Winning the Philosophical War Against ISIS & For Humanity

The throat-slitting murder of an 84-year-old Catholic priest today in France by two ISIS “soldiers” is just the latest in a horrific series of barbaric acts. We need to win the physical war against ISIS and other radical jihadist groups, but we also need to win the philosophical war for all of humankind. My next book explores a world in which religions compete for adherents peacefully and coexist with and challenge the secular world. Several principles underline how I’m thinking about the issue. I welcome your thoughts and reaction:

1. Because each of us has been provided with a unique mind, it seems self-evident that any God would want to have a personal relationship with each of us, not one filtered through the motivations of others.

2. The scriptures and teachings of every religion have fallen sway to the imperfections of man, meaning that no single writing and no single teacher should hold unconditional command over its subjects. (I recognize this one will draw objection from many, but urge you to read the rest to put the thought in context.)

3. Each of us has personal responsibility to consider whether the teachings of any faith, including faiths such as atheism that there is no greater power, coalesce with the reason inside our minds and to specifically search for and consider evidence that our beliefs may be wrong.

4. If there is a God, he certainly didn’t choose me as his purveyor of violence. If you believe there is no God, you still don’t get to force your beliefs on others. [Read more…]

Segregation Among Failures Triggering Bursts of Animosity

After the events of the past week, including last night’s shootings in ‪#‎Dallas‬, I fear that my choice of 2040 as the setting for Melting Point 2040 didn’t recognize how quickly our ongoing segregation could tear us apart. The prologue to that book is certainly true today. Below is a portion of that prologue, with a couple of particularly important points highlighted in bold:

“Racial, ethnic and religious tensions have troubled the United States since its Declaration of Independence, and even earlier since Europeans first anchored along America’s shoreline. All that’s needed to again boil these issues over the sides of America’s melting pot is the addition of a few more briquettes to the grill or the quick turn of a stovetop dial.

“America’s founding fathers wrote that “all men are created equal,” but even they failed to recognize that “all men” rightly includes all men and all women regardless of race or other characteristic. So it’s perhaps not surprising that America’s multi-cultural society continues to battle the implications of its diversity 264 years later as the year 2040 starts. America’s challenge is little different from the divides that have tested the world throughout its history.

“Pockets of hate and intolerance have dotted the U.S. landscape in its less than three centuries of existence, though the objects of the greatest vitriol have changed repeatedly. Anti-black laws and sentiment lasted longest and resulted in the greatest cumulative violence. Italians were victims of the largest mass lynching in U.S. history. But many others have faced or still face discrimination as well. Irish. Hispanic. Arab. Asian. American Indian. Jew. Catholic. Mormon. Muslim. Women. Gays.

“Conceptual truths embedded in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights helped shape the United States into a frequently positive global force. Failure to abide by these tenets has, at times, allowed others to surpass America as beacons of democracy, capitalism and freedom. Even on its best days, America must battle with demons of hate, fear and anger – confronting ignorance, narcissism and arrogance along the way.

At home, tensions erupt into violence when multiple failures overtake the nation’s ability to solve problems. Failures to communicate, understand, tolerate and respect trigger these bursts of animosity.

“Passage of civil rights laws in the 1960s moved America toward a period of integration that increased opportunities and requirements to work together. Then, after decades of progress, Americans started moving to live with people who shared their personal politics, values, religion, race and language. In doing so, the cross-fertilization of ideas and knowledge needed to reach consensus and solve important issues has become increasingly difficult.”

Whether the tragedy is in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Minnesota, New York, Cleveland, Orlando or any of the dozens of other recent examples, the path forward starts with talking together, finding solutions and implementing them.

 

Mental Health Steps to Reverse Troubling Suicide Trends

DSC_0176Last week’s Centers for Disease Control release of deeply disturbing suicide trend data reminds us that even many proven mental health steps still require widespread attention and support. Even as understanding of brain function and chemistry expands, adoption of beneficial physical and mental health practices remains woefully inadequate.

Our minds are vital temples; each worthy of protection, repair and expansion. Our bodies provide foundations for these temples; requiring protection, nourishment and strength to support mental and spiritual health. Many of our temples are in disrepair, though, with data suggesting that far too many are collapsing or teetering on the flimsiest of cornerstones.

So how do we repair and rebuild?

Training Our Minds

A growing body of evidence shows that troubled minds don’t need to remain in a state of pain. A multitude of mental health steps support individuals seeking first relief and then fulfillment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other brain development and thought techniques used by professional therapists have proven effective at helping individuals struggling with self-belittlement, impulse control and a myriad of other issues. At a research forum hosted last week in Chicago by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Dr. Jon Grant noted that suicide rate reductions attributed to CBT can be as high as 50 percent for those with recent attempts, though he warned that properly trained CBT practitioners are in very short supply.

Seeing a professional therapist isn’t the only path toward better mental health:

  • Meditation and mindfulness techniques have a proven track record of aiding brain healing and development. For those particularly struggling, it is often beneficial to pursue these activities with guidance.
  • Expressing gratitude for elements of life helps to route how we view the world through the more positive aspects of our minds.
  • In addition, prayer to a loving god (when believed by the person praying) has been shown to generate mental health benefits, while participation in a religious community is often connected to better physical self-care practices that also help build a strong foundation for mental health.

Feeding Our Brains

Whether better mental health starts with exercising the brain or exercising the body depends on factors that include individual brain chemistry. For many, finding the energy needed to pray, meditate or participate in mindfulness-oriented therapies may first require a physical boost.

Among the critical physical tasks that help us build the foundation for mental health are:

  • Sleep. Professional athletes increasingly emphasize sleep to achieve peak performance, but everyone needs sleep’s healing and restorative powers to be our best selves.
  • Exercise. Brain chemistry imbalances are key contributors in most instances of depression, bipolar disorder and many other mental illnesses. Exercising helps generate critical chemistries the brain requires.
  • Improved nutrition. Many studies show that healthy diet, including Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and other nutritional elements, is an essential mental health step.
  • Substance abuse avoidance. If the mind and body are consuming energy to fight toxins, they aren’t building a stronger foundation.
  • Gaining sunlight needed for the Vitamin D our brain requires can be an important part of mental health development.

[Read more…]

Principles on Faith and Humanity

Version 2Ever since being confounded by contradictions in my childhood religion as well as finding disconnects between that religion and my instincts, I’ve searched for spiritual truth. Decades into that journey and still bereft of many definitive answers, I created Principles on Faith and Humanity as a marker on my journey.

With this journey far from complete (as far as I know), I invite you to challenge, question, explore or otherwise comment on my Principles on Faith and Humanity. What am I missing that you know or believe?

  1. God is in us. We are in God.
  2. Humanity comes in many colors and fabrics, each of us with our own strengths and elements of attraction. It is only when we weave gently together, though, that we create the most stunning of tapestries.
  3. If God wanted us to be identical, she would have made us that way. Our differences create our collective genius and must be explored.
  4. The Golden Rule, when well understood, is a core unifying principle across faiths and secularists.
  5. Everyone has a faith, even if that faith solely includes humankind and/or the known physical world.
  6. Competition of ideas enriches our individual spiritual journeys. Forced compliance destroys our search for truth.
  7. When our religion conflicts with our instincts and/or reason, finding the truth requires deep exploration.

A number of my beliefs are important drivers in this exploration. I welcome your challenge to these concepts as well (and leave them numbered to make commenting easier). [Read more…]

I Want to Die; Dealing with Severe Teen Depression

It has been many months since I joined Dr. James Sutton on The Changing Behavior Network, but he still considers that interview to be “one of his best.” Discussing my years when “I want to die” was more than a passing thought for me, the interview focuses substantially on the coping strategies that helped extricate me from that pain.

Dr. Sutton is an experienced, insightful and nationally-recognized psychologist, author and speaker focused on supporting emotionally troubled youth. If you struggle with depression or know someone who might need your support, check out our interview at The Changing Behavior Network. If you are struggling with other family or youth development issues, chances are he’s done an exceptional program that will help you too.

 

Give With Me on Giving Tuesday

Give with me on Giving Tuesday. 100% of earnings from December sales of Suicide Escape will be donated to mental health groups and you’ll have a gift for someone you care deeply about (perhaps even yourself).

While it didn’t win the Writer’s Digest 23rd Annual Self-Published Book Awards, Suicide Escape received a perfect rating in all six categories with encouraging judge’s comments:

“My life is a little better from having read Suicide Escape. While I was aware of the timeless truths conveyed in this novel, I needed the reminder. I appreciated how well the author teaches that great depression is dragged about by so many human beings in the world, be it hidden, recognized or ignored. Bushman grabbed my attention with a gripping opening scene of life and death. He made me care about Mike and Clarissa.

Kindle ebook cover for Suicide Escape“The encounter between a very likeable seventy-year-old hiker and the teen he stops from committing suicide does not ever grow wearisome because Bushman is good at dialogue and tension. He cultivated just enough conflict and interest in the simple hike down the mountain to make me want to follow. Mike’s fall helped, of course. The police arrest was even better and a perfect dramatic high point.

“I had a feeling the story was set in a futuristic society and that was confirmed in the ‘about the author’ segment at back. Bushman has succeeded in making Suicide Escape a standalone book. However, the intriguing futuristic devices make me want to read the other books that also include these characters. I liked the foreword by Carly Jacobson.

“In the wake of Robin Williams’ death and our growing public awareness of misery of depression, a book like Suicide Escape should be available in every classroom and school library. I was tremendously impressed, especially when the truth of Mike’s insistence that he too had been saved made more sense upon his diagnosis of cancer. This is a deeply touching book. The cover art is perfect.”

Does Russia’s Re-Expansion Threaten Global Peace

A critical aspect of Golden Rule government is acquiring knowledge and imagining ourselves in the situation of others. With the news today that a Russian General has walked into the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to request/tell the U.S. to pull its soldiers away from Syria, I’ve started to imagine what Russian President Vladimir Putin might be planning. Following are some of the questions I’m pondering:

  1. Now that we’ve been asked/told by Russia to withdraw our troops from Syria, how long will it be before an American soldier is accidentally killed by a Russia bomb?
  2. In the likely case we pull our troops back further after that American death, how long will it then be before a full Russian military base is built in Syria?
  3. What American interests will be put at risk by that vastly expanded Mediterranean base?
  4. What part of Russia’s re-expansion strategy benefits from Russia’s rapidly strengthening Syria-Iran alliance?
  5. Once Russia begins to fight ISIS in and around Syria while also taking out the handful (actually) of soldiers allied with the U.S. in Syria, do we fully turn over the fight against ISIS to Russia?
  6. Do we have any reason to trust that Russia would only fight ISIS, given Putin’s willingness to invade relatively defenseless nations and know the international community will let him bully his way into control?
  7. Which one of the ‘stans, or will it be Armenia, will the international community have a harder time reaching to stop Russia’s taking of control the next time Putin senses that the U.S. President is politically weak? (My money is on oil-rich Kazakhstan, but there are other candidates).

It’s easy to say let’s clear out from the Middle East and let Russia fight ISIS. But we can be certain that Putin isn’t moving just a single chess piece. In Doing Unto Others, set in the 2040s, Russia has full control of some former Soviet Union nations beyond those he has already taken. Putin may be on the path to greater control sooner than I suspected.

Is Pope Francis Right on Golden Rule Government?

Pope Francis argued today for Golden Rule government, a concept investigated, advocated and tested in the philosophical thriller Doing Unto Others: The Golden Rule Revolution, which I released earlier this summer.

In his address to Congress today, Pope Francis argued for the Golden Rule as the correct moral principle against which to create public policy, particularly focusing his remarks on its application to refugees, immigration and protecting life.

We agree on the Golden Rule principle, though in some cases have different perspectives on the correct answers to Golden Rule consideration.

Some will argue that religious principles have no business in the public arena, particularly since the Pope quoted a version of the Golden Rule contained in the Bible’s Book of Matthew. For those unfamiliar with the Golden Rule, he could have just as easily quoted from the Quran, the Torah, or from the scriptures and teaching of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and dozens of other faiths. He could have pulled Golden Rule quotes from atheists, secular humanists, existentialists and others not tied to a formal religion. It is our most common and agreed principle; shared by nearly all, though far from as frequently followed.

Its implementation is not easy. Properly implementing Golden Rule government requires gaining knowledge of each issue and the implications of various solutions, including exploration of alternatives not yet considered. It requires imaging ourselves in the circumstances of others and how we would want to be treated. It requires, in my view, looking at the long-term effects of the actions we adopt, not simply at the immediate emotional reaction. It requires testing for consistency. Do you react the same way regardless of race, party, gender or other point of differentiation? It also requires, as Professor Harry Gensler points out in Ethics and the Golden Rule, that we act only in a manner we would deem acceptable if we were in any position.

So, for immigration and refugees, the questions to ask are not just the simple ones. [Read more…]

Creating Golden Rule Social Services

“Each individual has different needs, different capabilities, different dreams. What I see in government programs is an effort to fit people into boxes, to make people easy to administer, rather than to provide resources we need to become our greatest selves.”

Tamika Jackson
Doing Unto Others; The Golden Rule Revolution

With more than 100 government welfare and life-improvement programs potentially available as sources of support, Americans most in need of assistance are often overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and complexity of government support structures.

Every year, elected officials debate adding to or deleting from this over-mixed structure, providing never-ending fodder for the divisive hate game dominating politics today. During these debates, accusations quickly turn overwrought.

Hate the poor. Burn taxpayer money. Racist. Enabler. One percenter. Cultural rot. No accountability.

When it comes to social service programs, this debate misses a more critical issue.

Existing programs are bureaucracy centric, designed to remain within the purview of particular legislative committees or to ensure the legacy of a particular elected official. Each has its own application, funding requirements, auditing processes, staffing and timelines aimed more at fulfilling process requirements than at providing support. Many programs are established with set financial cliffs that force participants to lose nearly as much, and sometimes more, in support than they gain in income when they work additional hours or earn a raise, providing dramatic disincentives to career development.

People and their needs don’t fit neatly within congressional or state legislative jurisdictions. [Read more…]

Is It Ever Okay to Offend an Entire Faith (Islam)?

Golden Rule behavior demands that we treat others as we would want to be treated given understanding of that individual’s circumstances.

Knowing that the Islamic faith prohibits depictions of its prophet Muhammad, is there ever an acceptable reason to produce and distribute cartoons about and including drawings of Muhammad?

Just after a $10,000 prize was handed out in Garland, Texas yesterday to the best caricature of Muhammad, two Muslim men attempted to shoot their way through the conference. Their assault began just moments after they were believed to have tweeted, “May Allah accept us as mujahideen” and stating their loyalty to the Islamic State. A police officer used his service pistol to kill the assault-rifle-armed attackers before they could inflict substantial harm.

In the immediate hours following the shooting, many media commentators questioned whether conference organizers had brought the attack on themselves. Given this reaction, is it ever acceptable to purposely offend? Following are seven questions worth considering in determining your answer:

  1. Was the offensive behavior—the caricature and condemnation of Muhammad—solely intended to offend, or was it pursued to achieve a higher purpose?
  1. If a higher purpose—or at least a serious purpose other than creating offense—was intended, could another method achieve that purpose without the offensive action?

[Read more…]