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Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Psychology ... Religion ...

I recently saw some reviews of a new book defending agnosticism. The book is called “Spiritual Envy”, written by a Jewish fellow named Michael Krasny. Obviously, if Dr. Krasny (a PhD in literature) is defending agnosticism, he is not strictly speaking a religious practicing Jew. I have not read his book yet, but the reviews indicate that Krasny once believed in the God taught by the Torah and the Prophets, but now does not. However, he doesn’t accept the tenants of atheism either. He defends the idea of accepting that one cannot really know if there is a God or not; or if there were, just what that God would be like.

But Dr. Krasny obviously still cares, or else he wouldn’t write a 264 page book about what we can or cannot know about God’s existence. Perhaps he is still searching; perhaps he is still hopeful. And perhaps he still takes the leap of faith in living as though there were a God of goodness that cared about us. Even though I share Krasny’s intellectual agnosticism, I also care. As to whether I live a life of faith, well, I guess that I’m not the one to judge that. But I do the best I can, I try to remain hopeful.

One little glimmer of hope for the muddled-up world that we currently experience is found in one of the Spiritual Envy reviews. Would you believe that an Islamic scholar gave a Jewish agnostic’s book a positive review? Oh ye of so little faith! Yes, Prof. Reza Aslan wrote a very edifying review of Krasny’s book on the Daily Beast site. It’s definitely worth a read. Aslan of course is not your typical imam or mullah. He’s a young American Islamic idealist, a guy who seems to be pushing the edge of the Moslem envelope in search of a kinder and gentler Allah, Prophet and Ummah. I take my hat off to the guy, for having the guts to be open-minded about a Jew’s intellectual search for God (or not-God). He gives me hope that Islam may become more than a religion of “righteous war”, despite all the violence in its history. (YES, I realize that ALL RELIGIONS have violence in their history, even Buddhism; but Islamic violence and warfare goes right back to its founder, Mohammad).

Oh, and as to whether Moslems who are actually involved in warfare are always pointing the gun at the USA, rather than at the enemies of the USA, I also just saw a story in the recent Scientific American about a scientist helping to develop a laser weapon to be used by US combat helicopters, that would defeat the heat-seeking missiles often shot at them, e.g. by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The name of the lead scientist is Mohammad Islam. Just another reminder that Moslems are not all anti-American, Jew-hating jihadists. I would venture to guess that most Moslems are as just as open-minded as any Christian or Hindu or Wiccan, relative to their own dogma.

Finally, with regard to open-mindedness: there is some new research out regarding the connection between dancing styles and personality. Scientists in Britain have studied a group of people trying to correlate their personality attributes (as gauged by standard “inventory” questionnaires) with how they respond to dancing music. They concluded that there were clear trends, and identified five major groupings of personality traits and dance styles. The one that interested me the most regarded the “bopper” style, i.e. those folk who feel like bopping up-and-down to the beat instead of sashaying side-to-side. I was always a bopper (which is not a popular dance style; thus I’ve stayed off the dance floor most of my life). According to this study, bopping is a sign of open-mindedness.

Hmmm . . . perhaps Dr. Aslan, Dr. Islam, Dr. Krasny and me all share a preference for bopping!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:44 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, Interesting blog. From agnosticism to dancing–my kind of thinking. And I mean this in a very good way. I like such an approach to thinking–linking all sorts of diverse topics.

    And in the end, aren’t all people just people. Someone once told me that all people are the same: when you cut them, they all bleed red. Perahps not the most “pretty” comparison, but the idea is, when you get down to the “real” person, they are all the same. Most people are good; they tend to generally be empathetic to one another.

    As to the “dancing”: At first I didn’t quite agree that dancing had anything to do with how one might think. But then I began to think of various ways there actually might be a connection between the two.

    My ideas certainly aren’t “scientific” but have just been my own “secret” considerations about people. Examples: I’ve often secretly tho’t that people who, when driving their cars must tailgate others, stop on the bumper of the person in front of them are really people who do not like others; they may be “sociable” in a superficial way; but they don’t really LIKE people. (My own private tho’t–perhaps developed because these types of people annoy me greatly.)

    Then too I had the thought that perhaps people who like to dance holding one another, while it is a wonderful way to touch another, an important part of being with others in the most general sense, maybe “holding on” to the other person. The “bopper” may be more independent, less in need of “holding on” to another person. Well, not good psychology; but maybe there is something to the idea. Then again, I tend to wonder… But in the end, why not? MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 18, 2010 @ 11:27 am

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