Thursday, August 01, 2013

closer to the truth

A friend of mine suggested that spiritual communities see themselves as "closer to the truth," and therefore automatically become judgmental.

I have met people who were deep into spiritual communities who were not judgmental, so I don't think that is necessarily true, but I do see where he's coming from, and expanded it to any community, not just spiritual.

Thinking about this stuff, it's been rattling around in my head, and I don't have anything profound on it, but I just wanted to note the idea of someone who thinks they are closer to the truth, and how that leads to judgmentalism. Of course we make judgements all the time, but in our public selves, tolerance of difference is a virtue. Everyone has different experiences, circumstances, culture, race, class, sexual orientation and religion. Now some things are against the law, and there are hopefully appropriate punishments for that. And some things hurt others or society. I particularly get upset when someone litters right next to a garbage can. Or honks a car horn out of impatience, adding noise pollution to the world. We can't help but be judgmental. You can't torture babies for pleasure, to cite a famous ethical example that seems self evident. Being aware of judgments, and only acting on the ones that are useful, is a skill. What is useful is defined by perspective too, we can't step away from a perspective.

To think you're closer to the truth because you're connected to a community that is a sliver of the world--that is hubris. Of course experts are needed. The scientific community see global warming as a truth, though in a portion of the cultural landscape, people see it as a political belief to deny global warming as a kind of expression of a certain identikit. I think the scientific community's idea is more grounded in rules and well thought justification, and the other belief is more of a kind of political fear of government "taking over our lives," because if we really believed in global warming we might have to restrict our emissions, and they feel that should not even be on the table. They believe in the right to warm the earth hidden in the denial that is happening.

That some people feel they are closer to the truth is a natural thing. We go to the doctors for their medical opinions because of their expertise. Spiritual communities are different though. Doctors in America do not necessarily put forth a religious brand of medicine, it is detached, even if spirituality guides a doctor in their personal life. So what is the expertise of a spiritual community? It is for those members who wish to pursue that particular path. So they are experts for those people. This is why, I think, America included a separation of church and state. People fled religious persecution in Europe, and then tried to gain power and enforce their religion on others. People pointed out that that was a contradiction, and thus included religious tolerance in the idea of America.

So while my friend points out something that isn't in my opinion only about spiritual communities, and he doesn't mention that experts are closer to some truths--the dentist knows more about teeth than I do, I did agree with him that is can be a root of misplaced judgmentalism, a potential trap that separates and doesn't partake in the virtue of tolerance.

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