A speaker at a FAIR (Forum for Apologetic Information and Research) conference last week created a stir by revealing a survey showing that Mormons are unfavorably viewed by non-Mormons. And I mean really unfavorably—5 to 1. Apparently this news shocks Mormons who seldom associate with non-members. But, if it’s any consolation, Jews and Catholics didn’t fare very well in this survey, either. The unfavorable ratio for Jews was 7 to 2 and for Catholics 2 to 1. Had Muslims been added to the survey, I suspect Mormons would not have been at the bottom.
What this survey does prove is the simple truth that human beings dislike other humans with differing beliefs. I’ve been engaged in a few discussions with persons who ignore my (of course) well-reasoned comments and try to put words in my mouth—“then you think . . .” Not respecting my opinions enrages me, so I find myself responding with snide rather than wise, analytical remarks. Unless I’m itching for a fight, I tend to limit conversations with many people to the weather and food.
Disliking or even fearing those who think differently leads Americans to segregating ourselves into red and blue neighborhoods and to restricting friendships within our own church or other group. If you live and work in Utah, you’ve probably experienced situations at work where the church group stops talking abruptly when a non-member appears. No doubt, this occurs in other majority/minority situations.
In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis creates an afterlife where everyone goes to heaven. The catch is that only those willing to give up their sins can stay. Most wannabe angels forego heaven for a hell where nobody hassles them to give up their favorite sins. But there’s another catch. These non-heavenly beings continually fight with each other. And each time they engage in conflict, they are moved farther away from others. Seriously aggressive beings end up isolated in outer space.
Of course, Lewis’s book is listed as fiction. But I don’t know. Based on my limited experience, outer space may be the best place for those of us who can’t appreciate differences of belief.