Can believers and nonbelievers connect? Is there a common ground they can agree on?
Writing in the New York Times, T. M. Luhrmann thinks there may be, but admits it's going to be difficult. The author of "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God," about how evangelicals develop the skills to speak to God and how it can change their minds, says that there's a line in the sand between those with faith and those without, a line that cannot be crossed because of the fundamental differences in beliefs and outlook. She tells of being at a dinner party and telling a friend about her work with evangelicals. Her friend's response was, "You talk to those people?" Luhrmann says this "in-your-face" attitude is rooted in an anthropological phenomenon called "schismogenesis," where a move by one side makes the other side dig its heels in further, and vice-versa. Evangelicals believe those without religion are dangerous to their beliefs and rights, and those without religion believe evangelicals are dangerous to their beliefs and rights. "Perhaps there is hope," Luhrmann says, "... [issues such as] same-sex marriage and abortion should not be approached by drawing a line in the sand and demonizing everyone on the other side." She says a conversation is needed to at least keep moving forward and not end up with separate camps that are permanently in conflict.