One of the soundest pieces of advice I ever came across occurs near the beginning of The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius:
"...it is to be presumed that every good Christian will be inclined to put a good construction on another's statement than to fault it. If he is unable to find a good interpretation, he should ask what he means. If his meaning is unorthodox, the other should put him right in a spirit of love. If this is not enough, let him use all the means proper to get the proposition rightly interpreted."
Nobody suspects the Spanish Inquisition! Or do they?
I daresay that St Ignatius had to watch his back at times.
When I saw blog headlines today saying that Dawkins had called the Pope "stupid" I was struck by this being another instance of an inclination to fault Pope Benedict's remarks and a refusal to actually consider the evidence. I thought that scientists were worthy of respect precisely because they weighed evidence carefully before giving an opinion. In short, yet again the pope was being insulted not for what he did say but for what some people wanted him to say (so that they would have an excuse to attack him). There are words that describe people acting as Dawkins did here. They are "prejudiced" and "bigotted". Prejudice and bigotry are generally associated with stupidity. Interesting.
So St Ignatius gives good advice. Good- but not particularly easy to follow.
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