The Illusion of Certainty: How the Flawed Beliefs of Religion Harm Our Culture

The Illusion of Certainty: How the Flawed Beliefs of Religion Harm Our Culture

by James T. Houk


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In this examination of religion's influence on society, an anthropologist critiques fundamentalism and all mindsets based on rigid cultural certainties. The author argues that the future can only be safeguarded by a global humanistic outlook that recognizes and respects differing cultural perspectives and endorses the use of critical reason and empiricism. Houk coins the term "culturalism" to describe dogmatic viewpoints governed by culture-specific values and preconceived notions. Culturalism gives rise not only to fundamentalism in religion but also stereotypes about race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Turning specifically to Christian fundamentalism, the author analyzes the many weaknesses of what he calls a faith-based epistemology, particularly as such thinking is displayed in young-earth creationism, the reliance on revelation and subjective experiences as a source of religious knowledge, and the reverence accorded the Bible despite its obvious flaws. As he points out, the problem with such cultural knowledge generally is that it is non-falsifiable and ultimately has no lasting value in contrast to the data-based and falsifiable knowledge produced by science, which continues to prove its worth as a reliable source of accurate information.

Concluding that there is no future to the fundamentalist mindset in a diverse world where religion often exacerbates conflicts, he makes a strong case for reason and mutual tolerance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633883239
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication date: 12/05/2017
Pages: 381
Sales rank: 1,226,797
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

James T. Houk is professor of anthropology at Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, LA. A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Houk received his PhD in anthropology from Tulane University and has done extensive fieldwork in Trinidad, Jamaica, and India. He is the author of Introduction to Anthropology: An Interactive Text and Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion in Trinidad, as well as the novel Humanus Diabolicus: A Postmodern Prophecy.

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From the Preface

Excerpted from "The Illusion of Certainty"
by .
Copyright © 2017 James T. Houk.
Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Preface 9

Chapter 1 Introduction 15

Part 1 Culture is Fictional and Illusory

Chapter 2 The Etiology of This Pathology 37

Chapter 3 Religion 51

Chapter 4 Sexual Orientation 72

Chapter 5 Race and Racism 83

Chapter 6 Anti-Semitism 89

Part 2 The Delusion of Young-Earth Creationism

Chapter 7 The Faith-Based Epistemology 99

Chapter 8 Young-Earth Creationism 110

Chapter 9 Twelve Reasons Why the Young-Earth Hypothesis Is Certainly Wrong 114

Chapter 10 Four Reasons Why the Young-Earth Hypothesis Is Probably Wrong 142

Chapter 11 Four Reasons Why the Young-Earth Hypothesis Is Dubious 145

Chapter 12 The Intellectual Deceit of Young-Earth Creationism 148

Part 3 Four Important (And Potentially Flawed) Sources of Religious Knowledge

Chapter 13 Questionable Validity 155

Chapter 14 Natural Theology 158

Chapter 15 Revelation 165

Chapter 16 Subjective Experiences 168

Chapter 17 Overt Instruction 170

Part 4 Holy Scriptures Are Mundane, Flawed, and Unreliable

Chapter 18 Scriptures 177

Chapter 19 The Bible Condones Slavery 180

Chapter 20 The Bible Is Misogynistic 183

Chapter 21 Writers of the Bible Show an Ignorance of Basic Scientific Knowledge 186

Chapter 22 The Bible Is Homophobic 191

Chapter 23 The Biblical Text Contains Absurd and Nonsensical Food Prohibitions 195

Chapter 24 There Are "Just-So Stories" in the Bible 198

Chapter 25 The Bible Contains No Information That Goes Beyond What People Knew and Understood at the Time It Was Written 214

Chapter 26 The Biblical God Is a Local, Tribal God Who Favors Only the Israelites 217

Chapter 27 The Biblical God Is a Violent Killer 221

Chapter 28 The Bible Contains Many Passages That Are Preposterous and Absurd 226

Chapter 29 The Bible Contains Numerous Contradictions, Errors, and Falsehoods 230

Chapter 30 Divine (?) Origin of the Bible 245

Chapter 31 The Putative Divine Literality and Inerrancy of the Bible 250

Chapter 32 Either False or Nonfalsifiable 255

Part 5 Agnosticism and the Objective Arguments for and Against the Existence of God

Chapter 33 Agnosticism 259

Chapter 34 Moral Arguments for the Existence of God 266

Chapter 35 The Argument from Universal Causation 278

Chapter 36 Argument from Contingency 284

Chapter 37 Argument from Design 289

Chapter 38 The Problem of Evil 304

Chapter 39 The Burden of Proof 323


Chapter 40 This Illusion Has No Future 329

Notes 337

Index 367

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