Next Meetup

Inter-belief Conversation Cafe: Does Human Nature Improve?
Does Human Nature Improve? Are we better people than our ancestors? Have each of us improved as we’ve lived our lives? Or have we declined from a Golden Age? From the 50s of two parent families and only one parent with a job outside the home? From our teenage years when we knew everything, and our elders were hopeless? Based on headlines of assassinations, wars, sexual predators, and untrustworthy politicians, don’t we have a long way to go before we can say “improved”? What is improvement? Is it material prosperity, moral or spiritual development, or general niceness? Would a secular person’s improvement be a religious slide into depravity? Can we be better if we aren’t sure what better is? Atheist Stephen Pinker in Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined claims that despite appearances to the contrary wars and violent death are less common than the past. To him the reasons are the rise of powerful nation-states, global commerce, feminism, cosmopolitanism, and an escalation of the use of reason. Would all these factors be seen as “improvement” by all people? Do we really believe Pinker? Events in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela, South Sudan, and Myanmar seem to argue that the world is far from improved. Do we miss the big picture in the “noise” of news reports or are “trends” based on sometimes suspect statistics false complacency? Absolute poverty defined as a condition where household income is below the level necessary to maintain basic living standard (food and shelter) has declined with nations in Asia making great improvement. But is a decline in the number of people dropping dead from starvation only a sign of how bad things have been? Is material well being more important than moral or spiritual development? Jesus warns us that we can gain the world but lose our souls? Does a full belly offset eternal damnation? Is the good a physical state or something which can’t be measured by science? How much is life improving for most Americans? The Dream was that our children would have better lives than our own hopefully in the family job. As people leave factories, mines, and farms for the service or information industry, don’t they regret what used to be? If one can’t mine coal, is the possibility of living longer enough of a trade-off? If human rights improve, don’t white males feel they have lost status? Isn’t there anger and resentment against the changes some assert are “improvements”? Are we in the midst of a culture war polarized between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump? And what of the spirit? With declining church attendance and even atheism and agnosticism facing flat growth, what can we believe or dis-believe in anymore? Are we drifting into a moral vacuum with electronic gadgets, drugs, hedonism, and news media feeding our prejudices? If we are less violent, why do we watch movies and television about crimes and killing? Shouldn’t acts of kindness and cute, fluffy animals be our viewing pleasure? Has the environment improved? Are we heading towards an Armageddon of rising oceans, escalating weather disasters, species extinction possibly including us, scorching summers, and palm trees and alligators in Minnesota? Will any decline in violence or hunger be meaningful if we all die? Or is all this the end of the world scenario of the day which will go the way of Y2K, the harmonic convergence, killer comets, and the Population Bomb? On Monday, November 19 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will ask if we are improving or even can improve. Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality may make us a little better. But whether we are good or bad; we will have treats!

Interfaith Action for Greater St. Paul

1671 Summit Avenue · St. Paul, MN

What we're about

SPIN is an interfaith group seeking to build bridges between religious traditions. Through dialogue and networking across belief systems, we try to make faith something which unites rather than divides. We are willing to tackle the hard questions of spirituality and offer a welcoming hand to all religious traditions and those who are skeptical of the answers of faith.

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