What if, instead of hating each other’s beliefs, we learned more about where they come from?

David Byrne in Reasons to be Cheerful:

Like a lot of folks, I occasionally hear people espouse values and beliefs different and often counter to my own. When I was young, I didn’t understand this. Many of these beliefs and positions seemed irrational to me. How could people believe such crazy things? But as I read, traveled and met more people, I learned that values and convictions that might seem strange to me often serve a purpose for others.

Sometimes that purpose is simply the sharing of these values and beliefs with others who feel the same way. Shared beliefs can foster a sense of community, or provide meaning in people’s lives. It seems that we as humans have evolved to need something that provides unity and cohesion. Sometimes that might be liking the same songs or movies. Or, if that means believing in statues that cry or space aliens, well, okay, maybe no harm done.

I have come to sense that I, too, might harbor some odd beliefs — and, like others, I come up with convoluted rationalizations for them. I have a set of values that, to me, should be seen as self evident and should therefore be adopted by everyone. But if we’re going to find common ground and live together, we need to at least attempt to understand the mindsets of the people who think differently from us.

More here.