Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Can Religious Beliefs Lead to Bad Thinking?

This is the first in a series of (admittedly) provocative posts about thinking and religious beliefs. After Bishop E.W. Jackson, the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, said that if you didn't follow Jesus, then you "are engaged in some sort of false religion," I knew that I just had to comment. The next several posts are designed to promote better thinking about religion and not to be critical of anyone's beliefs. But they will be critical of people's thinking about those beliefs.

First, it's important to understand the meaning of the term theology. Most "-ologies" are the study of the science. Biology is the study of the science life. Cardiology is the study of the science of the heart. Sociology is the study of the science and history of how man forms groups and functions within those groups.

Biology, cardiology and even the soft science of sociology all have testable theories. We can make observations and draw conclusions, and we can test those conclusions. These testable conclusions form knowledge. For example, biology tells us that for most species, you will need a male and a female to reproduce. We can put two male rabbits in a cage and test this.

What can we test when it comes to theology?


Which means that the word theology is really a contradiction in terms. Theology is not the study of the science of God. When it comes to God, what we have is faith. But faith is not "testable" in a scientific way. We really don't have any true knowledge of God. We just have a lot of theories. Granted, a lot of good thinking has gone into some of those theories, but they are still theories and not knowledge.

And this is where Mr. Jackson's thinking has become blurred. He has confused his knowledge and faith and this has caused him to make some poor decisions. Surprisingly, as we will see, the mistake Mr. Jackson makes is quite common among the religious faithful.
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