Monday, September 17, 2012

"Because _____ told me so."

I would like to address something that is hard to address.  Its a mentality.  What it is, is this.  Far too many people think, feel, vote, believe, and value as those around them think, feel, vote, believe and value.  They never stop and question for themselves.  They never take that step back and ask the simple, but tough, question, "Why?"  Or, if pressed to answer that question, repond with a pat answer, such as, "because that's what my religion says," or, "because I'm a Republican," or, "because that's the way I was raised."

Listen up, folks.  You aren't your religion, you aren't your political party, you aren't your church, your friends, or your parents.  They are all parts of you, but they aren't you.  You have to be you, and think for yourself.

A year or so ago, I was watching a show on Netflix.  There was a woman on there who was opposing the right for gay people to adopt children.  When pressed by two gay men with children as to her reasoning (which they asked quite nicely), her only response was, "Well, my religion says its wrong."  I kept waiting for her to come up with her own, personal reason, but she kept going to the pat answer of, "because my religion says its wrong."

Being an election year, I keep hearing all sorts of arguments people are making for/against a political candidate, based on what the media/their particular political camp is feeding them.  False, or at best, twisted, information which is clearly (to me) a regurgitation of something they heard somewhere.  I'm sorry.  If the best argument you can give me as to why not to vote for Obama is because someone in Romney's camp told you that Obama is a horrible guy, then forgive me for ignoring you.  If the best you've got is not coming out of your own brain and mouth, then I probably won't consider the point you're trying to make.

Before I start sounding all self-righteous or whatever, as many people who know me personally, or have read my blog extensively, know, I once fell into that thinking.  For years, I ran in circles where I was taught that it was dangerous to question things.  Having lived both in, and now out of, those circles, I would say that's completely untrue.  It is far more dangerous not to question things.  I have told people numerous times (in this blog, in fact, if I'm not mistaken) that I believe in order to establish what you do believe, you have to also understand what you don't believe, and the only way to do that is to ask questions, of both your innermost self, and your world.

In my early days as a Christian, I believed every word that proceeded from the pulpit - or any Christian's mouth, really - as God-honest, gospel truth.  Political statements from the pulpit, I didn't question.  Stances on social issues, I didn't question.  I lapped it up like honey, even if it didn't "taste just right."  I adopted the political party I was fed (Republican).  I adopted views and behaviors that I didn't want to own, but was convinced I had to.

But somewhere inside, fortunately, the free thinker was still there.  I finally "woke up" and realized I had to have my own beliefs.  (God bless my parents, because they raised me that way!)  I had to question, I had to know, and I had to drop the "because _____ told me so" answer to everything.

My beliefs are mine now.  If you ask me a question - political, religious, moral, ethical, or otherwise - I will have an answer for you.  My own answer.  Not an answer based on how I was raised (I differ both religiously and politically from my parents), my church's doctrine, a book I read, what a friend told me....or anything else.

Okay, maybe this will sound harsh, but what those pat answers tell me is that a person is too apathetic to do their own thinking and introspecting.  Yes, it is hard to do that work.  Yes, it can be scary to ask questions or go against the grain.  But it is necessary!

I think this mentality bothers me more than ever now that we are 7 short weeks out from an election.  I would have to say that the people I have talked politics with are 50/50 when it comes to what they believe and why.  50% know what they believe on every issue and why.  They make no excuses or apologies for their beliefs.  Even though I disagree with most on one issue or another, I respect them a lot for having a well thought out, personal perspective.  The other 50%, I get the impression, are only voting the way they are voting because of their spouse, their religious affiliation, the way they were raised (how their parents have always voted), what the media is feeding them, or because they belong to one political party or another.  They don't own their own choices.

I guess that's what I'm getting at - people need to own their opinions.  If you are voting how a political party tells you to vote, then that party owns your vote.  If you are voting based on the attitudes of your church, then the church owns your vote.  If you are voting the way your parents raised you to vote, then your parents own that vote.  You need to have ownership over your own thoughts and beliefs!  Otherwise, let's be real, you aren't voting with your own convictions, you are voting with what others have told you your convictions should be, according to them.

This same principle goes for religion, morals, ethics, etc.  You are living your life - own it!  Know your beliefs, and know why you believe them.  "Because ____ told me so" isn't good enough.

So I urge you, readers, to ask yourself the hard questions.  Ask yourself why you believe what you believe about politics.  If its "because ____ told me so," then I think some re-evaluation is in order.  Be true to yourself!  Ask yourself why you believe what you believe religiously.  If your answer is simply, "it was how I was raised," or, "because the Bible (or any other religious writing) tells me so," then that's not good enough.  How is it personal to you?  Ask yourself why you believe what you believe, come to your own conclusions, and own it.  Make no apologies for it, and make no excuses why you can't or won't.  Its important.  More important than you can imagine!

I fully recognize I may get some backlash for writing this, but I felt it needed to be said.  I lived too many years of my life piggy-backing off the beliefs of other people, and I paid for it.  I don't want others to wake up one day and realize others have ownership over their beliefs - its not worth it.

What about you?  Can you say with 100% certainty that you own your own beliefs?  Do you agree with what I've written here, or disagree?  What are your thoughts?

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