February 21, 2024
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Belief, Behavior, and the Questions of Megan Phelps-Roper

January 14 @ 4:00 pm


Most of us use our beliefs as proxies for truth, but we don’t often consider the potential for those beliefs to take us down a ‘bad path.’

A vivid example of someone who discovered the bad path she was following is Megan Phelps-Roper, who went from being a purveyor of hatred as a spokesperson for the Westboro Baptist Church to a kind, insightful, and empathetic interviewer on the podcast “The Witch Trials of JK Rowling.” She has summarized her transformation in the form of questions that all of us should be able to answer to justify our firmly held beliefs. Her questions include: Are you attacking ideas or attacking the people who hold them? Are you willing to cut off close relationships with people who disagree with you, particularly over small points of contention?

The Jefferson Center invites members and guests to discuss these and related questions from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14 at The Jefferson Center, in the Old Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland.

We’ll explore Megan Phelps-Roper’s questions as they apply to the hateful social media attacks advocating physical violence towards JK Rowling, as an extreme example of a bad path. We will also apply them to the less harmful but nonetheless unexamined beliefs we might hold ourselves. We’ll consider the possibility that when we are convinced something is right, this may not always set us on the most productive path in life.

Facilitating the discussion is Tom Woosnam, who has had a lifelong interest in the question of how we know that what we’re told is the truth really is the truth. In his 45 years of teaching high school physics and math before retiring in 2019, he has had many opportunities to present that question to his students.

The program will be held in the Jefferson Center space, suite 101, in the Old Armory Building, 208 Oak St., in Ashland. Light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public. It is part of the Salon series of The Jefferson Center, a Rogue Valley non-profit focused on critical thinking using secular humanist values to understand and engage with issues important to our community. See for more details on this and other events.


January 14
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Jefferson Center
208 Oak St. No. 1
Ashland, OR 97520 United States
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