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Bible, Quran & Interpretations
Schimmel, Professor of Education and Psychology at Boston’s Hebrew College, is a scientist, who has recently started criticizing fundamentalism. Having grown in the environment of Orthodox Judaism, he describes what he went through as a believer following this religion, from the way he started questioning its claims and truths until his eventual rejection of the beliefs held before. Through personal experience, Schimmel realizes the attention that the fundamentalist world attracts and its failures. In his book, he describes himself as one, who opposes the traditional laws and codes set out in sacred scriptures of various religious. However, rejecting the Orthodox Jewish beliefs, the scholar does not oppose its practice (Schimmel, 2008, p. 7). He goes on to investigate the reasons behind the Orthodox Jewish refusal to adopt modernization (Briggs, 1930).
His book The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of the Truth is an intellectual investigative inquest into the world of religions, and an unsatisfactory environment that surrounds them. In Chapter 6, Solomon Schimmel (2008, p. 167) uses a clear and empathic approach to express people’s faith in their religions, which are the basis, on which they build their beliefs. People, including highly educated and informed individuals (Jews, Christians and Muslims), cling to and defend their religious beliefs blindly without a critique analysis, even when there are sufficient arguments and proof against their claims presented in science and supported by a rational analysis (Schimmel, 2008, p. 188). Schimmel also analyzes scriptural fundamentalist reasons, fears, and anxieties as compelling forces that make them hold on to their claims. This book makes a valuable contribution to the study of fundamentalism. It helps people without the knowledge of the intellectual life of Jewish institutions that teach The Talmud and The Torah shed light on important issues (Hooker, 1999; Schimmel, 2008, p. 186).
The book highlights scriptural fundamentalism based on various religions, namely Jewish, Christian and Muslim (Schimmel, 2008, p. 4). In Chapters 3, 4, and 5, each of these is depicted as holding sacred scriptures originating from a supernatural being and conveyed to prophets. Supernatural creatures communicated with these people, who documented messages they received and which they were supposed to pass through The Bible, The Quran and other sacred “documents”. These scripts contain a set of rules and regulations on how people should go about their lives. Those who follow Christianity and Islam are supposed to have faith in what is contained in these “documents”. These scriptures build traditions, from which people derive practices used in their lives. At one point, Schimmel (2008, p. 186-190), gave an account on how God gave The Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, as it is believed in Orthodox Judaism. The Bible is the basis of the Christian faith and contains the description of the rules and teachings on the way of living a Christian life (Schimmel, 2008, p. 101). Unlike the Christians, the Muslims base their beliefs on The Quran, given to their God’s true prophet to deliver to them by God himself (Schimmel, 2008, p. 135).
Three of the chapters (3, 4, and 5) of The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of the Truth give details of the scriptural fundamentalism of various religions, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Schimmel compares and contrasts these religions in a way that brings out clear and emphatic details. In addition, some negative effects of scriptural fundamentalism are discussed. Some religions spread information around the world that is not entirely true. It is called propaganda. Prejudices based on irrational fears of people who practice homosexuality also originate from religions, as well as gender inequality. The lack of honesty or little of it can be a result of some religious beliefs, myths and other irrational stories. Some ideas are introduced to people early in their lives, and they grow up with them. Such religions as Islam have been linked with encouraging or sponsoring instances or cases of violence and acts of terrorism. People believe that doing such things as dying in a ‘holy war’ will guarantee one going to heaven or a reward in the next life. This issue has led to the spread of fear in several states, especially those that do not believe in Muslim ideas. The Christian religion is also associated with some fundamental beliefs that should be proven. A good example is the presence or reception of the Holy Spirit among people. At times, in their worship places, the Christians fall down and behave in a frightening manner in the name of receiving the Holy Spirit. This ideology is hard to demonstrate (Schimmel, 2008, 4).
Although most issues are clearly and emphatically brought out, the book The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of the Truth carries shallowness when it comes to some issues, for instance, it barely talks about fundamentalism from the point of view of the Catholics. Just like other religious followers, the latter do have strong scriptural fundamentalism, which Schimmel should have adequately interrogated in his book. They have a rich variety of beliefs and practices, which are not mentioned by the author. For example, the Catholics believe that eating pork helps to fight the spirit of demons, while other religions are of the opposite opinion. On the contrary, the Muslims associate pigs with the devil, and do not eat pork. In addition, Schimmel does not enlist the academic works of some scholars that are also in agreement with the differences and similarities between fundamentalism in the modern world and classic orthodoxy. There are a number of studies done by other scholars, who also share the same opinion with Schimmel. He sometimes deviates from the issue at hand, namely from scriptural fundamentalism to theism, whereby he perceives the existence of at least a god or goddess that is involved in the governance and organization of the world rather than one creator of the universe.
In conclusion, the book The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of the Truth discusses parameters, within which scriptural fundamentalism can be assessed critically, and confronts scriptural fundamentalists boldly. The author gives accounts of fundamental beliefs of each religion. However, Schimmel does not explicitly explain criticism of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. Hence, the analysis of the fundamental beliefs has no solid base to support his criticism. He talks about how people acquire and cling to their religious beliefs, the main reasons why they have little to do with their free will. Like many things that people feel free about, their religious ideas emerge from the environmental, genetic, and intuitive psychological factors that are far from their capacity to control willfully.
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