In Religious Communities
This page has links to materials that may be useful for people who want to discuss moral psychology with their congregation or religious community.
I) Interviews I’ve done that focused on religion:
Here’s the main interview I’ve done in 2017 of interest to religious audiences, a conversation with Tim Keller, at NYU, via the Veritas Forum:
—Stand Up, with Pete Dominick, April 2014, an interview focused on religion, including a review of its mostly positive effects, and how America is no longer divided by religion — it’s now left vs. right, with the major religions splitting into liberal and conservative wings.
—Inspiring Naturalism (Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow), a discussion that focuses especially on religion. Dowd is the author of “Thank God for Evolution”. Interesting idea from Dowd: Scientists and (many) Christians can find core values, deep agreement, on: “deep time eyes” (an evolutionary understanding of the universe, on a huge time scale) “a global heart,” and “we all value evidence.”
The Gospel Coalition (10/8/12), 30 minute discussion with Collin Hansen, with emphasis on persuasion via love and good example, and the relationship between belonging and believing.
Tapestry, with Mary Hines (CBC-Canada) (6/3/12). “I’m right, you’re wrong.” We talk more about religion than in most other interviews.
II) Essays, reviews, and blog posts discussing The Righteous Mind from religious perspectives:
Think Theology, “The most important book I’ve read this year,” by Andrew Wilson (2016). Wilson summarizes the main ideas in the book succinctly and then draws out 5 lessons that can help Christians to “shape our preaching and our leadership:” 1) Speak to the elephant as well as (if not more than) the rider. 2) Understand that disagreement may result from different moral foundations. 3) Go beyond telling people what the Bible says is right or wrong; explain why it is right or wrong. 4) Continue to call people to lives of sacrifice and commitment. 5) Learn to disagree well.
See a variety of resources from The Village Square, which runs a series called Faith and Food Fridays. That group (run by Liz Joyner) and I have a mutual crush on each other — they figured out on their own many of the ideas that I came to while writing The Righteous Mind, so we often work together.
Public Discourse, two posts by Russel Nieli. I was on a panel with Nieli at Princeton’s James Madison Program, and he offered a lovely blend of praise and critique which will be helpful to religious readers who appreciate my efforts to be fairminded about religion, but know that that my understanding of religion and religious experience is shallow. (You can see our panel discussion here; Nieli’s comments start at minute 70.) Nieli then expanded his comments into two blog posts at The Witherspoon Institute‘s blog, Public Discourse. In his first post, “Religion as a community-bonding fiction,” Nieli lays out my basic defense of religion against the New Atheists. In his second post, “Religion: Moving beyond Emile Durkheim,” Nieli shows that my Durkheimian perspective is too narrowly focused on group bonding; it sees too little difference between religion and sports fandom. It misses the importance of solitary experience. Most constructive suggestion:
Haidt says again and again that man is homo duplex… It would be more accurate to speak of man as homo triplex—a being who combines in the same nature an egocentric chimp (“looking out for number one”), a sociocentric bee (“all for one, one for all”), and a theocentric seraph (“not as I will, but as Thou wilt”). The chimpanzee and the bee coexist in a complex relationship with the seraph, and just as the “hive-switch” that Haidt speaks about can be turned on at times to override the egocentric promptings of the chimp, so a “prophetic-switch”—one with deep other-worldly connections—can sometimes be turned on to override both the chimp’s egocentrism and the bee’s parochial sociocentrism. It is to many of the great mystic-religious figures of the past… that we owe our understanding of a universal God—a God who transcends tribal parochialisms and opens our hearts to an appreciation of a universal humanity.
Catholic World Report, Moral Feelings and the Moral World, by James Kalb (8/7/14) applies moral foundations theory to understand why traditionalists and progressives see the world so differently.
CatholicCulture.org, “One-Eyed Liberals,” by Jeff Mirus (6/12/12). “We may grant, I suppose, that there are none so sure of themselves as the morally insensitive, and none so morally insensitive as those who take their superior position for granted.”
Mockingbird, “How do I love Jonathan Haidt? Let me count the ways…” (3/28/12)
First Things editor R. R. Reno devoted the “Public Square” essay in the June/July issue to a summary of the book and applications to modern problems such as moral relativism. (Subscription required.)
The Jesus Creed blog explores the book’s implications, without embracing or condemning the book. “We need to be aware of this book. In some ways it confirms postmodernity’s cynicism; in other ways it transcends simplistic theories.”
Virtuous Society, a Mormon blog by Tom Stringham: “The Righteous Mormon Mind: How Moral Foundations Theory Makes Sense of Latter-Day Saint Culture.”
Intersection, an Episcopal blog by Jennie Woodring, notes that liberal Episcopalians tend to limit their application of the Baptismal Covenant to Care and Fairness issues, whereas the full Baptismal Covenant actually covers all of the foundations, including Loyalty (to the Apostle’s teaching) and Authority (of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
III) Congregations that have used The Righteous Mind in sermons, or to foster discussion:
Sermon by Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Central Synagogue, New York City, to address a congregation divided in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Rabbi Buchdahl does not cite The Righteous Mind, but I know that she read it carefully (she is my Rabbi) and she employs many of its central ideas to speak to congregants on the left and the right simultaneously — a challenge faced by many faith leaders these days.
Rosh Hashanah service at Temple Israel, Natick MA, by Rabbi Harold Kushner (author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People). Great insights into the importance of community (“It is impossible to be a Jew alone”) and sacredness (“To be a Jew is to recognize that we live in a world that is starved for holiness.”)
Rosh Hashanah sermon at Temple Israel, in Tallahassee Florida, by Rabbi Jack Romberg, on how moral foundations theory can help us understand the Torah, and the differences between conservative and progressive Jews (and Christians). He focuses on God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac — as clear a conflict between the care and authority foundations as can be found anywhere in world literature. “Judaism considers a series of complimentary values and recognizes we cannot eliminate any of them for us to function.”
Sermon at Unitarian Universalist church of Palo Alto, by Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern. Conclusion: “As we move through the difficult next five weeks [before the election of 2012], at those moments when we feel despair that this country can ever be united or that goodness can ever prevail, let us turn not to the shelter of our own righteousness and self-righteousness, but to our neighbors, all of them, and ask them, “What moral values do you hold most dear?” Let us be ready for what they say to surprise us, hearten us, and challenge us. Let us be prepared to see beyond the walls we have built and find something of value on the other side. Maybe then we can build, together, despite our differences, because of our differences, a society that will be good, and do good, for the world and the future.”
[Please email me if your congregation or reading group has used the book, or if you have any materials or links to contribute]