Perceptions of Reality

I recently was reminded of why I try as much as I can to avoid speaking my political opinions on Facebook.  My Congressman, Chris Stewart, UT-2 (REP), had just posted about having voted on a bill to repeal the “death tax” or more properly known as the Estate Tax.  When I saw the post, I was astonished at the majority of the comments being quite inflammatory against the Mr. Stewart and his position.  The crux of much of what people complained about was that they felt the Estate Tax only affects the wealthy and why should we reduce revenue to the government to benefit those at the top.  Granted, I am anesthetizing the tone and character of their wording.

So, I responded by questioning how eliminating the tax on grieving families who have just lost their loved one would hurt them as an average person.  Woah!  Boy, was I pounded with responses.  The only one I felt had any validity, however was one person citing over $200 billion in 10 years that would be lost in revenue.  I responded again with the question: why should their be preferred classes in the law?  Shouldn’t we all be treated equally under the law?  Just because someone was born to parents who succeeded financially and left them an inheritance, why should they have to pay a confiscatory tax on things that have already been taxed during the life of their parent? Finally, one person responded saying I was completely wrong about reality.

That comment stuck with me.  Not that I suddenly changed my mind, but instead, I was made to think about the nature of reality.

We each experience “reality” through our senses and then interpret it with our minds.  Every person perceives reality in their own way because no two people have the same mind or the same eyes or the same ears.  Thus, everyone has a slightly different view.  What is reality to one person may not be reality to another.

For each of us, we exist in our own little social network.  We have our family, our neighborhood, our church or other organization, our workplace, and our online community.  In each of these places, we tend to migrate towards being around people we are similar to.  The result is, we all become very convinced that “everyone” thinks like us.  And then we say something controversial that we didn’t even think was controversial.  Then, our perception of reality is burst and we are confronted with a new reality: there are others not like us.

But does this controversy and differing perceptions of reality mean that there is no central truth or reality?  Does that mean each person’s perception can, will, and must lead them to their own philosophical belief system, even, their own set of morals?

No! There are some truths, as Jefferson put it, that are “self-evident”.  One truth, for example, is that the sun appears in the sky and warms our world.  We see it and feel it.  We know it is true.  And we all know that it is true.  Jefferson declared “all men are created equal”.  Yet, throughout the world, that self-evident truth seems to be unknown by too many people.  Many don’t even believe in creation, thus the very foundation of the statement and the following claim of we being endowed with the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is but naught.

Reality is a strange thing. Our perception of reality is dependent, and shaped by our belief system that biases how we interpret that “reality.” Thus, without a common belief system, then there is no common reality.

Chew on that thought . . .

Was Einstein Religious or Athiest?

I recently saw a video purporting to be a true story about Albert Einstein confronting an atheist professor on the existence of God:

In doing a little research on the internet, claims this is a fabricated exchange. (  The more I searched articles on the subject, the more articles I found by atheists vehemently denying that Einstein could’ve been religious of accepting of deity.  It seemed that too many atheists were very disturbed by the thought that Einstein could have been anything but atheist like themselves.

But why?  What is so important about Einstein’s beliefs about deity?  Does that have any relevance to science or theology?  After all, Einstein was a theoretical physicist.  His major contributions to science do not deny or confirm God in anyway.

But this follows an all too common trend.  In recent years, the popular former host of the PBS show Nova ScienceNOW, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, has been on a very vocal campaign to stamp out any notion that God could have anything to do with the creation of the universe and that belief in God is a foolish concept. Many other celebrities frequently try to convince the masses of the nonsense they believe deity is.

What I wonder is, why does it bother them so much?  What does it matter to a person who does not believe in God that another person believes?  Is the believer harming them in anyway?

In some ways, yes.  Violent extremists who use terrorism to promote their version of Islam are the most commonly cited example of where religion has run amuck and is causing real suffering.  But, by in large, the same people who vehemently deny God in the United States of America and claim religion causes much of the evil and suffering are the same people who say nothing about the terrorists and their abuse of women.  They instead complain of Christians and claim that Christians the ones persecuting others.

From my perspective, many atheists are bothered by the existence of any scientist who may also be a believer in God.  Especially in the case of Albert Einstein, the idea that Einstein could have harbored any level of faith in a supernatural being is that Einstein has himself become one of the gods of the atheistic pantheon.  Yes, I am saying that atheists have a religion too.  The religion is the religion of science.  A belief that if you adhere to any traditional religion, you are stupid because in their mind, “science” has proven that no gods can possibly exist and that we are all animals.  They believe in their patron saint, Charles Darwin, who they claim proved man evolved from apes.  Their belief in global warming as the apocalyptic ending of the world is the bookend to the story that begins with an Eden like pre-human world where there was natural perfection that was spoiled by the sins of humanity.  The only redemption is for mankind to disappear and allow nature to return to dominance.

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m creating a scarecrow out of atheists.  I’m doing this to make a point.

Religion and science need not conflict.  There is nothing anti-science about Christianity or Judaism.  Hinduism and Buddhism also complement science.  Jesus of Nazareth told Pontius Pilate that his kingdom is “not of this world”.  His point was that he was teaching about spirituality, not political control.  Religion, if not hijacked, is supposed to be a means to explore ones spirituality– a side of humanity that helps us balance our intellect and emotions in a framework that promotes good behavior.  In this regard, I will point out, there are many good atheists!  So long as their belief system leads them to doing good, meaning they treat others with love and tolerance, then what does it matter what their belief system is?

Albert Einstein truly was a magnificent thinker.  He did say many things that suggested he may be mildly religious.  Years ago, I read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Einstein.  In it, I found Einstein to be curiously focused on a “unifying theory”.  I think we all seek that.  We all want to be able to circumscribe the universe into a comprehensive whole that we can understand with our frail minds.  But the eternities are not so easily understood.

For myself, I believe in God, the same God of Abraham who led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land.  But I also have a love of science and even accept 4.5 billion years as the geological age of the planet.  I accept the possibility that God could have used evolution as a means of creating mankind from lower animal lifeforms, but I also accept the possibility that mankind was placed separately.  For me, science is simply “knowing”.  Coming from the Greek word for knowledge, science is simply that: knowledge.  Last I checked, gravity is still called “the theory of gravity.”  Yet we “know” that gravity exists and we can accurately calculate its effects.  If gravity is still a theory, how can we claim that we know that God does not exist or that He does?

What we need more of in society is more religious tolerance.  Those who are hyper-religious need to be more accepting of those who are not and those who are hyper-atheist need to be more accepting of those who believe in God.

“If You Are Not With Us, You’re Against Us”

I don’t know how many times I have heard that phrase.  The most notable use of it in the last 10-15 years was when President George W. Bush used it in the build up of the “War on Terror”.  It was easy to be sucked into the hysteria of those days, believing revenge on the 9-11 attackers was just and right.  Of course, the purpose of this post is not to dredge up old arguments of Bush era days.  I mean, it is over 10 years ago when we began fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq in response to 9-11.  As my children would say, “it’s ancient history.”

My real point is to discuss that phrase.  It is a phrase that is used often and it sounds almost Biblical in its power.  Maybe, that’s because it is almost Biblical.

As we do most nights, our family was reading from the scriptures after family dinner.  Tonight, we read from Luke, chapter 9.  How many times I must have glossed over the verse, I don’t know, but tonight, for some reason, the verse came alive in my mind.  In verse 49, the author had just recounted Jesus casting out a devil from a boy and now, the disciples were explaining to Jesus that they had forbade someone from casting out devils because that person was not a disciple or follower of Jesus. In verse 50, it reads:

And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

When I read this, I thought back to that famous line in my title.  The popular line is the exact opposite sentiment of what Jesus was preaching here.  I immediately was lost in thought as to wonder, how often in our zeal to preach what we believe to be righteousness do we forbid others because they are not of our same belief system?  How often do we think, “oh, but that person is a Muslim” or “that person is a Catholic” or “that person is an athiest.”

The message Jesus was preaching here is clear, find the common beliefs and build upon those.  Don’t divide.  Don’t separate from others because of disagreements.  Those that are not against us are for us.

Jesus taught another important lesson when he explained that a tree that bears good fruit is good, while a tree that bears evil fruit is evil.  By their fruits, ye shall know them.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

In this world, there are many evil people, but our awareness of those evil people is largely possible because there are also so many good people.  It is easy to see the world as completely populated by evil because we listen to the news media sensationalize every bad piece of news.  Why? Because bad news sells, good news is boring.  So we are constantly fed the bad news.

The truth is this: the world has many more good people in it that bad.  If this were not true, then society would have collapsed into darkness long ago.  Instead, society has reached a point where it is nearly possible to go to any country and for the most part be safe.  This is an extraordinary fact.  The fact that you can still walk at midnight in your neighborhood and not be mugged is also proof that the world is not as dark and bleak as we often believe it to be.

Now, I’m not trying to argue that we don’t have severe problems in the world.  We do.  What I am saying, is that our friends, our neighbors, our fellow humans on this planet, most of them are seeking to do good.  The fact that most are seeking to do good is evidence that those that fight for righteousness, or in other words, the good of mankind, those people have many more allies.

The challenge for us is to reach out to our neighbors who may not always be of the same beliefs or practices as ourselves.  Find the commonalities and build upon that.

Those that are not against us are for us.

Colloquial Ridiculocity Transmutes Intelligence To Imbecilic Nonsense

WARNING: The following post contains material that some may find “old-fashioned”, “out-of-date”, and even “old-fart”ish.  Proceed at your own caution.

To be sure, I am not cool.  I’ve known this all my life.  Even when I tried to be cool when I was a teen-ager, I wasn’t able to pull it off.  In fact, I remember many times as a fourth and fifth grader that during recess, I was hanging out with the teacher or recess monitor and talking with them because that way I could have a more mature conversation.  I know, I’m totally uncool.

It should be no surprise, then, when I read a post on Linked-In that purported to be a guide to Baby-boomers and Gen-X’ers on how to communicate with Millennials, I found the post to be a complete pile of excrement.

The gist of the post was to take typical colloquialisms that Baby-boomers say and interpret first how Millennials hear them and then suggest a better way of saying it.  Can I be the first one to say, “this is ridiculous!”.  My first irritation is a minor one: “what-evs”?  Seriously, I’m supposed to accept an adult using “what-evs” in their normal speech?  What is this? Junior High?  To adults who say this without a hint of irony: grow up and stop being lazy. Complete your words before you force the English language to sound French.

Here is my problem with this kind of trash parading around as business advice: not all people of a generation are the same.  “WHAT!” Yes, that is right, people are individuals.

I know this goes against everything we learn from school, work, and politics.  We a conditioned and trained by the society we live in to view people in groups.  After all, we look at the 2012 presidential election as the 47% versus everyone else including “single women”, “blacks”, “hispanics”, etc.  I put quotes, because that is how the news media presented those groups to us.  At school, we had the jocks, geeks, nerds, cowboys, goths, freaks, preppies, and any number of other groups we were identified with. In my profession of architecture, when I worked in a large firm, people were grouped and you found yourself pidgeon-holed into a particular role based on what other people thought of you.

And this grouping by generations doesn’t even make sense.  Apparently, because I was born in 1979, I am not as cool and hip as someone in born a few months later because I am Gen-X and they are a Millennial.  But it is the same ridiculous logic that says because you are born between the 20th of one month and the 20th of the next month, you will have all the same likes, tendencies, inhibitions, emotions, etc. as all the other people born in that same 30 day period of the Gregorian calendar.

And yet, this grouping continues unabated.  Nobody is ever judged by the content of their character because too many people just see a black man as a black man and a white man as a white man.  They don’t bother to look deeper than the skin color, or in the case of generational discrimination: the grayness of their hair.

But am I even being true?  I’m saying “nobody” and “they” to refer to large groups of people.

We need to stop and get to know people.  It is all about knowing the individual.  Groups are imaginary.  They are arbitrary.  In every group, there are exceptions.  Why?  Because they are not groups, they are a bunch of individuals each with their own life, story, personality, etc.


I’m Not Eating at Chili’s Anytime Soon . . .

Look, I’m not saying I won’t eat there.  I’m just saying, I’m a little concerned that I might get shot there by a crazed gunman.  You might be thinking, “Yeah, but didn’t they just ban guns at Chili’s restaurants?”  Why, yes, they did.  That’s why I’m concerned.

You see, the problem with banning guns at a restaurant is not that law-abiding citizens when flaunt their second amendment right and carry open anyways.  No, instead, it’s just this inconvenient truth I’ve discovered throughout my life is that criminals don’t obey the law.  What? Yes, that’s right, someone willing to commit murder are not likely to care that a particular business establishment has requested that their customers come unarmed.  In fact, for the criminally insane who have planned a spectacular massacre of innocents to be followed shortly by their own bloody suicide, they would probably view a “gun-free” zone as an advantage.

Let’s look at it this way: when you get to the greeter’s podium at Chili’s, are they really going to take you through a metal detector with an armed officer to frisk you to make sure you are actually unarmed?  Not likely.  It would be ridiculous for them to do so.  Thus, the only people who will be unarmed will be those honest and upright enough to obey the rules.  For argument’s sake, let’s call these people: law-abiding citizens. The armed gunman will then be, who?  Oh yes, the crazy mass murderer.

And why would I say these horrible things?  Oh yeah, because I lived through the mass killing at Virginia Tech back in 2007.  That campus is still to this day a “gun-free” campus.  That “gun-free” status did not stop the killer.

The mistaken logic of all these well-intentioned business owners and government leaders who advocate for these gun-free zones is simply that: criminals by definition do not obey the law.

So, that is why for a while, I will not be eating at Chili’s.


These Americans Need Our Help

When I first heard about this family in crisis, it was through Christians around the world should be up in arms to demand action on the family’s behalf. No one should be imprisoned for their belief, and especially not a pregnant mother. The Sudanese government has proven time and time again that it is not a legitimate government, but a despotic terrorist regime.


Meriam Ibrahim

You know that back in 1802, for the first time in American history, Congress granted the president (Jefferson, by name) the authority to use military force. That force was to be used against the Barbary pirates, who were holding American sailors in slavery. In the course of that action the USS Philadelphia went aground in Tripoli harbor and Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and a detachment of Marines from the Intrepid managed to board and burn her. It was an amazing enough exploit for Lord Nelson to comment that it was “the most bold and daring act of the age.”.

This was also the war in which the first of the epic American marches took place. That happened when 1st Lieutenant of Marines Presley O’Bannon, and former US Consul William Eaton led a force of 8 Marines and five hundred mercenaries from Alexandria, Egypt to Derna, where they assaulted and…

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It’s Hard To Blog When You’re Busy

For several months, I have neglected writing on this blog.  The reason: I have just been too busy.  But then, I got to thinking.  For almost all things we either make time or we don’t.  If it is something that is important to us, we make time for it.

Which begs the question: what do we spend our time on most?  The question is important because it indicates where our priorities are.  Are we too busy to do something important because what we value more is that latest episode of a show on TV or keeping up on the latest memes on Facebook?

It may not be the most important thing for me to write this blog.  I’ll admit, I gain no monetary value out of doing this and I doubt anybody actually reads it.  So why do I do this?  It is because I love writing.  The vast majority of my time is spent doing the things necessary for making a living in my chosen profession of architecture.  But as much as I enjoy architecture, I also enjoy many other activities that bring me joy and satisfaction.

So if it is important, then why have I neglected it?  At first, I was overwhelmed by the increased project load that hit me at the beginning of the year.  But slowly, it became a matter of forgetting.  I think we all do this in many parts of our lives.  Things that we value fall by the wayside because we think, “oh, not today, I’m too busy or tired.” The next time we think to do that important thing, it is easier and easier to say, “next time.”

The point of this post is to say, “enough with the next times, I’m doing something today.”