Religious Fundamentalism’s Toxic Certainty Must End

Religious Fundamentalism’s Toxic Certainty Must End November 23, 2015

Editor’s Note: This Clergy Project member’s first Rational Doubt blog post discusses the recent Paris terrorist attacks in the context of pathological certainty. This certainly, which pervades religious fundamentalism, not only murders innocent people, but also tears families apart.

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By Dave Warnock

As Anne Frank said, while hiding from the Nazis:

“In spite of everything, I still think that people are really good at heart.”

Anne Frank Book cover

A few days ago, some radicals murdered dozens of innocent people in Paris. The world is still coping with, and grieving over- this latest terrorist attack. Sadly, these events have become almost commonplace. All of us remember where we were on 9/11- staring at a TV in disbelief. Crying.

People who kill like this are either criminally insane or delusional. What causes someone to walk into a theater or café and start shooting people? What causes men to deliberately fly an airplane into a building- killing thousands, including themselves? Sane people don’t do these things. But these were seemingly sane people.

If you knew one of these murderers beforehand, you would assume they were perfectly normal citizens of the world. And they were.

Except for one thing: their beliefs caused them to do things that hurt people.

These radicals belong to a fundamentalist religious mindset that sees their way as the only way and every other worldview as evil and wrong. The only difference between their fundamentalism and the kind espoused by your neighbor who goes to the Primitive Baptist or Pentecostal church is that these radicals believe their God is commanding them to kill the infidels. Fundamentalist Christians aren’t calling for that.

Unless of course you belong to Kevin Swanson’s church; or you are one of three Republican presidential candidates who implicitly endorsed his ultra-conservative ideas by speaking at a conference he hosted.

The nice man or woman down the street who is equally as certain of their particular fundamental beliefs has embraced a religious mindset that is very dangerous. How could an otherwise normal, sane man believe that a person who is homosexual should be stoned to death? He can because his holy book tells him so and he can cite chapter and verse. This is what God has said; of that he is certain. It causes him to behave in ways that he otherwise would not.

Damage is done every day in the name of certainty. Some of you may be the victims of a religious manipulation tactic known as “shunning.” I experience that every day in my own family. My two grown daughters and their husbands have nothing to do with me because I left the faith. They don’t avoid me because of something evil I did or some crime I committed. They shun me because I don’t believe the right things.

That’s it.

I understand that it’s confusing and hard for them to come to grips with the fact that I have abandoned the faith in which I raised them. I’m more than willing to discuss it with them. But they won’t. They can’t because their certainty has no room for different viewpoints.

They shun me because they believe that’s what Bible teaches. They believe that it’s the proper way to lead me to repentance and back to God. They firmly believe this is the proper way to show me Biblical love. They are certain of it. They are sad for the pain it brings to our family and its effect on my son, his wife and many extended family members.

But they believe that is simply tragic collateral damage from the battle that has to be fought. They believe. They are certain.

I hate certainty.

Certainty is the currency of evangelical Christianity. In fact, it’s my observation that any fundamentalist ideology has, at its core, a dependence upon certainty. And behind any fundamentalist ideology is the holy book. Without the words of the holy book guiding thought and action, the fundamentalist has no source for his certainty. Evangelical Christians are convinced that their holy book instructs them toward certain behaviors and condemns other behaviors. For this reason, they base their worldview on the holy text and condemn anything that deviates from it. Fundamentalists in other cultures do the same.

Christians condemn gays because they believe their God does it.

Westboro Baptist Church hates fags

Radical Muslims murder innocents because they believe their God commands it. Family members shun each other because they believe it is what their God is telling them to do.

Their belief system compels them.

Their certainty drives them.

Certainty sells. But certainty kills.

And because of that certainty, innocent people die. Because of that certainty, people are hurt and families are torn apart.

These are not bad people. They are good people driven to do bad things because a toxic and dangerous belief system has twisted their hearts.

I want to find a way to speak out against the certainty that causes good people to do bad things. And I want to find a way to look beyond the hurtful things being done in the name of religion so I can see the good person who is there.

I used to believe and teach the central theme of Christianity:

We are born broken and sinful.

I see now how damaging and destructive that message is, and I am extremely sorry I ever taught it.

We are not bad people in need of a savior. We are just people; all of us trying to do the best we can, and for the most part, I agree with Anne Frank, whose words bear repeating:

“In spite of everything, I still think that people are really good at heart.”

**Editor’s Question** What can we do to try to bring out the good in people?

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Dave WarnockBio: Dave Warnock was a Christian for 30 plus years in the Evangelical/Charismatic movement, in active pastoral ministry most of that time. He left the faith about four years ago after gradually realizing he had run out of reasons to believe. He is 60 years old and lives near Nashville, TN, where he works in the insurance business.

>>>>Photo Credits: “Annextales” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Annextales.gif#/media/File:Annextales.gif

“WBC protest” by The original uploader was Guanaco at English Wikipedia – http://www.godhatesfags.com/photos/2005/20051023_tulsa-ok.html. Licensed under Copyrighted free use via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WBC_protest.jpg#/media/File:WBC_protest.jpg

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  • ImRike

    “What can we do to try to bring out the good in people?”
    Get rid of religion!

    • RobF

      Oh no don’t do that! What will we have left to scapegoat then?

      Well actually, after that we could get rid of politics. And then do away with nationality, ethnicity, families. And why stop there – let’s get rid of money, that really brings out the worst in people. Also education, stop bad ideas and stop imaginings and all that free thinking. There’s always something else to blame.

      Shoot. If everyone was just like me. We would live in perfect harmony.

    • Linda_LaScola

      If I were to amend Anne Frank’s quote, I’d say “…people CAN BE good at heart.”

      I wish we were good at heart more often, but our dark, xenophobic side keeps coming out.

      • RobF

        Just get rid of it all, Linda. 😉

      • mason

        (This was my reply to Dave about the article on the Underground Railway…seems we both had a similiar amend thought)

        Dave, really appreciated the piece. I also share your need to confess that after I was bullied into fundamentalist dogma, I then went on to be an abuser myself; not an uncommon path for a victim of physical or psychological abuse.

        I firmly believe the three forms of religious fundamentalism, Jewish, Muslim & Christian are insidious cancers in the human race, and there is so much non-resistant flesh in which it can continue to metastasize.

        “In spite of everything, I still think people are really good at heart.” Well, I can’t agree en toto with Ann. I don’t think when Ann wrote this she was aware the really good at heart German folk were hard at work trying to conquer the world and get the number of exterminated Jews up to 6 million.

        I think we humans are very flexible at heart. Some, more than we might like to think, are sociopaths or psychopaths from birth. The rest of us may have an good empathetic potential, but it’s only a potential; we have a flexible “heart.” (more accurately, brain)

        I think I could concur that “most” people have the potential to become really good at heart. In my skeptic thinking I don’t believe it’s a case of semantics or mincing words, but the history lesson of so many nations and religions that I say most are flexible at heart. I’m sure most all the suicide bombers that have carried out their Islamic fundamentalists Jihad were flexible at heart.

        Maybe I’m just a nit picker at heart. Always appreciate your thoughts and writing. I think getting to the point where we apostate clergy sense the need to confess our part in preaching the darkness of theism, is important for healing and growth. I really didn’t “get it” fully until after I’d joined TCP. Fundamentalists probably carry a much heavier load of guilt since the inherent theistic propaganda is far more damaging than liberal dogma IMO.

        • Elizabeth.

          Solzhenitsyn agrees with you and Linda in “Gulag Archipelago”:

          “In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart –and through all human hearts.” https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/alexander-solzhenitsyn-the-line-within

          Sol’s reflections have stayed with me over the decades… more at the link, & wish I could link to the whole context.

          You’ve probably heard the native American story, too, that describes the elder teaching the youth, “There are 2 wolves vying within you — a good wolf and an evil one.” The youth worries, “Which one will win?” He answers, “The one you feed.”

          Then of course there’s Jung that I’m reading — and his view that we try to disown our “shadow sides” at our peril!

          So — yin yangily yours, E : )

    • mason

      That would IMO bring down the ignorant walls of division and demonizing and do more good than any other single thing I can imagine. And I been working at freeing people from the dragon for over 40 years now. “Imagine” -John Lennon

  • cadunphy280

    Ideologies of all stripes can be a barrier to people doing good. Simply put when an idea eclipses the rights of an individual it undermines the value of the person and of life. It creates a fascist vacuum from which rancid ideas rain down their despotic sensibility on to unwilling masses. For me I think that Anne Frank’s statement is about hope. Hope that not all people will succumb to this tyranny. She was right to be hopeful, but perhaps she – and we, underestimate the sway of these ideologies. Or is it the weakness of the human mind to reason?

    • davewarnock

      I agree, we do underestimate the power of ideology. There is something in the human psyche that apparently likes to be told what to do; at least in some people. Whether it’s Nazi Germany, Jim Jones, or the local fundamentalist congregation, people crave certainty. Dogmatic religion poisons the good that is in each of us.

      Side note: my eldest daughter played Anne Frank as a high school senior. I wept as she recited that line just before the lights dimmed. This is one of the daughters that is now shunning me due to her religious idealism. I have to choose to be like Anne at these times and have hope.

  • ctcss

    What can we do to try to bring out the good in people?

    Well, as least the way I was taught, the best way is to maintain the highest concepts in thought (love, justice, kindness, etc.) and then express these concepts both towards others, as well as toward’s one’s self. However, this specific notion is based on the concept that it is God’s love, justice, kindness, etc. that is being reflected, not just a limited human sense of these qualities being expressed. In other words, when trying to do this, I need to realize that it is not my limited human sense of love reaching another person, it’s actually that God’s love is already governing and blessing everyone constantly. I just need ot be willing to recognize this and follow along with (be in harmony with, at one with) what God is already doing.

    As nearly as I can tell, people coming to Jesus felt that love in his presence because Jesus so clearly saw God’s love for them. And that love (God’s love) being glimpsed by them, healed and redeemed them by lifting off their false notions about themselves and gave them a clearer notion of who and what they were as the beloved children of God.

    Personally, I find this to be both a beautiful concept as well as a practical one. Troubling human situations are in great need of such healing and redemption, at least IMO.

    Damage is done every day in the name of certainty

    Good is also done every day in the name of certainty. Every police officer who goes out each day and puts their life at risk simply by doing the normal duties of their job is doing so because of the certainty that upholding the rule of law is both important and beneficial to society. Every Christian who believes that following the Christ and tries their best to (non-judgementally) love both their neighbor and their enemy as Jesus did (exemplified by his actions towards the suffering and the outcast) is doing so because of the certainty that acting as God acts (lovingy towards all, without exception), is doing so because they are certain that this concept is the highest possible concept of action.

    People have to be certain of at least some core concepts in order to be able to take action. Without at least some certainty, nothing would happen. The problem being cited here is not certainty, but the desire to control others’ lives through social pressure, law, or force.

    I am quite certain that my religious beliefs are true, thus my desire and willingness to pursue a greater understanding of them, as well as my desire to put them into action in my own life. But I have no desire to force them upon others, because people need to be able to come to their own conclusions as to what principles to follow in their own life. Jesus taught the people who came to hear him, as well as healed those who came to him for help. But the choice to follow after him was entirely their own. They had to decide whether they thought his teachings were worth investigating further. He never forced them.
    They had to arrive at their own sense of certainty, just as his disciples had done.

    Personally, I see no problem with certainty arrived at and practiced in this manner.

    • davewarnock

      “I am quite certain that my religious beliefs are true”

      This can be said (and is said) by people all over the world whose religious beliefs directly contradict yours. You don’t see that as a problem? As I see it, all the competing religious ideologies cannot at the same time be right. But they CAN all be wrong.

      And as far as referencing things that Jesus was purported to have said- he said: “unless you come to me and hate your family (and your own life), you are not worthy to be my disciple”

      He said: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother…”

      I have a problem with this. Do you not? People love to claim that Jesus was this purveyor of love and kind thoughts to everyone. That’s not the Bible I see.

      And how about this one: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

      not a nice God at all- not a picture of “love, justice and kindness being reflected”

      And if you are one of the Christians who don’t take the Bible literally, how do you go about using the Bible to gain a sense of who Jesus was and who God is. If you don’t take all the words of the book, how do you decide which ones you take? Again, I see that as a problem,

      And hence, the danger of being certain that “my way is right”.

      • RobF

        Dave,

        The premise that certainty per se is at fault is self-contradictory as it has to be asserted with certitude (for it to be true). This will lead to nihilism, an agnosticism into absurdity.

        • davewarnock

          not sure I understand what you’re saying. I didn’t make a claim that needed to be demonstrated with certitude. My point is that a religious dogma that depends upon the concept that “my way is correct and is the only correct way” (i.e. certainty), is dangerous and destructive. That has been demonstrated, It’s not something that I am claiming. I stand by the statement that I hate the ideology that is behind that kind of certainty.

          • RobF

            Dave,

            I am questioning your assertion that “certainty kills” – I posit that certainty is not what is dangerous or destructive. (After all, we all believe in something, and with certitude.). It is beliefs and ideologies which are dangerous and destructive which are (dangerous and destructive).
            The certain belief that “naturalism is the correct way of understanding cosmology” isn’t dangerous. Neither is theism.

            So I think you will have to parse this a bit.

          • davewarnock

            We may be talking around each other, but maybe not- we may have a fundamental difference in how we view life. “We all believe in something, and with certitude”. I’m not sure I agree with that statement. What do I believe in with certitude? I’m honestly asking myself and I can’t think of an answer. You seem certain that I believe in something, so maybe you could tell me what that is…

          • RobF

            There’s nothing you are certain about, you are a complete agnostic about all things? And even your agnosticism is held in uncertainty?

            “Certainty kills” – it seems you are quite certain about this, no?

          • davewarnock

            ok, you seem to be just wanting to argue about a word and completely miss the entire subject of my post. I’m not interested in arguing about the word ‘certainty’. I am telling you I don’t have a belief system- I don’t have to be certain of that. When evidence is presented to me, I go where the evidence leads me. I am saying in this post that religious dogma that depends on a belief system that puts itself over and above others is dangerous and destructive.

            That’s the point of my post. If you want to discuss that I’m fine. If you just want to argue about certainty I’m not interested.

          • RobF

            Hi Dave,

            That’s the point of my post. If you want to discuss that I’m fine. If you just want to argue about certainty I’m not interested.

            Questioning your main point, that is what my comments are all about, not interested in arguing about a “word”. We all know what certainty means.

            So, to repeat, you state as a matter of certainty that: “certainty kills” and I pointed out this is either an error of logic, or else you have to exempt yourself from that which you condemn in others!

            Hence my rejoinder that it is not certainty per se that is the culprit. Allow me to explain:

            Damage is done every day in the name of certainty.

            Certainty is utilized to further destructive ends. But certainty is not to problem. Politics is used for destructive ends. But we don’t do away with politics because politics per se is not destructive. Same can be said about nationality, culture, religion, ideology, and so forth.

            All the best, – I hope you will be united with your family soon.

            PS. “I don’t have a belief system” – are you sure about that?

          • davewarnock

            A belief system? No. But I’m guessing you will tell me I do. But save it. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Appreciate the dialog.

          • RobF

            Not telling you anything, just asking if you have really thought that through. You must have thoughts about things, surely. Purpose and meaning of life, how it is that the universe exists at all, God’s existence. That type of thing.

          • davewarnock

            you have no idea
            I was an evangelical Christian for over 30 years and a pastor for much of that. I have thought and studied about these things very very much. But thanks for asking.

          • RobF

            happy thanksgiving Dave

          • davewarnock

            you too, Rob

      • ctcss

        This can be said (and is said) by people all over the world whose religious beliefs directly contradict yours. You don’t see that as a problem? As I see it, all the competing religious ideologies cannot at the same time be right. But they CAN all be wrong.

        This question strikes me as being a bit simplistic. Consider, there are 7 billion humans on the planet. Approximately half are women. I married one of those women without making an exhaustive survey of all 3.5 billion of them. Therefore, the odds of me having picked the “correct” one are vanishingly small, right?

        Well, no, not really. Why? Because my end goal was not to make a one-time choice and then finalize that process by putting my ideal wife on the shelf with all of my other acquisitions and never have to think about her again. My goal was to begin a marriage relationship with someone whose qualities I found to be suitable so that I could be certain of the wisdom of committing to my married life with her. That is, marrying her was not the end goal, it was the start of a lifelong process of growth and discovery.

        Likewise, the concept of God I am commiting myself to (one with suitable and admirable qualities) is one that I can be certain that I can work with. I don’t know where this lifelong process of growth and discovery with God is going to end up, but I do know that I am more than willing to fully devote myself to pursuing this pathway with the concept of God I was taught and have decided to follow. Basically, we all have to start somewhere, but a completely perfect human choice is not necessary in order to make our start. We just need to make a reasonable and thoughtful effort when making the choice of what to start with.

        Thus, I didn’t have to survey all of the women out there to find someone I could begin my journey with. I just had to find someone I could trust, admire, love, and could work with, and who desired to love, respect, and work with me. Ditto with God.

        And as far as referencing things that Jesus was purported to have said- he said: “unless you come to me and hate your family (and your own life), you are not worthy to be my disciple”

        He said: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother…”

        I have a problem with this. Do you not?

        Not at all. Once again, the worry you seem to be describing strikes me as coming from a rather simplistic approach to such statements. At least as I read these things, Jesus (whom I was not taught to regard as God) was pointing out that people can’t really draw more closely to God unless they are also willing to pull further away from the everyday, mundane things in life. (Things not of God, in other words.) One cannot love God supremely and at the same time value other things more than God, or even the same as God.

        Consider, one might dearly love one’s son and wish to keep him from harm and distress. One might also dearly love the concept of justice. But if one’s son commits a crime, then it will very obviously become necessary to decide what to love more, justice, or one’s son, even though one’s son will probaby face punishment (correction, and thus likely harm and distress) when turned over for justice. However, the only rational thing to do (both out of the highest sense of love for the son and for justice) is to value justice over one’s merely human sense of love for one’s son. After all, valuing one’s son over justice means (sadly) valuing injustice over justice, as well as being content with a son who breaks the law. (Hardly a good trade-off!) Basically, a higher sense of love for all must be exercised in order to bring out the highest sense or goodness and harmony for all.

        But what about regular family members who are not criminals? And why should one hate one’s own life? Well, Jesus seems to be pointing out that one cannot value one’s limited and incorrect notion of what is right and good over God’s knowedge of what is right and good. One cannot love God and mammon, in other words. So, satisfaction and contentment with one’s current ignorance and predilictions is not going to help someone draw closer to God. And unless one’s own familiy members are also growing closer to God in their thinking, the likelihood is that by staying at that family member’s current level of thought regarding God is going to force one to also stay further away from God.

        Does that mean that one should neglect those who depend on us? Of course not. Jesus told his mother and John to regard one another as mother and son when he was on the cross. She was not negected even though Jesus was moving on. The point being (as I see it) is that if God is love, and we are supposed to reflect that nature in order to be obedient to God, then there will be both a need as well as a way for love to be expressed in a practical way for those who depend on us. In other words, obeying God (who is love itself) never puts a person at risk.

        But yes, family members who are pursuing different ideals and pathways may find themselves in conflict. But just as with the father who wants to love both his son and justice, the only safe path is to love God (put God first), rather than trying to mollify a person rather than loving God.

        And how about this one: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

        And in my religion, this verse is specifically pointed out as not referring to Rome, Satan, or God, but sin. Ony when a person refuses to let go of sin (and thus are anchoring themselves to it) are they going to find themselves dealing with the consequences of continuing to engage in that sin. But dropping that sin and turning away from it will free the person from those consequences.

        So, once again, I don’t have a problem with being warned about anchoring myself down to a ill-advised course of action. After all, it would be far better for me to let go of that anchor and to swim free.

        And if you are one of the Christians who don’t take the Bible literally, how do you go about using the Bible to gain a sense of who Jesus was and who God is. If you don’t take all the words of the book, how do you decide which ones you take? Again, I see that as a problem.

        Once again, this strikes me as being too simplistic an approach. The decision to want to follow God is the beginning of a long process. There is no “one and done” aspect to it. It goes on as long as it takes to put off all that is not like God. (We are, after all, still seeing through a glass, darkly. It takes effort, as well as willingness, to put off the ignorance we each currently have about God.)

        And just as in school (at least a good school), the idea is to be taught and to learn the subject matter, not to just mindlessly memorize and regurgitate rote answers, or even to just show up and quietly sit in attendence. A good teacher is not just looking for parrots, nor for students who merely aren’t disruptive. Their desire is for students to learn, and good teachers will patiently work with a student until they learn what is required. They certainly won’t throw them into prison for failing a test, or even for failing a semester or a grade. They will simply work with the student so that they will be able to learn the subject matter and pass the tests the next time around. A good teacher loves their students and wants to help them succeed. They certainly don’t desire to destroy them, or to see them fail.

        So the point is not to so much read the manifestly limited text of the Bible, as it is to learn about the infinitely deep subject of God. Thus, reading the Bible helps to point a person towards God, but simply reading it is not a substitute for making the effort to grow in one’s understanding of God, any more than reading a guidebook about a country is a substitute for actually living in the country the guidebook is about and thus growing in one’s understanding of that country by doing so. And, once again, this is not a “one and done” kind of process. It takes as long as it takes to get there. As I was taught it, I have all of eternity to finish my pursuit of growing God-ward and working to understand Him.

        I get the feeling that you have a very different notion of God (when you had one) than I do. I was never taught to live in fear of God. God (as in Psalm 23) is loving, patient, and kind, is never mysterious, and only desires good for his children. Thus, it follows that it is always safe to trust and to follow this concept of God.

        And hence, the danger of being certain that “my way is right”.

        I know what you are describing, but I don’t see how what you are describing even applies to what I was taught. My religion has no hell, no eternal punishment, no original sin, and no devil. The concept of God I was taught is all-good and all-loving, one who cannot and will not harm His children. I was also taught an impersonal sense of God (God as unvarying principle), rather than a personal sense of God who is variable in outlook and temperament. And since I am not trying to force my religion on anyone else, I don’t see what your problem might be with me and mine. My certainty is simply about my confidence in making my effort to pursue a greater understanding of God. It’s not abut trying to control anyone else.

        • davewarnock

          I don’t have a problem with your version of Christianity. I have a problem with the fundamentalist version which claims that their way is the only way. I’m pretty sure that was the point of my post.

          I’m not approaching anything simplistically. I’m approaching it the way people in my tribe approached it- taking the Bible literally and behaving as though God was involved in their daily lives. This tribe teaches that all other religions are wrong.

          That may not be your experience, but surely you can understand and agree that this issue exists and causes great damage to many people. That is what I was saying.

          I have no problem with you and your religion. It seems fairly benign. Pursue away, my friend.

  • Mary Arnold

    I didn’t respond to this post when I saw it yesterday because I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.

    But I feel for you, that your daughters have cut themselves off from you. And I hope that they come around some day, for all your sakes.

  • alwayspuzzled

    The essay treats certainty sometimes as an ideological phenomenon and sometimes as a psychological phenomenon. It seems likely that it is primarily psychological. Some people need the psychological safety of certainty. Being certain is part of their core identity. Any challenge to their certainty is a challenge to their core identity. When their core identity is challenged, they become alienated and hostile. Get rid of religion, and the need for certainty will still be there. People will just find other identity markers and tribal markers to be certain and combative about.
    As to the editor’s question, one way to bring out the good in people might be to work harder to bring out the good in ourselves. A few of us probably still fall short of our full potential in that regard.

    • Linda_LaScola

      one way to bring out the good in people might be to work harder to bring out the good in ourselves.

      Do you have any suggestions on how to do that?

      • RobF

        Hi Linda,

        Apropos to this holiday, I would say thankfulness. Receiving and encountering all, ourselves and others, who we are and what we have been given, in thankfulness.

    • davewarnock

      I think you nailed it- some people seem to need the safety of certainty and are uncomfortable with questions. I liked a tweet recently by @meganphelps (formerly of the infamous Westboro Baptist clan): “inquiry is always hamstrung by certainty”.

    • RobF

      Get rid of religion, and the need for certainty will still be there. People will just find other identity markers and tribal markers to be certain and combative about.

      Good observation about the psychological aspect – agree 100%. Getting rid of religion (as if that is even possible – this has been tried of course, with gun and bullet – but that is another story) won’t deal with the core issue of hostility, combativeness, etc. It is this core issue, -which cannot be essentialized to ideology- that needs to be addressed.

      Beside the psychological aspect there is the practical need for and acceptance of certainty as a fundamental prerequisite to knowledge (take for instance the scientific method of knowledge – certainty of facts are established and without further inquiry would be impossible). Certainty is therefore not optional – regardless of ideology – but a necessary aspect of knowledge.

  • mason

    Dave, Certainty. You’ve certainly hit on a key component in all this religious stuff. One of the things I love about science it it’s always open to be challenged. My sisters are hamstrung with certainty like your daughters.