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Old 12-21-2012, 07:30 PM   #1
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Dealing With Opposing Viewpoints in Life

This is something I've been wondering about for a while now: what is the best way to deal with someone who has very different political and religious views than you? I'm sure we've all met someone who seemed pretty cool and nice, only to find out they have beliefs that you are very much against.

For example, you firmly believe there is a God, but that other person firmly believes there isn't one. Or, you support same sex marriage but that other person believes that will destroy civilization. Or, you think Obama is a decent President while someone else believes all the conspiracies about him.

Basically, are similar political and religious beliefs a deal breaker for you when it come to friendships and relationships?

Will you include someone with opposing viewpoints in your social circle? Will you have a serious relationship with that kind of person, or just something casual? How do you deal with family members who strongly disagree with? Also, do you think its possible to have a close relationship in this type of situation, much like James Carville and Mary Matalin (BTW, I think those two are a match made in heaven)?

This thread may belong in ZC, but its also FYM material. It's just something I'm sure many of us have faced in our lives at least once.

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Old 12-21-2012, 08:20 PM   #2
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I'd really like to see where this thread goes because it's something I've begun to struggle with these past few years.

One of my good mates, whom I befriended when I was about 14, is a monumental racist and a homophobe. Has never spoken to a Muslim in his life but has said before things along the lines of "bomb the whole place".

It breaks my heart, and while we have drifted apart in the past two years, he's still a mate. He's got a kid on the way and I was at his house on Monday night for a few beers.

To answer the question I guess I just try to ignore all the negative aspects of his personality and have started to speak up a bit when he or other mates say something that's quite racist or homophobic. It's hard sometimes, but I still like the bloke, y'know? Seven or eight years of friendship doesn't just dissipate. You make friendships before you find these things out. I've also found myself surrounding myself with much more positive people as well.

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Old 12-21-2012, 08:27 PM   #3
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i'm a christian, everyone i've ever dated has been an atheist to varying levels (from the kind who are like "hey cool let's respect each other's opinions" to "omg how can anyone believe in this bible shit!"). i've also been friends with republicans, especially in this neck of the woods, it's inevitable. as far as religion goes, i never had any debates with anyone about our differing opinions, but with some of my friends i've had friendly debates with a couple of the more politically-inclined ones (some of my friends are honestly just republican because their parents are, etc.) but it obviously ends in a stalemate.

my dad's also always been on the opposite end of me politically, and as the years have progressed, religiously. like he can't even fathom why i want to go to christmas eve service, which is upsetting for reasons i won't get into because they're off-topic. but he used to always be a republican, voted republican in every election, but now in the past few years he's apparently become an independent. he doesn't vote anymore (he believes in that nonsense about them taking people to serve in jury duty from voting records) but when i asked him who he'd vote for in 2008 if he would vote, he said ron paul. can't remember why he didn't say mccain. he watches a lot of news, both local and national (not fox) but he usually doesn't talk politics, which is surprising. even if i start going on some huge rant about something politically-oriented, he doesn't chime in at all to agree or dissent. it kinda makes me wonder if he's got some wacky theories or something, which is scary.

"Because a senator - a politician - a person - who can let hang in mid-air the prospect that she might just be sticking around in part, just in case the other guy gets shot - has no business being, and no capacity to be, the President of the United States." -- Keith Olbermann
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Old 12-21-2012, 08:36 PM   #4
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As has been shown in here pretty much the entire time I've been here, I'll usually try and debate them if possible.

But it depends on the issue, too. If someone believes in God, that's not something I feel is worth debating over or breaking up a friendship over or anything.

I do have family that buy into the crazy Obama conspiracy stuff, though. I can't muster up hatred for them because they're still family and that, y'know? But I can't respect their opinions, and find their thoughts really depressing and sad*. Same goes for people who are against same-sex marriage. If I can, I usually try and convince them and argue my positions on the topics-I just can't let something like that slide without some comment, some attempt to bring facts into the situation.

I don't believe in blocking people who disagree with my views on Facebook, or ignoring them, or whatever, because I think that just allows the misinformation to fester, first off, and second, I don't think one can ever really get to a point in the world where all they hear is their own echo chamber of viewpoints, nor should they. You need to hear and try and understand or figure out the opposing viewpoint at some time or another, no matter how infuriating it might be. Speak up if you can.

*I think people also should distinguish the types of respect they give out. I could respect someone for being a hard-working individual who puts food on the table for their family and does their job well and all that stuff. But showing respect for that part of them doesn't mean you have to show respect for EVERYTHING they do or think. Nobody's perfect.
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Old 12-21-2012, 08:54 PM   #5
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I think the worst people who have opposing viewpoints are the ones who are obsessed with their beliefs and can't shut up about them. They look for every opportunity to voice and even argue that their beliefs are right. Those people are not only boring and unpleasant to be around, but they really destroy family or friend gatherings.

When it comes to dating, I don't think I could date a guy who is socially conservative. He could be fiscally conservative, that's fine, but if he thinks gay marriage is horrible and women should stay at home with the kids - hell no!

As for religion, I would prefer to be in a relationship with a guy who believes in God but doesn't have to belong to a particular religion; he could simply be spiritual. I say this because I would like to get married and have kids, and raise my children to believe there is a God. That wouldn't work if the man I'm married to is either agnostic or an atheist. I knew a couple like that and they decided not to get married because they couldn't decide how to raise whatever children they would've had.

When it comes to family, it is so tough because mine is mostly conservative in the wacky sense. One of the reasons why I started this thread is because I'm wondering how Christmas dinner is going to turn out. It's difficult to be around family members who hold progressive beliefs in such disdain, and its even harder when you don't get along very well with them due to personality issues.

But yeah, I've heard some people say they think its wrong to not date or befriend people with different views, but at the same time it does make sense to not want to be around them.
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Old 12-21-2012, 09:03 PM   #6
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Pretty much everyone I know/work with/family has opposing political and religious viewpoints as myself. To exclude such people from my social circle would basically mean cutting myself off from all but, say.... my husband, my mom and sister, and half a dozen close or relatively close friends, so yeah that's pretty unrealistic.

I grew up in a very traditional, fairly conservative Dutch Christian Reformed community (I'm talking we are so Dutch I had to compare family trees before seriously dating my now-husband). The CRC denomination somehow seems to have back-pedaled and where we used to be very liberal of the evangelical denominations we are now still bickering over stuff like gay marriage and Harry Potter and whether women can be elders in the church. Anyway I'm not trying to get on my soapbox about that but just trying to give some context as to how different I seem to have turned out and always feel when I'm around everyone I grew up with, my family, my colleagues. Luckily I don't think my parents are as backwards in the religious aspect and though I went to private schools and had to attend church when I was living in their house they don't seem put off by the fact that I often waver between agnostic, lapsed CRC, or just totally apathetic about all organized religion, or maybe they've just given up. Either way, they don't badger me about it. Thankfully my mom and my sister hold the same or very similar political viewpoints as me; my dad is far more conservative but I've always gotten along with him and we play-fight about politics, like he would turn on Sean Hannity if he was giving me a ride somewhere or I'd wear an Obama T-shirt if I knew I'd be seeing him. At the end of the day he's still my dad and I think we basically want the same things for each other, just have different ideas about how to get there and who will get us there.

Actually the hardest thing for me is not that my religious and political views are so different then that of most of my family (and pretty much all of my husband's family, to which he is very close) but that they are all more spiritual and I've just never been a spiritual person. I can't sing songs and wave my arms for hours on end and I can't drop everything and pray for half an hour and sometimes when I'm attending church out of respect for my family members or those hosting us in their homes I feel uncomfortable like I'm in some kind of scary cult even though this is how I grew up.

Anyway, as to how I deal with it....well, when someone asks me a question on such a topic I answer honestly and to the point even if it's an answer I know they don't want to hear, but other than kidding around with my dad I just don't bring up religion or politics. I know I won't change their minds any more than I think they could ever change mine.

ETA: Just wanted to add that as far as my husband goes, we share very similar political beliefs. We are not as much alike when it comes to religion. Well, I think we are when it comes to what we believe, just not in practice. He attends church pretty regularly and is involved in a few things at church. I rarely attend church and am not involved. Our future kids will probably attend private school because it's far better education and a much safer environment than the inner-city schools here, not because I want them brainwashed.
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Old 12-21-2012, 09:24 PM   #7
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I generally find it hard to get along with people who are socially conservative so I don't really tend to deal with them or as little as possible. I'd also find it hard to get along with someone who, even if socially liberal, is staunchly and very noticeably capitalistic in their views but I have not come across these types yet in the real world.

My father's very much socially conservative (born in a socially conservative society) but I manage to tolerate him as he doesn't tend to push his beliefs at every opportunity. I prefer to avoid arguments with him as they usually would become heated.

Additionally, I don't have friends who are socially conservative and most people my age are quite socially liberal even at the bare minimum.
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Old 12-21-2012, 09:35 PM   #8
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I grew up with half my family being hardcore Democrats and my parents aren't. There were some pretty bad firestorms with my aunts when I was little, because they used to gang up on my mom and dad at family events and tell them they were ignorant. That stopped when my parents finally stood up for themselves and there's been a cease-fire for quite some time now, and one of my aunts even said that she registered as an unaffiliated voter this year. I guess Hell is frozen or something.

I try to get along with people and I don't think that differing viewpoints should be allowed to come between family members or friends. If someone is obnoxious about their beliefs, then I don't want to be around them; otherwise, I just treat them normally. If they ask me about my beliefs, I tell them, but I don't try to make them feel like they're stupid because they think differently. My roommate in college had the opposite political beliefs from me, and we got along so well that people asked us if we knew each other before coming to school.
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Old 12-22-2012, 05:43 AM   #9
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I don't have a political/religious litmus test for my family, friends and acquaintances and they don't have a litmus test for me. If someone behaved like their dogma (either way) was their sole defintion, I'd probably limit them in my life but that would be out of boredom, not out of being offended. Some of the people in my life with opposing viewpoints are great sweethearts and some of the people who agree with me are complete douchebags. Why would I limit myself? Dogma isn't character.

I choose my friends based on my affection for them, their sense of humor, their kindness, their ability to challenge me and an offbeatness that attracts me. I don't care about their political or religious beliefs.

I discuss things with people I disagree with. I used to argue heatedly. But I learned ideas are just ideas and shouldn't get in the way of people. So we've agreed to walk away from arguments when they could estrange us.

I am very happy with the people in my life and I would not change them for a million people who poll parrot my personal beliefs.
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Old 12-22-2012, 06:40 AM   #10
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Nobody likes to hang around with the answer to a question no one asked, so I choose not to engage in political or religious discourse with my friends unless they bring it up first. My father knows this as well and often corrects himself explicitly if he goes off on a political tangent, because he knows it alienates me. My wife and I agree often enough that there are rarely debates on politics or religion, but I have the worst luck with finding a happy medium in my friends. Either they're staunchly conservative or militant liberal/atheist/pinko commie scum. I've met people I love on both sides, so it's OK.

It helps that I'm not even remotely protective of my political beliefs. I know I could always be wrong and have a lot of growth to do. I've been wrong many, many times before and likely will be again. It's just not that important to me at this stage of my life. I'd rather listen than assert these days.

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Old 12-22-2012, 12:36 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by BonosSaint View Post
Dogma isn't character.

I agree with that, but for me there are just certain basic things that I can't abide. Things that are just too morally important to me. Such as bullies, bigots/racists, homophobes, misogynists. Maybe more I could think of at a later date I just could never be fake and betray certain core values by being friends with people like that. As for my family, the only person I care about in that way is my mother and we have very similar political and spiritual/religious beliefs and values. I stopped caring what anyone else in my family thinks of me a long time ago. I heard enough of it ages ago, and that's just necessary for me to do for my well being and self esteem.

All I ask is that people respect my beliefs - because I extend that to them, unless they're a bigot or any of the other things I mentioned. Just don't try to talk me out of them or question who I am because of them. Or stereotype me without even knowing me. I think that's very narrow minded, and I try my best not to do it myself. Try and often fail, but the most important thing is to acknowledge your own failings in that area.

These days I think it's very difficult to separate moral and political beliefs. But I do get to know someone's personal character before judging them based on political beliefs. There are plenty of Democrats who have questionable personal character. There also must be plenty of Republicans who do not fit the current stereotype. I just happen to live in a very Democratic area, so I don't tend to meet that many people who have vastly different political beliefs.

I believe in judging people as individuals rather than members of any sort of group. Once individual character is revealed, well I just go from there.

Very interesting thread.
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Old 12-22-2012, 06:09 PM   #12
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I really value having friends with differing viewpoints. There are a couple of conservative friends that I deeply respect and with whom I can have the most thought-provoking and challenging conversations. I learn a lot from them and vice versa.

That said, I was deeply bothered by the responses of people who are otherwise decent and respectful folks who I admire a lot, to the 2012 elections. Listening to these people ape the rhetoric of Limbaugh and company, predicting doom if Obama was elected, and mourning the loss of the nation when he was, was just really saddening to me.

I actually unfriended two people on Facebook who were especially pervasive and ugly in their nasty political posts. These were people that were really more acquaintances than friends (the brother of elementary school classroom and I can't even remember who the other person was).
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Old 12-25-2012, 03:13 AM   #13
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Thanks for starting this thread Pearl, very interesting.

I was really idealistic in my teens. In my mid-20s and 30s, I think I became more tolerant of other viewpoints. I tried hard to understand where the other person was coming from, and if I didn't agree with that viewpoint, I at least tried to respect and maybe understand it. Now I'm in my 40s and it's like I've returned to my teens, I've become much more entrenched in my viewpoint again, and I don't make the effort to try to understand people who have opposing viewpoints. It's like -- you can have your own opinions, but you can't create your own facts, and I suppose these are the people I have the most problem with, people who attempt to do this. There are some things I consider dealbreakers -- anti abortion folks, racists, homophobes, misogynists, gun nuts, those with no empathy for the poor. With all the other challenges in life, I just don't have the time or mental energy to deal with these people. I work with an American who has made it clear that she's anti-Obama (although she didn't say that she was pro-Romney), and she seems like an otherwise nice person, so I justify this incongruency by telling myself that she's probably just ill-informed about politics.

I'm actually not proud of my lack of tolerance these days, but it's how I feel. It also probably explains why I'm scarce in FYM in recent years. It's pointless to argue with people who are wrong, and it's just as pointless to have my viewpoints validated by people who agree.

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Old 12-26-2012, 08:39 PM   #14
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It's a fraught thing. About the only people who get a free pass from me (as in, I'll let that one go through to the keeper) are family. In fairness they are ok mostly, very ok compared to many families; and to the extent they're not, those topics rarely arise.

On the other hand I have little interest in debate if I know the other person's founding assumptions render it pointless. But close friendship? Well, we'd have to see eye to eye on the really important stuff. You know, musical taste and whatnot.

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