Musings on Moral Theology (4)

www.internetmonk.com | 8/5/2017 | Chaplain Mike
Cayley1561 (Posted by) Level 3
Note from CM: This is our final meditation on Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Soon, we will take a look at Richard Beck’s book, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, as a complement to this series.

Groups - Minds - Competition - Groups - Group

We evolved to live in groups. Our minds were designed not only to help us win the competition within our groups, but also to help us unite with those in our group to win competitions across groups.

In the final section of Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind, he covers a lot of ground to focus on some important aspects of how people think morally.

Point - People - Thinking - Groups - Humans

The big point is that people have evolved to not only develop individual moral thinking, but also to come together in groups — humans “are products of multilevel selection, which turned us into Homo duplex” (p. 367). Or, metaphorically, we are a lot like chimps (autonomous, selfish individuals) who sometimes transcend our individualism and function like bees (cooperatively, with a hive mentality).

This has impact on how we view such human realities as religion and politics. For example, Haidt is critical of the so-called New Atheists, who misunderstand religion primarily in terms of individual beliefs which must be answered, rather than as “social facts. Religion cannot be studied in lone individuals any more than hivishness can be studied in lone bees” (p. 287).

Instinct - Sword - Hand - Religion - Handmaiden

This “tribal” instinct is and has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, religion is “well suited to be the handmaiden of groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism” that can act violently to defend and advance its interests. On the other hand, Haidt quotes studies which show that: “By many different measures religiously observant Americans are better neighbors and better citizens than secular Americans—they are more generous with their time and money,...
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