On Christian Objectivity: Practical Suggestions

Everybody thinks whatever they have to in order to keep thinking what they already thought. Yeah, that’s right. Your perception of any charged event is strongly shaped by your desire to reinforce what you already thought. We are capable of thinking critically, but we don’t do it nearly as often as we think we do. Basically, we interpret the world the way we already decided we interpret it, which reinforces our conviction that we interpret it correctly.

I thought today I’d create a list of ways to work past our biases. As I said, each of us is capable of free, deep thought. On the other hand, we don’t actually do this as often as we think we do. Most of us think we do this for most of each day.

Think about that. Do you really?

Douglas Copeland said “if you aren’t spending every waking moment rethinking everything, you’re wasting your life.” Are you actually reflecting on your worldview, asking yourself if you see the world the way it actually is most of the day? Of course you aren’t. Almost none of us are. Although I agree with Copeland’s basic point, looking for this to happen every waking moment is a pipe dream. However, we can do this more (much more) than we do now.

Here are some suggestions. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

Read people you disagree with. The smart people, too. Not the popular-level talking heads who aren’t actually as good at thinking as they are at defending old thoughts.

Remember that lawyers and apologists are trained to win arguments, whether or not they are right. This skill is widespread. Don’t look for the people you disagree with who are apologists for ideas you dislike (though you might need to start here for accessibility’s sake), but the actual intellectuals who critically engage with varied ideas.

Contrary to popular belief, most intellectuals don’t ignore common sense; they know a great deal more about their respective field than you do, so one is well-served to hear them out.

Find people who are different than you. I mean, who come from different backgrounds than you, who have been shaped by different social forces. This doesn’t make them smarter than you of course. Well, it probably doesn’t…it does give them a different set of beliefs they’re trying to defend. This both makes them blind to some things as you are blind to some things, but helps them see other things, just as you can see certain things more clearly. In short, they will challenge you to break your pre-conceived ideas.

Think about what is wrong with your ideas. They have weaknesses, or almost no one would disagree with them. If you can’t honestly identify them and explain why you still believe your idea, you haven’t thought about it enough.

Find ideas and people that fall into your thought camp which you disagree with. For example, if you are a Democrat, which parts of the Democratic platform do you disagree with? You might be sold-out on the platform. In that case, if you can’t find Democrats who say dumb things, and recognize it, you’re probably misperceiving things as described above.

Most people have real lives, and can’t do this sort of thing for hours a day. However, we can begin to grow in these areas. One doesn’t successfully change their diet by radically changing it overnight, but by slowly removing things they shouldn’t eat and beginning to eat things they should. There is no shame in gradual change.

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  1. February 2nd, 2012

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