The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth

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Overview

The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs is a passionate yet analytical critique of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptural fundamentalists. Author Solomon Schimmel examines the ways in which otherwise intelligent Jews, Christians, and Muslims defend their belief in the divine authorship of the Bible or of the Koran, as well as other religious beliefs derived from those claims, against overwhelming evidence and argument to the contrary from science, scholarship, common sense, and rational analysis. He also examines the motives, fears, and anxieties of scriptural fundamentalists that induce them to cling to tenaciously to their unreasonable beliefs.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a long-overdue book about a pressing subject by a brilliant writer qualified not only by his professional expertise but by his own life experiences. The question of why otherwise thoughtful people accept irrational religious fundamentalism is a difficult one to address in our age of oversensitivity about challenging deeply held religious beliefs. But Schimmel confronts the challenge head- on — respectfully, intelligently, and with the insights that have long characterized his work. This is a must-read for all thinking people who respect religious diversity." —Alan Dershowitz

"Very few books face honestly the social and cultural persistence of what Professor Schimmel here labels the 'tenacity of unreasonable beliefs.' Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — sometimes called collectively the 'religions of the book' — have developed very different approaches to the Abrahamic tradition. In these approaches, interpretation, belief, and action come together in subtle and often irrational ways. This is a profoundly insightful and illuminating work which asks the reader to consider the correspondence between irrational belief and human behavior in a thoughtful, precise, and eloquent way. It is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the nature of religiously based violence." —R. Joseph Hoffmann, Chair, The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion

"The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs addresses questions about the psychology of religious fundamentalism in a most penetrating and enlightening manner, from perspectives that are neglected in most of the literature on the subject — including anthropology, evolutionary and social psychology, and philosophy. Schimmel provides us with a sophisticated understanding of the mentality of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptural fundamentalists, and of why and how they tenaciously cling to beliefs that have failed the tests of experience, scholarship and reason — and the dangers of their doing so. The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs is an essential read for anyone concerned about defending Western democracy in its ideological struggle against the values, vices, and violence of radical Islam. —Ibn Warraq, author of Why I Am Not a Muslim and Defending the West

"Schimmel's is a fresh voice in the ongoing critique of fundamentalism. ...The book represents an intelligent inquiry into the cognitive world of secular modernity's religious discontents that is both fearlessly frank and unusually empathetic. [Schimmel's] sensitivity to the individual fundamentalist's socialization process and to the storied loss of faith that profoundly shapes ex-fundamentalists makes the book a highly original contribution to interdisciplinary fundamentalismstudies. Scripture scholars, comparativists, and Christian readers unacquainted with yeshiva- based Jewish intellectual life will profit from this provocative work." —Theological Studies

Library Journal

Many books have appeared recently on religious fundamentalism, with most of them focusing on Islam. Schimmel (Jewish education & psychology, Hebrew Coll.) here deals with fundamentalism as found in all three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The author was raised as an Orthodox Jew and later came to reject its rigid and dogmatic components, finding them to be unreasonable. As a psychologist, he turns his attention to those who continue to affirm religious fundamentalism, even as abundant evidence indicates many of its tenets are incorrect. Schimmel devotes a chapter to fundamentalism as expressed in each of the three religions, and he then addresses the reasons why adherents seem to hold to their views so strenuously, even as reason and evidence would seem to invalidate them. He considers fear to be the core basis for their resistance to letting go of their beliefs. This is a well-researched and thoughtfully presented book; however, it would have been better if the author had included some studies and surveys from the social sciences and psychology of religion that addressed attitudes and perceptions of religious fundamentalists.
—John Jaeger

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195188264
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Professor of Education and Psychology, Hebrew College

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Why this book? : autobiographical reflections 3

Ch. 2 Faith, revelation, and reason 17

Ch. 3 Jewish Biblical fundamentalism 39

Ch. 4 Christian Biblical fundamentalism 101

Ch. 5 Muslim Koranic fundamentalism 135

Ch. 6 Acquiring and protecting unreasonable beliefs 167

Ch. 7 On "defundamentalizing" fundamentalists 221

Notes 229

Bibliography 263

Index 275

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