Friday, January 23, 2015

The Friday Four, Part 102


I first read Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind in 2012 and it just keeps coming to my mind over and over.  Really, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

But what brought it to mind yet again, is this article "I Don't Want to Be Right" from the New Yorker last spring.  Scientists were trying to figure out the best way to get people who are anti-vaccination to change their minds and what they discovered surprised and depressed them: Nothing worked.  Not facts and evidence, not emotional stories of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases, nothing.

What it boils down to is this:
If information doesn’t square with someone’s prior beliefs, he discards the beliefs if they’re weak and discards the information if the beliefs are strong.
Like Haidt's concept of the elephant and the rider, this process is often unconscious, completely opaque even to ourselves.  Awareness is the first step in combating this oh-so-human tendency to selectively ignore evidence and only embrace that which bolsters our current beliefs and opinions.


This book excerpt is a refreshing perspective on religion from an agnostic's point of view.  The book itself, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life by Charles Murray, seems to be written as advice to an audience of twenty-somethings, recent college grads, out in the wide world fending for themselves for the first time.

And this agnostic author urges them to "take religion seriously."

I'm fascinated by his description of the Big Bang as "drap[ing] scientific language over the creation story in Genesis."  What a way to meld science and faith together!  And his high praise for many wise religious people "whose intelligence, judgment, and critical faculties are as impressive as those of your smartest atheist friends — and who also possess a disquietingly serene confidence in an underlying reality behind the many religious dogmas."

Intrigued enough to have requested from my local library already.  I'll let you know how the rest of it goes...

Grant Hardy is the author of Understanding the Book of Mormon, a book I appreciated for its insights into the narrative structure of the Book of Mormon.  I stumbled across an article he wrote for Meridian Magazine a while back about reading the sacred texts of other religions.

I really like Hardy's take on the practice.  First of all, he says, religion is an important part of many cultures and, therefore, it's respectful as a global citizen to have a passing acquaintance with other faiths.  And then I love this point:
Latter-day Saints are constantly trying to get their friends and neighbors to read the Book of Mormon. It only seems fair that we should be willing to give serious, respectful attention to their scriptures in return. Indeed, it can be a very useful exercise to try to read something like the Daodejing or the Bhagavad Gita or the Qur’an as an outsider, just to imagine what it might be like to open up First Nephi for the first time and be bewildered by the names, events, and doctrines.
He quotes Alma 29:8 saying "For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have."  He goes on:
This suggests that we should be prepared to hear God’s words in languages and texts from around the world, and I don’t mean only in the sense of recognizing truths that we already know from the Restoration. Just because we have “the truth” doesn’t mean that we have all truths...
I believe that as Latter-day Saints, we can learn religious truths from non-Mormons and even from non-Christians. My spiritual understanding has certainly been enriched by the Confucian notion that we are not autonomous selves, but rather our identity comes from the networks of relationships of which we are a part. I have learned from Daoist insistence that we should live in harmony with nature, from the Buddhist emphasis on compassion and critiques of overly-simple conceptions of the self. I have been inspired by the Jain principle of ahimsa, or non-violence, and the Jewish practice of spirited, intellectually rigorous, faithful debate in the Talmud. And I am deeply admiring of the sort of devotion that leads many Muslims to memorize the entire Qur’an, which is more than half the length of the New Testament.
Let's hear it for "holy envy"!  If you've been reading this blog since the beginning, you'll know that I read the Quran for my pseudo-Ramadan a couple of years ago.  I've also read the Tao Te Ching, and I found beauty and wisdom in both.  I guess I'd better add a few more to my list...

Hardy states emphatically that studying other faiths' holy books helps him be not only a better person, but provides insights on how to be a better Mormon as well.  I'm intrigued by his assertion that there are actually FIVE LDS standard works, not just the four we usually think of.  Read his article and let me know what you think.


In a Friday Four a few weeks ago, I shared a video of hair and makeup trends by decade for the past century.  Yesterday I found another, similar video, this one for black women.  Fabulous hairstyles and fantastic makeup.  Check it out here!

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