The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt–Book Review

I’ll start out by saying, this is not a Christian book. The author is a self-professed atheist. It’s also not an easy read. It discusses some complicated, academic and scientific theories. However, I found it interesting because (in my mind, at least) it unwittingly supported some biblical doctrines. Like Carl Trueman’s book (The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman–Book Review) The Righteous Mind will take you on a journey through human history. He is a psychologist and his topic of inquiry is moral psychology. He draws on neuroscience, genetics, social psychology and evolutionary modeling to explain how it is that humans have found ways to form groups that are able to suppress selfishness and enable cooperation. Although I agree with many of his conclusions, I reject the reasoning (most frequently the theory of evolution) he uses to get there. For example:

  1. People are naturally selfish and will tend to act in their own interests …. sounds a lot like original sin to me!
  2. Although we think we are making decisions rationally through a logical mental process, studies have shown that we actually react intuitively, and then use logic to justify the position we have already espoused. This reminds me of the Lutheran and Reformed doctrine of predestination (we don’t chose God, He chooses us).
  3. When we do change our mind, it is not usually reason that convinces us, but relationships with those who believe differently. Could this be why God’s plan for salvation is individual believers going out into the world to “make disciples”? And then be encouraged by the Christian community (do not neglect meeting together)?
  4. Christians are not only more generous and loving to other Christians, they are better citizens and neighbors to non-Christians as well. Probably because the Christian community encourages us to serve others.

Anyway, you get the idea. Haidt closes with a call for better understanding between conservative and liberal political views. He believes there is a need for a balance between protecting traditions (conservative) and being open to change (liberal). Both views can be seen as positive. As he puts it,

“We’re all stuck here for a while, so let’s try to work it out.”

As Christians we believe we can do even better than this. We can honor, respect and love one another as brothers and sisters.

For more book reviews of nonfiction see:

You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith–Book Review

The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid– Book Review

this beautiful truth by Sarah Clarkson–Book Review