Accuracy, Benefit & Evangelism


Bloggers who read this site are largely evangelistic — they publish their ideas and criticize others. Though each of us bloggers is inevitably evangelizing, we all have different attitudes toward the certainty of our beliefs and different attitudes about how useful our thoughts may be for others.

To explore your attitudes, below I made two related polls. Unfortunately, I can not link these polls to show your combinations of thoughts, so you’ll have to share that in the comments.  I invite long comments on these issues.  I will put my opinion as the first comment.

1. Evangelizing Your Views

“Evangelism” is considered a bad word in some circles.  But heck, if you think something is good, it is natural to try and share it. The real question is how we share and to whom.  I figure blogging is a volunteer sharing — if you aren’t looking, you won’t find it and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.  Blogging is the gentlest form of Evangelism.  I think most would agree that coercive evangelism should be avoided.  But how about non-coercive In-your-face evangelism is more grey and debatable depending on how critical you feel your message is.

Naturally we all think our opinions are more accurate than the opinions we don’t hold. We feel that even though we may hold some doubts about some of our opinions. But how confident are you that your perspective should be able to help everyone. How important do you think your message is?

The poll below explores part of this question. I was not sure how to ask the question, so when replying please realize that these were some of the other ways I also thought about phrasing the question:

  • Everybody with would be better off with my perspective/faith/religion/philosophy/outlook.
  • I recommend my religion or my ideas for everyone
  • My way of understanding the world would improve anyone’s life
  • If the world embraced my philosophy, it would be a better place.

2. Accuracy & Benefit

Truth_vs_Method The next poll addresses the matter of “Truth” (accuracy) vs Method (benefit).

Each of us, perhaps based largely on temperament, holds different feeling/attitude/idea about the relationship between accuracy and benefit.  For the poll below the following bullets explain the options:

To be beneficial, a system of thought ….

    • A. must contain only accurate ideas — in other words, “facts”
    • B. must contain largely accurate ideas, but may naturally contained still unproven concepts
    • C. must contain accurate ideas, but can contain both some unproven and some inaccurate ideas.
    • D. may be a mix of unproven (but potential true) ideas, and inaccurate ideas
    • E. may be composed of only inaccurate ideas

I will give my opinion on these matters in the comments — but I’d rather hear some of yours first.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

13 responses to “Accuracy, Benefit & Evangelism

  1. I guess its hard to be anonymous when you’r the only vote! Loved your comments on evangelisation. Yes, if you’ve got something good you usually want to share it, and perhaps should share it. Not in favour of coercive – it makes no sense in Christian doctrine. If the key is, as we claim it is, belief, you can’t coerce belief.
    I voted C because we must have some established facts (e.g. we are here), some that are true but not yet proven (we’re on the path to truth) and some that are inaccurate (getting on the path to truth). But i’m yet to encounter a world view, doctrine or religion that doesn’t have at least some of each one of these. Even fundamentalist jihadist Islam probably has some very faint glimmer of truth (e.g. there is a god!!😉. The best lies are those that are closest to the truth!

  2. Just the other day I called a very vocal atheist an evangelical. She was not happy to be labeled with what she thought was such a distasteful word. I assured her that this did not mean that she was an ‘E’vangelical, but rather that she loved to share what it was that inspires her, moves her and makes up a large part of what she is and what she does. She is evangelizing by sharing her good news. Once I explained this to her, the tensions lowered and, while she still shudders at the word, she admits that that is what she is doing.

    In regards to the first question, I strongly feel that my perspective would be a help to anyone, not because I am right about everything, but because my perspective is very open to that of others. This does not mean that I agree with every other view, however, it is beneficial to myself, and society at large, to understand and respect the perspectives of others. Plus, I am pretty smart so who wouldn’t benefit from my perspective.

    As to the second question, I chose answer B. I believe that having the perception of accurate ideas is healthy to an individual and even to a society or culture. These accurate ideas allows the individual to carry some sort of identity with themselves all the while connecting them to a larger group. The importance of ‘unproven’ facts are just as important, if not more, because it is these ‘unproven’ facts that will hold the perceived accurate ideas in check. While having accurate ideas can bring individuals and communities together, we have all seen the dangers of extreme versions of this in ethnocentrism(The holding up of ones ideals or culture above others). When we are aware that there are some things that are ‘unproven’, we become a little more cautious in our assertions about what is accurate and what is not.

    Notice I stated ‘perceived’ accurate ideas. What I mean by this is that I do not believe anything is accurate. I can not prove anything. I can ‘perceive’ that things are provable, like snow is cold or that fire is hot, but that I can not even prove my own existence pays evidence to the ‘perceived’ idea that nothing is provable. Descarte believed that because he thought, this proved his existence. I think Descarte failed. One can only think they thought and that proves nothing.

    Thanks for the post. I enjoyed the time of reading and reflecting.

  3. Interesting, Sabio!

    I have trouble answering the Poll questions. For one thing, which “perspective” are we talking about? I have a number of them; from politics to environment to how to treat other people.

    For my blog, it is an environmental perspective. Now, I try to synthesize ideas that I’ve gleaned from studies, plus my own experience doing bird research. But almost none of what I write is original. I stand on the shoulders of giants (as do many or even most science bloggers) most of the time.

    So it’s really not “my” perspective, unless I’m writing about my chimney swift thesis, which was not really a solid but rather a preliminary look.

    As for morality, politics, I think there are collective perspectives, for example whether I’m a devout supporter of Romney who thinks my definition of “family” comes first, or an Elizabeth Warren supporter who runs a farm, you see what I mean. These may be “my” perspective, but as a whole they’re a collective perspective that’s shared by many.

    So I do have a preference, obviously. Now, as for what I think it best, it again must be whittled down to what we’re referring to. It’s a whole lot to generalize “how the world should be run”. If the question was, “Which perspective on the best climate change regulations for northern Guatemala”, that would be much easier to answer.

    The second poll, I’m not crazy about the terms Facts and Proof. You did mention the use of “Studies show” and I totally agree with what you said about that.

    So as for proof and facts, I prefer to say “So and so group of studies seem to suggest”……….this way we can discuss which way the literature is heading, and work from there.

  4. CRL

    I answered “strongly disagree” to your first question, though I now think “disagree” may be closer to my actual beliefs. While I’m fairly happy with my set of beliefs, I think the harm which would be done if everyone in the world shared a set of beliefs would outweigh the benefit conferred by any set of beliefs. While this is in small part because I believe that would make the world a less interesting place, it is mainly because I am aware that there are an unestimable amount factual, logical, and moral errors in my system of beliefs, and in any system of belief held by a human, and I believe dialogue between people with different sets of beliefs and values is likely to help everyone make more accurate philosophical conclusions and more socially beneficial actions.

    I want, now, to temper my answer to “disagree” only because see many people’s flagrant disregard for the people and things around them, and complete oblivion to people they are not directly connected to, and think that if people were to share at least a small part of my beliefs, this might be rectified. But this assumption that my morals (and my adherence to them) are above average may be hubris.

  5. rautakyy

    For your first poll I voted disagree, because there might very well be people who would not benefit from coming to the same conclusions I have. For example my view on religion and their truth value could be very negative to a person living in a culture where being a part of religious society is seen imperative. If a person had my view on both religion and honesty, that individual might get into serious trouble. And I might be wrong.

    For your second poll I voted D, since it is possible an individual, or even a society is not directly hurt by really inaccurate views, or that those inaccurate views are infact helping them to cope with reality. However, I would prefer there were as few inaccuracies as possible, because the more people hold inaccurate views, the more likelier it is, that among them are some really damaging ideas.

  6. Posting polls shows one thing clearly: posting good polls is difficult.

    Few people entertained my polls in this post, but thanx to those who did. I will probably break this post into two parts to capture the two related concepts I was trying to illustrate.

    But as promised, my thoughts are:

    (1) I disagree strongly that “My perspective can help anyone”.
    but, as others pointed out — it depends on what perspective we are talking about:

    CalledtoQuestion rightly points out his perspective is an open mind. Sure, that is true. But I meant the whole of your opinions, not just one. (But my question was bad.

    Amelie rightly says that “it depends” and says she feels here maybe environment perspective is good for everyone.

    CRL agreed with me but added that variety of beliefs is good. Great point.

    rautakyy’s opinions are almost identical to mine.

    (2) I feel that totally inaccurate beliefs (E) can be beneficial.
    I am glad no readers chose (A) which says only totally accurate beliefs are good.

  7. Thanks Sabio, I do think it does depend on specifics.

    On a side note I’m pretty sure I never said “environmental perspective is good for everyone”, unless I’m totally misinterpreting your fairly straightforward sentence.

  8. @ amelie,
    Yeah, I probably read your comment too quickly.

  9. That is the whole of my opinions!🙂

  10. @ CalledtoQuestion, 🙂
    We can be open-minded but that is not our opinions.
    You are telling us that you wish everyone had your attitude toward opinions.
    But while you are open-minded, you still take positions on politics, religion, raising children, places to live, and much more. But take either religion — and my poll should have been clearer — you have opinions/ positions there, even if they are not held rigidly. For if a mind is too open, your brains will fall out!😉

  11. Your right and I agree. Besides, If my opinion was that everyone be open minded than that wouldn’t be very openminded of me, would it?

  12. Ah, you’re agreeing just because you are so damn open-minded! Stop that!😉

  13. Ha. Ha. How did you know?

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