Lupus Alae

Spiritflights, fledgling and ancient


Considering the source: conflict and beliefs

The other night, whilst half-asleep, I was musing about a conversation I'd had with a friend about how often intellectual discussion devolves into heated debate, particularly online.

It dawned on me somewhere in my tired thoughts that there are generally two reasons, regardless of the subject at hand, behind someone's hackles rising regarding any given topic:

Insecurity and injustice (perceived or actual).

When we begin to feel that the position we support is on shaky ground, many times we become defensive, to the point at times of crossing the line between rational debate and emotionally-driven blows aimed at driving our fellow conversant-turned-opponent backward, away from the matter of our discomfiture. I've seen it happen over and over again. Nobody likes to be proven wrong or to be forced to acknowledge that something they're adamantly opposed to has logical merit.

There are also those times when we perceive an injustice or slight (not necessarily toward us, but toward something we care about) in the words of another, and we feel a need to undo it. We may wish to tear it apart and make the other party see reason/"take it back" since whatever has been said is somehow unjust or unfair regarding the topic at hand.

To some degree, it's natural to rail against injustice, to want to see it set right. The real problem is when, particularly in matters of faith/spiritual practice (or so it seems to me), the two causes of discord and irrationality get conflated with one another.

I have observed, in both myself and others, that a lot of the time when a person feels that his or her faith is being "attacked" in an intellectual discussion, the real root of that feeling of injustice is insecurity. I felt this often when discussing the faith I grew up in. People would point out fallacies or raise questions I had no answer for, in mild discussions and meaning me (and my faith) no harm whatsoever, and it just made my blood boil because I couldn't return an adequate response. I couldn't make them see how right I was, partly because on some level I didn't feel that I was right. I struggled with the faith I inherited, struggled mightily and for a long time, and anytime friends raised theological questions or discussed various paths and merits of other things, it was like poking an already sore and tender spot with hot coals.

Over time, I realized the problem was that I wasn't secure in my own faith because some part of me didn't accept it. It wasn't unjust for people to point out the inherent merits of other faiths or the logical inconsistencies of my own. Intelligent discourse is vital to living a rich and open life.

When I left my original path and found this one (after much soul-searching), I felt as if a great weight had been lifted off of my chest and my mind. Making the transition, embracing beliefs I actually can discuss mildly and openly with others, is like traveling in a completely different world. Yes, my friends and I discuss our various paths and the merits/detractors of each/of faith itself. Yes, there are still people out there who can and do attack my beliefs.

But I am secure. My heart and mind are open, I am comfortable in my knowledge base and my feet are firmly, gently placed on the path I truly desire to explore. That inherent defensiveness is gone, perhaps in part because my experiences and horizons are always broadening, and I'd rather make a friend through understanding and compassion than leave a discussion feeling slighted and small.

I may use these insights -- if indeed they are insightful; sometimes I second-guess myself -- in a book I'm interested in writing at some point. It's a book of spirituality, of exploration. Exciting stuff; stay tuned!

Also, a very happy October to all. :)


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