Thursday, November 17, 2005

This Needs to Change

Be the change that you want to see in the world. --Gandhi
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. --Tolstoy

The situation described in my last post (and an unrelated, rather heated email exchange which ended with somebody threatening me) has made me do some thinking. Why is it that so many of us (including myself, of course) spend our energy blaming everybody but ourselves? We spend so much time criticizing instead of seeking common ground and figuring out a way to work together. It's just like politics on the national scale. The two sides get so worked up about a few emotional issues that they ignore almost everything else. Hardly anybody tries to put themselves in their opponent's shoes, but instead assumes that their opponents are not just wrong, but stupid and/or evil.

We confuse the means with the ends. I say I argue about religion because I value science and progressive values, but there must be more effective ways to advance those ends than all this arguing.

I'm not sure I want to continue arguing about religion. In the best case, I'll convince a few people that religion isn't true and causes some problems, but even then I'm also contributing to the hatred on both sides.

I think that some people (like politicians) divide us on purpose, knowing that if they can keep us arguing about gay marriage and abortion, we won't notice when they're fleecing the public and passing measures that the majority of Americans wouldn't support if they had all the information. I want to say that because I think it's true, but then I think maybe I'm just criticizing again instead of seeking to improve things myself.

So I'm going to change. I'm just not sure how.


Stacey said...

I prefer to think of the past several religious discussions on your blog as debate, not arguing. And I believe debate is healthy because it forces us to really think about the tenets and beliefs we hold dear and why. It challenges us to think critically and reassess. And this promotes growth and (hopefully) understanding.

Re: politics, I cannot stand how divisive they have become. For this reason, I have never affiliated with either party. And I doubt I ever will. I am in independent. I vote the issues and individuals, not the party. I am liberal on many issues, conservative on others.

I tend to tune out when I hear finger-pointing and generalizations about either party. It is counterproductive and serves no purpose.

The best way to affect change, I believe, is to vote and support (both financially and with the giving of my time) the causes I believe in. And to try to live by example.

Random said...

Sorry to hear that - I don't agree with much of your stuff, but it's always interesting and the debate that follows is often fascinating. Count this as a vote of support from the Other Side if you wish:-)

Esther said...

I'm sorry that an email exchange ended in recriminations. In general, the level of discourse on this blog has been very civil and the debate is always interesting. You're a good facilitator.

Jewish Atheist said...

Well, maybe I was too hasty. Perhaps I just need to be more careful to keep the discourse civil in the future. I've been apologizing for my rudeness all over the place lately. :) I do enjoy a good debate, but sometimes frustration turns a debate into an argument.

As for the email exchange, I think that the threats were a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Jack's Shack said...

You have to be careful not to bite your tongue or your cheek. That would be painful. ;)

Laura said...

I think debating is a good thing. I can't imagine the amount of time and energy you put in to setting up the discussions though - it must be substantial. I think most people who visit your site enjoy seeing others' points of view and that, in itself, is a way to bring us together and focus on issues and transcend ideology. A way for each of us to see that our political opponents aren't necessarily wrong, stupid or evil - but maybe have a different reason for what they believe.

Your blog helps us find common ground. I'd hate to see it go, but at the same time, I know you must put a lot of effort into each post and that must be exhausting.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I prefer the word "dialogue" to either "debate" or "argument".

I haven't read your blog long enough to comment on the interactions here. But "dialogue" implies that different points of view are welcome and will be respectfully received. I think true dialogue contributes toward mutual understanding and tolerance.

Dialogue may even help us to progress toward truth, although truth is an elusive quarry.

Jewish Atheist said...

I prefer the word "dialogue" to either "debate" or "argument".

I like it.

Sadie Lou said...

Who in their right mind would lower themselves to such a digree that they would threaten someone over opinions in this blog?
I like the articles you post. They are challenging and thought provoking and if I get weary or frustrated--I just don't post comments that day. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

First of all: you do good work.

Second of all, you need to change, as we all do, in this respect: recognize that when people become inflamed by you, they are becoming inflamed by themselves. In whatever way you can, help them to recognize this.

And perhaps third of all, this: our DNA is universally recognizeable (if you have the right equipment and expertise) as human DNA. Yet each person's is different. It therefore follows that our spiritual outlooks are unique to each of us. There must be utility in this. As someone who careened from agnosticism to Buddhism and then (back to) Judaism, I am only edified by people who (a) know more than me; and/or (b) do not hold my views. I put you in both categories.

Anyone who threatens you because of what you say, believe or hold to be true does a disservice to their own faith, and to all people who strive to see and understand the larger patterns and deeper meanings behind our being.

So: keep on keeping on.

Jewish Atheist said...

Wow. Thanks, David.

Jewish Atheist said...

And upon looking at your blog, I highly doubt that I know more than you. :) Except in the sense that we all know more about some things than others, of course.

Seth Chalmer said...

JA, let me echo what others have said: keep going. Keep challenging me, God, others, etc. As a believer, I say religion would suffer lacking a supply of eloquent atheists. Without intelligent challenges and sharp questions, we would get rusty, complacent, intellectually lazy. Religion can hold its own against atheism, and needs to do so. It thrives for it. Just think: without the friction of polishing, silver can't shine.

Jewish Atheist said...

Thanks, Seth and everybody.

Without intelligent challenges and sharp questions, we would get rusty, complacent, intellectually lazy. Religion can hold its own against atheism, and needs to do so. It thrives for it. Just think: without the friction of polishing, silver can't shine.

I agree very much with your basic sentiment. No theory or philosophy can be trusted if criticism is disallowed. Moreover, if it's true it need not fear dissenting opinions.