Robert Kirby: How we believe is more important than what we believe

Advocacy boils down to a matter of degree, whether the topic is religion, abortion, guns, politics or whatever.

Robert Kirby

I had surgery several days ago and will be out of the loop for a couple of weeks. It’s too soon to tell if I’ll be able to produce coherent columns after that.

A lot will depend on whether I ever produced anything coherent in the first place. There are differing opinions in that regard, which is as it should be.

When I first started doing this some 25 years ago, I focused mainly on winding up my own people: Latter-day Saints.

It was easy. I’ve been Mormon my entire life and understand well the various idiosyncrasies of my clan. There are five types of Mormons, I wrote, all with their own quirks. Quickly named, they are liberal, genuine, conservative, orthodox and Nazi Mormons.

Note: It’s possible to move from one category to the next, but it takes an enormous amount of time and effort. That’s because these categories are fundamentally based on personality traits. For example, many Nazi Mormons who slide away from the church become Nazi Ex-Mormons, every bit as rabid against the church as they were for it.

Here’s the thing: There basically are five kinds of every group. Take gun owners, for example. There are:

Liberal gun owners • This is someone who doesn’t particularly like guns but might have a BB gun or an old .22-caliber rifle.

Genuine gun owners • This person owns guns but treats them (and other people) with the respect they deserve.

Conservative gun owners • This is the typical Utahn with guns for all types of hunting and plinking, and likes the idea of owning guns to provide for (and protect) loved ones.

Orthodox gun owners • This person is really into military-style weapons for hunting and home protection, defense against tyranny, and Russian paratroopers. The Second Amendment, this gun owner believes, should be considered Scripture.

Nazi gun owner • This person owns in excess of 50 guns, half of which are illegal, and dreams of possessing an M61 Vulcan rotary (Gatling) 20 mm cannon, capable of firing 6,000 rounds a minute, which of course would be used only for duck and rabbit hunting.

These categories of belief extend to hobbies, politics and virtually anything else humans can form opinions about — drugs, abortion, taxes, football, music, marriage, pornography. Essentially, any topic that begins with a difference of opinion and ends in a fistfight.

It’s not bad to belong to a group that attracts controversy. It is bad if your support extends to endorsing the people who give it a bad name. Abortion comes to mind. Proclaiming abortion is terrible is OK, but bombing an abortion clinic isn’t.

People will always disagree. I like to think that’s what makes being human so interesting. Viewed in the right light, these disagreements can be regarded as great learning experiences.

Fundamentally, what we believe isn’t nearly as important as how we choose to believe it.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.