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Stick to your beliefs, or else what do you stand for?

By Carl S ~

The first thing this morning, I turned on the TV, and the words “soul search” appeared on the screen. The subject was the Republican Party’s defeat in the 2012 elections. The chief speaker was a very close adviser to Mitt Romney on campaign strategies. What was obvious to me is the fact that his party is still in shock and denial, nearly two weeks after the election, and still unbelieving that they were out of touch with the majority of Americans. He thought they should have stated their causes stronger, for one thing.

My wife woke up soon after, and I told her something about this discussion. She had a different take about the Republican Party’s not dealing with their defeats, which prompts me to write this response. She said,
“They did what they believed in, and they should stick with what they believe in. Or else, what do they stand for?”

Did she realize what she said? I don’t think she realized what she said, but I've been thinking about it ever since. Unawares, she made a point, but it includes her own Christian beliefs.

Firstly, let us admit that, yes, there is something honorable and noble in “sticking with what you believe in," when your beliefs are those of an abolitionist, a woman’s rights or civil rights advocate, etc. Individuals and groups have been jailed, tortured, and even murdered for such beliefs. They had to do a lot of soul-searching to arrive at those beliefs, a lot of weighing the evidence for staying with or bucking the traditional system. But - and this is a big BUT - there is a difference between such “sticking with what you believe in” and the religious intractability of belief, unamenable to discussion, adaptation, or negotiation. This problem might be considered by that Party in its soul-searching; because it was taken over by religious believers, it became them and stuck to what they believed in. By being true to what it had become, it lost and will lose in the future by sticking with its beliefs.

When I switched channels, I came to another example of sticking to beliefs: the brink of war between Israel and Hamas. Both sides are “sticking to what they believe in, or else what do they stand for?” Would they lose their identity, their legitimacy, and their belief in being the traditional true faiths by compromise? I‘m sure they really, truly, absolutely believe they would, and that’s why they're sticking to those beliefs, and have been at war with each other and at war with those among their own people who urge compromise. Neither side wants to give in, as if doing so would be a kind of death. Meanwhile, they actually kill each other. Historically, what is happening in that region repeats the religious and political wars we are familiar with throughout the world.

Anyone who has heard the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers,” knows it‘s about sticking to the faith, faithfully. What was good enough for them is good enough for me. It defines “us,” it is our character, our identity, what makes “us” unique, right? It's what gives us legitimacy and a right to respect granted by our deity and tradition. Or else, what do we stand for? We have our martyrs and leaders, respected in our communities. (Notice that these claims apply to every religion.).

Because religions are not reality based and insist on sticking to their beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary and the contradictions in their beliefs, they will continue to make no moral progress. The difference between progress and no progress lies in a personal and social soul-searching open to other points of view and opinions. At base, what is needed is a truth-finding willingness to not stick to what they believe in if what they believe in runs in opposition to reality. That’s the reason why the Republican Party lost, why the Religious Right lost, and why religions should lose.