Interesting article I read this morning. Made me think back to growing up in the Methodist church, then on to college when I continued on going to outfit Sunday groups for awhile. Later it often came up in "discussions" with people on religion, which was mostly centered on Christianity.
Basically, doubt wasn't allowed. It was frowned upon. Growing up we were taught by my parents to question, but when it came time to go to church, our questions were frowned upon by those in the church that were there to teach us. We were simply expected to believe. I remember several times being told not to ask questions to having the discussion changed or just told I was wrong.
I had learned that having any doubt was wrong. I learned that asking questions must have made me an atheist. I could only perfectly believe, or I just simply wasn't one. On my own, I had also learned, like the author, that I could doubt, that I could question, and that in fact it reinforced my faith in God.
It is something that can also be extended to politics(beliefs in). Are you willing to question the constitution or must you believe in it exactly? Were the founders perfect or can we question their motives?
Thoughts and opinions?
With the qualifier that "living" means "capable of being amended," not "assuming whatever meaning our rules would like it to have." Because a primary purpose of the document is to restrain the rulers.
Without plumbing the philosophical depths, one can question anything, at anytime. There has even been a successful movie series that questioned every observable reality we encounter (paging Neo...).
One who never doubts anything would be that stereotypical person who is "Never uncertain, but not always right."
I have no problems with genuine questioning. It is the foundation for growth and advancement. What I despise is questioning as a form of juvenile argument or as a disguised method of advancing an agenda. If the questioner already has an answer they are unwilling to abandon, there is no point to ask the question other than to put me on the defensive. If the questioner has a point he wishes to prove, then he should demonstrate the stones to state up front what that position is and enter into open debate on the merits of the argument, which entails providing sound evidence, not merely questioning my positions while offering nothing.
Couple of issues
If I am asking you the question, yes, I am putting you on the defensive. That is how it works, I am finding out, I am the one pushing. I am on the offense, so that I can grow.
I can do my best to ask in a rational way, but I can't gaurantee that you will not be offended, and after a point, I should have to care. Sometimes pushing against a belief, will create uneasiness in the believer and the best way for them to defend is to claim that they are put on the defensive by someone with an agenda that doesn't have the stones to state what their position is.
A) Their position isn't firm, that is why they have doubt and are asking questions. To insist on a perfectly firm position is to insist on belief.
B) Of course they have an agenda, they are seeking to grow, to answer doubts, to push the boundries of the beliefs/truths.
C) Every question asked, provides answers. If you listen to what someone asks, how they follow up answers, and how they do all of this, you can learn as much, if not more than them giving a straight answer. I firmly believe this. Take Titus, I have learned more about him by watching how he will reply with his questions than with the rambling answers he gives. You see how they push, what they are wanting to know, what is actually interesting them, where they don't want to go, and so on.
It's a subtle point but there is a great difference between intentionally putting someone on the defensive with the intention to try and trip them up rather than to ask tough questions out of real interest in their answer. My experience has been that people asking questions when they already have answers they have no intention of changing aren't looking to grow in any way, even if it is simply growth in understanding a person who holds a divergent opinion, but are instead picking a verbal fight.
As for being offended, I don't usually concern myself with that too much. Hard questions need to be asked and answered and both can be done respectfully. Unfortunately there is too little respect for opposing opinions in discussions of honestly held beliefs and too much "I'm right. You're wrong. Prepare to defend yourself." I much prefer, "This is where I am coming from and I'd like to understand your position, not necessarily change it or convert to it." Far too often it is the need to win that dominates these interactions. Not every exchange has to have a winner and a loser. It is OK if both "win."
For what it's worth, the socratic method is a tried and true way of inducing critical thinking on subjects that maybe hadn't been looked at as closely as they should. It can *feel* like "intentionally putting someone on the defensive with the intention to try and trip them up" - but leading something through a thought process, is not the same as having a pre-conceived notion that you are trying to hammer through/advancing an agenda.
Socrates is supposed to have talked in two ways. One, by trying to get as many people as he could to agree on something by appealing to what they had in common; or, if someone disagreed with him, by going back to first things & asking that one the 'what is' question. At least, that's what Xenophon says about him.
I've been in on both types of discussions. In genuine explorations of position I have never felt personally attacked were I needed to defend myself for holding a position, though absolutely had to defend the position I hold. Many is the time I've come away thinking I need to know my own position better and even questioned my thoughts on subjects. But I never felt personally attacked. There was always a feeling of camaraderie as we explored and advanced our ideas together.
The same can not be said with the per-conceived notioners. There was no learning, growing, and definitely no respectful sharing of philosophies. Those exchanges have always been aggressive.That hostility is perhaps the difference between the two. I mean, why ask a question if you are so aggressively tied to the opposite position? The purpose can't possible be to genuinely desire to grow or learn anything, but rather to convert; to win. It is the difference between sharing differences and bullying evangelization. The former promotes unity while the latter division.
If I want a real answer or if I am being a dick, if I am going after a belief, the reaction from the believer is going to be on the defensive. Either way, I am challenging one of their "truths", and in doing so, I am challenging their own integrity.
Also, if a person is asking a question, but not looking for an answer, are they not actually also a believer rather than a doubter? And if that is the case, I don't see much good coming from believer vs believer. They have truths that they believe in without the doubts. It is a totally different line of questioning.
I think that too often, there is a confusion between Faith and Opinion and between Hope and Wish.
Basing our opinions on faith is possible while it is impossible to understand someone's faith based only on our opinions. If you have faith, you know the difference. Without it, everything is opinion, only.
If any choose to doubt this, try first to feel the truth. Feel Your soul, it's easy if you ever really try. Then you can feel where faith is separate from both opinion and belief.
I honestly have no idea what you are trying to say in that last paragraph.