And what if we're all wrong?

While I wasn't tagged * (and I'm glad I wasn't, for tagging me makes me want to avoid doing whatever I was ordered to do), I can't resist responding to Glenn Reynolds' "BOOKS I WOULD RECOMMEND TO THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH ME" post.

Linking Ilya Somin's post, Glenn points out that it's a theme of the blogosphere lately, and recommends James Scott's Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes To Improve The Human Condition Have Failed.

Glenn's observation that "everybody disagrees with me about something," reminded me that if you try hard enough, you can disagree with everyone about everything. Or, if you're a far-out radical Buddhist Kumbaya Eastern Mysticism Utopian, maybe you can figure out a way to agree with everyone about everything.

We will always disagree, but I think the most important thing to remember is that when people disagree, it is because those who disagree consider those with whom they disagree to be wrong. Now, while I always want to be right (and I think most people do), I try to never forget at least the possibility that I might be wrong. And I think that we all need to remember that there is a right to be wrong. If there wasn't, we would have no freedom.

So the book I would recommend to those who disagree with me is Kevin Seamus Hasson's The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America. Here's the first paragraph:

It is perhaps America's most enduring myth: The Pilgrims came here looking for religious freedom, found it, and we all lived happily ever after.

From an Amazon review by James T. Hill,

Hasson is delightfully witty as he skewers both extremes in the culture war. One extreme, "the pilgrims," are people of whatever faith (Muslims, Christians, etc,) who want their religion to the be the only official one. The other extreme, "the park rangers," want to drive all religion from public life. Hasson's solution is to welcome all faiths into the public square.

Hasson is, however, no relativist. He doesn't think that the various faiths that he'd welcome into public life are all somehow true. As he says in his introduction "on any given day, I think most of my clients are wrong. But I firmly believe that...they have the right to be wrong."

Remembering that might make it possible to tolerate the intolerable. The book is several years old, and while I didn't agree with everything the author says (I especially wish he'd spent more time on the atheist issue), his central premise is extremely valuable, and I would highly recommend it to anyone -- especially people who disagree with me on culture war issues.

Besides, the book is ranked 652,730, so I thought it could use a plug.

* Unless M. Simon emailing me constitutes being "tagged," that is....

posted by Eric on 10.26.09 at 07:54 PM


Does that mean that now I'm IT?

M. Simon   ·  October 26, 2009 8:08 PM

While he was certainly wrong on some issues, Oliver Cromwell was right on this one:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.
John Burgess   ·  October 26, 2009 11:46 PM

Doesn't he miss the point? I doubt that people have any overriding concern that Juan believes that Mohammad spoke for Gawd, or that Wu worships some guy named Jesus, or that Trygvid won't stop reciting the Bhagavad Gita.

People don't care what you think - internally - about whether there's a gawd, or about how she wants you to behave.

What truly causes them alarm is how the religious imperative - the theme of "umm, guys, it's GAWD who's telling me to order that you live your lives just exactly as I would, not me" - gives some adherents the perfect excuse to ignore morality and autonomy and individual differences and simply order that we adopt their own thought process and value system and blind prejudices and evil self-serving justifications.

So, sure, you have the right to be wrong about gawd(z). But you have NO right to insist that I be wrong along with you. And that's where controversy is found, not in individual belief.

Want to spend your own Fridays chanting hateful diatribes in gutter Aramic in your basement? Knock yourself out!

Want to demand that I accept the truth and compulsion of your hateful diatribes? Here, let me HELP you knock yourself out.

ou have the right to be stoopid. You have no right to make me pay for your stoopidity.

Anonymous   ·  October 27, 2009 2:51 AM

Few intellectuals recognize the right to be wrong, that is why they fail to promote individual liberty.

They and the pilgrims have not learned the true dynamic of liberty: we have the right to tolerance, not approval.

Brett   ·  October 27, 2009 10:08 AM

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