The world calls for unity handling the pandemic, but it is difficult when religious extremists rally against science. What do you do if you have friends who support corrupt political leaders and preferential treatment of corporations over equality and equity?
Some call for us to make amends and forgive. This is difficult when the acts of aggression continue. Individual rights of women and minorities are still being eroded and undermined for the sake of religious or financial gain. Others believe the only way to heal these wounds is to prosecute those who have committed crimes.
It becomes more difficult to maintain a friendship with someone who supports the return to the dark ages (1) of religious and racial bigotry. Can we befriend those who want to harm others and the environment to serve barbaric sectarian ideals?
So you have two impossible choices. There are a lot of things to consider. Do you save or break a friendship with someone who supports bigotry and discrimination, or do you try to educate and change their views?
America has taken positive steps to correct the political corruption of the Trump administration. Unfortunately, several people were installed in leadership positions in government who support extreme religious beliefs. And so the war of ideologies intensifies between science and religion. The inequality of billionaires and corporations contrasts with the majority, who are just one paycheck or medical condition, away from being homeless.
Two Impossible Choices
What should we consider when deciding whether to save or break a friendship? We can and should look at this decision from different vantage points.
- The Personal Value
- Social and Moral Implications
- The Historical Context
Friendships bring value to our own lives since we reflect on those we invite to share our lives. (2) The value of a relationship can grow with time—the more things you have in common, the more value your place on the relationship. It’s better to build relationships on healthy spiritual energy rather than superficial and temporary conditions. But shared interests are often the way we meet people. When we work with people or share the same hobbies, it is the way we build networks of different levels of relations.
Shared interests and experiences is the glue of all relationships. But experiences may not touch upon our core beliefs. If your friend holds a vastly different opinion on politics and religion, it becomes more difficult to agree on some of the most important aspects of life. However, you may decide to save the friendship because of your investment in the relationship. To have a meeting of the minds requires a frank discussion of facts, not just the resulting opinion. There is no such a thing as different facts, only opinions.
If you refrain from discussing these polar points of view, you will grow apart. Ignoring these issues will create a divide that will erode the relationship. The gap will increase the more polarized the ideologies become.
There is a process for resolving opposing viewpoints. Someone who has succumbed to the programming of extremist ideologies and religious beliefs can change. However, it takes a significant investment in time. We call it the unconventional approach to saving a believer. The wider the gap in beliefs, the more work it will require to repair.
For example, if you lived in Germany in the 1930s, and your friend supported the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Nazi Party, the gap in your relationship would grow. The more radical the Nazi party became, the wider the gap in your relationship.
This paradigm has parallels today with the chasm between the far-right hard line religious and those on the left seeking a more verdant and fair society for everyone. Those on the right suddenly have blinders to the historical life of their spiritual leader, Jesus. Today they espouse the building of walls to keep out immigrants, of which they are one. They condone the use of automatic weapons to defend the honor of their imaginary friend.
One way to change your friend’s mind who has slid down the rabbit hole of conspiracies and bigotry is to highlight the facts. But many find facts do not affect the hard line believer’s minds, and certainly not the extremist. They need to believe so much they deny any rational discussion. It isn’t a new strategy; Galileo discovered cognitive dissonance long before the field of psychology was born.
“By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.” — Galileo Galilei
If you attempted to show your friend how the movement was becoming more radicalized, they would refuse to acknowledge the obvious facts. Your frustration may lead you to conclude that it’s time to break the friendship because it conflicts with your moral values. Before we do this, we should examine the next vantage point concerning the social and ethical implications.
Social and Moral Implications
We are social beings. Hopefully, when we are children, we learn to share and be kind. These two principles do not require intellectual prowess, just the ability to learn; they are the foundation of our moral compass. Everyone has some guiding principles that support their thinking and behavior. For instance, even criminals have their code of conduct; take the mafia, for example. For them, it was all about family values. They could commit any crime against people, except those in the family.
It is the same for many religious institutions, which results in wars and genocides done in the name of God. A “chosen one mentality” determines their social and moral values. It makes them feel like they have an exclusive membership. They can do anything if God tells them it is okay, including everything from gender mutilation to mercy killings. They cannot see how negative bias and prejudice colors their thinking. The moral value of their actions comes from their religious leader’s opinion.
From the examples above, you can see our relationships have social, moral consequences. We determine these values in each one.
The Historical Context of the Friendship
If your health and wellbeing are attached to a relationship, we can often look past relationships that do not align with our moral values. For example, because of financial ties, some people condoned the activities of the Nazis.
They didn’t like what the Nazis were doing, blaming and rounding up minorities, placing disabled people in sanitariums. Still, they didn’t speak up because they knew their jobs depended upon their obedience. Unfortunately, the above example of the Nazis in the 1940s is mirrored in the United States’ politics beginning in 2016. It isn’t easy to work with associates who openly support leaders who expose this type of open hatred. Yet, you still have to work with them because your job depends upon it.
Personal relationships are a different story. Here you have more latitude. What do you do when a friend supports a criminal enterprise? It brings up two impossible choices. Do you try to save or break the relationship?
They did not forgive those who joined or supported the Nazi party after the war. Those who supported friends who were Nazis were held accountable for their relationships. Finally, they did not forgive those who said nothing and were silent. Their silence was tacit approval of the Nazi’s actions.
All three groups, the stanch hard line believers, the supporters, and those silent, contributed to the Nazi party’s climb to power. They all share the blame and shame for allowing it to take place.
Those who spoke out against tyranny had the moral high ground. But, unfortunately, many who spoke out suffered persecution. Still, these people could not remain silent about the government’s evil acts. So ask yourself, what do you want your legacy to be? Will you speak out or be silent? Will you hold personal relationships with someone who aligns with the modern Nazi party as bigots, racists?
Do You Save or Break a Relationship?
Here’s the dilemma, which comes down to two impossible choices. First, you can save a religious fanatic, bigot, or racist. Unfortunately, it’s a considerable investment of time and effort, and it also means you must maintain ties with someone that conflicts with your values. Second, a hybrid approach of the first choice is to maintain partial contact to plant seeds. This last choice has only a tiny chance of success.
Two, you can break ties with a religious bigot, hoping they will find their way. It separates you from the contamination of their toxic beliefs.
If you decide to stay friends and try to change their minds, realize religious and social bigotry are ideologies that are difficult to overcome. It is possible but not probable. Chances are, they have relationships that will keep them cemented into their biased thinking. In addition, they will probably continue to expose themselves to the programming of self-hypnosis and group hypnosis, which supports negative stereotype thinking and values.
Self-hypnosis and group hypnosis are potent tools which overcome both intellect and reason. That is why close to 4 billion people on the planet believe in the Abrahamic (3) religions. The Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam use these brainwashing techniques to create and maintain their memberships. They ingrain religious, ethnic, and racial prejudice, which justifies genocide to genital mutation. It is their goal to impose the brutal standards of the pre-modern era.
This programming directs the values of your core beliefs. It’s the reason people with religious beliefs cloister together. It is a relationship based on shared beliefs, no matter how unhealthy and skewed.
If you don’t share the same religious beliefs, it’s becoming more difficult to bridge the gap. This is because the Abrahamic faiths are embracing the more extreme aspects of the ideology. The Far-right extremist point of view is becoming the norm rather than an aberration. This infection has spread to the highest levels of governance. You can observe the effects of personal rights being subjugated and removed based on religious ideology, the abortion rights being just one example.
So it is two impossible choices, do you try to save the friendship who wants to return to the dark ages? The dark ages (1) was a period from the 5th all the way to the 10th Century when the Church had great power to persecute. It turned its wrath upon science and anyone who questioned its authority. Many of those in the Church express their desire to return to this type of control.
How long do you try to persuade someone with this type of mindset? It means staying friends with someone as opposed to fair ethical standards and reason. They want to return civilization to when religious extremists fought to destroy science and common sense. Do you want to carry the stigma of being associated with racists and bigots to save a friend? It would help if you weighed the personal relationship’s value against the moral implications and historical context.
The other things to consider. Will breaking the relationship be the motivation to spark their awakening from the hypnosis? Or will isolation make them turn to greater extremism? Would it be possible to resurrect the friendship at a later time if your friend changes their mind about their extremist or hard-line conservative viewpoints?
At the end of World War II, those aligned with and supported the Nazi regime tried to hide by kindling friendships with those who fought against tyranny. Don’t be surprised if those who supported the religious right try to maintain a relationship with you. They want to cover their bigotry by claiming you as a friend. They will seek sympathy and reconciliation, all the while plotting for the next Trump to arise.
It is a difficult decision and one that requires much deliberation. No doubt about it, we see how religion can impact our lives through culture. We can see how religion tries to regain influence through politics. Sadly, politics and religion are intertwined because we elect and appoint people with hidden agendas and secondary gain issues. Sometimes it feels like we are living in a disaster movie.
(1) The Dark Ages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Ages
(2) What Are Your Personal Values? The Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/11/what-are-your-personal-values
(3) Abrahamic religions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions