importance of critical thinking in today's world

Have you ever wondered how a Spiritualist minister might approach the concept of critical thinking?  Critical thinking is the process of analyzing and evaluating information to form a reasoned judgment. It involves questioning assumptions, examining evidence, and using logic and reasoning to draw conclusions.   Well it is best described on the NSAC (National Spiritualist Association of Churches) website:

To encourage every person in holding present beliefs always open to restatement as growing thought and investigation reveal understanding of new truths, thereby leaving every individual free to follow the dictates of reason and conscience in spiritual as in secular affairs.

Why do so Many People Fail at Critical Thinking?

Many people struggle with critical thinking due to several reasons. Here are a few key ones:

Lack of Education

Not everyone is taught how to critically analyze or evaluate information systematically.   Many schools do not do a very good job preparing students for the real world problem solving they will enter.  Like any skill, without regular practice, critical thinking skills may not develop fully or may decline.

Cognitive Bias

Personal biases can cloud judgment and influence decisions unconsciously. Inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Here are a few common types of cognitive biases that can significantly impact critical thinking:

  • Confirmation Bias: The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs.  While while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.
  • Anchoring Bias: This occurs when individuals rely too heavily on the first piece of information they hear (the “anchor”) when making decisions, even if it is irrelevant.
  • Availability Heuristic: This bias arises when people estimate the probability of an outcome based on how easily that outcome comes to mind. It often leads to a distorted perception of reality, based on recent events.
  • Dunning-Kruger Effect: A cognitive bias in which people with limited knowledge or competence in a domain overestimate their own ability in that domain, while experts underestimate their abilities.
  • Status Quo Bias: The preference to keep things the same by doing nothing or by sticking with a decision made previously.
  • Affect Heuristic: The tendency to make decisions based on emotions, rather than comprehensive data. Emotional responses can lead to skewed perceptions of risks and benefits.

Information Overload

With so much information available, it can be overwhelming to sift through what’s relevant and accurate.  Information is available to us in multiple ways and in such abundance, that the human brain cannot process it all. Information overload occurs when an individual is exposed to too much information, making it difficult to process all the inputs effectively and often leading to decision fatigue or paralysis.  To combat information overload, it’s beneficial to prioritize information based on relevance and reliability, take breaks to clear one’s mind, and use tools or techniques to organize and filter data effectively. These strategies can help maintain the quality of decision-making and critical thinking even in the face of excessive information.

Emotional Influence

Emotions can overpower logical thinking, leading to snap judgments or decisions.  By recognizing the role emotions play in our cognitive processes, individuals can take steps to mitigate their impact, such as pausing to reflect before making decisions, seeking alternative viewpoints, and focusing on factual data. This can help maintain a clearer, more objective approach to problem-solving and decision-making.

Group Think

Peer pressure and the desire to conform can suppress individual critical thought.  You can see it in our political system – Democrat/Republican, Palestinian/Israel, Yankees/Red Socks are just a few examples and how they want their group to think.  They are the best, the right, think like them or you are wrong.  Awareness and mitigation of group think can be achieved by promoting an open culture where dissent is encouraged, appointing external observers, and ensuring that leaders refrain from expressing an opinion too early during discussions. These steps help maintain the capacity for critical thinking within groups.

Can Critical Thinking Make a Come Back?

The Spiritualist tradition’s focus on free thought and exploration of diverse perspectives aligns well with promoting critical thinking. By encouraging individuals to explore a variety of viewpoints and question conventional wisdom, Spiritualism fosters a personal and deepened understanding of spiritual matters, including concepts of Infinite Intelligence or God.

In today’s context, we can draw on this tradition to combat the lack of critical thinking by:

    • Encouraging Personal Exploration: Just as we encourage Spiritualists to develop their own understandings, society should promote an education system and media that encourage exploration and personal interpretation, rather than relying on rote learning or passive consumption.
    • Valuing Diverse Perspectives: Emphasizing the importance of diverse viewpoints in understanding the full spectrum of human experience and knowledge, much like how Spiritualists consider multiple aspects of spirituality.
    • Promoting Dialogue and Debate: Encouraging open and respectful discussions on a wide range of topics, which can help break down barriers and expand thinking, similar to the inspirational talks within Spiritualist communities.
    • Practicing Reflection and Mindfulness: Encouraging practices that enhance self-awareness and reflection, aiding individuals in becoming more conscious of their biases and thought processes.

The Solution Begins With Each of Us

Spiritualism guides our understanding of the spiritual realm and equips us with tools for thoughtful engagement in the world. By creating an environment that encourages questioning and values diversity, we can enhance critical thinking in our communities. This dedication to intellectual exploration and personal growth helps us tackle complex issues wisely.

As challenges demand nuanced understanding and thoughtful decisions, let’s find inspiration in Spiritualism’s tradition of free thought and exploration. I invite you to consider how you might enhance critical thinking in your life, confront biases, and participate in meaningful dialogues. Together, we can build not only a thoughtful and open-minded society but one enlightened by Spiritualism’s principles.

How will you contribute to this vital endeavor? Let’s start these conversations in our homes, workplaces, and communities.  Then witness the transformative power of thinking critically, guided by the spirit of inquiry and openness.


Rev. Colleen Irwin
Reverend Colleen Irwin is a Spiritual being having a human experience as a Blogger, Wife, Mother, Mentor, Healer and Public Speaker living in Rochester New York. Colleen, a Natural Born Medium, teaches, lectures and serves Spirit when called upon. She remembers speaking with Spirit as a child and learning how to share this knowledge with others has been an adventure that she captured in her book “Discovering Your Stream”. Colleen has been mentored by Reverend Jack Rudy, and ordained as a Priest in the Order of Melchizedek by the Reverend Dan Chesboro through the Sanctuary of the Beloved. When she is not doing her Spiritual work she is a volunteer docent sharing Susan B. Anthony's history to visitors of the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester. Her trust in Spirit gave her a new title – PREVIVOR. She now uses her platform to educate others about the BRCA genetic mutation and how one can take control of their health and well-being.
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