From "Back to Realism," a talk given by Barbara Ehrenreich at the Commonwealth Club of California, October 24, 2009. Ehrenreich is the author, most recently, of Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. A transcript of her talk appeared in the April/May 2010 issue of The Commonwealth, the club's print magazine.
Moderator: What's the distinction between faith and optimism?
Barbara Ehrenreich: Hmm. Optimism is a cognitive state, where you have thought about the future, what could happen, and you come to the conclusion that things are going to turn out well. Through thinking. It's not any emotion.
Faith, I will have to say, I don't understand. I don't. I'm not a believer and I've nothing against those of you who are, but I don't get it.