Many times, while engaging with Christians, I’m asked something like “why do you care? If what you believe is true we just go to the ground and rot. Why can’t you just leave our beliefs alone?“
The answer is really easy. I care because what we believe matters. Our beliefs inform our actions, and our actions have objective consequences for both ourselves and others around us. When we believe things that aren’t actually true we risk causing real harm to other people, including those we care about. I care about what I believe because I do not want to cause harm to others. I care about what I believe because I’d be a hypocrite if I told people to believe something that I myself didn’t care about. As Matt Dillahunty has said many times “I want to know as many true things and as few false things as possible.“
If you value truth, and you care about yourself and those around you, then it stands to reason that one should try to make sure that all of their beliefs are true, or at least very likely to be true.
I Make Mistakes Sometimes
I’ll admit that I make plenty of mistakes, including mistakes about beliefs. Even at this moment I almost certainly hold beliefs that are not actually good descriptions of reality. I hope that these beliefs are benign, but ultimately it’s hard to know. Knowing what’s actually true is hard, and we make a lot of errors in the process. After all, nobody ever said that learning was easy. We should all be willing to admit that we could be wrong about just about anything we believe!
Why I’m A Skeptic
Because knowing what is true is so difficult, and reliable means to establish truth are so limited, I try to be very careful about what I “allow” myself to believe (not that belief is actually a choice.) Being a skeptic, and forcing your brain to justify every belief, seems to be one of the best tools we have to protect ourselves from bad beliefs, but even that isn’t perfect.
I’m sure all of us like to think that our beliefs are a good modeling of reality. Nobody wants to think that their beliefs are unfounded, or wrong. The thing is every one of us almost certainly believe something incredibly stupid, and we’d probably feel embarrassed when we realize the truth about some of these things. Here’s the rub: we all make mistakes, and it’s very unlikely that anybody is going to stop loving you, or is going to think less of you, for admitting that you held a wrong belief.
Commit yourself to having true beliefs, and always making sure that your most important beliefs are true. Commit yourself to good epistemological methods, so that we can stop believing silly things. We owe it to ourselves, and to those around us!