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Author Topic:   Fundamentalism versus Critical Thinking
Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 1 of 159 (386100)
02-19-2007 4:12 PM


Having recently been spurred on by viewing the Sam Harris at Idea CIty '05 video, which I viewed.

I wanted to discuss the basic differences in the thinking process between critical thinking and Fundamentalism. I am, of course, interested in these topics since my background originated in the American Charismatic and Fundamentalist Christian belief system. Despite considering myself somewhat open minded when it comes to critical thinking and new paradigms and ideas, I find myself in agreement with religious fundamental thinking as well ...at times.

I would like to think that I learn from many sources besides the Bible. I have chosen to allow myself to examine other thinking processes besides the one that I am most comfortable with. Hopefully, the dialogues generated in this topic will give me further insight into how other people interpret these same topics. So far, I have learned (or think that I have learned that Fundamentalism, by definition, is an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.

quote:
The American Heritage Dictionary defines fundamentalism as a usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

In contrast, I have begun to examine the roots of the thought process known as Critical Thinking. Many of the members of EvC who were taught the disciplines which allowed them to excel in their fields of study were also taught the art of Critical Thinking.

quote:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content,or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple. We could define it as the art of taking charge of your own mind. Its value is also at root simple: if we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives; we can improve them, bringing them under our self command and direction. Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination. This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better. It involves getting into the habit of reflectively examining our impulsive and accustomed ways of thinking and acting in every dimension of our lives.


I still define myself as a believer in Jesus Christ, however....and just as fundamentalism scares the American Secularist, unchecked skepticism scares me and those like me who are attached to our beliefs. One example that I read at EvC recently came from my online friend and fellow EvC member, Schrafinator. In message 69 she makes the statement that

quote:
Well, there is little to no evidence that Jesus existed, so to talk to a child as if he did exist is a lot like insisting that the kid believe without any reason to, other than the parent wants them to believe it.
This was very uncomfortable to me, but Nator did qualify her remark.
quote:
I think that one can teach children anything you want as long as you make it clear that they have to learn to be critical thinkers and not just accept things because an authority figure tells them it is so.

They should be taught that what they believe is up to THEM, not anybody else.


I suppose that my current view and belief on all of this is that it is better to teach a child to think critically about religious beliefs as well as any other topics in life rather than to teach them to think fundamentally regarding such matters.

Im not sure where this topic should go. ;)


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 6 of 159 (386141)
02-19-2007 8:54 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by nator
02-19-2007 8:20 PM


Nator writes:

In my mind, the world would be a much, much MUCH better place if skepticism was far more prevalent, and credulousness was rare.

Why?

Speaking of behalf of the fundamentalist camp, I feel that one of the reasons why we cling so adamantly to our religious beliefs (and fear questioning them) is because we need to have a bedrock in which to sink our anchor.

The idea that God exists and that Jesus Christ is Gods character who lives today and who is an unshakeable source of comfort, encouragement and wisdom is very comforting to my soul.

Perhaps in a larger context, a fundamental and unshakeable faith is the reason why people cling to ancient beliefs. If you call our belief a myth, we take offense. If you call our belief irrational, we take offense. If you challenge our right to indoctorinate our kids in order to give them a bedrock assumption, we take offense. Critical thinking by definition does challenge assumptions, however.

quote:
Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple. We could define it as the art of taking charge of your own mind. Its value is also at root simple: if we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives; we can improve them, bringing them under our self command and direction. Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination. This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better. It involves getting into the habit of reflectively examining our impulsive and accustomed ways of thinking and acting in every dimension of our lives.

This whole idea of taking charge of our own minds is a bit like the "ye shall be as gods" conundrum.

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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 8 of 159 (386148)
02-19-2007 9:46 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Taz
02-19-2007 9:33 PM


Shout Outs to Mr. Dictionary!
Websters writes:

skepticism n
1 : a doubting state of mind
2 : a doctrine that certainty of knowledge cannot be attained
3 : doubt concerning religion

Certainty of knowledge cannot be attained only if you don't believe that God can be real and personal. I concede that it is unprovable, however.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 23 of 159 (386219)
02-20-2007 12:29 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by anastasia
02-19-2007 10:57 PM


They never settle on any conclusions
anastasia writes:

it is pretty obvious that critical thinking can lead a person to a religion as easily as it can lead them away from one.

Maybe, but critical thinking does not allow anyone to reach a definite conclusion....which is the linchpin of Belief.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 45 of 159 (386392)
02-21-2007 1:02 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by anastasia
02-20-2007 9:21 PM


Fundamental Roadblocks
Anastasia writes:

Critical thinking is; if I someday get new information, will I recognize that it conflicts with what I previously held to, and will I be willing to examine my beliefs, to be honest with myself, and analyze what place the new idea has in my life? Or, do I feel so chained to my beliefs that I think the new information is a lie and I should force it from my mind?

I fear being so open to change that I become wishy washy or indecisive in my beliefs. Some things were and are easier to accept than are others. The idea that there was no literal global flood and that there in all likelihood was never an Ark full of animals is quite easy for me to dismiss. It has no bearing on my faith nor on my beliefs...a literal Bible, although embraced by many denominations, is unnecessary within my personal belief...to a point. When people start saying that there is scant evidence for Jesus Christ, my feathers do become ruffled and my defenses go up. I begin to pull Bible quotes out of the air in an attempt to defend God, His Son, and the Bible in general...(as if they even needed defending! :rolleyes: )

I would say that we as humanity are involved in a spiritual war and that humanity subconsciously or even consciously tries to dissmiss a personal God because our nature abhors it (or Him)

This is an example of how I let fundamental beliefs get in the way of my critical thinking.

Critics would say that I have a weak belief since I am afraid to examine it. I would respond to them by saying that there are some things that are non-negotiable. To me, denying that God is personal and real is denying my beliefs. I would never go so far as to deny my beliefs because some scholars came up with a new theory of the fallibility of the Gospels, for example. I trust my beliefs more than I trust the ever changing human wisdom (and subconscious intentions) of scholars.

Does that put me squarely in the Fundie Camp? :confused:


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 47 of 159 (386395)
02-21-2007 1:16 PM
Reply to: Message 46 by bluegenes
02-21-2007 1:08 PM


Faith is the substance
bluegenes writes:

Religions require "FAITH", and faith is the greatest enemy of critical thought.

Well then, I guess I will always be more fundamental than critical.

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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 50 of 159 (386407)
02-21-2007 1:52 PM
Reply to: Message 49 by Jazzns
02-21-2007 1:35 PM


Quirks in expression of faith
Jazzns writes:

A very good friend of mine is an engineer. If he couldn't think critically he would never have made it through college. But he completely abandons his skepticism with regards to religion. He can go to work every day to work on radioactive chemistry and still claim that radiometric dating is wrong because God says so.

I have a good friend who graduated at the top of his class and who works at Ball Aerospace. He is a whiz at theoretical physics, he designs some of the most advanced equipment that they make and he is also a Roman Catholic.

Once, he and I had a discussion on Holy Communion. It boggled my mind when this educated and enlightened critical thinker stood and told me that he believes in a literal trans substitution. (Is that what its called?) When at communion, the bread and wine literally become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? Even as deep as my beliefs are, I would never believe such a thing! To me, Communion is real yet is a spiritual communion rather than a literal one.

Of course, I suppose my critics could say that its the same thing with a literal Christ versus the idea of Christ.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 52 of 159 (386409)
02-21-2007 2:19 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by bluegenes
02-21-2007 2:08 PM


Re: Follow Blindly
I don't see people lining up to believe in Santa Claus or the big white rabbit in Harvey. Evidently, there must be some sort of internal reason why people accept Jesus Christ. To say that there is no empirical evidence is correct, but to imply that people stumble into faith with absolutely no evidence is just your own beliefs talking.

I will admit that orthodox Christian beliefs are all based on faith and not facts.(evidence, as you science types call it)

To say that evidence must equal facts is to say that critical thinking is the bedrock of my belief system. This is not true.

To me, evidence=confirmed beliefs and feelings within myself.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 72 of 159 (386554)
02-22-2007 11:53 AM
Reply to: Message 64 by ReverendDG
02-22-2007 5:57 AM


Re: Follow Blindly
ReverandDG writes:

what evidence do you mean phat?

The day that I got saved, there was an undeniable change. Emotionally, mentally, physically I felt completely different. It was a catharsis. My habits changed. My will and emotions changed. I was happier. I was excited.

These changes were ongoing. They lasted for at least a year. Other changes have been permanent. I am still the same jerk in many ways, but I have also been aware of a presence that stays with me.

I believe that Jesus is alive and that the Holy Spirit is with me always. Critically and empirically I cannot explain it but it makes the belief no less real to me. There are some who know me who would also testify to such a presence. I am not suggesting exclusivity nor would I want to be exclusive. If you knew me well, I would welcome your critical analysis, but seeing as how you don't know me well, I cannot say much more about it to you.

I will say that you have always been pragmatic and empirical in matters pertaining to faith, DG. You know well enough through your online gaming what the imagination of man is capable of.

You have heard the numerous atheist fallacies arguments and you have seen many a fundy fall on their face trying to defend what is considered an irrational belief system. The fundamentals of faith and the experiences that anyone has are fair game for critical thinking, but the beliefs that we cling to are clung to for a reason.

Perhaps I am like a child who needs his Teddy Bear, but I refuse to let go of a relationship with a God whom I perceive to be alive. I can well examine why I feel this way, but I won't allow the rationality of critical thought turn me into an agnostic. Perhaps I am willfully ignorant in this regard.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 73 of 159 (386556)
02-22-2007 12:03 PM
Reply to: Message 70 by Jon
02-22-2007 11:43 AM


Re: Run Pac Boy, RUN!
Thats a good rant, Jon! :) One thing I will say in my defense, however, is that my beliefs stem from personal experience more than the indoctrination and dogma that came with it. Jesus is a source of great comfort to me, whether or not you think that he is an internal imagination within me or not.

I am not going to abandon my beliefs simply because a bunch of critical thinkers want to persuade me to step out of the dark ages and trot over to Sir. Humphrey Davies house to inhale laughing gas and think about the universe!

I am skeptical of Pastors, Popes, and Preachers. I realize that hucksters exist in any field of study.

I will not abandon the God in my heart because I believe that He lives...regardless of whether or not I died or whether a bunch of smarmy intellectuals came up with another grand proof that invalidated the Gospels or the Exodus or the flippin Flood. I dont need external proof. To deny God would be like you denying your Mother.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 74 of 159 (386558)
02-22-2007 12:07 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by nator
02-22-2007 9:14 AM


nator writes:

What is a more effective way to think; to believe a comfortable lie or to realize an uncomfortable reality?

This goes both ways. Nobody has conclusively proved that any major belief on this planet is a lie. They never will.

Reality is at best agnosticism, Schraff. You cannot prove anything else.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 83 of 159 (386583)
02-22-2007 1:48 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by Jon
02-22-2007 1:38 PM


Re: Run Pac Boy, RUN!
It is certainly true that I had outside influence. What I disagree with is the notion that people base their beliefs solely on cultural influence. IF God is, God is God in India, Alabama, Colorado, and Australia.

I happen to believe that I met this universal God. Perhaps the notion of Jesus as Gods character was taught to me, but I embraced the belief because it makes more sense than talking to a darn cloud!


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 85 of 159 (386607)
02-22-2007 3:58 PM
Reply to: Message 84 by Jon
02-22-2007 3:40 PM


God by definition
Lets run God through our critical thinking versus Fundamentalism machine:

My presupposition is that God exists. It is indeed a positive truth claim that is only important to me. I seek not to attempt to prove it to others. I was "touched" or changed by an event. That the event happened at a charismaniacal church versus a Hindu Temple is irrelevant to me. I have no idea how I would behave in another culture. I have no evidence that leads me to believe that God is not universal, however.

It all boils down to beliefs and not facts.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 87 of 159 (386610)
02-22-2007 4:11 PM
Reply to: Message 86 by Jon
02-22-2007 4:06 PM


Re: God by definition
what makes you think that I am incapable of original thought?

It is true that my beliefs were founded on cultural influence...but the feelings that led to those beliefs were mine alone...no leader brainwashed me.

I must be off to work...so pheel phree to add to this discussion.


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13214
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 96 of 159 (386725)
02-23-2007 10:06 AM
Reply to: Message 67 by riVeRraT
02-22-2007 9:34 AM


The positive truth claim
RR writes:

What do you think deep down in your heart nator?
Things happen for no reason?

Personally, as an a-priori type believer, I hold to my basic belief that Jesus Christ is personal, is Gods character manifest, and is (He or the Holy Spirit) in my heart.

This is my positive truth claim which puts me squarely in the fundamental camp and by default trumps my critical thinking open mindedness.

Were I a true critical thinker, I would allow for tentative faith in Christ or in a Holy Spirit pending further information as to the validity of either.

Critical thinking, by default, presupposes nothing. There is no positive truth claim in critical thinking...only questions.

I honestly won't allow myself to disregard what I believe to be the answer only to endlessly ask the ultimate question---namely---is God real? This in a nutshell is what separates a fundamentalist from a critical thinker.

In order to defend my fundamental belief, I will deny any conflicting information....using the excuse that humans cannot possibly know.

The whole ritual of the Born Again experience is contingent upon belief.

  • I believe in Jesus Christ, that He is alive today.
    No new amount of information will dissuade me from this since I will not let human wisdom change my core belief. (Unless, of course, it is my own internal validation.)

    I suppose I will admit that fundamentalism can be accused of being willfully stubborn, if not ignorant. I won't say ignorant because nobody else knows any more than I do about whether or not God exists.


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