By Sarah Eckrich
October 11, 2012
We have come a long way since slavery and women not having the right to vote. We show more skin, swear on TV and radio, and don’t hang people for burglary. That’s enlightenment, right?
It has recently come to my attention that this is not necessarily the case. Many of us have different views about abortion and gay marriage. Those who see them as acceptable then see those who don’t as narrow-minded and bigoted.
There are two major things wrong here. The first deals with the concept of beliefs. In the days when women were oppressed, they were not considered equal to men. People weren’t being intentionally sexist; they were simply acting in accordance with their beliefs. Likewise, people who don’t feel homosexuals should have the right to marry often harbor those views based on their religious beliefs. I can tell you that I personally disagree with anyone who justifies their views by the Bible (it also says not to eat shellfish). However, I will always defend their right to feel that way.
Worse than assuming legitimate beliefs are bigoted is believing that one or several sets of views held by any one person define that person. Democrats and Republicans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists—we all have different views. These views don’t impact our other affiliations. People are far more dynamic than that. It’s not fair to judge someone and treat them differently based on one opinion.
We’re supposed to be raised to understand that we are created equal. We are all human beings coexisting on the same Earth. Most of us heard the Golden Rule in childhood: do unto others as you would like done unto you (not as you think they deserve). Plenty of us have family members who disagree with some of our views that we consider more modern, but we don’t sass our grandmas for thinking knee-length shorts are too short.
If every person you ever met who disagreed with you attacked you for your beliefs, you would never want to consider where that person was coming from. Each of us has come to our beliefs based on something personal. If you ever want anyone on the other side of the fence to see things from your perspective, you have to come to them attempting to understand, but not with malice. If you fight with a close friend, you eventually make up and explain to each other where you’re coming from to better understand.
I recently encountered a post on Tumblr where a young man was describing his disdain that no one could understand that, based on his religious beliefs, he doesn’t believe it’s okay to be gay. He was gravely upset that people so quickly judged him for defending his morals. He didn’t insult anyone or use any derogatory terms—just respectfully sought understanding. The backlash was incredible. People I’ve considered friends most of my adult life were calling this stranger a bigot and telling him to get his head out of the sand and grow up.
That’s wrong. Every man, woman, and child is entitled to believe whatever they want to believe, and no one has the right to judge anyone for that. It goes completely against all of the progress we say we’ve so proudly made. You’ll never change anyone’s mind by attacking them. Aside from that, how can you call yourself open-minded if you can so easily attack someone for one belief?
One belief alone defines no one.