I am on a very strong antibiotic. I am on the mend, I think. I had to sleep part of the night in a chair last night because I thought I was choking and my lungs felt like they were collapsing. I have learned three important things from this illness.
1.) As soon as you feel sick, stop exercising.
2.) Don’t get on a plane.
3.) Get enough sleep.
I know, I’m a genius!!!!!
Something I’m reading: “Kluge” by Gary Marcus. I recommend it HIGHLY. I had a binge of economics/biology book buying. I got “Nudge” by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein, which was okay. Then I read “The Economic Naturalist” which wasn’t that great, more like an interesting set of explanations… sort of. But then I read “Kluge.” OH it’s so good. And elegantly written to boot. It’s about how our brains evolved, what our weaknesses are because of it, how the oldest part of our brain can take over, for better or worse results. And the book is short, I read it today. And I am reminded again how impulsive we all are. And how critical thinking is something that is acquired, not innate. Even though evaluating cost and expense of any given opportunity is innate, it’s just that we aren’t naturally good evidence gatherers. We have horrible confirmation bias, we tend to be unrealistically optimistic, and we can be overwhelmed by visceral experiences – seeing someone attractive and sexually available, the smell of food, the over-response to a scary story in spite of statistics. Anyway, I recommend this book SO much. I already think it’s on my Christmas book list. Maybe by then it will be in paperback.
I am about to start reading it again.
Here’s the thing I wanted to blog about.
This week, on the plane back from Portland, I listened to a conversation between the two people, a man and a woman, behind me. They hadn’t known each other before the plane ride. I could make out that they were both religious. He said he was a retired psychologist that worked for a church organization – which one I didn’t catch. She said she was Catholic and proud of it. She told him she converted to Catholicism as an adult. He asked her why. (You can imagine that at this point I was pressing my ear between the seats so I could hear…) And she said, “Oh I became Catholic because our kids were getting ready to go to school and I there was a Catholic church and school nearby and the people there seemed really nice and like the people I like to be around, really family oriented. And my husband was raised Catholic, so he liked it.”
This reminded me once of another plane conversation, this one with someone I was sitting next to, and actually in the conversation with. He told me he lived in Salt Lake City, and in fact he had just moved there four years before. Then somehow it came out that he was Mormon (I might have asked him this point blank.) I asked him if that’s why he moved to Salt Lake City. He said no, he set up a business there. For some reason, I guess, it was a good place for his business. Then he said he converted to the Mormon church after he got there. I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, when in Rome… And people there are all Mormons and he wanted his kids to be like the other kids around and it was good for business because everyone else he was dealing with was Mormon.
First of all, I give both these people major points for honesty. I think they were speaking the truth. I mean, you could argue that the Catholic woman was telling her pragmatic side of the story for being Catholic rather than her religious reasons because the person she was talking to was a psychologist from another church and maybe she thought it would be too disagreeable to say something like, “I am a Catholic because Jesus is the Son of God and he appointed Peter to be the first Pope by saying, ‘On this rock I build my church” and the current Pope is the mouthpiece of God now.’” So I could see that even if she felt this way, she might not have said it, because it wasn’t such a neighborly thing to say.
But my hunch is that she really is Catholic because of the reasons she said and not for any other reason. And I think the Mormon guy on the plane a few years ago is Mormon for exactly the reasons he told me and nothing more.
Now if someone asked me why I was an Atheist, I would probably go into a long and boring account of why I don’t think there is an ultimate designer in nature and get into some philosophical reasons why I think there is no God.
Imagine if I said, “Well, a lot of really cool people are Atheists. In my neighborhood everyone is reading Dawkins and Dennet and Sam Harris and I want my kid to be accepted by their kids so that’s why I’m an Atheist.” I think the other person would be floored. I think they would immediately write me off as superficial and shallow and I think they would be right to do that!
But I suspect if I challenged the religious people on the plane this way, if I said, “Wow, how cooly pragmatic that answer is.” I think they would be really offended and think of me as persnickety and holier-than-thou (how ironic!)
On the other hand, I thought of it this way. What if my answer was “I am a Catholic.” And when they asked why I said, “My family was Catholic. I became accustomed to Catholic ritual. It is a comfort to me. I like the architecture, the medieval overtones, the outfits of the religious, and I especially love the music, in particular Bach.” Would that be less superficial? Because I could see myself saying that if I had not become a-religious.
So, I just thought I would throw that out there. I think it’s interesting, is all.