T. M. Luhrmann,
a professor of anthropology at Stanford and the author of “When God
Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With
The New York Times how skeptics and believers can have a better "marriage."
As political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell observed in the United State, “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.”(American Grace)
"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, " Luhrmann said. "...one of the things that makes mutual respect between
believers and nonbelievers difficult is that there is a kind of line in
the sand, and you’re either on one side of it or on the other."
|We are the power.|
However, Luhrmann pointed out that believers and nonbelievers are not so different from one another. "When I arrived at one church I
had come to study... I saw my own doubts, anxieties and yearnings
reflected in those around me. People were willing to utter sentences —
like 'I believe in God' — that I was not, but many of those I met spoke
openly and comfortably about times of uncertainty, even doubt. Many of
my skeptical friends think of themselves as secular, sometimes
profoundly so. Yet these secular friends often hover on the edge of
faith. They meditate. They keep journals. They go on retreats. They just
don’t know what to do with their spiritual yearnings. "
Perhaps there is hope, as Luhrmann said. "Good marriages work because couples learn to
repair, rather than escalate, their conflicts. Same-sex marriage and
abortion should not be approached by drawing a line in the sand and
demonizing everyone on the other side. We need to recognize something of
what we share, and to carry on a conversation — and if we can keep the
conversation going, we will, however slowly, move forward. If we can’t, we’re in real trouble. "
It applies not only to religious schismogenesis, but also political schismogenesis, and is probably relevant in other places outside America.