Our world is full of competing and conflicting ideas about what to believe and how to behave. We argue about what is right and what is wrong, about what is best for ourselves and for each other, and about how we are supposed to live our lives. Our wide range of religious beliefs—Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Taoist, Wiccan, Mormon, Atheist, Agnostic, Cherokee, and Crow—assures a steady debate over the moral imperatives we each hold as sacred, whether we believe them from God, from Nature, or from ourselves. As well, we tussle and fight about political and economic issues, taking polar opposite positions on nearly every social, economic, or political question that arises.
We humans do seem to bicker, don’t we?
It all comes down to finding a central and universal principle that nullifies these other deleterious motivators, and replaces them with something more powerful and more effective at helping each of us get what we want and what we need, without bloodshed or violence.
It is no secret that we disagree more than we agree when it comes to religious faith or the lack thereof. Certainly, religious conflict has resulted in countless deaths historically; but the true driver of human warfare is not religion. Only about 7% of all historical wars have been caused by religious conflict. Wars over resources and political conflicts vastly outweigh those based on religious differences. But undoubtedly, these two sets of motivators—religion and politics—are the root causes of the current and historical aggression we humans have endured and continue to experience even today. Between faith and government, war has flourished within most every human society.
How, then, to stop it? Assuming that we believe it is possible to end, or at least drastically reduce, open warfare, what would it take to stop the endless cycle of violence?
If we are constantly basing our conflicts on the notion that my beliefs are more valid than your beliefs; or that I am more deserving of this plot of land than you are; or that you should be ruled by me instead of me by you; then whatever solution to which we might aspire must effectively disarm conflict based on faith, as well as conflict based on resources or governance. It all comes down to finding a central and universal principle that nullifies these other deleterious motivators, and replaces them with something more powerful and more effective at helping each of us get what we want and what we need, without bloodshed or violence.
In our rich, pluralistic society, it seems a daunting, if not impossible task to assure each of us an equal opportunity to live our own lives in the way we see fit. In fact, some will even argue against us having the freedom to do just that. Some will argue that only those who deserve such opportunity should have it; while others will maintain that everyone should be allowed that opportunity, regardless of any purported claim or entitlement.
How then do we reconcile such diametrically opposed core beliefs, let alone the myriad of personal goals and desires from the billions who inhabit this increasingly small planet?
We need to strip away the superficial layers of superordinate culture and find the essential qualities of simply being human. What we need to find is our humanity.
Clearly, it is our differences that drive our conflicts. We perceive others as being a threat to us because they are different in some supposedly significant way. We are convinced that their differences–whatever they may be–demand that we act in the most extreme manner in order to protect ourselves or to keep them from taking what we feel we somehow deserve. It is logical, then, to focus on disarming the power that these perceived differences hold over us in order to remove these perceived threats and defuse the animosity. To ignore our differences, we need to focus on our similarities. But more than just focusing on how we are similar, we need to find a core commonality that we all share, regardless of our cultural, ethnic, political, economic, religious, or irreligious ideals. We need to strip away the superficial layers of superordinate culture and find the essential qualities of simply being human. What we need to find is our humanity.
Of course, we must assume our basic biological requirements as givens: We all need air and water and food and shelter to just survive. But those life-sustaining necessities aren’t nearly demanding enough on which to base a morally rigorous system of human governance. We need to build our framework for peaceful human society upon a single, unifying principle that drives each and everyone of us, regardless of our cultural, religious, political, or economic characteristics or motivations. We need a universal moral imperative to which each and everyone of us is beholden.
The key is to recognize and accept that each person is valued in and of herself, regardless of culture, race, creed, belief system, sexual preference, political affiliation, or nationality.
That imperative is our morally binding social contract of service. Starting from our core human commitment to be in service to one another, we can build a common purpose to advance ourselves together. Not at the expense of one another, but in alignment with one another.
The key is to recognize and accept that each person is valued in and of herself, regardless of culture, race, creed, belief system, sexual preference, political affiliation, or nationality. Ignore those purely cultural layers, and start from the basic premises that define us: we are human; we thrive together; we perish apart. Each of us shares in our universally human social network of service through shared commitment to one another.
Without that shared commitment, we fall into ruin. Our morally binding contract of mutual service protects us, guides us, and drives us. Everything else arises from that essential relationship. If we act from that commitment of service to one another, we will not see each other’s differences. We will see our commonalities. We will see each other as human, and therefore not a threat, but an opportunity…an opportunity to serve and to be served and to experience the grace of gratitude.