What Would It Take: Changing Your Moral Structure

By Emily Kastor

“Well I don’t feel any different…” my friend sarcastically muttered as everyone was applauding at the close of the presentation. “Our Place in the Universe,” put on by the Veritas Forum, was a discussion between a Christian physicist and an agnostic philosopher about the big questions in life, such as “Why are we here?” or “Is there a God?” Going into it, my friends and I were all stoked. Two very educated people, with two very different belief systems were going to try to convince us to think in a new way. Personally, I’d like to consider myself somebody who is always open and willing to be persuaded or convinced to believe in different ways, provided my ‘qualifications’ are met. Until the two presenters were faced with the question of “What would it take for you to be persuaded to believe in a different way than your own?” I realized I didn’t know what my ‘qualifications’ were. A dialogue like the Veritas Forum helped me realize what it would take for me to rebuild my moral construct.

When the two men presenting were asked about their qualifications for changing their belief systems, they were both visibly thrown off. After an entire debate of being calm, cool and collected, you could see each man’s eyes look around in space for an answer as put together as their outfits. As I watched the two men on stage try to come up with an answer, I began to search myself for an answer. I became aware of the fact that I had never pushed myself to think of an instance where my beliefs would be changed, which made me feel like a hypocrite. In classes and dialogues that I’ve participated in, I have always preached having an open mind and listening harder when you disagree with somebody, yet here I was, not knowing what it would take for me to change stances.

The Christian physicist basically said exactly what anybody would expect him to say: that he would need solid proof that there was no God. When the agnostic philosopher answered he did what a lot of philosophers tend to do: circle around the answer with big words and then finish with a question. What I gathered from his response is that many of the morals and ‘rules’ in most religions would have to change for his beliefs to be swayed. The philosopher’s response did hit a familiar note for me though; while I am a spiritual person and do not believe that humans are the highest intelligence out there, it’s some of the morals and ‘rules’ set forth by these bigger religions that I just can’t get behind. That, of course, doesn’t mean that anybody who does follow those religions is wrong.

Although my beliefs and the beliefs of many of my friends weren’t changed by this event, we all still came out having learned, at the very least, a little bit more about ourselves, and what it would take for the beliefs most vital to our moral construct to be smashed and rebuilt by a whole new architect.