I am an optimist. I have always been interested in good news. I used to subscribe to a magazine called Ode Magazine that turned into the Intelligent Optimist, then went out of print in 2013. Good news does not appear to sell well. The magazine was about the amazing things human beings can accomplish to solve big world problems when they put their minds to it (and can find someone willing to financially back them).
Good News is also the meaning of Gospel. It is about salvation which I define as entering a better life of freedom, opportunity, justice … all the gospel values.
Lately I have been thinking about how the #me too movement is changing our perspective on human belief and behaviour. Finally, women will have a say in their own defense and maybe this will bring more protection and less fear of being violated, abused, ignored and limited in their ability to live the lives they want to live and realize their full potential.
I just finished reading a book called Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor in world health. He shares various data that show that the world is getting better and more people are benefiting from new discoveries and technologies. There are fewer people living in abject poverty (which he labels Level 1 living), better health care is available around the world and many more people are experiencing some education. He does not mean that there are no dire problems in the world, just that the trend (shown by data) is toward more people living in better conditions today than ever before.
However, this is not just a feel-good book of statistics. The book’s purpose is to elaborate on 10 reasons why we do not have a realistic view of the world. He was surprised to discover that no matter how educated a person was, he/she still incorrectly answered many of 20 questions about world health, wealth, or potential for change. Most people answered with a lower percentage of correct answers than if they had just answered randomly without reading the questions.
Two of his ten reasons are:
- The Gap Instinct: In chapter 1 Rosling disputes the “Them” and “Us” way of looking at the world (developing countries and us). Instead, he divides the world into 4 income levels with one billion people in level one, three billion in level two, two billion in level three and one billion in level four. At the first income level you earn $1 a day, $4 a day in level two, $16 a day in level 3, and more than $32 a day in level four. He says it is too simple for us to think in terms of two levels : “Winners” and “Would-Be-Winners”. He calls this a “gap instinct” which enables us to separate “Us” from “Them”. But this does not help us understand them as people who are also like us. We who live in the fourth level distance ourselves from the experience of those in level one, and perhaps even levels two and three. But when we understand that we all share many human experiences and have common hopes and dreams we will be more connected to the real world, and feel better about engaging with or helping people at other levels.
- The Destiny Instinct: In chapter 7 Rosling says that we fail to recognize change because it is happening very slowly. We deny its importance because things appear to be the same as they were yesterday.
This is also true of religion. Last week I met with a few people who are bringing Brian McLaren to Calgary next year. His latest book is The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking A Better Way to Be Christian. Instead of saying that Christianity has always had the right answer and always will be the only way to God, Rosling is saying that changes are happening and need to be affirmed, explored and encouraged so we can be better Christians. Powerful new realities (one of these being the sciences) are influencing our understandings of the universe and human life, which in turn are shaping the Christian faith (our view of God and our purpose for being here on Earth). If the Christian faith is to survive we need to embrace change in order to be more vital and influential in shaping the way we live in our world.
A friend recently introduced me to another book, Finding Purpose in a Godless World: Why We Care Even If the Universe Doesn’t, by Ralph Lewis, MD, a psychiatrist. I am fascinated that many professionals are writing books on meaning and purpose outside the framework of religion. This will be a challenging read for me because I have already decided that he is a secular humanist who assumes that the universe does not have a life of its own and does not care. To me it is an old way of thinking about science, so I will need to make a conscious effort to pay attention and be aware what he is trying to say. You will surely hear more about this book in a future blog!