Inclusive Interpretation Technique (IIT): a Secular-Religious Bridge

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Viewpoint prevention and the Inclusive Interpretation Technique (IIT) are useful when exploring various viewpoints. Viewpoint prevention refers to the conscious effort to remain open and unbiased towards multiple perspectives. It requires that you suspend judgment and consider various beliefs or theories without dismissing them outright. To aid, IIT is a linguistic bridge that facilitates understanding across different belief systems. It encourages the swapping of certain concepts with others that are more in line with your personal philosophy, promoting inclusivity and understanding. It allows you to swap the unknowable stuff from things you do not believe, to things you believe so you can focus on the core concept of an idea.

About Worldviews

A worldview is a complex and deeply personal construct, shaped by our individual language, religion, and philosophy. In an increasingly interconnected and diverse world, engaging with a wide range of perspectives is crucial for fostering understanding and promoting dialogue. By embracing the rich tapestry of human thought, we can challenge our assumptions, cultivate empathy, and expand our intellectual horizons.

However, engaging with diverse worldviews can be challenging, particularly when it comes to polarizing language and concepts. The notion of supernatural beings is a prime example of this, as people’s beliefs can differ significantly. Some individuals adhere to formal religions that include belief in God, gods, the devil, angels, or other supernatural entities, while others reject the existence of such beings altogether. These divergent beliefs can create barriers to open and respectful discussion.

To address this challenge, I introduce the Inclusive Interpretation Technique (IIT) – a method designed to foster inclusivity and understanding in philosophical discourse. Inspired by Roger Williams, an early founding father of the American colonies who championed freedom of conscience, the IIT provides a common language for discussing both religious and non-religious philosophical concepts. By employing this technique, we can bridge the gap between diverse belief systems, paving the way for more meaningful and respectful conversations.

The Inclusive Interpretation Technique (IIT) Explained

The Inclusive Interpretation Technique (IIT) is a method that allows individuals with diverse beliefs to engage in open and inclusive discussions about philosophical, religious, and spiritual concepts. The primary purpose of IIT is to facilitate understanding and bridge the gap between different belief systems by using a simple substitution strategy.

Substitution Strategy and Application

Replacing supernatural beings with the concept of nature for non-believers
For those who do not believe in supernatural beings due to a lack of evidence, IIT suggests replacing mentions of God, gods, or other supernatural entities with the concept of nature. This allows non-believers to engage with the underlying ideas and principles being discussed, without being distracted or alienated by language that does not align with their worldview.

Swapping terms like “universe” or “nature” with chosen supernatural entities for believers
Conversely, if you do believe in supernatural beings, IIT recommends swapping terms like “universe” or “nature” with your chosen supernatural entity. This enables believers to interpret the discussion in a way that resonates with their belief system and fosters a deeper connection with the ideas being explored.

Examples of IIT in Action

In philosophical discussions, imagine a conversation about the Daoist concept of “the flow of nature.” Using IIT, a non-believer could substitute “the flow of nature” with the idea of natural processes, while a believer might interpret the concept as the actions of their chosen deity, such as “God’s will.”

In religious or spiritual contexts, consider a discussion about the role of prayer in daily life. A non-believer might replace the concept of prayer with mindfulness or meditation, while a believer could understand it as a form of communication with their chosen supernatural being.

In conversations about morality and ethics, when discussing moral principles, IIT can help bridge the gap between secular and religious perspectives. For example, a non-believer might interpret the concept of divine commandments as guidelines rooted in human wisdom, while a believer could view them as commandments from their chosen deity.

Example: The Pledge of Allegiance

Since 1948, our Pledge of Allegiance contain the words “under God.” A fact those of us with good philosophical compassion find abhorrent. A disgrace to thinking people everywhere. For thinking people forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, they can use IIT.

“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

When reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, you might find yourself at a crossroads when it reaches “under God”. In this moment, you have options: you could choose to remain silent, replace the phrase with “within nature”, or say the words, interpreting in your mind “God” as equivalent to “nature”. This is an example of the Inclusive Interpretation Technique in action, substituting an aspect you might not resonate with, with a concept that aligns with your worldview, thus preserving the core essence of the idea.

Here’s a noteworthy digression: the Founding Fathers, acquainted with these notions, intentionally and decisively established a clear separation between the government, the state, and the church. Yet, their wishes have been eclipsed over time, their vision gradually distorted. In 1863, nearly nine decades after the Declaration of Independence, the term “God” made its first appearance on our currency – a deviation the Founding Fathers would likely have disapproved of. In 1890, we adopted the Pledge of Allegiance, an idea also at odds with their beliefs. These men of vision and philosophy held a foundational aversion to any pledges of loyalty to the government, tracing their convictions back to 1634 and the sentiments of Roger Williams. The tale of Endicott and the Red Cross weaves a rich fable around this principle.

Yet, in 1948, “under God” was injected into this pledge of allegiance to the government, a decision that would have undoubtedly sparked deep disappointment among the Founding Fathers. In this respect, it is a call to remind ourselves of the ideals and principles they so passionately advocated, while appreciating the flexibility and adaptability of the language we use to express our shared values. It’s like a melody, the notes may differ, but the song carries a shared meaning, uniting us in a harmonious chorus of diverse voices.

Religious to Secular IIT

Rules for converting religious sayings to secular:

  • Replace specific religious terms, such as God, Allah, or Yahweh, with more neutral terms like nature, universe, or reality.
  • Replace mentions of divine will or plan with phrases like the flow of nature or the natural order of things.
  • Substitute religious expressions, such as blessings or miracles, with secular equivalents, like fortunate events or extraordinary occurrences.
  • If a saying refers to sacred texts or teachings, consider replacing them with terms like wisdom, knowledge, or insight.
  • When possible, maintain the original meaning and sentiment of the saying while using secular language.

Christian Sayings:

“God works in mysterious ways.”
to: “Nature works in mysterious ways.”

“Let go and let God.”
to: “Let go and trust the natural order of things.”

“God works in mysterious ways.”
to: “Nature works in mysterious ways.”

“Let go and let God.”
to: “Let go and trust the natural order of things.”

“The Devil is in the details.”
“Complexity is in the details.”

“An angel on your shoulder.”
to: “The guiding force of nature on your shoulder.”

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
to: “Every time a bell rings, something good occurs in the world.”

Islamic sayings:

“God willing.” — expressing a hope for a future event to occur.
to: “If nature allows” (Expressing a hope for a future event to occur, contingent on natural circumstances.

“Praise be to God.” — a phrase of gratitude and appreciation.
to: “Gratitude to the universe.” — A phrase of gratitude and appreciation for the natural world.

“La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah.”
“There is no power or strength except through God.” — a reminder of divine support.
to: “There is no power or strength except through nature.” — A reminder of the support we receive from the natural world.

“Tawakkul ‘ala Allah.”
“Trust in God.” — Expressing reliance on divine guidance.
to: “Trust in the natural order” (Expressing reliance on the wisdom inherent in the natural world.

“I seek forgiveness from God.” — a phrase used when asking for divine forgiveness.
to: “I seek harmony with the universe” (A phrase used when seeking to restore balance and harmony in one’s life.

Jewish sayings:

“B’tzelem Elohim”
“In the image of God” — referring to the divine aspect of humanity.
to “In the essence of nature” — Referring to the inherent dignity and worth of every human being as part of the natural world.

“Ein od milvado” — There is none besides Him, expressing the belief in the oneness of God.
to “The interconnectedness of all things” — Expressing the idea that everything in the universe is connected and interdependent.

“Shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid”
“I place the Lord before me always.” — a reminder to be mindful of the divine presence
to “I am always mindful of the natural order .” — A reminder to be aware of the interconnectedness of all things and to live in harmony with the world around us.

Secular to Religious IIT

Rules for converting secular sayings to religious:

  • If a saying denies the existence of supernatural beings, rephrase it to acknowledge the possibility or uncertainty of their existence.
  • Replace neutral terms like nature, universe, or reality with specific religious terms, such as God, Allah, or Yahweh, depending on the context or belief system.
  • Substitute secular expressions, like fortunate events or extraordinary occurrences, with religious equivalents, such as blessings or miracles.
  • If a saying refers to wisdom, knowledge, or insight, consider replacing them with references to sacred texts or teachings, depending on the context or belief system.
  • When possible, maintain the original meaning and sentiment of the saying while using religious language.

Atheist sayings:

“There is no God, only the natural world.”
to: “There is no evidence for supernatural beings, only nature and the belief in supernatural beings.”

“Science, not faith, explains the world around us.”
to: “Empirical understanding, with or without faith, explains the world around us.”

“Morality comes from empathy and reason, not divine command.”
to: “Morality comes from empathy and reason, not the directives of supernatural beings.”

“Religion is a human invention, not a divine truth.”
to: “Belief systems involving supernatural beings are human inventions, not absolute truths.”

“The universe is not the product of intelligent design, but rather natural processes.”
to: “The universe is not the product of the actions of supernatural beings, but rather natural processes.”

Agnostic Sayings:

“I don’t know if there is a God or not.”
to: “I don’t know if there is a supernatural being or not.”

“It’s impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God.”
to: “It’s impossible to prove or disprove the existence of supernatural beings.”

“I neither believe nor disbelieve in God; I simply don’t know.”
to: “I neither believe nor disbelieve in supernatural beings; I simply don’t know.”

“The question of God’s existence is beyond human understanding.”
to: “The question of supernatural beings’ existence is beyond human understanding.”

“I’m open to the possibility of a higher power, but I’m not certain.”
to: “I’m open to the possibility of a supernatural force, but I’m not certain.”

Benefits of IIT: Fostering Openness and Understanding

IIT fosters openness and understanding among people with differing beliefs. It helps create an environment where people with diverse beliefs can engage in open and inclusive conversations. By using the substitution strategy, individuals can better understand and appreciate the perspectives of others, fostering empathy and mutual respect. For example, a religious person and an atheist might find common ground in a discussion about life’s meaning by substituting “divine purpose” with “personal purpose” or vice versa.

Encouraging Critical Thinking and Curiosity

By bridging the gap between different belief systems, IIT encourages individuals to think critically and question their assumptions. This curiosity can lead to more profound insights and a deeper understanding of complex concepts. For instance, a conversation about the nature of the universe may inspire a believer to explore scientific theories, while a non-believer might delve into various religious cosmologies to gain a broader perspective.

Reducing Polarization and Promoting Dialogue

IIT can help reduce polarization by enabling people with differing beliefs to find common ground and engage in constructive dialogue. By focusing on the underlying ideas rather than the specific language used, individuals can move past their initial reactions and engage in meaningful conversations. For example, a discussion about morality might lead a secular humanist and a religious person to discover shared values, such as compassion and empathy, despite their different belief systems.

Enhancing Personal Growth and Intellectual Development

Implementing IIT can contribute to personal growth and intellectual development by exposing individuals to a wide range of ideas and perspectives. This exposure can challenge preconceived notions and help individuals refine their beliefs, leading to a more nuanced understanding of the world. For example, a person who identifies as a strict materialist might gain new insights from exploring Eastern philosophies, while someone rooted in a specific religious tradition could benefit from understanding the ethical frameworks of secular humanism.

Challenges and Limitations of IIT: Potential Oversimplification

There is a possibility of potential oversimplification of complex ideas. While IIT aims to facilitate understanding, there’s a risk of oversimplifying complex ideas when using substitution. For example, substituting “nature” for “God” might not fully capture the intricacies of a religious person’s belief in divine intervention or the personal relationship they have with their deity. Similarly, replacing “karma” with “cause and effect” in a discussion about Eastern philosophies might not convey the spiritual implications associated with the concept of karma. It’s essential to be mindful of these potential oversimplifications and approach discussions with a willingness to learn and explore nuances.

The Risk of Misrepresenting or Misinterpreting Original Ideas

When using IIT, there’s a possibility of misrepresenting or misinterpreting the original ideas or beliefs of others. For instance, a non-believer might inadvertently distort the meaning of a religious text by replacing “God” with “nature” in a way that doesn’t align with the intended message. To minimize this risk, it’s crucial to approach these substitutions with sensitivity and a genuine desire to understand the original context.

Recognizing the Limits of Substitution and Respecting Differing Viewpoints

While IIT can be a valuable tool for fostering dialogue, it’s essential to recognize its limits and respect the differing viewpoints of others. In some cases, substitution may not be appropriate, as it could lead to misunderstandings or undermine the significance of specific beliefs. For example, substituting “cosmic energy” for “prayer” might not accurately reflect the personal and communal aspects of prayer in various religious traditions. In these situations, it’s crucial to engage in open and respectful dialogue, acknowledging the unique perspectives of others without resorting to substitutions.

Practical Applications of IIT: Personal and Professional

ITT is useful in both personal and professional conversations. It can be an invaluable tool in personal and professional conversations, promoting understanding and fostering a more inclusive environment. For instance, when discussing ethical issues at work, you can use IIT to ensure all perspectives are considered, regardless of the participants’ religious or philosophical beliefs. This approach encourages open dialogue and helps create a more inclusive and supportive atmosphere in professional settings.

In Educational Settings

Educators can use IIT to create a more inclusive learning environment for students with diverse beliefs and backgrounds. By applying IIT in discussions about philosophy, religion, or ethics, teachers can encourage students to consider different perspectives and foster critical thinking. For example, a high school philosophy teacher could use IIT when discussing the nature of good and evil, allowing students with varying beliefs to engage in a meaningful conversation while respecting each other’s views.

In Online Discussions and Social Media Interactions

Online discussions and social media interactions can often become polarized and hostile. IIT offers a way to navigate these conversations with greater understanding and empathy. By employing IIT in online debates or social media exchanges, you can bridge the gap between differing viewpoints and foster a more inclusive and open-minded atmosphere. For example, when discussing climate change on a forum, you could use IIT to consider both religious and secular perspectives on environmental stewardship, fostering a more productive and respectful conversation.

In Interfaith or Intercultural Dialogue

IIT can be particularly beneficial in interfaith or intercultural dialogue, promoting understanding and mutual respect among individuals from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. By using IIT, participants in these dialogues can engage with each other’s perspectives more openly, recognizing the commonalities that exist across different belief systems. For example, during an interfaith panel discussion on the concept of forgiveness, panelists could use IIT to explore the similarities and differences in how various religious traditions approach forgiveness, encouraging greater understanding and appreciation for the richness of human thought.

Conclusion: Embracing IIT

In a world where differing beliefs and opinions can often lead to conflict and misunderstanding, the Inclusive Interpretation Technique (IIT) serves as a valuable tool for fostering inclusivity, understanding, and respect. By employing IIT, we can create a more harmonious and open-minded environment in which we engage with diverse perspectives and challenge our preconceptions.

Encouraging the Practice of IIT in Daily Life and Interactions

To fully reap the benefits of IIT, it is essential to incorporate it into our daily lives and interactions. By consciously practicing IIT in our conversations, online discussions, and educational settings, we can cultivate a more empathetic and inclusive approach to engaging with others who hold different beliefs and values.

Acknowledging the Importance of Engaging with Diverse Perspectives and Promoting Respectful Dialogue

The Inclusive Interpretation Technique emphasizes the importance of engaging with diverse perspectives and promoting respectful dialogue. By embracing IIT, we acknowledge the richness and complexity of human thought and contribute to a more understanding and inclusive world. Let us strive to practice IIT in our interactions, fostering an environment where curiosity, critical thinking, and open-mindedness can thrive.


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