I’m not sure I’m a liberal.
No, I haven’t changed my mind about anything, nor am I having an existential crisis of any sort (well, not this sort at least). But after giving a lot of thought to what I believe in terms of religion and politics, I think I’m more of a scientist than anything else. By that I mean, I’m theoretically flexible.
In the past, I’ve considered myself an atheist. But I’m not certain there’s no God any more than I’m sure there is one. Officially, I’d say I’m open to concrete evidence for either case. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll ever see that kind of evidence, so I’m not likely to budge from my stance of, “I just don’t know.”
It’s the same with politics. I’ve considered myself liberal for as long as I’ve known what the word meant, but what I value most is an open-minded approach. Officially, I’ll side with whatever strikes me most accurately as the truth. Realistically, I don’t see my political morals being swayed dramatically at this point.
In either case, I like to think that I wouldn’t cling to something I knew to be untrue or inaccurate out of stubbornness. I’d accept concrete truth and move on. It’s the basis of the scientific method — hypothesize, build on available data and adapt when necessary.
Religion tends to be the exact opposite of this — based on preordained, absolute truth backed by faith and properly questioned by no one. If a belief does not hold up to evidence, then the evidence must be tweaked to fit the belief.
Hence, I don’t worship at any altar, not even the ones with which I most identify. Where I stand is a result of consideration, experimentation and logic. It can change, but only where it must to closer adhere to the truth.
The problem with this approach is that people will say, “You think you’re being objective, but you’re biased.” Behind this statement is the idea that the truth is a dead-center concept, and thus anyone who veers left or right is ideologically clouded. This is a destructive view, just like the idea that the press must be “balanced.”
“Balance” doesn’t mean a thing if by achieving it, journalists lend credence to a false viewpoint. Objectivity, the supposed point of balance, is important — but that’s not accomplished by equally weighing competing viewpoints for its own sake. Part of finding the truth is filtering fact from fiction. Sometimes that might make one side look better than the other, but the truth often has that effect. True objectivity acknowledges that.
This is important to keep in mind as the press grows more democratic in the online age. Many pundits bemoan the “elitist” media for dismissing the power of the fact-finding masses. And yes, journalism isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the exclusive, unchecked province of a privileged few. However, the press — regardless of form — must be the exclusive province of one type of journalist: the one who cares about truth, accuracy, fairness and context. Some untrained, amateur journalists have a natural knack for it; some professional, trained scribes don’t.
It’s the same with individuals and beliefs. The truth isn’t necessarily a matter of being open to all things for its own sake; it’s being open to that which steers you closer to the truth. Wherever you fall, whatever you believe, you should be there because it’s the most accurate place to be. In a world of false absolutes, accuracy is a real absolute. Anyone who wants to make an anarchy of accuracy lacks respect for the truth. Don’t buy anything they’re selling.
But do keep experimenting for enlightenment, always. Be as true and accurate as you can be. In the end, that’s all that matters.