Evaluating Your Reasons for Belief

When you’re studying other viewpoints, and (hopefully) trying to evaluate their truthfulness, it’s important to know why you believe your current views, whatever that reason may be.  I don’t mean “Why is this true,” or a reason that would win a debate; I mean just plain old “why.”  It’s tempting to look for a good reason, especially when asked in person and you want to defend yourself, but presumably, you’re sitting somewhere reading this sometime after I actually wrote it and can think it over without any pressure.  This is the question to ask: “What is the true reason I believe _____?”

Maybe it’s because you’ve thought about the issue and believe your view makes the most sense given logic and the relevant evidence.  Maybe it’s because it’s what your parents and/or other trusted people in your life believe and have told you.  Especially as young adults, you may discover that your answer is the latter.  We haven’t lived for 30 or 60 or 90 years to face challenges and consider and reconsider our views, though hopefully you were less sheltered than I was.  (Not by my immediate family, just a natural consequence of the fact that my hometown has relatively uniform opinions as a collective.)  Or perhaps you feel like you wouldn’t be as happy if you held a different opinion.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a good reason, or if it would last two minutes in a debate.  Just be honest with yourself, and find the answer without judging it one way or the other for the moment.

Why is this important?  First of all, you can’t know that you have good reasons, and that your view is correct, if you don’t even know what those reasons are.  If you can say “I hold this view because X, Y, and Z, and here’s why XYZ is right,” then good for you.   If you answered with “Well, they told me…” or “It makes me happy to believe this” or something else, then you still can’t be sure it’s actually true.  Second, it’s hard to consider other views if you struggle to compare them to an opposing opinion that you hold.  You have to know your reasoning for the current view in order to weigh them against each other.

I penned (keyboarded?) this with major views like religion in mind, but it can apply to any view of importance.  If the question can be debated – in a serious sense, not counting your disagreement about what the precise temperature outside is – then you should know what and how good your reasons are.

Any thoughts or anecdotes? I’m always happy to hear them.

2 thoughts on “Evaluating Your Reasons for Belief”

  1. Also, it seems like knowing what you believe and why is part of being authentic – really knowing yourself. It’s challenging, but worth it. Besides – me being the scientist type – I want to have good data about my beliefs so I can adjust accordingly based on the outcomes of those beliefs. If I don’t even know what I believe, how can I adjust when life throws me a curve ball?

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