Don’t bother me with your religion!

Nelson MandelaTo paraphrase a quote from Nelson Mandela… Babies aren’t born hating, as adults we actually teach our children to do that. Go and add a liberal dose of religion to the mix and we have some massive, often dangerous social issues blighting our world.

I’m certainly no theologian, neither am I a follower of any particular religion, which in my opinion is a good thing. It is probably also the major reason why I can actually see some good in most religions. As the Dalai Lama rightly points out… “If you have a particular faith or religion that is good – but you can survive without it.”

He also said; “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness… the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.” The sad question is realistically; how often does that actually happen? Yes some religious followers are visibly more devote than others however; how many truly believe what it is they are following? How many do what they do out of tradition or even peer pressure? How many actually think deeply about what they espouse?

Having some passion, about many aspects of your life, is a good thing. It’s not good when that passion is extreme or impacts upon others and becomes bigotry or worse, sectarian violence. I can accept and respect anyone’s personal beliefs, I’m even happy for them to tell me about them, especially if they can do it in an educated and friendly fashion. I’m constantly annoyed with our media though, why do they constantly turn out rafts of perverse drivel about religious division in our society? Have they got some hidden agenda to create division? And if so, to what end?

Other people’s beliefs, culture and history have always been an important part of why I love to travel. I find the culture of others interesting. I like to try to understand what makes people tick. It’s one of the ways in which I can learn, it’s how I educate myself about our world and the Peoples who live in it. What I abhor is those who inadequately and unintelligently expect me to believe in what they believe…woe betide those who come knocking at my front door pedalling their particular brand of legend and myth!

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi told us that “mankind is naught but a single nation” and that “God has no religion” so; why is there so much conflict in our world, often dressed up in a colourful cloak of religious belief? Just because you were ‘saved’ by your particular ‘god’ it doesn’t follow that I need to be ‘saved’ too! Perhaps I am strong enough to be sufficiently satisfied with my lot? It never ceases to amaze me how so many religions seem to try to coral their followers with fear; to threaten them with hell and damnation if they don’t follow, market, worship and pray in a manner prescribed in some ancient dusty book?

The church is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example – Mark Twain

I think Georgia Harkness eloquently summed up much of what is wrong about religions. Harkness was an American Christian theologian and Methodist, she observed; “The tendency to turn human judgments into divine commands makes religion one of the most dangerous forces in the world.” It seems to me that many religious beliefs, and sadly the sectarian violence that can (and does) develop, stems from little more than individual power (and/or wealth) struggles born of human tribalism. Thought process which in turn bread and reinforce hatred? Levels of hate and extremism which come from a lack of respect for others, a lack of understanding and fear that serves to develop contempt and paranoia.

Hatred paralyses life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it – Martin Luther King Jr

Perhaps the prominence of neoliberalism and overt political correctness in today’s society has had an impact here? The pejorative and pervasive nature of PC policies and process has served to stifle and/or control our thoughts, never mind our words. But, as Martin Luther King Jr pointed out; “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” If we can’t talk about what and why we believe what we do, where is our hope for future understanding?

It is interesting that so many of the world’s great leaders, now revered by many as humanitarian visionaries, were people who came to prominence through religious and/or politically derived social struggles of humanity. The sad thing is, in many respects, we have failed to learn from those struggles. Albert Einstein provided a useful and sensible viewpoint here; “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow” – without that ‘hope’ (for humanity) we have nothing. Learning provides us with the personal tools to develop a capability to do things differently. The problem is too often; we tend not to adjust our actions or direction of thought based upon what we have learned.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

To change things we have to observe, think and talk about them but unfortunately, many of us have a tendency to do none of that. We are happy to accept the status quo, to blindly follow the beliefs of our peers, often with gay abandon. That is the way it has always been and always will be, for ever and ever etc. But, without change we are destined to remain in our dark ages.

We must become the change we want to see. – Mahatma Gandhi

Another one of Gandhi’s much trotted out quotes was; what do I think of Western civilisation? I think it would be a very good idea” but what has actually changed since he said that? A great deal is the simple answer however; not all of that change has been for the better. We seem to be in a period of social and religious regression. Despite the fact our society is (supposedly) far more inclusive and secular than was once the case in our recent history.

We now have a society built by the wealthy, designed and controlled to meet the needs and desires of the rich and powerful and mostly, on the foundations of the poor and disadvantaged. We can celebrate individualism but often, only when it relates to the wealth, ‘celebrity’ status and outward appearance of the ‘beautiful’ people. Is that really the kind of ‘civilisation’ and social progression we want to see? I would hope that the majority would agree with me here with an emphatic ‘no’ answer however; we’re returning to a point where we lack tolerance; social, racial or religious. Despite ‘tolerance’ being the ethos we say we possess, live by and once stringently worked to enforce and develop.

In my lifetime we have seen the (apparent) progression of civil rights in the USA, the (apparent) end of apartheid in South Africa, the (apparent) end of the Yugoslav wars and, a little nearer to home, the (apparent) end of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. I say ‘apparent’ in all of the above because; there are still too many elements of the original intolerance issues still bubbling under the surface of our new world. One of the biggest threats to our society (and world peace) is that lack of tolerance. We started to build on those foundations of tolerance and understanding but (in many respects), perhaps we’ve lost sight of (or forget) what we were trying to build?

We need to urgently revisit or reinvent our human skills of tolerant communication and non-judgemental understanding, especially around the issues of our personal beliefs and religion!

I’m prepared to listen to anyone about their background and culture, preferably from the individual and not the newspapers or TV however; I’d prefer to sit on a river bank, to watch and be grateful for our world and all the wondrous things that it contains. To ponder on ‘the meaning of life’ and contemplate why people do and say the things they do. I can be at peace with myself, marvelling in the simple and bounteous beauty of our natural world however; if anyone wants to donate a copy of their sacred scriptures, I’m sure it will provide a useful source of fuel for my campfire!

You can’t keep taking the money without opening the box

Thinking outside the box?In our ever accelerating business world of (mostly) contrived innovation, there is one particular buzz-phrase that is probably more ironic than most; “we embrace diversity of thought and value individuals who are able to think outside of the box” – but what happens when you actually work with that ethic?

It should go without saying but I’ll mention it any way; every organisation worth its salt in the business world has by necessity, a set of clearly applied policies and procedures under which they operate. This is especially crucial to those who hold any aspirations of greatness and/or corporate desires to make the bench-mark of any ISO Quality accreditation type process.

The ISO 9000 family addresses various aspects of quality management and contains some of ISO’s best known standards. The standards provide guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved… (International Standards Organisation)

Standards that can and do drive the vehicle of ‘best practice’ are beneficial to all within any organisation, but not least to the individual end-user of a service or commodity that organisation provides. Standards of policy and procedure help employers and their employees to work towards a common organisational goal.

Constrained by the box?It’s a well-known and much-lauded business fact that so often; any organisation’s most valuable asset are the people it chooses to employ. Why then do we so often and systematically attempt to constrain and stifle the capabilities of that resource?

Sometimes changes to process, policies or procedures may be required, it’s a fact of life in a changing world. It might be that they are no longer relevant to our commodity production or the service delivery circumstances. Corporate and human resource considerations or capabilities may have altered or been developed since their inception.

There are a myriad of reasons which could necessitate process change in our organisations and business, either temporary or long-term. There may be emergency circumstances that require prompt action. When providing a service to people, but in particular with health and wellbeing type services provided for individuals, not all circumstances will, by their nature, conveniently and neatly fit the procedural box.

But still we favour the status quo, we constrain our organisations and our staff with dangerous assumptions and beliefs; “we couldn’t possibly be wrong, could we?” Or even worse, “this is the way I’ve always done it” so we proceed with the norm. Consequently, we resist any deviation from the direction we expected to take. We have a tendency to forget that at the time, a previous process may not actually be relevant to a particular set of circumstances, irrespective of any obvious requirement.

We shuffle along in business, continually failing to trust the staff that we chose to employ; we are fearful of authorising their decision-making capabilities, “they mustn’t be trusted to think outside the box,” – despite vociferously announcing the contrary at every given opportunity. It’s mostly due to that predominant human trait – we are actually terrified of change!

In reality, fear of change is one of the most common reasons for resistance to change because it stops you taking any action at all… (Change-Management-Coach.com)

In his article, Exposing Fear of Change, Mark Connelly, a successful South African business psychologist, points out how and why we always fear change. But thankfully, he also goes on to offer some sound advice and guidance about how we can and should deliver the change(s) required in today’s business world environment (see here).

Get Creative!As Connelly rightly points out; “any successful change management is defined by the ability of people to move towards.” If we aspire to be successful in sound and lasting application of that business concept; “it is essential to support the process by focusing on the individual.” Like it or not, we will always need some creative thinking!

So… inherent resistance to change, in both individuals and the organisations they belong to is confirmed however; when you’re aware of that ‘fear’ you can also support your people to implement change. But only when your organisation possess that overall desire and a competent management structure that can facilitate that chosen direction.

For all employers there is a pertinent two-part question you need to ask yourself in business;

  1. Are you prepared to embrace, manage and harness the power of productivity in loyal employees, the ones who can drive forward and deliver your overall business aims and vision? Or…
  2. Cast aside the inovativators who attempt to break free from the constraints of your (current) organisational ‘box’ and possibly, create embittered and subversive industrial enimies?

Pandora's BoxWithout the corporate will, the competent management and capable individuals who are supported and prepared to embrace change, sometimes thinking outside the box, you’re actually destined to business stagnation or worse…organisational failure.

Directors need to create management structures with capabilities, and appropriate levels of authorisation, which afford them the confidence to open their particular box of organisational diversity… Not every one of those boxes was packed by Pandora!

The Myths of Religious Belief?

Symbols of ReligionWith all the negative issues around the rights/wrongs of one particular religion over another in our world today, I simply couldn’t resist sharing the following piece about our wonderous religious beliefs, which has been floating around on social media (again)…

Read, laugh but think on!

So…. homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstances as preached by many, including a certain Dr Laura from a well-known US radio talk show. The following was an open letter to that doctor!

Dear Dr. Laura

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.

When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
  7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
  9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman Ed.D.

Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

University of Virginia

P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian.)

 

NB: The so-called ‘Dr Laura letter‘ (above) is actually one of those infamous ‘urban myths’ which abound on the internet. It was first found in circulation around 2000 but wasn’t actually written by the signatory James M Kauffman Ed.D. who should NOT be claimed as the author of this humorous piece. (See www.snopes.com)

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