Where Does Organized Religion Go Wrong

Organized Religion.jpeg

So I am definitely someone who is spiritual and tries to be faithful to G-d.


I believe, He is my creator and sustainer and that we are here to learn and grow our soul before it goes back to Hashem. 


Yet often, like so many others now-a-days, I find organized religion to be a turn-off. 


Why?


1) There is a consistency and sincerity problem.


To some people, I believe it’s partially the rote and robotic nature of some of the practices–where we just do it, because we are told to do it, and we do it over and over and time after time, again–even when we don’t feel it in the moment, and even if we do other things that are not so right in other areas of our lives.  


In contrast perhaps, there can be more spontaneous and genuine feelings and actions, in the moment and every moment–that come from the heart and the soul of the person and directly to G-d–and they are consistent whether we are in a religious setting to how we treat others and how we act in business. 


In other words, we just don’t follow the rules, but we live them fully and integrated with ourselves and all situations we find ourselves in. 


2)  There is a money and power problem.


In some religious environments, all people are not created equal or treated equal. Instead, the say, the attention, and the honor goes to the powerful and the rich, who are courted for their donations and their votes to the institution and the spiritual leader. Who gets talked up? Who is given the honors at the religious rituals, at the events and the dinners, and with their communal “peers”? 


In other cases, it’s not just money and power that talks, but who is outwardly the “most religious” and presumably walks the walk.  If you but “seem” more religious than the next guy, then you are elevated and exalted in the religious community.  


Instead, what happened to welcoming and caring for everyone–to everyone being children of G-d–to each person having a soul and their personal life challenges. Why can’t we treat everyone as religiously worthwhile and give everyone a chance to learn and grow in their own way from their starting point and to their destination?  


Religion should be the one place that isn’t a competition with others. 


Religion is ultimately between man and G-d!


And only G-d knows what is inside man’s heart and in his soul–and what his actions really are all the time and what they truly mean in context and in essence


I welcome G-d in my life, because I:


– Have faith in Him and that ultimately He has a master plan and that everything is for the good 

– Love Him for giving me the chance to learn and grow my soul to be better

– Fear Him for when I do something wrong in my life and need a course correction 


I wish for a time and transformation when religion would not just be based on outward manifestations but on being sincere and consistent in people’s lives, and where people would no longer be superficially judged and (mis)treated because they are themselves and on their G-d given paths. 


If only we could religiously love, rather than endlessly judge, each other, oh what a heartfelt and inspiring religion that would be. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Getting Your Message Out With Impact

Car Lease

There is an old Jewish parable about the body parts arguing which is most important. 


Each makes it’s case that without that part, we just couldn’t function. (No jokes here now!)


But in the end, the tongue that harnesses the power of speech demonstrates that it is most important, because it is through our words that we may live or die. 


– Say the right thing–something smart and influence the masses–and you can change or even save the world.


– Say the wrong thing–something stupid, inflammatory, and damaging–and it can literally mean your or someone else’s life.


From an early age, we come to recognize that communication is so important to our success. 


Hey, I need a bottle or diaper changed…please!


Or answer the (interview) questions well, and you can land yourself in the best schools and jobs and even with the best ladies. 🙂


Those that succeed with communication, can we make themselves and their positions heard, understood, and accepted.


What are some common communication strategies people employ?


Well as we’ve all learned, it’s not always the one who is the boldest, screams the loudest, or repeats themselves the most that wins the argument–although at times, that too can work when force of debate, undeterred passion, and a little crazy can hammer the points home. 


Having the best laid out and most rationale argument–some people will rightfully be influenced by logic and common sense. 


Sincerity, integrity, honesty, and appealing to people’s gut and emotions–this certainly goes a long way as many people are driven by their feelings as well as their instincts and genuine character assessment of others. 


Making people confront what scares the hell out of them–fear is a big motivator for action and everyone is afraid of something and usually many things. 


Oh, of course, the religious argument that “It’s what G-d wants” and there will be fire and brimstone if you don’t do it that way–well reward and punishment, heaven and hell, divine justice–that certainly will move masses. 


“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


For those who can effectively harness the power of their speech and intellect, the sky is the limit. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Synagogue Time

Time Change

So this is an interesting new phenomenon with synagogue. 


Usually, we like to go a little later so that basically we are there for about an hour and a half of services. 


That’s about my attention span and then I start to get claustrophobic and antsy. 


(BTW, some friends that go to Church told me that they have the same experience.)


But the last two weeks something changed…(no, not me). 


Last week in Maryland, we went to synagogue and the people were standing in front with the Ark open and I thought wow they are way ahead and are finished with Torah reading and are putting the Torahs away already. 


But after a moment, I realized they were only just taking out the Torahs for the weekly reading, and we were actually earlier than usual. 


When I inquired in synagogue why they were behind schedule, I learned that to get people there for more of the services, they had decided to start later. 


Ah, it’s a trick!


This week in Florida, I went to the Chabad shule and we were running late (hey, it’s vacation) about 10:45 and thought shule would almost be over, but they were just in the morning prayers still, and there wasn’t even a minyan yet.  


Two places, two synagogues, two weeks and they are changing the start times…


Seems smart from their perspective to try and get people there and for more of the services, but for the people who just want to come for a certain amount or parts of the service, isn’t this just going to cause people to come even later in an endless cat and mouse game. 


Start later, come later, start later, come later…


I’m no Rabbi, but how about a serious focused service–ONE solid hour (plus)–full of REAL kavanah (concentration), meaning, and sincerity, and everyone comes on time?


Start on time, come on time–really pray (no talking please)!


And still plenty of time for socializing and bonding after services at the yummy Kiddish. 


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Brian Smithson)

Death To PowerPoint

Death By PowerPoint

Ok, we’ve all heard of “Death by PowerPoint” (well, I’m advocating death to PowerPoint). 


It’s the unfortunate occurrence that happens when a speaker presents a wad too many slides (OMG, some people seem to go on and on forever –get them off that podium)!


Or when they present too much information, too little information, or just don’t know what or how to present at all. 


Their (slide) presentations leave the audience basically wanting to just kill themselves, if not the inconsiderate S.O.B. speaker.


But aside from lousy speakers, you have a crappy presentation mechanism, which is PowerPoint slides.


Hello out there, tell the truth…


Can any of you remember much of a darn thing that anyone has ever conveyed to you by PowerPoint?


Think of webinars, conferences, and meetings galore with slide after slide of 2-dimensional boredom.


Is your head hurting you yet or are you just glad you can’t remember any of it–natural selection of memory saves you the pain…why thank you.


Then consider what someone has told you in great thoughtfulness, confidence, or with genuine passion, caring and sincerity.


– Perhaps, the wisdom of a parent or teacher who took you aside to tell you a life’s lesson.


– Or a Rabbi or Priest who shared with you something spiritual and uplifting to guide you on your path.


– How about someone in the office who was passionate about an idea or project and who motivated you as well.


Most of the communication between people that really means something never makes it to a PowerPoint slide.


Imagine for a moment, if something meaningful was conveyed to you by slide presentation–you would think, how ridiculous it is to use PowerPoint for that?


– I love you–will you marry me?


– We’re having a baby, how wonderful. 


– Just got that promotion, yes!


– So and so is sick or just passed away, how terrible. 


PowerPoint just doesn’t happen here in real life–thank G-d!


And no matter how much organizations such as TED would like to make a (show)business out of presentations using PowerPoint…(ah, nope).


Real communication happens when one person talks from the heart to another person who receives it in their heart. 


The greatest orators in history…never used a slide presentation.


Other presentation products like Prezi tried to take slides to the next level with a storytelling format using a virtual canvas, but that didn’t pan out to well either…see many Prezis lately (and without getting dizzy)?


PowerPoint slides, and the like, are for distraction…now I don’t have to pay that much attention to the rambling, numbnut speaker anymore.


The bottom line…we don’t listen with our eyes!


Rather, we hear words of wisdom and see when someone is genuine, sincere and worth listening to.


The rest is PowerPoint… 😉

G-d, Thinking Of You

Praise G-d
I saw this on the side of a car and liked it–simple and to the point:



“Praise G-d”



My father used to tell me that “There are no atheists in a foxhole”–basically every one shits their pants when that tank rolls overhead.



There is a tendency to turn to G-d when we feel we need him–when times are bad–but then sort of forget about him when things are okay again, and we feel like we have it all under control.



Even when things are bleak, it can be easy to lose faith in anger and despair. 



So challenge #1 is to remember him in good times and bad–we are in his hands, always. 



In terms of how we praise G-d?



Some do it in prayer, others in deed.



That leads to challenge #2–to speak and act with consistency and sincerity. 😉 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Be, Be Yourself

Be, Be Yourself

I thought this was a cute sign in the elevator at Safeway.

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Why they put this up in a supermarket, I don’t really know.

Anyway, gotta hate phonies, kiss-ups, and B.S. artists–in the store or out.

My wife’s grandfather used to say, “What comes from the heart, goes to the heart”–I really like that!

An ounce of sincerity is worth more than a ton of faking it–even if you’re a good fake. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Lessons Learned From My Family By Rebecca Blumenthal

This is a moving interview with Rebecca Blumenthal.

She came to me this afternoon, spontaneously, to tell me some meaningful lessons she had gathered from some of the special members of her family.

Immediately after I heard a few of the things she had to say, I asked her if she would mind me capturing these beautiful sentiments on this short video.

I was very moved by her sincerity and thoughtfulness, and it gave me pause in my own life to appreciate these things anew from the people who have been so important in my life as well.

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)