While my family is in limbo waiting for a new washing machine, my mom and I had some good quality bonding time at the local laundromat yesterday. We ended up discussing some pretty hefty subjects ranging from how books of the Bible became canon, why translating the Bible is so hard, and we even delved into politics on topics like the legalization of marijuana or gay marriage. These are opinionated topics. But it was one of the most pleasant conversations I have had in a long time because my mom and I were both genuinely curious about what the other person had to say.
Now I was raised in a fundamentalist, conservative Christian home. And my mom is one of the two parents who raised me in that home and ensured that I was raised with what she and my father believed to the best of their ability to be sound doctrine (and for whatever it is worth coming from their son they did a really dang good job). But when I usually try to talk with many conservative fundamentalist Christians about topics like why I have questioned the book of Revelation’s inclusion in the canon of Scripture (yes, I do think it should be there, but I have questioned it), why traditional and dearly loved Biblical translations might have flaws, or why I think it is the job of the Church rather than the state to shape our culture’s morality I tend to be met with fierce, unyielding, and frankly mindless adamance.
Now I mentioned conservatives, but I see the same problem as I interact with people from pretty much any ideological camp which makes me think that this is a broad cultural problem that applies to pretty much any issue. It seems as though our society (and I’m by no means innocent here) has become obsessed with proving themselves right rather than humbly pursuing what is true.
Broadly speaking, it seems like our society lacks curiosity. While there are certainly exceptions (including plenty of people with whom I am fortunate to be acquainted), education seems to have become a means to an end of making money and debate even among friends, family, and church members seems to be about winning rather than coming to an understanding (again, I’m no angel in regard to this, I will be the first to admit that). But this is wrong. Education should be a wellspring from which we can satisfy a sincere thirst for knowledge about the world around us, and debate should be a tool to refine our ideas with one another.
But so long as we simply align ourselves with ideological camps and fight each other until we are blue in the face because nobody wants to be proven wrong, then we will never actually make meaningful, intentional progress towards truth.
There’s a lot of sociological phenomena that I think we could blame for the lack of curiosity in our society, but at the end of the day we (in the first person which means I am included) are the ones to blame.
Rather than proving those damn liberals wrong and trying to discredit them on every front, trying to embarrass those backwards hickish conservatives at every chance, destroying theists with snarky memes, or trying to get one up on atheists, we should be asking ourselves serious questions and relentlessly pursuing the answers out of insatiable curiosity. Is climate change real? What should and shouldn’t the government regulate in our everyday lives? What even is the place of government? Is there a deity? Which deity? Which religious book is the right one? How do we know that? The list could go on ad infinitum.
Asking these questions can be scary because it means we might be wrong. We don’t like being wrong. It feels icky. It also takes a lot of work to refine our entire personal paradigms through which we view reality including our most dearly held convictions.
But ideas are important because ideas shape ourselves and the society in which we live, and there are no higher stakes than the ones involved with discovering what is really true and good and beautiful. At the end of the day, a life pursuing such things even though our understanding will always be imperfect is worth infinitely more than a life of trying to be right because we don’t want to confront the reality that we might be wrong. We should want to know when we are wrong.
I’m going to challenge myself to wake up everyday curious about the world around me, and I certainly hope the reader will strive to do the same.
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