We are in a crisis. Religious fundamentalism and secularism are not getting along so well these days. What to do about it? We need to be more spiritual, not less.

 

In the United States in the 21st century, true spirituality (both organized and not) has been co-opted by extreme secularism and rampant materialism. This has resulted in decision-making with the goal being the enrichment of the one nation at the expense of mankind rather than the enrichment of all nations for the betterment of mankind. Itís forgivable to pursue self interest when you are at the bottom, but when you are already at the top, such efforts merely amount to greed.

 

The response to radical Islam should not be to embrace our secularism, but should be to increase our level of spirituality without losing sight of the best aspect of secularism, which is tolerance. Radical Islam cannot be defeated by radical secularism. Such a dichotomy would result in a perpetual struggle between two essentially incompatible ways of thinking. Radicalism can only be supplanted by a more tolerant form of spirituality which would encompass all the worldís religions in one broad understanding. Mankind will always be ruled by spiritual zeal. Why not let it be an enlightened one?

 

To be clear. I am not advocating a surrender of our position in the world or that we change our basic system of government or give up our possessions and jump into the ocean. I like America. And I want us to lead the world. But I want us to do so justly and in a way that makes the entire world better off, for the purpose of extending our prosperity rather than doing everything in our power to shorten it.

 

So how can we get there? First, there must be an immediate freeze on personal and collective moral decay. It is time to grow up. No more acceptance of misogyny, racism, and other forms of ignorance and hate. Fairness and equality are now evident. To hide behind inherited ideas of prejudice is no longer excusable.

 

Violence in all forms must be curtailed. Aggression could be satisfied by sports, hunting and swimming. Gladiatorial combat and human sacrifice should be discouraged. Gun control must be taken seriously. The second amendment is fine, but it must be interpreted in a modern context. The destructive glorification of violence must be attacked vigorously, by adults of all ages. Parents must behave like parents. Families must work together and children must be raised with care. Teachers must be elevated. Compassion must be rewarded.

 

Personal restraint must be encouraged and excessive consumption must be criticized. Hummers and other personal monuments may or may not be phased out, on a voluntary basis of course. If you are motivated to work by these things, then it is likely your work will be of little benefit to mankind anyway.

 

In the public realm, corruption for personal gain must be routed using transparency and accountability. Term limits may be helpful. Campaign finance reform should not even be necessary. Difficult problems must be faced rather than ignored or exploited. Deception by public officials must be decried and remembered. The media must regain its dignity and adjust its sense of purpose. It may want to look to the past for guidance. Arrogance and blind ambition will be of no help.

 

Western-style secularism may confer an economic advantage. But what are some of its downsides?

 

o       The creation of ever more dangerous technology.

o       The destruction of the planet.

o       The increasing disparity of resources between first and third world.

 

What are its upsides?

 

o       The creation of ever more helpful technology.

o       The potential to not destroy the planet.

o       Other stuff.

 

I believe that what is necessary for the stability and survival of mankind is the development of a strong sense of tolerance and shared responsibility among nations and tribes. I believe our society can achieve a balance between secularism and spirituality, which is moderate but robust, questioning but determined. And if it does so, it seems plausible to think our leaders might possibly reflect some of that virtue.

 

It is time to recognize the limits of American (and first world) power and hence a real need to play smarter. It is time to take our great blessings (even including the advantages gained from past sins) and use them for good rather than further gain. It is time to behave responsibly. Be honest with ourselves. Remember the lessons of history. Do not hide behind habits. Donít be afraid. Think. Try. Care. Vote. And letís see what we can do.

 

 

Me in í08