The Perspective Test

Christina here…

Here is a method one might employ to determine whether some argument you or someone else is making seems reasonable. This is best applied when thinking about your own perspective or when talking to people who tend to scoff at more logical arguments. It’s what I call The Perspective Test, or the What-if-someone-did-that-to-you? test, but can easily be used on yourself, I.E. What-if-I-did-that-to-someone-else?

Take whatever act is happening (whether it be acts of supposed oppression, arguments, etc) and pretend someone with a religious preference/political position/etc in opposition to yours is doing the same thing, and then see if you feel the same way about the line of reasoning. Or, pretend someone is doing the act to you, rather than you doing it to someone else.  This works especially well for civil rights issues, political issues or religious disagreements. It’s also a good way to gauge how convincing your argument or statement might sound to someone who holds a view in opposition to your own. Here are ten examples of how the Perspective Test might be employed.

1. Christian teachers are being  denied their free speech rights by not being allowed to lead classrooms of children in prayer during school hours.

Apply the Perspective Test:

 If a Muslim teacher wants to lead classrooms of children in prayer during school hours, are they being denied their free speech rights when they are not allowed?

If an atheist teachers wants to lead classrooms of children in recitations of an atheist mantra with the words “There are no gods, and Christianity is a myth” during school hours, are they being denied their free speech rights when they are not allowed?

Does it Still sound reasonable?

2. We are already treated equal; neither I nor queer people can marry someone of the same sex. Same-sex marriage is a right that no one has. EQUALITY.

Apply the Perspective Test:

We are already treated equal: neither I nor Christian people can marry someone of the same religion. Same-religion marriage is a right that no one has. EQUALITY.

We are already treated equal: neither I nor interracial couples can marry someone who isn’t the same race. Interracial marriage is a right that no one has. EQUALITY.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

3. Muslims should not be allowed to build a Mosque so close to the Twin Towers.

Apply the Perspective Test:

Christians should not be allowed to build churches near areas in which a U.S. plane bombed a village in the central province of Uruzgan.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

 4. Christians are being oppressed because a Ten Commandments monument is being removed from a public U.S.  courthouse building.

 

Apply the Perspective Test:

Muslims are being oppressed because a monument with verses from the Koran are being removed from a public U.S. courthouse building.

Atheists are being oppressed because a monument stating, “There are no gods” is being removed from a public U.S. courthouse building.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

5. Feminists shouldn’t have blogs or message boards that dissallow men, so as to be a “safe space” for discussions.

Apply the Perspective Test:

Atheists/LGBTQ people/ex-muslims shouldn’t have blogs or message boards that dissallow Christians(or some other majority oppressive group), so as to be a “safe space” for discussions.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

6. We shouldn’t even bother to respond to bad arguments made by theists. When we do, we’re giving them too much credit.

Apply the Perspective Test:

We should’t even respond to bad arguments made by atheists. When we do, we’re giving them too much credit.

We shouldn’t even respond to bad arguments made by Men’s Rights Activists, when we do, we’re giving them too much credit.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

 7. If my son or daughter decided to leave our christian faith and become an atheist, I’ll disown them.

Apply the Perspective Test:

If my son or daughter decided to stop being an atheist and becomes a Christian, I’ll disown them.

If my son or daughter decided to leave our Buddhist faith and become an Muslim, I’ll disown them.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

 8. Religion is just a way of controlling people.

Apply the Perspective Test:

Science is just a way of controlling people.

Atheism is just a way of controlling people.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

(Update: People don’t seem to like this example and I agree; this is a bad example. If someone comes up with a suitable replacement, I’ll put it here instead. Like maybe, “Religious people are just brainwashed”?)

 9. Atheists shouldn’t be allowed to put up billboards advertising their worldview.

Apply the Perspective Test:

Christians shouldn’t be allowed to put up billboards advertising their worldview.

Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to put up billboards advertising their worldview.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

 10. People who are pro-life just want to control women and take away all of their rights.* 

Apply the Perspective Test:

People who are pro-gun control just want to control everybody and take away all of their rights.

Does it Still sound reasonable?

 

A good way to apply the Perspective test when talking to other people is to ask, “Would you feel the same way if X?” or “Would you think the same way if Y?” or “Would it be reasonable to say Z?”

I bet you can think of more examples. Tell me about them in the comments!

*I can see why the analogy between pro-life and pro gun-control is not totally analogous since a larger proportion of pro-life people want abortion made entirely illegal whereas only a small proportion of gun control advocates want guns made entirely illegal, but you get the idea at least. My point: “pro-life people just want to control women” doesn’t sound very convincing to a pro-life person, just like “pro-gun control people just want to control everybody” doesn’t sound convincing to a pro gun control person, but let me know what you think.

Learn more about Christina and follow her @ziztur.

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