Solomon Schimmel – Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth

December 12, 2008


Solomon Schimmel is professor of Jewish education and psychology at Hebrew College. He is the author of a number of books, including The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian and Classical Reflections on Human Psychology, and numerous articles and book chapters on Jewish thought, psychology of religion and Jewish education. His newest book is The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Solomon Schimmel reveals whether he is an atheist and explains why he lives an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle without theism. He explores differences between his religiosity and that of fundamentalists, especially in terms of truth claims, and the values of honesty and knowledge. He describes the response he has received in the Orthodox Jewish community as a result of his views. He describes the psychology of the fundamentalist, and mechanisms such as confirmation bias, selective interpretation, and ad hominem attacks of critics. He explores various views of truth, including that the value of religion is not necessarily in the truth value of its claims. And he debates the value of reason versus emotion, and the role of authority when evaluating truth claims. He explores ways that rationalists can challenge fundamentalism, both in terms of argumentation and community, and in terms of focusing on the harms of fundamentalism.