T Nation

How Did You Form Your Beliefs?


I'm uneducated about politics, and I have no idea how to educate myself. How did all of you do it? I've been reading the news for the past month and I'm slowly starting to agree/disagree with certain issues, but I still can't help but feel a bit ignorant.


You must continue to read and listen, it will eventually hit you.


Keep reading. Read the papers. Read TIME magazine, and read some of the more credible websites that have some kind of slant (aka The Nation, DemocracyNow.com, The Weekly Standard, etc.)

If you feel strongly about politics, and about certain issues, I would say that its generally motivated by things you have seen in your own life. Your political beliefs tends to be a reflection of the way you look at life personally. It all ties in together in the end.

My personal experiences were coming up in a New Jersey working class home with a Democratic mother and a Republican father. In my family, politics and religion were always around, always being questioned, no matter who said what.

The jobs I have worked and the things I've seen also have influenced the way I look at things.

I would say that if you read the politics forums, read the papers, and are aware of what's going on around you, you already are more informed than the rest of this country...being as most people don't pay attention at all (sadly).


Milton Friedman "Capitalism and Freedom" and to balance it, the "Communist Manifesto" !

If you really want to learn about politics a basic understanding of economics is essential, but it could actually hurt you if you plan a career in politics in the future, lol...


As far as politics, if anyone "learned" how to think about politics from someone else, they are just a follower and/or easily moulded into their teacher's viewpoint. My parents rarely discussed politics openly. I know my mom voted for Reagan and that both my mom and dad liked Clinton, but there was never any real debate like that in my house. My parents were extremely religious and that seemed to be their focus. I also think they wanted to avoid shaping the way I think just to follow them instead of think for myself. They allowed me to attend different churches once I had transportation to get there, and even other denominations. I doubt most parents are like that, but that is how my parents were.

I am not that well read on ALL issues. I watch the news when I can catch it and form opinions based on comparing different views from different sources. I will often switch between FOX, CNN and MSNBC just to see how they are reporting the same issue. I think anyone who focuses on only one point of view is blind to the whole situation. I also think most people only listen to news that they want to hear, making some of the loudest voices in politics also the least informed.


I would start by finding a few issues, and deciding what you think about those things.

i.e. Abortion, Gun control, and taxation. Really polotics are about finding what you stand for, and electing the candidate that best represents you.


Read works from proponents of both sides; Read the NY Times and the Washington Post. Read Howard Zinn and Allan Bloom, etc. Conservatism and liberalism are both steaming piles of shit, in all honesty. You just have to figure out which pile smells better to you.

"Under the Republicans, man has expoited man. Under the Democrats, it's just the opposite."


You might want to check out some of the online political quizzes. I'd take a few and find out where you come down on various issues, then you might have an idea of where you lie on the political spectrum. Those sites will often have links to parties and web sites that can help you explore the issues further. Just Google political quizzes.


If you are "slowly starting to agree/disagree with certain issues" you are on the right track, your beliefs are just that YOUR BELIEFS!


Or....just follow the RJ/Vroom arguements, then shoot yourself.


Reading good books, articles, etc. and simply paying attention to what's going on around you. The most frustrating thing in the world to me is when people (my wife included) tell me that they "just don't care about politics". WTF? This kind of thinking drives me up a wall. Just caring enough to pay attention is important enough. I would rather have a discusion with an avowed communist or socialist than someone who was too lazy to "care about politics". At least they took the time to form a political opinion, even if I don't agree.

Also when someone talks about good books and articles, there's going to be a vast difference in what books and articles are considered "good". The books on my shelf probably would not be on a liberals shelf. But hey, I'm a conservative.

external influences count for alot as well. A person's particular religion, friends and coworkers, upbringing and life experiences, these all come together and mix with a persons education to form their beliefs. I know for a fact that my mom and stepdad had a huge impact on me, and my grandfather as well.

Caring enough to pay attention, reading intelligent material, and of course participating in lively debate on the forums :wink:, these are all important. Just remember that political opinions are like assholes, everybody has one and they all smell different.




Good stuff!


That quote is brilliant, who is it from?


I think that's really cool. I had just the opposite experience w/r/t religion and I'm pretty sure that's why I'm hesitent to embrace any organized religion. Not attending mass regularly in a catholic family is considered a major sin. I didn't see it that way.

I will never push one particular faith on my son. If he grew up to be a buddhist, that would be fine with me.


Read everything you can catch hold of. Old stuff, new stuff, stuff you like and stuff that pisses you off. Read about everything, even shit you're not particularly interested in now. It may serve you in the future.

Just read, listen and contemplate.


I think this is a horrible idea. There are more than enough people who have labeled themselves to such a degree that they can't even think around certain issues. They have painted themselves into a stereotype. I don't need a quiz to tell me where I might stand on certain issues. I can view those issues and choose for myself. You would think that would be the goal for most people.


This is a simple tool I have used in the past when people have asked me about politics. They seem to enjoy the process, especially when the results are surprising, and it always works to stimulate discussion. I had a whole bunch of my office mates take it one day and it was a big hit, just a way to get the ball rolling and point people towards material they might find interesting. To me it's like taking a personality test, whatever result the test spits out doesn't define you, but it might give you something to think about. But hey, just because I think it has some utility doesn't mean it's not a horrible idea.


Understand that everything you hear and read is biased, whether they admit it or not. The major networks; CNN, CBS, ABC, FOX, etc all have political bias. Everyone has their own experiences and filters the news through those experiences.

So read and listen to a lot of information, but understand that it all has a slant, which means it is all not 100% true in the way it is being presented.


Alright. What I've gathered so far is that I'm kind of doing this right, but that I should also get my news from several different sources, because they'll be biased?

I currently get my news from http://news.bbc.co.uk/ and http://www.usatoday.com/.

Would anyone mind reccommending a few other sources?


The BBC is always an excellent site and station, generally thought of to be the least biased.

As far as online, I know that www.Thenation.com and www.democracynow.org are excellent sources for liberalism. If you really want to turn to the darkside, check out www.socialistworker.org

I'm sure the conservatives can also give you some pretty good sites espousing their views as well.