THE BLOG
12/21/2012 04:55 pm ET Updated Feb 20, 2013

It's Beliefs, Not Behaviors, That Need to Be Changed

Most of the commentary in the world's media about the horrible Connecticut event seems to have missed the point -- and until we get the point, not much is likely to change.

There were 114 gun deaths in America in the seven days following Sandy Hook, according to the Twitter feed @GunDeaths. What we need to do if we wish to dramatically reduce such horrific incidents is change beliefs, not behaviors. It is beliefs that create behaviors.

This is the answer to the questions we've heard endlessly following Newtown: "How could this have happened?" "What can we do to put a stop to this endless escalation of violence?"

The pundits have been saying: We need to toughen our gun laws, improve our mental health system, remove violence from our entertainments, stop publicizing the names of mass murderers, etc., etc. Yet no one is talking about the beliefs that have gotten us here.

How has it come to pass that we have created a society to begin with in which depiction of rampant and vivid violence in all of our "entertainments" has been deemed perfectly acceptable?

How has it come to pass that we have shunted aside our mentally disabled, forcing the shutting down of caretaking institutions and social programs right and left for lack of public support, while sending the mentally ill out into the world to fend for themselves?

How has it come to pass that we have decided that we not only have a right to, but a need to, own and carry high-powered assault rifles and handguns with clips that shoot 30 bullets in 30 seconds (and now, it is being proposed, legally be allowed to do so in schools, shopping malls, on college campuses, and in other previously "gun free" public areas)?

Do we really want to return to the days of America's Wild West, where hip holsters were essential, and being fast on the draw was the most critical life skill?

How has it comes to pass that we have created an entire world that is so violent on so many levels? Emotionally violent, verbally violent, physically violent, and yes, even spiritually violent ("You're going to hell, all of you, unless you believe the right way! And there is only one Right Way!")

To me it seems obvious that all of this has come to pass as a result of our beliefs. And chief among these is our belief in separation.

We believe, first, that we are separate from God (if we believe in God at all). Our Deity, we are told, separated us from Him when the world was created, because of the unworthiness of our species. (Many of the Origination Stories of the cultures on our planet tell a tale of this initial separation in one form or another.)

Second, we believe we are separate from each other. Generally, we use a softer word. We are individuals, we say. And so, in the cultures of the world's western nations especially, it is our individual rights that have become paramount. ("All for one and one for all" has become embarrassingly anachronistic, incredibly naïve, foolishly simplistic, and, for many, actually undesirable as a way of living.)

Third, we believe we are separate from life itself in any and every other form. We are separate from the Earth (it is ours merely to use) and we are separate from all other animals and creatures (they, too, are ours to use as we see fit).

Has anyone noticed that the systems emerging from these beliefs are not working? Not our political systems, not our economic systems, not our ecological systems, not our educational systems, not our social systems, and not our spiritual systems. None of them have produced the outcomes for which we have been yearning.

Actually, it's worse. They have all produced exactly the opposite.

Is it possible that there is something we just don't fully understand, the understanding of which could change everything?

I think there is. I think that we don't understand the true nature of life, the true nature of God, and our own true nature. And I see that it is our beliefs that have blocked us from embracing any new idea at all about any of this.

Now, I want to suggest that if we began acting as if the doctrine of separation from God and from each other was simply inaccurate, and we thus changed our collective mind about that, this single change in our beliefs would make it far less likely that the idea of mass murder would even occur to anyone as a response to anything. It would be like someone saying, "I know what I'll do! I'll climb Mt. Everest! That's what I'll do!" It would be that impossible to conceive, even for many of those who are not entirely stable.

As well, the idea of humanity's oneness, implemented, would go far toward creating stability throughout human society, eliminating for many the feelings of isolation and desperation that generate the kind of anger that produces the thought of mass killing in the first place. Would it completely eliminate such tragedies? No. Would it greatly reduce their occurrence? Yes.

Given a belief, taught to us from early childhood, in the Oneness of All of Humanity with others and with God, gun control laws would not even be necessary. The basic rightness and desirability of public support for mental health social services and institutions would not even be questioned. The depiction of ugly, vivid, utterly desensitizing and gratuitous violence in our entertainments would not even be suggested.

Must we use only unspeakable sadness or shivering fear as our chief motivation for expressing our oneness and unity with each other? How about using not an event--not a Katrina or a Sandy Hook--but a belief about who we are as our motivation?

Rather than cling to beliefs that are not working, would it not be much better to cling to each other?