Purposefully

I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Rutledge in person while I was in Dallas for the Webmaster Jam Session and can say with confidence that he is as passionate about design fundamentals and bringing them to the web as he comes across in his Design View articles and podcasts. In his latest podcast, Andy strayed from his “usual fare” of design education and web industry professionalism to share his views on Living Purposefully. I personally found his message to be quite inspiring and a well-timed reminder to follow that nagging sense of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I wasn’t going to write a post about this, but a few people I read and respect have chimed in with rebuttals on the faith-inspired focus of Andy’s message.

As a whole, I see the web community is a very agnostic, if not passionately athiest crowd. For that reason, I think a lot of people suppress their beliefs and convictions out of respect for those around them. If you believe that the idea of a higher power is patently ridiculous, this isn’t so hard to do. As someone who agrees with Andy and believes in a living God, and how my faith in that belief is what also gives me purpose and direction, holding my tongue out of a sentiment so pitifully self-centered as respect is a truly inadequate cause. If I care about the people with whom I share respect and connection, talking about the reason for my hope, purpose, and direction in life should not be something I am afraid to do. But honestly, I am. I’m afraid of pigeonholing myself as a Christian amongst people who admit that doing so will cause their respect for me to “slip a couple notches”.

For that reason, I normally don’t go around offering my deepest sympathies to those who don’t derive their purpose in life from something bigger than themselves. However, if I expressed what I believe is the true penalty of denying God’s existence, it would be a far more poignant plea than my deepest sympathies. That statement which Jeremy Kieth found so condescending was merely background information for the real message and intent of Andy’s podcast. You don’t have to subscribe to any religious beliefs to find merit in Andy’s words. In fact, if all references to God and Faith were removed, the podcast would still be an inspiring post about doing what you enjoy and that which makes you feel whole. If you cannot separate yourself from your beliefs or lack thereof long enough to be inspired by such a message then as as Andy said, “I’m afraid you do not grasp what ‘purpose’ is”.

10 Comments

  1. What Andy said, in all fairness, was pretty polarizing. Being a person who does believe in a higher power, I can understand where he’s coming from. Being a critical thinker, I can also see how his statement could offend those who do not believe in God (or any kind of deity).

    At the end of the day, we all have to make decisions on how much of our personal lives we let come out in our professional arenas. It seems unfair to have to “hide” what one believes from others for the fear of being painted with a very wide brush, but that’s the kind of world we live in, it seems.

    Strangely enough, I support everyone’s comment in the matter. Discuss. Learn. Ideally, these incidents should be an opportunity for learning how to live and work together. Here’s to hoping we all take the high road!

  2. Excellent post, amigo.

    There have been a number of times in my business life where the topic of my faith has been brought up. I don’t make a point of announcing it in business affairs, but if clients, etc., bring up the topic I’m not afraid to discuss it — if it’s appropriate (as in, they aren’t doing it to be combative).

    I agree with you that the web development world is seemly agnostic. That has been my observation as well. It’s a shame that the fine folks who work so much with programming, design, math, algorithms, human interaction, order and so forth, haven’t seen what Galileo observed:

    Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.

    Who knows if Galileo was a Christian in the true Biblical sense? (God knows.) But he was keen enough to observe the precision and composition of the world and universe around us and that God was responsible for it.

    Your post calls to mind Proverbs 29:25…

    The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

  3. I agree with your standpoint as well, Jared, but the idea of maintaining seperate personal and professional personas is (for me at least) becoming harder and harder to do. We openly share our tastes in music through last.fm, personal photos through flickr, lists of friends through every social network and even random thoughts through twitter. Nothing is priveledged or protected anymore, so why should our religious beliefs be such an offense. While Andy’s statement was quite polarizing, it’s hard to understand his perspective without that bit of background information – whether you agree with it or not.

  4. It’s the pity and condescension that is polarizing, not the religious content. Those kind of sentiments are self-righteous and arrogant, and do not foster communication, understanding, faith, or trust. Dogma and zealotry, no matter the context, will always polarize people.

  5. But Andrea, polarization is part of our culture. We all have our unwaivering opinions on things. For some reason though, expression of religious beliefs, no matter how widely accepted or historically established, are met with intolerance and “flying spaghetti monster jokes”. I get pity and condescension every day from my friends that have iPhones. Before it was widely accepted, web standards was stamped by many as dogma. As a word, zealotry has such a negative connotation, but we all zealous about our favorite sports teams. I appreciate seeing rational rebuttals like your own, but when people start accusing Christians of being delusional because they express a foundational sentiment, I get seriously offended. If you strongly disagree, fine, but mockery and defamation is never acceptable.

  6. For that reason, I think a lot of people suppress their beliefs and convictions out of respect for those around them. If you believe that the idea of a higher power is patently ridiculous, this isn�t so hard to do…. I�m afraid of pigeonholing myself as a Christian amongst people who admit that doing so will cause their respect for me to �slip a couple notches�.

    Interesting that you say that, because in my conversations with various and sundry web folks, it’s usually the agnostics and atheists who talk about not mentioning their belief (or lack thereof) in order to avoid offending others, and that they feel pressure to keep their lack of religion to themselves in order to avoid losing the respect of others.

    Perhaps all of us, religious or not, are simply and understandably afraid of being scorned or rejected for our most deeply held beliefs.

  7. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain

    In the case of religion (or lack thereof) somebody’s belief “just ain’t so”. I respect those who know for sure that God doesn’t exist and I expect people to respect those of as who know for sure that He does. As Jared said above, “here’s to hoping we all take the high road!”

  8. I think Eric Meyer said it very well with:

    Perhaps all of us, religious or not, are simply and understandably afraid of being scorned or rejected for our most deeply held beliefs.

    Now, while I enjoyed Andy’s podcast, I simply had to question the need to tell people they need God to have purpose. Maybe that makes me a shallow Christian for thinking that, but I just don’t think the context was right for that discussion. I think that is why so many designers/developers in the community were shocked. They liked the rest of his podcast, except for that one line. That one line caused people to passionately speak out against him, scorn him, unsubscribe from him – whatever action they took.

    I am a Christian, I have no problem saying that. I do believe that context plays a big part in this. It is like the guy on the street corner with a bull horn shouting ‘You need Jesus, repent or go to hell forever’ – the context simply isn’t right. What does that man know about the people walking along the street? Who is he to tell someone else what they need – when he doesn’t even know them?

    So, that may sound shallow on my part. I still enjoy Andy’s podcast, and I will continue to listen. While I don’t necessarily agree with his approach – I don’t think it is worth scorning him.

    Aside from his stance, I was equally surprised at some of the very rude and shallow responses. He spoke about his belief, people didn’t agree, so they spoke out and told him his belief was wrong (essentially saying theirs was right?). So what makes them any different?

    Maybe it is about finding a balance between work and personal, between the people you meet face to face and know, and the people you meet online and only know their online personality. It all comes back to context.

  9. For my two cents, I think people are far too fearful of offending others, and people are way too easily offended at the same time. In context or out, Andy has the right to his beliefs and has the right to state them as fact. His tenacity, if not his context is something to respect.

    And, although I can’t speak for him, I imagine he meant “whatever name you call him” to include even something as insignificant as power, money, social status, etc. We all have some sort of “god” that drives us, that gives us purpose and to dismiss this fact can leave one chasing an impotent purpose and never have any clue of it.

  10. Its ironic that this topic “exploded” recently while I am working on a website for an archbishop.

    ANYWAY, IMO, I could care less what any individual believes in. I base my views on people I meet and how they treat me and others during my encounters. I never think, “hmm… what does he/she believe in?” I personally don’t care, and think that should not affect ANY relationships. If someone shares the same beliefs, good for them. If not, grow up and deal with it, being offended is a cop out if you ask me. EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING gets made fun of and thats a fact of life.

    I’m bald. I wear glasses. I’m a little fat too. Offend me, I don’t care, i’ll probably laugh with you.

    To me, this debate is the same as asking which is better, mac or PC? IT DOES NOT MATTER. both are tools used to get certain results.

    Do you believe in web standards? me too! nice to meet you.

    How about we get back to making the web a better place and not get caught up in the endless debate of faiths…. many people are on that same road and its a neverending story. I personally don’t want to spend my time there, life is short, I have better things to do.

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