A New York Times feature from October 3 tells the inspiring tale of a friendship between two scholars, one a Christian, the other an atheist. Their friendship does not thrive in spite of the conflict between their core beliefs, but rather because of it.
Prof. David Skeel, the Christian, recently published a book, “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.” His atheist friend, Patrick Arsenault, is acknowledged in the book and quoted as well, and the Times notes that “True Paradox” “might not have existed at all, or certainly would not exist in its present shape and voice, without the secular scientist as its midwife. And that odd reality is testament to a rare brand of mutual civility in the culture wars, with their countervailing trends of religious fundamentalism and dogmatic atheism.” Says Skeel:
“One of the things we talked about was whether it matters if we persuade each other. I long to have Patrick converted to my perspective. So how can we have a friendship? I see it as toleration in the deepest meaning. We don’t just ‘put up’ with each other’s beliefs. We interrogate them.”
Arsenault tells the Times that “in the culture wars, the rhetoric is acerbic on both sides. On the humanist side, there’s this tendency to view people of faith as not rational. And David is clearly rational. He’s just looked at the same evidence as me and come to a different conclusion.”
Contrast this attitude—rational, respectful, practical, fair, constructive and profoundly ethical, with the “partyism” and bigotry being practiced with increasing intensity as the mid-term elections approach. There is Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in the video clip above, for example, not merely accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, but suggesting that their criticism of the Secret Service is insincere: Continue reading