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The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: fundamentalism and the fear of truth (2008)

af Solomon Schimmel

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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 oftheir 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 ofChristian 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 howpre-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 ofpsychological 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 Jewsemploying 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 ofscriptural fundamentalism as well as the undesirable intellectual effects of maintaining such beliefs.… (mere)
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This book originated in my attempt to understand why modern Orthodox Jews believe that the Pentateuch (Torah or Humash in Hebrew) was revealed in its entirety by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai or during a sojourn of forty years in the wilderness in the late second millennium BCE, in the face of overwhelming evidence and logical arguments against such a proposition.
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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 oftheir 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 ofChristian 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 howpre-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 ofpsychological 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 Jewsemploying 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 ofscriptural fundamentalism as well as the undesirable intellectual effects of maintaining such beliefs.

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