Tag Archives: believe

What Do You Believe?

“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” –Gordon A. Eadie

Hello friend,

Sometimes, I confuse even myself. As someone who generally prefers to be alone and doesn’t watch a lot of television, I end up doing a lot of pondering. As someone who writes in a journal every day and attempts a deep-diving letter to you every week, sometimes I feel like I have explored every topic in the human experience from a dozen different angles.

Sure, I get surprised still, on those occasions when someone gives me a look at the world from a brand new perspective. I love when that happens!

But on most days, on most topics, I tend to think I have looked at things backward and forward, trying so hard to understand each side that I sometimes forget which angle I came in believing to be the correct one. Hence, my confusion.

I am always open to new information and a fresh perspective, and that leaves my opinions vulnerable to change. I have flip-flopped on many things during my adult life, both through simple experience and through deeper examination of my head and heart. I have done it with social issues and with spiritual beliefs. I have done it with people.

Though an open mind and a willingness to change always get a bad rap in political campaigns, on the whole I think of my malleability as a good thing.

But just because a guy is open-minded doesn’t mean he is without a solid foundation. Right? I mean, even though all this journaling has made me more receptive to different viewpoints, I don’t think of myself as wishy-washy. I know where I stand on the basics. I have a rock!

So, what is it? What is my foundation? What do I believe?

I believe we are All One. I believe this in not simply the scientific way that the physicists can show us, but also the spiritual and metaphysical way. This is my most fundamental belief. I believe we are All inextricably intertwined, All a part of the One. I mean this in the way that there are lots and lots of unique waves in the ocean, but they are all still the ocean. In my model, you may have your own soul with your personal calling and I mine, but you are still me and I am still you, and we are still the ocean, too. I know that starts to sound like New Age mumbo jumbo to most people. That’s okay with me. In this belief that we are All One, my foundation has its one leap of faith. I capitalize the “All” and “One” because I believe this unity, this singularity of the Universe, is Divine. I can’t prove the Divine part, of course. I mostly infer it from the intricacy and pure awesomeness of the Universe, which I know could have happened randomly. But even if this faith part proves to be false—and I am open to that and don’t mind a good interrogation of my reason—the fact that we are All connected remains backed by science. So, whether we are “one” or “One”, the effect that has on my day-to-day existence remains unchanged (though it changes my view of the possible afterlife). It still leaves me with a profound responsibility when it comes to my planet, my Universe, and all that occupy it.

I believe that connecting with your passion or Bliss—whether as a career or hobby or way of life—is crucial to fulfillment. I believe this so strongly that a large part of my Bliss is to help people to discover their own and to engage it authentically. This is precisely why you are reading these words right now. I hope that through self-reflection, you will come to understand who you really are and what makes your heart sing. That could be children, teaching, travel, or ornithology. Whatever it is, I believe that engaging it regularly is crucial to you living your best, most satisfied life. I want that for you.

I believe there are very few things in the world more valuable than self-belief. I would be beyond grateful if my children were blessed with vast stores of both kindness and self-belief. That is enough to make a good life out of.

I believe that without empathy, we are lost, both individually and collectively. Perhaps this is simply a subset of the kindness that I just mentioned, but I feel the need to give empathy its own spotlight. I look at the problems of the world today—the Haves vs. Have-Nots, Republicans vs. Democrats, Christians vs. Muslims, Whites vs. Blacks, the general Us vs. Them we are so encouraged to fan the flames of—and I just see an appalling lack of empathy. An inability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. To see her as you. To think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” This, of course, connects back up to my first, most fundamental belief: that we are All One. To live that belief is to embody empathy.

I believe we are here to make the world a better place and to lift each other up. I am totally clear on the idea that my existence is to be spent striving for happiness, prosperity, and general well-being for myself (I think most people are with me on that, right?). And since I truly believe in that first core concept of Unity, logic tells me that I ought to strive for happiness, prosperity, and general well-being for All. It should come as no surprise to you that things like wars, racism, environmental destruction, the prison-industrial complex, and the extreme income inequality pain me in my deepest places.

I believe, finally, that despite my unsocial nature and completely contrary to the dominant cultural message of self-reliance, we are only able to “Do Life” with the help of others, and it is only in relation to others that our time here has any meaning and value. Thus, we can value personal growth—like writing in a journal—and personal responsibility, but we prove those valuations with our actions toward others and in the love that drives those actions.

There. That’s what I believe.

How about you? What ideas make up your foundation? Open up your journal and scrape off your top layers to get down to your core. What thoughts make up your bedrock? Are you like me and have one primary belief that casts a giant shadow and informs most of the other beliefs? Which belief is your most powerful? What kind of belief is it—spiritual, moral, emotional, scientific, rational, or something else? In what areas of your life do you feel that belief’s reverberations? Do you feel it every day? Even if it works every day in your life, how often do you actually think about that belief? Is it a part of a mantra or prayer that you use to remind yourself of its importance? How long have you believed your most important belief? Were you taught it from birth? Did you come upon it yourself, making the conscious decision that it was for you? What about your other main beliefs: were they chosen for you, or did you decide to adopt them? Can you limit your core beliefs to a small handful, or does your list go on and on? How different are your beliefs from those of your parents and siblings? Will you try to pass your beliefs on to the next generation? Do you ever get preachy to others? How do you feel when other people try to get you to adopt their beliefs? Are you generally open-minded? Are you open even when it comes to your core beliefs, or are those untouchable? Do you have any unhealthy beliefs? Do you wish you could let go of some and trade them for others? Can you? Which are your favorite beliefs, the ones you are proud of? Are you good at acting consistently with your beliefs? Where can you do better? Leave me a reply and let me know: What do you believe?

Believe in yourself,


P.S. If this increased your self-awareness or made you evaluate things differently, please share it. Spread clarity!

A Godless Future: What does the next generation believe in?

DSC_1156“Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.” –Emmett F. Fields

Hello friend,

Last Sunday, I sat in the audience at a small church with a mix of pride, joy, and utter fascination. It was “Religious Education Sunday,” the day when all of the kids from all the different age groups in the congregation get to “perform” for the adult members, a way to highlight something they had learned in their classes during the year. I beamed and giggled as my son and the other kindergarteners sang “This Little Light of Mine.” I had taught the second and third grade unit, so I watched, with equal measures of anxiety and pride, their re-enactment of a story from Buddha’s life. Next came the third and fourth graders, then the middle schoolers, and on up, each group taking their turn at the front of the chapel, with all eyes on them.

Finally, it was the seniors’ turn. They were to go up, one at a time—there were only three of them—and read their personal “Faith Statement,” or credo, which they had clearly spent much of the year working on (and obviously their whole lives developing). Of course, I love to get inside someone’s head and heart and see what they are all about, so I was truly eager to hear what each had come to believe about this supremely important topic.

After all, I was raised Catholic. The essence of my religious education was being told, “THIS IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE! DON’T QUESTION IT. EVER!!!” I never fathomed the possibility of delivering my own, personally crafted statement of my spiritual beliefs to my entire church as I finished high school.

Thus, I was absolutely riveted when the first young man–quite an impressive 18-year-old, the kind you would like to hire for that Summer job and trust that he would be on-time and not playing on his phone all day–got up, thanked the congregation for their years of support, and began, “I believe in Science.” He proceeded to give a thoughtfully composed, confidently delivered speech that detailed his beliefs and the reasons behind them. And the crux of his belief system: There is no God. I was totally fascinated. Not just at his belief (or disbelief, rather), but also at the setting he was proclaiming it confidently in.

{A quick aside here for some context. After staying away from any sort of official house of worship for about 18 years, I somewhat begrudgingly allowed my wife to talk me into trying out a Unitarian Universalist (UU)fellowship several months ago. If I had to sum up my take on the UU principles, it would go something like this: As long as you are welcoming and respectful to everyone, open to all perspectives and backgrounds, and want to work for social justice and peace in our world, you are welcome here. I think of it more as a moral group rather than an actual religion. My sense is that, at least in my particular fellowship, there are probably a lot of people who left more the larger, organized religions earlier in life, turned off by their rigidity, dogma, or narrow scope. I would guess that the vast majority of members believe in a Higher Power of some sort, but certainly not all of them. But all are welcome to share their authentic selves. I have stuck it out this far for two main reasons: 1) I wanted my kids to hear another voice besides mine and my wife’s regarding moral and spiritual issues; and 2) I wanted us to do more of the service work that we often say we would like to do but rarely find the time for, figuring that connecting to a group that can facilitate opportunities to help would make it more likely (a.k.a. laziness on my part). Okay, back to the story….}

As I joined the applause for the charming young man’s speech, I thought to myself, “Wow! An atheist! And confident enough at 18 to proclaim his well-considered beliefs to a group of adults (mostly the gray-haired variety). What a rarity!” Then the second young man climbed to the podium and proceeded to inform us that he is also an atheist. His statement was different and equally well measured, but the conclusion was the same: “I believe that God does not exist.” My head started spinning. “WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!?” I was shocked! When the final young lady stepped up, full of personality and charisma—she later closed the service with a fantastically soulful version of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” with her acoustic guitar—I was sure she would tell us that her spiritual journey had led her to believe in a God like the one I grew up with. Wrong! She, too, had decided that she was an atheist. I was floored! Again, I just kept thinking, “What are the odds?” Three intelligent, friendly, socially-competent 18-year-olds who had put serious time and effort into this process had all decided that God did not exist.

As I applauded all three of them for their graduation and the self-awareness gained during this process of creating a personal Faith Statement—indeed, I think it is a good exercise for all of us–my mind kept returning to the same questions. It had been snagged and couldn’t free itself. Over and over: “Is atheism the new thing? Just how high is the percentage of true atheists—or even agnostics—among young adults today? How did I miss this?” I was flabbergasted. Not by the atheism itself—while I believe in a Higher Power, I can see the difficulty in proving it—but by the thought that this would be an enormously important shift, if indeed it was a shift, in our culture. But is it? How could I know?

I remembered that a few weeks ago, one of my co-workers, who raises her kids in the Catholic Church, had mentioned to me that her oldest son, a college freshman, is an atheist. So, after stewing on this puzzle for a couple of days, I asked her about it. She told me that her son’s roommate at school—randomly assigned—also turned out to be an atheist. She said he has friends with all sorts of different spiritual beliefs, but she was clear that he was definitely not the only atheist among them. It began to sink in that the three kids at my fellowship might be more than a statistical aberration. Atheism could be on its way to becoming the norm for the younger generations. How did this happen?

When I was a kid growing up in North Dakota, I didn’t know of any atheists. In fact, so entrenched was I in doing what I was told that even the thought of an atheist scared me. It was a taboo. You might read of an atheist in a book in the same hushed tone that you would a Satanist, as though there were a shroud of Evil around it. It was dangerous. I laugh now when I think of the reactions I have received when telling people that I am not a Christian. The first thing that usually gets verbalized is, “So, you don’t believe in God??” That is quite a leap, of course, and not necessarily a logical one. But I have certainly had the sense that, at least in some company, I have been the one viewed as “dangerous.” However, I am not an atheist.

I’ve met some confirmed atheists in the long years since then and didn’t think much about it. The few times I had, I wondered why I thought it so spooky when I was a kid. Philosophically, I have come to understand that one does not need a God in order to live a happy and morally-upstanding existence. Basically, the stigma in my mind has faded and morphed into more of a fascination (I want to know everything about everyone with different beliefs than me). But still, I didn’t know I was missing the beginnings of a potential religious revolution. My mind is blown!

How about you? What thoughts and feelings come up in you when you consider the possibility of an increasingly atheistic population? Open up your journal and try to make sense of your reactions to this possible trend. I say “possible,” because although the prospects for almost every fringe belief system, hobby, and interest seem to have increased in our Information Age, I had rarely considered that atheism might be on a real surge before this week. Also, with religion not being one of those topics to safely bring up in social situations, this rise might not be recent (or even real). Do you think it is? Have you had experiences of meeting or learning about young atheists in recent years? Let’s assume, at least for the moment, that this increase is really occurring. Do you see it as a passing fad or something with staying power? If it is for real, how does that sit with you? Are you alarmed? Unfazed? Pleased? My co-worker whose son is an atheist thinks the cause of the rise is these kids seeing all of the problems that the major religions have either directly caused or made worse, leaving the kids thinking, “This is not the way to go.” Is there some merit to that argument? The kids I listened to last Sunday talked a lot about Science and preferring things that could be tested and proven. Is that a good argument? With “1” being Totally Uncertain and “100” being Totally Certain, what is your degree of certainty regarding the existence of a Higher Power? If your number is pretty high, how tolerant and accepting are you of people who still believe but are much more uncertain about it? What is your reaction in learning that people you know are atheists? How would you like your children (real or imaginary) to come to their beliefs? Do you see the parents’ role more in terms of instilling their own beliefs in their children, or more as exposing their children to the range of beliefs and allowing the children to gravitate toward their own beliefs? Is it enough to try to teach children good morals and behavior, or should a religion be attached, too? How do you think you would feel if your child gave you his Faith Statement, and it concluded that he was an atheist? Would you try to change his mind? At what point do we just let them decide these things on their own? If atheism became the norm for the upcoming generations, how do you think that would change our everyday world? Would it be, on the whole, a benefit or a detriment? I think that, whether or not this surge in atheism is real or not, these are important questions for us to consider. In either case, leave me a reply and let me know: What does the younger generation believe in? 

Believe in YOU,


P.S. If this letter made you look into yourself a little deeper or from a different angle, I hope you will share it with your circle. We should be mirrors for each other. Bless you.