Dan Dennett versus Rick Warren

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TED is over but I can’t seem to get enough of the ‘stories’ from this year’s event. Where else do you engage with Rick Warren, Tony Robbins, Meg Ryan, Al Gore, Peter Gabriel, Thomas Dolby, Juan Enriquez, Robert Wright and Bill Joy in the same day?

I was thrilled to see Rick Warren on the schedule although I discovered (not to my surprise), that most people while they actually found his talk engaging and inspiring, only seemed had a problem with his references to ‘God.’

Having dabbled in more religions and belief systems than I can count on both hands, it doesn’t phase me. I had to laugh however at how many people had an ‘issue with it.’ Of course he’s going to reference God – he’s a pastor. It would be like asking an accountant to avoid the word spreadsheet or telling the builder to leave his hammer at home.

Dan Dennett followed Warren on the TED stage and while he was respectful of him personally, he had several issues with Warren’s book. Dennett tried to discount parts of it by extracting various passages out of context. Dennett is an atheist philosopher……..no wonder he has issues with Warren’s spiritual view on the world.

While I haven’t read the works of either, I’m sure I would have issues with ‘some of the excerpts from Warren’s book,‘ yet I was inspired after his talk. Have you ever been so inspired by someone or something that you accomplished something so much greater than yourself as a result of it?

Later, you learn that some of what got you there wasn’t entirely true (as defined by others or maybe now by you) or that you later disagreed with it because you changed your mind about how you felt about a particular issue. This happens all the time. Yet the previous journey was still a fabulous one.

Has not religion and the study of the spirit been a muddled story for most of us throughout our lives as we struggle between the conditioning that shapes us from childhood and the various new belief systems presented to us along our path? Eventually, we come to something ‘in the middle’ that sorta kinda makes sense to us and we can accept. And sometimes not.

If Warren had not referenced God so much throughout his talk, would those who simply don’t believe in a God, been more open to ‘listen’ to what he had to say? (and perhaps ‘think’ about his message a little differently, rather than the outcome ‘they expected’ to get — because he’s a pastor.

Some left the room and I found myself thinking, if you leave the room now, leave the room for Dennett as well. Listen to both sides and don’t assume you know what one man is about without really knowing what he’s about. I thought both talks were fabulous.

Even more fascinating was the debate (and reflection) following, as was people’s response to Tony Robbins, who many think of as nothing more than a giant voice with big wheet teeth on an informercial). Not anywhere close for those who have met Tony or studied his work directly.

Back to the Warren Dennett exchange……

Warren says to the audience, “Spiritual emptiness is a universal disease. There’s an inner desire in all of us to matter…..to God and to history. Why do I need to pretend? This is not a religious issue, its a human issue.”

He continues, “I think that everyone is betting on something. You’re not given money or fame for your own ego – it’s not about you.”

He points to the stewardship of leadership versus the stewardship of affluence. “You don’t ‘own’ what it is. You’re a steward of what it is.” I completely agree with this. Our behavior is what determines who we become in our lives. And with that in mind he adds, “You must choose your world view.”

Do we all know what our ‘real world view’ actually is? And live our lives that way on a regular basis? Great questions.

He talks about the ‘good life,’ – meaning the ultimate life that we all strive for. He now lives on 10% of what he earns (he says), and continues to re-emphasize tha the ‘good life’ is about giving your life away. “It comes from serving.”

He also references Psalm 72, where Solomon asks for fame and power, which sounds like an egotistical prayer…..until you read the whole thing. “The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who don’t have it.”

He refers to the question that God asks Moses, “What’s in your hand?” He looks at the audience and pauses but then with intent and conviction, he adds, “This may be the most important question you’ll ever get in your life.” Why? What’s in your hand, he claims, is the symbol of who you are, your identity, your career, your job. In Moses’ case, the stick was a symbol of his life as a shephard.

What we hold in our hands is often a symbol of our career, our income and our influence. (a golf club, a laptop, a hammer, a tool, a paint brush, a knife if you’re a chef, and so on)……

“What are you doing with what you have?” he asks the audience…….we’re all wired to do certain things that we love, we’re passionate about and that we’re good at. So he says, “take a look at your shape and what does it look like?

Up to this point, had he not mentioned God, I wonder what the ‘take home’ would have been? We’re so desgined to ‘accept’ language we’re comfortable hearing and understanding, but what about the areas in our life that we don’t know or understand? (Islam is a great example)

Dan Dennett thinks that religions are natural phenomenons and that they have become domesticated. He focused on the ‘design and re-design of religions over the centuries. “Today’s religions are brilliantly designed,” he says.

He thinks that we should add world religion to the education curriculum. I thought this was a brilliant idea…….we should be required to learn about various religions throughout the world from a ‘factual’ perspective, meaning their creeds, history, music, their art…….all presented without the spin. (Are people capable of presenting religion after religion without spin on a topic so emotional and so close to the core of what they ‘think’ they represent?)

Democracy is it not, based on informed consent? You don’t own your children; you’re a steward of your children. Here here. He’s right and its such a great idea. Yet he tells us of some of the responses he received from ‘this idea.’ One priest, he said, “called it totalitarian’ and another called it hilarious.
Hilarious? It’s what we need.

He added “Life is a thin coat of paint on this universe and we hold the paint brush.”

Dennett has an issue with the concept that ‘you need to believe in God to be good.’ Some people think of God as nothing more than the unconditional love that is buried inside all of us, so what if we substituted love with God? Do we get a different image? If so, what is it?

Tag: TED Tag: TED2006

Renee Blodgett
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Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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