I frequently hear people speak of their “sincerely held” beliefs. Sometimes they mean religious beliefs and sometime they are simply referring to their “sincere belief” that one route is faster than another. Whatever the case, sincerity of belief isn’t what matters. Truth matters. You have sincere beliefs, but are they true?
On July 23, 2015, the Indianapolis Star published an article with the following subtitle, “A Southern Indiana woman is suing the county and the county clerk for firing her after she refused to process same-sex couples’ application for marriage licenses because doing so goes against her “sincerely held” religious beliefs.”
The article was mostly about gay rights and whether or not this lady had unlawfully discriminated. But there’s a deeper issue that needs to be explored. The lady did not say her religious beliefs were true, she just said they were “sincerely held”.
It’s good to be sincere in your beliefs, but if they are false, you should change! For most people, this is incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, mudslinging is the norm when discussing sincerely held beliefs, especially in religious and political matters. This problem actually compelled me to write a book on examining the truth of Christianity! (Planned release is December 1, you can get a free chapter download here).
It’s obvious that holding false beliefs is bad and will lead to big problems. But, how do we make sure our sincerely held beliefs are actually true? Let me suggest 4 simple steps:
- Talk to Someone Who Disagrees with You – We are masters of attacking caricatures of those who disagree with us. Christian, have you actually talked to a Muslim about why they are a Muslim? Muslim, when is the last time you asked a Catholic why they hold their beliefs? Skeptic, do you know why your Christian friends are Christians?
- Investigate the Evidence with an Open Mind – This is incredibly hard. We all want to see the evidence that supports our view and overlook the difficult evidence. But, intellectual integrity requires it. Commit yourself to follow the evidence, wherever it leads.
- Read from different perspectives – Most people struggle to read at all, much less read books that completely disagree with them. But, you should evaluate the Bible on the basis of its own claims. The same is true of the Qur’an. Combine reading from different perspectives with point #1 and you are well on your way to respectful dialogue and determining truth.
- Ask the Hard Questions in Community – We are dealing with complex issues here and the answers are usually multi-faceted. The problem of evil is a big question – discuss it with your friends. The origin of the universe is a big question – discuss it with your neighbors. In community, our hidden assumptions are revealed and we are equipped to find the truth. Discussing big questions in a group also preserves respectful dialogue which can easily break down in a 2-person conversation.
It’s good to be sincere in your beliefs, but you need to make sure your beliefs are true before you become sincere in them. Too often, beliefs are formed without closely examining the evidence and people end up being “sincerely wrong”.
Question: Which of the 4 suggested steps have you taken? How did it go?