As an election year, 2012 is going to challenge our critical thinking skills in politics as well as everyday life. Let’s rise to the challenge. Resolved:
- Do not forget our nation’s heritage of a strong separation between church and state. If you need a reminder of our history, here’s a good resource: http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html. Politicians who promise or suggest that their religious beliefs will determine their decisions in office are not only spitting on the graves of our founding fathers, they’re extremely dangerous.
- Do not be taken in by any hoaxes, scams, pseudo-science, or mysticism. Question everything. Criticize ruthlessly. Follow your own conclusions regardless of what “everyone else” seems to think. Also: the world isn’t likely to end, literally or figuratively, in 2012.
- Create something unique, original, and valuable. Distribute it as widely as you can. You don’t have to make money from it, but if you do that’s even better.
- Discuss controversial subjects like politics, religion, and economics with the smartest people you can find who disagree with you. Don’t waste your time with idiots, and if you agree with someone about everything or nearly everything then one of you is redundant to the discussion. Try to get information from as many diverse sources as you can.
- Do not be fooled by public professions of piety and insinuations that a candidate’s political opponents are infidels. President Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim nor much as I might wish, an Atheist. All of Obama’s major Republican challengers are…Christians. All of the third party candidates you are likely to hear about are…Christians. Regardless of the wisdom of doing so, in the 2012 presidential election there will be little opportunity to vote based on a candidate’s major religious beliefs because they’re all Christians. This is true for most of the other races as well. Some semblance of Christian belief is practially and unfortunately a requirement to win election to high office in this country.
- Learn and practice something that is both useful and new. Age is no excuse to stop growing your knowledge base.
- Establish a set of core values and principles that you can live your own life by and also judge candidates by. As a start I suggest:
* Critical thinking informed by logic and evidence rather than mystical and wishful thinking.
* Integrity, responsibility, and accountability rather than endlessly kicking the can down the road.
* Respect for all human rights, including: freedom of and from religion, privacy, due process, equal treatment, speech, property, and self-defense.
- Do not cast your vote based on a candidate’s promises or statements - such statements are usually composed of far more lies than truth. Instead, vote based on the candidate’s actual track record, the effect of their party affiliation on wider political outcomes, and who their campaign funding comes from — since that’s who they are most likely to listen to once in office. This requires a little more research than listening to whatever sound bites happen to be playing on Fox News or CNN. Either do the research, or stop calling yourself an informed voter.
- It is possible that no candidate in a particular election race will measure up to earning your vote. If none do, then there is no shame in withholding your vote in that race. Voting is neither a legal nor a moral imperative and non-voters have just as much right to criticize government policy as voters do.
- Treat your body and your mind with the respect they deserve. Accept neither the hedonism of short-term thinkers nor the asceticism of mystics. Lean on your own understanding, and run…don’t walk…from anyone who counsels you to have faith.
Happy New Year!