It’s one of the most common accusations leveled against an opponent. When you’re against the ropes and you can find no satisfactory response you can just play the “biased card”. What does your opponent know? Of course they disagree with you! They were raised to believe what they do. They were taught to believe as they do. No one wants to admit they’re wrong. In other words, they’re biased!
It is the classic cop out. You can’t stand up intellectually, so you simply dismiss everything your opponent says by attributing their stance to bias. But is being biased always a bad thing? Is there truly anyone in this world who isn’t biased? Everyone seems to have this view that atheists are unbiased. It might seem to be a logical opinion, at first. After all, atheists don’t believe in any deity of any kind. Therefore, in a debate between theists, atheists, it is reasoned, can give an outsiders (and, by implication, unbiased) opinion. This is an odd view to hold.
Atheists are not unbiased. True, they don’t favor one theistic religion over another, so they might be able to fairly determine that one religion is more convincing than another. Yet, no atheist is truly unbiased. Perhaps they had a negative experience with a certain theistic group. This might bias the atheist against that group. The fact is, however, that the atheist will be biased against all theistic groups; precisely because he is an atheist. Atheists do not believe in any god, hence, atheists will have the tendency to be biased against all theistic groups.
Everyone in this world is biased in one way or another. Whether you’re biased against other faiths, races, nationalities, sexes, or football teams. (Being a huge Notre Dame fan, I am biased against all teams that are not the Fighting Irish. Especially if that team is the USC Trojans!) The only question is this: Are you biased for the truth, against the truth, or simply against other opinions?
Not all issues are truth vs. falsehood. Some issues are purely opinion issues. I think the Fighting Irish have the most tradition-laden college football program in the country. I could be wrong (though I doubt it), but such is only my opinion. If I’m wrong it really doesn’t matter. If Notre Dame does not have the most tradition-laden program in college football it will not affect my salvation, or destiny, or whatever.
Religion, however, is not an opinion-based issue. Religion attempts to answer the most fundamental questions of mankind. What is the purpose of our existence? How did we get here? Is there a life after death? There are many questions that we want answered, and that religion attempts to answer.
You may or may not think that religion can answer these questions. You also may not believe-as we do-that the Catholic Faith is the only one that can answer all of these questions satisfactorily. That is not the point we are discussing here. What we are trying to determine here is if being biased is always a negative thing. Allow me to answer this as simply as possible.
Being biased can be bad, neutral, or good. If you are biased toward an opinion, then being biased may be neutral. Who really cares whether everyone agrees that Notre Dame has the richest tradition in college football, or not? An opposing opinion here does not really affect anyone. Therefore, this is an opinion issue. My bias on this issue is neutral.
Being biased on an issue of truth can be either good or bad. Since we have already mentioned atheism, let us continue with this example. If one is an atheist, it is only natural that he be biased in favor of atheism, and against all sorts of theism. Yet, if it is true God exists (an issue we are not concerned to debate here), then it is a bad thing for the atheist to be biased against theism. Since no entity can simultaneously exist and not exist, one or the other position must be true. God can not exist for one person, but not exist for another. He either exists, or He doesn’t. If God exists, then to be biased against theism is a bad thing.
Now, if God exists, it can be good to be biased in favor of this truth; precisely because it is true. Yet, one should not be biased in favor of truth blindly. In other words, one should not believe in God simply because his parents told him God exists. To be blindly biased-even in favor of the truth-is a bad thing. You believe what is true without really knowing why, and without truly knowing if what you believe is true. That is never a good thing. Your salvation may not be in jeopardy for blindly believing in the existence of God, but God certainly expects all of us to search for truth. To search for truth requires research. This research will provide us with knowledge. Therefore, our decision will then not be a blind one. It may not be the correct one, but it will not be a blind decision.
To accuse me of being biased does not offend me. First of all, if accusing me of being biased is the best argument you have, then you have nothing. Your argument simply proves not so much that I am biased, but that you are not knowledgeable enough on the issue to make a counterpoint. Besides, even if I am biased, it proves nothing. I could be biased towards the truth. It is on you to prove that what I believe is not true. If what I believe is true, then I am more than happy to be biased. Everyone is biased in one way or another. If I must be biased, I would prefer to biased toward the truth, and against error.
So the next time someone accuses you of being biased, don’t get angry. Just thank your opponent for the compliment. After all, for Catholics, it’s not about winning the debate. It’s about bringing souls to Christ. The best way to do this is to show them the truth that can only be found in its fullness in the Catholic Church.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity