Sunday, August 22, 2010

Generalizing Specifics

Earlier this week, I got into a rather heated argument with someone whom I had considered a friend.  We knew that we had very different religious views, mine being still in flux in the agnostic/atheist range, and hers being very much settled on fundamentalist Christian.  She believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible and the unchanging nature of faith.  I believe in correcting position as data indicates and in religious texts as wonderfully symbolic stories.  I trust Ocham's Razor, she trusts her prayers.  And in the end, she decided that I was anti-god and anti religion and called me thus.  I offer my deepest apologies for coming across this way if anyone else has taken that meaning- it is not my intent, and I will do my best to not be like that.

What she didn't realize is that I am not anti-god, I just don't agree with her view of god; I am not anti-religion, just anti-her-religion.  I am perfectly fine accepting all kinds of religious beliefs, until they affect more than the individual believer.  The whole idea of "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose".  Everyone has the right to their religious beliefs, until those beliefs start to affect others or until it leads to the denial of reality.  Then, you've hit some one in the nose instead of stopping your fist.

It's a common mistake for humans- generalizing in inappropriate circumstances.  Generalizing has it's usefulness.  Generalizing lets us have expectations, and gives us an advantage on knowing how to react in a situation.  If our ancestors recognized all large cat-like creatures as dangerous, we don't have to wait for the first person to be mauled before deciding that a new species of large cat should be feared and beginning to run away.  But generalizing our fellow humans, especially in today's globalized world where we interact with so many more people, can be even more dangerous than not generalizing large cats.  False generalities can lead to incorrect expectations, misinterpretations and wrong assumptions. All of this can lead to more difficulty than is necessary as well as strife, conflict and pain.

Dealing in facts instead of Truths tends to have this effect in most cases.  The important truths that Dwight and I are trying to teach Ken are Peace, Love, Honesty, Respect, Work, Humility and Community.  It's not an easy battle.  As a four year old, he grapples constantly with the idea of good and bad guys.  He wants to know along what lines he can divide the world into these simple binomials, when simple binomials are nearly existent in humans.  Even something as simple as sex isn't really neatly divided into male and female.  Humans are filled with continua.  For this reason, we're trying to stress to him that things people are not good or bad- god and bad are reserved for actions.  Everyone has good and bad things that they do, but that doesn't define them.  The same goes for things and ideas- they are not good or bad, they are tools that can be used for good or bad purposes.  It's pointless to be pro- or anti-any THING.  Things, people, ideas all exist, and can not be made to no longer exist, for their being here has changed the world in some way.  Instead, be pro- or anti-harmful actions.  Life is much more simple that way.  And most likely, the pain will be less.

1 comment:

  1. You rock my world! I had a very similar discussion with a friend of mine that recently joined a baptist church and I suddenly found myself in an attempt of recruitment. When the time comes I hope it's OK to quote you.