The Righteous Mind


Righteous Mind

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.)

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4 thoughts on “The Righteous Mind

  1. I guess I would qualify as one of your “evangelistic” friends, but I don’t have a problem with the evolutionary processes. You and I both come from pretty strict conservative Christian background steeped in traditional interpretation . So did the Pharisees, and they missed the whole point of the Old Testament. They were so sure of their dogma that they couldn’t accept that the Messiah was standing right in front of them. I am frequently reminded of a great exchange between William Wilberforce and his mentor John Newton in the movie “Amazing Grace.” Newton says “When I was young, I was quite sure of many things, but now I am sure of only two. I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.”

  2. I love the simplicity of the gospel…it doesn’t make me “simple” but it does say that our mind and our logic, though enormously fascinating and something given to us by God, is not what cements my faith or what my faith hinges on to make it reality. Jesus died for me so that I can draw close to God and be with Him forever. My sin separates me from Him. From that point, my relationship with God, interacting with Him and becoming closer and more intimate in letting Him know me, is what my life is about. (He already does know me but it’s my heart that draws closer to Him as His love is revealed to me in deeper and deeper ways as I get to know Him better.) To experience that relationship is far more refreshing, satisfying, healing, beautiful and brings so much joy that I have never had in any other relationship. I so love reading what you write…I to am forever wanting to get down to the meat and morrow of life and to figure things out. I guess there is a part of my heart that when I read what you write yearns for you to know, or remember if you have experienced it, the love and peace and contentment that is in God. Resting your mind in the simple. That’s all. We are all different, come from different perspectives I know, whether it’s genes as you have suggested or experiences or cultures, etc. we are all uniquely made. You may be the head and I may be the hand or something….we are all part of one body with different roles. I’m sure you are going to reach people in ways I could never possibly do because of your life experiences and your intellectual musings. Who I am, is one that just wants everyone to experience the love of God and to relax in that knowledge….we are deeply loved and we don’t have to, nor will we, ever really understand it all. I am drawn to that love, probably because of my “lack” of love in my early years and childhood. I have a heart of compassion and the gift of mercy, so my bent is more towards the basic needs we have as people. To be loved and to love…I want you to know, no matter what you have done in life…been a pastor, etc. you can at any point be drawn back into the center of God’s heart for you. He loves you Mark Hamel.

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