It’s a fair question to ask, and I think it’s important enough to answer in a separate blog post.
To begin with, let’s be very careful of the language we use. My blog only appears on your computer monitor if you click a link to it or type in the URL. I wouldn’t even know how to do that annoying thing where you’re trying to go to one website and another website pops up in front of you, even though you had no interest in seeing it. Anyone who comes to this site does so because they want to. So, if there is any implication of me forcing anyone else to hear my side of things… well… I’m not.
What else might “hammering beliefs” entail? Perhaps Dodger is upset that I illustrate the incorrectness of other beliefs while attempting to convince people of mine. Well, to that, I suppose I’m guilty as charged. I do believe in what I write about. I also believe that my topics are important to other people, and that if they believe as I do, their lives will likely be better in some tangible way. I also know that sometimes, a person will only search for a new answer to a question when their old belief has been proven wrong. So I point out the inadequacies in things I believe are wrong. I am insistent, primarily because I have empathy for my fellow humans, and I want them to be as happy and self-actualized as possible in this life.
It feels like this little presentation is getting stale, and that everyone ought to have heard it by now, but I guess I have to follow through with it to the end. Christians do exactly the same thing. So do Muslims. But it’s not just the religious who insist that their beliefs are true. It’s also the Democrats, and the Republicans, and the Green Party, and the Libertarians. The environmentalists believe very strongly in their position, and they try very hard to convince people they’re right.
It’s part of human nature to try to convince others when we believe we’re right. Is that a bad thing? What if Copernicus, having observed that the sun did not revolve around the earth, had simply said, “Hmm. That’s very interesting. Anyway, time to tend the garden.” If he had not mentioned that discovery to anyone else, how long would it have been until someone else discovered it? More importantly, what would have happened if he had told someone else, and then not been insistent that he was correct? The overwhelming majority opinion of the day was wrong. Copernicus was right, and it took many years of insistent, vehement argument before society as a whole accepted the truth.
In fairness, Copernicus was less than vitriolic in support of his own theory — not because he thought he was wrong, but because he feared the opposition he would face. He was a very smart man, but not particularly brave. One wonders how much faster his view would have taken hold had he had a little more intestinal fortitude. It’s impossible to say, I suppose.
The beauty of science, though, is that it is not dependent on any individual for its success. Those who followed Copernicus rigorously tested his theory and found it to be substantially better than prevailing wisdom. It wasn’t totally correct, though, and in the years that followed, scientists ferreted out the inaccuracies and improved upon our model of the cosmos.
And how did this happen? At each step of the way, the person who made the discovery told other people, and argued his side until he won the day.
It boggles my mind to think of this, but try to imagine a world in which nobody ever bothered to insist that they were correct. Off the top of your head, how many persistent beliefs in history can you think of that were completely wrong? The increase in our collective knowledge as a species is utterly dependent on the insistence of those who believe they are right.
Now, this brings me to the crux of the matter with Dodger. Dodger believes that my beliefs are objectively no better or worse than his. And he’s wrong. I cannot say with 100% certainty that my views are correct and his are incorrect, but in objective reality, either he is right, or I am right, or neither of us is right. The opinion which conforms to reality is objectively better than any and all opinions which do not conform to reality — for the purpose of determining truth.
We can illustrate this principle very simply. Suppose that you and I are walking down the street having a snow cone, and we stop on a corner across from a policeman who is watching us with some interest. Now, suppose you say, “I believe it’s ok for me to just throw my snow cone wrapper on the ground.” However, I happen to know (because I have read the city ordinance) that there is a fine of two hundred dollars for throwing trash on the ground. My opinion is that you are likely to be fined if the policeman sees you litter. Yours is that nothing bad will happen if you litter.
So, which opinion is better?
Mine, of course. Mine is correct, and yours is incorrect. Now, suppose I know that you’ll probably get fined, and I say, “Ok. Your opinion’s as good as mine. Go right ahead.” You’ll toss your wrapper on the ground, and the policeman will fine you two hundred dollars.
What’s your reaction likely to be? Probably, you’ll turn to me in a rage and scream, “Why didn’t you tell me I’d get fined for dropping the wrapper?! There was a policeman over there! Don’t you even care about me at all?!”
And you’d be right. I’d be a very heartless person if I didn’t try to prevent you from getting fined.
But what if you argued with me? “No. I’m sure I’m right, and I can throw this on the ground without consequence.” If I simply shrugged my shoulders and let you go ahead with it, would you think I cared about you? Probably not. You’d be mad at you for not arguing my point with more fervor.
So, why do I hammer my beliefs? Because I think they’re right, and I care about other people.
But, there’s also another reason I post my beliefs. If I’m wrong, I want to know. By putting my beliefs out there for everyone on the internet to scrutinize, I’m opening myself up to criticism and counter-argument. I’m inviting criticism and counter-argument. That’s how knowledge increases. People put their beliefs out there as strongly as they can, and the opposition tries to refute them as strongly as possible. In the end, one side’s opinion comes out looking better than the other, and human knowledge increases.
So, with all apologies to Dodger, you can take your indignity and stuff it, my brother. You’ve been insisting on your side as fervently as I have, and I’ll not have you threaten me into silence as a last ditch effort to avoid open dialog. If I think your opinion is wrong, I’m going to tell you because I believe it’s important, and that you’d be better off if you believed as I do. Since I wouldn’t want you to accept my opinion at face value, I’m going to back it up with arguments and evidence. If you want to talk, let’s talk. If you want to have your view accepted without question, become a pastor.