Monday, 09 July 2012
Security is important for most people. We long for continuity, solidity, we want life to run smoothly and in accordance with our wants and desires. We take care of ourselves, try to protect and take care of those we love to have a life that is filled with happiness. I believe that clinging to anything is how we live out this fantasy of living in a world where we are safe.
Those who believe in God, or some kind of transcendent reality, can, until they have their rude awakening, believe that they can bargain or have some kind of contract with this "other" reality. Praying, going to church, helping others can be way of living out their side of this illusionary contract. Then the day comes when they find out that reality can be filled with chaos and pain -- not part of their contract at all.
From the writings and blogs of atheist and agnostics, many seem to believe that if only we would become hyper rational, then things would level off and we would live in world that would be filled with peace. Also an illusion, since we are not really a rational species; it is something we struggle for and often fail in achieving.
For instance hyper rational people can sound rational and use logic, but in life can be very unreasonable. I believe Ayn Rand is an example of this. Secular societies don’t seem to do much better than those who are theistic, at least over the long term, especially societies that are ruled by men who are possessed by the "will to power." When some one person or political entity thinks they know what is best for others, then real trouble starts -- for in a secular world, the government can take on god-like powers. North Korea is a good example.
It is our irrationality and unreasonableness that is often running the show. I read all kinds of blogs, from all points of the religious and political spectrum, many of whom suffer from the malady of “personal infallibility”. A very serious aliment that seems to affect just about everyone -- yes myself included.
Karen Armstrong has a book out called “The twelve steps to a compassionate life”. It is a very powerful book, probably her best yet and I am a great fan of hers. In chapter 8 titled “How should we speak to one another?” she talks about the concept called the “principle of charity”. She quotes Donald Davidson (1917-2003):
“Making sense of the utterances and behavior of others, even their most aberrant behavior, requires us to find a great deal of truth and reason in them”.
Karen continues: “If we cannot do that, we will dismiss the speaker as irrational, nonsensical and basically inhuman”. I personally believe that contempt is the first step towards violence, be it physical or verbal. It is easier to fall back on this kind of behavior than for both parties to seek to understand each other. It is easier to do the same old responses that have never worked than to actually try something new.
I know many people get tired of preachy religious blogs as well as the attacks these writers can sling at those who disagree. The same goes for the so called free-thought pages, where a great deal of time is spent trying to convince themselves, as well as others, on how superior and intelligent they are, and yes strong. Both kinds of post, which become so much alike that they could write themselves, in the end of course only make matters worse. I see no way to stop this; it is so instinctual and irrational that it just takes over.
However, language can be used that sounds rational, but is in fact deeply emotional, angry and uncritical in what is said. People from any group make up all types, I certainly see it in groups that I may find myself opposed to. There are many who do seek to communicate better and who do not want to reduce ‘others’ to a simple stereotype -- they are often ignored, for the more colorful writers who deal with reality from their own subjective perspective and will not allow for any deviation, or by far much more colorful.
One of my problems is that I do poorly in debate, probably because I think apart from being entertaining at times it is in fact a waste of time. A good debater can change sides and win from any perspective that he or she takes on. Dialogue is different and very difficult and often impossible in most situations, because some very basic often unconscious attitudes and reactions have to be faced and put on hold -- yep very difficult.
Speaking as a believer I find it very difficult not to return the contempt that many “free thought” blogs put out. For some reason I expect more from that segment of the population that spends so much time telling us how much better they are, intelligent and brave, then they fall into the very things they complain about. What helps me in this is to realize I am no different and struggle with the same kind of thing. When I seek to become compassionate for my struggles and failures, then it is easier to do the same for others.
When have you had a constructive conversation with someone whose beliefs were counter to yours? How can we disagree in a loving way rather than judging those who don't see things from our point of view? How can we be compassionate for those who disagree with us?