I always used to think of myself as an open-minded person overall. But I have since—regretfully—come to the conclusion I was not. The thing is, it’s very difficult to be completely open-minded. For instance, if I have made up my mind that a particular person is disagreeable, it will take quite a lot of time and evidence for me to change my mind on that notion. In fact, sometimes it will take more than twice the evidence to change my mind than the evidence that made me come to the original conclusion.
I remember the first time I realised that I was inherently closed-minded. It was in February of 2014. My family gathered together to watch the great debate of Ken Ham and Bill Nye. Ken Ham I knew about because I had read a lot of issues of the Creation Magazine. I had never heard of Bill Nye before, but I was told he was an atheist and he would be arguing against Creationism. He was the ‘bad guy.’ We all sat down and looked forward to him being smothered in the truth and being completely lost in what I thought was infallible evidence for the creation claim.
Mr. Ham Started the debate off and presented the worldview I was at that time very familiar with. That of the idea that the Bible accurately relates the story of the beginning of the universe. Then Mr. Nye presented his views or rather, the views of mainstream science. I was quite surprised when one of the things he said was, ‘Mr. Ham, I learnt something; thank you!’ This guy was admitting to the world that he didn’t know everything, which wasn’t what I expected him to do. The portrayal of atheists I had been taught is not one of humility.
The second thing that surprised me, and this is probably the seed that eventually grew into my atheistic tendencies later was the manner with which these two men replied to a question at the end. The question was, ‘What, if anything, would ever change your mind?’
‘Hm,’ Mr. Ham took a deep breath and thought for a moment, ‘well, the answer to that question is: I’m a Christian. And, as a christian, I can’t prove it to you, but, God has definitely shown me very clearly through His word and shown Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible is the word of God. I admit that that’s where I start from.’ Then he continued for a bit reinforcing that statement and then said that no one is going to convince him that the word of God is not true. ‘The bottom line is that as a Christian, I have a foundation. But as a Christian, I would ask Bill the question, “What would change your mind?”’
Bill Nye didn’t even stop to think about his response. ‘We would just need one piece of evidence.’ Mr. Nye had just pointed out that I was completely closed-minded and was interpreting the world around me from the point of view of a creationist.
At that moment I made a decision that I would stop closing my mind to things that disagreed with my beliefs, and would examine every idea that came my way.
But I didn’t. It still took me a couple of years to eventually admit to myself that I no longer believed in the creation narrative. It wasn’t until 2016 that I started calling myself an Agnostic Atheist. Even though I thought I was completely open-minded I was still stubbornly holding onto my beliefs. I suppose when you’ve had a worldview for nearly two decades it becomes hard to change your mind.
But it happened eventually; I changed my mind. It took about two years. And since then I’ve found that that’s about how long it takes to change my mind on anything fundamental like that: about two years. It takes a long time for me to change my mind.
That’s an important thing to remember when you are in an argument with someone, or trying to give someone advice. Usually when someone is arguing with me, no matter what I can say, they will never change their mind on whatever it is they are arguing. However, sometimes it will stew in their minds and if they are an open-minded person, it’s quite possible they may change their mind. Similarly, when people come to me for advice, they usually have already made up their mind what they are going to do. (This doesn’t happen very often by the way, I don’t want people to get the wrong impression that I am some kind of wise person who can solve people’s problems.) When people come to me for advice, they—subconsciously, sometimes—already know what they are going to do, and are looking for someone to give them advice that is in line with what they wanted to do already. If what I advise them to do is in parallel with what they, consciously or subconsciously, have already decided upon, they will thank me and follow my advice. (Again, I try not to advise people, because I don’t think of myself as the sort of person qualified for that sort of thing, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.) If however, I advise them on what to do, and it doesn’t line up with their inclinations, they will seek advice from people who tell them what they are wanting to hear.
I know this, because that’s what I do. Most of the time I don’t even realise it myself. I am trying to change that fact that is within me, but it takes time. Just be patient, because changing your mind takes time.