Rebekah Duke has sent a nice piece from the N.Y. Times on one authors attempts to bridge the gap between religious and nonreligious people.

“Anthropologists have a term for this racheting-up of opposition: schismogenesis. Gregory Bateson developed the word to describe mirroring interactions, where every move by each side makes the other respond more negatively, like those horrible arguments with your spouse where everything you say makes the other person dig in their heels more fiercely.       

These days we Americans live not only with political schismogenesis, but also religious schismogenesis. The political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, in their book “American Grace,” found that “recent years have seen the sharpest points of disagreement between religious believers — of nearly all stripes — and those who denounce religious belief of all types.” The last few election cycles have made it clear that many evangelicals think that those without religion are dangerously wrong on many issues. A crop of equally committed atheists and agnostics have reciprocated, with vigor. Professors Putnam and Campbell find that it is the people at the extremes who are most engaged in the battle, but all of us see the battle lines clearly drawn.” -T.M. Luhrmann

I like Luhrmann’s framing of the conversation as more about differences in pychological approach than content. Both sides are focused on important truths but have trouble hearing the other because of bad experiences with the other side.

As I’ve said before, religion is really about the art of living and should make no scientific claims at all. Science is an empirical method, not a philosophy for living, and should never replace our need to affirm and celebrate life as lived.

The author’s belief, and my own, is that we are in big trouble if we cannot find a way to be both scientific and religious. We must not choose between mindless religion and heartless science, instead we must build a bridge between our hearts and our minds.