Assuming that a person’s beliefs don’t include directly harming others, can we separate their person from their beliefs? In other words, can we break our western habit of equating person and belief with the result that if someone holds beliefs we disagree with we assume they are personally defective, perhaps even reprehensible? Particularly in light of recent research that seems to indicate there are constitutional and innate differences between political conservatives and progressive, can we at least agree that most of our differences are not the result of meanspiritedness or inherent defect?
If we cannot get to that point, we are really saying that we ourselves and all of our beliefs are perfect. I don’t know about you, but I long ago abandoned any notions I held of my own perfection. I think it was last week. All kidding aside, I know I am not perfect and I know I have blind spots. Since I recognize that, I can hardly expect perfection of belief in anyone else. What’s more, since I believe that compassion, forgiveness, and love are primary spiritual values, I have to be able to separate person from behavior and belief if I am going to be able to see them with love, forgiveness, and compassion.
I believe one of the biggest reason we seem unable to resolve our differences on every level is that we have an inherent (as opposed to innate) desire to prosecute and persecute those who disagree with us. Until we let go of that, there is little chance for progress or peace.