Reasonable Doubts latest podcast, #124 touched on this subject. They link to an article about religious violence today. It doesn’t say much about motivation, just who is involved and the title is really not fair since it compares the overall reduction in violence throughout human history to a very recent increase.
Another link, to a study on what motivates people to enter Philosophy of Religion degree programs, further links into this somewhat disturbing study
. This one considers that the whole idea of a Center for Inquiry is problematic. While we’d all like to think that if two people examined the same evidence, they’d come to a similar conclusion or at least be influenced in a similar way, that doesn’t happen. If anything, the smarter you are, the more capable you are of applying good logical arguments for what you already believe and against that which you just don’t like. This pretty much explains our increasingly polarized world in the modern age of science.
But before abandoning all hope, I think there is a lot of value to this. One, it suggests that when dealing with dogmatic people, it helps to acknowledge their dogmatism. Something nice like, “I understand that is sacred to you”. And, it tells critical thinkers that they must be vigilant of their own bias. Don’t first look how to apply your logical arguing skills, first make sure you have applied your evidence evaluation skills.
Also, an important note; I don’t think this study will ever be discussed in adult Sunday School. It is defining what dogmatic means. I don’t predict religious people will begin saying, “I understand that you have evaluated the evidence.” This study is basically telling us to apply the “Outsider’s Test of Faith” in all situations. Churches are not likely to teach that.