This I Believe
My life began in 1950 on a self-sufficient farm in Northern Michigan. The quality of my life was entirely dependent upon the ingenuity of my extended family, as well as upon neighboring farmers with whom we shared equipment and produce.
By the end of the 1950s, the face of agriculture had changed. Often, the smile of the hardworking, community supported farmer was replaced with a sternness that in a way describes an unfortunate characteristic of our society today. This staunch individualism tends to divorce us from an understanding of the diverse needs of others and weakens our embrace of the global human family.
Christianity was a part of my developmental years as well. Fortunately, it was not of the variety that would enlist me into a life-long crusade to save the souls of a wayward flock. It is now clear to me that certain elements within most religious movements present huge roadblocks to human co-existence.
I believe that if given certain opportunities and circumstances, humans are capable of turning away from these debilitating trends and living together in a sustainable and harmonious fashion.
Even though we are a long way from this ideal at this time, I remain optimistic. After all, for the common good we have conquered diseases on a global scale, we have put men on the Moon, we have created the world-wide-web, and we have subdued vicious tyrants. Humans are very capable creatures.
The primary source of my optimism, however, derives not from these past successes, but from a belief that the damaging aspects of individualism and the destructive forces within religious movements are not innate characteristics of the human condition. I believe that we must rid ourselves of these flaws in order to meet and solve the challenges that face humanity now and in the future. Challenges such as:
Should one person have the right to use more of the planet’s resources than another?
How do we mitigate the broadening negative environmental impact of human activity?
How will we reverse the widening gap between the rich and the poor?
Whose holy ground is whose?
I believe that none of these challenges will be solved in a sustainable fashion without a concurrent and permanent movement away from political and economic systems wherein material greed and crass individualism are rewarded with power and extravagant wealth. We are kidding ourselves to think otherwise.
We will be equally deterred in meeting the upcoming challenges if we fail to clearly and effectively separate religious beliefs from governmental activities. Unlike the basic human needs for shelter, food, water, security, and justice, there is no common and universal need for the various and personal satisfactions that religion offers to some humans.
I believe that cooperative economics, universal and equitable ownership of natural resources, and an understanding that religious beliefs are a personal and private matter, are the foundations of a truly sustainable future for humanity on Planet Earth.
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