Church Of Critical Thinking
Welcome to the Pews at the Church of Critical Thinking, where Your Suspicion is Our Mission.
Content below is from the site's 2005 archived pages.
What is Critical Thinking?
What's the Church of Critical Thinking?
In addition to religions, there are politicians, pseudo-scientists, psychics, advertisers, and others all asking you to believe things on faith alone without providing clear evidence that what they say is the truth. Our goal is to teach people to use Critical Thinking skills to analyze what they're being told, to be skeptic where appropriate, and to reject ideas that they may already hold as true if they don't hold up when examined critically.
Why is it set up like a church?
What?! Huh? 99 Senators can't all be that ignorant of the law, can they? I hope not. But I realized that obviously religion has taken over rational thought to the point that they were willing to ignore a pretty clear, fundamental, and important part of our Constitution. I know that not everybody is willing to ignore the separation of church and state, but I wasn't hearing the outrage. I knew it must be there, but for some reason it wasn't outspoken in a way that brought about change in anyone's thinking.
But religious groups are organized in ways that are so good at getting their message out that most people follow a religious way of life and see nothing wrong with overturning the constitution to force everyone to acknowledge God. Religion has been doing it for years, spreading the word of God around the world. They send people on missions. They preach on street corners. They have churches set up with leaders who just have to tell everyone to write letters to your senator, or the FCC, or whoever you want to threaten with a boycott or simply express your outrage, and the congregation does what they're told. The power of so many voices expressing the same viewpoint must be great, and is obviously effective.
I look around and I do see organizations set up for atheists, skeptics, critical thinkers, and the like. But I don't see why anybody would seek one of these organizations out unless they already have questions about their faith. I follow the discussions on the message boards at these sites, and I mostly see people preaching to the converted. I'm advocating preaching with the intent to convert.
So I'm copying the model that religious groups have already shown to be successful. I'm setting up my own church to spread the word of skepticism. The Church of Critical Thinking.
So you're going to start preaching on street corners?
1) The website establishes the presence of the church, a following, and creates a forum for exchange of ideas about how to spread the word about Critical Thinking to those who too often accept things blindly. At some points during this stage, the Church of CT imitates religious organizations by starting letter writing campaigns to provide opposing viewpoints to organizations that are surely overwhelmed by religious letter writing campaigns. The voice of the Critical Thinker must be loud enough to be heard, or religious viewpoints will continue to be assumed to be what everyone wants, charlatans will continue taking advantage of the gullible, and people will continue buying products that make ambiguous or false claims.
2) This is the preaching on street corners phase. I want to see someone handing out fliers advocating Critical Thinking on every street corner where there's a religious preacher advocating accepting Jesus. On every street where Greenpeace is trying to drum up donations, I want someone handing out fliers explaining how Genetically Modified Foods (which Greenpeace opposes completely*) have managed to produce crops in places of the world where people are starving and would not otherwise be able to eat nutritious foods*. At every psychic fair where people go spend their hard-earned money to get fake psychic readings, I want people distributing fliers with examples of how cold reading works. We're not trying to force anyone to change their minds about anything, but we want to open their eyes to the realization that they aren't doing their own research -- they're just accepting things as they're told to them. This is the "make some noise" phase where people become more aware of the Church of CT and hopefully join the congregation.
3) The biggest step of all, probably a long way off. Actual church attendance. You see, one very important thing that religions have gotten right is that they congregate. They get together at least once a week, and hear a sermon, talk to their neighbors, learn about their community. Many great civil rights leaders have been able to take advantage of their prominence as religious leaders and make their voices heard. They had an audience, a following, and they were able to collectively bring about change. Well, as glad as I am that these people were in prominent positions in their communities, I would be happier if they didn't also believe in magic and fairy tales. In my perfect world, the people we put in those positions are great Critical Thinkers who don't believe in such things, but are still effective leaders in their communities. So I like the idea of congregating in your community to examine what's wrong and what's right in society, and to discuss how things are going in our communities, our neighborhoods, and think about ways to bring about effective change based not on our hopes of saving souls, but in the interest of enjoying our time on this planet as much as we can since it's the only time we've got. In these community gatherings, we can discuss racism, censorship, homophobia, and whatever else is pushing buttons in society these days. But instead of saying, "What does the Bible tell us about this?" or "What would Jesus do?" we can ask, "What's the most fair and logical way of dealing with this?" or "How can we institute changes that reflect modern times and more importantly progress us towards a better future?". No two-thousand-year-old fables necessary. Maybe one day the government can adopt this philosophy, too.
So this is really just a big anti-religion organization?
But just as the Christian wants sincerely to save my soul by educating me about Jesus, I want to educate them about Critical Thinking -- I think the realization that there's no evidence for God comes logically after that. I don't advocate forcing anyone to do anything, but I do want to expose people to new ways of thinking that they might not have considered.
But this website is about more than just religion. You can ignore that aspect completely and still get a lot from the Church of Critical Thinking. There are non-religious charlatans who prey on the gullible, and I do target them. They are politicians, commercials, psychics, and others who make claims that people should learn to question, or at least filter through their own bull-detector. By following the discussions here, hopefully people will benefit. And through our (eventual) outreach program, I hope people come to join the Church of CT.
Can Critical Thinking actually prove God doesn't exist?
Can Critical Thinking prove invisible teleporting cyclops
ninja monkeys don't exist?
What are the different areas of the site?
The FAQs are, of course, these Frequently Asked Questions that you're reading.
Testimonials are stories of individuals whose lives were changed by Critical Thinking.
Resources are websites, books, organizations, and other places where you can learn more about Critical Thinking.
The Pews are public forums for the Church Congregation to gather and discuss issues related to Critical Thinking, the Church of Critical Thinking, or just about anything else not too far off-topic.
The Contact page contains information on contacting the Church of Critical Thinking.
The Donations page explains how you can help out the Church of Critical Thinking.
The Praise page has quotes from various people in the media or otherwise who have commented on the Church of Critical Thinking.
The Archive link takes you to, well, the archives. From there you can do a keyword search for any entries related to, well, your keyword. Or you can browse through all the entries by date or by topic. Pretty nifty, no?
Finally, there is an RSS Feed in RSS 2.0 format for those of you who like using RSS aggregators. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can just ignore this link. But if you do a Google search for RSS or XML, you'll discover a whole new way of browsing the internet.
Are you ever wrong?
And who exactly are you, anyway?
Um... who's providing your funding? What's your hidden agenda?
Hmm. I'm not sure I believe you.
I know that some of you out there used to be believers. Perhaps you believed in God, or perhaps you believed in psychics. Maybe you gave your life's saving to the Church of Scientology, or you spent money to contact your dead relatives. But that was before you became a Critical Thinker.
But now you realize it's bunk. You've struggled through the painful period of realizing that you were wrong, you've reevaluated your feelings, and you've become a stronger person. You won't be duped again.
I want to print your story here. It's important for our congregation to know that there are people who change. Sometimes in our struggle to teach people to become Critical Thinkers, we are confronted with the supposed realization that people who believe strongly enough are never going to change their minds. We need uplifting stories of people who have.
Testimonial by: Craig Neal
As a child I grew up being indoctrinated by various sects of Christianity including Baptist, Mennonite and Pentecostal. The only thing they agreed on was that you needed Jesus to avoid spending an eternity of agonizing torment. Being a squeamish sort of fellow I decided at a young age that molten sulfur and a resurrected body that could not be destroyed but could feel pain forever was not a very appealing option. Therefore I chose ‘Door B’ which was a life of fear and anxiety serving God, always wondering whether I’d satisfied his commands as interpreted for me by these various churches. As what was taught in one church was often contradicted in another church the next week, this was a tricky thing indeed. Speaking in tongues in the Pentecostal church was evidence that I was filled with the Holy Spirit whereas speaking in tongues in any of the Fundamentalist churches was evidence that I was possessed by demons. With the stakes of my eternal destiny being so high, I spent a l! ot of time studying the Bible and praying that I would understand the truth. Now that I am free of all that nonsense, I firmly believe that although most churches are sincere in what they believe their brainwashing of young minds is a severe form of child abuse. The message that ‘God loves you more than anyone else ever could but if you don’t believe in him he will torture you mercilessly forever’ is a sick, twisted and perverted thing to tell anyone, especially a child.
My journey back to sanity was a long one. In the Christian worldview spiritual forces are everywhere. Good things that happen are because God’s magical will causes them to happen. Bad things are due to either God allowing them to happen for your ultimate good, God is angry with you or Satan has got a hold on your life. There are exceptions to this such as sometimes good things happen to you because Satan is blessing you in order to deceive you. When Christians pray and good things happen, then God is answering prayer. When Buddhists pray and good things happen then it was really Satan who answered their prayers. You get the idea. It took many years of study and careful consideration to clear my head of all that nonsense.
My first step back to sanity came through a group of people that, for lack of a better name, are Christian Universalists. They teach that God loves all and will ultimately save all mankind. Although now I just believe they are a slightly less misguided and more loving sect of Christianity, I do thank them for one important thing; their more loving image of God helped allay the ridiculous fear that had been controlling my life long enough to allow me to seriously study and contemplate what reality is. Without this intermediate step I likely would not have been able to recover my senses.
I came to the following conclusions that have helped me immensely to enjoy life.
- There is no magic, good or bad. There are only scientific laws that we understand and some that we do not yet understand fully.
- There are no benevolent nor malevolent forces interfering in my life.
- Everything has an explanation. If something appears to defy the laws of nature, it ONLY appears to.
- In spite of the thousands of books written about the souls and spirit of mankind, there is no evidence to support even the existence of anything outside of the physical realm. If it wasn’t for the chemical reactions in our brain, we would not nor could not have any consciousness.
- Before I was born, I did not exist. I had no consciousness. After I die, I will not exist nor will I experience any consciousness.
- To those Christians who insist I must be angry with God, you’re way off base. It would be ludicrous to be angry at something that there is no evidence for its existence. It’s relaxing and soothing to be free of an imaginary being that apparently couldn’t get over the fact that someone ate the wrong apple. I am no more angry with your ‘God’ than I am angry at the race of four-headed Gimbot demi-gods that roam around Sirius in a cloud of unstable methane gases whilst whistling odes in G flat minor out of their arses. There’s as much evidence for the latter as there is for the former!
- Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. The laws of randomness are not fair. Get over it!
- Contrary to what the Christian church (and many other religions) teach, people who don’t believe in God are just as loving and kind as those who do; often more are so.
- The Bible is a mish-mash of stories and myths. It contains approximately 2000 errors, contradictions and inconsistencies. If there were a God, he/she certainly wouldn’t be responsible for such a badly written tome.
- Christianity is simply another incarnation of the ‘Christ Myth’. There are well over a dozen extremely similar christ myths that predated the rise of Christianity. It is not a unique religion in any way, shape or form. Get over it.
- The earth is not 6000 years old. Evolution is a certainty. There was not a flood that covered the entire earth. This is an impossibility; a myth.
- New age religion is not from the devil. Astral projection and horoscopes are not evil. There are however just as worthless as guardian angels.
- Contrary to what many people have been conned into believing, faith is NOT an attribute to be proud of. If you want to propagate a belief system that is based on no evidence and has a ridiculous foundation, then faith is your friend. If you can convince millions that belief in something that lacks credibility (faith) is the highest ideal, then you can trap them in their ignorance and folly.
- The number 7 is no luckier than the number 4. Number 13 is no unluckier than number 3. A rabbits foot is not really a lucky charm and the rabbit it came from is likely very annoyed.
- Clairvoyants and fortune tellers are frauds. They operate on a principle called ‘Cold Reading’. Only one person in the world is a true clairvoyant and that is me. There is someone reading this, their first name starts with a letter R. I can see a Rick or a Richard…………..God told me that you will be sending me $1000.00 which will heal you of your condition that you have been suffering from. Please mail it to …………………
- Q-ray bracelets do not work. They are an incredibly stupid idea. The only thing stupider than buying a Q-ray bracelet is
- Buying 2 Q-ray bracelets
Anyhow, I salute all of you who take the time to combat and expose irrationality wherever it may be found. At times it can be frustrating and the progress seems slow. However you are making a difference. I thank all the people that wrote the books and articles that helped me along the way and those that spent time trying to reason with me in spite of my threats of eternal damnation that I heaped upon your heads. ;-)
Testimonial by: Mike
My story is a pretty long one, as I'm sure most of them are, but the process of my becoming a critical thinker took 15 years. As many others here I was raised in a religious household. My parents were both protestant, Baptist to be precise, and I was wholeheartedly devout as a child.
It was when my mother started to go insane that my faith waned. You couldn't see it at the time, her insanity that is, she just seemed to grow more intense religiously. The Baptist denomination wasn't enough for her so she upgraded to Pentecostal and took the family with her. There was healing and talking in tongues and an interesting phenomenon they called "slain in the spirit" where a preacher would lay his hand on the head of a believer and they would seemingly pass out and go into convulsions.. For a 12 year old kid it was all very scary. My mother bought into all of this and was a major participant in the hoopla, while my father remained very quiet and reserved. This was the beginning of the end of my faith.
But Of course I'm just heading into puberty and the whole rebellious stage is starting to set in, and so I'm hanging out with friends, listening to "secular" music, nothing bad, just some R&B and top 40 stuff, and my mother starts coming down on me HARD. I was pulled out of public school and placed in a private school run by the Pentecostal church. Any and all music I listened to was taken away, and I was forbidden to talk to any of my previous friends, as all the friends I needed belonged to the church. I swear must have had Satan bound and cast from me a thousand times.
During this whole stage the relationship between my parents grew strained and when I was 15 my father couldn't take it anymore and divorced my mother. During the following few months I lived with my mother and brother (who being 2 years younger than myself was being damaged even more than I). Her behavior became more erratic and every little misdeed my brother and I did became the result of a demon infestation.
At the age of 16, I left to live with my father. I was convinced that if that was God's doing I wanted nothing to do with it. So I decided to go the exact opposite direction. Back in public school now, I started hanging with a decidedly shady crowd, we were the precursors to today’s Goths. I began delving into mysticism and darkness. And out of pure rebellion and hatred for the Christian Church I picked up a copy of the Satanic Bible.
Strangely enough, this book enlightened me at the time. It turns out that Anton Le Vey's Satanic church isn't really satanic, but just Anti-Christian. It was my first experience of the notion that there was no God, no Satan, no Heaven and no Hell. Unfortunately the book also promotes Magic and witchcraft and all sorts of other nonsense, which I immediately fell into.
Through the next few years I was growing up left behind my black clothes and jet-black hair dye, left behind my Satanic bible and other such nonsense, but what I didn't leave behind was my mysticism. I continued to search for truth in astral projection, meditation, and whatever I could find. (One thing I can say is that I never fell for that Astrology crap).
Then one day when I was twenty three, my brother called me to tell me that our mother was dying. She had breast cancer and it spread into the bone and brain. She had known for some time, but was trying to heal herself through prayer and church support. By the time she tried medicine it was far too late.
I made it to her bedside before she went and we had a reconciliation of sorts, but she held fast to beliefs right until the end, telling me to give God another chance, that it hurts her to think that we won't be meeting again up in heaven.
At that point I was still undecided about God and whether one existed or not, but one thing I was absolutely sure of was that if he did, he was the most sadistic being in the universe.
It wasn't until many years later while still searching for the truth in something/anything that I ran across Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World and everything clicked.
I hadn't found the truth in any of these things because there was no truth to be had. The only verifiable, testable truth was accessible through science. I had always been science oriented, excelling in chemistry, math and biology in school, I always enjoying sci-fi over any other genre. I think that had I not grew up in such an oppressively religious environment, I may have come to the realization earlier in my life and not wasted years of fruitless searching for a truth that is literally right in front of my eyes.
As an adult with children of my own, I now try to teach critical thinking and rational thought to them so that they have a head start that I couldn't even fathom when I was their age. I can't teach them Atheism directly as their mother, while not being devoutly religious, is a "Spiritual Person" and finds atheism offensive. Go figure. We are divorced now as well. But my children know where I stand, and I encourage them only to use their minds and to think critically and rationally when looking for the truth.
Testimonial by: Karen Locke
I was raised Roman Catholic, and for a couple of years after I married I attended a non-denominational Christian church. I never was much for RC dogma, but I longed for some spiritual uplift in my life. But I always had found my "relationship with God" exacting. Was I good enough? Did I pray enough, for the right things, with the right attitude? Did I do enough good works, anticipate the consequences of my action well enough? Would God really forgive all my sins? I stopped going to church eventually, because I found the longing to be too painful and decided to try to ignore it.
Meanwhile, though I didn't know it, I was suffering from depression, and probably had been most of my life. It got progressively worse until I finally sought treatment. Antidepressants and some practical talk-therapy got it under control, and it's been well-controlled for years now. But all that angst about God and me being good enough and the pain of perpetually NOT being good enough went away, too, and I discovered it was a symptom of depression and not an "authentic" religious experience.
For the first time in my life I was able to think about religion and God without the emotional baggage of crushing unworthiness... and after a lot of thinking, I came to the conclusion that I'd been attempting a relationship with a being that had no existence apart from my imagination and the imagination of those around me. That there was really nothing to believe in.
Oddly enough, when I finally got around to understanding this, it wasn't scary at all. It just was. I know there are many things within myself and outside myself I don't understand, and many mysteries, without adding imaginary ones. It's very liberating!
Since then, I've done a lot of thinking about morality and ethics, and I'm not sure what my conclusions are about them yet. But whatever they are, they'll have a rational basis.
Testimonial by: Jason Packer
I was raised in a home where there was no active religion. My father was raised a Mormon, my mother a non-dem protestant, and she forbade my father from even talking about his Mormonism in the house. So I was raised with solid morals and a strong sense of the Golden Rule without the oppression of an imposed religion.
When I was nine or ten, I declared that I must be Roman Catholic, because my best friend was. I never told anybody about it aside from him, so it never really meant anything at all.
By the time I was twelve or so, my best friends were Lutheran and Mormon, and even though my family history on my father's side should have led me to attend church with Mike, the Mormon, I instead attended a sunday school lesson or two with Rob, the Lutheran. I did spend a Family Home Evening or two with Mike and his family, but neither that or the sunday school rubbed off very much.
When I was 20, I met a girl who professed to a charismatic, pentecostal variant of christianity. I decided to, for the first time as an adult, give it a shot. I was truly miserable, forcing myself to follow rules I didn't agree with and to swallow my doubts and bury them under a layer of 'faith'.
That didn't last much longer than the relationship (under a year), though I did shop around other churches for a while, looking for one that didn't make me feel like a fraud.
That gave me all the information I needed to finally decide that I'd been right in the first place. The likelihood of there being a god of any sort seemed remote at best, and certainly none of these supposed dieties needed a supporter with as many doubts as I possessed. I began to profess my skepticisms, and eventually outed myself as a full-blown atheist by the time I finished college, ten years ago.
Since then, I've followed the atheist path, doubting and thinking critically, and generally behaving well. It's been a successful pattern thus far.
"A new and provocative site" - James "The Amazing" Randi
"Very clever. Sign me up. Hallelujah and amen. I hope my membership in your church gets me out of purgatory early and into hell sooner, where I'll be with my friends and all the other critical thinkers like Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Jay Gould." - Michael Shermer
"Amusing and smart" - The Revealer
One of the "Picks for the week" - Air America Radio's evening show The Majority Report
"Unusually well written" - Austhink
"The Church of Critical Thinking weblog is less than a month old, but is already an absorbing and extensive resource... consider yourself politely but firmly diverted in the direction of this excellent site." - The Sky Is Falling
"Great site... Your site has some good information. I don't want to get stuck on your belief in the existence of God. Either way, you are still a theologian. Theology means any question that points to God. Whether you question His existence or support it, it is still theology." - Pastor Lauren Webb
"It's an excellent blog and certainly gives one much to consider." - Mighty Lambchop
"Terrific site! I like the format almost as much as the content." - The Raving Atheist
"Not sure I buy into all of it, but the ideas expressed here are thought provoking and worthy of consideration. Thank you for putting this out there in a way that's easy to consume and ponder." - Alan Sheinwald
"The Church of Critical Thinking is an excellent blog. Everyone should learn to think critically. And being critical doesn't necessarily mean being negative." - Steve Wills
"A moment to plug my new favorite blog, The Church of Critical Thinking. Check it out. Interesting, yes? I told you so." - Feministe
"The Church of Critical Thinking is on a roll" - Fallacy Files
"The CoCT is a brightly shining star in the blog world right now. Just excellent. Go to church!" - Unscrewing The Inscrutable
"A great read" - Cam's House
"I don't belong to a church, but if I did, this would be an interesting one." - Jason Bock
"Excellent site, makes critical thinking skills an adventure." - review on Blogarama
"I've been doing some reading over at The Church of Critical Thinking. Kick-ass, I like it." - Dawnjoy
Other various quotes from e-mails I've received include:
"Please continue your writing and website - it is great. You are a terrific writer, and I think we need to get the message out."
"Just a note to THANK YOU for a humorous and sharp site"
"Great work. Your writing is clear and wonderfully readable. I've added you to my favorites list and will be checking in at least once a week"
"You have done society a service by this web site."
"What a great site! My son sent it to me this morning. I'm truly 'blessed' - I have a critical thinker for a son. I appreciate your work. BTW, your writing sytle is refreshing."
"Love the page! Finally, a page where things can be stated as they are, rather than how peopel [sic] 'believe' them to be. Refreshing. Keep up the good work!"
"I just found your site today and I love it. I like the way that you think and the ideas that you have as well. I hope that you keep updating this site, as I plan on visiting every day... please please PLEASE keep up the good work!"
"Just a note to say 'thanks' for your fabulous website. It is a sad commentary on the current state of human thought that it is so necessary but I am thrilled you are there to spread the word of reason!