How often do we critically assess our own beliefs? We usually run a critical eye over the beliefs of others, beliefs we disagree with. But with our own beliefs we are more likely to only consider arguments justifying the belief.
While people can usually provide arguments rationalising their beliefs they hardly ever consider the real reasons for the beliefs – reasons which may be more historical or emotional than rational.
In a recent Point of Inquiry interview John W. Loftus, (author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity) called on Christians to adopt the “outsider” approach to a critique of their own beliefs. He defines the “outsider approach as the critical consideration Christians give to the beliefs of others with different religions or no religion.
This is a bit like mindfulness or the meditation technique where one adopts an “observer” stance to look at and consider the thoughts which come randomly into one’s mind. This enables the mediator to become more objective about their thoughts, to recognise them as “only thoughts”. The result is less negative thinking and emotional reactions driven by negative thoughts.
So here’s an idea. What about adopting an “observer” stance towards one’s own beliefs. See them as “only beliefs.” Recognise the emotional or historical reasons for a belief rather than automatically rationalising the belief. Maybe then we would find it easier to give up dangerous beliefs and beliefs driven by emotion rather than reason.
And let’s face it. Most of the beliefs we argue about are not there for rational reasons.
From Point of Inquiry.
John W. Loftus earned M.A. and M.Div. degrees in theology and philosophy from Lincoln Christian Seminary under the guidance of Dr. James D. Strauss. He then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he studied under Dr. William Lane Craig and received a Th.M. degree in philosophy of religion. Before leaving the church, he had ministries in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, and taught at several Christian colleges. Today he still teaches as an adjunct instructor in philosophy at Kellogg Community College and has an online blog devoted to “debunking Christianity.” His new book is Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.
In this interview with D.J. Grothe, John Loftus discusses his background as an Evangelical Christian preacher and apologist and what led to his rejection of the faith, including both emotional loss and “lovelessness in the church,” and also philosophical arguments and historical evidence that caused him to doubt. He critiques the Christian illusion of moral superiority. He challenges religion with what he calls the “outsider test.” He explores whether logic and reason led to his atheism, or followed only after he adopted an atheistic point of view for emotional reasons. And he explains what he does believe in now that he no longer believes in Christianity or God, and the benefits he thinks this new worldview brings him.
John Loftus has a blog called Debunking Christianity.