Not Just Another Day on The Resort or ‘On Religion’

21 02 2010

Yesterday was not just another day on the resort – it was Shabbat. That brings us to a whole other topic, part of which was raised in the comments section by ‘Michael from the Great Plains’. To try and cover it all in a single not-too-long post:

Our religious upbringing and current lives – We approach religion somewhat differently, but end up in similar places. In a nutshell, we grew up in religious Jewish homes and enjoy our Jewish culture and heritage, but we are also critically thinking and reasonably well-adjusted people living in mainstream society. While we retain and enjoy many of the cultural and ritual practices of our upbringing, we search for truth primarily through the lens of science and believe that we can learn much from cultures outside of our own. Jay is more of a by-the-book scientist while Amy enjoys consciously allowing emotion to drive at times. We both feel a very strong connection to our community, and our religious community drives a large part of our religious practice.

To Michael – We appreciate your sensitivity around the issue of religion, but Jay doesn’t believe that religion deserves any more respect than, say, political opinions. Jay is fond of the HL Mencken quote, “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.” Sometimes people who espouse ideas deserve sensitivity, but no idea should be exempt from critical review because of its nature. Every claim requires evidence, falsifiability, etc. –  and things that make us feel good aren’t true because they make us feel good. The absolute worst thing you can say about a claim is that it is false. [Amy is more of a traditionalist and thinks that religion does merit a bit more respect. C’est la vie.]

On that note, our Shabbat! – We had a lovely kiddush and motzi (blessing over bread) together at dinner on Friday night. We ran our yoga (sans music) and astronomy programs as usual on Saturday, and were rewarded with a gorgeous sunny afternoon. Amy played a fantastic game of water volleyball and the evening clouds parted just long enough for Jay to run a night-time astronomy session at the upper and lower bars. A relaxing day.

Interesting people of the day – There were two couples who made the cut for today. One couple are pig farmers just outside of London, and the other are a waiter at the resort who this past week married a Canadian who he met on the resort one year ago. They came by to celebrate with the resort staff and guests!

Today we plan on visiting Rio San Juan, a nearby fishing village with a huge merengue festival that closes this evening. We’re going with some of the resort staff and are looking forward to a fun trip!

posted by jayhorowitz and amybetho

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One response

21 02 2010
Michael in the Great Plains

Thanks for sharing your views on religion. My background and views are largely similar. I agree with your statement that, “Sometimes people who espouse ideas deserve sensitivity, but no idea should be exempt from critical review…”

If religion were easy for people–even intelligent and educated people–to deal with on its reason/truth-based merits, we would not have so many different, and contradictory, religions. It’s been said that human beings are not only logical, but psychological; religion is a sphere where that observation is consistently illustrated.

Our discomfort in putting at risk our foundational allegiances and orienting beliefs, by seriously considering opposition to our views, manifests not only in matters of religion, but commonly in politics and social issues, and in philosophy, science, and various other fields, too. And, of course, most of the resistance to opposing ideas is unconscious; on the conscious level we experience ourselves as open-minded, but correct on the issues. We simply “know” that the other side is wrong-headed, confused, ill-informed, sincere but mistaken, tragically indoctrinated, or perhaps motivated by personal gain…or is even manipulative and lying, and holding sinister intentions.

There is no better antidote to our unconscious defense against unfamiliar ideas than sustained and searching courage…leading to investigation, by reading, discussing, experiencing, contemplating…followed by more searching courage–courage for challenging not only others’ ideas and beliefs, but our own.

Most people are not ready to exert such courage, to put their existential orientation at risk. And to confront them against their wishes would usually be futile, and nearly always unkind. Because, especially to the deeply religious, losing faith can be agonizing. To speak up on the issue, then, or not to? The way I solved the problem was to write a book and make thoughts on such matters available to those who were ready to grapple with religion and intellectual honesty. Choosing to read the book–and actually following through on it–almost by definition proves readiness to handle the material.

There are, of course, so many further angles to discuss on a matters as rich and complex as religion and truth, but that isn’t the primary focus of your blog…so I’ll refrain from widening the discussion on this topic, and let the two of you raise other angles if you so choose.

On your resort experience: It sounds like the two of you are continuing to enjoy yourselves and meet interesting people, in a win-win arrangement that is life-enhancing, and frugal (for you), too. Congratulations on using your energy and resourcefulness, and other abilities and skills, to make that happen.

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