On Debate

There are very few times in life when the idea of taking a piece of information on faith alone is acceptable in my mind. This touches on the idea of trusted sources or sources that hold authority.

Officers give orders on the battlefield. Soldiers need to take those orders based on faith in the officer’s abilities and trust that the officer has the best interest of the mission and the soldier in mind when making the order. This is one of the hardest tasks asked of soldiers. If faith and trust in the leadership’s orders are essential for an army to function. Solder do understand that their life might be sacrificed by any order given, making it seem very odd that at these times there can be no debate.

When a police officer pulls you over and asks for your license you take their orders and observations for why they pulled you over based on their authority. While you may be asked questions, this is not a time to debate their authority or reasoning. You may or may not like the judgment of the officer but have little choice but to accept it.

We trust in what we perceive to be true in the natural world around us all the time. We believe in the information we think is true until that belief is challenged by new information or the situation changes. There was an old wooden chair that even after many years of faithful service look like it was in great shape. At no time prior to the chair failing did I not believe that it would hold me up when I sat down on it.

What is Faith?

Faith is simply believing in something or trusting that it is true. Everyone has faith, just because someone does not believe in a higher power does not make them a faithless person. In fact, I submit that not having faith is counterproductive to life as a human. If you told me that you did not have faith in anything. This would mean more than just not believing in a God, it also means not believing in gravity, math, or even science. Any belief is a faith.

No one likes having the chair fallout from underneath them. You need things in your life that you can put your trust in. When you live in a state of uncertainty about what you can trust you are said to be living in fear. This is because you believe that something bad might happen because you can’t trust things to turn out for the best. This is because faith and fear are the same things. While faith is said to be believing or trusting in something good, fear is believing in something bad.

Faith Example: I believe when I use safe practices I will be able to cross a road and reach the other side unharmed.

Fear Example: I believe it is unsafe to cross roads on foot and I won’t be able to cross this road and reach the other side unharmed.

This brings me to my next point. Many fears are irrational in nature and even a healthy mind can struggle with some types of beliefs. Arachnophobia or Acrophobia are very common among otherwise healthy adults.

Spiders are scary and seem dangerous and even though the vast majority are harmless to humans there are some that can cause great harm and death. If you believe the truth that some spiders can kill you and then inflate that belief over all other statistical facts, the inflated belief will be what informs your actions when you encounter a spider.

As dangers become more likely the irrational fears become more rational. If you are standing on the edge of a cliff with no guardrail or other safety equipment and you look over the edge, it is only natural for a person to believe they are in danger. This means fear can be broken into two kinds. One that is not helpful and one that is. Because faith and fear are the same things, this means there are also two kinds of faith. One that is not helpful and one that is.

When you place your faith and trust in something false, you are no better off that the person who stands on the edge of the cliff believing they are safe. Because you don’t see or understand the danger of trusting in something that is about to fail you and dump you onto the floor and possibly injure you. You can’t just blindly take what you believe for granted.

Science and Religion

Wait! I thought this article was about debate… when are you going to talk about debate?

I will get there, but people fall into one of two broad camps when it comes to the general faith and trust by which they go about their daily lives. Some people see Science as the trusted source for truth and some see Religion as the source for truth.

Truth being the operative word for both camps. I consider myself in a third camp, I also feel more people are starting to join me in this camp. I seek truth based on the following base premise:

“Truth is Truth, no matter where you find it, even when facts seem to change.”

Why do we need debate?

So, now we get to the heart of the issue and in today’s society this the part where I tend to lose people, so hold onto your brains as we dive it.

Debate is helpful, necessary, and even vital to knowing and understanding what you believe and why you believe it. If you walk out into the world with your unchallenged beliefs and just hope they will hold you up when you fall down, what happens to you when they don’t? When another person questions your belief they are helping you in a very profound way. They are acting as the voice of reason helping you to question whether that old chair is still stable before you throw your weight down onto it and test it in practice. It is healthy to know that your beliefs are strong enough to be tested in the fire of debate. The reason I talked about what faith and fear are is to make this point.

If you fear your faith can’t endure the fire of true debate, your belief that it might not be true is already stronger than your belief that it is true. So you already don’t truly believe it.

In order to debate as opposed to an unproductive argument, you need both sides in the debate to agree on a few things first. Without these things, debate is still possible but is generally less productive and is always in danger of devolving into an argument.

  • Understand and accept that you could be wrong, in whole or part in your beliefs.
  • Understand and accept that both sides are just people who are not perfect.
  • Take turns in the roles of active listener and active speaker.
  • Separate the person from the belief they hold and be respectful of the person.
  • Defined truth as the overall goal of both sides, as an absolute that exists apart from our current understanding of facts, theories, conclusions, and opinions.

You should treat the person you are debating like a friend who is trying to help keep you safe from yourself. There is a big difference between knowing you are right and thinking you are right. If I let you leave the house believing that cars were soft and could not hurt you when you walked into the road, I would be a bad friend (and person). However, if I challenged that belief and helped you to understand the truth of the danger, I would not only be a good friend but you would probably thank me.

I don’t care what camp you fall in when it comes to any debate, I welcome the chance to help you see things the way I see them. I will also seek to see things the way you see them. I don’t think I have the answers to all the questions. However, I do think I know some things and I am willing to admit that I could be wrong. I am also willing to learn and update what I believe based on how I see the truth through the lens of everything that I have come to know and understand.

Please keep all this in mind when you hear me say things that you don’t agree with. And instead of shunning me, do me the kindness of sharing what you know and understand, so that together we can both become stronger and safer in our beliefs.

This is intended only as “Food for Thought”. Please let me know what you think, I am by no means the only authority on this subject so any input you might have is greatly appreciated.


“I want to help you embrace the bright hope for your future.”


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