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I had an interesting and difficult conversation with @EricRWeinstein about recent twitter events. He added an important dimension to the lesson I had already discovered this week. The upshot is that people are never at their best when backed against the wall.
I have felt boxed in over this last week--misunderstood and caricatured. Some of the portrayal was outrageous. I'm not a fascist, totalitarian or utopian. I'm not interested in silencing anyone, especially religious people who I have frequently defended to atheists.
But the behavior on the part of some who challenged me was triggered by something I had unwittingly done to them. With considerable help from @PaulVanderKlay, @EstherOfReilly and others, I now see at least some of my error--a valuable lesson, earned at too great an expense.
I have always regarded Christians as an overwhelming majority in the U.S. But I had incorrectly globalized from my own experience as a secular Jew in a world where secular Jews are common and are understood to be Jewish by most members of the community.
I was shocked to discover that Christianity doesn't work that way. Acceptance of the supernatural is, I now know, central for most. That means two things. First, what I saw as a giant Christian majority in my country is smaller than I thought, and literal belief more widespread.
Second, asking Christians to keep their claims secular in our common space comes across as much more aggressive than I had intended or imagined. To Christians who feel more embattled than I knew, it felt threatening. For those who don't know me, it also fit a familiar narrative.
The second big insight for me is that although Twitter feels like a discussion in the west, it involves people in decidedly different circumstances. I knew it at one level. People who follow me know I have been quite troubled by events in Bolivia--events that were on my mind here
Bolivia is in a part of the world I know well, and recent events in Bolivia are an extension of a 500+ year conflict between lineages. In the South American context, the claim that Jesus is the son of God is not a neutral claim. It has a dark and bloody history.
In the Middle East, Christians have had a very different experience. And though I was tweeting with Latin America in mind, my tweets were read by Christians whose mindset was framed around dynamics half a world away.
@nntaleb responded to me in a manner I couldn't fathom. I do think he was unfair in his challenge to me. But leaving aside the content, the strength of his response makes much more sense to me now--and I'm somewhat sympathetic. I responded to him sarcastically, which I now regret
--People are not at their best when backed against the wall. I illustrated that. I believe @nntaleb did too. For my part, I should have more quickly appreciated the dangerous predicament faced by those to whom he gave voice.
I hope @nntaleb will consider the role he played in this, and the good that might be done by putting it right. As far as I know he and I agree almost entirely on the issues over which he took me to task. It would be a shame to leave it at loose ends.
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