no way. If only shoot them dead. What some people and groups of people are doing now. Is this a solution? They think – yes. But the evoluion and our history says – it is a way to the death of both. Or, at least – it is a way to slow down the evolution of Homo sapiens. And this is a big mistake.


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