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Spiritual Solutions to Global Problems



Our world is faced with many problems that affect all of us.  One spiritual solution that is often proposed is that people have to become more compassionate, loving and caring for everyone instead of just seeking selfish gain.   Another spiritual solution is to follow Mahatma Gandhi's prescription that we ought to live the change we want to see.  Both of these ideas are based on a paradigm that we are all ultimately joined in a Oneness and the individual self is not fundamentally real.  Truly spiritual people have realized the truth of this Oneness according to this view.  Deist spirituality does not agree that we are One; we are connected but not One.  It offers spiritual solutions that incorporate both our connectedness and our individuality as ultimately real.


Unlike other spiritual systems, deist spirituality seriously incorporates the insights from modern psychological therapies.  In order to help a person deal with her personal problems, it is not generally enough to tell her to just become more loving and caring.  Instead, she needs to look at her past and understand the origins of the problem and how she is involved with bringing it about.  The same point works for dealing with global problems:  we need to understand how they came about and why they are not being solved by current methods of dealing with them. 


The most important global problem used to be the threat of nuclear war making the world uninhabitable for humans.  Now the most important problem is human-made climate change.  It will not make the earth uninhabitable right now, but it will severely change things as we move forward.  


Spirituality should not be seen as about meditating or giving up things for lent, but about getting beyond your ego and rising to higher level of awareness.  In order to give an effective argument one has to rise out of the ego and meet others with empathy and understanding.  It also requires a willingness to compromise.


Below is an example of how to talk about human-made climate change in a way that will encourage non-believers to make, and possibly even advocate, for changes that will help alleviate human-made climate change.


Explanation of the argument:


Scientific facts have convinced many people that human-made climate change is an extremely serious problem.  This has caused most of the world to come together to find solutions to it.  The biggest concern is reversing current trends before we reach a tipping point and have created a vicious cycle where one negative event creates an even more negative event and so on.


Many countries have set goals of reducing their carbon footprint and doing things like switching to renewable energy sources. But none of this will stop us from reaching the tipping point as long as the United States government does not commit itself to making the changes necessary to help deal with the problem.  When Obama was president, he was taking some basic steps to help with the problem, but since Donald Trump became president, he has made it clear that he does not believe in, much less care about, human-made climate change.  He was elected to bring jobs to Americans, and in his mind that means he has to relax the environmental standards on the coal industry, approve the Keystone Pipeline, encourage oil drilling and cut the regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Unless the U.S. government commits its resources to alleviate human-made climate change, the actions of other governments or individual environmentalists will not be enough.


Those whose minds are changed by facts have taken the approach of trying to better educate people who do not believe in human-made climate change, or non-believers.  The believers of human-made climate change show charts of how the climate has changed, especially since the industrial revolution; they show pictures of polar bears adrift on ice floes or melting glaciers.  This approach only works on people who respect facts and logical argument.  But Donald Trump won the presidential election by appealing to people’s emotions.  He seduced many working class people to vote for him by acting and talking like them.  He convinced them that the lack of jobs for Americans was the problem, not human-made climate change.  People who have respect for the facts have to face the fact that their approach of citing facts has not convinced enough Americans to care about human-made climate change.


Considering we are so close to reaching the tipping point, we have to face that the current approach will not work in time.  The only solution is to get the Trump-type people to change their behavior since they control the U.S. government and the U.S. has such a large impact on the problem.  This means that the only solution is to first admit the current way of convincing the non-believers is not working, and find another way to convince them.  The best way of doing this is effectively communicating with the non-believers.  This process starts by changing the language we use.  But on a deeper level, it means first understanding the basic assumptions of non-believers and their concerns, and then using this understanding to effectively communicate with the non-believers.  


The first step in this process is treating the non-believers with respect and realizing that within their paradigm they have valid concerns.  Respect starts by not shaming or insulting the non-believers, which means we cannot describe those who don't believe in human-made climate change as “deniers” or “denialists.”  These words set up an “us vs. them” hierarchy where the believers are the superior ones while the non-believers are the inferior ones.  The believers don't seem to realize (or maybe they do not care) that they are shaming or insulting the non-believers by calling them “deniers” or “denialists”, or that the typical emotional reaction to this type of emotional vitriol is a combative response and a closed mind.   


Believers have to understand that many non-believers live in a different culture than they do.  The non-believers are part of American culture, but a great number of them are also part of the Christian conservative culture.  For many people, the Christian conservative culture is as different from their culture as cultures from other countries.  While most believers have been trained that they have to respect and be sensitive to cultural differences when it involves a culture from a different country, many believers do not feel the need to have this respect and sensitivity to Christian conservative culture.


To begin understanding conservative Christian culture is to realize the non-believers do not generally share the same assumptions about science and/or scientists that believers share.  In the late 1800s, when conservative Christians were first arguing against Darwin’s theory of evolution, many of them lived on farms, and on an emotional level, they could afford to think of scientists as allied with the devil. But nowadays, everyone in the modern world who has ever used a smartphone or the internet knows the power of technology and can easily be convinced that there is a science behind this technology, a science that humans did not know fifty years ago. The pervasiveness of technology has led to a basically positive attitude towards science by the vast majorigty of people including the conservative Christians.  But conservative Christians do not share the assumption that scientists are absolutely trustworthy and always get the facts right.  A large number of the non-believers are fundamentalist or evangelical Christians who have continually been told in churches and schools that scientists do not have the facts to support evolution, rather the scientists support evolution because of their anti-Christian biases.  The very popular American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh echos this conservative viewpoint by continually commenting that the scientists who believe in human-made climate change are deeply biased because the pro human-made global warming position causes the scientists to receive more grants and funding.  The conservative Christians are receptive to this attitude towards scientists because most of them have been hearing the same argument about scientists concerning evolution throughout their lives.  Limbaugh also strongly advocates the idea that socialists are using the excuse of human-made climate change in order to destroy the free enterprise system and institute government control of the economy.  For these reasons, believers who rely on the argument that 98% of scientists support human-made climate change, are  fundamentally mis-understanding their audience.


Many conservative Christians believe science is generally good, but they also think it is possible for scientists as a group to be swayed by their biases to support bad science.  So before there is any discussion of climate change, the believers have to understand the basic starting attitude of most conservative Christians, which is different from their own, towards science and scientists.


A much better argument to give than merely stating facts is one that takes into account the beliefs of the non-believers and then moves to find mutual areas of agreement between both sides. 


Example argument:

We should start by making smart small changes that do not endanger capitalism or give over American sovereignty to the United Nations.  Steven Chu, the previous head of the EPA, said we could help alleviate human-made climate change by painting roofs and asphalt roads white.  This small change hurts no one and might help save the planet.  We could save water by encouraging people not to care so much about lawns.  We could use significantly less gas by making the government mandated rules of how much a car manufacturer’s whole fleet has to get per gallon apply to pickup trucks.

These actions require some sacrifices but if there is any chance the scientists are right, these changes would be very wise.  Once these changes are put into effect, and we have established some degree of trust and understanding between us, then we can move on to other changes.

I can see how you do not trust the scientists as much as I do.  I know that some of you think the scientists are actually in league with the devil because the scientists push evolution.  And many may think human-made global warming is just an excuse for socialists to take over the economy.  But what if the scientists are right about human-made climate change. Look around, the beaches in some areas are being washed away; hurricanes seem to be getting worse and so are droughts and hot weather.  If you are absolutely convinced there is no chance human-made climate change is happening, you can ignore this argument.  But if you think there is any chance at all the scientists are right, considering how bad the consequences will then be, you should join with us as we treat each other with respect and try to find ways to change the current situation.

By moving beyond our individual egos and using language that helps bring people together by encouraging respect, understanding and  compromise, we can better tackle global problems like human-made climate change.




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© Joseph Waligore