Religion Helps Achieve Personal Sacred Goals
When applying thinking and ideas to any word, it is important to know exactly how it is defined so that it is helpful for the topic being discussed. I personally define religion as an institution of people that hold specific beliefs and live by these beliefs by doing certain practices and rituals to achieve their personal sacred goals. For a good definition, three things are needed (according to class notes): the definition must be useful for the purpose at hand, as precise as possible without being too narrow, and as free from bias as possible. As the paper will continue to discuss religion and my opinions, it is useful to know what exactly I define as ‘religion.’ Although I am a religious person, I believe that my definition is as free from bias as possible because this definition can apply to any type of religion, not just my own. How I formed this definition was reflecting on our class discussions about what exactly a religion is. I specifically left out that there was a higher deity to be involved in religion because I have learned in class that that is not true. Certain religions do not necessarily need/have a ‘god’ in their religion (for example Hinduism or Buddhism).
Religion as a Source of Bias
The news article I chose, spoke about a husband and wife naming their child Adolf (after Hitler) because of their admiration for him. The article then tells about how the couple was a part of a neo-Nazis group that was banned in Europe and how that group was trying to start a race war. The academic article I chose was about online hate speech towards Muslims, specifically focusing on it after a certain event that caused many Islamophobia-related incidents. Both articles discuss a hatred towards a specific religion and their actions to show that hatred. The difference between the two is the kind of information the reader is getting and what the intended purpose of the article is. The news article is intended for a public audience to inform them but also entertain them. There is a bias that can be in a news article that cannot be in an academic article. For example, the news article’s author, Bianca Britton, says, “Photos were also recovered from the couple’s home that showed Thomas dressed in the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan while holding his son, according to PA.” This information is meant to shock the reader and have them keep reading. The article is not about the couple being in the Ku Klux Klan and the article says nothing more about that in the rest of the article. It is used merely as a device to have the audience form a certain opinion about the people in the subject and to keep reading the article. The academic article is intended for scholars, even though any person could learn from it, so the information is not biased. It is only factual presenting data and scientific research to draw their conclusions. Giulia Evolvi specifically writes, “This article seeks to answer these questions through a qualitative analysis of tweets…” (1). When using only qualitative data the chances of being bias is very, very slim.
Applying Critical Thinking to Religion
I believe it is important to apply critical thinking to religion because it is crucial to understand the straight facts without being persuaded by bias. If you are critically thinking about religion then you are looking at all sides not just one side (as the news article was). Especially when first learning about a religion, like I did in class with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, critical thinking can help in forming my own opinions about a religion. If I was ignorant of neo-Nazis and what they stand for and I read the news article as discussed above, I would have an uninformed opinion about the group. Since the article had no solid evidence or motives that the group has, I would have just had to stereotype the group and use that information to warp an image of them that would not be correct. With the academic article, I have a factual understanding of Islamophobia that I would not get from a non-academic article. In this way, I am able to see true facts and evidence so that I can form my own educated opinion about a certain religion (or the hate of a religion in this case).
Dennis Covington’s Religious Experiments
Critical thinking should be applied when talking about religion also because, in this way, we can academically see all sides of the religion. This reminds me of Dennis Covington how he studied snake handler’s religion by integrating himself into their lives and practices. In this way, he was able to see all sides of the religion (the good and the bad and in his case the fear of the snake at first). A majority of people would see this religion as barbaric but as our class discussed, Covington found the religion almost addicting.
Why Studying Religion is Worth It
Overall, critical thinking should be applied when talking about religion. In this case, my definition of religion is useful for the topic at hand: to compare two articles (one academic and one non-academic). I also explain what reasons there would be to apply critical thinking to religion. Religion can be a difficult topic to study, but when critical thinking is applied, one can form their own opinions. Therefore, becoming an individual with their own independent ideas.