It’s not our fault! Religion made us do it!

I have come to believe, through long experience, that once we’ve categorized and labeled someone—telling ourselves that all atheists, or all theists or all blacks or all Muslims or all Jews etc. are this or that way—we’ve essentially dismissed them. It becomes easy not to deal with them as individuals, but rather as religious individuals, or black individuals, or liberal or conservative or whatever label we apply. The moment we pop someone into a category or apply a profile to them, we establish expectations for their behavior and thoughts, and filter what they say and do through that expectation, which makes it virtually impossible to see the real person behind the category. Why? Because we simply dismiss any information that does not fulfill our expectation.

In the dialogue I held with one particular correspondent, the original question was whether there was anything good about faith or religion that we should preserve as we aimed to get rid of destructive dogma. When I came up with a laundry list of positives about religion, my correspondent immediately set about psychoanalyzing me. My perception that there was anything positive about religion was the result of my peculiar psychology—my “religious mindset”—which was, he claimed, common to all religious types.

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