I’ve held a lot of strong positions on things political, cultural, religious, and philosophical in the course of my (short) life. And I’ve changed my mind: a lot.
I realize my current positions continue to evolve and will continue to change with time. But – ironically perhaps – I trust my current positions more *because* I have known the other options intimately.
I was once a passionate evangelical and once a passionate anti-theist, once a passionate modernist liberal (on some things) and once a passionate neo-conservative. For a 24-year old, I’ve been all over the map. Just as a scientist seeks out evidence to disconfirm a hypothesis, I seem to go from ideology to ideology testing strengths and weaknesses. Unlike the scientist, though, I tend to get pretty involved with my area of study.
There’s usually passion wrapped up in ideas about how to live well. But rather than being an obstacle to learning or moving on from mistakes, the passion fuels a depth of understanding and study that I wouldn’t have otherwise. That in turn means that by the time I’ve cemented a belief, I know it pretty darn well. This applies too if I leave a belief system: I better know what it is I am rejecting – many of its pros and cons and truth and error.
Switching belief systems obviously shouldn’t happen on a dime – and bipolar switches in belief are not a sign of maturity. But if it’s clear that someone made the hard journey to change a deeply and sincerely held belief, I’m likely to listen to what they have to say. There’s both the likelihood that they knew what they were rejecting (rather than rejecting a strawman) and the likelihood that they had to practice courage to make the change.