Along with knowing what you believe, you also need to think about why you believe it. There is a little overlap here, since in the previous post I talked about the fact that some of your views you may have gotten from your parent's beliefs, often without examination. But we also can start to make decisions on issues from things we read - especially in school, from people we hang out with, or groups we join.
Just take a moment to think about the major issues of the day - the ones that seem to get the most airplay or newsprint. Some examples would be healthcare, the war, the economy, social issues. Now think about what your stand is on them and why you take that stand. Does it match up to what you say you believe, or did you pick up that stand because it fit within the mindset of some group you see yourself affiliated with?
Oftentimes there can be a "group-think" in our associations, whether it be party, church, work, etc. We find ourselves holding to a set of views which we don't think about. We are comfortable with them because either they help us fit in, or we feel we "ought" to hold them. If someone takes issue with a particular position of the group they often face very critical, sometimes even hostile, reactions and may be thought of as less worthy or disloyal and may even be forced out of the group.
Because of this people are often afraid to examine their positions and stifle themselves. I don't say that this happens all the time, by any means, and common beliefs are important to working together in a group. But when strict adherence to a set of beliefs becomes more important than thinking clearly and treating others with respect the group becomes a cage.
I like to think about it in terms of being in junior high. I know, most people don't like to think about that period in life because it was often a difficult period. There were many adjustments to make - being neither a child nor an adult - akward at the very least. But it is a time when the prevaling question is "why?"..."why do I have to do this?" "why can't I do that?" We have so many questions, want so many answers, and annoy those who think they know it all, because every answer is met with another question. Sometimes we go overboard, but it seems as adults we suddenly forget to ask questions - settling for the easy "because ___ said so", whether that be a teacher, pastor, boss, journalist or even the President.
The 1960's were a time of questioning authority and the established ways of doing things. Not everything worked out the best, but there were a lot of accomplishments. Like landing men on the moon, sending hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers around the world to build up ,not tear down , villages in many countries - to show a better representation of what our nation could be to the world. And the Voting Rights Act finally put into writing that color could no longer legally be a barrier to exercising our most sacred right - the right to vote for those to lead us. I think some of the current crowd of naysayers on the right have forgotten what was accomplished then -or maybe they just collected very different memories... I guess they weren't rockers like me:)
My advice today : don't be afraid to examine your beliefs and why you believe them , even at the cost of leaving a group you are part of. If you don't you will only become stifled and cease to truly be yourself.