I have noticed a trend among some of my online social circles which I do not like. In fact, I feel it is downright unhealthy and dipping into toxicity. The thing which brought us all together is our similarity in beliefs of a political nature and how our life philosophies inform those beliefs. The discussions held by this circle have been, in the past, a means to teach others while holding reasoned, open debates with those who have clearly opposing views to our own. These debates allowed for questioning from observers and the peaceful exploration of ideas by following theoretical scenarios along tangents to their eventual positive or negative outcomes. There was respect for differing spiritual beliefs and a willingness to support each others’ needs based on what tribulations life has thrown at each member of the group.
At this time, however, that circle of open learning, encouragement, and debate has devolved into intolerance and the shutting down of voices not in line with a rigid, black-and-white philosophy of “anti-skepticism.” (Note: the philosophical definition of skepticism among this group differs from the concept of skepticism common to everyday people and deals primarily with the question of the interpretation of reality.)
This atmosphere of intolerance is not conducive to learning. It is also not conducive to offering mental or emotional support to those in the process of sorting out the cognitive dissonances in their personal belief systems.
Every person who starts on a philosophical exploration of life and what is right & wrong goes through different phases of understanding. If a person has been raised in a religious household, they may cling to their family-approved beliefs even if those beliefs become unhealthy. At the same time, a person raised without any religious beliefs may struggle to define the moral benefits of an idea which runs counter to standard (but negative) religious morals. There are also those who choose to explore another religion or spiritual philosophy in depth, because the beliefs they were raised with failed them somewhere along life’s journey. These failings may come with mental and/or emotional conflicts which lead to strong opposition to the formerly-held beliefs or a near-irrational clinging to the new beliefs. No matter how one arrives at their sense of self as defined in a spiritual sense (divorced from physical characteristics, limitations, and outside perceptions), experience plays a large part in determining which beliefs are helpful and which are harmful to us.
Everyone who chooses to analyze their life will come to a point where they need to examine their past, present, and future, and a person’s disposition will help inform them as to whether a particular set of spiritual beliefs is healthy or harmful to them. The unhealthy habits of one person may revolve around a past trauma locking them in a feedback loop of anxiety and worry for the future. Another person may shun their past and try to avoid acknowledging the trauma it caused, resulting in mental and emotional unpredictability. Still another person may dwell on their past to the point where they allow it to define them and destroy their confidence and self-esteem. The mindset and hang-ups of each individual differs based on how they respond to the negative experiences life has thrown at them. Some may find healthy benefits in engaging in religious or spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer. Others may find relief only in giving up such beliefs and practices because they cause the individual to return to unhealthy mindsets.
If you wish to help others who are trying to analyze and develop their philosophical view of the world, you need to be able to respect where they are in that journey. Even if they hold spiritual beliefs that you feel create a cognitive dissonance in their moral ideals, if they need those beliefs in order to maintain their mental and emotional health, it is not helpful to challenge those beliefs. Suffering a paradigm shift in order to strip away cognitive dissonance can be extremely disruptive to a person’s life. While such paradigm shifts should bring a positive clarity to a person’s point-of-view, there is always a possibility they may have the opposite effect. Attacking that which helps a person break out of an unhealthy mental and emotional state will not bring about a healthy, positive paradigm shift.
Confronting inconsistencies in moral understanding is necessary to helping a person grow, but it must be done in a way which does not strip away them of the belief that they can grow. The bottom line? Do not strip away a person’s hope.