Critical Thinking and Truth

I haven’t posted for quite some time, but this morning I read something that jumped off the page at me. It was written by syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts. He wrote:

But then, that’s the state of critical thinking these days: ignore any inconvenient truth, any unsettling information that might force you to think or even look with new eyes upon, say, the edifice of justice. Accept only those ‘facts’ that support what you already believe. (Emphasis added)

Amen, brother!

Pitts’ statement struck a deep cord within me. I get so riled at the number of people who, as Pitts writes, accept as “truth” anything that they already believe in. This is particularly true in the areas of religion and politics.

Instead of doing the background research to find out if what they have heard, read, or been taught is accurate, they will adamantly argue their case as hard and cold fact.

It is as though critical thinking has become a forbidden action. Or maybe it’s just because we’ve become lazy. It’s far easier to watch the 24-hour news feed on TV then to do our own research. Gosh! That might mean reading a book or even turning on the computer to search the internet.

Truth is defined as “a fact that has been verified.” It is not truth simply because our so-called ‘leaders’ (the people who rule, guide and/or inspire us) have said it is so.

If you are politically minded, make it a habit to visit Politifact.com or FactCheck.org to find out how much of what your favorite political leader says is actually true.

And if you’re a religious person, try looking at your faith objectively. Look below the surface. You may be surprised to learn that not everything you heard in Sunday School is ‘truth.’ A wise person once said “If you’re going to put all your faith into something, you need to thoroughly examine it to make sure your faith is justified.”

To know is more than to believe.

Ben Stein’s Confessions for the Holidays

I received this in my email today. Snopes.com says it is correctly attributed, but it also notes that it has been modified and added to over the years. The original comments were made in 2005 on CBS’ Sunday Morning Commentary. Please read my comments at the end.

My confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events…. Terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem ( Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you startsending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not, then just discard it… No one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

********

Re: the C’mas greeting … It’s not about being threatened. It’s about the CHRISTIANS making such a big deal out of whether or not it’s used.

Personally, I prefer to wish people Happy Holidays because I’m sending good wishes for BOTH holidays … C’mas and New Year’s. But the CHRISTIANS get all ‘twitter-pated’ (a phrase my daughter uses) because they think the ‘meaning’ of C’mas is being ignored.

God doesn’t leave us. God doesn’t ignore us. God is always here. It’s PEOPLE that are the problem and injecting God into the schools or anywhere else is not going to make people change. They have to make that decision within themselves.

One thing Ben said that I totally agree with … We should all be allowed to worship God in our own way.

Changing Beliefs About Gay Marriage

It doesn’t matter what beliefs we hold … they are OUR beliefs and we have a RIGHT to those beliefs.

It is our RIGHT to believe anything we want about gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, the Iraq war, gun control, God, Jesus, or any other issue.

It is also our RIGHT to disagree with others who hold opposite views from ours.

We even have the RIGHT to publicly protest beliefs that we don’t agree with.

BUT … we need to remember that we can NEVER force someone to change their beliefs.

The individuals who are protesting against California’s Prop 8 have the right to do so, but their chants and signs are not going to persuade anyone to begin supporting gay marriage if it is against their core beliefs.

The same holds true for those who march and hold graphic signs to protest against current abortion laws.

And protesting against someone’s religious beliefs by using online forums to post vitrolic and venomous comments accomplishes nothing.

Furthermore, damaging property (or even inflicting bodily harm) is the least effective way to sway another’s beliefs.

People believe as they do as a result of heredity and environment, plus life experiences. New beliefs happen because someone makes the choice to change their opinion about something. It is an action that is taken by the individual. It will never occur due to someone else applying force.

Imperialistic? The United States?

I just finished a wonderful book by Andrew Bacevich titled, “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.”

Now that title might not ‘grab you,’ but the contents are definitely thought-provoking.

One of the points of the book that stood out to me was how the United States is fast becoming an imperialistic nation. (Imperialism: A policy of extending the power and dominion of a nation over the political or economic life of other nations.)

Our leaders increasingly believe it is the duty of the United States to reshape the entire world (most particularly the Middle East) into America’s image. That is, they are convinced that all would benefit if the ‘American Way of Life’ were in place.

This is not a new idea. It has been in place for quite some time. Since 9/11, however, it has gained impetus and resulted in our country facing a never-ending war.

In fact, whether you are aware of this or not, this is the whole idea behind the “global war on terror.” It is, at its core, an ultimatum to the rest of the world … you are either with us or against us.

The current President made the statement that he wants to “rid the world of evil” (emphasis mine). Of course, none of us wants evil to triumph. But waging a war that has no end to try and manipulate through force the people of other countries (in particular, a billion or more Muslims) to embrace our way of life is absurd … and incredibly dangerous for the young men and women who are called upon to enforce this concept. As Bacevich so aptly points out, “Our ability to influence perceptions and attitudes across the Islamic world will remain limited.”

I find this type of thinking to be identical to the ill-conceived viewpoint of Fundamentalist Christians, i.e., our way is the only way. (In fact, it is also the thinking of the fundamentalist faction of the Muslim religion.)

Certainly, as U.S. residents, we believe we have the best country in the world and we deeply appreciate the freedoms that are allowed to us. But to insist that every country in the world should embrace the American way of living is foolhardy, particularly when war is used as the causation.