Saturday, April 12, 2014

Influences that Influence our Influences

In yesterday's post I began to talk about the notion that religious instruction is akin to brainwashing.  I began by pointing out that we all see the world based on what we've been told and taught, and by what we have observed.  I then linked to an article which is provocatively titled, "I Want My Kids Brainwashed."  The author recounts accusations she has had from unbelievers that she is brainwashing her children by putting them through religious instruction.  But, as she concludes, it is a good thing that her children a "brainwashed" (a better term would perhaps be "indoctrinated") with the Christian faith, considering all of the other philosophies out there by which to be brainwashed.

This is an important point when it comes to how we see the world and evaluate truth claims: each of us starts with a context - a set of lenses, if you will - and through these lenses we interpret the reality around us.  There is no one on the earth who does not have his or her own set of lenses.  As I said yesterday, we are all "brainwashed" with some sort of framework through which we see the world.

This reality tends to render the accusation that Christians brainwash people as null and void, because even leveling the accusation "Christianity is brainwashing" is, in itself, the result of some sort of contextual brainwashing - particularly the secular kind that believes religion to be brainwashing.  In other words, one cannot make the claim "You have been brainwashed" without having been brainwashed himself or herself.  This is what I was trying to explain in yesterday's post: we cannot examine the process of having been influenced, without being influenced.  

So then, if we are all "brainwashed" to see the world and evaluate truth claims in a certain way, then how can we ever know the truth?  I would argue that such a standard exists in the word of God.

"But," you say, "you've admitted that your analysis of truth claims is inherently biased based on the ways you've been influenced as a child and adult!  How can you be objective when evaluating the truth claims of the Bible?"

I can't.  The best I can do is to know my own biases and presuppositions as well as I can, and to eliminate them as much as possible when I analyze evidence and make conclusions.  I will always have my specific set of lenses that I will look through when I see and observe the world, truth claims, etc.  But the more I know I have those lenses on, the better I can realize when they might be leading me to believe something "just because that's what I've always believed."

Also, through this imperfect process we look for a source of truth upon which to build our lives that is transcendent, trans-cultural, and timeless.  I would argue that the Bible is that source of truth, and blows all other philosophies or worldviews out of the water.  Even our biased interpretations of the Bible are better versions of "brainwashing" than the world has to offer, such as those mentioned in the article linked to above.

In conclusion, I would agree with the article to which I've linked that brainwashing is indeed a good thing.  In fact, you can't even be alive without having been brainwashed to some extent.  The question is not, "Should we brainwash our children?" but rather, "With what philosophy should we brainwash our children?"  There's no escaping it.

That being said, I would obviously reject the notion that we should not engage our brains and critical thinking skills when evaluating truth claims.  We should not believe things just because we've been told them over and over, or just because that's what we've always done or believed.  That would be brainwashing, and that's not profitable for anyone.

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