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160 Celebrating our differences

Doing the right thing for the right reason characterizes humanists and religious believers alike and blesses all of us. Rainbow colored candles all give the same light.

Seeing two perspectives

Step 1 is a leading question: are you glad that you are not identical to me? If we were exactly the same, what fun would there be in letting you be you? Variety, originality, creativity--these are all reasons people enjoy being unique. Surely you are happy being individual and special.

Step 2 is a little bit more difficult: are you glad that I am not you? Looking at the problem from this end is slightly unsettling; you might feel uncomfortable because I am different from you.

Dealing with difference

This is not an idle joke. I have friends who want to be validated by my supportive agreement. They feel threatened if they perceive my viewpoint to be different from what they believe. Consciously they would say that they want to be unique and special. Unconsciously they are uneasy when I do not precisely match their thinking. As much as they hunger for independence, they simultaneously hunger for validation. Viewed in that light, my difference is a threat.

If I wear my hair differently from yours or dress according to a different fashion, you accept that as natural. You do not want me to be a mindless copycat because you are unique.

On the other hand, if you are a born-again Christian and I am a skeptical atheist, you might not be so happy that I am different. Why not? What difference does my belief make to what you believe?

Conclusion

I observe that ethical humanists have the same social behavior norms as the most devout religionists. That is, both groups clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless. When it is genuine (not deception to entice membership), kindness has the same beneficial result whether it comes from believers or unbelievers of any thought system.

Therefore, both sides of a belief divide may rejoice over their differences and those who are different. We not only tolerate; we celebrate the fact that we are united in action albeit from different belief systems. The result is that the human family remains inclusive, and we thrive by mutual appreciation.

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