It is all beginning to make a little more sense now.
It was that uncomfortable feeling I always felt when some of my more “progressive” friends failed to see the rationale with governments accommodating cultural and religious differences. Because to them, a Muslim student wearing a hijab in a public school threatened the illusion of their secular existence.
It was the apprehension that consumed me when some of my gay friends would criticize and lambaste people of faith. Because to them, the right to believe in no God trumped one’s right to believe in any God.
And it was that sinking feeling I felt every time I was made to believe that being a partisan politico was more important than being a private citizen. Because to them, towing the party line was the right thing to do even if the policy being defended went against every fabric of their being.
In all of the cases above, what I was feeling was doubt.
Doubt that society was destined to fray with every new compromise made. Doubt that unflinching secularism was the correct way forward. And doubt that silence in the face of political debate was helpful to the greater cause.
It has taken me quite a while to admit this, but I no longer find myself at home in organizations or institutions that limit the opportunity for genuine doubt - the kind that occupies a middle ground and that is unready to accept the "-isms" that others have invented and propagated.
In the book, In Praise of Doubt, one line remains sketched in my memory: “If the danger of relativism to a stable society is an excess of doubt, the danger of fundamentalism is a deficit of doubt.”
I now realize that in those moments of personal discomfort and tremendous apprehension, I was incapable of nodding in agreement because, in essence, I was no longer practicing or promoting the politics of moderation.
Calling for conformist action, whether in the context of religion, politics, or at the heart of social movements is in essence democratically approved censorship. Inside institutions, political parties, and organizations that pretend to know the truth... differences of opinions, questioning authourity and doubting (no matter how necessary it may be), is ultimately undesirable. And those who question and doubt are eventually rooted out.
As the authours, Berger and Zijderveld suggest: “Doubt is the hallmark of democracy, just as absolute truth (alleged and truly believed) is the hallmark of every type of tyranny.”
Sadly, I am slowly realizing that belonging has its boundaries.