Friday, December 21, 2018

In The Quiet Corners of Your Heart -- What Do You Believe?

Pew Research Center recently conducted a national pole in America to find out what Americans mean when they say that they "believe in God." One-third of Americans say they don't believe in the God of the Bible, but that they do believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. A little more than half of Americans say they believe in God "as described in the Bible." And one-in-ten do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.

The survey questions that mention the Bible do not specify any particular verses or translations, leaving that up to each respondent’s understanding. But it's clear from questions elsewhere in the survey that Americans who say they believe in God "as described in the Bible" generally envision an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving deity who determines most or all of what happens in their lives. By contrast, people who say they believe in a "higher power or spiritual force" – but not in God as described in the Bible – are much less likely to believe in a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent and active in human affairs.

Overall, about half of Americans (48%) say that God or another higher power directly determines what happens in their lives all or most of the time. The survey found that three-quarters of American adults say they try to talk to God (or another higher power in the universe), and about three-in-ten U.S. adults say God (or a higher power) talks back.

The United States is a country of differing opinions and beliefs. Yet, no matter what corner of the world you live in there are people who believe in things that you may not believe in yourself. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 31 percent of Americans pretend Santa will visit on Christmas Eve or Day. By comparison, 72 percent recalled participating in that activity in their childhood. Certainly, the holiday anticipation of Santa Claus delivering toys to girls and boys on Christmas Eve is decreasing in popularity with each generation. An AP survey of U.S. adults found that 84 percent had believed in Santa at some point during their childhoods, and the average respondent stopped believing at 9 years of age. However, there are those who still choose to believe. Just last week, a poll of New Yorkers asked "would you say you believe in Santa Claus or not?" Surprisingly, 31% of respondents said they do believe in Santa Claus.

Regardless of age, there are people who believe in fairy tales, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter bunny, unicorns, and more. Some would view such people as not being in their right mind -- or crazy. Some, however, may view such beliefs as non-harmful and perhaps even a positive thing in a world where there is so much struggle, harm and conflict.

A couple of months ago I read an article titled, "Five Reasons To Stop Reading Your Children Fairy Tales." The article describes stereotypes that are supposedly promoted by fairy tales that are said to be damaging to children, including:
  • Women are passive damsels who can only be saved by men;
  • Marriage is the ultimate reward;
  • Lack of racial/physical/sexual diversity;
  • Female characters are either bound to the home or they’re evil step mothers/sisters/witches;
  • The promotion of outdated ideologies.
I'm the father of four adult children, and the step-dad to four other children -- two of whom are still minors (ages 10 and 13). I read fairy tales to my own daughters and am pleased to say that they have grown into well adjusted, highly educated, professional-working women. They don't go through life believing that they have to be 'passive' and/or 'saved by men.' They understand the blessings of marriage and are not going through life with unrealistic and/or outdated ideologies. It seems to me that there are more and more people in the world who are trying to cast a dark cloud over those who may believe in things that are different than what they believe in. Rather than respect a person's right to believe, they reject, they criticize, they ostracize, they belittle, and they stand on a soap box to shout to the world why others are wrong and they themselves are right. And we wonder why there appears to be conflict around every corner today?

It's Christmas. We are in the most special, meaningful, uniting season of the entire year. It's a time for us to count our blessings, cherish our relationships, and build each other up... even while the world around us seems to be eroding. We were all born with the right to choose what we will believe in. If you want to truly share your thoughts about what you believe in and why it is that what you believe in is so good, just live your life... live your beliefs... and let your actions do the talking. We live in an Internet-driven, social media world where everyone wants their face seen and their voice heard. My advice to you this Christmas season is to forget about a WORLD-Wide-Web audience and just aim to be a positive example in your own neighborhood, sharing a kind thought with others and letting your beliefs shine through your own life and actions. Have yourself a Merry Christmas!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso