Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My New Grit TV Debates/Interview on Politics and Religion

A year ago, we had a popular new president and the country seemed ready to make some major changes. Now, we’ve dissolved into anger, infighting, and the most cohesive group in the country at times seems to be the “tea party patriots.” What happened to rational thought, reasonable argument, disputes that didn’t end in name-calling and learning from those who disagree with us?

We ask Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason and contributor to the Washington Post, and Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God and Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism), to talk about the problems with our politics, our discourse, our religious disputes, and why

I hope you watch this and comment, Thanks! Best, Frank


Izgad said...

"My New Grit TV Debats/Interview on Politics and Religion"


It would seem that your starting point is that the other side lacks any valid points. That does not seem to be a useful way to start a reasonable debate.

Luke Gillespie said...

Another great interview, Frank! At fifteen minutes, I wish it wasn't so short. Is it any wonder that rational thought and reasonable argument are in short supply when positions are over-simplified into 30 second sound-bites and extremes? The media knows that extremes are "good copy" and will only air what can be dumbed down to a few seconds to accommodate viewers' short attention span, so views that are more "moderate" or require more variations of thought are rarely given air time. My point is not that extreme views are always wrong (I hope that we all agree to be extremists about the need for love) and moderate views are always right, but that so many extreme views either leave no room for shades of gray or views with even the slightest differences, or they are portrayed and received in ways that provoke or force us to either accept or reject a particular view in its entireity in an all-or-nothing proposition without opening it up to discussion that may take more than 30 seconds.

Your point about the need for a public space, like the Italian piazza, is spot on! Our national parks (and the recent fantastic PBS documentary by Ken Burns) are a wonderful witness to the beauty of and need for public spaces (literally and figuratively) where we can share experiences of enrichment and what it means to be human beings and Americans.

Susan Jacoby makes a good point that atheists can be found on the right and the left, and she finds more common ground politically with liberal christians than the right-wing atheists. I find more common ground politically with liberal atheists than right-wing christians.

Your criticism of both the religious right and the new atheists is a daring combination (in favor of faith in God) since there are shades of gray involved, but it is so refreshing to hear someone take on this challenge like you have.

I have just read the first 30 pages of your book "Patience with God" and I so appreciate your insightful discussion of atheists who attack the fringe christian fundamentalists (as if that automatically destroys or discredits Christianity altogether) and totally ignore the centuries of thoughtful and intellectually inspiring christian thinkers (Augustine, Pascal, Kierkegaard, et al).

Looking forward to finishing the book and hearing more interviews, Frank!

Karen Ashley Greenstone said...

In answer to Izgad, I think that Frank is referring to an extreme element of the other side - people who are so entrenched in their particular ideology that there can be no reasonable debate. With people who know absolutely that they have THE TRUTH, there is no bridge across which to discuss and entertain other ideas. No ideas are acceptable except THE TRUE ones that such people already have. In other words, if I know that I already have THE TRUTH, there is no room within me to entertain your ideas.

I have known people like this, and I can assure you that any attempt at rational discussion or debate is not possible.

I also think that Frank understands this mindset because he used to belong to this group.

Frank, I hope what I've said matches with your position on this.

Michael Camp said...

Great interview, Frank. You and Jacoby pinpoint the problems with our society's Us-vs.-Them, Black-and-White, All-or-Nothing thinking on both sides of the cultural divide. I don't think it's because people aren't smart, but that they are so infused with group-think (what Karen above calls THE TRUTH) they can't bring themselves to look at two sides of an argument with an open mind. I've seen this so much in the evangelical Right, but also on the Left. What we need is a revival of intellectual honesty, where people follow where the evidence leads rather than their cherished ideologies.

Luke Gillespie said...

Karen and Michael, so very well put! Reminds me of a phrase used by mormons: "When the prophet speaks (or our leaders speak), the thinking is done." No room is left for "reasonable debate," as Karen says, or even the slightest deviation from the "group-think" that is decreed from "above" by the likes of Limbaugh, Robertson, Beck, Dobson, et al. As Michael says, we really do "need a revival of intellectual honesty."