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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

About attitudes and world views

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I recently wrote an essay about understanding world views. During mid-2013-SEP, on PBS, a gent was interviewed about his understanding of our nation's problems. I began to think that interpreting our problems as clashes of World Views turns our difficulties into a giant cosmic battle between good and evil. To put it another way, it makes a mountain out of a mole hill.

Perhaps, our problems aren’t as grandiose as some people make them out to be. Perhaps they are really just problems with personal attitudes. Perhaps it is only some attitude adjustments that are needed in order to get the nation on the right track again.

When we run into someone who is crabby or disrespectful we might say to ourselves or our companion (rarely to the person’s face) “boy he/she sure has an attitude”. “An attitude” becomes a negative phrase referring to bad behavior. When someone succeeds at something we might say to ourselves or our companion (sometimes to the person’s face) “boy he/she sure is lucky”. As though “luck” is all that it takes to succeed. Occasionally will you hear someone say to themselves or their companion (sometimes though not always to the person’s face) “boy that guy/girl sure has a great attitude, no wonder he/she is so succesful”!

To be honest, I think there are a lot of folks that don’t have “great attitudes” and are in serious need of an “attitude adjustment!"

We all have attitudes. However, some attitudes are more positive than others and some are downright self-destructive. Many people lack the type of attitudes that keep them out of trouble and help them face whatever challenges come their way. Sometimes attitudes cause a whole lot of problems for the rest of us when people try to excuse their bad behavior caused by their bad attitudes under the guise of religious freedom! They turn differences of opinion into cosmic clashes of World Views.

Everyday I witness people with “good” attitudes that agree to disagree without being rude, intolerant, disrespectful, and without trampling on the rights of other people. Also, I witness people with bad attitudes that are unpleasant -- and sometimes impossible -- to deal with.

There are plenty of new age “gurus” and inspirational speakers that tell us that all we need to do to get ahead is change our attitude. If we think we are wealthy we will become wealthy. If we think we are successful we will be successful. If you think you are a winner you will win the contest. Those of us who have “been there and done that” know that there is more to becoming wealthy or successful or winning than just changing your attitude. There is a lot of hard work involved and often a bit of good luck as well as having the “right” positive attitude.

How many of these issues I mention below are really about the cosmic struggle between good and evil, conflicting World Views or are simply caused by folks with “bad” attitudes?

  • One complaint I have heard over and over from conservative/fundamentalist Christians is about the “attitude of entitlement” that people on welfare have. To be honest I haven’t heard this complaint from anyone other than Conservative Christians. I always try to point out that yes there are some that do have that feeling of entitlement, that the world owes them a living, but they aren’t the majority of the people on welfare, or disability, or unemployment, or who are in need of health insurance. Should we punish everyone for the sins of a few?

    I ask them, do we punish the children for the sins (the bad attitudes) of their parents? Is having a bad attitude a sin? I think there are some who think it is, and believe that sins must be punished even if it is the children that will suffer the most. If God won’t smite the sinner down, then they feel it is their duty as a God-fearing Christian to do it in his name. Although they expect everyone else and God to forgive them their little transgressions caused by their own bad attitudes. Isn’t seeing something as a “SIN” or as a “little transgression” an ATTITUDINAL issue?

    I also ask them about the Corporate Fat Cats. They also have a feeling of entitlement, that the nation owes them, and they demand their due: all regulations on their business activities be removed so they can freely exploit workers and resources and tax breaks for their corporate and personal profits. Why do you ignore their bad behavior/attitudes? Personally I find the behavior and attitudes of the super rich more offensive than the behavior and attitudes of the few welfare cheats, who even with their cheating just barely get by and whose children will find it difficult to break free of the cycle of poverty.

    Are these “differences of opinion” towards people on welfare, or disability, or towards universal health care, or towards laws and regulations affecting corporate profits ATTITUDINAL issues or are these issues about doctrinal purity -- World Views -- conservative versus liberal doctrines -- about whether no one gets a free ride, versus everyone deserves a helping hand now and then?

  • In other essays, I have discussed the educational reforms of the Bush and the Obama administration and the calls of Conservatives for holding teachers and administrators accountable. My concern is that the skills children need to learn to help them gain the right attitude so they can succeed aren’t being taught anywhere -- not in church, not in school, not at home. Those skills are what I call the “self-skills”—self-discipline, determination, motivation, restraint, control, respect. Those children who learn these skills develop the ATTITUDE they need to help them get ahead in life.

    If you don’t believe me, talk to any successful man or woman, black/white/Hispanic/Asian, from a rich or a poor family. Ask them “do you consider yourself to be self-disciplined or self-motivated or self-….?” Ask them where they learned to be this way? Who taught you? Unfortunately, there are some self-skills that children pick up on their own that they would be better off without: self-indulgence, selfishness, and self-centeredness. Not all the self-skills are positive ones!

  • I also wonder why there isn’t a demand that parents be held accountable? After all it is the parents that are responsible for keeping the children in school, for encouraging their efforts, for monitoring their progress and getting the child help if he is having difficulties, for teaching their child how to behave in school. Teachers can’t teach if the child isn’t in school or constantly misbehaves. The parents teach their children their ATTITUDES towards education and authority and the correct way to behave. We might have better success in improving our schools IF we worked at improving parents ATTITUDES.

  • This week a group of men in India that brutally raped and murdered the woman on the bus a year ago were tried and sentenced to death. We hear about the problem with rape in India, the attitude men have towards women. I wonder where do they learn these ATTITUDES? Why haven’t their parents taught them to be more respectful towards women? There are many men in the Middle East that respect women, where did they learn their ATTITUDES? Did they have strong willed parents who taught them to respect women and people of other religious and ethnic backgrounds?

  • On the news every night there are reports of more deaths in the Middle East by suicide bombers and car bombs. The debate is still ongoing about whether we should punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons. Those against a punitive strike point out that more have been killed by conventional weapons than by chemical weapons, where is our outrage over those atrocities? I have to agree with them. BUT I know that PEACE will never come to the Middle East until the people of the Middle East change their own ATTITUDES and do the work necessary to change the ATTITUDES of their friends and neighbors and in some cases their religious leaders.

  • There is a lot of talk in “think tanks” and “college campuses” about the causes of war, of crime, of poverty, of the financial collapse, of the growing and great disparity between the rich and the poor in our own country. Everyone seems to have their own theory. I haven’t heard anyone say “we need to change people’s ATTITUDES”. I think that bad attitudes are the root of the problem.

  • I pointed out in another essay that a BIG problem with the Catholic Church and many Christian fundamentalists and Evangelicals is their belief in a foundational/fundamental doctrine that “religion changes the man”. Some people claim that IF people will just become Christian, the problems will be solved. Unfortunately, we know that isn’t true. Far too often the changes are for the worse not for the better. Many become more self-centered, more self-righteous, more judgmental, more hypocritical, more intransigent and unfortunately more intolerant of all of those that aren’t just like them. Steven Weisberg, the American physicist said:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.” 1

Isn’t this really about ATTITUDES?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t “good” Christians who have been helped by their religion. Some Atheists would have us believe that all religious people are bad people and that religion is the cause. I know this isn’t true. The ATTITUDES of some Atheists are as self-destructive and socially destructive as the ATTITUDES of the religious people they refuse to tolerate.

This “ATTITUDE” problem isn’t unique to Christians or Atheists. We see it with SOME Hindus and Buddhists and especially now in the Middle East with the rise of radical Islam. Note the emphasis on SOME. Not all Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims have attitude problems.

I might also remind folks that “bad attitudes” are found across all income and educational levels. I have known some highly educated, very intelligent, and wealthy people whose ATTITUDES need a bit of “improvement!’ Some can be found walking the halls of Congress, in Corporate suites and boardrooms, in sports arenas and on the silver screen.

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The fundamental difference as I see it between Attitudes and World Views is that attitudes are totally personal and individual, not collective. A World View is both individualized but also collective -- formed and held by the larger group that a person belongs to.

People within a group who hold the same basic World View will have different, individualized attitudes towards that World View. They may agree on most points, disagree on some points and be indifferent on others.

ATTITUDES are relatively easy to change, World Views are more difficult to change. Because?

Because attitudes are changed one person at a time, often from face to face contact, from meeting and interacting with another person. Attitudes towards the LGBT community [Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals] have been changing because people have gotten to know a member of that community as a friend. Anti-semitism doesn’t take root where Jews and Christians freely go to school and socialize together. Discrimination against blacks disappears when whites work alongside blacks and socialize with each other after work. Colleges and Universities spend a great deal of time and money recruiting students from diverse backgrounds. Part of the reasoning being that this diversity is good for educational development. YET the students often segregate themselves on campus by joining or participating in Black, or Hispanic, or Asian student union associations, where they socialize with their own kind. Many Christian kids go to Christian schools or are home schooled, where they don’t rub elbows with the kids they will have to work with as adults. Many Jewish kids attend their schools and Muslim kids their schools.

ATTITUDES can also be changed by self-education--reading books, watching documentaries on television, visiting different places, meeting new people and reflecting on what you have seen and read. World Views seem to be “set in stone”. There is the ATTITUDE that this is the way it is, this is the way it always has been and this is the way it always will be—World Views can’t be changed. To change your World View can mean leaving old friends and family behind, striking out on your own to find a new group to be a part of -- a group with attitudes and views on issues more in line with your own, or going it alone.

I think Pope Francis realizes this fundamental difference between ATTITUDES and World Views in the interview he gave in mid-2013-SEP. He said:

“Unless the Catholic Church focuses on being a welcoming, healing place instead of on doctrine about divine issues, it will fail.” 1

From a MSN news report:

“Pope Francis is warning that the Catholic church’s moral edifice might ‘fall like a house of cards’ if it doesn’t balance the divisive rules about abortion, gays, and contraception with the greater need to make the church a merciful, more welcoming place for all.” 2

If he declares changes in the World View (the doctrines of the church) I think he realizes he will create a schism in the church. No one can object to working at changing attitudes in the direction of forgiveness and inclusiveness. They are already a part of the doctrine and dogma -- the World View of the church, although a part that sometimes gets lost in the theology and what seems to be an obsession (an Attitude) towards Sin, especially the sins of others as the Pope so clearly pointed out.

Rabbi Maller helped me to understand the differences between Judaic and Christian World Views with his essays that appeared in this web site on the many ways to interpret the Torah, and the basic elements of Judaism. In Judaism, Rabbi Maller pointed out marriage is seen as a social contract between two people. It isn’t such a stretch to change your ATTITUDE and expand your World View, to accept that those two people might be two men or two women. For Catholics and many Protestants, marriage is a Sacrament. A Sacrament is decreed by and dedicated to God as a sign or symbol of one’s devotion. It wouldn’t just be presumptuous, it would be sacrilegious for a man to tell God what is or isn’t right, to change the doctrine decreed by God! To defile a sacrament would be to defile God. Marriage isn’t just between two people, it is between those two people and God. “What God has joined together, let no man rent asunder” Matthew 19:6

However on this issue of marriage, those that insist that marriage is only between one man and one woman ignore the rest of Matthew 19. In verse 11, Jesus says:

“Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only to those to whom it is given.

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Eunuchs, by the way, are men that are not sexually involved with women. Some were born that way; some were made that way by being castrated; and some chose to remain celibate for religious reasons. So has God really decreed that marriage is ONLY between one man and one women or have men made that decision? I think it is your ATTITUDE that determines your answer to this question.

What comes first, is whether this is a chicken or the egg issue? Does your ATTITUDE determine your World View or do World Views determine your ATTITUDE? I think it is your attitude towards LGBTs that determines how you view the doctrine and dogma — the World View.

In Judaism Rabbi Maller pointed out that there are many ways to read and understand the Torah. For some Christians there is just one way to read the book, and that is their way. They don’t even consider their reading to be an interpretation. They read the book word for word, literally, as they believe God intended it to be read. Many won’t even admit that other Christians read the book quite differently — as mythical story and metaphor. Some admit that others read the Bible differently, but they claim they aren’t real or good Christians. I have had more than one fundamentalist claim that Catholics and Mormons aren’t Christians.
One man commented to me in an online discussion that:

“If I wasn’t going to read the Bible as it was meant to be read (which was the way he read it), I had no business reading it at all.”

I think he has an attitudinal problem!

Many Christians certainly don’t like being reminded that they “cherry pick” the Bible. That means they pick the passages that support their preconceived opinions (their Attitudes) and ignore the passages that don’t fit or in some cases interpret those passages in a way that makes them fit. One example of interpreting a passage to fit their preconceived notion and to dispel with an uncomfortable difference is found in Revelations 20. For Jews the book of life (mentioned in Revelations) is the book that lists the name of every person ever born, one book was for those that would be saved and the other for those that would not be saved. Other references to the books are found in: Exodus 32:32, Daniel 7:10 and 12:1, Luke 10:20 and Philippians 4:3. Some Christians decided that the book of those that will be saved contains ONLY the names of Christians. The names of all non-Christians are in the book of those that won’t be saved. They won’t admit it but this is making an interpretation -- not reading the passage literally -- and isn’t supported by other passages.

Revelations 20:11 says

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.”

The concept of people being judged only according to their deeds is reinforced by a statement attributed to Jesus in the famous "Sheep and Goats" passage in Matthew 25:31-46. It describes how the people of all nations -- and presumably all religions -- are judged. Those who fed the hungry and thirsty, offered support for the stranger, clothing for the naked, help to the sick and imprisoned, were selected to inheret the kingdom prepared for them -- i.e. heaven.

If only Christians are listed in the book of those who will be saved then all is well, only Christians will be saved. If this book contains the names of every “good” person ever born, whatever religion they followed and even the names of “good” Atheists there is a problem. Some Christians, who weren’t such good people, might find themselves in the other book and they won’t be saved. This is a real dilemma.

This still presents problems for Christians that believe that one is saved by faith alone, that good works have nothing to do with salvation. Some can’t get around these passages so they pretend they aren't there!

Are the problems that divide us about differences in World Views or about differences in Attitudes? It depends on how you look at it and how you want to tackle the problem. Unfortunately it only takes a few with attitude problems to turn neighbor against neighbor, to create a never ending cycle of welfare families, to create the great divisions between the haves and the have nots, and the myriad of problems that lead to crime, civil unrest, unholy holy wars and sometimes even genocide.

To take a little liberty with an old saying:

“We can move a mountain one rock at a time but it takes a while. It is impossible for one of us alone to move the entire mountain at once. BUT if many of us work together it can be done.”

We can change Attitudes on a one to one basis and World Views if we work together, for the better and for the benefit of us all. IF, that is, we have the “right” attitude.

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References used:

  1. Nicole Winfield & Rachel Zoll, "Pope: Church will fail if mired in rules for gays, abortion," MSN News, 2013-SEP-19, at:
  2. "Pope Francis says church too obsessed with gays, abortion," Associated Press, 2012-SEP-19, at:

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Originally posted: 2013-OCT-22
Latest update: 2013-OCT-22
Susan Humphreys
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