The Difficulty of Examining Our Beliefs

As we saw in the last blog, we must have the assistance of other if we are to discover what is true; if we are to discover valid reasons for Christianity.  However, there are dangers in relying on others.  All of us soon realize that we cannot believe all the information presented to us and we often express doubt about what we hear from others.

One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating what is true is being aware of the impact that others, our culture, has had on us.  Because we have unconsciously picked up a belief system from our culture, when those cultural beliefs are challenged it is so easy to automatically assume our beliefs are right.  Schumacher notes the difficulty of questioning such beliefs but asserts that this action is part of our human makeup:

There is nothing more difficult than to become critically aware of the presuppositions of one’s thought. . .A special effort, an effort of self-awareness, is needed:  that almost impossible feat of recoiling upon itself—almost impossible but not quite.  In fact, this is the power that makes man human and also capable of transcending his humanity. [1]

Once we are aware of the presuppositions of our thoughts and of the influence of our culture, our work has just begun because we must now consider if these beliefs are valid.  Which beliefs we decide to critically examine is one of the many choices we make in life.  It is obvious that we cannot examine them all because, first of all, we do not have sufficient time and, secondly, because we need some stability in our lives.  If we constantly reexamined every area of our lives, we would be in a constant state of flux; our lives would be in chaos as we changed our mind on important choices and decisions we need to make.

Once we have decided to examine a particular belief, there is the distinct possibility that belief will be proven wrong.  Erroneous beliefs must be changed and we will spend a considerable amount of time and effort deciding what belief should replace it.  Such a change requires facing many unknowns and that is difficult.

We are social creatures who find it easy to conform to societal norms, to what our friends believe, but we also desire to know what is true which at times might conflict with these norms.  To critically examine the beliefs and assumptions of our culture and our religion is not easy.  Many of us do not question because we might be required to go against the standards of our culture or religion and there are plenty of martyrs to testify to the difficulty of that road.  Others can be of great assistance in our search for what is true but they can also be one of the greatest roadblocks.


[1]   E. F. Schumacher,  A Guide for the Perplexed (New York:  Harper & Row, 1977), p. 44.

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