This I Believe

Liza - Stanford, California
Entered on December 3, 2007

I have a friend who doesn’t believe in dinosaurs. I’m not quite sure now what exactly brought this up in our conversation. But my group of friends and I were completely shocked. This statement defied many of our fundamentally held beliefs, that dinosaurs once roamed the earth and that creationists didn’t reside in the great state of California. To presume otherwise was uncivilized, and we immediately broke out with protests and angry attempts to convert her. The word spread like wildfire around our tightly knit youth group, and everyone turned a cold shoulder to her, telling her that there was a lot more proof that dinosaurs existed than God. Later she told me that it didn’t matter what anyone dug out of the ground, that her innate beliefs just wouldn’t allow for their existence. And although I found this close-minded and cowardly, it began to dawn on me that exiling this girl for her beliefs was at the same level of supreme lowness as exiling someone for refusing to eat meat, or insisting on wearing a hijab. And although I couldn’t understand her beliefs, that didn’t change the fact that she was a good friend, and the prior existence of dinosaurs could not negate that.

In the months since, I have developed a deep respect for this friend. To this day she still receives some criticism for her elected ignorance. But I am starting to comprehend what incredible strength of will she must have to defend her beliefs so adamantly in the face of dismissal and criticism from her peers, and what a unique kind of faith it is that demands the world conform to it, rather than the other way around. I can think of no individual who embodies self-reliance as she does; even in the face of proven scientific fact she does not waver.

And neither does she require others to share her beliefs. It shames me now to look back and see how violently we forced our views on her, without a second thought. One aspect of her unusual belief that I would like to incorporate into my own is that this belief didn’t have to be true for anyone but her. She has never taken offense at my devout worship of science. I have seen her on many occasions ask why someone believed in one thing or another, but I have never seen her take an argumentative stance. I am striving to be as respectful as she.

I have arrived at many truths through this person. That beliefs are part of your identity, therefore you should neither let them slip away into popular attitude, nor convert someone to your way of thinking. That people who disagree with you are not necessarily your enemies, and that people who agree with you are not necessarily your friends. Mostly I believe that the prior existence of dinosaurs, or lack thereof, cannot negate a friendship.