Indoctrination is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. Indoctrination is being taught what to think, whereas critical thinking is being taught how to think. It is my contention that our society, as a whole, doesn’t teach the latter at all. In fact, it’s tacitly forbidden.
Of course, atheists love to say that we shouldn’t subject our children to religious indoctrination. I personally don’t like religious indoctrination either, which is why I’ve advocated practicing the art of faithfully questioning everything. You can read that post for further explanation of what I mean by that.
There is a lot of indoctrination in churches. I see the result of it whenever I lead a Bible study. Oftentimes, I will ask my participants what the passage we’re reading is saying to them (without referring to study notes) and they will look at me with a blank stare, or parrot what they’ve been taught. Then, when I tell them what it’s saying to me, they ‘ll write that in their notes! This is why I prefer to teach people how to have the Bible study them, which is a much more fruitful endeavor.
But proper critical thinking is not being closed minded or trying proving everything that you disagree with to be wrong. It’s just as much about proving whether something is so, like the Bereans….
11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11 NKJV, emphasis added)
The point is, we birds of a feather tend to flock together. We check out new churches to see if we agree with the pastor before committing to it. We tend to equate spiritual maturity with being more informed about what we already believe.
The problem with this is that breakthrough in our lives usually comes from a single moment in time when we let go of our assumptions and look at things from a new point of view. One example for me was about 15 years ago when I let go of reading the Old Testament indiscriminately, as if Jesus never happened. I started to read it through the lens of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross. This shift in perception totally revolutionized how I read Scripture. I had to unlearn a lot of things that I was taught (and I’m much more joy-filled and free because of it!)
If we were honest we would admit that we’re not really that open to differing doctrinal viewpoints or theology. We actually fear being too open to them. And that gets to the root of the problem. We’ve been taught what to think and not how to think.
But I see the same non-critical parroting going on with modern atheism and their favorite echo chambers. They will come here using the same trite cliche objections to believing in God without really thinking through what it is they’re concluding. Their critical thinking is no more than trying to disprove the Bible’s veracity instead of seeing if there’s merit in what it says about them as human beings. They don’t believe because they’re really not open to having their minds changed (or changed again for deconverts).
This type of deconstruction is why I believe scholar Walter Wink was spot-on when he said, “Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt” (Wink, The Bible in Human Transformation). Or, as C.S. Lewis said in The Abolition of Man:
“You can’t go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.”
The irony of all this is that a lot of the most important things in life absolutely require faith to believe in…or not believe in. And at the top of this list is the question of the existence of God, because we cannot prove He exists with scientific method, nor can that even address His existence, let alone answer the question of why we exist, which I would think would be the most important question of all for us to ponder as human beings.
Of course, we can just ignore these kinds of questions and tell ourselves it doesn’t matter.
We also see this in our current GroupThink politics, where even people of the same feather are shouted down for not marching in lock-step with with the radical ideologies of the “bewildering herd.” These are just a few of the reasons why it’s just naive and even silly to think our only problem is religious indoctrination, or that we ourselves are not victims of of much more ubiquitous form.
I will close with two of the main culprits of this critical dumbing down of our Western society as a whole. They are public schools and the news media. I will close with an interesting video clip that explains why this is so. I encourage you to watch it and invite you to share your own insightful thoughts on the subject.