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Comments by Daniel Silliman

On “Note On Disbelief in Disbelief and the “Interrogation of ‘the Nones'”

Good post. I'm not sympathetic to the historical-idealist approach, but there's lots here that I think is exactly right.

The case of the self-identified Buddhist who adheres to fundamental doctrines of Christianity gets even trickier than you indicate here. If one is uncomfortable making normative claims about Christianity or Buddhism -- and it's pretty standard for professional historians to try to study what is without making claims about what ought to be -- then one cannot simply dismiss this person. He or she is not simply wrong. If individuals have the right and the authority to self-identity, and if religious are to be defined not as ideals but as they appear in actual human history and practice, then this person has to be taken seriously. Even though our categories for considering this person are problematic.

This can be seen pretty directly in the way cultural historians have tried to deal with Jamacian Jews, Nation of Islam, syncretistic Catholics, etc.

The limitations of the polls are visible exactly here, of course. I think they can be treated as evidence, but one has to work really hard (like you're doing here) to keep clear about what they are evidence of.

On “Civil War Revisionism, Slavery, Eternal Union

A few thoughts/questions:

Isn't the question over the cause of the war different than question of involved individuals' motivations? While of course it's true there were diverse and varying and unconscious/secret motivations, that's *always* the case, and doesn't mean it's impossible to determine historical causes.

In the focus on motivations, you write about and speculate about motivations for adopting one or another narrative. Are the competing narratives only to be measured by these purported motivations? What place does historical evidence have?

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