Shifts in Worldview: becoming a believer

shifts-in-belief1

Has your worldview changed?

Many of us would say it slowly evolves. And I would presume many of you could point to a dramatic life experience that was a catalyst for major perspective change. But a change in worldview?

What is a worldview?

According to Wikipedia, a worldview is

…the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society’s knowledge and point of view

I’m going to reiterate that my own way;
A worldview is the construct of fundamental ideas that a person or group believes about the world. Worldviews are our most fundamental constructs by which we interpret our feelings and experiences, and how we expect ‘the universe’ to behave.

Thinking about worldview is a common existential endeavor. I have little doubt that you haven’t already thought about your own worldview, the worldviews of those surrounding you, and the concept philosophically.

But what I’ve come to find more interesting, meaningful, and productive is the fundamental ways which we form worldviews—which I’ll delve into in Part 2.

Reasons

Many of you know that I use to be a Christian. An extreme Christian. And going to Bible college I learned a lot about the reasons why we believed what we believed.

I remember arguing with a guy named Cad; a black peer who loved debating just as much as I did—and he could hold a smile longer (few can!).

It was around 3 a.m., and we were outside a donut shop in downtown LA that was known for cross-dressers and prostitutes. We started handing out roses to the gender-ambiguous at midnight, and continued proselytizing till morning. It’s an emotional-rush to convert people to the way you think, especially if the consequence is eternal life.

Cad subscribed to Mohammad’s teachings, Jesus’ teachings, and other monotheistic worldviews. We had argued for well over an hour…maybe two. He was trying to convince me that God loves people and that He communicates to different groups through different religions. I was trying to convince Cad that Jesus was the only way for God to connect with people.

Cad knew his scripture, and up till this time I had forgotten to cite one passage in particular:

I am the way the truth the light, and no one comes to the Father but through me.

Silence.

Cad couldn’t argue that Jesus was wrong, because his worldview assumed Jesus’ words to be authoritative. I witnessed this black dude, who I feverishly bantered with in unarguable argument, finally go quite with obvious signs of cognitive dissonance. There was no rebuttal. Just him staring up…thinking. We parted ways, both ecstatic with energy from a good conversation that we both found meaningful.

I can’t tell you what Cad believes today. But I hope I did not convince him away from his worldview.

Why?

Well for one, I’m not a Christian. So it wouldn’t make sense for me to endorse a view I don’t believe.

Or…would it?

There are n-types of people in this world—2-types that I am aware of. Those who are serious about their worldview, and those who are not. Those who would call their beliefs knowledge, and those who would not. Those who proselytize, and those who do not.

I’m an evangelist! That’s why I’m typing this.

But there is something invaluable from the type of person who does not think about their worldview deeply. A practical feature that is largely missed by those who take their own worldview too seriously.

People who do not seem to care about knowing truth, are typically much more adaptable. I’m still wrestling with this one; as I haven’t had adequate time to observe through this nifty new lens. But the type of people who do not speculate about the unknown—origins, the-end, universal purpose—are usually much more in-tune with the present, and accepting this tangible life as the way it is: now.

I’ve never deeply connected with this type of person—as my closest bonding experiences were instigated through intense discussions revolving around theology, philosophy and theory. But I feel like I am becoming more and more like the person who does not seem to care about knowing truth.

Why?

Because of a belief…

The love of knowing, the love of using

Those of you who do not seem to care about your beliefs have learned something about the nature of beliefs. There are a lot of them. They evolve over time, and they are as diverse as the densities of all poops ever taken. Some are good. Some are stupid. Some of them: life changing. Some are useless. And others are useful.

Though I am very open and passionate about my worldview,

I am starting to value the censorship of my own deepest held constructs, and allowing myself to adopt the stranger’s worldview.

For those of you who are rolling your eyes thinking, “Why would you want to convince others to believe what you believe in the first place?” You are of the second type; the type that I am reckoning with! You are most likely a pragmatist, who doesn’t understand why—or like the fact that—people waste energy on much theory and seemingly trivial thought.

For those of you in the other camp, you may believe that everyone has the right to believe what they want, but you also believe your worldview is inconvertibly true. And that all people would benefit from your worldview if they could only understand.

Every belief has mild utility. If Jack had the honest belief that toaster-ovens were inspired designs by God himself, Jill could use that thought to engage Jack’s belief, or more likely use it as evidence that Jack is not thinking properly. But if Jack believed he had a toaster-oven design that could toast toast in 3 seconds, that belief has the potential to be of much more utility—as it could be meaningful work for Jack that leads to a product and skill acquisition.

Having fun with beliefs

The reason I hope I didn’t convince Cad of my argument is because, in reflection, I believe his theology was better than my own. Even though I say “better,” and even though I no longer subscribe to the argument I gave to Cad; what I mean by ‘better belief’ does not mean ‘truer belief.’ To this day I believe my argument was much more sound than Cad’s. But I also believe his belief was better. His belief was more generous and accepting of others in their cultural contexts.

An untrue belief that has more utility than a true belief is a better belief.

– Unknown

Say wha?! An untrue belief can be better than a true one?

So in the case of adopting a stranger’s worldview—you can call me a con—but really, I’m just opening the door with common language to discuss useful ideas through the metaphors of their own world.

I find it enjoyable, and often times insightful.

What do you think?

Is an untrue belief that has more utility than a true belief a superior belief?

  • If you do not agree, I’d love to hear why.
  • If you do agree, then I’d like to see if you have anything to add.
  • If you believe this is short-sighted, please let me know how.
I have a subsequent post drafted. Although I am happy to engage with your comments posted below, and hope to integrate some of your thoughts in part 2.
You can be anonymous, or known. Just be ready to be quoted!

References

Featured image: props go to Dierk Schaefer for his photograph!

  • Bethany Johnson

    I’m open to agreeing that an untrue belief can have more use, be more helpful to humanity and do more good (for the belief holder) than a true one. In fact, everyone has a few of these untrue-but-superior beliefs. Would you agree? Everyone clings to at least one… even those who have devoted decades to knowledge. How else would I be me and you be you if but for them? I’m very interested in your next post (or “part 2”), and I’d especially like to hear your thoughts on what difference any of the untrue-but-superior-beliefs makes.

    • http://www.benprindle.com/ Ben Prindle

      Yes!
      We all hold untrue-but-superior beliefs.
      Obviously truth is best. And those untrue-but-better beliefs are in caves that we personally cannot assess. Often those around us can access some of those untrue-beliefs. And then comes to the question: Should I try to convince them otherwise? Or should I assume the untrue-belief as true for the sake of its use in its beholder?