#7BadIdeas #1- Atheism

“Religion is a bunch of b.s.” Me, 3 years ago.

ATHEISM. Yes, it’s difficult to believe in someone or something that you cannot readily observe or touch or communicate with. I, for one, have a personality rooted in what I can see, feel, or read about from reputable sources. I don’t automatically trust what people say. I assume a lot of it is nonsense and am correct 75 percent of the time. I only like to read nonfiction books, I don’t believe in ghosts, am most influenced by cold, hard facts, and don’t even trust my mirrors when I’m driving. I’m not too lazy to turn my head. Data and information that I (or more accurately, someone whom I trust) can measure is what I usually invest my faith in. That’s why the idea of God has always been so hard for me to imagine.

Further, religion seems so quaint and old-fashioned in our hyper-informed modern world. It made sense for folks living on the prairie in the 19th century or in small towns or ethnic urban neighborhoods until the 1960s. But nowadays, we live across the country and all over the world. We have never been more disconnected from our family members geographically. “Community” is a dying phenomenon.

“Religion seems so anachronistic. It reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a college kid wearing in the 2000s that said ‘VOTING is for old people.'”

So why not just stick with atheism? Why not proudly proclaim to be ruled by reason and logic? Well, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to look at life from a more pragmatic perspective. And I’ve found atheism to be deeply lacking. Specifically, I’ve struggled enormously my whole life with existential angst- frequently stewing in anger and depression- and during those times, atheism had nothing to offer.

And so, the pain of struggling to understand why the world is the way it is led me on a search for meaning. The hellish battle in my head for why we’re all here has long tormented me. Specifically, for decades I’ve been trying to figure out how an atheist makes meaning out of the world. And through that search, I came right back to religion and the Catholicism of my grandparents. I concluded that, generally speaking, when a person does not center his life around a concept like God, he inevitably fills that solipsistic worldview with self-interest or what he perceives as self-interest. His moral compass inevitably gets hijacked by the ego. From a practical standpoint, I came to the conclusion that atheism, agnosticism, and generally just checking out from religion are pretty terrible ways to live. I know. I did it for 40 years.

In the absence of a religion to frame how you look at the world, a person will inevitably succumb to the influence of the ego. It’s natural. It’s normal. And it may well ruin your life. Atheism or godlessness- in other words, not recognizing something greater than oneself- is a direct path to self-worship, narcissism, nihilism, depression, and ultimately, suffering. 

I’m not saying I don’t struggle with faith. My idea of God has evolved though. It’s something akin to the spirit or impulse of love for and kindness to others. The universal connection of every human being (love your neighbor) and the sense of fellowship with other humans that says we’re all children of God and we’re all in this together (love your enemies). What an amazingly brilliant idea. How could it have come from man?

I’ve also been doing something of a 40-year study comparing the lives of a large group of Catholic men and a large group of “secular” men. The Catholic men are all doing dramatically better than most of my lifelong friends who reject religion. They are generally married with good careers and stable families. After decades of observing these men, it’s clear to me that believing in God and ordering your life around God is a beautiful way to live. Religion offers structure, motivation, focus, an identity- important things you need to live a good life.

After all, what has gotten us to where we are as a society? What traditions, values, and institutions have enabled men and women to flourish like never before? Religion, Christian values, the nuclear family, marriage before children, basic common-sense concepts like these are scorned and undermined by the left at every opportunity. So much so that many of us have internalized that scorn and have an almost knee-jerk reaction to religion, viewing it as “a bunch of bullsh#t.” Not helpful.

And if the positive case for religion, and by this I generally mean Christianity, doesn’t convince you, how about the negative one? Where has atheism and more broadly, secularism, taken us so far? Low birth rates, high divorce rates, relentless competition between men and women, contempt and scorn for Christian values, a general erosion in confidence in all of our institutions, and loneliness, suicide, misery, at shockingly high levels in the West. Enough said.

To get by in life, I say whatever works. But it’s pretty clear to me, #AtheismHasFailed.

NOTE: This is the first in a series of ‘7 Bad Ideas That Will Ruin Your Life.’

7 Tips to Manage Anger

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All of us struggle with anger to some degree or another, however, the feminization of society is making all anger- even the anger of hockey players- increasingly unacceptable. Here are 7 tips to help you manage anger in a soft, feminine world:

  1. At the moment of anger, meditate, say a prayer, and take a few deep breaths. This can save your hide and perhaps the life of someone else.
  2. Exercise regularly and consider an outlet like martial arts or boxing. Men were evolved to have the capacity for violence and yet we have so few acceptable outlets for it in today’s world. I recently started a boxing class and I’m having a blast.
  3. ALWAYS get enough sleep. I think for most people this is a necessary condition for decent behavior. I know that my anger is like a Porsche versus a Volvo when I’m not well rested.
  4. Get to know any other triggers. Self-awareness is so critical to growth. There are many ways to do it, figure out one that works for you.
    There are a number of tests you can take to get a better understanding of yourself- Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring program, and Myers-Briggs are some of the countless options out there. 
  5. Leave the room, take a walk. With some people you just have to do this.
  6. Splash cold water on your face. This is known to work, but requires extracting yourself from the situation somehow.
  7. Try to remember your values at all times. If you are a Christian, try to see the face of Jesus in your enemy or if not or you prefer, the Buddha or Gandhi or MLK.

A mindless moment of anger can ruin your life in 2019, seemingly like never before. Protect yourself.

5 Reasons You Should Swim

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There is a ton of advice out there. This bit REALLY works. Here are 5 reasons you should swim regularly:

  1. Your body will never feel better. Swimming utilizes your entire body and the repetition creates enormous flexibility and strength in your neck, back, and legs.
  2. It’s great for the mind, too. Swimming is extremely calming, even meditative. At the same time, it can help you focus your mind if you need to delve into an issue. After I swim, I’m usually unflappable for the remainder of the day.
  3. Beats a chiropractor. I used to have constant pain in my left shoulder blade stemming from an injury that occurred while moving furniture over 10 years ago. I would occasionally go to a chiropractor who was able to make the pain go away… for about 45 minutes. It wasn’t until I started swimming regularly that the pain finally went away.
  4. Lets out aggression. Like punching a pillow, swimming can be a safe outlet for expressing your frustration, even pretending to take a few swings at some imagined underwater foe. I’ve been known to let out a roar underwater from time to time and I urge others to do the same.
  5. It’s a good discipline. In addition to all of the aforementioned benefits, swimming, like running or bicycling, builds discipline that carries over into other areas of life.

If you knew something would take away your back and neck pain AND put you in a relaxed mood for 12 hours or so, why would you NOT do it?

How to Stop Being Irritable

Excellent advice here. I can verify…

The Psych Talk

Everyone experiences irritability at some point in their lives but for some people, it can become problematic and affect their relationships and personal well-being. In this case, there are many things you can do in order to reduce your levels of irritability and have more productive encounters with others.

Avoid triggers and Change Environments:

Removing the things in our life that cause us stress can greatly reduce our levels of irritability. Sometimes this is not possible, so reducing contact with our triggers can help. When your trigger involves another person, it is often best to walk away until you are feeling less irritable. Try and find a relaxed and tidy environment to spend your time in. Environments free of clutter can be calming to the mind, so if you cannot change environments perhaps take some time to tidy up.

Empathy and Communication:

If you are feeling irritable its best to…

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7 Tips to Beat Anxiety

Most of us struggle with a bit of anxiety from time to time. That’s totally normal. It’s when it takes over your life and alters your behavior for the worse that you need to take some steps. Here are 7 tips that can make a big difference:

  1. Plan ahead. This is BY FAR the most important tip. Take the time to think through how your day is going to go and what small or large things you can do to make it all go more smoothly. Nearly every situation you can encounter may be endured with proper planning.
    man in white shirt using macbook pro
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  2. Give yourself enough, or even extra, time. I used to be late all the time. Then I discovered the joy of planning better and started getting most places early. It’s wonderful. So relaxing. So calming. Try it!
  3. Call out the negative voice. Simply point out to that voice in your head, “I’m sorry, but that’s not helpful right now.” Learning to control that voice will change your life!
  4. Explore medication and therapy. Medications can really help and dismissing them is just foolish. So, consider a variety of medications from supplements to cannabis to help take some of the struggle out of your day. And get thee to therapy. We ALL need it. All of us. So figure out a way.
  5. Exercise! This alone can have a major impact on a person’s anxiety level. Push yourself a little bit. Sweat some of that negative energy out and you’ll feel better.
  6. Build a spiritual practice. Try to incorporate some moments of spirituality into every day. Say a brief prayer of gratitude before each meal. Take a moment to kiss your spouse or pet your dog. And once per week, as a family, go to church or synagogue or meeting house and give thanks.
  7. Forgive yourself and others. We all make mistakes. Some of them really awful. But we do so out of ignorance or lack of self-control or confusion. So, forgive yourself. And forgive those who’ve… You get the picture. Again, religion serves to remind us so well of compassion, forgiveness, service, sacrifice- all of the things that humans really need to learn and which give life meaning.