This video is on the importance of using critical thinking in religion. A written summary of the main points is provided below. More detail is provided in the video.
It is important to use critical thinking in religion. Consider this:
- If there is one true religion, then all other religions are false.
- If no religions are true, then all religions are false.
- If there is truth in each religion, then, given the differences between the various religions, there are also many falsehoods in the world’s religions.
Therefore, there is plenty of error in religion.
But what about faith? Many religions claim that I must have faith in them. Well, if people choose their religions solely on the basis of faith, then the faithful will be scattered among a variety of religions, many having faith in false doctrines.
Therefore, faith alone does not provide any assurance that what you believe is true. It is of no assistance in helping you discern truth from falsehood.
If not faith, then what? Critical thinking is what will help you discern truth from error. If your religion is true, critical thinking cannot disprove it, for truth cannot be disproven. And if your religion is true, critical thinking will help expose the errors in other religions, which will help lead people to the truth in yours. If by some chance your religion is false, critical thinking will help you find the truth. If there is any chance that your beliefs are false, you should subject them to critical thinking. The truth will withstand critical thinking, but critical thinking will help expose falsehood. If there is truth in all religions, critical thinking will help you discern what is true in each religion and what can be discarded as inessential. If you are just interested in a general search for truth, critical thinking is an essential tool.
But How Do I Practice Critical Thinking?
- Ask questions
- Learn logic and reasoning skills.
- Study your religion and others.
- Study opposing views
- Study related fields in both the sciences and philosophy, including the philosophy of religion.
- Find reasons for your beliefs that satisfy not only you but would be persuasive to others.
- Seek the truth, whatever it may be, regardless of what you wish or hope to be true.
- Don’t just bash other views or defend your own.
- Seek not only to criticize but to understand.
- Humbly acknowledge when you are wrong.
It is especially important to ask questions, and here are some you can yourself:
- Why do you believe what you do?
- Do you believe it on the authority of your parents or teachers?
- Do you believe it because of promised bribes or threatened penalties?
- Do your religious beliefs entail any scientific claims that might be tested?
- Do your religion’s moral teachings seem arbitrary? Or do they fit with your own developed sense of right and wrong?
Logic & Reasoning Skills
It is important to be able to distinguish between valid and invalid arguments. Click on the Logic tag or the link to the Logic category for more information.
Some argument techniques include conditional proof and argumentum ad absurdum. The former is a way to prove a conditional by assuming its antecedent and deriving its consequent from your assumption. The latter is a way to disprove something by showing that it entails something absurd or contradictory.
It is important to avoid logical fallacies. These are types of arguments that appear convincing but are actually misleading. Some important logical fallacies worth knowing about include the following:
- Circular Reasoning
- To include your conclusion in your premises.
- Using the same term with different meanings.
- Affirming the Consequent
- P ⊃ Q, Q. ∴ P
- False Dilemma
- Giving a choice between fewer options than there actually are.
- Ad Hominem
- Attacking the person who has made an argument instead of the argument itself.
- Bandwagon Fallacy
- Concluding something is true because it is commonly believed.
- Wishful thinking
- Believing what you want to be true merely because you want it to be true.
- Attacking a Straw Man
- Misrepresenting someone’s argument in a way that is easier to criticize.
Study Related Fields
Fields that bear on religion include the following:
In the course of this video, the following books are shown as examples of suggested reading. I have not read them all, but I have read many.
The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin.
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture by John Shelby Spong
Finding Joy: A Practical Spiritual Guide to Happiness by Dannel I. Schwartz with Mark Hass
The True Life of Jesus of Nazareth : The Confessions of St. Paul by Alexander Smyth
The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions by Huston Smith
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
The Baha’I Faith: The Emerging Global Religion by William S. Hatcher and J. Douglas Martin
By Dalai Lama: The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living Tenth (10th) Edition by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler
Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects by Bertrand Russell
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel C. Dennett
Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! by Duane T. Gish
The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta by Swami Prabhavananda
The Gods of Mars (John Carter of Mars) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
The Five Great Philosophies of Life by William De Witt Hyde
The Dark Side of Christian History by Helen Ellerbe
Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme by Richard Brodie
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) by Joseph Campbell
Winter, Friendship and Guilt: Sources of Self-inquiry (Torchbooks) by Michael Gelven
On Human Nature by Edward O. Wilson