Is diversity of opinion a good thing? As Americans we often pride ourselves on being free to believe whatever we want to believe as long as our actions don’t infringe on another’s rights. We have an adversarial approach to discerning truth, where winning (the argument or election) is often equated with truth.

While everyone should be free to hold whatever beliefs they want to hold, I think we should resist the urge to think diversity of opinion is a good thing in and of itself. The western preoccupation with individualism stems from the deeply ingrained philosophically pluralistic metaphysics of western philosophy and theology. Most westerners whether they are theist or atheist believe human beings are all separate discrete beings with individuated souls/consciousness. The theist posits the soul will forever remain separate from God, and will be rewarded or punished for right or wrong action in the afterlife. Atheists argue that when the body dies so to will the individuated consciousness, and both will cease to exist. For the westerner it matters little whether you are a theist or atheist, because you are both pluralists, and your worldviews are fundamentally individualistic.

Christian mystics and most eastern religions suggest a fundamentally different reality. Their worldview is panentheistic or monistic. The soul of all beings is forever and always one with god. It is the mind and body that limits the soul’s perception that creates the individuated experience. The goal of spiritual practice and the spiritual life is to purify the mind and body and bring them into harmony with the one soul, which is forever and always one with god.

Diversity of opinion and social disharmony in this latter model is a symptom of spiritual sickness. The one truth and one soul has become obscured. Our minds are out of harmony with the will of god. Diversity of opinion is a sign that reconciliation with god and one another is needed. It is an indication that there is sickness in our collective body. It is our job to find harmony and discern truth collectively.

It is no wonder America has succumbed to a perpetual state of narcissistic disagreement, and has lost its capacity to engage in collective sense making. It is in our collective DNA. On a fundamental level we are separate from one another and god. There is no reconciliation beyond reward and punishment for winners and losers, and everyone is winning in their own minds.