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Nelson George is a novelist, cultural critic, and filmmaker. After receiving his degree from St. John's University in 1982, George first worked for New York's Amsterdam News, later becoming an[…]

Most people want to do good, but end up doing bad, says George.

Question: Do you have a personal philosophy?

Nelson George: I believe that most people wanna do good, but together people do bad. That’s what I believe, and I . . . My philosophy is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I was brought up, raised a Baptist, and I have a healthy respect for all people who believe in religion and faith, and believe in a higher power. Because what religion does it connect people to their best . . . hopefully to their best values. That is under the guise of loving your fellow man . . . And the Ten Commandments is a great . . . If you can do those 10 things in the Ten Commandments, you’d be a pretty good person. That said, I don’t think organized religion is about that. I think organized religion is about power, and about behavior control. And I think that’s manifested everywhere in the world everywhere religion is practiced. So I have a profound faith that people will reach out for a higher sense of self. People really want to be engaged in a level of life beyond what they see. And whether they do that through Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam, as long as they’re searching and committed to that search for goodness, and a search for the higher self, I think they’re on the right path. But I do think as a practical matter religion is used as a tool to separate people. It’s used as a way of sort of behavior control. And you know I’m not . . . You know religious leaders are just leaders. They’re just dudes, mostly, who have read a lot of books and are often charismatic, or at the very least very powerful believers in dogma. And they get together with other people who believe in dogma very powerfully, and they give people a way to organize their lives. So religion allows you to see the world through a certain prism that allows you to get through your day. But it also becomes . . . But that same ease that believing in religion allows you to have with your day makes you privy . . . It makes you susceptible to intolerance. Because once you believe that these principles are the way the world should be, the intolerance of other ways of being is humongous. And that intolerance to other ways of being is the biggest problem in the world today. People don’t wanna let anyone else be who doesn’t believe in what they believe in.