Why It Isn't Just One Thing

Typically I try to refrain from posting about overly controversial topics, especially those that deal with highly emotional or political topics. However, in light of so many ignorant comments, I felt a desire to try to provide a well-rounded account of the things that are currently issues that should be a focus of discussion when talking about how we move forward as a society when dealing with recent tragedies. In essence, I want to try to emphasize that there is not "just one thing" that is the problem, or that we can resolve. There are a number of things that we have to look at and address, some of which must be examined at various levels ranging from the individual to the nation as a whole.

Note that I do not proclaim to have the answers to each piece, and in complete honesty I offer no ideas on how to proceed. However, not to look at each area listed below is as much a folly as trying to latch on a single "cure-all" solution, and the point of this post is to shed light on the assorted pieces of the puzzle.

Gun Control

First and foremost, repealing the Second Amendment and banning all firearms is not synonymous with gun control. Regardless of your stance on an individual owning firearms and their legal right to own them, to immediately call for a sweeping ban and assume that such action is the answer is both immensely shortsighted and extremely ignorant. To call for a ban on assault rifles is certainly justifiable, and reflects at least a modicum of thought, but still does not address the root issue. On the other side of the debate, those that proclaim the cliched "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is also a ridiculous argument, though it is more to the point than calling for a repeal and ban of all firearms.

Regulating gun ownership and education is absolutely a stance that should be supported. Making it more difficult to acquire weaponry through illegal channels is also pertinent, and would be even more important when stronger gun control laws are evaluated and placed into effect. I, for one, would not have any issue with the requirement of background checks being mandated in all states, in addition to a psychological evaluation, for a prospective firearm owner. I do feel, however, that the right to own a firearm is a personal choice that should be retained as granted by the Second Amendment.

Bear in mind, though, that even stricter legislation and requirements do not necessarily affect the ability of someone to acquire weapons and use them, as is evident by the number of shootings in which the weapons were not actually purchased by the perpetrator. This aspect is specifically why the following items are so important to keep in consideration.

The State of Mental Health

Mental health is, perhaps, one of the most important topics that should be addressed. The current state of health care (in general) in the United States is rather appalling, and the measures we have taken to attempt to rectify that area are appallingly ridiculous. However, the purpose of this discussion is to emphasize the stigma and derogatory view of those who pursue psychological assistance instead of looking at health care in general.

The current mindset in America is one of instant gratification. This is especially evident by the flippant way we view looking to medication/drugs to solve problems, instead of investing the time and effort in actually understanding and solving the root issues. When a person goes to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, or even counselor, the focus should be on establishing a mental and emotional baseline followed by stabilization. To be fair, many times this does (and should) include medical assistance. However, all too often the most crucial aspect, the baseline and stability, is overlooked or rushed due to assorted constraints (insurance, resources, etc.). Further, those who do seek assistance are often looked upon in a derogatory manner by society (labeling theory) as being "mental" or "unstable." In short, the state of mental health care must be addressed.

The State of Emotional and Mental Support

Going along with the previous section, there is a significant issue with the state of support for those who need it. This ranges from the support an individual needs from social circles to the organizations designed to assist others through everything from the mundane (life coaching, stress counseling, etc.) to the extreme (correctional facilities, addiction recovery and counseling, etc.). Simply put, many people feel they have no place to turn for help, be it the need to talk to someone or the need to become involved in a specific program. Support for each other is crucial, and should be something that occurs at every level from the interpersonal to the inter-societal to international.

Socioeconomic and Sociocultural Issues

Strongly tied to the aforementioned two, as well as the next two in the list, socioeconomic and sociocultural issues affect all aspects of life. There is no reason to think they should be ignored in this type of discussion. Typically we view these discussions in terms of "class warfare" or in explorations of the population grouped by median income. These tie directly in to the availability of support and care, just as they tie into the values and ideals instilled during growth and development.

This is one area of discussion that simply cannot be further summarized, as volume upon volume of work and research has been put into how various aspects of each affects the mental, emotional, and social interaction of people. Suffice it to say, this is easily a broad range of topics that must be addressed in order for our society to move forward.

The American Ideal

Culturally, we've all heard the tales of America being the place for someone to be able to become whatever they dare to dream of becoming. We also, though, tend to view success according to the way we compare to others. The American Dream (a.k.a the American Ideal) is just as much an issue. The idea is really simple. We place burdens on the shoulders of others in measuring success according to wealth, owning a home or automobile, going to college right after high school, dating then marriage then kids... the list of concepts heard in reference to "being part of life" goes on and on (and in fairness is a part of the socioeconomic and sociocultural issues already referenced). I chose to emphasize this separately, however, because it is something that is quoted all too often in media.

Faith and Belief Structures

To those who proclaim we are seeing the result of "removing God from schools," your argument is just as flawed as those who believe a ban on all weapons will solve the issue. Our country was founded on the principle of each individual having the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You could paraphrase it in a much more direct manner: every person has the right to pursue individual freedoms, guaranteed to citizens by the Constitution, as long as those freedoms do not infringe on the freedoms of another. This distinction and understanding is important when we begin talking about religion, due to the lack of a state/national religious belief and the core principle of religious freedom. There is a counter argument that makes sense, however: this nation was founded as a Christian nation, with specific reference to God.

Quite honestly, this is a dilemma that cannot be dismissed or ignored, but also cannot be resolved. Instead, individuals and their communities should focus on bringing their faith and beliefs back into everyday life through living according to the teachings of their faith. I will not proclaim any religious belief as the "one and only answer." All of the major religions share core philosophies and ideals that are correct. While I choose to believe in what I know to be true, someone with differing beliefs will say the same thing. That is both the beauty and the frustration with religious freedom and tolerance, and it is a right I will not attempt to take away from anyone.

In the end, we simply need to take a step back and embrace the age-old facts: in order to change the world, we must believe and adhere to our faith. We must live according to the teachings, principles, and philosophies we hold dear. We must be the agent of good, and choose to reach out to help each other.

Closing Remarks

If anything is certain, it is that looking at each of the above pieces separately will not work. Singling out any one item and making it a platform for "fixing" a broken society will not work. Our society is broken because of the ways in which all of these things work together to create issues, and things will not change until each of them is properly addressed.

Here's the problem. Our government will attempt to address each one through legislation, which effectively further limits or removes freedoms. This is the crux of the matter. Without a significant change in thinking, without looking at every issue and trying to actually understand and resolve them, the only way our current system can attempt to address these issues is through the limitation and/or removal of individual freedoms. I don't have an answer. I just know that each piece of the puzzle has to be examined, and we have to shift our mindset to look at everything from a different perspective than simple regulation.

The Religion Problem


No title really seemed to fit quite perfectly, but the "problem" of religion is as good a title as any for the concept of deciphering the issue with distinguishing between religious beliefs, religious practices, spiritual beliefs, and life philosophies. Many describe themselves as "spiritual, but not religious" or "believers in a faith, but disillusioned with the institution." There is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed when a person is forced to contradict themselves in order to describe their belief in something, and that is the "religion problem."


The Advanced English Dictionary defines religion and faith using the same definitions, though faith also encompasses a couple of other definitions not included for religion. How is it, then, that we have grown to use the two as though they can be (and often are) mutually exclusive? Part of the issue lies in the inappropriate use of English in general, as we struggle to find a way to explain concepts that are difficult to grasp or define in everyday language. Part of the issue lies in the use of "religion" in a manner that encompasses more than just what the definition actually entails. Yet another part of the issue lies in trying to categorize everything as either a religion or a philosophy, without accepting that a lot of things are not quite so simple to categorize. Perhaps most concerning of all, though, is the apparent issue that religious institutions have created a divide among those who share their core beliefs.

Core Issue: Manifest Destiny versus Free Will

Most debates surrounding the concept of being spiritual or religious tend to center around the difficulty with believing that our story is written, from birth to death, for us. This debate takes a number of forms, and is further compounded by examinations of nature versus nurture from the scientific realm. Generally speaking, we tend to state that those who classify themselves as religious believe in an all-powerful, all-encompassing deity who controls everything about our lives. Traditionally religious teachings emphasized these aspects of God, rendering those who questioned manifest destiny uncomfortable at best or categorized as outcasts at worst. Those who identified with the concept of being spiritual tend to accept that there is a deity who is responsible for the creation of life, but did not accept the notion of manifest destiny.

Core Issue: Rituals versus Belief

Other debates take a more intimate approach and focus on the personal beliefs and feelings of each person. These debates tend to center around the idea that traditional religious organizations have become burdened with simply going through the motions and no longer try to examine and understand the doctrine associated with their belief. We see this all too often in typical churches, where there is a default structure of service and a message based on nothing but the reading and scholarly interpretation of scripture. Again, those who classify themselves as spiritual tend to question the personal application and interpretation of such teachings, wanting to form an understanding of the writings and their meaning instead of simply accepting what someone tells them is right or wrong. This same debate is seen in discussions regarding morality and ethical behavior; as society grows more aware of other views and attempts to become more open-minded in accepting cultural differences, we also tend to question things that are "preached" instead of "explained."

Personal Journey and Interpretations

While this is certainly not even close to an all-encompassing discussion of the topics, the background above should help understand the observations and thoughts that follow.

I grew up in a traditional baptist church, and over time I explored a number of other environments when I became disillusioned with the traditional teachings and views presented. Eventually I left traditional settings behind and pursued self-study, looking at various religions and philosophies from all around the world in search of something that made sense. During that time I began to accept that I fell into the "spiritual, but not religious" crowd and tried to understand what it was that made me reject the traditional notions of any deity, and I found that the primary issues I could not seem to resolve internally lay in the realm of disagreement with moral and ethical choices throughout life versus the concept of manifest destiny.

I've often used the example of describing two different people to provide a basic idea of this dilemma: person one who lives in a manner that most accept as good and just, trying to help others and live according to the teachings of their faith, and person two who lives in a manner that most would consider vile, doing everything possible to hurt others and satisfy their desire for destruction. Person one commits a single act of violence in defense of a loved one, and feels no remorse and asks no forgiveness. Person two lies on their deathbed and asks for forgiveness, seemingly wanting to right the wrongs they have committed over their lifetime. According to traditional views, person one would be condemned while person two would be saved, and this has always been a point of view I could not accept.

While there are many ways to approach the above example, and a number of ways to justify or explain either side, the point is simply to think about what it truly means to be spiritual or religious. It isn't to attend services at an institution or to preach to others at every opportunity; it isn't to proclaim that one person is right and another person is wrong, and it certainly isn't to judge or condemn another person. The true goal of any religious organization, and therefore the definition of what it should mean to be religious or spiritual, is the acceptance and understanding of a deity and their guidance on how to make the difficult choices we face. To this end it should be fairly obvious that there exists, on many levels, a fundamental problem with religion as we have grown to define it through various institutions.