REVIEW: Jonathan Haidt grabs onto the twin time-bombs of American punditry, politics and religion, and does so from an amazingly optimistic point-of-view. He combines his sunny disposition with a bit of psychology and a ton of research. Unfortunately, there are too many GOP-inspired missteps in an otherwise interesting book.
You have to admire Jonathan Haidt for having the guts to take on some big challenges in The Righteous Mind: "I'm going to make the case that morality is the extraordinary human capacity that made civilization possible." Fair enough, but right away that brings us to two bugaboos of Western civilization:
"Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together," he writes. Or drive people apart, one might reply. But Haidt keeps on rolling: "My goal in this book is to drain some of the heat, anger, and divisiveness out of these topics and replace them with awe, wonder, and curiosity." Ohhh-kayyyyyyy...
While I have not even begun to reach my standard level of skepticism, he's not done being overly optimistic: "My hope is that this book will make conversations about morality, politics, and religion more common, more civil, and more fun, even in mixed company. My hope is that it will help us to get along."
Too many tall orders, as it turns out. But hats off in salute to Haidt for attempting all this, despite the subtitle, "Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion," which might better substitute "Conflicted" for "Divided."
[ ...... continued ......]