How should we engage in productive dialogue and embrace tough questions?
Parties with opposing viewpoints on the issues should not be afraid of–rather each should embrace–the tough questions. Of course, each party must demonstrate understanding of the other so that they ask the right questions, rather than merely antagonizing. When it comes to questions of faith and reason, The Soul of Atlas addresses tough questions like “How would we evaluate whether a politician is a hypocritical libertarian or disingenuous in his Christian beliefs?” Why might it even matter?
We need to know and it does matter.
It matters how the story of an executed carpenter from first-century Palestine and the story of a political refugee from post-World War I Russia have managed to weave their way into our story. It matters because the influences and consequences of these ideas are pervasive in our society in ways overt and subtle; and we need to know what influences us. To recognize and comprehend what influences us and others is to function with purpose. The more purposeful we are in our lives, the more likely we are to achieve what we pursue. And this is not mere utilitarian jargon. “Achievement” can be as varied as developing a kind and loving demeanor, finishing a marathon, or bequeathing a fortune to medical research.
When we know what persuades us, what controls us, and what inspires us, we are able to navigate our lives with intention. Our perspectives develop in concert with some principles and in contest against others. This book concerns two of the most profound influences—for good or for ill—of American ideology in the twentieth century in particular, and investigating those influences is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone interested in how Americans think. Moreover, it is a necessary endeavor in recognizing how these influences affect you, personally.
And so I write a very personal story. The context of my own life makes the conflict and the convergence of Ayn Rand‘s philosophy and Gospel Christianity unavoidable, as these two world views came to me through the lives of my two fathers. My experiences with these two men illustrate the essence of each world view, the fundamental exclusivity between them, and the ethical conclusions that unite the two men and their beliefs.
I urge you, in this coming season of debates and intellectual conversations, to engage in conversation with people whose world views are opposed to your own. Do so with respect and understanding. As a start, read The Soul of Atlas.