Comments about ‘Malcolm Gladwell tells of the power of forgiveness’

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Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5 2013 11:55 p.m. MST

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eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

This is one of the best interviews I've read in some time. I look forward to reading Gladwell's book. We hear so much about the negative side of those who fail to practice Christianity and so little about the power of those who do e.g. the Huguenots in this story. While this story is powerful, we can also find small acts of courageous kindness around us today.

The world seems to be saying we would be better off without religion without examining some of the positive practices and results of living a life centered around forgiveness, repentence (continual self-improvement), loving one's neighbor as as oneself, etc. The world's way of revenge certainly has proven to be a disaster.

xert
Santa Monica, CA

One of the brightest writers working today. If you ever get the chance to watch he and Buzz Bissinger totally dominate a debate on the subject of whether or not college football should be banned, you should watch it. Intelligence Squared Debates. I'm the biggest football fan in the world and they turned me and the entire audience around on the subject while destroying their opposition.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

eastcoastcoug wrote:

"The world seems to be saying we would be better off without religion without examining some of the positive practices and results of living a life centered around forgiveness, repentence (continual self-improvement), loving one's neighbor as as oneself, etc. The world's way of revenge certainly has proven to be a disaster."

Who says it is "the world's way of revenge"?

Enough with the false attributions and straw man arguments already.

No atheist I know ignores or criticizes religion for "forgiveness, repentance (sic), loving one's neighbor," etc.

What we DO argue is that religion does not have the patent, copyright, or claim to the origins of these positive human traits, and that we, atheists are every bit as "good" and "moral" and "worthy" as any believer, simply by virtue of our practices and experiences of these positive human traits -- WITHOUT any god!

Religion did not invent love, much less for one's neighbor, and even for one's enemy - religion has created more enemies over its history than it has successfully loved! Religion did not invent forgiveness nor repentance. Religion merely mystified these positive human traits to control people, gain power, and accumulate wealth.

jeanie
orem, UT

"Religion merely mystified these positive human traits to control people, gain power, and accumulate wealth."

Generalizations do not help any argument, as you pointed out to eastcoastcoug. You as an atheist dislike generalizations and assumptions about your beliefs, yet you dish out the same thing when it comes to religion.

There are regilious people who like and respect their atheist friends. It diesn't mean we understand why they believe the way they do, or agree, but we can recognize good people and appreciate them. Stop painting with the same broad brush you would have the religious abandon.

eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

@Scientist,

I made no reference whatsoever to Atheists in my post so I don't understand your rant. I've got lots of loving, kind Atheist and Agnostic friends too. But I think you have to give some credit to Christianity and many other religions who at their core try to instill and teach positive human values. Whether we think they invented these values or not is beside the point.

But yes, I would argue that with the New Testament, Christianity does indeed have a jump on you Atheists with a 2,000 year old, world best seller on these core principles.

My main point is that we often fault religion when people fail to live up to the ideal of love and forgiveness. It's not the core ideas themselves that are at fault. I hope we are all able to see the good in others not like us.

Back to the article...one of the most powerful things about Forgiveness is that it puts us back in control of how we feel and act rather than being acted upon and feeling powerless. I'm not saying I'm perfect at it, but I believe the principle works.

eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

You say you don't like Straw man arguments and false attributions but you laid a few humdingers on us:

- religion has created more enemies over its history than it has successfully loved!

....I'm not sure how you prove that one. I know a lot of religious people that try awfully hard to love in spite of hate and not being loved back. Not an exclusive trait, but let's give some credit where credit is due. I think you will recognize that sometimes e.g. with racial hatred and ethnic cleansing that not everyone DESERVES the hate they receive. So I'm not sure what you are trying to say.

- Religion did not invent forgiveness nor repentance. Religion merely mystified these positive human traits to control people, gain power, and accumulate wealth.

...not even sure which part to take issue with, but almost everything you say in this statement is a broad allegation and a "straw man" argument.

Again, let's not fault the principles for the people who can't live up to them. I hope you can forgive those of us who fall short.

OHBU
Columbus, OH

@eastcoastcoug,

Read a bit by Socrates--a man who was killed in part for not believing in any gods. I would argue he has a bit of a jump on your New Testament, by some 400 years. His ethics served as a foundation for the stoicism practiced by early Christians.

Or perhaps Siddartha Guatama (Buddha) who expressed his thoughts on forgiveness over 500 years before Christ, and who taught that "A belief in god is itself a form of human desire and clinging, a product of the ego and another cause of suffering in that it prevents a person from becoming an autonomous and free human being."

I'm not going to bash Christianity at large, because there have been innumerable good Christians that have practiced their faith well and demonstrated these principles in their own lives. But Christianity is not the original source of these ideas nor do I believe that being Christian by itself predicts any more affinity to these concepts.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

DN Censors – kindly tell me what is offensive about this comment?

I’ve been a fan of Gladwell for years but have to say I found this his least impressive book. He continually argues for causation by presenting only anecdotal correlation - the story about Dr. Emil Freireich is a case in point. Many others reach the opposite conclusion (i.e., their positive childhoods that gave them the confidence, freedom, and self-reliance to do X, Y, Z).

And the Wilma Derksen story is troubling because it conveys a dangerous fatalism. I have much more admiration for the other the family who lost a teenage daughter, and to characterize their efforts as “unsuccessful” because they did not achieve the same peace of mind seems ludicrous. If their efforts saved just one family from going through a similar experience, in my book they were successful.

And the Civil Rights story is a non-sequitur – whether or not King and his companions were the “underdogs” seems totally irrelevant. In the end, as Gladwell points out, they were smarter, more determined, and had morality and justice on their side.

eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

OHBU,

I believe God has inspired many good people in their time and place to teach principles of love for their fellowman. I believe Socrates et al served a purpose to help prepare minds and hearts for Christianity - battles Paul didn't have to fight.

I also enjoy reading ancient texts of all sources who teach these things. I'm an inveterate world traveler (have lived in several other countries) and love learning about other cultures. I'm pleased you recognize some good in all, including Christians.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@eastcoastcoug – “almost everything you say in this statement is a broad allegation and a "straw man" argument.”

I appreciate the overall tone of your comments – I too am friends with religious and non-religious alike and that fact is never an issue.

Regarding your retort to A Scientist, I don’t think his point is either a broad allegation or a straw man argument.

Our moral sentiments evolved over many eons and starting with empathy & cooperation (which we find precursors to in the animal kingdom) grew more complex and nuanced as we began living in larger & larger groups.

At some point religion came on the scene – a likely positive adaptation to promote increased socialization – and incorporated these sentiments into their narratives.

To Scientists’ point – some religions have hijacked morality by implying either implicitly or explicitly that God (their god) gave us morality and only by following this god can we be moral.

All your other points about most religious people being good & decent (which I agree with), clearly this move in the early days of religion was incorrect (whatever the motivation).

jeanie
orem, UT

Tyler D.

You speak as if we know where religion started and how. These statements you make are based on modern man's best guesses on the evidence so far discovered, not on proven fact. The historical records we have unearthed and discovered are not decisive. We can't even draw a straight line from early man to our current physical make up, new skulls and parts of skulls keep cropping up that don't fit the model. Secular history is not clear exactly where religion started, but can only factually acknowledge that it is here.

I think it is safe to say however, that while there is a lot we don't know, we do see good in many people of differing beliefs. Over-all we recognize in many people the traits of mercy, forgiveness and kindness and we appreciate and acknowledge this. Religious and non religious can be moral, I agree with that.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@jeanie – “These statements you make are based on modern man's best guesses on the evidence so far discovered, not on proven fact.”

First, thank you for your cordial comments…

You’re right, but unless one believes there are other (better) ways to gain knowledge about the natural world, we’re left with what evidence we have and constructing the most plausible story based on that evidence.

But I also think it’s important to recognize that religion has always claimed to “fill in the gaps” of our knowledge – those gaps are just much smaller today than they once were. From the first Shaman or Witch Doctor, to Oracle, Seer, Visionary, Priest & Prophet, religion has always been quick to say “you may not know but I do.”

Glad we agree that everyone can be moral.

And I’ll grant that religion does a good job at teaching morals, especially to kids. Organized religion is powerful in that regard and sadly, in the name political correctness or cultural relativism, secular society is not nearly as good at teaching virtues. Fortunately, much of it is innate and most people figure it out.

jeanie
orem, UT

Tyler D.
It's nice to see there can be differing opinions or beliefs, even in sensitive subjects, that can be discussed without verbal hand grenades lobbed. Thanks.

Floyd Johnson
Broken Arrow, OK

I have read all of Gladwell's books. I find them intriguing and thought provoking. I do share the skepticism of many other readers in his declaration of causation beteen some data. I recently re-read "Outliers" and found his family history an excellent oportunity for reflection.

A Guy With A Brain
Enid, OK

Malcom Gladwell quote: "If you pin your hopes on the way the world out there is going to go about its business, you're taking an enormous risk."

Wow.

Just, wow.

THAT is a powerful, powerful statement, in essence saying: "Don't put the expectations of your own happiness on others", or in other words, "be responsible for yourself".

I believe it wholeheartedly. Now I just need to do it (live it) better. It would drastically change things in my life, starting with the quality of my marriage to my wife.

Good luck to us all to be responsible.

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