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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Not Either/Or, but Both/And

Either/Or thinking is, in general, a waste of time.

For one thing, it's a logical fallacy to assume that there are only two possible answers to most questions. In nearly every discussion there are multiple answers with varying levels of validity.

It also immediately puts the discussion into the realm of right vs. wrong, which isn't a helpful spectrum on which to operate. If we are only concerned with being right, we won't entertain any other possibilities which actually increases the probability that we'll be wrong (more on that in a bit).

It's also a relationally destructive paradigm because conversations are reduced to competitions in which one party is the loser and the other the winner.

Both/And thinking offers more hope and certainty.

Looking at how both views can be right and wrong allows ideas to be placed on a continuum rather than set up as diametrically opposed. Seeing the continuum, or even a web of thoughts, provides not only a fuller understanding of the issue, but a better way of disagreeing.

Instead of pitting right versus wrong, a both/and view allows the strengths and weaknesses of different ideas to be expressed. However if you're stuck defending the "right" answer, you are likely to never see its inherent weaknesses nor to discover the strengths in other points of view. This is, in essence, what the church did with Copernicus and Galileo. Their emphasis on being right blinded them to the strengths in the argument of another. So they were unable to admit the weaknesses in their own argument and therefore drastically reduced their chances of being right.

Ultimately, both/and thinking seeks relationship over rightness. But that doesn't mean that rightness is sacrificed. Rather, when the relationship takes priority, it allows a forum for more ideas to be heard and a fuller understanding of the ideas to develop. Oddly, emphasizing relationship increases rightness.  

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

My Favorite Gay Atheist or Why Conversation Makes Us All Better

I just finished reading a very good book:
Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious. In it Chris Stedman tells the story of how he grew up, converted to Christianity, came out as gay, went to bible college, became an atheist, discovered that religious people aren't universally terrible, went to seminary, and began advocating for interfaith dialog and action - even though he doesn't have any faith per se.

The story is very personal and thoughtfully written. If you've never met an atheist or a homosexual person, you should absolutely read this book to see the humanity within those groups. Chris doesn't hide his humanity.

The story of Chris desperately struggling to not be gay was particularly moving and thought provoking. Especially since that's not what caused him to lose his faith...

Right now Chris is primarily concerned with helping atheists to have a moral purpose other than just disagreeing with theists. He's helping his atheist brothers and sisters to serve, connect, and make the world a better place. Chis is also helping atheists to converse with people of all faiths through his connection with Interfaith Youth Core.

Chris' story is one of continually diving into the deep end of dialog with people. Through it he's been hurt, abused, and rejected. But, more importantly, through it he's helped erase hate, bigotry, and violence that are bred of ignorance.

Dialog, according to Chris, doesn't call us to lessen our beliefs, ignore our convictions, or change our faith to accommodate others. Instead, actively sharing what we believe and why we believe it helps to strengthen the core of compassion, love, and connection with others. Listening to other people is a powerful way to show value for them. Listening without trying to convince exclaims respect.

I notice that Jesus never tried to convince the Romans to stop following Jupiter. Jesus' words about religion were to those who claimed to have a lock on the truth. He broke the lock, kicked in the door, and invited in everyone to have a part of the conversation.

Jesus' beliefs did not require him to convince others of his rightness, nor did his beliefs weaken in response to open dialog with others.

Why can't we have the same attitude?