Recently, I’ve come to better understand a motive / justification that conservatives tend to have for their resistance to new ways of seeing things.
A conservative may say, “we need a stable reference point to keep us from going astray, so we must be careful to test other religious ideas against our own religious tradition / doctrine / dogma / etc.”
Firstly, it’s important to note that the above-described conservative mindset has many advantages. Assuming that their presently-held religious dogma is more true than the many other nonsensical religions out there, then it means that conservatives have greater resistance to the nonsense that liberals may more easily fall prey to.
Simply put, conservatives are more resistant to con men. This is an extremely valuable advantage. It’s like how a child, let’s call him Tommy, will strictly obey Daddy’s instructions even though Tommy doesn’t really understand why Daddy’s instructions are correct. No matter how much a con man may pretend to be Daddy’s friend, or tempt Tommy with sweets, Tommy will always check against what he has heard from Daddy. Tommy will be quick to think, “Daddy didn’t say that, so it’s not true.” Or, “con man is saying something different from what Daddy says, so con man is lying.”
The above is how many conservative Christians would see their relationship with God.
Now, here comes the bad part. What if Tommy was kidnapped as a baby, and “Daddy” is not his real father? What if in fact “Daddy” is a terrorist, and is raising Tommy to become a terrorist who will go on to inflict all kinds of evils upon the world? How can Tommy know the difference!? If Tommy is always relying on what Daddy says, to decide what is true or false, then Tommy will never know if Daddy is actually lying or not!
“Point-of-reference bias” means that, while the conservative fears being led astray, he does not simultaneously fear the possibility that he is already being led astray by at least some parts of his existing religious dogma.
Thankfully, things are seldom so extreme. In fact, it is much more likely that Daddy is just not the perfect person that Tommy imagined Daddy to be. Daddy has his faults too.
Likewise, the Bible being a relatively useful guide to God / Godly principles / Wisdom, along with the life-changing experiences related to Christianity in general, doesn’t automatically make it 100% error-free.
Does this mean that liberals are the ones who have gotten it right? Not necessarily. Conservatism is often better, simply because something that has in a sense survived the test of time, is often much safer and more reliable than whatever newfangled nonsense is out there. There may be so many bad ideas out there that it may not be economical to test hundreds of different ideas just to find a few good ones. Or also because few people properly understand how to objectively discern “good” and “bad” in a way that does not rely on a fixed reference point of currently-held religious dogma.
What I’d like conservatives to understand at least, is that the real reason for being “conservative” is for the above-mentioned advantages, and not actually because their current religious dogma is somehow supposed to be automatically 100% correct.
This should at least promote a reasonable degree of intellectual humility, i.e. an understanding that previously held beliefs are not necessarily all correct. And because of this, it may be good to better understand what can practically be done to deal with this problem that in reality affects everyone, conservative and liberal alike.