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Book Review: “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

Book Review: “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

If we went for coffee today, this is what I would likely bring up. I just finished reading this book and it stretched me.

How did I get it?

I kept seeing this title referred to on Twitter among some of the accounts I follow for political commentary. I saw it referenced enough, and with enough direct encouragement to read it, that I put my request in at the local library for it.

I was like 10th in line. When it finally was available, I was away on a trip and couldn’t get it. So, I had to put my name in again, this time like 4th in line and finally was able to pick it up.

And, I can’t renew it, because there’s people waiting for it. And, I just finished it, 1 full day before it was due.

All that to say, I’m grateful for the local library, as this book is almost $30 new, and it’s obvious that it’s a popular book by how many people are in line to read it.

What’s it about?

Well, the author is a professor of psychology and a self-declared atheist liberal. In the book, he attempts to understand how two good people people can have such strong feelings about an issue that are completely opposite. Specifically, he can’t understand conservatives and wants to.

The book is a journey of discovery. He starts with the state of psychology about these things when he entered college and the prevailing paradigm that they worked under. He then shows how that was completely wrong, and how they discovered that people aren’t that way at all. I don’t recall what those things were, because they were wrong anyway.

Then, he has this epiphany of sorts, that people make these moral decisions based on their intuitions and then their reason will justify it. The metaphor he uses is like a rider on an elephant. The elephant really isn’t controlled at all by the rider, the rider is like the “press secretary” for the elephant, just telling other people why it’s so good whatever the elephant happens to be doing at the time.

But, then, his world gets upended because he took 6 months in India to do some field work. While he was there, he was immersed in a culture that prized authority and attributed a sacred value to objects. He scoffed at it in the beginning, but the longer he was there, he began to see the value of having these values in the culture.

That helped him to revise his entire thought process towards moral dilemmas, and quite frankly, gave him a tremendous amount of respect for conservatives.

That whole process was interesting as he was doing these surveys of ethical questions with people, and as he broadened the kinds of people that he would ask, it helped him to see the world the way that others see it. It rescued him from mocking and having a disdainful attitude towards others.

Lastly, he spent some time talking about “the hive insect” and the way that we humans have the capability of being like bees in this one respect. We have this ability to lose ourselves into a group, into a whole. The illustrations were amazing, as it’s something every human has experienced. Typically, for us in North America, it’s by being at a concert, where the beat and the rhythm and the singing, flips some switch in our brains and we become one massive group, and our sense of belonging and identity with everyone else is activated. That was wild to read about.

He closes the book with an appeal for people on both sides of the ideological aisle to attempt to understand each other, and recognize that we have different values, and those values, when understood, can be respected. The tension is good, and will help us make better political decisions.

What do I think? What’s my takeaway?

Well, I was astounded to see in black and white and even in diagrams how the conservative thinker actually has a broader and more developed palette of values. It made “my elephant” even more interested in people and what they think and believe and why. If you can believe it, it might make me more interested in a wider variety of people on a deeper level of topics.

This “hive mentality” thing is explosive. This is what is happening in some church services on a weekly basis. And, this is what some in our generation are really craving. They don’t have strong connections in their families and among their parents and grandparents and communities. And, so, being in a worship service, the music, the rhythm, the words, the singing, can bring such a powerful sense of belonging and oneness to the whole thing. No wonder I’ve walked away from some of those kinds of times, especially at the SouthEast Calvary Chapel Pastors Conference and the International Calvary Chapel Pastors and Leaders Conference thinking… “these are my people.” They are! And, that sense of oneness in our meetings is highly motivating. The “hive instinct” button got hit.

I think conclusions derived from the section on evolution would be way, way, easier to get to with creation. There would be a lot less guessing, and it would save a lot of embarrassment when someone comes along in a few years and shows how ridiculous all the speculative reasoning actually is.

Finally, I know this author didn’t intend this, and would probably cringe at my synopsis of his book earlier, and if I was his student would not giving me a passing grade, but he really did make the liberal atheist look ignorant, uninformed and immature. There was a big section in the book where he discussed the practical benefits of religion. It’s more than a foregone conclusion that humans thrive best in communities of faith. Beyond that, over and over, he explained how there’s really only one value that motivates the liberal and that’s care/harm. It’s off the charts. And, until this book, they had no way to understand a conservative other than as a heartless person.

Closing thoughts…

This is definitely a college-level book. It’s big, and parts of it are easy to get lost in. What he does really, really well in his writing, is his introductions to each chapter, and then the “In Sum” section at the end of each chapter. That’s a brilliant and helpful feature of his writing style.

His illustrations and stories are easy to follow. Without them, I would have been lost like a ball in high weeds!

How about you? Have you read this? Have you seen or heard people discussing it? What do you think of this “hive instinct?”

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2022 in Book Review

 

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Book Review: “The Man Behind the Curtain – Inside the Secret Network of George Soros” by Matt Palumbo

Book Review: “The Man Behind the Curtain – Inside the Secret Network of George Soros” by Matt Palumbo

There’s always an interesting story behind every book. And, this one doesn’t disappoint. I’m actually hesitant to share these details publicly because our society is so divided at the moment about some very important issues. Because of the animosity, the impulse is to protect, but that comes at the expense of sharing helpful information.

Because of my experience in Canada, I’ve been awakened to the need to be more involved in the political process. It’s part of being a fully functioning adult in our society and a mature Christian. Our ancestors gave us the privilege of self-government through a representational democracy (or republic) and not only do we have the right to vote, but to also run for office, lobby, petition and even protest. In the transition back to Florida, I knew I wanted to get involved.

In reconnecting with a long time friend, he introduced me to another friend of his who has joined CCDF-USA in Hillsborough County. She’s an almost retired attorney in Tampa and is now devoting most of her time to assisting a group of volunteers engage at the county level. I was fascinated to hear how they have been helping parents and concerned grandparents express themselves effectively with local officials and decision makers.

A week later, I had the joy of meeting the man who is working on getting a local county level organization going in more places around the country. He’s a local business man, who in the last half of his life was inspired by the work that the Alliance for Defending Freedom has been doing, and saw that there was a need for an organization that could help citizens engage at the county level. He shared some stories from some work that that they had been part of, and I recognized them because I had read about them in the regular news. They had been a part of making a good, positive difference.

He’s the one that gave me a copy of this book. He wants to assist citizens in their desire to “defend freedom.” He was alarmed to discover the role and amount of money that was being inserted into local, county level officials from international sources, specifically organizations and foundations that are funded by George Soros. I’ve heard the name, but like J. Edgar Hoover, didn’t know much about the guy.

This book is new. It’s only a few months old. The author, Matt Palumbo, has taken an enormous amount of time to research and footnote the myriad trails of money that originated in the fortune of George Soros. It’s a difficult book to read because of the amount of just raw data and figures.

He opens by giving a biography of Mr. Soros. Born in Hungary, raised during the Nazi occupation, and sharing significant experiences that must have shaped his worldview. He also gave an explanation of the influence of philosopher Karl Popper on his ideas of how the world should function. It’s where the name “Open Society” came from and why it’s used as a name on many of his endeavours.

Allow me to admit that I don’t understand this philosophy. It wouldn’t be appropriate to fault the author’s explanation. It’s quite possible that I don’t understand, because it’s not understandable. It may exist outside of rational thought. Soros seems to be the only one that purports it, yet, as the author argues, he’s often operating in contradiction to it.

The most powerful chapter of the book for me was the one describing the donations that Soros funded organizations and foundations have made in local politics. It’s mostly the story of District Attorney’s and how they have shifted their approach to a much softer view of petty crimes, attributed poverty to the cause of crimes, and chosen to not prosecute some categories of crimes, or crimes committed by certain segments of the population. It’s been very difficult on communities and we’ve seen that in the news recently.

The main argument of the book is that Soros is funding all of this, and it all comes from his worldview and what’s implied is that our society would be better off without him meddling in not only our affairs, but those of other countries around the world.

I was also interested in the chapter devoted to Soros’s involvement in the Ukraine, because the Ukraine is dominating our news these days. We know the Biden’s had some business there. And, now, I can see all the involvement Soros has had there. Soros was a hero there. It’s difficult to refute any arguments that they aren’t completely and hopelessly corrupt and it isn’t their fault.

Here’s the bottom line for me. I’m grateful to read this. I needed to know how pervasive Soros’s money is. However, I’m not convinced that he’s getting what he wants all the time, as much as people are getting money from him and doing all kinds of crazy things with it. The guy is 91 after all. And, there’s no way for him to control the size and scale of the operation he’s funding. Anyone that will lie and manipulate others can be sure to lie to himself. Money doesn’t cure that problem.

Leaving the topic of Soros, we don’t have a CCDF organization here in Pinellas County. It would be good to get one going. I would think that citizens here would be interested to know if and when one of our officials has betrayed their oath of office. It would also be good to know which County Commissioners, School Board Trustees, or if the Sheriff, or District Attorney, or Supervisor of Elections has been on staff at one of these foundations or organizations that Soros funds, or has received funds from them. That doesn’t make them guilty of anything. It’s just good to know what we might expect from them.

What about you? How involved in the political process are you? How involved do you want to be? Feel free to comment (publicly!) or send me a message (privately!).

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2022 in Book Review

 

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Book Review – “Why Liberalism Failed” by Patrick Deneen

Book Review – “Why Liberalism Failed” by Patrick Deneen

“Why Liberalism Failed” by Patrick Deneen
“Maranatha” is my one word reaction to this book.
This was a very illuminating yet troubling book.
Professor Deneen explains why there’s so much distrust by the right and anger among the left of our liberal democracies. It’s actually the fruit of the liberal democracy ideology, 500 years in the making. And there’s no fix.
It’s true, it’s been a more long lasting model than fascism and monarchy. But, it, and therefore we, are in trouble. The natural next steps are undoubtedly brutal.
Barack Obama wrote that this book “offers cogent insights into the loss of leaning and community that many in the West feel.”
Ross Douthat commented with one word: “bracing.”
I’d LOVE to talk with someone else in #Ottawa that has read this and would be willing to discuss it.
In the meantime, the road ahead is to continue to share the hope we as Christians have in the good news that sets people free. It’s also to invest in local culture making activities with households and families, encouraging self-control, industry and thick community ties and relationships.
Character always makes the biggest difference no matter the situation. We have to give that gift to the next generation, especially our children.
Mr. Deneen, if you happen to read this, thank you. It’s my first political science book. And I’m indebted to you for expanding my thinking.

(Originally posted a while ago on my recently deleted profile on an undesirable platform.)

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2021 in Book Review

 

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