The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs

The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs : Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth

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Description

Modern scholarship in several disciplines makes it clear that the Bible and the Quran were authored by humans, not least because of their internal inconsistencies. Nevertheless, fundamentalists - some of them highly educated professionals - persist in believing in the divine authorship of their sacred scriptures. In this book, Solomon Schimmel seeks to understand why these people insist on such beliefs and how they defend them in the face of evidence to the contrary. Because his expertise is in Judaism, he focuses on the example of orthodox Jews, but he also attends to the cases of Christian and Muslim fundamentalists. Schimmel begins with an autobiographical narrative describing his own journey from acceptance of the beliefs of orthodox Judaism, especially the divine revelation of the Pentateuch to Moses, to religious doubt and eventual rejection of this and other core beliefs of orthodoxy. He reviews how pre-modern Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers responded to challenges to the divine origin of their respective scriptures. He goes on to explore the motives underlying the attempts of believers to retain their beliefs and related practices when they are challenged. He identifies a range of psychological strategies used to protect vulnerable beliefs from challenges based on reason, experience, and scholarship. Examples are provided not only from the three monotheisms, but from other ideologies, such as communism. He goes on to offer concrete contemporary examples of orthodox Jews employing these strategies to protect their belief in the divine revelation of the Pentateuch. These examples are gleaned from Internet discussion groups and personal correspondence. He concludes with a discussion of what he sees as the grave and sometimes dangerous moral and ethical consequences of scriptural fundamentalism as well as the undesirable intellectual effects of maintaining such beliefs.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 160.02 x 238.76 x 27.94mm | 408.23g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195188268
  • 9780195188264
  • 1,004,715

Review quote

The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs addresses questions about the psychology of religious fundamentalism in a most penetrating and enlightening manner, from perspectives that are neglected in most of the literature on the subject - including anthropology, evolutionary and social psychology, and philosophy. Schimmel provides us with a sophisticated understanding of the mentality of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptural fundamentalists, and of why and how they tenaciously cling to beliefs that have failed the tests of experience, scholarship and reason - and the dangers of their doing so. The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs is an essential read for anyone concerned about defending Western democracy in its ideological struggle against the values, vices, and violence of radical Islam. * Ibn Warraq, author of Why I Am Not a Muslim * Very few books face honestly the social and cultural persistence of what Professor Schimmel here labels the 'tenacity of unreasonable beliefs.' Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - sometimes called collectively the 'religions of the book' - have developed very different approaches to the Abrahamic tradition. In these approaches, interpretation, belief, and action come together in subtle and often irrational ways. This is a profoundly insightful and illuminating work which asks the reader to consider the correspondence between irrational belief and human behavior in a thoughtful, precise, and eloquent way. It is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the nature of religiously based violence. * R. Joseph Hoffmann, Chair, The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion * This is a long-overdue book about a pressing subject by a brilliant writer qualified not only by his professional expertise but by his own life experiences. The question of why otherwise thoughtful people accept irrational religious fundamentalism is a difficult one to address in our age of oversensitivity about challenging deeply held religious beliefs. But Schimmel confronts the challenge head- on? * respectfully, intelligently, and with the insights that have long characterized his work. This is a must-read for all thinking people who respect religious diversity. *show more

About Solomon Schimmel

Solomon Schimmel is Professor of Jewish Education and Psychology at Hebrew College. He is the author of The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Psychology and Wounds Not Healed by Time: The Power of Repentance and Forgiveness.show more

Table of contents

Acknowledgments ; Chapter One WHY THIS BOOK? : AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL REFLECTIONS ; Chapter Two FAITH, REVELATION, AND REASON ; Chapter Three JEWISH BIBLICAL FUNDAMENTALISM ; Chapter Four CHRISTIAN BIBLICAL FUNDAMENTALISM ; Chapter Five MUSLIM KORANIC FUNDAMENTALISM ; Chapter Six ACQUIRING AND PROTECTING UNREASONABLE BELIEFS ; Chapter Seven ON DEFUNDAMENTALIZING FUNDAMENTALISTS ; Notes ; Bibliography ; Name Index ; Subject Indexshow more

Rating details

12 ratings
3.75 out of 5 stars
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4 58% (7)
3 33% (4)
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