Sunday, February 9, 2014

People DO Change Their Minds About Political and Religious Issues: Here Is a List of Times I've Changed Mine


I didn't watch the recent Bill Nye debate, but I've seen several commentators remark that debates about religion and politics are fruitless and never change anyone's minds.

This got me thinking about all the many times throughout my life that I've drastically changed my mind about religion and politics. I know I can't be the only one.

In my short lifetime of fewer than three decades, I've gone from the Baptist evangelical Christianity in which I was raised to nearly becoming a Methodist, to getting baptized into the Eastern Orthodox Church (about as radically different from the Baptist churches as you can get within Christianity), to suspecting that God might be one of my worst enemies, to abandoning belief in God altogether.

During this time, I also went from neoconservative Republican (never was an official member of the party, just identified with it more closely than the Democrats), to libertarian Republican, to just plain old libertarian and sick as hell of electoral politics.

Philosophically, I haven't moved around much from the Aristotelian roots I put down in high school and college, but hey, I've never read Nietzsche and a lot of the people I'm hanging with these days seem to like him, so we'll see what happens.

People do change their beliefs about big questions. At least this person has. For me, debate played a major role in allowing me to make these transformations. In high school, I was captain of the debate team and it was pretty much what I lived for at that time in my life.

Will someone watch a single debate and instantly change their minds the second the debate is over because of it? Hell, I don't know. It was a more drawn out process for me with my major shifts, but participating in debate imparts a way of thinking, a methodology for approaching big questions that requires reason and evidence.

It's this approach that has made me capable of changing my beliefs when reason and evidence so compel me. Maybe the people who say no one ever changes their minds because of debate are just speaking for themselves.