Mayor, I’m Right About This. I Know I Am.

I was the Mayor of Fargo, ND, for 16 years.   I think people would be surprised at how often religion is what people want to discuss with a Mayor.

I wish I could remember all the different topics that lead to these visits about religion.  A few were, abortion, homosexuality, alcohol sales, open stores on Sunday, which bands should allowed to hold concerts, topics advertised on billboards, prayers at public meetings, proclamations, sale of pornographic stuff and team mascots.

In these cases, I would explain other people also had visited with me who had the opposite views.  I would say I needed to hear from everyone to learn for myself what was involved in the issue.

“Mayor, in all due respect, you do not understand,” was often the reply.  “I know I am right about this.  If others are telling you something different, they are wrong.”

The late politician, Tip O’Neill used say, “All politics is local.” He meant that elections to national offices revolve around who is liked and known locally instead of around national issues.

I came to believe that is true about religion as well.  That is, people’s “theology” is influenced less by what is discussed in seminaries and more by their parents, local values, pastors, friends and neigborhoods.

But, once they have arrived at their station in faith, they are confident they arrived there by way of an insite into theology, not by these other influences.  That gives them confidence to believe they are right.

Mayors come and go.  But, the need to set them straight remains.

16 Responses

  1. doubtful

    “But, once they have arrived at their station in faith, they are confident they arrived there by way of an insite into theology, not by these other influences.”

    Is this true for atheist also or are they immune to the influence of teachers, friends and family with regard to their beliefs, and knowing that they are right?

    This review of Sam Harris might be of interest to some of you.

    1. doubtful 2:09 Certainly, it happens that some nonbelievers are influenced by the same forces. We have a two, out of about 100, Freethinkers whose parents were nonbelievers. Generally, we are a society well soaked in Christianity and those who take another route are unusual and are swimming against the tide.

      1. doubtful

        I had not realized that you were limiting this to pre-college years. We discussed earlier the number of scientists that are non-believers and I think the statistics you used at that time were more applicable to scientists in academia than scientists in general. At the moment there is a disturbing uniformity among academics that leads to large social pressure on a public college student to be a non-believer. This amounts to a sudden immersion into atheist culture at a time when people are very impressionable and it is their teachers expressing their atheism in no uncertain terms, usually accompanied by a lot of disdain for anyone who dares to admit to being religious. This continues through many professional associations.

        You did say “by way of an insite into theology, not by these other influences.” so this is not entirely a fair comparison but I think it is a valid comparison of the effect of social pressure. Very few care enough one way or the other to face the effect of being different than those around them. This is particularly true when people are living a comfortable life.

        1. doubtful 12:57 “At the moment there is a disturbing uniformity among academics that leads to large social pressure on a public college student to be a non-believer. This amounts to a sudden immersion into atheist culture at a time when people are very impressionable and it is their teachers expressing their atheism in no uncertain terms…”

          This is a bit humorous. I was in academia for over 30 years and never observed social pressure applied by any professor on any college student to become an atheist. We have a well know local professor of religion who misrepresents atheism in an uncomplimentary manner in his classes (if what a student told me he says is correctl). If there is “large social pressure” to become an atheist, a student should complain to the professor’s supervisor. Today in U. S. higher education, the professor’s preoccupation is not with converting anyone to atheism, it is to get high student evaluations. This drives salaries and promotions.

    2. entech

      Doubtful, you should be ashamed. Anyone one with a strong belief held without sufficient information, I believe you call it faith, must be subject to “the influence of teachers, friends and family”; and this applies whether that belief is positive or negative. So you think these ideas come out of thin air? I thought I was the one given to hyperbole and exaggeration.

      I tried to read the review about Harris, unfortunately I could not read it all as I was continually asked for personal information which I was not interested in passing on. Nice way with words, reminds one of Hitchens writing about religion. What on earth is “manichaen morality”, Is it something to do with the early religion that was a huge contender for recognition by Rome, Augustine of” give me chastity but not yet” fame was a convert to Christianity, or the later “heresy” of the Cathars. The review is as bad in its own way as Harris is in his.

        1. entech

          Supposed to answer you first post at 2:09. With so many people saying that atheism is a faith and even a religion, i was asking why they should be considered differently in this post.
          Manichean was a reference to some of the exaggeration in the critique of Harris.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Entech; I think you were intending to respond to doubtfull, not wanna. The original was addressed to wanna, then someone changed it.
            Unless we entered a paralell dimension. Mabey Jon changed it. Not my argument.

  2. entech

    Of course they can happily say the rest are wrong, one man’s truth is another man’s heresy, or as they say in fundraising and backyard sales circles, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

  3. doubtful

    @jon 1:22 Then you weren’t looking very hard, and I do not mean a concerted forceful recruiting, simply the kind of pressure that comes from a respected, trusted teacher or fellow students. The entire environment is one of learning exposure to new things in which teachers and fellow students exert a strong influence. The exposure to a broader set of ideas is the basis of education and the current uniformity of ideas in academia is not beneficial.

    @entech 1:38 No reason for shame. Students and other people should be exposed to as many ideas as possible. Each person should consider every idea they encounter, continually, to develop an ever changing understanding of life and the world. Many people feel the need to reach a certain conclusion and stay there for ever. Jon wrote about this conclusion being based on the beliefs of those around a person of religious persuasion. I am pointing out that this applies to non-religious ideas also. If you want we can regress to the question of whether or not atheism is a belief, but I don’t think it is even relevant.

    I did not find “The Nations” information requests to be out of line, but you can if you want. “Manichaen morality” would seem to be morality according to the teaching of Mani. Your review of the review has a point. Like Harris or Dawkins, if you do not agree you have to want to read it in order to understand and learn from the arguments presented.

    1. entech

      Doubtful, I was a bit extreme talking of shame; the point is that you speak of atheists almost as if within quotes, as if they were somehow different. Different in their thoughts and beliefs, yes, but there is a danger of starting to label them as less than human because they have different beliefs. This is where the regress really starts, who is a member of the club and who is an outsider who is beyond the pale, who can be safely demonised or destroyed. If I was over reacting I apologise.
      I know who Mani and Valentinus were and most of the Gnostic cults I was wondering when reading the review where it was relevant to Harris and if it was meant to refer to the early forms or what later became known as the Carthaginian and Albigensian heresies. The early forms could not really be classes as heresy because the council did not decided what was true and what was not until a hundred or more years later.
      This brings us back to the first point, how do we know what is true and who tells us?

      1. doubtful

        I think it is your perception putting the atheist in quotes, not my writing, but I think you must admit that Dawkins, Meyers, Harris and some others do think atheists are different because they think atheism is science and reality based while other beliefs are simply bogus. As for the demonising and destroying you are trying hard to paint me with your simplistic believer brush and it says more about you than about me.

        Now back to the first point, although I am not sure it was the first point, you will have to decide on truth for yourself, or learn to live with not knowing. As this article on the decline effect makes clear science can not even provide an absolute answer.

        1. entech

          All that you say may well be true. We all have a tendency to see what we want to see.
          The New Yorker piece looks interesting and is on my reading list,

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