I have had people of various religions and denominations try to convince me that their set of doctrines are the truth and that if I don’t follow their particular philosophy then I will come to a bad end (or at least not as good an end as I could). With so many different ideologies competing for my allegiance I had to find a way to determine which of them (if any) were likely to be true. Even just within the faith I grew up in, Christianity, there were too many contradictory sets of belief that I was being asked to affirm, nearly all of which could be defended from the Bible. When nearly every competing Christian claim is able to be backed by the Bible it makes it very difficult to know which to accept so in the end I decided that I’d judge a doctrine or practice by its fruit. What does this mean? It means that I look at what believing or practicing a particular theological belief or practice tends to lead to in its followers. When a religious belief causes people outside of that particular orthodoxy to be belittled, insulted, ostracized, persecuted, fired, censored, expelled from their homes and hometowns, beaten, robbed, imprisoned, tortured, raped, or even killed in the name of that religion (all things that do happen with the approval of certain religious leaders and teachings) it makes it pretty easy to determine that this particular viewpoint isn’t at all positive and should be avoided. Also, if a religious group doesn’t allow people inside that particular orthodoxy to think for themselves, but rather insists that they let their religious leaders determine what is true for them, I know that something is fishy and that I should probably not have much to do with that particular group. If openly questioning (or even disagreeing with) a particular doctrine will get a member of a religious group in trouble then I know that this group is probably not to be trusted. And if a particular denomination insists (or even just asks) that someone do physical harm to them self or somebody else, be it some form of bodily mutilation or even suicide, run as far away from them as possible and never look back.
When it comes down to it, there are two sets of fruit that a theological paradigm tends to lead to. The first is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. The second is fear, selfishness, peer pressure, intolerance, hostility, anti-intellectualism, arrogance, hypocrisy, and guilt. If a doctrine or practice can be demonstrated to lead to the former then it sounds like something that should be embraced. If it has been shown to lead to the latter then I would think that it should be avoided if at all possible.