Beliefs aside?

I heard recently that people who are willing to put their beliefs aside to consider the beliefs of others are more creative thinkers and better listeners.

The idea that putting my beliefs aside can make me objective, or more creative, or a better listener, seems to work at first.

If I have to go before a judge who hates skinny people, I would definitely want him/her to set aside that prejudice before taking my case.

So it seems like setting my beliefs aside could be a good thing.

But can I say it is always good to set my beliefs aside?

I’ll look at an extreme example to see if it still works.

Suppose I am sitting next to a man in the plane terminal, and he asks me if I would consider putting my beliefs about terrorism aside to take a bomb onto the plane.  Should I even consider this?  Would it be creative thinking, or destructive thinking?  Would my willingness to accept that this belief might be plausible show that I’m a good listener–or a fool?

If a theory doesn’t work in even one fair example, it doesn’t work.  I’ve given one example of a breakdown, but we could all think of a bunch more: a white supremest asking me to consider lynching an African-American, a pyromaniac asking me to burn down a house, a rapper suggesting in his song that I go kill a police officer, and so on.

There are some things I’m just not willing to set my beliefs aside to consider.

I guess that makes me intolerant.  But I want to be intolerance to someone who’s trying to convince me to do something evil.  I don’t think this makes me less creative.  Maybe it makes me a worse listener, but maybe that’s a good thing.

So is it sometimes right for me to set aside my beliefs to entertain a notion and sometimes wrong?

Going back to the original example of the judge prejudiced against skinny people–why is it good for that judge to set his/her belief aside about skinny people?  Because it’s a bad belief.

What if the judge is “prejudiced” against murder, meaning (s)he believes murder is wrong?  A judge shouldn’t set that belief aside.  Why?  Because it’s a good belief.

About a month ago, I was at a gas station trying to get my hood open.  I hadn’t probably done that since about the time I bought the car, years ago, and I couldn’t remember how to open it.  A man came up and proposed to help me.  I welcomed with open arms his belief about how to open the hood, because I didn’t know what I was doing. In that case, it was a good idea to listen to him because he had the right answer.  That was a risk I took, because I was pretty near clueless.

But what if I knew just how to open the hood, and a man came up and proposed that if I hit the windshield with a sledgehammer, the hood would come open?  That would not be a good time to set aside my beliefs and consider his.

Of course, if I did set aside my beliefs and consider his, I would (hopefully) still go back to mine.  But–is that step really necessary?  Do I really need to evaluate whether I should break my windshield in an attempt to get my hood open?

We all have beliefs about a lot of things.  We have beliefs we’re unsure about (Can bacon really be bad for you?), beliefs we’re pretty sure about (The oil in my car probably does have to be replaced, even if I would rather use the money to buy sushi), and beliefs we’re really sure about (God is in control).

For most of these beliefs, I could set aside what I think for a while to hear someone else’s opinion, especially if my belief provably wrong, like when I thought drinking soda all day would make no difference to my health.

Polite debate can, in and of itself, be an interesting way to pass the time.  I’m fascinated by logic and argument strategies, and I might could spend a few quaint hours arguing whether the sky is blue or dogs are cats.

But then there’s the beliefs we’re not willing to part with.  Ever.

Some of them are extremely important beliefs that nearly everyone assumes, like It would be wrong to murder my friends and I must feed my children.

No one is usually accused of being intolerant for holding these beliefs.  But there are exceptions.  There are a few psychopathic people who would hold extremely important beliefs like It would be right to murder my friends or I must not feed my children.

Just because a belief is extremely important doesn’t make the belief right to hold.  It goes back to good and evil.  Good beliefs are good to hold onto, whether they’re little-bitty in their importance (like how to open the car’s hood) or super important (like how to treat human life).

How do I know when I should set my beliefs aside so I can be tolerant and intelligent and creative and when I shouldn’t?

I will have no way of answering that if I don’t believe in good and evil.

And I will have no way of answering that if I don’t know which is which.

I find the backstory to my natural belief in good and evil explained in Genesis 1-3.  And I find the ability to distinguish which is which on every page in God’s Word.  I might be intolerant for thinking so, but that doesn’t actually matter at all if God is right.

So although I might win popularity by setting my beliefs aside, and although I might be accused of intolerance or stupidity or poor listening for not doing so . . . I’d rather be with the God who is right.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. (Psalm 89:14, NASB)


Bias & Worldview

Bias seems to me to be the inclination towards one thing over another.

If you go to, you can read this definition (one of many) of bias: “to cause partiality or favoritism in (a person); influence, especially unfairly.[1]”

Take, for example, my love of brownies.  If I pick up an article that says Brownies Are The New Vegetable I’m going to probably think in my mind, I so want to read this article.

Bias can be sneakier, though.

Bias can be being more inclined to believe, focus on, or enjoy one thing over another. Favoring something.

So anytime I say anything, I’m going to have to show ‘bias’.

That is, if I say, “I just saw an elephant who fits in a coffee cup”, I am showing a bias towards that information.  I could have talked about something completely different, like how much Dave Ramsey says you save if you don’t buy coffee at coffee shops (and save the money in the bank instead–sadly, it doesn’t count if you spend it on something else).

But whether an elephant can fit inside a coffee cup, whether I would save money brewing coffee at home . . . neither of these beliefs change every action in my life.  So I can show bias without it profoundly changing my life (in a way I see, anyway).

But bias can also change everything about me.  I used to think of this in a negative way, like the “especially unfairly” part of the description.  But can’t bias also be positive?  What if I come to someone who is bias to showing kindness to everyone, whether the other person is behaving kindly or not?  I wouldn’t mind that kind of bias, even though the person is favoring kindness over meanness.

My life goal isn’t to get rid of bias.  My life goal is to get rid of bad bias.  I want to be bias towards love.  And I want to be bias towards the one and only source of love: God.

We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us. (1 John 3:16a, GW)



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Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

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If I said a race of people should be called by a racial slur name, would I be a bigot?

If I said Asians shouldn’t have any human rights, would I be a bigot?

If I said Muslims were a less “people” than I am, would I be a bigot?

If I said women were less important than men, would I be a bigot?

If I said that my needs take priority over the needs of a child in India, would I be a bigot?

If I said that disabled Americans should be terminated because they are an inconvenience, would I be a bigot?

But . . .

If I said that babies should be called “fetuses”, would I be a bigot?

If I said “fetuses” shouldn’t have any human rights, would I be a bigot?

If I said “fetuses” were less “people” than we are, would I be a bigot?

If I said that those in-the-womb were less important than those out-of-the-womb, would I be a bigot?

If I said that my needs take priority over the needs of a “fetus”, would I be a bigot?

If I said that “fetuses” should be terminated because they are an inconvenience, would I be a bigot?

Let’s get the record straight: It matters when it’s a group we care about.

I want to care about all humans, not just those who are like me.  I believe that life is precious and that we are here for a purpose, that each person is born as a gift and has also been gifted to live and love, whatever ethnicity, whatever religion, whatever ability level, and whatever age.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. (James 2:1, NIV)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism. (Acts 10:34, NIV)

There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:9-11, NIV)


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Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 12:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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