Is God dead or simply passé? In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn draws on his ample life experience to answer these frequently pondered questions in his usual down-to-earth way.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, entrepreneur and writer, happy to be back for another addition of The Tough Things First Podcast. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob. How you doing buddy?
Rob Artigo: I’m doing great. Congratulations of completing the new book Zen of Zinn.
Ray Zinn: Well thank you.
Rob Artigo: I know how hard it can be. I mean I completed a book myself, it’s going to be published. In a few months it’ll go to the print. So that’ll be really cool to have that happen. But I know how hard it is to do that. Getting through your second book must have been quite the adventure.
Ray Zinn: To say the least.
Rob Artigo: It’s no secret that you’ve had enormous success in the business world. Obviously you’ve had success in the book world, the publishing world. You were the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, the inventor of The Wafer Stepper, and that’s just two things, actually three if you consider the book. But it’s also no secret that you attribute some of that success to being an eagle scout and your lifelong faith in God. So would you agree with that?
Ray Zinn: I would. Now of course, I never made eagle scout myself, because they didn’t have the program in the area where I grew up.
Rob Artigo: Oh.
Ray Zinn: But I’m very familiar with the scouting program because I served as a commissioner on the local county scouting level, so I’m a trained scouter as they call us.
Rob Artigo: Okay.
Ray Zinn: Both my boys are eagle scouts.
Rob Artigo: I stand corrected. But I knew that you were involved with the scouting program and I guess I made an assumption based on previous conversations ’cause you’re so familiar with how that works. But certainly your faith in God has been a big deal in your success, right?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely, no question.
Rob Artigo: I’m starting to see regular media attention for stories that suggest millennials and other people are fleeing organized religions, or faith structures that they were raised with. Some of those reports have pointed to polls and general sentiment. So Ray, you may have heard of this popular movie, God’s Not Dead. But I want to ask you the question, do you think God’s dead?
Ray Zinn: Obviously not. No, in fact the recent studies that have been done over the past few years have shown that people who have a religious bet, as they say, are far more honest, or as a magnitude more honest than those who don’t have a religious background.
So it’s a shame in a way, that for whatever reason honesty seems to be a religious thing. Meaning that people who are religious tend to be more honest than those who do not have a religious affiliation. That’s a crying shame.
Rob Artigo: What do you attribute this perception that people are turning away from maybe the faith in God of their youth as they get older?
Ray Zinn: Well, I think it has to do with the lack of attention to moral standards. It seems that society has less interest in being moral. So if you don’t have a moral upbringing and if morality is not a strong attitude in your life, then of course you don’t want to go to church because you’ll feel guilty.
So not going to church, or not having a religious affiliation allows you to get away with your attitude of, “Well I really don’t need to be moral or honest because it’s not required by my faith, because I have no faith.” As they say. So it’s just unfortunate that it’s the whole morality aspect of life seems to be taking a back seat in the last several years.
Rob Artigo: I also think, and you tell me if you think I’m right or wrong here. But also in the social construct, what I’ve seen is a dynamic where people with stronger faith have a tendency to keep that to themselves because there is a, I think, unfair stigma.
Whereas, if you’re a Christian for example, and people say you have a strong moral foundation in your religion, but also in your family life and that sort of thing, they may feel an indictment of their behavior, just because you’re around them and don’t necessarily believe what they’re doing is right. Even though you may not be telling them, it may not be a big thing where you’re trying to tell somebody, “Hey, what you do is not in line with my faith, or my religion.” [inaudible 00:05:34]
Ray Zinn: What we’re doing is we’re getting onto another subject which is called freedom of speech.
Rob Artigo: Yeah.
Ray Zinn: So for whatever reason, we believe in the freedom of speech. We say we do, but yet we don’t allow people to believe what or where, what they may. We tend to hold people at hostage, if you would, if they disagree with them. That’s been in the news media quite a bit lately that what happened to freedom of speech. So you’re changing subject a little bit, you’re getting off is God dead to, are we able to express our opinions openly?
Rob Artigo: Yeah, I think that the idea of is God dead is, it’s kind of a rhetorical question, in a sense that if you believe in God, as I do, and I believe you do, is that God’s omnipresent, he’s always there. And therefore, it’s a human question to say, “Is God dead?” In other words, is God dead among people and in conversations?
And I think that the freedom of speech question is, is the subject of God dead? So there is, I think, a unity there between the question, is God dead, and freedom of speech. Because we’re saying, is God dead in the social construct? Can we have conversations about God without having somebody say, “Well because you believe in God then you must hate me for some reason.”
I don’t believe that that’s the case, and it has to be part of the conversation. But I see people getting uptight and upset just because there’s this idea that, “Oh, there’s a Christian in the room.” Like there’s a problem there. I don’t understand that.
Ray Zinn: Well, we’re back to the situation where people don’t want to feel guilty. So the way they can overcome that guilt complex is by disagreeing, or basically saying, “Well you’re wrong.” They don’t want to acknowledge at all that you could be right or correct. This goes into the freedom of speech issue.
So if you disagree with them, and that’s been the hard ringer lately, they actually will be violent. They’ll actually almost become physical because they don’t want you to disagree with them because then they’re going to be, “Oh, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m guilty.” They don’t want to feel that guilt. It’s a sad commentary on society today that people don’t want to feel this guilt.
And as I mentioned earlier, this telling the truth thing is a real issue. Honesty has become a serious problem in our society. That’s the reason why they’d rather not believe God is alive because they don’t want to feel guilty. They don’t want to have to repent, as they say.
Rob Artigo: Yeah, and I think the bottom line is that there are some people out there who even though they can’t wish God away, they would really prefer if God was dead, in the public square. In other words, it should be, “Anything you do behind closed doors, that’s your thing, you do that in church, but don’t bring God into the public square.”
Ray Zinn: Well we have societies that the communist society actually is atheistic, so they don’t believe in God. We know what happens to societies that have a godless view. They’re not as prosperous. I believe that their religion plays a very important part in the progressiveness of a society. I think if we move away from that, we’ll be less progressive, we’ll be less advanced, and this is a serious problem, I think that we will face.
Rob Artigo: I would venture to say that throughout history there are plenty of examples where societal horrors were ended because of the population’s shift towards faith in God, where they said, “God is … And of course the founding of this country is an example. Where they said, “No, your inalienable rights were derived from God. It’s not from man. The government didn’t give you those rights. These are your basic rights, your basic human rights that were derived from God.”
When you insert that into some things, and I would say slavery for example, is that when you see these horrors occurring, you start to … If you develop a faith in God, you begin to realize, this is bad, and you’re willing to, based on your faith, take action to end it. Throughout history there have been horrors that have been ended by populations that have shifted Christian, for example.
Ray Zinn: And, we’re seeing, I think, a turn in our country, back toward that, toward God and faith. I think that’s a big concern to some of the people who are seeing that as a danger, as actually a threat to their political environment.
So well anyway, I hope anyway that they turn back toward God is on its way, as you would, and that we will then have that protection, I believe, that we get through God by being a God-fearing people. On the coins that we have in our society is, “In God we trust.” So we need to get back to that point where we say, In God we trust.”
Rob Artigo: I hear you saying that you would see that as a good thing, and I certainly would agree with that if that shift does occur. In some places in this country, there are states and even communities that will, the leadership will espouse some sense of openness, and I’ll use the word progressive, and “I’m okay, you’re okay, what you do is okay with me, as long as it doesn’t interfere with me.” But then you drop in the subject of, “Can I be a Christian and have my strong Christian beliefs in this environment?” And you would find a place that is not friendly to your perspective and your point of view.
Ray Zinn: Well we have to make sure that we are tolerant, whether we are God-fearing or not. We have to be tolerant of other people. And it’s that intolerance, that I think causes these conflicts, especially in politics. We keep dragging these moral things into our conversations and if we are tend to be a moral person then we get angry if a person who is not as moral goes the other way and doesn’t feel the moral obligation to do, like for example, abortion, pro-life or pro-choice.
Rob Artigo: Yeah.
Ray Zinn: Or marijuana, or no marijuana. In any society there has to be tolerance. So whether you want to believe in God or not believe in God, we need to be tolerant of each other.
Rob Artigo: Great Ray, I appreciate it. So if you like what you hear, well you can make sure you subscribe to Ray’s podcast, Tough Things First, at toughthingsfirst.com and everywhere podcasts are available. Get the book Tough Things First, as well as Ray’s new book, The Zen of Zinn. If you haven’t already done that you might as well, because it’s that good. Thanks a lot Ray, I appreciate it.
Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob.