Books: The Righteous Mind

August 28, 2012

As I often do at the library, I was browsing titles without having anything in particular I was looking for. I had looked over the shelves of new fiction, and moved on to the non-fiction – usually not a source of a lot of exciting reading, but you never know…

Nothing interesting under computer programming (my younger son wants to learn programming so we’re making it a joint project) – all the books dealt with platforms that don’t interest me (such as programming for smart phones). Nothing interesting under health or cooking (topics that interest me but new books rarely present any really new ideas).

Then I saw The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. In a presidential election year, with the country apparently so strongly divided over what candidates or courses of action will best address the moral and economic issues facing us, what could be more compelling reading?

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Books: American’s Four Gods

November 20, 2011

When my husband was interviewed by a church in Nebraska earlier this year, he did his neutral pulpit at a federated PC(USA)/UCC church. Notes in the church bulletin and newsletter, as well as signs and posters around the large building, indicated that the people of the church valued reading books that would challenge one’s way of thinking.

On the pastor’s desk, as we chatted after the service, I happened to notice the book America’s Four Gods. It was apparently for his own reading and not one being read by a group in the church, but in any case I found his brief comments on it sufficiently interesting that I decided to read it for myself.

The book’s basic premise is that the authors have found a better way to distinguish among Americans in terms of their differing viewpoints than those that are usually used. The lines that are usually drawn – based on political party, religion, race, economic class, geography (either rural vs urban or by region of the country), or level of education – simply do not work very well. People in any of those conventional groupings agree with one another on a number of points, but disagree on others.

According to authors Paul Froese and Christopher Bader (sociology professors at Baylor University), a much better way to categorize Americans is by their view of God. The vast majority of Americans claim to believe in a divine being of some sort, and most of those identify themselves as Christians. But their conceptions of God vary widely – and not necessarily based on the dogma of the religious organizations they are affiliated with (if any).

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