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lapilofu's avatar

Do you like having your beliefs challenged?

Asked by lapilofu (4325points) October 18th, 2010

Do you appreciate it when someone argues against something you believe? Do you actively go seeking people to challenge your beliefs? Or would you rather they didn’t?

Personally, I’m constantly looking for people to challenge my beliefs. The longer my beliefs go unchallenged, the more invested I get in my worldview and the less likely I am to respond well to future challenges. It’s important to me to be challenged so I can either spot flaws in the way I see the world or think through my reasoning a little more clearly. I don’t mind having to change my opinions when it comes to that.

How about you?

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34 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Depends on my mood. Every now and then I like discussing my beliefs with someone that has a conflicting viewpoint. Keeps me on my toes. For the most part, I’d rather not bother. Just have to catch me when I’m feeling feisty.

talljasperman's avatar

yes… as long as the person respects my boundaries and stops when I ask to

augustlan's avatar

Absolutely. It’s important to check in on your beliefs, at least from time to time, to see if they still hold true. It’s all too easy to become complacent, and cling to out-dated or simply false ideas. Not to mention the mental workout that comes along with the challenge!

downtide's avatar

No I don’t, not really, because I’m not really smart enough to be able to argue for my beliefs effectively. I’m easily overwhelmed and bewildered in an argument, even when it turns out that the other person is talking utter bullcrap.

DominicX's avatar

I don’t really go out seeking it, but I do think it can be a good thing. If I can’t defend and explain my beliefs, that’s not exactly a sign of their strength. I want to develop them further and challenges help me to do that.

Harold's avatar

Yes, welcome at any time. I am comfortable and confident in what I believe, but always like to discuss it, especially with those who see things differently. The only time I don’t enjoy it is when people are disrespectful- you can disagree without ridicule. I don’t mind people being disrespectful of a belief, but I do object to them being disrespectful to the person that holds it.

Cruiser's avatar

Yes, but it is not something I look for….I would rather cut bait and fish or really just sit down and play my guitar.

Loried2008's avatar

I welcome it as long as there is mutual respect for one another. If it turns into something to extreme or hateful I want nothing to do with it.

Blackberry's avatar

Yes, for the same reason as you @lapilofu.

thekoukoureport's avatar

I love it because hopefully in the end each of us can come to a better understanding, one way or the other. If you can’t withstand challenges to your beliefs than they weren’t beliefs to begin with.

Scooby's avatar

I much prefer a civil debate rather than an argument, if someone wants to argue a point with me then they will be arguing amongst themselves.. I have no time for argumentative people, I avoid loud & aggressive persons like the plague……a civil debate, anytime. I consider myself to be very open minded & will give anyone my undivided attention, so long as they keep a civil tongue in their head…. :-/

crazyivan's avatar

Absolutely. If you have a belief that you aren’t willing to defend what’s the point? And if you have a belief that’s incorrect you should appreciate a chance to stop being ignorant.

iamthemob's avatar

Absolutely as well. I prefer it in person rather than online, so online I prefer discussion to debate, as there are far, far too many ways to be misinterpreted/reinterpreted, and oddly the permanence of the text can allow you to get stuck on a literal interpretation, making you argue (yes, argue) “You said this,” rather than remembering the gist of things and ask “Is this what you think?”

Speech, oddly, allows you to find out what a person really means when the words can’t be referenced, rather than pointing out what they typed and demanding they stand by that as a literal interpretation (I’m nearly positive I do this as much as the next guy).

wundayatta's avatar

Since I try not to have any beliefs, it is difficult to challenge them. All I have are hypotheses to explain things and evidence to support the hypothesis or to kill the hypothesis.

If, by challenge, you mean that you bring evidence that kills my hypothesis, that’s cool with me. It’s enjoyable to come up with a new hypothesis that incorporates that data.

If you mean a challenge to the hypothesis, then, unless you have evidence, there isn’t too much to talk about, is there? If we can’t get evidence, then the whole discussion is mental masturbation. Sometimes I like that, and sometimes it seems like a waste of time.

I’ve discovered that people who do have “beliefs” don’t like to change them. They prefer to defend them at all costs. There are a very few people who are evidence oriented, and understand when they are masturbating and when they are doing the real thing. I’ll talk to those people, but the rest, I prefer to listen to without really trying to convince them of anything. I’m just trying to understand the story that lead them to this belief. The story, I believe (or is it a hypothesis?), is much more important than the belief (ok, so it’s a hypothesis, based on years of arguing to no effect).

JustmeAman's avatar

This site is not a good place to try and do that there are to many know it alls.

iamthemob's avatar


I agree with you, but I think that there are two problems: (1) I believe (recognizing the irony) that there are very few core beliefs that people are unwilling to have challenged; and (2) there’s a problem with challenging beliefs – it’s probably a better approach to discuss them and get down to their core, and perhaps then work up from that point, showing that what was previously defined as a belief was really a hypothesis, based on certain assumptions or evidence showing that they hypothesis was based on a belief.

A simple example is someone saying that they believe homosexuality is wrong and therefore vehemently protest against it. Why? Because god says so. Why? Because it’s in the bible. What is the bible? It’s the written word of god. And what is the basic message of the word of god? Jesus (assuming Christianity) is our savior, and that we get to the kingdom of heaven by him. And how do we do that? By loving each other, god, and doing good and not evil. So you believe that in order to be a good person, you should actively do no harm? As much as possible, yes.

Now, we get to the point that seems to really be the belief…harm is bad. The hypothesis is that being a homosexual is doing harm. If the goal is to convert the homosexual, then we can potentially discuss how the tactics used will defeat that, create shame, which leads to suicides, etc., among gay youths. That the message encourages gay-bashing and more. You’re using the core belief to challenge the tactics resulting from the hypothesis…without necessarily touching on the intermittent beliefs regarding the word of god, etc.

It’s more a mediation approach to beliefs…and overly simplified, as mentioned. I think that people are willing to have their beliefs challenged more easily in that they are willing to see that how they act on those beliefs can run contrary to the most important base belief they may hold.

wundayatta's avatar

@iamthemob That’s an interesting strategy, and not so different from mine. When I said I wanted to get their stories, it usually happens by a series of questions that would be similar to the ones you used as examples (granting that it is more complex than that). What I am hoping is that eventually they will see the internal inconsistencies they hold: their beliefs contradicting their underlying principles.

That takes a lot of work, though, and I’m not willing to spend that much time any more. The chances of success are low. Also, since one of my hypotheses is that beliefs are not so much based on logic or reasoning, but instead are based on affiliational needs, I don’t think the tactic works all that well.

My current theory is that in order to help someone change their beliefs, you have to provide them many of the things they get from the community they are currently in. I.e., you have to incorporate them into a new community with different beliefs.

I once started doing some research on this question. As you might imagine, it is very difficult to figure out and find the variables that would allow one to test this. Or maybe not, now that I think about it. Most people change religions because they marry into one. So I would expect that people marrying into the new religion would be likely to change their beliefs to those of the new religion.

I was also interested in those people who voluntarily chose to change religions. I had another theory about that, but I can’t remember now. It’s all water under the dam, but I still act as if those theories are supported by evidence.

Austinlad's avatar

Anyone who says No is kidding himself/herself. ;-)
I’m not saying nobody is willing to engage in civil debate or change their minds—obviously there are plenty of us who are open to doing both. It’s just that for many (including me), the need to defend beliefs can be a tough process.

iamthemob's avatar


That takes a lot of work, though, and I’m not willing to spend that much time any more.

I agree our strategies our similar. And I totally understand this reaction and support it 100%. Perhaps you’ll be refreshed at some point and start doing it again. However, it’s not anyone’s job to do it…really, it should be everyone’s at some point, and it sounds like you’ve made an attempt or two.

Anyone doing that has made a good show from my perspective. ;-)

crisw's avatar


If you cannot defend your beliefs, then how do you justify having them? And the best way to test the validity of a belief system is to have someone look for genuine holes.

I don’t enjoy arguing with illogical people. But I relish a good, honest debate.

BoBo1946's avatar

Yes, but I not a debater…..too much energy to accomplish absolutely nota!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t actively seek out anyone to challenge me on my beliefs because I challenge my own beliefs given new information I receive from the world around me. If someone must challenge my belief, the degree to which I will yield and get into a conversation really depends on how I view that person and where I gauge their knowledge on the topic to be, at that moment. For example I’m not going to go into medicalization of the sex binary, historically speaking, with anyone who hasn’t a clue about gender and biological sex being separate matters. There has to be some learning done on their part, first, before I can civilly engage with them on complicated topics. As for my other beliefs, I have worked intensely on them, I don’t need them challenged by every single nobody, you know? So, to reiterate, it depends on the person doing the challenging. You, for example, given our conversations, may feel free to challenge my beliefs.

Austinlad's avatar

My only problemwith your argument, @crisw, is that some people aren’t as outgoing, fearless or debate-team articulate as others and therefore avoid open debate about their beliefs, as strongly held as they may be. I don’t fault them.

crisw's avatar


It does not, of course, have to be actual debate with a person. It can be intellectual debate with yourself and challenging viewpoints. As an example, I am for legal abortion. As part of the process of taking this viewpoint, I have also read essays and books and listened to speakers who were anti-abortion, and made sure that I could, to my satisfaction, refute their viewpoints. I try not to take a strong position on an issue until I know enough of the arguments of both sides to make a knowledgeable decision.

There is also a very big difference between liking to have your beliefs challenged because you are open to change if there is a genuine problem that someone finds, and liking to have your beliefs challenged because you are so invested in those beliefs that no matter of evidence will change your mind. I am of the former camp. Some other who have posted on this thread, from what I have seen of their posts on other threads, are in the latter camp. They are very, very different viewpoints.

crazyivan's avatar

@crisw Well said. I am a firm believer that you should read more from the side you disagree with than the side you agree with. Usually it simply reinforces my existing position, but on two occasions this method has caused me to rethink my beliefs entirely.

I think the difference between the two groups you’re describing can be boiled down to the difference between people who enjoy being proven wrong and people who will never admit it. I don’t know about you, but I learn a lot more when I lose a game of chess than I do when I win.

iamthemob's avatar

@crisw – but I believe that the personal debate doesn’t address all – perhaps even most – of the people that @Austinlad is referencing. People who hold a belief and aren’t able to articulate what might very well be good foundations for that belief may stay away if it seems that they will be challenged at every turn. They also might not be able to or informed enough to get to the resources necessary to provide them with support to the alternative side, or grasp the information they can get at.

I think that, in this forum, seeing a debate may very well provide people who aren’t participating a good look at either side of the issue, though…so strong and critical back and forth doesn’t preclude a benefit for those that shy away from making their beliefs public. My concern is always when it turns from what is objectively a debate about an issue to what may very well be seen as an aggressive pursuit…the line there is sometimes hard to find.

crisw's avatar


“Usually it simply reinforces my existing position, but on two occasions this method has caused me to rethink my beliefs entirely.”

Exactly. There are several issues where I have some pretty strong intuitive beliefs, but I haven’t yet done the research necessary to make an informed decision, so my position may be very fluid. Making informed decisions is hard work! :>D

MissA's avatar

I love to hear myself, as well as others say the equivalent of, “That’s a valid point…I’ve never looked at that way…thanks for the new information.”

Always…if it is sincere.

Akua's avatar

It depends on who and how they challenge my beliefs. A challenge can be stimulating but disrespect can get spit in your eye.

Paradox's avatar

I don’t enjoy “debating” as nothing gets accomplished this way and you end up with several ticked off people who still disagree with each other. I do not mind an intelligent civil discussion with someone however in a one on one situation.

I have always been willing to adjust my beliefs on an issue but some people are so cynical you can’t have a reasonable discussion with them whether they be liberal, conservative, atheist, theist, religionist, physicalist and so on. When people do not fully research a topic and limit their arguments against you by posting skeptoid articles then I will not waste my time with that person.

Personally I enjoy reasonable discussion in person or a pm online. I do not enjoy arguing or conflict. You should always have your beliefs based on your own research, not just links or debating with other people. I have never in my entire life changed a belief I’ve had because of someone else challenging me but through research and investigation. I’m my own worst critic and I challenge myself and my own beliefs before I form a hypothesis.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Generally, yes. If I am wrong, I would certainly like to know.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I don’t particularly like it, and i don’t hate it, it just is what it is. I don’t shut other ideas out and will consider them as long as i think they make sense to me and are worthy of me considering with the idea/result of changing my beliefs. I have an open mind generally, so my beliefs about everything aren’t set in stone. I value challenges or whatever that make me change my beliefs for i consider to be the better – or rather, i value the end result of the challenge if it improved things for me regarding my beliefs, but i wouldn’t say i particularly care about the challenge itself.

Paradox's avatar

I don’t mind debating certain issues like global warming, politics and a few other issues. Religion and spirituality are off limits for debating with me because these are personal to me.

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