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It's Our Turn: New beliefs, new gods

Sometimes I just can't believe it. How can people possibly say some of the things they do? Where do their strange opinions come from? What is happening to the world?

I'm sure everyone has read or heard bizarre, hateful, silly, disgusting and totally illogical statements from people they don't agree with.

If you're like me, you've looked at these arguments and opinions with bewilderment, confusion, and maybe even anger.

Although it's convenient to label these people as troublemakers or "just plain crazy," the truth is that they are probably neither.

What I've come to realize is that as strange as many people's ideas are, they are not just trying to be different or contrary ­- deep down inside they actually believe what they're saying.

I've also come to realize that all our opinions, ideas and feelings are based on deep beliefs that we have about the world and how it works. Our response to every issue is shaped by those beliefs and must conform to them. These beliefs were either programmed into us, or at some point we made a conscious decision to accept them as reality.

Though we like to think we can change someone's mind, the fact is that people basically decide what they are going to believe and then stick to it, regardless of any evidence against it. Those beliefs won't easily change and we shouldn't expect them to.

Rather than waste time arguing, it might be better to discuss how we arrive at the beliefs we have, and what those beliefs actually are.

There are many dysfunctional beliefs that rule the world today. Some are fairly obvious, such as the common belief that happiness comes from seeking pleasure and excitement, and from having lots of things. Others include the beliefs that life should be perfect with no struggle or problems, that there is nothing beyond what can be scientifically proven, and that "it's all about me."

Everyone, today, is infected with these beliefs to some degree. Many of us are so badly afflicted that we can no longer see that these beliefs have negative rather than positive consequences.

However, one of the least obvious beliefs - yet most destructive by far - is the idea of relative truth, or in other words that there are no absolute, unchanging standards of right and wrong. It's the idea that people should decide for themselves, or look at current standards, when determining if something is acceptable or not.

Up until about 50 years ago, the belief in absolutes of right and wrong was nearly universal. Now, the belief in relative truth is so widespread, especially among younger people, that anyone who believes in absolute truth is seen as a kook.

The important thing to know about this belief is that there is no in between. It's impossible to sort of believe in absolute truth. Logic tells us that something has to be either true or false - it cannot be both at the same time.

So, there really are only two choices: Either there are universal standards of right and wrong that transcend fads, politics and personal feelings, or there are not. If there are standards of absolute truth, we are obligated to follow them regardless of our feelings; if there are not, then we have no obligation to follow any rules or standards whatsoever.

If there are no absolutes, then life is basically a free-for-all. If that's the case, then it is no more wrong to kill a baby than a mouse. If values are determined by law or what the majority believes, then anything that is currently in our law is potentially open to question and change as the times change and opinions evolve. The wrongness of murder may be taken for granted today, but may be open to discussion in the future.

So, what do you get when you embrace all these faulty beliefs? You get a culture of people who continually strive to buy more and more stuff, while complaining about how poor they are. You get people constantly searching for what feels good and is easy, rather than what is hard but necessary. You get people who fall apart when they have to deal with any troubles or hardships in life. You get a civilization where only half of the children have a live-in father. You get a society based on selfishness and shopping rather than family and commitment. You get people whose whole lives revolve around sports and cell phones. And you get a culture where more than half of us can no longer even define what marriage is.

I've heard a lot of people lately say that the old generation with its "outdated ideas" is passing away and that change is coming.

Unfortunately, that's true. The younger generations, more than any other group, has completely embraced these beliefs and base their lives on them.

Some may call it evolution, but it is really nothing more than a new religion with new beliefs, one where you are god, and you get to make all the rules.


"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.