The Inconvenience of Belief

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Increasingly religious beliefs are being classified as self-deception or a means to justify prejudice. Not too long ago, a couple who had chosen to wait until marriage would have been respected even by those who did not share the religious conviction. But if you had the opportunity to listen to some of the professors at NC State talk about it, you would quickly realize that they believe anyone who advocates for abstinence until marriage must be misinformed, ignorant, or oppressed. In the minds of modern skeptics, religious conviction lacks the necessary conditions from which belief is justifiably built.

From their perspective, adequate proof must exist prior to belief and beliefs must always exist in proportion to the evidence. Religious belief in their minds does not fit this criteria. Instead, religious belief requires no experimentation, changes from person to person, and is made up by the imaginations of people who are picking out what things they’d want to be true. It is like children who play house with none of the inconvenience of actually collecting an income, paying taxes, or mowing the lawn.

And so it is no wonder that skeptics who see religious belief in this way would look upon it with some, if not a great deal, of disdain. Of course, they are right that religious belief is a very different thing from what I most commonly hear called “scientific belief.” But they get two things wrong by categorizing belief in this way. Continue reading

When did Privileged Become a Handicap?

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I don’t like how we talk about privilege. It’s like we’re asking people to apologize—please excuse my privilege. It is always evoked derogatorily as something that stands in the way of seeing clearly—something that blinds us from seeing another perspective accurately. Or it is the dynamic by which society is made inequitable. And when people acknowledge their privilege, it is seldom with adulation for the people who helped them succeed, but as a form of virtue posturing. They seem to hope that by acknowledging it, people will be able to see past it. Like it’s an ugly blemish on their otherwise upstanding character.   Continue reading

The Danger of Worst-Case Scenario Thinking about Trump

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In the months prefacing the election we proved our human predisposition towards worst-case scenario thinking. It caused a lot of people to draw parallels between Trump and Hitler—his rise to power, the populist movement, white supremacy, German exceptionalism, etc. Other more rigorous articles have claimed that his rise has more in common to Mussolini’s. But during the election process, it was only abstract political posturing. Now it’s real. Trump is elected. And people’s projections (both liberals and conservatives who opposed him) have become real anxieties and authentic fears.

One of my conservative friends reacted to Trump’s election with this heart-felt question: “Advice on how to face a class of beautiful, undocumented 6th graders??” People responded, some encouraging her panic and others with an attempt towards attenuation. I have other liberal friends who have woven a worst-case scenario narrative where any non-white-cis-gendered-Christian male is now in eminent danger of discrimination or deportation. They substantiate their narratives by citing The New York Times exit polls which demonstrate that Trump was principally favored by older, white, straight, Christian men as well as citing the many rude things Trump has done and even proposed.  Continue reading

Political Opinions are like Haircuts

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When the body perceives a sudden threat, not only is adrenalin released in our blood, but even on the surface of our skin there is a measurable reaction that takes place within 0.05 seconds. And if you can track that, you can get a pretty good idea about how scared someone is. And we can track that. As it turns out, conservatives are more scared than liberals.

Studies like this have becoming increasingly popular as political polarization increases in the US and across the world. In the US, people want to know what makes a Republican different than a Democrat. We’ve learned so much about it that, according to Jonathan Haidt, after a few tests we can not only estimate with reasonable accuracy where someone will come down on political issues, but also what places they want to travel, books they’d like to read, and restaurants they’d enjoy. So the real wonder is not what separates the two parties, but what makes people within those parties so similar—even across seemingly unrelated issues. Continue reading

People Hate and Love Trump for the Same Reason

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Next year, on Halloween, we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the reformation. And there’s a chance we will be celebrating it with a new leader equally iconoclastic: Donald Trump.

St. Martin’s Cathedral is tall and gothic. The whole structure is made from dark red brick, massive windows, and pointed spires. Once it was the largest cathedral in the Netherlands. But much of it has collapsed. Today, only the most impressive structures remain including the large stone edifice known as the Dom Tower. Inside the building, above the altar, there’s this ornate relief sculpture of eight figures, the details still fresh as when it was first made. The figures converse around a throne and seem to be reading out of a large book. Above, as if looking down from heaven, another figure oversees the scene. It seems to be a depiction of God’s promise in Matthew: where two or more are gathered in my name, there I will be also. Continue reading

Honestly, Why Do Conservatives Hate Hillary Clinton?

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Most conservatives hate Hillary Clinton. And a lot of liberal articles have come forward recently asking people why. To them, the only reasons could be because you’re misinformed, ignorant, or a misogynist. Of course I don’t think this is the case, but I too have wondered why people hate Hillary. I am generally conservative, but I actually haven’t formed much of an opinion on her. My only real objection to her was the same objection I had with George and Jeb Bush. I don’t like aristocracy. I don’t like the idea of two people in the same family becoming president. It just means there’s a lot of who-knows-who going on.

But besides that, my thoughts on Hillary have actually been fairly innocuous. Much of this is because of a simple childhood memory. My uncle was a big-wig Economist in Houston and being young and impressionable I trusted whatever he said. As a group of us talked, he described how impressed he had been with Hillary’s work ethic. I was too young to know what they were talking about, but I left that conversation with one idea: Hillary Clinton was a hard worker. That went a long way for me.

From then until now something has changed. For whatever reason, whenever Hillary is mentioned there’s this sour taste in my mouth—nothing of substance, just a feeling about her. A feeling that isn’t even my own. And so I performed an honest evaluation: Why do conservatives, and why did I, dislike her.   Continue reading