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What is "Intellectual Honesty?"

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If you really believed you were wrong, would you change your mind? This question comes to the surface when contemplating such things as the upcoming "God debate" at Portland State University (PSU) on Wed. April 9th (details are here: http://tinyurl.com/lhkrtfr ).

Many people ask, do debates do any good? Don't people already have their minds made up and so it is all a waste of time? As a former born-again evangelical Christian (and now atheist), I can assure you that many people are open to learning new things, and are willing to change their belief system if the evidence warrants it. But why would one person change their mind, while another doesn't?

A big part of it has to do with one's attitude. There's a term for it, called "intellectual honesty." It is being honest with yourself to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Why would people not change their mind in light of newer and better evidence? Actually, there's many reasons. Here are some just a few off the top of my head:

1. They fear the consequences of believing something different, even if true, will bring more pain into their life. For example, leaving religious faith to be an atheist causes one to face their mortality like they've never had to do before. Maybe also their friends and family will shun them. This could be especially traumatic when having different beliefs than your spouse.

2. They will have a reputation of being wrong about something. And the more they promoted their old belief system, the more difficult it may be to admit that one was wrong.

So maybe it is easier just to push those doubting thoughts back into the back of their brain, under lock and key. Just forget you heard any evidence against your position. Of course, this option is no good. The problem with this is that one would know that they aren't being "intellectually honest" with themselves.

It might help to separate "what you think" with "how you let it be known." For example, if you come from a very religious family, maybe you don't need to be upfront and clear with everyone, out of sympathy for both them and you (knowing the relationship may not survive your announcement). But this, in no way, has to impact what you choose to believe. What you believe, can be totally different than what you choose to reveal. Maybe over time you could let others know that you don't follow their precious belief system, giving them time to slowly adapt rather than giving them a shocking change. But regardless of how you make announcements, it is imperative that you feel free to choose your own belief system. Don't let the fear of what you think others may think of you, prevent you from believing in an intellectually honest way.

The debate and discussion at PSU features Phil Smith (a philosophy professor at George Fox University) and Bernie Dehler (atheist, former Christian, President of the local Center for Philosophical Naturalism). It is co-sponsored by the Freethinkers at PSU and will be moderated by one of their leaders, Marko Balogh. The event is free, with free parking. It has a special program structure to maximize audience participation. Full details can be found on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/628164700565496/ .

For those of a nonreligious mindset, here's some other groups on meetup.com that you might find interesting:
-- Westside Science & Religion Disc.: http://tinyurl.com/bkmhdl5
-- Sunday Assembly: http://tinyurl.com/kkc8nyw
-- Center for Inquiry: http://tinyurl.com/mps923r
-- Humanists of Greater Portland: http://tinyurl.com/kmbmt57
-- Atheists Etcetera: http://tinyurl.com/nhjr3ha
-- Philosophy Workshop: http://tinyurl.com/pzs4ajc
-- The Center for Philosophical Naturalism: http://tinyurl.com/l6rd4sl

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