Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another Critique

"As a religion, organized Christianity, as it is now practiced is just about as genuine as tea made from a bit of paper which once lay in a drawer beside another bit of paper which once had been used to wrap a few dried tea leaves from which tea had already been made three times." - Søren Kierkegaard

Imagine a force that twists everything good into an obligation. Everything beautiful in life has a dark underside of mechanical obligations, universal claims based in imagination that comes from reading an ancient text that was never meant to kill us this way.

We pull law after law from its' pages, we create a world of ideals, a creation that puts our desires in cages rather than understanding them and being in control of ourselves.

The problem of religion, specifically Christianity, is not that it has its' doctrine wrong, not that it's practice is often horrifying and followers refuse to see it, but that its' recursive logic, its' blinding tendency to not speak truth but shibboleths, not promote freedom but mindless obligation and enslavement, and its' insidious inability to not manipulate its' followers is truly a perfect storm against the freedom and the beauty of mankind.

In or out. Heaven or Hell. An elitist group not distinguished by anything but dogmatic agreement to a created, cultural religious dogma held to be "absolute." Even still, within these groups there are the "hypocrites" and the "true believers." The single-minded uncritical exclusion of others, a hallmark of religious arrogance.

Look around. Every person is different. As many beliefs exist as do people, and no one person has all of theirs' correct. We waste time with assumptions. Belief that we know the absolute truth is nothing but arrogance, and the assumption that we are God or at the least gods. Belief that we know truth, in one of its' flavors, from our perspective, is more realistic. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit religion at all. A pity, because religion is comfortable to the extreme. We do what is "right" and don't have to think about it.

I criticize because people are better than this. I've met people of all faiths that are better than this. It is pathetic that as humanity has progressed we have not shaken off this ancient tendency to group ourselves into religious factions, but I suppose no one is perfect.

It is not helpful for us to judge other people, it is beneficial for us to judge the actions that occur close to us and the prevailing beliefs that they indicate, to critically analyze and to understand more, for the purpose of loving and respecting others.

How else can we live with ourselves any longer?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

To Wax Somewhat Personal

I've somewhat recently witnessed, in a few different ways, some pretty drastic misunderstandings, as well as some genuine anger and hurt over one simple thing: communication.

I am both an offender and a victim in this unfortunate trend: the trend of being passive aggressive, not saying how you feel or what you mean, protecting oneself from being hurt at the expense of others, and simply refusing to be straightforward in conversation.

It has affected everything in my life, from something as stupid as an online game to something as serious as my relationships with the people I love. The amount of misunderstanding and assumptions that are made out of fear are simply unbelievable. What is even more disturbing is that when we act out of fear, we are being selfish.

If you can acknowledge that and are okay with it, fair enough. However, the selfish person suffers from many setbacks in social situations. By necessity, they are not treated with the respect that a considerate and straightforward person would be, because in general it comes down to being inconsiderate and even rude to them because they will not be honest about their feelings, or to playing a guessing game, which leads to more assumptions and more misunderstanding, especially when it all goes unsaid.

It is amazing the lengths that a scared person will go to to avoid confrontation, or rejection, or even addressing difficult things that will end positively if they would just be said. Manipulation is not to be opposed because of some kind of metaphysical wickedness, it's a problem because it creates distance between people, it makes drastic violations of others' personal freedom, worth, and lives possible. It is hurting other people, and in general, it tends to be harmful to oneself. The more people you manipulate, the fewer genuine connections you will have, and that is sad.

Manipulation, even for the purpose of a positive ideal, is still a fundamental disrespect for the person you are manipulating, and it is still a dehumanizing force that affects you as much as the person you manipulate. It is for this reason that you can have all of the best intentions in the world and still create severe problems with your actions, with your words, and with your intentions in situations.

To digress to the original point, I think it's helpful to say what you mean, even when you feel you're risking something of yourself or when you fear the retaliation of the person you are speaking with. Of course, this can not happen all the time, however, as much as is possible is beneficial to both oneself and to others in the situation.

Monday, June 7, 2010

On Critical Thinking.

I am highly encouraged by what I have begun to read in the beginning of my graduate studies. It seems that what I've been missing in my educational endeavors is now present in my studies at Capella, if the first day of my first class is any indication.

Of course, in this hope, I betray my strong desire, perhaps even need, for such intellectually refreshing material, to the point of assuming the best about the future, something I rarely do. More on this later.

For now though, what is this that I have been missing? To put it simply, intellectual freedom.

For example, I offer an excerpt from the first article I have been assigned, regarding critical thinking.

"Like the honest juror, the critical thinker is ethically committed to the concept of due process-intellectual due process-as the best way to increase the likelihood of finding the truth. This code of intellectual conduct demands giving ideas their day in court before rendering an informed and reasoned verdict. It requires such traits as these:

* Being unwilling to subordinate one's thinking to orthodoxies that demand to be swallowed whole-at the risk of being charged with heresy

* Refusing to dismiss possible merits in ideas that otherwise may be deeply repugnant-at the risk of appearing immoral

* Being capable of saying, "I don't know"-at the risk of appearing unintelligent

* Being willing to judge the truth value of ideas sponsored by demographic and cultural groups to which one does not belong-at the risk of being accused of prejudice

* Being willing to change one's mind-at the risk of appearing capricious

* Being open to the arguments of adversaries-at the risk of appearing disloyal

* Having an acute awareness of the limits and fallibility of one's knowledge-at the risk of seeming to suffer from that dreaded malady, low self-esteem" (Gabennesch, 2006, p. 40)

I find that I resonate with so much of this that I wonder if the writer has looked at my experiences over the past 5 years and written an article. This, of course, is probably exceptionally conceited of me to say, but if you'll pardon the presumption for a moment, I will elaborate.

I've begun to attribute the recent chapter of my life to when I was a small boy and asked God for patience. I think He may just have laughed and simply said "you have no idea."

I have been, at nearly every turn, judged harshly for many of the things I have said. I have had it demanded of me to agree with certain ideas, certain methods, and certain attitudes. When I would not agree, I was accused of not agreeing with Christianity, not agreeing with what everyone in the church thinks, having no foundation for my truth claims, being rebellious, and perhaps most hurtfully at the time, being a heretic.

My problem, the thing that causes me pain, is that I believe in God, that I love the church, and that I proudly call myself a Christian. Though I will apologize for any number of things any part of the church has done that have been simply insane, I am still glad to follow the teachings of Christ. However, I bear no loyalty to what I am seemingly forced to accept with this faith I hold. I find it unnecessary to look at Christianity and any religion as a system that must be swallowed whole or rejected completely. I find it harmful to agree with anything I do not fully understand, even if that understanding must be between myself and God, and must include some type of intellectual mystery. I find it unnecessarily hostile to defend my faith as better than everyone else's, to the point to where I will not do it.

I claim less than most people not because I am more humble, but because I seem to naturally think critically. Or perhaps I do so because of the way my life has gone. However, I would not trade it for the world. It is my approach to life, it is my allegiance to the truth, and a thousand men could accuse me of heresy because of it and I still wouldn't regret it.

What I hope the reader will recognize is that I do what I do and I think how
I think because of my journey with God. I hold a profound allegiance for the truth, and I recognize that my beliefs are not, and never will be, the full and absolute truth. Hence, when I hear another perspective I want to know about it. Because God is this huge, beautiful being that will always have some kind of mystery to Him, because He is just that much.

I Am. We can't even understand His Name completely. I can't believe He would create us with the capacity for critical thought and not wish for us to use it.

Howard Gabennesch. (2006, March). Critical Thinking: What Is It Good for? (In Fact, What Is It?). The Skeptical Inquirer, 30(2), 36-41. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID: 996976231).