Differing Beliefs and Your Circle

I’m in two minds: whether to put this thread here or in Politics and Religion…

On another forum I’m on a thread was started on Freemasonery. A few Freemasons on the forum started going on about how it’s not a cult, religion, belief system, conspiracy group or whatever. Apart from the “theist” requirement, they said they are a broad group entailing a vast array of beliefs, values, systems, etc. And that got me thinking, how many people do I interact with that have substantially different views on life?

I interact with my family and my friends whom I met through a university gaming society. We’re not very socially diverse. One of us is a Christian, another is physically disabled, I have mental health issues and another is from a different country (but of Irish descent,) so we have some minority bingo boxes filled, but broadly we agree on most things, we generally have the same outlook on life. Maybe it’s an Irish thing, we’re so irrelevant on a global scale that we haven’t really had to deal with this stuff, and nothing has forced us outside our little box.

I was just wondering does this hold true for other people in other places? I know one has to interact with a broad array of people, and generally one is tolerant of that. How many people embrace that though (and again, not just in a minority bingo sort of way.) How many of us can truly say we deal with a pantheon of belief, attitude and belief on life?

The other thing that the Freemason discussion got me thinking of was the Unitarian Universalism church in America. I’ve always been impressed by it when people have mentioned it on here. And it seems to be the zenith of broad acceptance and “brotherhood.”

I honestly don’t know what the response to this will be. On the one hand I think some people may say that it’s natural to associate with those who hold similar opinions, there’s nothing wrong with it. That people holding vastly different life views, while they may accept and tolerate each other may still not hit it off like “bros” who link up thoroughly. On the other hand I wouldn’t be surprised at all if people said they had a vast array of close friends with wildly differing opinions.

(And in my defense if I have pissed you off, I hold no belief either way, I’m genuinely curious. It’s just something that’s arisen for me seeing as I have few close friends and we all seem to think somewhat alike even if we’re quite different.)

My dad is a freemason, and other than the treasure in his basement there is nothing unique about his beliefs.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to say there’s anything unique about them. It was more a discussion about Freemasonery that sparked the thought in my head about “diversity.” The Freemasons were simply saying that they’re a group whose only unifying belief beyond the elements of Freemasonery is that there’s a “Supreme Being” and apart from that there’s no one identifying trait to them.

Like I said, I don’t know how true or not that is. It’s just that it got me thinking about a social group that doesn’t have religion, politics, hobbies/pastimes or work tieing it together.

Dude, can you get me a ring like his? Ever since I found out that Penn Jilette’s friend has one, I’ve kind of wanted one too.

Left-handed atheist skeptic somewhat-liberal nearly-pro shooter in Kentucky. I’m still waiting to find anybody who can check more than three boxes.


Warning, the following is a pointlessly long look at my own life that will have almost no meaning to any of you. I’m primarily writing it because I feel nostalgic and think I might have a point hidden at the end.

click to read more about me than you want to

[spoiler]Pre-college vs. post-college.

Pre-college, I lived in a small Southern town and attended a poor, over-capacity school system. Friends were made because you shared a class or two, or sat beside each other at lunch due to mandatory alphabetical ordering, or because you were in an extracurricular together. You pretty much were stuck with whoever you got through these avenues.

My closest friends by high-school’s end included hardcore theater geeks, preppy sports guys rocking designer clothes, band nerds, choir performers, intellectuals, stoners, skaters, vandals, honors students, goths, gamers, hicks, comic collectors, techies, car guys, cheerleaders, dance squad members, and soccer chicks.

Most were Christian, somewhere atheist or agnostic, a couple were Jewish, one was Muslim. All were white or half-white (there were four black kids in my high school at graduation, only two of which shared a grade with me. There were about five or six pure Hispanics, but they completely kept to themselves. About a third were politically conservative, another half were liberal, and the final third didn’t give a shit or didn’t know. Some loathed each other, others liked each other. About a third went on to college, less than a quarter of those that did have graduated. Most were poor or middle class, but a couple were quite wealthy.

The group, at various points, liked punk, metal, techno, country, pop, rock, and a capella. We watched horror movies and comedies most often, with the occasional chick flick or summer blockbuster. Most other people didn’t read; those that did pretty much read science fiction or fantasy. By high school’s end, we rarely shared classes anymore, though a significant clump of my closest friends were pulled into theater by various means.

We were tight, loved each other, and hung out constantly in school and out. The “Core Group” got together virtually every weekend at my house or another girl’s; we commonly trawled the local tourist traps. We helped each other get jobs, did each other’s homework, got each other gifts for birthdays and Christmas (and even held a few surprise parties), and did everything from play sports to go swimming in the woods to have videogame tournaments.

College: My first friend was my roommate; we were both overweight, loved computers, played video games, and watched Law & Order. We were both liberal, although he remained religious longer than I did. He was half-Persian, I was half-Guatemalan. We loved food deeply and spent most of our time looking for restaurants to eat at.

My second friend was a classmate; she was also overweight and the only other person there to commonly wear band tees and lots of black. She loved pop-punk and gothic culture; I liked both things just fine. We liked the same movies, food, and TV shows, although she wasn’t a big scifi/fantasy buff. She introduced me to her roommates; they were primarily “average girls” who worked average jobs, liked “pop, rock, you know, whatever,” engaged in about one extra-curricular each (choir, band, or light sports), were all straight, were largely liberal northerners, and were all white.

Final unique friend of college I met by deciding I was tired of only having two friends and talking to the first person I met at my new club, Anime Society. We struck it off when I decided to help her with her Psychology project a couple of weeks later (we coincidentally both lived in the same dorm and ran into each other). She was a hardcore gamer, heavily conservative, white, wealthy, loved anime, was a band geek and ex-sports player, and was very quiet. She introduced me to her friends; almost all were engineering majors, almost all were gamer-geeks, a mix of Asian and white, about half conservative, half liberal. We went to a lot of cons together, and liked some of the same music (indie rock mostly).

Most of my other close friends are from a nerd camp I attended as a kid; they are almost all extremely gifted, white, liberal, atheists that were picked on as kids, went through gothic periods, and know more about Magic: The Gathering than 99% of the populace. For whatever reason, these people are now often my closest and dearest friends.[/spoiler]

All of which is a very long way of saying that I think the high school/middle school era actually made for “better” friendships. Being forced into situations where you have to “make do” and learn to interact with people utterly different than yourself is really awesome. Yeah, it also leads to lots of bullying and self-esteem bullshit, but some decently adjusted people come away from it with a handful or large group of reasonably diverse people who teach them more about the world than they’d learn on their own.

College and later life have basically left me making friends who share a specific interest in me, and it can be very difficult to “progress” the friendship past that point. The gamer-girl I met at Anime Society and I almost never discussed politics, religion, love, sex, or really, any parts of our “real lives.” We just sat on couches and played games/watched anime for ten or twelve hours a week and sometimes had dinner with friends.

Also, I think region can have a lot of impact. In middle school, high school, and college, I ended up in areas or situations where virtually everyone was white; I’ve never actually had an opportunity to have a close black friend, only one close friend of Asian descent, and no close Hispanic friends, despite being Hispanic myself. Aside from brief moments at the nerd camp I went to, I’ve never had extensive social interactions with Middle Easterners or Indians. 90-95% of the people I’ve regularly interacted with have come from Christian, Western backgrounds. The overwhelming majority sat somewhere between lower and upper middle class; only a few people were legitimately impoverished or wealthy.

So, I guess I can and have made friends with people who are different from me in interests and some “core beliefs,” but have had little opportunity to meet people from radically different racial or religious backgrounds. I like to think of myself as an open-minded fellow, so this is actually sort of disappointing to me, but Tennessee and Boston University’s Journalism program were not exactly bastions of diversity.

Interestingly, I find now that almost none of my close friends hold strong views that are opposite mine in politics or religion. Not sure if I was more tolerant in my youth or if other factors contributed.

I consider myself a skeptic, somewhat-liberal and am an atheist agnostic. That’s three boxes =)

Of course somewhat liberal is a minefield. I suspect we’re both against banning guns though ;)
The agnostic is a term I use mostly to avoid being labeled as one of those militant atheist assholes.

There’s the problem, I’m a militant atheist asshole.


Perhaps there should be another category: apatheist. An apatheist is someone who doesn’t care whether there is a god or gods.

I deal with, and get along with, a wide range of people. I grew up in, and still live in, the Los Angeles area though so that kind of comes with the territory. I know a guy who does his best to keep away from those unlike himself and it really limits where he can go, where he can eat, where he can shop, etc. So it can be done but I don’t see the point, it’s spitting into the wind as far as I’m concerned.

Sometimes I wonder how different my views of the world would be if I grew up somewhere where people were alike in religious views, ethnic background, politics, and so on.

I was approached to become a Freemason, but I’m an atheist. He said I just had to say I believed in some kind of god, so I asked if they sacrificed goats during their rituals. No goat sacrifice, no deal.

Actually, I get that a lot. The idea that since I don’t believe in any god, I should just go along to get along and stand there silently while letting people assume that I did believe in a god. “You don’t believe in god, so what’s the harm of saying you do?” Uhm, how about you publicly declare you don’t believe in god, even though you do?

The idea is that I have no morals without a belief in god, and that’s plain wrong.

As far as my circles, I’ve been to two weddings recently and the preachers at each of them said something that I found offensive. My wife goes to church (somewhat infrequently), and my parents, sibling, and her children are all born again Christians, so it’s pretty diverse.

I’m a militant atheist and my friends are all lite xtians. That is, they believe in evolution and cherry pick from the bible. Typical ignoring all the bad stuff and only take the “Jesus is love” shit.

It’s was all good fun until I met their wives.

I was at my friend Jeremy’s house and several drinks had been drunk. Religion came up in a discussion with his wife. I think I avoided being too much of an asshole, but I haven’t been invited back, at least, not while the wife is around. That was two years ago.

Then I was out at lunch with Jeremy and his family, my friend Brian and his family, and my family. There were 11 people at this table. Then out of the blue Brian turns to his wife and says, “John thinks you’re stupid if you believe in god.” /facepalm. I certainly wasn’t going to get into it then and there. Not after the previous encounter with Jeremy’s wife. I haven’t seen Brian’s wife since.

So… I should probably restrict my militant tirades to forums.

I am old enough to now have friends with kids who are in college or are married with children. I still play golf with guys I have known from school or my first place of employment (IRS). Most are white, a few hispanic and asians. Some of my friends are very religious, I am not. Several are fairly liberal, others are pretty far right. Some make real good money, others never will. Even among good friends it is often not wise to talk about politics and religion.

As I have aged I have added friends, parents of friends of my daughters, people I do business with and now see outside of business and even people I have met through other people. For many of those friendships there is some common tie that will get us together.

Why would you even discuss religion with people who don’t “have” to like you? You will never make them change their minds? You will only become a pariah among that group. Religion is not a logical avocation, it is an emotional one. You can never win.

Freemasonry is founded on the belief that there is an “architecture” to the universe (which is evident in their basic symbology). For there to be such architecture there must be an architect. Freemasons do not care if you believe that architect to be “God” in the Christian sense or some other unifying deity, spirit or midichlorean, so long as you acknowledge that it exists. People tend to think that’s the big dirty secret of Freemasonry, and it’s why they aren’t looked upon with much warmth by the Catholic church in particular (since they accept non-Christians). There are plenty of other secrets and purposes to Freemasonry, but that particular aspect of the society is not a big deal and any Freemason would be happy to share it with anyone who asks.

I’m an apathetic anti-theist. In principle, I understand that religious belief is responsible for more hatred than perhaps any other kind of idea. I will even elaborate on this to curious people in the same sense that I would discuss politics with them (which to me means dispassionately & to them often means emotionally). But in practice I generally don’t care as long as people leave me alone. I think I even have religious friends who aren’t aware that I’m an atheist. Or agnostic, formally, or whatever have you.

Short version: even people who are outspoken about how silly religion is can get along just fine with religious people.

Can I just acknowledge physics and be done with it, or does it require an organ-grinder somewhere holding up a physics book and saying “Like this!”


You could just lie. I’ve strongly considered it for the sake of getting into the society, seeing if they have any interesting secrets or practices whatsoever, and then broadly publishing them, but it takes too much work, and the worst they’re likely up to is discussing how they got a buddy out of a parking ticket that one time ten years ago, maybe, or was it my friend who said he did that, ah who cares, let’s just go get some beers.

It’s already been published up to the goat raping, and it takes decades to get to the goat.


The “secrets” of Masonry aren’t really that secret anymore. It’s a great group to be part of if you need connections. But let’s face it, secret it ain’t.