• Honest conversation opens the way for change. What seems to be unchangeable, changes the instant people with different perspectives engage in an honest conversation about it.
• As we observe others in our diverse world we directly or indirectly compare our rival beliefs and practices and sincerely judge among alternatives which one seems the “highest” truth and “best” practice to follow. Often our different ideals or world views create social difficulties or conflicts.
• Attempts to avoid conflict are rarely successful and generally lead to unintended and amplified negative consequences.
• If people feel ignored, disrespected, or compelled to keep their deepest beliefs silent, resentment will build and eventually manifest itself in angry (and possibly violent) retribution against society and self.
• Conflict over our ideals that matter most is ultimately unresolvable because we have no common metric for judging between ultimates based upon desires and subjective criteria. Hence, rather than trying to “resolve” conflicts over world views, we should strive to “sustain” healthy mutual persuasion contests of differences.
• Persuasion rather than coercion is the only effective way to truly change the mind and heart of another person.
• People have a strong desire to share their truths with others who might benefit from them. When done in mutually respectful exchanges, this impulse can be fulfilled as an honorable and legitimate act of mutual caring rather than an arrogant attempt to silence or eliminate rival views.
• When people exchange their stories of how they came to believe as they do, they open the heart of empathy between them. Then they can engage in honest contestation of their differences while respecting the wisdom and good will of each other.
Here is an outline of the reasoning upon which the work at FRD proceeds:
A Rationale for Engaging in Respectful Religious Contestation and Collaboration
1. Every person, family, community, and society has power to influence others and is responsible to use that influence in good conscience to improve the world.
2. Religious or ideological conflicts are inevitable among those who feel responsible to promote and defend their different convictions about the best way to live in the world.
3. Dignified and trusting relationships among people of different religious convictions require respectful inquiry, sincere listening, sensitive criticism, and forthright disclosure of motives.
4. Those of opposing or rival convictions and ways can build trust, foster good will, and useful collaboration by engaging in respectful communications that allow them to witness to, appreciate, and contest their views.
A Rationale for Advocating Religious or Ideological Convictions
People engage in persuasive communication all the time as they interact in everyday life. Expressions of any desire are attempts to influence some kind of change. The desire to influence the world toward a particular religious or ideological good is one of the noblest human characteristics. Many believe sincerely, not arrogantly, that their religion or ideology is superior to alternatives. From their desire to live with integrity and to improve the world, they feel a responsibility to persuasively promote and defend what they believe to be the highest religious or ideological way of life.
A Rationale for Using Only Honest Persuasion to Influence Minds and Hearts
Slavery, the violent coercion of another’s body for economic gain, once condoned by many nations and religions, has in recent centuries been rejected by most of those nations and religions. In the name of ideological or religious unity and safety for the soul and society, some nations today still condone coercion of the mind and heart through laws that prevent one’s changing religious or ideological allegiance. Most religions teach that humans should respond whole-heartedly to divine persuasion — submitting one’s life to deity or high purpose without being coerced to do so. Although many can justify coercion or violence to defend against physical attack, spiritual and emotional coercion of belief is an impotent way to promote or defend truth. Centuries of history show that using force to promote or defend religious beliefs decimates a leadership’s moral authority and fosters deep resentments in those who are forced to conform to religious ways they do not countenance. Just as abusive discipline tends to foster abusive citizens, so advocating, threatening, or using violence to promote righteousness in families or societies often results in greater unrighteousness and more violence.