Big Thought

Philosophy, Uncategorized

I firmly believe that most all human problems are attributed to one flaw: our unwillingness to think when it’s inconvenient. We all have the capacity to think. It’s just that it takes effort most of the time and it seems like a task to think beyond what we experience.

Investment failures, prejudicial bias, political partisanship, relationship problems, they can all be traced back to a refusal to review, to think.

Not thinking makes life easy. We don’t have to see others’ points of view or try to comprehend something unpleasant. Life is simple when we can take something that we don’t want to deal with and put it in a closet and shut the door.

Being a black-and-white thinker is effortless. Despite all of our attempts to make our mind a canvas with one dimension, it goes against nature. The world is like a gem, with facets all around that refract light into different colors from different angles. To understand all of those differences, you need to be willing to look at them.

When we sit in our own personal corners and watch the world from that perspective, we stop growing. This is when we become “set in our ways.” We don’t want to learn new ways of doing things. We don’t want to make the effort to comprehend someone else’s point of view. We don’t want to understand different cultures. We don’t want to know why some abstract painting is art. We want people to do things our way. We want people to speak our language. That’s when things get dangerous. When we stop progressing, we draw lines in the sand and would rather fight than think about an alternative.

Lack of thinking generates a world of calamity. It creates enemies, starts wars and sets us all on the path of disaster.

There are those who will say “there are times when you must act and not think.” This is true, especially in times of a response to violence or the specter of violence. But our action can be the appropriate reaction when we think about how we’ll react before we are forced to confront a situation and make a hasty decision.

Be a thinker. Everything starts with a thought, an idea. Reason, choice, action, worship, epiphany and emotion— they are all products of thought. What goes on in your mind eventually matriculates to your actions. What you think influences what you do and what you do is who you are. Every bad deed and every good deed you’ve done started in your mind first before it became an action.

Be a thinker. No matter how disturbing or difficult the situation, thinking may not find you the answer, but it will get you closer.

Be a thinker. People may deride you because you seem unwilling to settle on one view. They’ll call you a lazy dreamer, pretentious and say your head’s in the clouds. They’ll say you think too much and don’t do. It isn’t true. Just because you take your time acting doesn’t mean you don’t take action; it means you know when to act.

At the end of the day, this is all about understanding both yourself and your world. It’s important to understand and to apply thinking to everything you experience because it spawns new ideas and new approaches to old problems. Understanding leads to generating better solutions both for you and your world.

Living with one view is not thinking. Living with a single stance stymies understanding. That stagnancy causes your mind to atrophy and you end up being only what the world will allow.

Think about it.

(originally posted on Medium.com)

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Slavery, Bacon, Gays and Jesus

Philosophy, Religion

chain

One of the things that has always bothered me about the Bible is the flexibility of the social codes. So many Christians are willing to tout the infallibility of the text and yet claim some of the more unsavory aspects are no longer applicable.

Jesus didn’t have a problem with slavery. (More often than not, the Bible referred to them as “servants” but really, they were slaves.) He never condemned it. He never advocated that a person’s life is their own. In fact, he actually healed a man’s dying servant. He was willing to save the slave’s life but not give them freedom. The Bible is riddled with rules that delineate the relationship between master and slave.

There were many times during the days of American slavery where owners would use the Bible as justification for their owning slaves.

But today, we have a moral repulsion to slavery. It’s even an established right in America that you can’t be owned by anyone.

Then there’s divorce. Jesus was pretty clear on this one.

“Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife — I am not speaking of an illicit marriage — and marries another, is guilty of adultery.'” (Matthew 19:9)

Sooooo, either there are a sea of adulterers out there (half of all marriages) or we’re not having a whole lot of proper marriages.

I’m willing to bet that a lot of divorced Christians don’t consider themselves adulterers. I can’t stop myself form typing out that Evangelicals have the highest divorce rate among Christians.

Many times I hear the arguments from fellow Christians that Jesus preached during a different time in history, when slavery was allowed and divorce was frowned upon. They say that the times have changed since He walked the Earth.

This applies to the entire Bible of course. Polygamy, slavery, stonings— they were legal, encouraged even. Divorce, eating pork, women serving food while on their periods—they were forbidden. Yet so many Christians want to use the Bible to justify their positions to castigate homosexuality, hate Muslims, legislate morality among others.

Homosexuality is a personal favorite. Just like eating pork and divorce, it is condemned in the Bible. Why is it that views on divorce, premarital sex and ham have relaxed but not on being gay?

Bottom line: if values change from one era to another, then we can’t cherry pick elements out of the Bible that we want to apply and others that we don’t. Buffet-style morality based on the Bible isn’t based on the Bible at all.

When you do that, you’re selections aren’t Bible-based— they’re really the mores that WE want to see enforced. If you really believe in God or Jesus Christ, then you would already know that people don’t have the authority to play Solomon with the Good Book.

Let’s just admit that Christians are using the Bible and its text as a front for their own personal fears and hatred of things they don’t like. When they say that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, they’re really saying that THEY personally think homosexuality is wrong and that they have the authority to deem it so.

Well, we are not God or Jesus.

But we are divorcees, gays, bacon lovers, sinners and most importantly, free.

Language Theory

Philosophy

theory

About two weeks ago an article came out about seven terms that drive scientists crazy when they’re misused by the public.

Theory. Hypothesis. Model. Skeptic. Significant. Nature v. Nurture. Natural. They seem very simple. We all know the basic definitions.

The problem is scientists have specific connotations they use for the specific terms when it comes to their respective fields. Lay people use them improperly, at least when referring to science and research, according to the scientists.

The article made a lot of sense. Scientists are peeved that terms they assign proper usage is being twisted by those who aren’t scientists. People like to enlist them in arguments twhen they want to pontificate on a subject that includes a scientific element, say climate change.

The most interesting tidbit of the article is the absolutely stupid comments listed below it on Yahoo. The ire? Well apparently people don’t like being told that they’re probably using a word wrong. It illustrates a major problem with the public— no one really wants to go through the effort to think about what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.

I work in communications and I see every day the follies that unfold because people don’t know how to convey simple ideas to each other properly with proper usage. Why is it that terms are used mistakenly over and over again? Because people are too lazy to consider the terms of their language and how it affects their interaction.

The commenters pissed off that scientists have the nerve to point out the definition of scientific principles proves the point of the story: people are ignorant and they don’t realize that they’re ignorant.

The saddest part is they don’t care either.

New Hope CCLXVI

Philosophy, Uncategorized

hat

For the first time in 2,000 years, the Roman Catholic Church has a pope born in the New World.

He’s doing things differently too. Francis, the Jesuit, opts for less opulence when it comes to the pomp that surrounds the pontiff. His muted demeanor is a symbol for what the church should be doing right now, operating with a little humility. After several years of the pedophile priest scandals, it’s time to make amends and show the flock that their leadership is worthy.

And yet, a month into his new vocation, some aren’t happy with Francis because he’s not kissing the asses of particular factions which Benedict courted.

I was born and raised a Catholic and I had always been proud of my religious heritage. This is mostly because I was brought up in an area with a lot of heavy evangelical influence. Since the pedophile accusations and allegations of the coverup came to the surface, I don’t find myself kneeling in the church very often. I sure as hell haven’t been to confession.

I’m angry at the upper echelon of Catholic management because instead of trying to hide the pederasts and their scandals, they should have hung them out to dry and turned them into the police.

Why didn’t they do that? My theory is money. They knew once it got out that they had a problem, there would be lawsuits, losses and settlements. They didn’t care about having predators preying on the flock, they were concerned most with their finances.

That is obscene. If this is a religion and espouses beliefs and rituals done in the name of a God, then how could they live with themselves knowing children are being victimized?

I’m also angry with fellow Catholics for their passiveness in dealing with the problem. If they really wanted to stop the problem, they should have hit the church where it counts the most— the pocketbook. One Sunday without tithes from every Catholic in this world and Rome would have had a course correction in their legal strategy.

Pope John Paul II (on the path to sainthood) and Pope Benedict dealt poorly with this and willfully ignored sidestepped the problem. Now there’s a new man in a white cap. There’s a lot of hope that he can solve these problems.

But what are people concerned with now? He washed two women’s feet at a recent ceremony and that angered traditionalists.

So we’re more concerned about a pope washing women’s feet and not priests fondling children?

I’m so relieved we have our priorities straight.

Godspeed Frank.

Someone to Hate

Philosophy, Politics

equal sign

Blacks. Communists. Jews. Catholics. Liberals. Muslims. Mexicans. The Post Office. Queers. Republicans. Terrorists. The DMV line.

It seems that we always have to have someone, some race, some religion, SOMETHING to hate. I am 33 years old and I still, as of yet, don’t understand the emotion. No matter what’s going in this world, we have this undying urge to point some entity out and hate it.

It doesn’t matter what this thing has really done to us. It doesn’t matter why we must focus on it. We know only that we have to zero in on something with a searing eye and make sure that it knows we don’t like it.

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments about gay marriage and why it should be a constitutional right. A decision is expected in June. There’s a sense that the court might throw out the case on procedural grounds rather than actually address the issue.

There are those who point to the Bible or the Koran or some religious-based study on kids adopted by gays, to say that homosexuals cannot get married. Somehow, they believe, that two men marrying each other will affect all of us and will rip the social fabric that keeps society together. Maybe they think it will help the terrorists.

If society stays bundled together only because gays can’t marry, then there’s something completely wrong with society.

I often find those who cling to tradition and religion to oppose something, are also the type of people who think that if something is icky, it’s wrong. You’ll notice a lot of things that people find gross end up being deviant behavior.

It takes a long time for that deviant perception to wear off and for society to accept what’s different. It took 300 years for African-Americans to go from slaves to being able to eat at the same lunch counter as whites. It took more than 100 years for women to be able to vote.

With 80 percent of people younger than 30 approving of gay marriage, it’s only a matter of time before homosexuals will be able to take to the altar.

But it’s the motivation behind the opposition that bothers me so much. If we really believe in this all-loving God, whether he’s Yaweh or Allah, how loving can He condemn two people for loving each other? I don’t think it matters what St. Paul said or what’s written in the Koran. A book is holy only because people make it holy. And it is people who wrote those books.

Any all-loving God would look down on a loving couple and smile. He’d rejoice that two people found each other and would want to dedicate their lives to each other.

More importantly, how could this all-loving God be happy with followers who are constantly looking for someone to deny? If we really believe in a God who’s all about love and tolerance and forgiveness, then I think He would be looking for, and cherishing, those who also are loving, forgiving and tolerant.

I don’t believe that God wants us to constantly find differences and decry them. God does not want us to hate.

But we do.

Right Correction

Politics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I’ve said before, white anger is no longer enough for conservatives.

In the ongoing autopsy of the November defeat, the GOP has been going over the demographics that defeated them and they are considering alternative views to reach out to those demographics, mainly Hispanics.

Yes, when you try to ship off a people’s relatives to Mexico, they tend not to vote for you.

The GOP is also discovering that young people are tired of the morality legislation, banning gay marriage, requiring ultrasounds for abortions, etc. etc. In short, conservatives are seen as stodgy, anti-everything zealots.

This week’s CPAC was a circus of freaks, a showcase of a flailing party that has no head. Some say their presidential candidates are too milquetoast and not conservative enough. Others say white people are a dying breed and they need to get a piece of the Hispanic pie.

The real question will be, are they going to change the message or are they going to color their current platform in a different coat of paint? Maybe they think the elephant will look better in purple.

Are they going to change course on immigration? Are they going to push for gay marriage? Are they going to stop their efforts to curb women’s reproductive rights? Are they going to stop fusing religion with every piece of rhetoric they spew?

OR are they just going to stop focusing on the aforementioned issues and talk only about fiscal responsibility, small government and personal liberties? It’s no secret that the burgeoning electorate are fiscally conservative and socially progressive.  By shifting focus purely to the economy, conservatives will try to put a blanket on those pesky social views.

It might work because at the end of the day, no matter what anyone thinks about gay marriage, the economy is paramount. Socially progressive or not, young people, like old people, still don’t want to pay their taxes.

But conservatives will have to walk a careful line. As they learned in November those social issues may sometimes eclipse fiscal issues. Sometimes personal freedom is a bit more important than a tax loophole.

The conundrum is, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it can’t be a dove. Conservatives have long been a philosophy motivated by fear and anger. That can only last so long. Eventually, they will have to come to terms with the fact that the country is beginning to veer left socially and there may be no turning back.

Jesus Christ, Philosopher

Philosophy

cross

As is obvious to anyone who pays attention to current events, we have too many “religious” people in this world using their beliefs as justification to slaughter and/or other heinous acts.

This is not a new problem of course, it’s been going on long before Abraham, Noah, Christ, the pagans and Mohammed.

There’s this classic posit in philosophy: Does God say something is right because it is right? Or is something right because God says it is right? Essentially is there morality independent of a spiritual foundation or is God just making up the rules as he goes along?

Me? I opt for the former. Saying that something is right because God says it is right denies God’s omniscience.

The posit illustrates a great problem in human belief systems. Instead of trying to comprehend the wisdom behind a diety’s words, too many people often point to it for moral authority rather. They should be trying to personify their beliefs.

I think the answer is that justifying someone’s actions by simply invoking a religious figure requires little to no thinking. It also, in away, pushes the blame on a Higher Power. People will commit heinous acts and then say they do it because of God.

Maybe we should consider that our actions are our responsibility and not God’s. Maybe God, or Christ, or Mohammed, merely point the way.

One of the most powerful things that Christ teaches is that the thoughts behind our actions are just as important as the actions themselves. If you kill someone, you are not only guilty of killing them; you are also guilty of the hatred which fueled the killing.

Why can’t we just go along with Christ’s teachings because those teachings are the right thing to do? Why do we go along with it because Christ says it is right? Are we so blind that we can’t see the truth in his philosophy? When we fall back on well that’s what  I do because Christ says so, I don’t believe we’re getting the point.

That’s a problem because then the religion attracts those who would exploit it for power and repulses those who need it.

Choices and Realizations

Philosophy

black and white

We often try to make our complex world simple so we can therefore make simple decisions. By viewing things in a high-contrast, black and white lens, we never have to consider other grayer options.

We do this because we feel it’s expedient and by making these abrupt decisions we assume we’ll get the same type of abrupt result.

Most of the time though, we know it doesn’t work this way. So why are we so intent to make choices in this manner?

I think people also look at their lives as a series of a few, major decisions. We all think that our being hinges on certain choices: who we marry, where we work, where we live and so on.

But I don’t think decisions, both the actual choice and the ensuing result, are that simple and they also aren’t that dramatic. Where we go in life, what we become, the people we share it with— all of it is based on everyday, mundane decisions. When it comes to meeting a future spouse, we may spend a lot of time thinking about what type of person we want to be with. But it’s not by that profile that we meet our match. We meet our future matches based on where we decide to eat lunch on that particular day, or go out that night, or which bar we meet our friends. Then we make small choices and judgments about that person as we date them. When it comes time to consider marriage, the choice isn’t that dramatic at all is it?

Who we become? Same thing. We live our lives making small choices about what we think about our world. I don’t think that anyone wakes up one day and decides they believe in God, or decides they’re an atheist or that they are a conservative. I think through time people come to realizations about who they are more than they choose to be something.

There are dramatic choices of course. We do have to decide to get married. We do have to decide whether to attend church.

But we don’t arrive at those major choices without a million smaller decisions behind us.

Prayer Effect

Philosophy

pray

There’s always been this contradiction about prayer and a predetermined world. If God is in charge of everything and we’re simply living His plan, then why pray for anything?

I’ve always had a problem with it myself. I grew up Roman Catholic which is a heavily-liturgical denomination. We have prayers for everything it seems. We have hundreds of saints we can call upon to intercede for us to the Lord. There are so many avenues to God’s ever-listening ears.

Does it work? Maybe. Maybe not. It certainly seems like it at times. We pray for a raise. Two weeks later we get it. We pray for rain during a drought. Eventually it rains.

Then though, we pray for things like winning the lottery and it never happens. Did God hear the prayer and ignore it or did He say no?

Coming from a Diest point of view, I don’t think God has much handiwork in what goes on down here on Earth. Creating a vast plan that we all must endure seems sort of sadistic. Why would God actively create the Sandy Hook Massacre? Why would he plot the Holocaust? I just can’t believe there’s a God who would craft such a violent machine known as human nature. I think he left us here and watches as we torch the world around us. Maybe when it’s all said and done he’ll cast judgement of whatever’s left of the planet.

It’s not all bad though. We have good things on this Earth including each other, our relationships and families. We have mediocre things like jobs, illness, commuter traffic and the IRS. The whole globe and everything in it is our creation. I think God merely kickstarted the planet on its axis and watched it spin.

If God IS involved with what happens here, how does he reconcile the world’s events with 7 billion people’s wants and desires? I don’t see it I guess.

I think prayer can accomplish one thing. While it may not influence or change actual events, I think it does provide some sort of solace in our being. Prayer won’t make you rich, but can bring individual peace. Maybe group prayer shouldn’t focus so much on making something happen but rather changing what’s in our mind, in our soul.

Prayer should be about how we view ourselves and the world. If we want prayer to change the things that happen, then that change must first originate in our thinking.

Quiz Me

Philosophy

question

Insecurity is sometimes seen as strength when it comes to questioning people about religion. When some are confronted with a different point of view about the Almighty, they refuse to listen. They walk away, satisfied that they dodged the devil.

I can’t imagine that is what religious founders like Mohammed or Christ would want. I would like to think that their foundation was strong enough to withstand questioning from a skeptical non-believer. How solid can a belief system be if the ideology is so weak that followers refuse to listen to criticism?

If you don’t question yourself or your beliefs, how do you ever know that you’re right – or wrong? Worst yet, when you live in your own intellectual universe, do you eventually stop caring whether you’re right at all?

Anyone who has faith in anything ought to feel strongly enough to test the tenements now and again. To me, religious people should almost want to walk around challenging people to quiz them on the ideals they hold dear. This gives them a chance to fortify their beliefs and showcase the spiritual monument to the unconverted. Would you expect a vacuum salesman to sell a vacuum without running it on the carpet first? Wouldn’t you offer a free sample of pie if you’re trying to get customers to buy it? Wouldn’t you test-drive a car before you sign on the dotted line?

Customers ask for demonstrations of goods and products. Voters vote for or against incumbent politicians based on their job performance. Investors check stock prices every day to see how they performed on Wall Street. Why don’t some of the devout provide substance when religion? Why do religious people turn away from deniers who aren’t buying it?

Of course, there are many believers who are secure and who are willing to defend their values and who have questioned their own souls. The thing is, they don’t walk around looking for a fight.

And I’m not saying believers should issue talking-points or a bullet list of a religion’s aspects. They need to be able to handle debate, dialogue and follow-up questions. I’m also not saying that the religious should go out and confront their intellectual opponents. They should be ready when they’re asked to defend their beliefs.

But if the religious are not willing to question what they preach, then they shouldn’t question those who doubt.