"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today's Must-Read

Interesting post by Digby today on something that has become a big flaw in our public discourse, starting with a quote from this interview with Reza Aslan:

... someone like Sam Harris or Bill Maher sees religion as defining people of faith, their values, their motivations, and I see people as defining their religion.

Or, to put in in my own words: You can find something in just about any sacred text to justify what you wanted to do anyway. The glaring example of that, of course, is the self-styled "Christians" who are locked into Leviticus and a genital-based morality.

Digby goes on:

We know too many religious people of different faiths for whom religion is just one part of who they are and who are completely balanced, tolerant, open and often evolving in their interpretation of their faith not to. I also know atheists who take a fundamentalist point of view and are totally intolerant of any challenge to their worldview.

I got into a "discussion," if you want to call it that, in a comment thread with a woman who quickly revealed herself to be about the most fundamental of fundamentalists. She kept throwing out bizarre "arguments," which I answered with facts. She finally resorted to calling me a child of Satan. What was instructive, aside from her lack of general knowledge about the world in general, was her complete inability to entertain the idea that a differing point of view could be valid.

Digby notes that "There is more to human behavior than religions belief." That's undeniably true, and those who rely on religious belief to explain everything are missing a lot. (And, as Digby also points out, this does not excuse atheists, who may not subscribe to religion per se, but too often share the same mindset.) There is a tendency to see the world in black and white, although I'm not ready to ascribe that tendency to a certain group: it's a matter of basic psychology that we first classify things according to stereotypes; it's only as we come to know more that we modify those classifications, add a little nuance to our perceptions. It strikes me that some people don't want to learn more, perhaps because it challenges their assumptions, which makes them uncomfortable. (Alright, it scares the bejeezus out of them.) I guess I can think my lucky stars that I grew up in a family that valued learning and managed to avoid having my innate curiosity educated out of me. (Strangely enough, my sister is one of the least curious people I know.) Hence my basic philosophy: Poke it and see what it does. The beginnings of the scientific method.

Aslan, early on, makes one very important point:
So let’s say you had Bill Maher and Sam Harris as a sort of captive audience in a lecture hall for a half hour, and only a half hour. What would you focus on? What do you want them to hear that you don’t think they’re hearing?

This is going to sound odd to say, but probably nothing, because when you are dealing with that kind of level of certainty, whether you are talking about a religious fundamentalist, or an atheist fundamentalist, which is precisely what someone like Sam Harris is, it’s really a waste of time to try to argue either data points or logical reasoning, because they have already made up their mind and it becomes kind of useless to have that kind of conversation.

See my anecdote above, about the woman who called me a child of Satan.

The interview is a must-read, as are Digby's comments.

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