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It’s Not Wrong To Believe You Are Right

Posted in Editorials on June 29th, 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot about the comments I received on my post on Leah Liberesco’s conversion. On Reddit, I was engaged by someone who said,

I feel that tolerance and respect for the positions of others outweighs the need to be right. That is how we deal with other UUs who have a different perspective such as theist vs atheist vs agnostic. Why would it be any different with people outside the UU faith?

This sounds really wise. Because it’s restrained. It’s submitting your ego to a higher priority of tolerance. But tolerance doesn’t mean tolerating intolerance. Respect does not mean ignoring your own capacity for critical thinking.

I’m treading on dangerous ground here. I know that my need to be right is something that can consume me. But I also know that I am a liberal because I believe words have meanings. I’m a liberal and a pragmatist because I really care about how my actions impact people around me. I have a desperate need to know I’m not hurting anyone else.

So when I read Adam’s post, “Today’s Reasons to Quit The Catholic Church” I couldn’t help but feel relief and pride that I have made that decision already and that it’s behind me. And I won’t apologize for that.

What’s the point in having a religion if you don’t believe it’s the right one? When Unitarian Universalists gather, we state that

We covenant to affirm and promote

The inherent worth and dignity of every person,
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations,
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations,
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning,
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large,
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all,
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Our principles mean something. That’s why we begin with a covenant, a solemn promise we make publicly to ourselves and each other. Stating that we affrim them means we believe in them.

There are others who don’t believe in our principles. And that our principles are not self evident to all people, is what marks us as a group when we say we covenant to affirm them. When we affirm our principles, we are by definition saying that we think that we are right and that people who disagree are wrong.

Disagreement need not be intolerant or disrespectful. But we can’t deny that we hold these disagreements. And we shouldn’t be ashamed to hold views that others don’t or back down from our belief that they are true.

The second part is that we are saying we will promote these principles. We will spread these values, talk about them and explain them when applicable. This doesn’t necessarily mean evangelize or argue when it’s inappropriate to argue. Just that we will speak up for our values when the time is right.

Now, “when the time is right” is open for debate, and that was the point of my previous post on this subject. But stating that you believe your beliefs are correct is not disrespectful or intolerant. If we don’t stand up for our principles, no one else will.

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