Friday, January 28, 2011

Listening to Computers...

One of the first space shows from my childhood was "Lost in Space" which was full of interesting "American style" characters stranded on another planet and learning to get along and survive together. My favorite character was "Mr Robot" who went everywhere with the "kids" and was there to try and protect or prevent them from getting into trouble.  He was always the first one to spot or sense problems...and one of his most frequently used lines in the series was "danger danger Will Robinson" when the robot would warn his boy companion of some imminent danger. Mr Robot's next most famous line in the show was whenever "Dr. Smith" or someone else came up with a harebrained plan that was dangerous or irrational, Mr Robot would always say "that does not compute".  I think today's leaders should all have such a robot next to them at all times listening to what they say or think.

I have come to the point where I think computers hold most of the answers...and tools...we humans need for survival. Computers tied to the internet (which is just a huge chain of computers after all) can
bring all the information we need to make cognitive decisions in this life. They even include calculators so we can check the math of our financial decisions or check the math of others.

Another beautiful thing about computers is they simply reflect what we program them to do or say. They are the ultimate tool of "cause and effect". Garbage in, garbage out. That goes for programming languages...and input data. Isn't that really the way the "ultimate computer" works...the human brain?

The advantage of computers is they can "think" without the conflicts or interference of "emotions". That is something next to impossible for we humans. We are guided more by emotion than reason and intellect. Our desires get in the way of our "reality vision".  We WANT to think everything is all right in "our world" we ignore the data or experiences that could contradict our preconceptions.

I also think computers can "act" in very human ways. If you try to rush them while they are "processing" data...they can get confused and even break down or turn off unexpectedly.  If you beat on them out of anger or frustration, they may actually totally breakdown and be useless to you. And every once in a while, especially the older ones, if you overwork them or leave them on too long...they overheat and shut down.

While new computers tend to be fast and sleek...they still aren't worth much until you load them with programs and information.  Its always hard for me to switch from my old computer to a new one because it takes me so long to program the new one to do what the old one does. With the old one, I know all the shortcuts and where the hidden files are. On a new computer there tends to be a significant learning curve before it is my "true companion".

So as you can see...humans and computers have a lot in common...and a lot of "co dependency".  Its all in how we use them that will make us more effective...and objective...human beings.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Democracy is not about "Majority Rule"

From a lot of things I am seeing on blogs and written in Facebook and emails these days...I think a lot of people in the world have the wrong idea about the meaning of "Democracy" and "freedom".

A number of writings and even media blatherings lately have  included the idea that Democracy is about the majority of a country's inhabitants and that since a majority of America's founders (apart from the American Indians) were of "Christian" persuasion...that makes our county a "Christian" nation.

While obviously politics OR religion are in themselves a volatile, emotional subject...combining the two in my experience mostly causes reason and objectivity to fly out the window since emotions and traditions take so much control in mass consciousness.

I'm sure if you have read many of my blogs, you understand by now that intellectually I fall heavily on the side of individual freedom and sovereignty over one's life. I am a strong "Constitutionalist" and while not a political party member, I probably most fit in with the "Libertarian" political platform. Coming from those perspectives, it should come as no surprise that I strongly believe in separation of Church and State...which means that all legal religions should be protected by the "State", but that no religion should be taught, practiced or enforced by the "State".

Even from a theological standpoint, the idea of "Christian" and "nation" makes no sense at all. Religion is of personal and private pursuit and devotion. States should always stand up for the individual's right to believe as they wish as long as they are not trampling on any other person's rights...even if 99% of a "nation" believes otherwise. My understanding of Christianity and Christ' message was that faith was a matter of personal conscience and response to a message or personage. I think it is poor theology to think Jesus was about "nation building".

For those of you who disagree...I would just challenge you to think about this in reverse. If you chose or needed to live in a country that was majority Muslim, wouldn't you want the peace of mind that your personal choice or background was protected by law and that you would not be harassed socially or otherwise until you "converted"? This is what true democracy in a republic is all about. Even if the majority don't agree with me, I have the right to believe, act on that belief, and speak openly about my beliefs if I chose.  This should be the freedom for all on a global basis...and I challenge my American family and friends who are Christian to consider this and show respect for "otherness".  I think Jesus did...

Monday, January 24, 2011

End of the World

In these days of calamity and upheaval, many apocalyptics I know seem to think we are once again seeing at least the beginning of the "end of the world".  For the general pessimist, it might seem easily logical and almost desirable that we see an end to a world full of so much corruption, inherent evil and hard times.

Last night I had interesting dreams about the "end of the world".  Yet the dream didn't focused on carnage or chaos, but on a "new beginning". Suddenly everything was changing around us very quickly. Water was covering earth where water never was. Populations were quickly having to shift and change based on quick changes in the natural environment. In my dream we were having big round table discussions about how to adapt and even profit from these sudden changes.

As I woke fresh from my dream, I thought of a few lessons or even interpretations that might be helpful for living today.

I thought MAYBE mankind can make some positive things happen out of climate change. Sure, some places are getting more rain than ever before (like Panama) while others are getting less.  Some people are getting flooded out more often from their river basin dwellings. Yet, perhaps we just need to learn to "build our house on a rock or the mountain top instead of on the sandy river bed. Or, if we insist on living "under water" such as in New Orleans and the Netherlands, we just have to make sure we build to accommodate that decision.

I also thought about the revolution(s) going on in Tunisia and elsewhere against oppressing, dictatorial governments. While this may seem the end of the world for some, I choose to think this could be the beginning for true and new democracies the world over. The information age is there for all...and while a number of governments, even the USA, are attempting to limit access to "the people"...I don't think they can win that game for long. This could be the end of the world...for those dictators and tyrants who would control the world at our expense.

The debt of nations and its inhabitants, especially of "consumer nations" like the USA, are mounting up to ridiculously high numbers from which there may be no return. This could be the "end of the world" for many large banks, corporations and even States who are for all intents and purposes bankrupt. Yet, there is a lot of good that can come from this devastation.  MAYBE prices can be adjusted to true market values. MAYBE disinflation is a good thing. Even social entitlement programs like Social Security and other social funds are going broke and the numbers for future needs do not add up. Maybe its time to declare an end to unsustainable programs and restructure to manage everyone's true expectations of what can be planned on for future decades.

Even at the "end of the world", mathematics...which I believe to be one of the fundamental elements of the "Creator"...might have a second chance at establishing a new World order. Not the evil one most apocalyptics envision...but one that truly adds up to basic laws of nature and mathematics. If that can be accomplished, I welcome the end...and a new beginning.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Normalcy Bias and the Economy

There is a long video released by the "Sovereign Society" that should be viewed by any objective, responsible American citizen. If it is important to you to keep your liberty, peace and "pursuit of happiness", it is vital that you see and understand THIS VIDEO regarding the US economy and especially our currency.

Numbers don't lie...governments and medias do. Our country is facing its most serious threat to its very subsistence in the history of our republic. Those who refuse to see it will just be its victims. This is not "fun" news or a pleasurable topic to blog about...but after 20 years of belief that this will "some day" happen...I fear that "D-day" is soon upon us and we have little time to prepare or adjust for it. This is not just about the USA, but any country dependent on US PANAMA.

The video itself is long and "boring" most economic discussions to the average American bystander. For those of you who refuse to take the time for the presentation, let me give you my 2 minute summary...

The only thing that has saved America from economic ruin this past decade has been the power of the American dollar as the defacto "world currency". Up until recently, the whole world has pegged their economic and currency system rates to the dollar. Based on that, our government is the only one that can simply "print more money" to cover up our debts and meet some of our obligations...saving us from hyperinflation. Meanwhile we hypocritically look down our collective noses at failed states such as Greece, Iceland, Ireland and others who are in huge default over their collective debts.  The core summary of the video is...those days are SOON coming to an end.

Many world governments and businesses are starting to move quickly into other currencies besides the dollar. China holds the most of our US treasuries and obligations that are supposed to support the value of our currency. When they pull the plug on accepting dollars as payment, things will go downhill quickly. The only reasons they haven't done so already is that we are still BUYING a majority of what China is producing...and we help keep China's currency at a deflated value which helps them sell more to US and the rest of the world at a cheaper price. If currencies are allowed to adjust for true values, almost overnight there will be no one who can afford what the Chinese are producing.  Is it any wonder that many knowledgeable and big money investors have moved into Gold and other commodities which have pushed those values up tremendously over the past 5-10 years?

I fully realize this is "unpleasant" to consider...and don't shoot me...I'm just passing on what more knowledgeable "prophets" are saying and that I unfortunately agree with. To survive, we must plug into global investments and diversify into multiple currencies...because the day is very likely coming when your credit cards and even ATM cards will be shut down and many of us will be left with no access to our assets or ability to buy anything with common currency.

Most of us won't do anything about this because of "normalcy bias". This is when a majority of people just cannot believe that a catastrophe that has never happened before will happen. Therefore, they don't prepare, plan or take action against the possibility. It is this bias that caused only a minority of 100,000 Jews to escape from Nazi Germany in the late 30s before it became too late for the 450,000 others still "hoping" Hitler was just an anomaly or "temporary problem". It is this bias that kept a majority of people in New Orleans from fleeing the oncoming "Katrina" which took out over 2000 lives. The choices we make determine whether we will be victims, survivors or beneficiaries of doom and destruction.

I truly want to write the blog that is "rosy", positive and telling everyone that "everything is going to be alright...just believe, have faith and continue waving that flag"...but, I cannot do that in good conscience...especially to many of you who are the closest and dearest people in my life.

I prefer to suggest that we all encourage each other to take actions against an insecure and dangerous future. Convert as much cash and other assets as you can into commodities and multiple currencies.  Get some of your portfolio outside of the USA WHILE YOU STILL CAN. This is not about patriotism...this is about survival, personal responsibility and even morality. Globalization is IRREVERSIBLE.  Pay off your debts if you can, but not to the detriment of your "survival cash" and investments. When the crisis hits, it will not be about how much debt you one will be paying. It will be about what cash and possessions you can protect from seizure and outright revolution and anarchy.

Still don't believe this could happen? Well, that is your choice...but there will be no one (including government) to come to your rescue when this happens and you will not be able to say you "had no idea".

In addition, politically we must demand our government to focus on getting our economy...and currency...supported. The only way I think we can do that is 1) pull back on all foreign expenditures, including the ineffective wars we are funding on many fronts, 2) rev up the domestic engines of productivity and self production of oil and other core products we depend on for survival and industrialization instead of giving our last "gold" to the Arabs and Asian economies of the world, and 3) STOP DEFICIT SPENDING BY ALL GOVERNMENTS...FEDERAL, STATE AND MUNICIPAL.

So there, I end this difficult blog with macro constructive suggestions on how to avert this coming catastrophe. Not that it will happen...because the Federal printing presses continue rolling out those bundles of C-notes every day...and sends most of them out to the foreigners we buy from or who hold our debts...with just enough funneled to the masses of Americans to keep them placated...for now.

God help us...truly!

PS, I just noticed Sam wrote on this subject as well on his Panama Blog...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lessons in leadership and success

The BCS college championship bowlgame between the Oregon Ducks and Auburn Tigers was a classic battle between two very different teams. As the ebb and tide flowed back and forth for 60 minutes of play, I found myself observing the two coaches and making many mental notes on leadership from observations of this exciting game which came down to a last second field goal that gave this years championship to Auburn.

Life lessons to be gained from some of these observations:

Plan ahead but be ready to make adjustments...

Oregon and Auburn had very different strengths and weaknesses. Auburn had size and a very strong defense...especially their defensive line. Both defenses were strong...and the game was unexpectedly low scoring. Both teams obviously knew where each other was most vulnerable having had more time than usual to prepare for this battle between two much heralded teams. The first quarter was amazingly scoreless with both teams averaging 42 and 49 points per game throughout the season. Yet, by planning...and probably with cases of nerves...the first quarter saw each teams offense abnormally scoreless.

In the second quarter, with Oregon not being able to run against Auburn, they started passing more and doing their hurry up offense and a number of  "trick plays". They ended up leading until near the end of the first half when Auburn scored a touchdown. After the first half, the Duck's trick plays were stifled and it seemed obvious to me that Auburn had made solid adjustments at halftime and effectively put out the fire of Oregons offense...which is to me what won the game. They stopped two touchdown drives in the red zone that should have been duck touchdowns.

It's good to have a game plan...but most games are won in the second half...after adjustments. Life is a lot like that.

If you get hurt, suck it up and stay in the game...

There were many injuries during this hard hitting game...and in most cases the players came back into the game later on. Both quarterbacks were limping here and there during the game...but I think both played every offensive play for their side.

Obviously adrenaline and the hugeness of a championship game helps overcome pain and adversity...but overall I think it takes heart and "mind over matter" to overcome pain and injury. The same applies to most of us in everyday life. Whether at work or within our relationships...we often times get our feelings "hurt" or things don't go as smoothly as we had hoped. The key to success in our careers , business or relationships is often tied to our ability to overlook pain and "injury" to focus on our goals and objectives instead. We can't control other people easily, but we have a better chance at controlling ourselves and our reactions to life's adversities. Don't give up easily to pain or disappointment. Stay focused on your objective instead.

Control your emotions, don't let them control you...

A game like this gets very emotional easily. The stakes and expectations are huge...each player of himself and  the masses of spectators who are observing every play and decision. I very rarely saw emotion expressed by either coach. They both seemed TOTALLY focused on what they had just observed and what they had to do next. The play calling on each side was very creative I thought, and even the players seemed to reflect the determination, focus and lack of emotion on the part of their coaches.

I think the biggest hurdle for many of us in life is controlling our emotions. Many of us never express emotions that still under the surface control our actions and our destinies. Many of us struggle with emotional "fear"...fear of rejection, fear of risk and failure, fear of being in the limelight and therefore wilting into the backdrop of life. These fears may not be evident to others...but I think is the significant reason many of us are super UNDER achievers to our true potential.

We often times are our own worst enemies by letting our emotional reactions to things we cannot control get the best of us. I for one am guilty of letting certain things in my past fester or remain within my psyche without fully addressing and filing them away for good. I have allowed people who let me down or circumstances that caused pain and failure that were out of my control to keep me in check over long periods of time or to fear opening up to new people or ideas.  I now try to own my emotions more quickly...whether anger, joy or sadness...and move on more quickly rather than linger too long over emotions from past experiences. I strive now to live in the present and future...though not always successfully.  Without conscious effort it will never happen though.

Its never over til its over...

There were various times in the second half when I thought Auburn was going to start rolling all over Oregon. The stats were heavily favoring Auburn and Oregon was scoreless in the 2nd half until they tied up the game with 2:31 left with a TD and 2 pt conversion.  Auburn should have had two touchdowns in the second half that instead were a series of catch-able dropped passes. Basically Oregon's defense kept them in the game while their offense sputtered. Even on the final drive by Auburn and the relatively short field goal that won the game, I observed the Oregon coach without emotion and looking expectantly for a miss and continuation of the game.

I believe in being optimistic. There is no other way to play the game of life. The only way we can impact fate is to have a will, tied to action, that can bring about change. When we are down, we have to redouble our efforts and emotions in a positive direction to get back to where WE want to be. Even when the odds are hugely stacked against us, the only way to react is putting in even more effort and resolve than we thought we ever had. It is never too late to turn things around in life...but if we think and feel defeated...we will probably live up to our own expectations.

Winning is all about the "grind"...

The key to Auburn's win statistically was in the "rushing yards" category. Auburn had 279 Net rushing yards to Oregon's 75...and Oregon had averaged over 286 per game during the season. Auburn's rushing edge also kept their offense on the field and kept the offensive strength of Oregon off the field of play.  This is the unheralded part of team football...where those hefty linemen battle it out every play blocking and tackling. These players don't often make the highlight reels on TV sports...but this is where most games are won or lost.

I belief life is much the same way. It is a marvelous experience to hear a virtuoso musician perform or observe an artist's masterpiece. It is fabulous to observe or experience success in business, reach marketing goals or have a high flying investment portfolio. Yet, very few people "win the lottery".  Most riches or accomplishments come with great discipline and sacrifice. Most great musicians spend hours per day playing scales and arpeggios and repetitive practicing...not very glamorous. For every great work, an artist probably throws out a hundred sketches or dissatisfying ideas. Making marketing goals or correct investments usually entails the "numbers game" of contacting prospects...or looking at hundreds of industry statistics before deciding what company or industry to invest in.

Success can be glamorous...but the road to get there usually isn't.

Win or lose, hold your head high if you gave it your best...

At the end of the game, I was happy to observe the Oregon coach...and most of his players...with their heads still held high and congratulating their opponents on their win. Each key player had made some spectacular plays and kept alive their chances of winning until the final seconds even against the stats and an arguably stronger opponent. I had the sense they had given it their all and were proud of their accomplishments even at #2 in the country.

While false pride or haughtiness is never attractive in a person...I think it is important to maintain a certain level of self pride. Without a certain amount of produces very little. The thrill of victory or the agony of defeat can often be based on one bounce of a ball or a fractional adjustment in any action or direction in life. If we haven't attempted our goals and dreams, then yes, we should hang our heads in shame and will probably live out our lives in regret and quiet desperation. But if we have pursued our dreams and passions with every ounce of our ability and energy...when the game is over we should be able to hold our heads high knowing we have given our all, even if we aren't perfect.

With full tilt, passionate "living", there are never losers. Just winners with varying degrees of joy and fulfillment.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On being "anti-Capitalist"

I wrote the following in response to this "anti-Capitalist" opinion piece in the "Panama News" today…thought it might be of interest to some of you. (The article in Spanish for those of you who want to read or translate in google... 

Dear Editor,
Just a few reactions to the opinions you published of Esther Vivas being interviewed by Enric Llopis regarding “Solo podemos salir desde una perspective anticapitalista” (“We can only go from a Anti-Capitalist perspective”). While Spanish is my second language, I think I understood very clearly Ms Vivas’ views in Spanish, but will respond in English.

Many of the “causes and effects” of our global economic meltdown are rightly attributed by Ms Vivas to the disenfranchisement of the masses or “clases populares” by their governments and the financial machinations behind those governments.  Yet, I am still trying to connect the dots…after more than two decades of trying to do so philosophically…between the disparities of economic growth between rich and poor, and the philosophy of “capitalism” as the “evil philosophy” behind those disparities.  She uses England, France and Spain as her main examples of how corrupt “Capitalism” is. Last I knew those “states” were primarily based on liberal socialism…not capitalism…and they are basically “going broke” on that model.

Capitalism is defined as “an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.”  It is my observation that our modern world has not operated on pure capitalism in my lifetime (over five decades) and instead we continue to globally go down the path of government controlled markets and governments siphoning off more and more of most nation’s GDP. That along with the decline of morality overall in the world where there are no longer handshakes with any meaning and contracts between states and corporations that are reams long have little significance or reliability.  Private individuals or corporations are more disenfranchised in the world’s financial order every day as liberal and bureaucratic statism continues to dominate all productivity and changes the order of “things” each election cycle.  This has nothing to do with “capitalism” and in fact is more about defeating free markets and distribution…to the detriment of the masses, workers and even the environmentalists who like to blame “capitalism” and “profit” for their every ill.

As Esther Vivas so poignantly points out, “…explain why one in six people in the world are hungry, when there is more food today than ever.” Where the dots don’t connect for me is how “capitalism” is to blame for this. I would argue that it is core capitalistic pursuits and theory that have pushed farmers and producers the world over to create more food to feed the masses.  The limits to distribution, which is more or less the main issue of world hunger, is primarily controlled by the manipulating and dictatorial governments…mostly of leftist mentality…who put up the trade barriers, high tariffs and rake the best product off the top for their own use and enrichment.  This is NOT about capitalism.

The main problem with the socialist agenda is that they are not “real” about the money it takes to carry out their programs…and their morality is fundamentally flawed as to how they want their programs paid for.  We need more morality in government, not less capitalism, to solve the world’s economic and hunger problems.  The demand is obviously there…and there is plenty of supply. We just have to look at all the layers in the middle who are in the way of productivity and distribution of wealth. That distribution needs to be built more on the model of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman than on Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro…or Karl Marx for that matter. Please don’t equate Capitalism with Imperialism.  If markets versus statist governments had been allowed to perform more freely post World War II, the world would today have a more even platform of exchange in world goods and profits.

My final point is for the near future…the great common denominator of opportunity in our globalized economies will not be so much based on access to “cash”, but based on access to “information”. Thankfully, it is the capitalist motivation behind new information technologies that are bringing financial distribution to the world’s emerging markets…bypassing the imposed limits of government bureaucracies and corporate industrial complexes.  Being “anti capitalist” will do nothing to improve the current world economic situation.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Having it both ways

Along with the joys of seeing family and friends during the holidays that you don't see often during the year comes the common discussions or even debates over the latest happenings, politics and even religion. My holiday was full of great family interactivity...and yes, some healthy debates that I will reflect on during this writing. As always, I readily admit this space represents MY views and outlook on things as well as reactions to other ideas though I try to always keep it "impersonal" and rational. Some of you interact with me privately from this blog while others are welcome to post their views or reactions. Your choice and welcomed from my end...

In debate there are obviously two sides to most any issue...and sometimes those "sides" overlap to some middle ground where we still have much in common. I continue to believe most of humanity...whether it be from religious or political viewpoints...agrees on 80+% of life's fundamentals. We build whole new religions and political parties off the 20% difference versus staying in relationship and continually discussing our differences. I would suggest that continuing to discuss and sort out our differences would be a healthier model than the normal human reaction seems to breed.

The other apparent reality of society is that instead of pursuing rational truths and views...many just go with the flow of the masses and don't question many fundamentals that SHOULD be questioned. It's just easier to stay in the "la la land" of "peace and tranquility" where we let others decide for or lead us so we don't have to make hard decisions or deal with "reality". Many of us continually fill our days with entertaining pursuits, sports, or just keeping "busy" without consciously deciding our daily priorities. For many of us, we are completely absorbed by our jobs/careers and focus on "survival" as we see it. We don't feel we have time or energy to do our own research or heavy lifting mentally on the big issues of the day. Some are content that their political or religious leaders are on top of things on their behalf...and the issues are just "beyond them".

I would suggest that the mass subjugation of the mind through blind trust in the media and philosophical passivity are making us mass slaves to the "powers that be". We Americans grew up in a country founded on individual liberties and "justice for all", yet we now see these core fundamentals flying out the window replaced by complacency and trivial, shallow thinking. We SAY we believe in freedom and independence, yet we continue to support institutions that beat down those values to be replaced with "conformity" and various forms of "socialism".  In my opinion, YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. You are either free and independent and taking personal responsibility for your world...or you are subjugated and dependent on the systems you participate in and "go with the flow".

It is obviously much easier to "go with the flow".  It is no fun to be a minority or to feel alone whether it be physically or intellectually. Yet our history of humanity, both contemporary and ancient, has been spotted with individuals who stood up to the "multitudes" and called a spade a spade. We all grew up being taught to idolize George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere, Jesus and/or Gandhi...yet we seem reluctant to emulate the actions and characteristics of these famous people who primarily became "famous" because they stood up for truth and justice usually against great odds of contemporary criticism.  I recently read part of a book that depicted what became of the founding fathers of the USA constitution. A majority of them were financially devastated and limited their whole lives as the price they paid for standing up to tyranny and the "powers that were".

I heard many rationalizations these past weeks from people close to me that were alarming. Many educated and normally sound minded people in my circles seem to want more big government to solve our world's perceived crisis's. Many of us want MORE laws and stricter enforcement and punishments for legislating morality.  Some of us want an America based on Christian "laws" or "values" while others want "jihad" to instill the laws of Islam. Some of us want to liberalize consumer laws to include recreational or medical use of Marijuana and other substances that alter consciousness.  Others of us want those people interned in prison somewhere.  Some of us want open free markets and ability to invest anywhere in the world without governmental interference and unjustified taxation.  Others want the government to control what we do with our money, where we send it or even legislate what rates of interest I can privately agree to pay or receive for a loan. Many want the "government" to guarantee our success or cover up our failures.  Some of us want to spend freely and yet have the government guarantee we have a pension or social security stream when we are ill or too old to work any longer.

I'm sorry folks...but we just can't have it both ways. We either need to grab on to the freedom and challenge to work, save and invest for our own futures and prosperity...or we can go along with government handouts and socialization of our lives based on higher taxation. We can either teach our children with time and example  how to live and love successfully...or we can turn them over to the media and public "education" so society can cover them and dictate to them how they should then live.

My core difference with many is that values and reason are not part of some religion or other institution.  Values and "right thinking" are at the core of all humanity.  Sure, many of us got our foundations of values growing up in certain religions or cultures...but remember that most of the core religions of the world have 80-90% the same values in common. If we can but embrace our commonality, focus on those things we agree on fundamentally...and let the differences fall into the category of "agreeing to disagree" without the need of war or "winning"...we might still have a chance at peace and prosperity for all.

I do not accept the mentality that the "fix" is on and that God and the "Devil" are somehow just playing a game with humanity towards a future apocalypse. I believe we were created and have evolved to a point where our minds and common reasoning can solve any crisis of the world if given a chance. The only way we will have that chance is to get rid of all the demagogues and dictators who want to control how we live. We each need to take responsibility for our own. If we give institutions the control over our rights and our livelihoods...well, we will never be free to live independently or understand liberty as our forefathers did. 

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.  ~Benjamin Franklin