Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

I've been getting audio books on cd from my public library, and that's why I picked this book - it was on the shelf. Not every book is good enough to be an audio book. My library only has a few shelves of audio books on CD, but hundreds of rows of real books. So I figure if it's made that shelf, it's pretty good, right? I've had mixed results with this philosophy but it really worked for this book, it's amazing and I am so glad I read it. I was worried it'd be religious, but really it's a deep dive into how our decision-making skills have evolved.

The author starts out talking about his research around "morally dumbfounding" situations... studies where they'd make up weird stories where there's no victim, but we think they're wrong anyway. Incest, necrophilia, cutting up an american flag to clean your bathroom... you're not hurting anybody right? But we all have an immediate NOPE kind of reaction, then we try to justify why it's wrong or why there could be a victim, but there really is not.

He goes on to put "morals" into six categories of things that are important to us:

1) Caring for each other
2) Liberty
3) Fairness
4) Loyalty
5) Respect for authority
6) Sanctity

Then he describes the rider/elephant metaphor I've read about in change management books to describe how our minds work. We are driven like an elephant that knows what he wants, goes forward, provides energy and direction. Our "elephants" have riders, who are logical, forward-thinking, ask questions and love to hear the details. Elephants can make bad decisions (I feel like eating this whole carton of ice cream). Riders can get too tied up in details to make a decision already.

Morality is ingrained in us. It's how we evolved. The humans that survived for tens of thousands of years were the best at turning resources into offspring. They worked together as groups. In many cases they were religious... religion is a very effective way to get people to sacrifice things for a group without asking a ton of questions. It can also blind us, make us racist or judgmental, to trust our gut too much... but that's what we have to decide as a society. How can we keep using our moral instincts that got us this far and keep us almost on the right track all the time, but change where change is needed? How can a citizens of a small town trust each other enough to leave their cars unlocked, but not make life miserable for the new family who moved in? How can we let a religious leader talk us all into feeding the homeless, but not into abusing our children?

One thing is for sure, if you're going to make any appeal to people, it has to be on a moral, emotional, gut feeling level. Major change doesn't happen with spreadsheets, as much as I love them, it happens with stories. Togetherness. People who are close to us. When we disagree on big issues like health care or climate change, we can't just throw facts at the other side, and we also have to find it in ourselves to understand the facts they're trying to throw at us. Our verbal abilities evolved so we could level-set with each other on morality. The bigger our world gets, the further apart we are and the harder it is to listen.
Tags: books, religion
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