Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Moral Equivalent of [Religion]

Just reading a very interesting interview with Stephen Duncombe posted by Bruces to nettime.

His comments (quoting William James) reminded me of my efforts (documented on this site) to argue with programmatic/dogmatic atheists that you don't bring people over by telling them they're stupid or even simply by telling them they're wrong (and even "proving" it). Duncombe sez:

There is an essay that has stuck with me. I remember reading it when I was 18 and I went to a War Resisters meeting in San Franciso, we had herb tea and sat on the floor. It was William James’ “A Moral Equivalent to War.” James’s point was simple. Speaking to a group of pacifists, he said, “If we keep addressing pacifism by saying ‘war is bad, peace is good,’ we’re not going to get anyplace with any people except for people who already agree with us. What we have to figure out it is why people go to war.” And he says “look, whether we like it or not, war serves the purposes of honor, sacrifice. Of patriotism, and so on and these things are good qualities; what we have to do is figure out a pacifist equivalent that can actually allow people to feel honor, allow people to feel sacrifice about giving for the all, allow people to feel patriotism, but not in a way that kills other
people or gets people killed.” And then says “Once you acknowledge that, then you can move the point towards your own politics.” And that stuck with me.
Could say much the same thing to Thomas Frank and like-minded progressives re: Kansas . . .

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