11 July 2013

The Ignorance of Religion: Applying the 80/20 Rule

In 2008, an American TV political commentator/comedian produced and starred in a documentary called, Religulous, in which he examined and attempted to point out the ridiculousness of organized religion.  

His point is show how religion and faith seem to foster ignorance in that “faith makes a virtue out of NOT thinking.” And although his attempts were meant as a negative, as we’ve discussed here, faith is a part of who we are, it influences our instinctive character and therefore does make a virtue of not rationalizing, of reacting spontaneously, and exactly as he stated… of not thinking. 

But where there is good, there is also bad, and Religulous aims to point out the latter. 

It’s true; there is much ignorance in faith-based groups because faith is about trusting beyond reason and logic.  But where is the line between discernment and faith?  Or how can we avoid the ignorance of faith and NOT live in a constant state of doubt?

Discernment starts at the acquisition level, before knowledge becomes a part of core beliefs.   However, a lot of our core beliefs come from our childhood, and how discerning are we at 5 yr old, or 8, 12, even 16?
We all start somewhere with something.  Yet at some time in our lives, we all need to leave the “faith of our fathers” to forge our own.  It’s not a path many are choose to take willingly. That takes the ability to accept a core part of who we are is…. well… could be… possibly… wrong. 

For some… reality hits them hard in the face, and they are forced to re-evaluate things.  For others, it begins with a choice whether to even consider the possibility of going through the anguish of re-evaluating.
This is the first step at becoming truly discerning.  Some have their lives accustomed to change and applying new information, others have set their lives firmly around what they have grown know and therefore any change in that core is quite dramatic. Regardless of how difficult it may be, it needs to happen, in order to continue developing productively.   That is where the 80/20 rule comes into play.  

To explain this point, I’ve re-cycled an older article about the 80/20 rule to World Peace which applies to the development of personal discernment. 

The 80/20 rule to World Peace. 

Three’s Company was popular TV comedy that ran for 8 years in the early eighties about 2 women and 1 man living together to share rent. The basic plot for each show revolved around a misunderstanding, mis-communication and crazy attempts to get out of situations caused by the conflict. Phrases like, “It’s not what it looks like,” and “If only they would listen to my side of the story,” made their lives more interesting and their conflicts laughable.

But in real life, too many times, the situations that result are far from comedic:  Families torn apart, relationships severed, communities uprooted, lives destroyed, even war. Imagine how much conflict could be avoided in relationship at work, politics, even international affairs, if the rush to judgment would be replaced with patient discernment? This is the basis for the 80/20 rule to World Peace.

The 80/20 rule to World Peace implies that 80% of world conflicts can be resolved if everyone accepted a 20% chance that they COULD be wrong.

Have you ever been in an inter-personal conflict and NOT think to yourself, “I’m right.” Have you ever continued conflict thinking, “Maybe, I’m wrong?”

The problem with conflict is everyone believes they are right, or everyone else is wrong, which is, in fact, true, from their own perspectives. Everyone believes they are right because that is the basic way we know how to interact with our world. Every decision we make is a reaction to what we believe to be true. So not only are each of us right, but everyone does what they believe to be in their best self interests.

Atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews all are right from each of their own perspectives. Russians, North Koreans, Chinese, Iranians and Americans; conservatives, liberals, progressives, each believe likewise.

The “I’m right,” culture leads to a world of absolutes causing people to stop listening, stop learning, and refusing to look at other perspectives. This leads to ignorance, intolerance, and eventually conflict.

Therefore the 80/20 Rule to World Peace asks that since EVERYONE is right, in order to give peace a chance, simply adopt an attitude towards conflict that accepts a 20% chance that MAYBE you’re not. Or, for the especially proud, like myself, an adjustment to the rule would be to accept a 20% chance that MAYBE you don’t have all the information.

From a psychological perspective, people are uncomfortable with lingering questions. We prefer to live in conclusions and certainty. Therefore judgment is quickly made based on the information that is known or perceived. The information that is not known or even in conflict is then assumed to be what is the most common or logical based on our experience so a conclusion can quickly be made. And because we are “always right,” those conclusions usually become beliefs. This is what causes misconceptions, misperceptions, and miscommunication. This is what draws out our impulsive physical and emotional reactions to events.

By consciously acknowledging a lack of information, “Huh?” and a willingness to linger in uncertainty for a little while, we avoid the automatic judgments, “I can’t believe you did that,” which then turns on the inquisitive side of our psyche, “What the hell are you doing?”

This is called, discernment.

It is the difference between trained and untrained, mature and immature, educated and uneducated. It is, or should NOT, be the difference between primarily logical and emotional decision-makers. But it should be included at the  base of curriculum principles within ALL formal learning.

Should everyone accept the 20%, the result is at least 80% of the world’s conflicts could be resolved or even avoided from playground arguments, to marital conflicts,  even world wars.

Most conflicts occur from one of three reasons: Pride, Desire, or Resources, translated into, “I’m right,” “I want,” “I need,” or any combination thereof, and each of them driven by absolutes.

What this is NOT is an abolishment to faith. Rather it is a willingness to accept an attitude of humility that MAYBE I don’t know everything.  This provides the opportunity for an openness to seek further information, to gain a broader perspective, and to make more informed decisions.

The truth is, conflict will always exist. But reducing it would be a huge help. With discernment comes a life where conflict, like a comedy, can be a lot more laughable. But, don’t take my word for it, there is a 20% chance I could be wrong…

18 June 2013

Folly of Faith: Reaching Through the Darkness

In my early days of working in Eastern Europe,  I noticed in one town a good number of people walking around with patches on their eyes.  my translator explained it was from corrective eye surgery.   

I looked into it and realized it was a fraction the price from the western world.   At the time, with all my traveling, sports, and the fact that I needed to change my prescription, it made a lot of sense to simply get my eyes cut.  But  could I trust the local doctors with my eyes?  Images of walking into a dirty moldy room with a rusty bed, paint falling off the walls and just one single light bulb in the middle of the room spark doubts.    
 One of my local friends jokingly told stories of doctors being drunk, and I could only imagine a fat doctor smelling of slivovica climbing on my bed and cutting my eyes manually with a scalpel.

I told a friend of mine, and to my surprise, he immediately said, “ok, I’ll do it with you.”   “Wait,” I stuttered, “I didn’t say I was doing it.” “I know,” he replied, “but I’ll do it with you anyways.”  And before we knew it, we had an appointment.

The stress and fear at the risk I would be taking, were quickly erased as soon as we walked into the doctor’s office.  No rusty bed, no paint falling off the walls. The staff were friendly and we had good rapport with the doctor.   She explained that we would do only one eye the first time, then come back for the second.  Reassured, we decided to go through with it.

The surgery went well.  My friend and I actually had fun joking with the doctor and staff about our earlier fears. When it was done, she explained we may feel some pain for the next days and gave us each 1 pain killer.

We decided to use it only when and if necessary.

For a while, things were fine.. only minor discomfort.  Slowly, the pain cycles began, it started with feelings of sand in our eyes, which progressed to sharp pain, but for only a second.  So we decided to lay down and try to sleep through the rest of the night. The pain continued with regular shots of pain, but as trained athletes, we felt we could handle it. 

At some point in the middle of the night, I woke to incredible pain.  It felt like someone jabbed my eye with broken glass then started twisting it.  And as soon as it stopped, it started again, then again and again.  This isn’t right, I thought. Something is seriously wrong.  I’m losing my eye. The doctor made a mistake, I made a huge mistake.  I panicked. The pain struck again, and this time I screamed.
My friend, who was sleeping in the bed next to me, spoke through the darkness, “Wow, did you feel that too?”

“..Too?” I thought. “How could he feel my pain?”  

 I asked him, “Did you just feel someone stab your eye with shattered glass?” 

“Mine felt more like a rusty saw…. But yea.”

Since both of us were feeling the same type of pain at the same time, we concluded that this was part of the process.  I calmed down; we took our pain killers, and went back to bed.

The rest of the healing went without incident.  And soon after, went back for my second eye.  The amount of pain for the second happened as before, but because I now understood what was happening, it was much more bearable than before.

Living by faith works the same.  It is faith because we don’t know, it doesn’t make sense,  and senses tell us that the complete opposite may be true.   And if we are not careful, we start to question if we made a mistake.

It is at those times that many of us need someone sitting with you in the darkness, sharing your pain, doubt, fear; someone who is taking the same journey, or better, someone who has taken that journey before.   Most first time experiences follow the same pattern. We do because those more experienced show us how, and when things start to feel wrong, we need to decide to trust them… or fail.

And when that journey is without experience, we seek out others who will take that journey with us. 
Such is the original purpose of “faith groups,” or religions; the gathering of 2 or more in support of their shared beliefs, for encouragement, support, development, etc.
It’s been said that religion is a crutch for weak minded people who find strength in numbers.  Although the statement was intended as negative, that’s exactly what it is, in fact all support groups are. 
Whether you’re trying to live life according to the tenants of a faith, or losing weight, training for a sport, over-coming addictions, pushing through a political agenda, or even trying to become a better more consistent writer.  J   If we didn’t have weaknesses, we really wouldn’t need others at all.  But the fact is, we are fallible, we do have weaknesses, everyone has periods of weakness.   And it is at those times that we need the strength of others to pull us through.   

Weakness isn’t accepting support, because in that we are stronger, and can accomplish what we set out to do.   True weakness is allowing our pride to reject support to succeed.  

Religion, or rather churches, has its place in society…. when used in support of faith.  Where it starts to go wrong is when it starts determining it; which is what we’ll discuss in our next article.

In our effort to live by faith, it can seem more noble to take it all alone. But when you find yourself at your limits, don't hesitate to reach through the darkness and find someone who will share that pain.  There really is strength in numbers. 

12 June 2013

Folly of Faith Part 2: Faith vs. Religion

“When you have come to the edge of the light of the known and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly” Patrick Overton

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I was religious.  I mentioned that was not religious, but I was a was a person of faith. He was confused and asked again, looking for a simple yes or no. So I asked if he wanted to know if I was a part of a church, or what I believed in. He as many have equated the two to be one in the same. But there is a dramatic difference between faith and religion.

At one point during the ministry of Jesus, he and his disciples got into a boat to cross the lake. Tired from the journey, Jesus fell quickly asleep as the fishermen for once took control. Soon afterward, without warning, a storm came so that the waves swept over the boat, tossing it back and forth at will. The disciples, including the professional fishermen panicked. They rushed to Jesus and woke him saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown.” Jesus got up and reprimanded them saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then rebuked the wind and the waves, and all was calm.

The disciples were fully devoted loyal followers of Jesus. Not only were they first-hand witnesses to his teaching and miracles, they were participants. They had broken bread, passed out fish, carried the sick, and led the crowds.  Yet, when as soon as they seemed to be out of sight of their master, as soon as it came to relying on another sense than tangible reason, they lost control.   All that teaching, all that experience, all they had learned was still overcome by panic and fear.

Faith is not just a tradition, not just what happens on the day you attend church, but something that affects the very being of who you are. As mentioned in the previous article, faith is about believing in something to the point of action. I plop on my bed, ride in a car, eat Mom’s food without hesitation, without questioning, without fear. Faith is how we make decisions. Without it, we couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. How we act, react, our perceptions, feelings, and reactions are all results of our faith.

Religion is about a set of actions to build, perpetuate, support or most often demonstrate an assumed “faith.” Religion creates a predetermined set of actions for members and if you are a “member” your faith and the extent of that faith is defined by your adherence to to actions.

The disciples in the story followed Jesus, did what he said, did what they did because they believed it was the right thing to do. They believed in the actions. But when it came to core beliefs, that which affects our decisions and reactions, they failed. And in the end, their "good deeds" proved to be useless and ineffective in influencing their faith.

Sure, according to religion, we should believe in certain things, and to demonstrate that, we do certain things. But that’s the point. Religion is a set of actions or acceptable behavior we do to demonstrate or express beliefs, whereas faith itself determines our behavior.

This is another example of a problem of labels. I remember walking into a church one hot summer day and hearing members whisper to each other, “He sure doesn’t love the Lord.” This was pretty conservative church, and apparently, my dedication to my beliefs was expressed in wearing pants, rather than commitment to love, charity, and the other virtues I thought were paramount.

Truth starts with observation, Religion starts with assumption.

It is the Religious that prefer tradition over trust, ritual over reality, and liturgy over love.

But this is more than churches, it is the organization of any belief: Political parties, social groups, movements.  All share the fundamental adherence to express belief by a predetermined set of actions.  And followers of those specific beliefs are faithful, when they follow those traditions. 

But if it is real faith, why would someone need to tell you what actions you should do?

Is there any wonder that a majority of the world claims faith in some god, but most of the developed world prefers to remain secular? Society has lumped religion and faith into one category and therefore, either you accept the traditional form of religion, either you fit into the right boxes, either you do what is expected and accept the tenants associated with your label, or you don’t believe in God.

After finding the following traditions fruitless, I decided to explore faith on my own terms. I started with the tenants of my faith: the existence of God and the Bible as his word.  If God promised it, I would allow the boat to sway and trust Him for the outcome whatever that would be. For some reason, among the spiritual leaders of my church and even family, that was radical and extreme, so much so that one of the Pastors from confronted me and told me I was being irresponsible and would live to regret it.

Funny, being “good” was acceptable, following “faith” was not. Following the traditions, was tolerable; behaving according to beliefs was radical.

To those who are sincerely searching, to those looking for more, refuse to stay in the comfort of traditions, and explore your own faith to take you on the adventure of your life. And when the winds take you beyond your control, you’ll start to see what’s really there.

07 June 2013

The Folly of Faith

On a warm summer day in the mid-1800’s, then well-known daredevil Charles Blondin, had decided to cross the Niagara falls over a tight rope.  With the wind blowing and the water roaring as it cascaded over the falls, Charles stepped up to the wire and raised his hand to silence the roaring crowd of thousands who came to see this daring feat. With his usual flare, in dramatic fashion, he explained the danger that awaited him.  He then gazed through the astonished crowd and asked, “Do you believe that I can do this?” There was a pause, so he asked louder, “Do you believe that I can do this?”  “We believe!” the crowd roared back.  “Then OK…let’s go.”  And he turned to begin his quest.  

The crowd went silent as they watched ….step, step, step, pause, then again step, step, until soon he reached the other side.

The crowd cheered. 

He then explained to the crowd on the other side, “Now, I will go back across, but this time I will go … backwards!”  And he pointed to the crowd and asked, “Do you believe?” The crowd shouted back with an enthusiastic, “We Believe!”  He turned to the US side and yelled, “Do you believe?” And from across the river came, “We believe!”

So he proceeded back across the river backwards, step, step, step, pause, step, step..and eventually landed back on the US side unscathed.  “Amazing” roared the crowd.  “Unbelievable,” roared even more.
Yet instead of taking his customary bow, he again pointed to the crowd and yelled, “Wait, there’s more. I will again cross…. But this time, I will carry a man on my back!”  And the crowd roared.
He asked, “Do you believe?”  The crowded yelled back, “We Believe!!”  He asked again, “Do you really believe?” “Yes, yes, we believe!!” they responded.  “Ok” blondin replied, “who will volunteer?”
Immediately crowd fell silent, and hands went down.

Such is the folly of faith. 

It’s easy to say “I believe,” while standing on the side with nothing to lose. Yet the power of faith does not show itself when things make sense, with guarantees, when there is little to nothing to lose. Its power and usefulness arises when the opposite is true, when we could lose everything.

Faith, is not a religious rite, it is a fundamental part of who we are as conscious beings.  Our belief system gives us the ability to make decisions.  It would be impossible to interact with the world without believing in something, right or wrong. Simple things like sitting on a chair, walking down the street, eating food without stress is possible, because of what you believe to be true, conscious or not.

What clothes you wear, people you spend time with, where you live, what you do, how events are interpreted, your opinions of people, even how you feel about yourself, all products of faith. It determines not only how we see the world, but more importantly how we react to it.

Faith is therefore, one of the major influences of our character, our perspectives, reactions, even our purpose.  It is the essence of who we are…and the foundation in determining what we become.
Our ability to be  good, self-controlled, to persevere, be kind… even to love, in the agape sense of the word… manifests itself in the strength of our faith.

Yet, as the crowd at Niagara realized that day, simply saying you believe, doesn’t make that true.
Faith shows itself in action. If we really believe it…we do it. Therefore we sit in the chair without testing if it can hold us.  We walk down the street without watching our feet, we eat without inspecting, we can sleep at night when our loved ones are away.

Just as evident it is to see someone’s lack of faith by their inaction. So it is to recognize where their beliefs lie by what they do.

And as much as faith can work for us, it can also work against: a bias against a person or group, jealousy, paranoia, the types of things that make us ill from stress, and even create unhealthy relationships.
Faith is not static; it is something that evolves.  It is something that grows and needs nurturing. But unfortunately, something that is often ignored. 

There are those scoff at the notion of faith, but with all that is at stake, rather I scoff at their nonchalance to it.

On that summer day in Niagara, there was one who did more than claim a belief, he put feet to faith when he risked it all by jumping on Blondin’s back and riding that tight rope to the other side.  Yet, that’s just it, with faith, there is no risk.
Everyone does, what they believe is in their best self-interests.  Is what you do consistent with what you claim to believe?

Are you aware of what you believe in and why?

21 August 2012

A culture of crabs

There’s a metaphor about crabs in a barrel, a phenomena where individually or even working together, they could easily escape their temporary prison, but for some reason they choose to ineffectually grab and pull each other, thus assuring that escape is not possible for anyone.

It is a metaphor about competition and jealousy.  It is one that needs to be understood, because as silly as the crabs seem, that is exactly what is happening in cultures all over the world, and it may be happening in yours, or worse, you are a part of it. 

There are jealous and non-jealous cultures in the world.  First let’s define them.

It is said that Bono was once asked the difference between Ireland and the US.  He said, “In the US, a friend gets a new house, invites me over, gives me a tour, and I leave thinking, ‘I’ll get a house like this someday,’ or ‘just wait, mine will be better.’”

“In Ireland, I visit a friend’s new home, look it over, and when I leave, I start throwing rocks at the windows.”

The former can be called Envy, the latter Jealousy.

I experienced this first hand, when I got a new home, I invited a number of friends over for a house warming party.  I was very surprised when a few of my friends started criticizing whatever they could find: “the elevator is old,” “the building smells musty,” “the paint on the walls could be better.” 

It was then confirmed when another friend got a new home and even his family was not celebrating with him, but complaining about a million little things that really didn’t matter. 

While supporting the development of a sports league in Europe.  There were some organizations that started to succeed, to prosper, yet instead of learning what they did right, the league would change the rules handicapping the successful teams to make it in their words, “more competitive.” 

Here’s the issue…the crabs end up not escaping and all die as a result.  In jealous culture, when time and energy is spent pulling others down, no one prospers, no one grows, nothing gets better.

It’s one thing, when it is a personal issue and another when it is a cultural one.   In my experience, there are more jealous cultures in the world than non-jealous.  Those cultures that are known for opportunity and prosperity are few and far between.

What kind of culture do you live in?
Here are some questions to consider:
Is more time spent complaining or competing?
When neighbors or friends find success, are people happy or suspicious?
When you visit a friends new home, or see their new car, is there more criticism or compliments?
Do you feel an overwhelming sense of inequality?
Do you feel successful people “don’t deserve it?” or “didn’t earn it?”
Do you spend more time complaining about what others have, or focus on ways to succeed with what you’ve got?

I remember when I was running, I was a sprinter, but I didn’t have the ability to truly compete in the short sprints, it wasn’t in the genes.  I could’ve complained, did what I could to bring the other competitors to my level, or cheated.  Instead, I found what I was good at, what I could improve on and where I could compete and ended up competing at the state level, even held the #1 spot in my event for a while.

The US, has historically been a non-jealous culture.  Case in point is the phrase, “keeping up with the Jones’s,”  or “everyone looks for their time in the sun.”  Whereas in Jealous cultures they have phrases like, “the tall grass gets the blade.”   I am a 2nd generation immigrant, my father like many immigrants to this day, came to the US for better opportunities, and finding them.

So the question comes, why are people in the US fighting about inequality when people from all over the world come there for opportunities and finding them?  Why the focus on the top 1%?    Are there truly no opportunities in the US for people not in the 1%?  Is there another culture in the world where new millionaires are created on an almost daily basis?  Is there really inequality because of what the 1% get or because the rest are restricted from finding their own success?  And if the latter, what are those issues?

Are there really people in the US culture who are oppressing me from getting a good education? From getting a job?  From getting experience?  From being creative?  From finding my own niche in the marketplace where I can be successful?

The truth is, the US as a whole is one of the few non-jealous cultures in the world.  Although there are factions of the US that are jealous and function, make policies, and do those things that jealous cultures do… to, in their minds, create “equality.”

Do you want to live in a culture where there is equal opportunity or manipulate the system to foster equal results? Because either we spend our energy aspiring to be the best we can, or we turn that energy, as crabs, against anyone else who tries.

18 December 2009

An American Identity Crisis

One of the purposes of this blog is to present various sides of issues so we can see different perspectives, and from that insight, hopefully, become better decision makers.

Below are two popular perspectives recently posted by Bruce Walker posting on the American Thinker.

“…Some believe that America is a unique nation, a nation built upon extraordinary and good moral values, and a country which is a microcosm of what the world should be. These people need not be Americans. Churchill, for example, was an unabashed admirer of America.

Other people believe that America is simply a very arrogant country, a nation inhabited with bumpkins who believe too much in God, and because of its religious faith and confidence, the antithesis of what the world should be. This animus flourishes outside America, but it also has a strong camp following in America.”

It certainly explains the differing approaches in policy we’ve seen over the years, including foreign affairs, economic policy, national defence, even on issues of health care.

Which one reflects our current leadership?

Which are you?

HostGator Promos Blog Directory