Religion is not a Weapon

When the Bible is used as a political or power advantage…beware…

The person who is willing to use religion to control people is not a person who speaks for God, but a person who uses God’s words like a sword. Do not be led astray.

Know the difference between good and evil, even when they are cloaked in matching coats.

For simply to follow power because it commands your attention, does not mean it will call you to the right path.

I am deeply concerned by much of the media we are hearing today. When someone uses religion to justify nefarious actions, we should question their motives, their intentions, and their personal needs. Simply because a person claims religious affiliation does not at all mean they are a particularly faithful or righteous person. I believe most of us know this, theoretically, logically – but do we practice questioning? There is a preached taboo against questioning God…one should simply ‘have faith’, ‘believe in the higher power’, follow His word. But I don’t believe questioning people is the same as questioning God. It means questioning the person claiming to speak for God. 

Religion can be an enormously powerful source of inspiration and comfort or a weapon used to control masses of people. The only difference between the two is the intent of the person speaking.

One of the reasons I believe we have so much dissent within the Muslim culture is because there is a group of people committing heinous crimes against humanity and claiming they are doing it for God (Allah). Yet, simply because they claim to be acting on God’s behalf, does not at all mean they actually are. But consider the opportunity they are exploiting? If they claim it is on behalf of a specific religion, imagine how many people begin to assume all people of that religion are terrible people?

In our country, we have many absolutely amazing and wonderful faith leaders – across many different religions. As such, we often assume those that claim to speak for God, in actuality do so for the good of our people – and certainly, most do. But to apply that logic across all situations and all people who claim they speak for Him gives our faith to a human, not to a higher power. And when we do that, we do not worship or follow with purpose but instead follow blindly and not only give great power to anyone willing to use it but we also encourage others to rise up and learn to wield the same faith-weaponry. They are preying on our need to believe the world is safe and people who claim to be of faith, are good.

Do not be fooled. When religion is used to justify killing, defilement of children, judgment of others different than oneself, righteousness, or the denigration of women; question the person speaking. Question why they feel the need to prove their superiority over others. Question their need for power. Question the person, the message, the intent…because if you don’t, you are not honoring God with your blind faith but instead willingly giving your faith to an earthly being using it for personal gain.

Always remember: Religion should not be used as a weapon but instead as a source of comfort and inspiration.

Why disagree when we can learn?

European cities are filled with so much history, beautiful architecture, rich ideas, culture, and art. Yet so much of our nation is focused on declaring to the world that we work independently, isolating ourselves from global progress. Xi Jinping stated recently at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, “Openness brings progress, while seclusion leaves one behind.” Is this statement true?

When there is a belief that in all things, we know best, we run the risk of over-inflating our perceived knowledge and being burned by our own self-imposed, and prideful, ignorance.

Diverse teams have the advantage of multiple perspectives, experiences, skills, personalities, and ideas. By contrast, those that are made up of members who all think, live, and believe the same – will be hindered by the vast additional information and experiences they don’t even know exist. At first blush, one might argue that it is just a difference of opinion. In other words, some of us *believe* diversity is beneficial while others *believe* it is not necessary. But at some point, the question becomes not a matter of opinion but rather, one we can test and prove right or wrong.

The test of diversity versus homogenous teams is a question that is not just opinion, but proven fact. Imagine, for example, having a football team of just quarterbacks….who would catch the ball? It’s an easy concept to understand….but a difficult one to extrapolate. So instead of isolating ourselves and displaying an elitist, yet singular viewpoint, what if we embraced the world? Our nation’s differences? The benefits we and others can bring to the negotiation table?

We would create a world that optimizes the talents of our people and that identifies and applauds the most innovative minds we have in this nation. We would likewise differentiate ourselves to complement, rather than overlap and compete, with other nations.

Because together, we could divide, support, and conquer the infinite galaxy….

And wouldn’t that be a far better vision than the perpetual need to divide, destroy, and conquer each other, competing for the finite resources on Earth…

The Haves and the Have-nots

I’m sitting in a beautiful candle lit restaurant in Vienna, Austria….sipping a glass of too-expensive rose champagne…but the bubbles, the dim light, the atmosphere – they are simultaneously invigorating and soothing. I see a family of three near me – the man leans back in his chair, chewing thoughtlessly on a piece of bread. I wonder to myself – does he enjoy the taste? Appreciate the texture? Consider the effort that went into making that bread just right for him. I see a son about 14 sitting next to him. He’s old enough to carry himself with comfort and look present, yet appropriately unimpressed by his surroundings. Certainly, he has had many meals like this – today is no special moment for him. He orders the rack of lamb and eats it as if it is $1 pasta. It is just a meal – sustenance. He is not rude, but neither does he appear aware of how special his dinner is. Few of us will ever experience food of this caliber, let alone so often by age 14 that it is boring. The mother, she eats without thought. Interacts with bland consideration. She is present but again, this is no highlight to a trip, a day, or a family moment.

Earlier today I walked the incredibly exciting streets and saw more amazing dresses, handbags, artwork, and shoes than I have ever seen. I am not at all a shopper but even I was impressed. I am not a big shoe person either (though I do love me some candy apple red pumps!) but the options here could make even the least interested take note. I took pictures!!!! A woman in one store kindly asked I’d like to try on the shoes – I laughed uncomfortably. What good would it do to try on shoes I could never buy? I smiled at her and thanked her for the indulgence. Because for me, just touching the shoes – dreaming of wearing them – THAT in and of itself was meaningful. I found pajamas of the softest material, vintage dresses that cost more now than when they were originally sewn, and coats that not only keep one warm but could make even the most homely person feel like a movie star.

And yet I giggled. Because why would any of these items matter? Yes, they feel nice on the skin. Yes, they are beautiful. But at the end of the day….If you have to cover up every part of yourself to be liked, valued, enjoyed – then has your soul been appreciated?

Perhaps it is cliché. Perhaps I am defensive – because, of course, I cannot purchase these items even if I wished. But while I sat at the same restaurant as that family – I enjoyed, savored every single bite and sip I took. Whose meal experience was better? Without question: mine was. I purchased only gifts for others on my shopping endeavor. Might I have enjoyed buying myself new clothes and shoes and bags? Perhaps. But I *know* I enjoyed buying my family European chocolates, stickers for my youngest, and fancy socks for my husband. I enjoyed seeing things I haven’t seen before. Though I admit – the 60s vintage dress: I’d have worn it with the biggest grin….just because.

Is money power? Does it matter? Does it impress?

To my mind, it provides options. But if it makes the joy of living less poignant, use it differently. If you see your child bored with an exceptional meal, switch to cheap ones and make them earn it. If purchasing fabulous clothes is commonplace….wear hand-me-downs until you feel thrilled and lucky to feel exceptional fabrics and dresses. If you aren’t enjoying what you have – give it away.

Appreciate pleasure, don’t waste it simply because you can.

Dodgers: Kershaw: Does the best always win?

The short answer is: no. Why?


In team sports – it’s a team…even a single best player isn’t going to change the outcome drastically. Even in those that seem like single person events – they are actually most often a team effort, even if behind the scenes – so in essence, you can’t be the lone winner either way. Moreover, there is the randomness one can’t predict. In statistics, it’s called “explaining the variance.” This means, we can only define a certain number of variables that help us predict an outcome, the rest is chance – or at least events/situations/variables we can’t predict. Did you know that when psychologists can predict 60% of the variance of anything, it is considered a HUGE outcome? And yet….it means it leaves 40% to factors we can’t predict.

The bottom line is this: You can control everything you can predict and there remains AT LEAST a 40% chance you’ll be wrong….no matter what.

So what do you do? Control what you can and accept what you can’t. It’s an old adage, but a worthy mantra. Thinking that if you just work harder, think longer, give up more, become a more dedicated martyr….none of these attempts are likely to result in more success. I used to tell my friend…

There will always be people who bet on horses randomly and win big. But the one that does her homework and makes an intelligent choice be will be more likely to win.

So my advice: Work hard, with limits. If you only work, you are guaranteed to lose the art of living. If you only live driven by chance and id-based desires, you are unlikely to achieve anything of meaning. Find the balance. Control what you can, dismiss what you can’t. Experience life instead of counting your achievements and diversify your interests. One of them is bound to succeed : )

But America….remember this doesn’t just pertain to winning in sports – it’s also the case in all events involving human prediction. This means that political races and domestic terrorist attacks are also influenced heavily by unpredictable forces. And herein lies our struggle to control our nation. Frustrated? Then consider the future use of big data analytics – where companies can record everything about you and better predict behavior.

So the right question is: Are you willing to give up your privacy to gain better predictability?

Photo credits: Boris Stefanik, Quino Al, Brian Wertheim


Meta-messaging is the act of providing a common message to a large group of people across more than one area.

For example, a company might produce several different products but have a meta-message across them all focusing on something like comfort or women’s products. Terrorism has a meta-message of fear and controlled actions. People in one part of the world who act to harm others can suggest that all people belonging to their group are similar. Meta-messaging can be used for or against a group, depending on preference and goals. In politics, there are many candidates and many territories but the party to which the candidate adheres has a meta-message – in this case, called a platform.

But what happens when these messages are not clear? What happens when one of the products or candidates doesn’t fit?

Questions begin to arise by those listening to these messages. Doubt sets in. But the real damage occurs when people become critical of the lack of cohesive message being put forth. When this occurs, it allows loosely related messages, put forth by people or groups outside your control, to affect your message. For example, if a person commits an act of terrorism, people may become suspicious of a group to which they belong. It might be religion, but it might also be a club, or a level of education, or a set of organized beliefs. When the groups to which they belong are small in number, or not well known, people will often generalize the behavior to all people in the group. However, if the groups are large, this is less likely because too many people who don’t act the same would compel a different interpretation.

Perception colors reality. Data clarifies it.  

This is why we need to all be cognizant of our own biases….and also aware of the meta-messages we provide to others. To which groups do you belong? Why? How do they affect how others view you by association? Now….how might you use this messaging to your advantage?

Both the Republican and Democratic parties are in significant flux with regard to meta-messaging. The Republican Party is split by those that support the current administration and those who don’t. The Democratic Party is in shock over the election of the current administration and as such is simply rejecting everything put forth by them…but failing to provide an alternative message.

It is vital to our nation’s future that both parties define themselves in a way that focuses forward, is clear, and connects to the other. Unification will allow for a stronger nation, greater fiscal and personal success, and is the most likely, reasonable path to national defense and global leadership.

Perhaps we should consider the meta-message of our nation: Are we united or divided? America, the world is watching….

Photo credits: Mark Adriane, Alice Pascual, Ksenia Makgovonova

Focus on living, not achieving

Sometimes we need to pause…think….reconsider….remember that the unexamined life isn’t one that’s been lived to the fullest. Why? Why is it that we should bother to think about our lives, the lives around us, or our plans for the future? Because if all we do is go through the motions, then why are we here? Why bother?

I often say – don’t fear dying, fear not living.

As you examine, ask yourself, is the fighting, the arguing, and the negativity what you wish to spend your time sharing? I’ve asked many people on both sides of the political space this question and I find that folks really believe they are helping, adding strength to our nation, helping our people be better informed. While I thoroughly appreciate and lift up the passionate and determined support of our nation – I must challenge the method.

If the only people listening to you are the people that believed you in the first place…then have you really made a difference?

It is absolutely necessary to understand how our messages are being received in order to make a difference. Continued focus on achieving the goal of ensuring people have access to our personal interpretation of information does little to promote the lives of Americans and their ability to experience, maintain safety, thrive, and ultimately soar individually or as a nation.

We must instead focus on supporting the lives of our people rather than demanding they share the same beliefs. Drive national progress over your personal agenda.

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” JFK

Photo Credits: Becca Tapert, Joshua Earle, Michael Browning