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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Personal Space

When someone demands from you an assurance that they are right, how do you react? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 726).

When we think of the evil that characterized the Nazi belief system, certainly one of the most sinister aspects of it was the insistence that everyone must conform and exactly agree to set opinions and beliefs. That is, the Nazis's not only were totally confident in what they believed, and what you should believe, they also were totally confident in what you must believe. I have seen this attitude displayed in my country in various ways – whether it be in politics, religion, or almost anything else. I have seen the firebrand preacher condemning his audience to the fire and brimstone of Hell unless they assented to exact and idiosyncratic statements of doctrine. I have seen political ideologues browbeating those insubordinate enough to have their own opinions. I have seen issues stripped of all complexity and one viewpoint crammed down the throats of others. As with the Nazis, such unconstrained aggression is ultimately based on hatred – even self-hatred displayed in perverse form. At the core of civility is the understanding that respect for others is inconsistent with certitude in knowing what others must believe. Respect for others implies sufficient spaciousness for personal integrity of opinion and belief.

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