Culture and Religion

A world view where the guide for society is based on human nature,
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This collection of essays, a brief view of life, could be used to teach an adolescent the basics about life.


Humanity is wonderfully diverse. People live in environments from the Arctic, to high mountains (Andes and Himalayas), to tropical jungles (Amazon and Congo), to deserts (Sahara), to far flung islands (of the Pacific), and throughout the many temperate areas in between. The evolution of the human species as it scattered around the world was accompanied by different physical characteristics (like the color of skin) though the definition of a particular human race remains a subject of debate and investigation.

Different cultures arose out of the various human communities formed by these settlements in each region. A variety of religions arose out of those diverse communities. Some estimate there to be more than 4000 different religions in the world. Though there are so many clear differences between various groups, there are also notable similarities.

About 80 to 90% of people are right handed, with only the remaining  amount left handed. The height of people varies among different groups around the world but studies have suggested at least some of this must be due to the environmental conditions as youth who migrate to an area offering a better diet can grow taller than the youth who did not migrate. Within a segment of a population, everyone will not weigh the same but it is not unusual for a range of similar weights in each community, with the inevitable outliers. While much of this similarity is no doubt due to diet, medical research finds there is some attribution to genetics. For example, a child is more likely to be obese if at least one of the parents is obese. Studies of twins allow insights into various human characteristics as to whether they are predominantly genetic or environmental.

There are also a relatively small number of significant personality traits.

Half of humanity is male and the half is female. In addition to the obvious physical differences by gender, there are also personality traits more common in one gender than the other.

It is the opinion of this author: humanity is split in a tendency toward a need for religion or not. Some are not comfortable with the chaos within nature and they need the comfort of knowing there is a supernatural being (one or more gods, depending on one's culture) who is driving these unexplained events. Others are comfortable with natural chaos, knowing there are still limits to human knowledge, so the reliance and comfort on unseen actors are not needed. For example, ancients did not understand so many natural events, like earthquakes and hurricanes, so catastrophes were considered 'acts of god' but now their origins and the reasons for where they occur can be explained. This split results in social stress, because those relying on a religion cannot fathom those not believing in the unseen actors while those requiring no comfort in this belief ridicule those needing that comfort.

The recent book by Susan Cain, Quiet, provides interesting descriptions of the personality types called introvert and extrovert. Contemporary American society appears to favor extroverts while perhaps one-third of the people have a tendency more toward an introvert. The book describes a variety of problems in society because this dichotomy is not recognized, and because one type is favored over the other.

The book by Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, highlighted another pair of personality types - either the need for conformance and loyalty or the need for fairness and care. These two types can be found cultures around the world.

The push for fairness and tolerance in life has become difficult in our political system. We are forever being told that cutting taxes on the wealthy and their corporations is necessary or else nothing will trickle down to the workers and any policies that attempt to enforce fairness (like single payer health care for all, which is common in most other Western economies) are just too expensive in this corporate friendly environment. Any checks on police power are countered with alarms about crime and terror.

However the lack of tolerance is not a recent problem for humanity. Slavery was a critical part of the development of the American colonies and its economy until the Civil War. India had its caste system.

The push for conformance has become a significant problem for contemporary society because the political context for American politics has changed in recent decades. Not everyone is the same, with some even being a polar opposite from those pushing conformance, and so this effort can only cause turmoil as people will of course resist what is against their own nature.

There are a number of reasons for this current emphasis on conformance. Here are two:

America has become an oligarchy, with a rich ruling class that defines to a great extent what the national government does. A primary interest of this ruling class is suppression of dissent, to prevent any significant change in this power structure. Large banks and corporations do not tolerate checks on their power, but prefer docile employees who do not question policies dictated by the executives, no matter how unethical; whistle blowers are never tolerated. Leaders in government do not want an informed electorate who would might deflect their need for power, perhaps even throwing them out of office.

The Religious Right has become influential in politics and the result in repeated attempts to enforce their ideals, as if they possess the only correct set of moral values and everyone else must conform, into law. This is an attempt for a certain group to exert control or influence over the behavior of everyone, whether members of their religion or not. Also, corporations now take advantage of this group by claiming their (unfair) corporate policies are based in the religious beliefs of the owners.

There is an unfortunate characteristic of people: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our political, corporate, and social structures are lacking in accountability as the effective source of political power continues to become concentrated within a smaller ruling elite. Those at the top enjoy absolute power and their disregard for others reflects that arrogance.

In a fair and just society, each person would recognize that everyone else is not the same. Often the other person might not have the same priorities in life, for a variety of reasons whether by age, gender, genetics, culture,  and so on. In many cases, that other person might even have opposite priorities than you. Many will feel it is not morally correct for one person or group to control behaviors of others when those others are in no way impinging on the first group.

As our social conflicts reach increasing stressful levels, a push for conformance to suit the needs of the few will result in only misery for the rest.

On a day to day level, each person must recognize this push for conformance also seeks to drive unrest between local groups, as if one local group is the cause of problems endured by another group, even though the true source of those problems is within the unjust political and economic system whose rewards get passed to only those at the top. Your fellow citizen, who might have a different gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation than you, is not really the cause of whatever economic misery is being endured.

When a person acts on an innate prejudice or behaves with a lack of tolerance for those who are different, someone will be hurt in some way, depending on the particular act, and society is similarly harmed. While it is impossible for everyone to act with perfect courtesy at all times, society benefits when such actions are consciously minimized (by free will, not by legislation).

created - March 2016
last change - 03/06/2016
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