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Some Uncomfortable Ideas

Interviews can be far more interesting if some of these uncomfortable ideas are discussed, along with the reasons why we avoid them. Here are some of the ideas from the book. Allow about 5 minutes for each idea.

Cognitive Dissonance

  • The people you love to hate are most likely nowhere as evil as you think they are.
  • God really doesn’t love all people, Hell doesn’t really exist, and/or God doesn’t exist.

Semmelweis Reflex

  • We can’t judge people morally for eating dogs as long as we are eating cows and other animals.
  • Greatness, by definition, requires that we shed our desire for normalcy. If you’re comfortable being normal, you’re not motivated for greatness.


  • Name calling is often used as a way to overcompensate for the fact that the target of our verbal bashing has a valid point that we don’t want to entertain.
  • There are feminists who go beyond gender equality and advocate for female superiority and other highly controversial issues, giving many people good reason not to want to associate themselves with the “feminist” label.
  • We are living in a simulated universe created by even more intelligent beings that could be considered gods.

Reaction Formation

  • A number of the most vocal proponents of minority activist groups who are not part of the minority the group represents, are motivated by guilt of their own prejudice.
  • People who are extremely vocal against homosexuality might just be that way because they are masking their own homosexual impulses.

Intolerance of Nuance and Ambiguity

  • Our morality isn’t a reflection of God’s; our idea of God is a reflection of our own morality.
  • Divine Command Theory is functionally the same as everyone having their own moral standard with groups of general agreement, and everyone insisting they are right.
  • Secular moral theories have several of the same problems as Divine Command Theory, and like Divine Command Theory, cannot provide a reasonable way to objectively claim that one knows that something is morally right or wrong.
  • Morality is functionally democratic. Things are “wrong” because we generally agree they are wrong.

Feeling Over Fact

  • Whenever you give money to a panhandler, you are most likely doing it to relieve your own guilt or doing it because of social pressure.
  • We are easily manipulated by emotionally-charged terms that have a significant effect on how we see the world.

Uncomfortable and Unfalsifiable

  • We are most likely a byproduct of the universe and not the reason for it.
  • Not only are we not alone in the universe, but our universe is not alone in the cosmos. This makes the notion that we are the reason for the universe extremely unlikely.

Protecting Sacred Beliefs

  • “Biblical marriage” has been described and condoned by God in many ways beyond one man and one woman. Suggesting otherwise is cherry-picking.
  • “Traditional marriage” in the United States included polygamy and did not allow for interracial marriage.
  • People can romantically love more than one person at a time.
  • Thinking your country is superior to all others is like thinking your race is superior to all others.

Fear of the Slippery Slope

  • Religious toleration is not always a good idea, especially when the religious beliefs result in actions that are harmful.

Fear For Society

  • Freewill is just an illusion, and every choice and decision we make is a result of deterministic or random environmental and biological factors.
  • As much as you like to think you are in complete control over your decisions, behavior, and actions, you’re not. We are social beings, and we all influence each other—none of us live in a social vacuum.
  • Societies will not erupt in chaos if people don’t believe in eternal punishment or reward.
  • The American people are being manipulated to be more pro-military, to hate the enemy, and to want to kill. But this manipulation is necessary for national security.

We Don’t Want To Be Seen As “Unpatriotic”

  • The Constitution is not perfect.
  • The Founding Fathers were not perfect, and we would not want them running our country today. Disagreeing with them doesn’t make you unpatriotic nor does it make you wrong.
  • The phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance 62 years after being recited without it. It should be removed because it links patriotism to belief in a monotheistic God, which a growing number of Americans don’t have.
  • Reciting the Pledge conditions citizens to be obedient and loyal to their country. It is another example of prosocial manipulation.
  • America might be great, but it is not the greatest country in the world.
  • America needs leaders who care enough about the country to make it better, not leaders who make inaccurate claims about its greatness to appear patriotic.
  • “God bless America” is a stupid thing to say even for American theists.

The Desire to Hold Popular Views or the Fear of Social Response

  • Our beliefs and opinions are formed largely by the response of others through punishment and rewards such as hostile responses and social bonding through agreement, respectively.
  • Your perception of racist cops and justified shootings by police is strongly influenced by your politics and how you get your “news.”
  • Men and women are different biologically, which means there are differences in emotions, drives, cognition, and behavior.
  • Race may be a social construct but biological differences in races do exist.
  • Underprivileged folks, if you frame the privilege in such a way that puts blame on the privileged group or threatens to take away the alleged privileges, it is likely to be met with hostility and resistance. This is a common and expected response. Be prepared for it, and get used to it.
  • Privileged folks, sometimes you will experience personal losses when injustice is addressed. Get over it. It’s for the greater good.
  • Acknowledge your privilege and show empathy to those who don’t enjoy the same privilege. Instead of tearing yourself down with guilt, shame, and self-loathing, bring others up by helping them get the fair treatment they deserve.
  • Transgendered women with beards should stay out of women’s bathrooms.
  • Non-whites can be racist, and women can be sexist.
  • Trauma can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when negative life events are treated as traumatic events, and sympathy and attention positively reinforcement beliefs that one should be emotionally devastated.
  • Non-bigoted and non-homophobic parents don’t want their sons to be gay.
  • Normalizing homosexuality is likely to result in more people identifying as gay as well as more people having gay sex.
  • Some people do “choose to be gay.”
  • We cannot rule out the possibility that environmental factors can result in same-sex attraction.
  • Just because male homosexual sex is riskier, does not make it morally wrong, just like riding a motorcycle is no more morally wrong than driving a car.
  • Gay conversion therapy can make gays no longer identify as gay and make them not want to engage in same-sex behavior.

Fantasy is Sometimes Better Than Reality

  • Not everyone gets to be an astronaut.
  • The world is not just. Sometimes the bad guys win, and sometimes the good guys lose.
  • Poor people are rarely to blame for being poor, and rich people get far too much credit for being rich.
  • Obese people are not perfect the way they are. Improved health and well-being might have to come at the expense of protecting obese people’s sensibilities.

The Work of Satan

  • God is a far more horrifying character than Satan.

Fear of Entertaining Evil, Sick, or Immoral Thoughts

  • Sometimes, some really disturbing ideas are difficult if not impossible to justify as morally wrong.
  • Finding a sexually-mature teenager attractive doesn’t make you perverted, sick, gross, in need of counseling, or a pedophile.
  • It’s okay not to care about everything and everyone, as long as you care about something and someone.

Fear of Questioning / Refusal To Question Authority

  • Getting killed for not believing in Allah or believing that you will be tortured for eternity for not accepting Jesus as your lord and savior are extremely strong motivators for avoiding arguments against your belief system.
  • Choosing to be obedient over considering the short- and long-term consequences of your actions and how they affect people is a moral cop out.

Fear of Confusing Support for Personal Desire

  • One can truly love their spouse and still cheat on them.
  • Recreational drugs should be made legal.
  • Prostitution should be made legal.

Fear of Exposing Our Own Demons

  • Being disgusted by watching two people of the same sex passionately kiss does not make you homophobic.
  • It’s not a moral failing to be attracted to people who aren’t your significant other.
  • It’s okay to find inappropriate jokes funny.

Some More Uncomfortable Ideas

These are some of the ideas that Dr. Bennett supports and can argue in detail. Any one of these ideas can take up an entire interview, but discussions can be limited.

  • The Self-Fulfilling Nature of Social Injustice
  • Love Isn’t Always Beautiful, and You Don’t Love Everyone
  • People Are Much More Selfish Than You Think
  • “Microaggressions” Are Less Common and Less Problematic Than People Think
  • Religious Ideas Are Protected By Motivated Reasoning More Than Any Other Class of Ideas
  • Being an Atheist Doesn’t Make You Smarter and Certainly Not Better at Critical Thinking
  • If You’re Offended, You’re Part of the Problem
  • It is Okay to Change Your Mind

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