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Do you know what you believe? A brief look at relativism

Do you know what you believe? A brief look at relativism

If your car suddenly stops working, you can’t fix it with a new paint job. You have to go under the hood. Our attempts to hide the inner workings of our lives from each other only blinds us to our problems.

Relativism: Our unspoken assumptions

Before we begin to explore the question “What is true,” we are going to need to take a look at truth itself. In the Tales of the Poet, I am exploring the relative benefits of beliefs. Relativism (the idea that all belief systems are equally valid/true) can be a great tool when used properly, but most of us use it in a way that is extremely dangerous. Instead of using it as a means of silent introspection, we wield it as a weapon designed to silence those around us.

If you truly believe that the world would be a better place if everyone kept their beliefs private, then the only logical course of action is to keep that belief private. When you force others to conform to this belief, you are tearing apart the very floor you stand on. Argue that everyone else should keep their beliefs quiet while you instruct them, and you are well on your way to becoming the very monster that you had sought to destroy. Relativism seems like a humble notion on the surface, but underneath, it is no different than the belief systems it seeks to replace.

What assumptions make out of you and me

The primary problem with relativism is the prevalence of assumption. Like it or not, everyone has a worldview. Moreover, we live in a culture where our worldviews collide at many points. Look at any hot-button issue today and you will see the danger here. One of the first steps in relationship counseling is to put names to your feelings. Everyone gets angry. The people who know that they are angry will be to exercise self-control. The people who refuse to face their anger will soon find themselves controlled by it.

Our worldviews are dangerous in the same manner. We often pass value judgments on other people because we assume that everyone else is living under our own private beliefs. Many of the divisions between us come from our different belief systems. When we pretend that our beliefs are purely personal, we not only are unable to empathize with others, but we are also unable to understand why we can’t see eye-to-eye.

Allow me to explain with an example.

What assumptions are made in the following titles: Pro-life? Pro-choice? You already know which debate I’m referring to. Pro-life implies that the other group is anti-life. “You are murderers.” Pro-choice implies that the other group is anti-choice. “You hate women and their rights.” The assumptions go deeper than that, though. Is it surprising that many pro-life groups are Christian and many pro-choice groups are atheist or postmodernist? At the heart of the issue is the origin of life. Generally speaking, if life has a divine origin, then, through a series of implications, group A are murderers. If life has a natural origin, then, through another series of implications, group B violates basic human rights. When we embrace relativism, we don’t make religion go away, we just make ourselves blind to it. The communication barrier turns difficult problems into insurmountable ones.

To be clear, I am not here to advocate on any of these issues. My job is to advocate for truth. You probably believe certain things because someone whom you respect taught you to believe them. If you come away from this website believing different things merely because I told you to, then I failed to accomplish my primary goal. I want you to believe truth because you have looked at the facts and you know what they mean. I enjoy seeking out counter-arguments because it gives me an opportunity to understand my own position more fully. By challenging my worldview, I will either destroy it or make it stronger. Which one happens depends entirely on one question: Do I believe the truth?

What about those of us who aren’t relativists?

If the assumptions I make and the actions I take based on those assumptions are the root of the issue, then I am the problem. The people who are fighting for equality cannot win by changing their beliefs. They must change mine. If I am a racist, then keeping my beliefs to myself will only make the situation worse. I may forget why I act a certain way, but I will continue to act. Before we can fix my actions, we must fix my assumptions. I’m not saying that relativism is all bad. Discouraging people from voicing hurtful opinions is an easy way to clean up the internet. If you are not a relativist, then you are probably a very loud person, for better or for worse.

I do believe that we need to learn to coexist. But burying our beliefs will never fix the problem. If your car suddenly stops working, you can’t fix it with a new paint job. You have to go under the hood. Our attempts to hide the inner workings of our lives from each other only blinds us to our problems. Our nation has collectively thrown religion in the junkyard, but the problems are still getting worse. Hatred, persecution, and racial tensions are still growing. At our core, we are different people with different beliefs. If we want to fix the problems, we will need to find a universal standard to live by. We need to take a long look at truth. Yes, it will be messy. But our current solution has failed. It’s time we bring our beliefs back into the spotlight.

Looking Onward

I know that it is impossible to ask the entire world to adopt one belief system. But the truth is able to shape you as an individual into a peacemaker. I don’t need to convince the world, or even the majority of it, to consider their beliefs before change can happen. The world is a better place because I took the time to seriously consider truth. If you decide to investigate these things (whether here or on your own), you will eventually be able to say the same thing of yourself.

Consider this your introduction to the Tales of the Sage. From here on out, I will make the assumption that there is such a thing as truth. I will also assume that it is possible for someone to find this truth if he knows where to look. Apart from that, I intend to make no assumptions. I want us to discuss every aspect of belief before we take any step. Eventually, I will assume a complete worldview on this website. However, I will not jump there.

When someone tells you what to do, they are asking you to trust their worldview solely on the basis of your relationship with them. I want to fully explain my worldview first so you can know that the rest of my words are trustworthy. I want you to understand why I say the things I say. If you disagree with me, I want you to know exactly where and why. If I just make you angry, it is probably because you are unfamiliar with your own beliefs.

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