In response to my posting of Douglas Todd’s splendid article from “The Vancouver Sun” yesterday, I received a beautiful response that I did not want to be lost in the dark cellar of the inaspaciousplace comment section.
Timberwraith has been a friend and occasional visitor to inaspaciousplace for some time. You can read timberwraith’s blog “haunted timber” at http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/.
The comment below demonstrates a spirit of openness, respect, and wisdom that I believe we would do well to emulate. If all conversation could be conducted with the tone timberwraith takes in this comment, the world might inch a little closer to that common ground in the human community for which our hearts long.
Here, with permission, is timberwraith’s comment:
I’m starting to view this through a slightly different set of lenses. I’ve grown to see the overly simplistic “rational/materialist vs. intuitive/spiritual” divide as representing a broad spectrum of orientations in how human beings relate to themselves, their environment, and others. I suspect that for many people, one’s place on this spectrum is more often a matter of what feels natural as opposed to being the outcome of a conscious choice. Where we wind up on that continuum is the result of a complex interplay of forces both innate and social in origin. I suspect that the reasons we give for our individual places on this spectrum (I came to see the existence of gods as mythical constructs; I came to sense a presence of divinity surrounding me; etc.) may only represent the uppermost surfaces of how we come to perceive the world as we do.
I’m hoping that people can reach a place of understanding and acceptance between the two extremes of this continuum. Rather than one side trying to repress or eradicate the other way of being, I hope that we can come to acknowledge that both sides–and the myriad ways of being which lie between the two–have their respective strengths and flaws. Rather than trying to annihilate each other, we should try to reach a place of understanding which acknowledges that everyone along this spectrum has their own pieces of life’s puzzle rather than owning the entire puzzle and the table top it is assembled upon.
Yeah, I know. This sounds like a “kumbaya moment”. Rather than being naively optimistic, however, I believe that I am being practical, for I suspect that if these tensions are allowed to fester long enough, violence will surely result–especially on a geopolitical level. (Think of secularists such as Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris aligning their ambitions of repressing and controlling Muslims with the military power and imperialist aspirations of the United States.) Also, there are dangerous political and social schisms evolving in my own country (the US) which partially reflect the “rational/materialist vs. intuitive/spiritual” divide. I suspect that if these schisms deepen over the next generation, civil war could very well be the outcome. There is a lot of hatred, arrogance, and dehumanization swirling around this divide–on both sides.
As with so many issues surrounding human relationships, we are seeing a struggle for power play out along this divide. In much of the world, religious institutions have controlled entire governments and cultures. The power of religious institutions has waned in some parts of the world and has become more entrenched in others. The activist face of atheism and “rationalism” is essentially a kind of backlash against the abuse of power that has been fostered by religion’s aspirations toward social dominance. Ironically, atheism and “rationalism” also show aspirations toward power and control. The stated goal in many quarters of the new atheist movement is to eradicate religion and spiritual ways of perceiving the world. New atheism clearly has its sights set on social dominance.
Personally, I trust one group’s aspirations for dominance as much as the next. The desire for power and control usually lead to bad places, given time and the accumulation of resources.
Rather than trying to control and eradicate each other, I think it makes more sense to recognize how we each contribute to a collective understanding of life. Trying to shove everyone through the same template of conformity, regardless of whether that template is rational/empirical or emotional/intuitive, only brings hatred, conflict, and violence in the long term. A template that comfortably fits one segment of humanity will surely sever and mutilate those who do not fit its conformist apertures. Religion and secularism have both aspired to this social butchery. The time for seeking common ground is long overdue.