Reach out, listen, be patient. Good arguments can stop extremism

None of these steps are quick or easy, but practice and online courses can help.

Many of my best friends think that some of my deeply held beliefs about important issues are obviously false or even nonsense. Sometimes, they tell me so to my face. How can we still be friends? Part of the answer is that these friends and I are philosophers, and philosophers learn how to deal with positions on the edge of sanity. In addition, I explain and give arguments for my claims, and they patiently listen and reply with arguments of their own against my – and for their – stances. By exchanging reasons in the form of arguments, we show each other respect and come to understand each other better.

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Politics & Current Affairs

Why collective narcissists are so politically volatile

Research from my PrejudiceLab at Goldsmiths, University of London shows that people who score high on the collective narcissism scale are particularly sensitive to even the smallest offences to their group’s image.

The first issues of the German version of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo are for sale at a newsstand in Berlin. Photo credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

In 2007, a British school teacher in Sudan received a jail sentence under Sharia law because she allowed her pupils to name a classroom teddy-bear ‘Muhammad’. The day after the sentence was announced, more than 10,000 people took to the streets of Khartoum demanding the teacher’s execution for blasphemy. While alternative explanations existed – the name Muhammad was chosen by children’s voting, it is a popular male name in Sudan – the teacher faced such disproportionate hostility because some people interpreted her actions as an insult to their whole group.

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Culture & Religion
Four-year-old Leo Griffin leaves a protest against the alt-right movement in Charlotesville, Virginia. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A string of terror attacks across the globe have shaken the world’s most powerful nations to their core. As a result of these tragic events, and the fear-mongering from politicians hoping to exploit them, many feel that an existential threat is nigh.

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Politics & Current Affairs

What 46 Years of Hostage Data Tells Us About Religious Terrorism

New research claims religious terrorism is on the rise, and it appears that it's going to get worse before we see a decline in such horrendous acts. 

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Politics & Current Affairs

Faith Is Fine, as Long as We Laugh at Our Own Beliefs

A religious person without a sense of humor? That's a dangerous combination.

How can each religion be right and have conflicting beliefs? That, says Dave Barry, is why a sense of humor is crucial for religions to peacefully co-exist. Being able to laugh a little at our own behavior keeps us flexible, and religion really only becomes a danger when it's too rigid or is imposed on others. When a situation is tense in any area of life, humor is one of the most reliable ways to defuse it and find common ground again. The same goes for religion. Dave Barry is the co-author of For This We Left Egypt?.

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