Just finished The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. I highly recommend it, knowing many of my evangelical friends who start won’t finish because of his evolutionary thinking * and some of my liberal friends will balk at his appreciation for conservative and religious folks.
Haidt is a moral psychologist who does a masterful job answering the book’s subtitle: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. He pulls back the curtain on the mental processes that inform our beliefs and practices and create the cohesion and competition between groups that make society possible.
It all starts with our genes. Studies show that, “Genes contribute, somehow, to just about every aspect of our personalities … and explain between a third and a half of the variability among people on their political attitudes.”
Genetic traits are innate—organized in advance of experience. Over time they are revised through experience into the intuitions and reasonings that guide our preferences and prejudices.
Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously, long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started, and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning. … we grow into our rationality as caterpillars grow into butterflies.
We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult—but not impossible—to connect with those who live in other matrices, which are often built on different configurations of the available moral foundations.
We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone grows blind when talking about their sacred objects.
Haidt shows how to understand your worldview and how to appreciate those who see things differently in ways that can lead to healthier, happier relationships.
Happiness comes from between. It comes from getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.
Take a fresh look inside your own mind and then out into the pluralistic world of the 21st century. You’ll be a better person for it—or your money back.
(* Haidt explains human development through evolutionary processes, not divine design. Even if you disagree with his starting point, his description of the steps by which humans moved from isolated groups to modern civilization is fascinating.)