THE CHALLENGE OF MORAL DISGUST
By LORETTA FULTON
When your mother de-Friends you on Facebook, you know you’ve got a problem.
Dan Stiver, a religion professor at Hardin-Simmons University, was at a philosophy conference when he heard about that unfortunate family situation. But it could just as easily happen in your own family if disagreements turn to disgust with one another.
“That puts the whole issue on a very different plane,” Stiver said.
Dan Stiver, left, and Tom Copeland
Stiver and Tom Copeland, a psychology professor at HSU, presented the monthly program for the Abilene Interfaith Council Nov. 12. Their topic was “The Challenge of Moral Disgust: Communicating About Difficult Issues.”
One way to avoid viewing people with different views as disgusting is to listen to them and make the effort to see beyond those views.
“Get to know them as people,” Stiver said.
Both Stiver and Copeland cited a book by Jonathan Haidt, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.”
In a PowerPoint presentation, Copeland showed the Six Moral Foundations from Haidt’s book. The good qualities were shown on the left and the opposite qualities on the right:
Everyone likes to think of himself as possessing the qualities in the left column. Copeland suggested thinking of a person you’ve felt “moral disgust” toward and how that felt.
“That’s really a false way of thinking about those folks,” Copeland said.
Copeland used the example of immigration and how people of opposing views think about that issue. As a liberal, Copeland said he believes society should take care of immigrants and show compassion.
“Those are primary,” he said. “Those are the first things I think about.”
A person with a different view about immigration might think about loyalty to the United States first or fairness to the system. The immigrant has to do something to earn the right to be in the United States, as a matter of fairness.
The liberal’s concerns for the immigrant fall into the “care” category, while the conservative’s are in the “loyalty” and “fairness” categories.
Both traits are on the “good” side of the Six Moral Foundations. People don’t disagree with each other because one is good and the other is bad.
“It’s because we’re putting our weight in different moral foundations,” Copeland said.
Learning to think in those terms and viewing people with differing views through that lens is a key to avoiding labeling people as disgusting. Think about how people behave, Copeland suggested, rather than labeling them.
Stiver offered a word of warning about righteous anger. Sometimes it’s called for and experiencing may be rewarding, but proceed with caution.
“There’s a place for it,” Stiver said, “but be careful.”
ABILENE INTERFAITH COUNCIL
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Jan. 16, 2019
Location: St. Luke Orthodox Church, 501 Sunset Drive
Topic: “The Heritage of Iconography for Eastern Orthodox Christians”
Speaker: Linda Fowler, an iconographer and historian of iconography, will discuss the tradition of religious icons, using her own examples.
Details: Meetings are free and open to the public