The Ramblings of the Titanium Don

Explorations of Conscious Reality Creation and Other Matters

Month: May 2010


Dune’s Litany Against Fear states this so well:  I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Then we get FDR:  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

And then Yoda:  “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

So when did we start to ignore these warnings and let Fear rule our lives?

A friend recently brought this up on her LJ – and I decided this would be a good topic to explore next here.  Fear.  The Tarkin Doctrine from Star Wars seems to have been the Bush Doctrine from our past presidential administration:  “Fear will keep them in line.”  Rule through fear.  Let fear be the blanket that people are wrapped in so that they will make no other choice.  It was all about using fear to keep in power – despite the lies, despite the corruption.  But that’s another topic.

And people are still using fear.  The Health Care reform our Congress tried to pass was derailed by fear mongering.  Talk of “Death committees” and similar BS made this reform that they did pass pretty much pointless. We were told a public option would be the WORST possible choice.  Really?  You mean an option that might force the PRIVATE insurers to offer competitive plans?  Oh, wait…we can’t interfere with profit!  But let’s use fear to disguise that!   But that’s a whole other rant, so I digress.

The Tea Party is all about using fear to get their way.  Vote for this guy, and your family and our public institutions will be desecrated.  Stop this from happening, or the terrorists will kill you.  Don’t let the government have control (hidden message here being – don’t let THIS government have control, we should have it instead!)  That they are heard at ALL, frankly, is kinda disgraceful, far as I am concerned.  They are preaching something they don’t even really believe in – just to gain power.  And they use a LOT of fear-mongering in the process.  Again – that would be yet another digression.

Fear sells.  Newspapers get bought, TVs get watched when we have tales of fear to tell.  Terrorist attacks, crashing economies, sticking accelerators, disease epidemics – all things that bring up fear get the most attention and focus because they use the fear to drive sales.

This is NOT a good thing.  Fear is dangerous.  Fear prevents growth, and when things don’t grow – they die.  And if we live in fear – we don’t really live, do we?

There are two people to blame for this – the people who peddle the fear, certainly – but then we also have to blame ourselves for BUYING it.  If we let the fear overwhelm us, and we show the peddlers of fear that we’re buying – well they will just keep on selling.

Fear is easy.  There are so many things to be afraid of – big and small.  And the fear response is purely instinctive – and appealing to the basest instincts is an interesting way to control and direct people.  Also easy.

I have long said that nothing worth having is ever easy.  But we live in a quick-fix society.  Take that pill, fight that war, fix the recurrent symptom but ignore the underlying problem.  And fear incites that quick-fix reaction.  Take care of it NOW before it becomes TRULY horrible.  Except – when you only treat the symptoms, do you ever get to the root of the problem and resolve it?

So what can we do about this?  How do we get the people to stop selling fear, and how do we stop reacting to it?  That’s the trick, really.  Fear is quite probably our most base emotion, and almost everyone FEELS fear of something or other.  Fear is a quick and easy tool – and we allow ourselves to be victimized by it far too easily.

So what can I do about this, you might ask?  Follow the advice of the quotes I began this with.  Let the fear pass through, don’t hold onto it.  Stop buying the fear – don’t buy the paper, don’t watch the news, and don’t talk about it with your friends – UNLESS you talk about THIS.  Why we should NOT fear, why we should be brave and THINK about the world we live in – and stop letting our base emotions run our lives.

It ALL boils down to accountability.  That’s yet another topic for another time – but in brief, WE need to be responsible for more than we are.  We are SO QUICK to blame others – and we are lousy at taking responsibility for our own lives.  SO MANY THINGS I believe would be a LOT better in this world if we just did a much better job of being accountable for things.

And that applies to fear.  If we find ourselves letting the fear dictate our lives – we have to be responsible and NOT allow it.  Be reasonable – be rational, and realize that the world is imperfect, but if we go about in fear – we do not truly live.

To reiterate – from Frank Herbert’s Dune – “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

More thoughts – religion and public life.

I give you part 2 of my rant on the topic of religion.

Let me state this plain and simple – religion has NO PLACE in public service, politics, and policy.  Period.

Let me begin my explanation by stating I have NOTHING against religion overall – my issue here comes of the largest problem with putting religion into these practices.

Which religion are you using?

There are a LOT of religions, sects, sub-sects, minor and major groups, subdivisions, and cults out there.  Monotheism, polytheism, atheism, nature worshipers, idol worshipers, Satanists, take your pick.  And in this country in particular – how can you possibly use any one religion as your example for public policy?

Let me make another clear statement – the Unites States of America is NOT a Christian country.  Period.

Back in HS, I had friends who argued with me that we ARE a Christian country.  Sorry, my friends, but I said it then, and I say it again now – Bullshit.  Yes, Christianity is the majority religion, I won’t deny that – but having been raised as a Jew, I can tell you point blank that I take offense at the notion of this being a Christian nation.

How many forms does Christianity come in?  Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Baptists, Fundamentalists, Born Agains, Mormons, Presbyterians, Puritans…that’s just off the top of my head.  And among those, how many sub-sects exist?  And with all the things they disagree on – which one is right?  Who’s form of Christianity are you going to infuse your politics and policy with?

So what about the rest of us who are NOT Christian?  Judaism and Islam both are monotheistic religions with similar underpinnings to Christianity – but even these are divided into numerous sects and varying practices.  Buddhists, Taoists, Pagans, Druids, Shintoists, Hindus…they practice a religion, too…and it is quite a bit different from Christianity.  Are you saying their way is not acceptable?

Infusing Christian beliefs into politics and public policy is not acceptable in the USA.  We are a melting pot of pretty much EVERYTHING under the sun – how can you suggest that the Christian ethical code is right for everyone?

History is full of conflict directly related to religion.  Catholics vs Protestants in Northern Ireland.  Christians vs Muslims during the Crusades.  Muslims vs Jews since Israel became a state.  Shia vs Suni sects of Islam against one another in Iraq.  Constant conflict all over the world all because of differing beliefs in the unseen and the powers-that-be and establishing who is right.

America has more than enough dividing it – factoring in religion only makes matters worse.  The founding fathers called for a separation of church and state for an excellent reason – we are NOT one and only one religion in this country.  And as such, no one religion should have any specific hold on any aspect of our political system.

Over the past couple decades, there has been a serious erosion of this separation.  Calls for prayer in school, allowing for religious entities to hold more sway and power and clout in various political circles, the never-ending abortion debate – NONE of this should be a part of government.  Church and State are SEPARATE entities.  The church doctrine, ANY church doctrine, has no place in politics.  That is the way it should be.

Intelligent Design is NOT science.  It is Creationism.  You can teach Creationism in school – as a part of comparative religious studies, but NOT as a science.  I don’t care if Evolution is flawed – it is still science.  Intelligent Design is RELIGION.

If you have chosen as your line of work to be a pharmacist – you have NO RIGHT to impose your own moral code on the job.  Your job is to take the prescription a DOCTOR has ordered for their patient and FILL IT – no more, no less.  I don’t care if you are morally opposed to the Pill or to Plan B or whatever – you have NO RIGHT to impose your personal code on your job.   If you have an issue – get another career – or go work at a pharmacy run by your church.  It is not your place to make the call as to what you will and will not do – your job is FILL PRESCRIPTIONS – period.  Do your job – or get another.

I work in a call center.  I do not agree with all of my companies policies – I think some of them are pretty unfair.  But I don’t NOT enforce them just ‘cause I disagree.  I would lose my job for that.  So by what right can YOU pull the same thing and get away with it?  Your job is pretty clear cut – if you disagree with an aspect of it – tough.  Do your job.

Harsh?  Maybe…but this is a perfect example of religion having NO PLACE in public policy.

Everyone is entitled to their own belief, their own opinion.  I have no issue with people having faith – my issue is when they think their faith is more right than anyone else’s, and that they have the right to impose it on us as such.  We need laws in this society, won’t deny that, either.  But the law of the state and the law of the church are separate ideals – and should remain separate.

Religion does not belong in politics.  And vice versa, politics doesn’t belong in religion.  Politics should be kept to the voting polls, Capital Hill, Congress, City Halls and the like…Religion should be kept to Churches, Temples, Cloisters and such.  The two need to be remain separate.  Period.

Next reality topic – Religion vs Morality vs Spirituality.

I am going to split this into multiple parts, because there are multiple distinct thoughts I have on this topic.  The first part I’ll give you my take on religion, morality and spirituality.

Religion has been called by Karl Marx the “Opiate of the masses”.  My own understanding of the tenet of religion is a group of people sharing a system of beliefs with regards to the inexplicable (i.e. god, death, the unknown in general) for mutual comfort and understanding.  Communities are formed, people share a common cause and beliefs, and work together to study and understand them.  Or at least, that was how it began.

Religion has become something beyond this, though.  More than just a place to belong and share beliefs and worship your chosen deity – it has become a defining point.  Many people in some way or other identify with their religion in an almost racial or nationalistic way.  Judaism is an excellent example of this.  I was born and raised Jewish, and still consider myself Jewish – culturally.  But I do not practice the religion of Judaism any longer.  But I digress.

Religion has come to be something far more than just a group of people gathering to worship as a community.  It has become a banner for war, it has become a beacon for intolerance, it has become a flag for isolation and separatism.  And arguably, it has been this a LONG time now, be it during the Crusades centuries back, or in the current age of zealots and extremists, where religion has been made an excuse to persecute those who do not believe the same.

None-the-less, this is not the main brunt of my thought process I am laying out here.  One of the key points that comes of those fervent in their belief system is that without religion, you have no spirituality nor morality.

And that is my philosophical discussion topic today.  While religion CAN provide a template in which to create your moral compass and spiritual practice – it is NOT a total package.  I firmly believe that these are three SEPARATE BUT EQUAL tenets – religion, morality, and spirituality.

It is entirely possible to be religious but amoral and not spiritual; moral, but not practicing any religion or spirituality; spiritual, but amoral and practicing no religion; or any combination therein.  No one of these tenets can imply the other two, far as I have ever seen.

So lets break this down, then.  Religion I have covered above, really.  This is a means to bring together a mass of people to share a belief system to understand the impossible.  Religion creates templates and rituals for different aspects of life, neat boxes to place one’s self into for comfort and community.  That is the way of it, whether you are talking about any flavor of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.

Morality is a code of ethical behavior.  It is the code by which we determine right and wrong in any given community.  I think morality is also VERY misunderstood.  Like religion – there is NO ONE TRUE morality.  What I consider moral YOU might not – and vice versa.

I think I have to tangent here to another core in my own belief system – pretty much NOTHING is truly black or white.  It all falls into the grey or colored areas in the middle.  And this to me is a big part of my own take on all three of the tenets I am putting forward here.  This could become a VERY long post if I delve too deep into THIS part here.

Anyhow – morality.  Morality, in my opinion, is an individual idea.  We all have a different moral compass, and while we can easily agree to disagree, I don’t think anyone is any more right than any other.  And there is no one true right way.

Yes, I recognize there are certain universal ideas of morality, but they come with grey areas, too.  It is wrong to steal.  Black and white, sure.  But are you stealing wealth to amass more wealth – or are you stealing loaves of bread to feed your starving family?  While both are arguably wrong – where’s the line in this situation?  Can there be a wrong and a more wrong, and the consequence therein?  Similarly – it is wrong to murder.  Also pretty black and white.  But are you murdering a guy simply ‘cause you do not value his life, or are you murdering him in the process of defending your OWN life?  Again – the black and white gives way to shades of grey.

And then we get to sin.  The idea of sin is that you have done something that is not considered moral, be it within your religious group, or local community.  President Clinton was getting blowjobs from an intern in the Oval Office, and a lot of people took offense to this and considered him a sinner.  But there are any number of leaders in Europe who very openly have both a wife and mistress – and this is not considered a sin, or amoral.  So this becomes a cultural supposition – what is acceptable to one is not to another.  This is the backbone of the entirety of the tenet of morality – and, yet something else to dive into another time – the reason I do not believe in the concept of sin.   So how DO you define morality?

And thus we reach spirituality.  What is this?  To me, this is the belief in that which is beyond basic comprehension.  It can be a belief in god, or the powers-that-be as I call them, or a pantheon of gods, or karma, or feng shui, or any other expression of belief in the immaterial.  Atheism is the opposite of spirituality.  Spirituality, to my mind, is believing in something beyond the physical universe we are in.  Yoda stated it best – “luminous beings are we – not this crude matter!”  That is to me the ultimate expression of spirituality – it is the belief in the unseen soul and what may lie beyond it.

Yes, religion in its inception was about a common community sharing spirituality and morality.  Arguably, that is still its point.  But these are still separate and equal tenets – as I have met more than my share of so-called ‘religious’ folk who are about as spiritual as my I-Pod, and utterly amoral or otherwise hypocritical.

Ok, so I DO have a point in all of this – it just requires a lot of exposition to get to it!  Religion is not the answer.  I have nothing against the idea of religion – what I have a problem with is the preaching of intolerance that religion often comes to represent.  Note – I am not saying it ALWAYS is this way – but far too often for my liking.

Anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, anti-muslim, anti-christian, anti-interracial, anti-whatever, I don’t believe that religion meant to create exclusionism – I thought the point was inclusiveness?  Why do people use their religious beliefs to break other people and be intolerant of THEIR ways?  I recognize that this has ALWAYS been the way of this – history is full of holy wars and religious strife and persecution and so on and so forth.

And this is where I make my primary point – you do not need religion for morality and spirituality.  They can and do exist apart from it.  And if the world had fewer religious folk and more spiritual and/or morally focused folk – focusing on THEIR OWN morality and spirituality and not trying to make everyone else follow their way – I do think it might just be a better, brighter, more tolerant place for everyone.

Religion does not belong in public schools.  Nor politics.  Nor civic structures.  Nor local or national infrastructure.  Religion should be separate and apart from policy, especially when it comes in so many forms and practices and beliefs…and they LOVE to conflict with each other over their own rightness.  A community of like believers can be a GOOD thing, I truly believe – but if they work together for understanding and community, not intolerance and separatism.

To conclude this very long winded entry – my thought process and idea I am presenting here may offend you.  It may be that you utterly and completely disagree with me on this.  But I welcome that – my whole entire point is that you should ask questions, and you should analyze what everyone believes – but only YOU can set your compass.  Only you can determine where you own religious philosophy, morality, and spirituality lie.

If nothing else – I hope this contributes to opening the mind to possibility.

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