Check out this video and then get back to me.
See, I am a big fan of tact and of propriety. I don’t like it when someone promoting an idea–be that idea a religion, a paradigm, an economic theory or a political stance–promotes it in a way that is rude or offensive. I don’t like it when idea-promoters spam other peoples’ websites, insult other people with ad hominem attacks, promote their idea at times that are inappropriate (like through Christmas gifts or at funeral protests), or continue to force their idea at someone who has made it clear that they’re not interested.
That being said, I am also a big fan of people trying to–tactfully–convert other people to their ideas. And again, I’m not just talking religion.
If you believe something strongly, you believe it for a reason. You wouldn’t believe something that you know to be false, and you wouldn’t believe something that you thought was ethically untenable. And if you know something that is both true and right, why wouldn’t you share it with others? Penn Gillette spoke of this specifically in terms of Heaven and Hell, but I think it has wider applications as well.
Do you believe that the auto bailout is a bad thing? Try to persuade me. Do you believe that there is no god? Try to persuade me. Do you believe that Barack Obama/Sarah Palin/Ron Paul/insert-politician-here is the best thing for America? Try to persuade me. Do you believe that homosexuals shouldn’t have the right to marry, that the dollar should return to the gold standard, that civilians should not own firearms, that abortion should be a constitutionally protected right, or that taxes need to be increased? Try to persuade me.
In (post)modern society, there seems to be this strong resistance to persuasion or conversion. I hear over and over again, “Well that’s true for you but not for me,” as a way of ending a discussion. What a cop-out, says I! The “that’s true for you” mentality inhibits conversation, inhibits discussion. People hesitate before sharing their beliefs because they “don’t want to impose” on anyone. Poppycock! As though the mere presentation of an idea is a imposition! People can decide for themselves whether to accept a belief or not, so it’s not imposition unless you continue to present after they’ve expressed their disinterest.
There’s an equally strong element in society that equates strongly-held beliefs with one’s private parts: “We all have them, but we shouldn’t be waving them in others’ faces.” Politics and religion become impolite subjects to bring up, almost taboo. Again, I say, what a cop-out! The more serious topics, like politics and religion, should be discussed even more! Otherwise we are living mentally insular lives, never knowing other possibilities, other alternatives, to our own beliefs.
And in the end, when we’ve talked it out and I haven’t converted you to my way of thinking, nor you converted me to your way of thinking, there’s no reason this should have to affect our relationship. If neither of us has been rude, if neither has been insulting, if neither has shared beliefs at an inappropriate time or place, and if we end the discussion when one of us tires of it, why should such things be friendship-breakers?
Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows how important conversation is to me. I love the free exchange of ideas. And I believe that coming to understand the people you disagree with–on their own terms–is a worthy goal.
So try to convert someone today, and let them try to convert you. I don’t care what the topic is, but the more important the better.