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This article is one in a series of the “Young Voices of Big Ocean.” These articles were written by teens who believe in faith, family, and motherhood. This inaugural article was written by Salem, who is 14 years old.

In the first amendment of the US Constitution, it clearly states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We know of a surety that the government is not, and will not be allowed to interfere with religion. If this is so, why do religions, beliefs and faiths from all around the world still struggle with a bombardment of stinging words, accusing questions, threats, and arguments from one another, and from those who believe differently from them?
As human beings we have an undeniable natural instinct to want to win. We want to prove that our beliefs, or our theories are more correct than others. Why are we this way?

Living in a diverse society is healthy. We can learn various things from an assortment of people and their beliefs. If this again is so, just as the fact that government may not interfere with our beliefs, why is it so difficult to live in understanding of one another? Why can’t we respect each other’s opinions and beliefs, and give them the appropriate space to practice their beliefs as they wish?

In church, no matter which religion, everyone is told that basically “This is the true church.” After a while, in their brains, this becomes a fact. This also applies for non-believers and atheists. They may have been told, and honestly think, “There is no god.” When a belief that an individual knows to be true is contradicted, it causes frustration, which essentially creates heated arguments. We want so badly for the other person to know we are right. Why? It all comes back down to natural instincts. Believe it or not, others believe as strongly as you do in their own belief system. However, the thing that we often don’t realize, is that most everyone stands on common ground, even if we have completely different faiths, or beliefs.

Most people are good and reasonable, and believe in a moral code. This code one in which every member of society benefits, and can agree on. We don’t have to convert one another to our personal beliefs, or religion. A majority of the time it’s perfectly okay to be open about your beliefs and/or religion. It is not a sin to live and be open about what you believe. I strongly believe freedom of religion is a God-given right, or an unalienable right. In fact, when you look up “unalienable right” it pulls up this definition: “Freedom of religion, the most inalienable of all human rights.”

As humans, it seems as though we’ve forgotten what it means to have a meaningful argument. Most would define “argument” as a destructive fight between two or more people, that only results in damaged relationships. How could anything “meaningful” come out of an argument? The philosopher Socrates sought to understand, and to learn, rather than accuse. Many would often try to argue with him, asking accusing questions, to which he would answer in turn with a question. This form of debate became known as the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method is an organized, and cooperative argument in which a person seeks for the basis of something, and engages the mind to think and ponder about personal reasoning and arguments. I love how the Socratic Method is described as a “cooperative debate.” You are cooperating with one another, observing, pondering, and learning about the other person’s opinions and beliefs. You also get to ponder more about what you believe, and why you believe it. It’s an unending search for truth, beliefs, and reason for beliefs. We would do well to adopt such way of conversation in place of bickering and controversy.

Likewise, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a church leader and apostle for the LDS church said in an address in October of 2015, “Both sides should seek a balance, not a total victory.” In both of these ways of thinking, we find that respect plays a major role. It is okay to discuss and even have a cooperative debate for the sake of seeing the other’s point of view, but respect for one another should be the overall feeling.

I believe in Jesus Christ and I know he lives and loves us. Jesus to me, is the ultimate example of what a meaningful conversation/argument could be. He has a way of debating that can’t be beat. He never forced anyone to believe what he taught, as the Sadducees and Pharisees did, or tried to. He was teachable and open. But he also stood fast for what he believed. He openly taught about the gospel, because it was something that was immensely important to him. I always wondered why the Sadducees and Pharisees constantly came to back to Christ with the same questions over and over, trying to make him admit he was wrong. It’s because they weren’t really listening. They had only one ambition to achieve. That was to “win.” So when Christ answered, they would not open their minds or hearts to what he was saying, or the principles he taught. We would do well to adopt Christ’s way of thinking and acting and stay away from the “Sadducee and Pharisee” mindset. We need to figure out how to again be able to have meaningful and civil arguments that draw us closer to true conclusions, and create harmony with one another.
Man is superior over many living organisms of the earth. But man is not superior over God. I realize that not everyone believes, or perhaps will ever believe in God, or a higher power. But we must believe in bringing out the best in everyone and ourselves. Respect brings out the very best in us. Therefore, we should believe in respecting each other, beliefs and all. We should satisfy that instinct within us to win, by winning over our self-control. “We should seek for a balance, not a total victory.”

unnamed-1-1Hi! I’m Salem, and I’m a Mormon. I love serving, and playing hard. This spring I went on a humanitarian trip to Ecuador and loved every minute of it. If I’m not at home I’m most likely with my friends, or up in the mountains on the hills of Sundance skiing. I love my family, and I love my life and am grateful for every moment of it that I get to live, and I hope by living it I can help others appreciate their life and find joy in it under all circumstances.