On Finding Common Ground in a Polarized World

I don’t usually talk about my own beliefs, and a big reason for this is that I try very hard to remain open-minded. This means that my beliefs are consistently subject to review and revision. This being said, we are living in a polarized era where one is quickly branded as either for-or-against an idea or belief system, often based on some arbitrary observation, and if one agrees on one thing, it is often assumed that they will fall in line with a constellations of beliefs and positions that are assumed to be inextricably related. This, in my opinion, is highly problematic. Many of our beliefs range across a spectrum of positions and are often more individualized than we assume. Get to know people and resist the urge to simply branding them one way or another, I would suggest.

I know many of us feel that this state of affairs is new and unique to our era, but I also think that this is not true. May I remind you of the Montagues  and the Capulets? Polarization is nothing new. What is new, however, are the platforms through which we can communicate, and while many bemoan the impact of social media and open access to information as the vehicles through which we fortify our silos and hedge our ideologies, I see these developments differently. I recognize their pitfalls, but I also see these platforms as potentially rich resources for building common ground and bridging seemingly impossible divides.

Why am I saying all this? At the risk of causing friction with some of my non-believing friends, I want to make a point: one does not need to believe in Christianity per se to believe in good Christians. To me, beliefs are far less relevant than actions, and relationships are far more important than dogma. It is no secret that I grew up in Christianity and that many of my family and friends are Christians. I am not willing to sacrifice these relationships over questions of faith and belief. Furthermore, I also have a lot of great friends and family that belong to various secular communities, and the same is true in this case. I often find myself at odds with their beliefs as well, but am not willing to prioritize ideological positions over people.

My philosophy of life is simple: I want to do good in the world, and I want to build and maintain relationships with people who share a similar objective. What “good in the world” means is different to different people, but I have found that I can always find common ground with those that share this same orientation regardless of their personal beliefs or lack thereof. At the risk of sounding religious, one might label this philosophy as “love.” Perhaps this is the one ‘dogma’ to which cling.

 

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