Some days ago I heard a man interviewed on the radio describe himself "first as a Christian, second as an American and third as a Democrat." Just like that I understood a lot about him. In one sentence!
In a sense, values come first before anything else. A person's values determine their behavior. If you know their values you can often predict their behavior.
Some years ago I saw Kinky Friedman, the musician and author, describe himself first as "a Texan and second as a Jew." He was dressed as the stereotypical Texan - black cowboy hat, black clothes, a string tie and cowboy boots. I smiled over that one (I didn't see his pants but I figured he was wearing black denim).
I have described myself to people a "liberal conservative radical." That says a lot about me. All my friends are the same way - and people hang out with people who share the same values. To quote an Aesop's Fable, "Equals make the best friends."
Everyone seeks meaning, importance and community - and those are values. It's why I and many other people knew that groups of leftists - a community - were going to engage in violent protests at the Trump inauguration. It's how they get meaning and importance in their lives.
I once met a man who entire head was covered with colorful tattoos (he had to shave his head every day). I figured he was pretty much nuts (I also wondered if he had any friends). I also wondered how he got meaning and importance out of what he had done to himself. Attention, maybe?
I’ve always been amused by people like the “evolutionist” Richard Dawkins, who says there is no meaning to life, yet he gets his meaning and importance from saying those things in public and refuses to debate anyone who disagrees with him because he doesn’t want them part of his community.
I’ve also mentioned I knew a rabidly anti-Catholic loon who thought the Pope had sent had assassins to kill him to stop him from writing a book exposing the Catholic church and used to call churches to get the priests admit they were trying to rub him out. And he used to try to convert people to his beliefs so he would have a community.
If you understand how people seek meaning, importance and community through their values then you understand them. Even the fanatics and the nuts.