Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

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Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Brad on Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:57 am

Listened last night to the newest RD 'cast, have a comment and then a question that I hope might be addressed by the good Dr. Galen.

Comment:
One of the key insights of my life came several years ago when it dawned on me how much of the psyches and behavior of my family members, especially of my parents' generation, were oriented around fear - fear of any sort of unknown or "other." Almost all of their attitudes, viewpoints, and behaviors were focused on the maintenance of safety and keeping distance from any but the tiniest increments of change and "foreign" experience - a sad way to go through life, IMHO. Yet, amazingly, they themselves were, and are, almost completely unaware of this foundational aspect of their thinking.
Each and every one of them are highly "conservative," which is another way to say reactionary, politically. All but a couple of my extended family are not only believers, but Biblical literalists.
Obviously then, based on my own experience I could only agree with the results of the research (Jost or Yost?) cited in the podcast.
But I'd also attributed my family's thought patterns as being part of the traditionally hierarchical and reactionary social environments of the American South, and also in the case of my parents' generation having a base of fear formed in the 1930s depression and then WWII.
There are some good chicken and egg questions in this area yet unanswered for me.

Query:
For me, the most relevant question raised by the cited research is, how might it inform the efforts of atheists to effectively communicate with believers about our differences in worldviews and where those worldviews originate?
Obviously the answer to this varies greatly with the people and circumstances, but I've found that there are general patterns that make this sort of communication really difficult, whether in person or online.
On the one hand, direct and blunt challenges, as the research cited in the podcast suggests, makes almost all believers take great offense, respond in reactionary ways, dismiss the challenges as the ravings of an "angry atheist," or to just refuse to respond at all. Though they don't realize it, their "mortality salience" and other fundamental aspects of their worldviews are getting stirred in the depths of their awareness.
On the other hand, more genteel and diplomatic talk often doesn't seem to even be heard by believers except as an opportunity to regurgitate their indoctrinations or proselytize.

Is the bottom line just that these sorts of communications require lots of skill and judgment to find that fine line where real communication can occur, or is there some specific bit of knowledge that we can take from the research and use in talking to our faith-headed friends and families?
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Brad on Fri Sep 11, 2009 11:18 am

An additional note regarding the psych research cited in episode 51.
I'm going to be spending the next week or so among the family members described above.
I'll have the research findings in mind as I share the days with them, and will have a something of a new compassion for how stuck they are in the narrow and fearful worldviews that were instilled in them early in their lives.
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Angela on Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:13 pm

I guess the point we can take from the research is try not remind the believer of their mortality if you want them to be open to changing their world view! Or, perhaps the broader application might be that people need to feel safe in order to have the ability to rationally examine a deeply held belief. Maybe that's why aggressive arguments don't work.

btw, are you perhaps the same Brad from the C&A forum?

On another note, I have to express my deep disappointment in something from this show. Those dogs and heaven church signs are not real! Come on people, I expect better from freethinking skeptics!! No This was the first Reasonable Doubts podcast I listened to, and I enjoyed it. Some thought-provoking stuff. But REALLY, all it would have taken was a google search, and you would have found what I did:
http://www.snopes.com/photos/signs/dogheaven.asp
One of the hosts specifically said, "these are real signs, not from the church sign generator." OUCH

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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Momma Heathen on Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:17 pm

That has already been addressed, and was my fault. It was my submission to the show. I usually check everything on Snopes, but I was so amused by this that I just didn't. No need to harangue the hosts. They're human, and because they are human they are flawed. I don't remember any of the Doubtcasters claiming perfection. scratch
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Angela on Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:33 pm

Sorry, didn't mean to harangue. And it was funny. The passing on of internet falsehoods is one of my pet peeves, so maybe I overreacted. I do hope it doesn't happen again. Peace.

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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Momma Heathen on Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:40 pm

Angela wrote:Sorry, didn't mean to harangue. And it was funny. The passing on of internet falsehoods is one of my pet peeves, so maybe I overreacted. I do hope it doesn't happen again. Peace.

It very well could happen again. Nothing in life is 100%. It was addressed and accounted for. What more could a listener ask for?
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Angela on Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:03 pm

Ooookaay. . . Thanks for the warm welcome to the forum confused I realize we don't get any guarantees in this life, but I will continue to HOPE that you guys consistently check out your sources in the future. If you mess up again, I do promise not to harangue you, or at least to harangue a little more gently. Wink

But to answer your question, Nothing. As a first time listener to the podcast, I require no further action on your part concerning your mistake.

I did apologize for overreacting. Is there something else YOU want?

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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Momma Heathen on Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:30 pm

Angela wrote:Ooookaay. . . Thanks for the warm welcome to the forum confused I realize we don't get any guarantees in this life, but I will continue to HOPE that you guys consistently check out your sources in the future. If you mess up again, I do promise not to harangue you, or at least to harangue a little more gently. Wink

But to answer your question, Nothing. As a first time listener to the podcast, I require no further action on your part concerning your mistake.

I did apologize for overreacting. Is there something else YOU want?

Nope. I'm entirely satisfied. Twisted Evil
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Brad on Fri Sep 11, 2009 8:33 pm

Angela,
About C&A, oui, c'est moi.
Somehow you seem familiar, too! Laughing

About the goof on the church signs, from what I've been able to tell from listening to four or five RD podcasts so far, that was an uncharacteristic slip on the part of the guilty parties, whoever they may be.
Check out the red type under the episode intro HERE.

Also, I just re-read your post above - very good point about people needing to feel safe when their deepest beliefs are challenged. As you've already noticed, I'm trying to moderate my tendencies to be immoderate over at C&A.
On the other hand, I'm not at all sure that delicacy is always the ticket. Sometimes some cage rattling definitely seems necessary. I'm still working on a good way to determine which approach is best in a given circumstance. Maybe figuring this out is difficult for me because of the craziness and relatively extreme nature of my religious history, or maybe I'm just dense. bounce
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Dr./Professor Luke Galen's response:

Post  Momma Heathen on Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:34 pm

Luke responds to Brad's question:

------------------------------------------------------------

The whole "conservative reaction to threat and mortality salience" doesn't really lend itself to simple answers regarding how best to communicate without provoking a defensive reaction. I guess one thing is to keep as much as possible to the evidence and the facts of the matter. But on a broader level, the theory seems to imply that one of the ways to bring about a reduction in conservatism and religion is on a societal level; to reduce the amount of insecurity and threat that people experience. For example, Europe is well known for its low level of religiosity and high tolerance, especially in the scandanavian countries. They also have the most secure societies with social welfare (e.g., universal health care, generous unemployment benefits). Although this may be a correlation due to complex underlying factors, the high level of security may take the edge off any threat such that the people are no longer resorting to religion or conservatism because they don't feel afraid chronically. Obviously this is a large change that is not easily made, but the research tends to imply that the more secure individuals feel in this present life with regards to having their needs met, they are less likely to seek that in the next life. I would recommend reading Jon Jost's work and that of the TMT researchers if you are interested in this area. - Luke
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  jifrock on Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:29 pm

Momma Heathen wrote:Luke responds to Brad's question:

...For example, Europe is well known for its low level of religiosity and high tolerance, especially in the scandanavian countries. They also have the most secure societies with social welfare (e.g., universal health care, generous unemployment benefits). Although this may be a correlation due to complex underlying factors, the high level of security may take the edge off any threat such that the people are no longer resorting to religion or conservatism because they don't feel afraid chronically....

you might be interested in a recent episode of the BBC podcast Thinking Allowed from August 19 2009. Quoting from the synopsis:

"Tom Rees has conducted research into religion and personal insecurity in 50 countries. Using figures on how much people pray and how unequal income is in each of them, he claims to have found evidence to show that the most religious societies are the most unequal, and concludes the inequality leads to religion"


The TA home page includes a link to an article by Rees in the Journal of Religion an Society:
Is Personal Insecurity a Cause of Cross-National Differences in the Intensity of Religious Belief?
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Momma Heathen's over-reaction

Post  JB on Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:29 pm

Hey Fletch-Bonner (hehehe),

Stop being mean to the listeners! Suspect

JB

Oh. And also, thanks for making the Forum.
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Brad on Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:47 pm

Thanks to Luke and jifrock for the excellent replies and material to look into further, and to MH for forwarding my query to Luke.

The whole security vs. conservatism / religion issue really fascinates me.

Another place that would seem like a fruitful area of study to me would be the degree of increase in political conservatism and evangelicalism in the U.S. military since the 1960s and early 1970s, when both the debacle of Vietnam and government dishonesty about the war and other things became widely known, thereby much decreasing military stability in many ways.

Religion and the military might also be a really interesting but scary subject for a podcast...
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Momma Heathen on Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:43 pm

JB wrote:Hey Fletch-Bonner (hehehe),

Stop being mean to the listeners! Suspect

JB

Oh. And also, thanks for making the Forum.

I have been chastised by the great JB. I now retreat to my shame-cave. tongue
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Momma Heathen on Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:44 pm

Brad wrote:Thanks to Luke and jifrock for the excellent replies and material to look into further, and to MH for forwarding my query to Luke.

Not a problem! sunny
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  blacklens on Wed Sep 16, 2009 3:25 am

Momma Heathen wrote:I now retreat to my shame-cave.
You have a shame-cave?! Is that like a time-out place for grown-ups? tongue
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Saturday Night Live Sketch

Post  slixpert on Mon Sep 21, 2009 7:19 pm

This show needed MORE COWBELL!
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:08 am

Does the terror management theory also apply to conservative atheists? I've known some conservative atheists who are normally very calm and rational people but some of them are all freaking out about Obama's health care reform being a secret socialist plot. We've posted evidence to the contrary in debates with them but some of them have jumped on the "let's murder Obama" Republican bandwagon. They weren't this extreme before the health care debate and even if we didn't agree on political issues, I could still count on them to criticize the extremists in their favored political party but now some of them are defending the extremists and are becoming more polarized in politics, so I wonder if this has anything to do with it.

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Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  Momma Heathen on Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:44 am

Discuss this episode here--
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Re: Episode 51: Don't Fear the Reaper

Post  exxian on Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:03 am

Angela wrote:
On another note, I have to express my deep disappointment in something from this show. Those dogs and heaven church signs are not real! Come on people, I expect better from freethinking skeptics!! No This was the first Reasonable Doubts podcast I listened to, and I enjoyed it. Some thought-provoking stuff. But REALLY, all it would have taken was a google search, and you would have found what I did:
http://www.snopes.com/photos/signs/dogheaven.asp
One of the hosts specifically said, "these are real signs, not from the church sign generator." OUCH

Hehe dude I know! I cringed.... but that's one thing I do like about the show... when they goof they admit it and laugh about it. :-P

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