Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Who do you like better, Belle or Sebastian?

I've heard a lot of people say that the birth of their children solidified their belief that humankind is so beautiful that it could only have been intentionally designed by some higher power, i.e. god. I certainly understand the sentiment when I think about how amazing and beautiful my daughter is. That being said, since she's been born, its only served to further convince me of our evolution from the same family that produced the ape. She's adorable as hell, and sometimes, especially when she's sitting up kind of slumped over, I think she looks very monkey-esque.

Once, when we were on tour in Washington, D.C., Leah and I visited the zoo there and spent the lion's share of our time at the gorilla exhibit. Everything about them, from their facial expressions to the way they move and interact with one another, is so "human" and amazing. I don't understand people who are, essentially, insulted by the idea that we could possibly share almost all of our genes with them (incidentally, their indignity doesn't stop it being true). I guess they would rather believe that god instantaneously created us in his image, because we're arrogant and that belief elevates us above nature. That's one of the biggest problems in the world, if not the single biggest problem. Here's the god's honest truth: if god exists, then you are no more important to him/her/it/them than the mice in the field or the termite in the wall. He/she/it/they don't care if your basketball team beats someone else's basketball team, and it doesn't matter how much you pray for that victory. There's probably someone on the other team, who may or may not have more faith than you, praying for the same thing. When you get badly injured in an accident and seemingly miraculously pull through, its the doctors that worked tirelessly on putting you back together that are the heroes. God's not hanging out above the hospital bed, impressed with himself about how dramatic its about to be when he saves your ass.

The flip side of that, of course, is that while we're no more important, we're certainly no less beautiful.

Our culture has made us so insecure that we have worked diligently to convince ourselves that we exist outside or above nature, but in actuality, we most certainly do not. For some people, the idea that god isn't particularly interested in your day to day is disheartening and they might say that religion is good because at the very least it gives us purpose. Well, I say that I've got no religion and oodles of purpose. For instance, tonight my purpose will be to have a nice dinner with a beautiful lady. As my personal hero, Kurt Vonnegut, so elegantly put it, "We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you different."

Also, I haven't heard it yet, but our friends Jets Under Fire released their second free EP and its available for download here. As I said, I haven't heard it yet but I'll be downloading it as soon as I get home. Their last one was fantastic and was a notable improvement from their impressive debut record.


  1. Don't ever call me arrogant for not agreeing with your narrow view of the world. Because I believe in Creation makes me different than you, not inferior. That is the arrogant assumption here.

  2. he also said "Theres only one rule I know of babies, God Damnit you have to be kind."

  3. Taylor, check this:
    and everyone else should too.. and get the EP. it's free and excellent.

  4. If you think being human sets you up above and outside of nature then I don't know any other word for what that is. I never said that I think you're inferior, I just think you're wrong.

    Cameron, that's one of my favorite quotes by him as well. Are you implying that I've been unkind?

  5. Only in the sense that I keep up with both you and your brothers blog, and I see how angry this made him. I don't advocate censorship, and champion free thinking from all human beings. However sometimes in my own life, I will take a quiet stance as not to invite scorn from family members. I think your tongue is both eloquent and sharp, which is the greatest thing a writer can have but is also very dangerous.

  6. p.s. I don't think Harper looks like a monkey.

  7. G.K. Chesterton wrote, "What is wrong with the world? I am!"

  8. "God's not hanging out above the hospital bed, impressed with himself about how dramatic it's about to be when he saves your ass."

    I loved this. People really do think they're so freakin special. This kind of thinking IS arrogant, especially when you consider the suffering millions endure daily. Oh, wait, I forgot. God created suffering so that white priveleged westerners could "learn" from it. That just makes me all warm and fuzzy.

  9. Also it's sort of hypocritical to call Taylor's view of the world "narrow" and in the same breath say how you're just different and not inferior.

  10. I don't really think that expressing thoughts and feelings is attacking anyone personally, especially since we all know that Taylor will just call someone out specifically if he is referring to an individual person. I know that when I type this url in to my browser and come to this page, it's to read Taylor's words, not what I hope he writes. He's always been very strong in his beliefs so it shouldn't be a surprise that he words his feelings strongly as well. To turn things that he says around in to some sort of personal vendetta against anyone is sad because I know that he isn't trying to attack anyone, just share his thoughts.

  11. Forgive me if this is out of place.

    In my experience, people who cannot fathom the non-existence of God also are people who desperately need a God that is personal, intimate, and loves them best.

    My mother once asked me how I got through the hard times not believing that God loved me. I shrugged and said "well, you love me." For some people, the love of humans is enough. For some it is not, and believing in God fills a void in their hearts that cannot be filled any other way.

    I'm not saying you're wrong in your beliefs. I'm not saying they are. The beauty of faith is that for it to be faith it must be real without the burden of proof. Unfortunately, for people like us (for we agree so often that I lump us together in this respect) the un-provable-ness is too much to bear, and as we do not need and cannot bear, we discard it.

    That being said, while I do agree with you more than them I do think that this post contained more venom than necessary. Knowing your readers (your brother especially) it seems insensitive, not because of the meaning, but the attitude. You seem angry at believers, which is something worth examining. Life is beautiful and anger is ugly. Saying you don't understand someone's belief is one thing. Saying you don't understand how they could possibly be so naive as to believe.. that's hurtful, and must come from a place in need of peace within you.

    Or at least, that's my take on it.

  12. Leah,
    I agree with you, and I in no way think Taylor meant anything in a malicious way, or that it was a personal attack on any one person.

    My plea for kindness is a two way street, as I know Taylor and Seth disagree yet continue to love one and other.

  13. I do love my brother, with all my heart. That's why it is so broken knowing that he is setting himself up against everything that I strive for and believe in.

    If humans aren't so special, then where are the other creative, talking creatures on this planet that long for purpose and attempt to fill a "void" in their souls? If we're not special, then let's just call the mass "suffering" as you call it, nature's way of weeding out the weak and the lesser. That is in fact the main tenant of Evolution, after all.

  14. The first time I heard my boyfriend say that it was arrogant to believe that Christianity was the only way, I was SO mad. I didn't really consider myself a Christian anymore, but I was so pissed that he thought everyone I knew and still loved was arrogant. I was pissed that he thought I use to be arrogant. It took me a long time to even stop, look past my anger, and consider what he was saying and WHY he was saying it and what he meant by it.

    I understand now that he wasn't looking necessarily at individuals, but at the institution as a whole. This is just the beginning of why it is hard for a Christian to hear what my boyfriend or Taylor says about being arrogant: to them it is not an institution, it is a family. Most likely their mind flies immediately to all the amazing people they know & love so of course it seems like an insult to hear that their way of thinking/believing is arrogant. For me, I have to look at it in a semi-abstract way to really understand that it is not an insult. I understand that individuals are not arrogant – that they act with the best of intentions and in their minds they are acting out of love – but believing you are right & everyone else is wrong would be considered arrogant no matter what topic you are discussing.

    When I think of my family & friends who are Christians, I would never attribute the word “arrogant” to them…but I would agree that saying there is only one right way to live/believe when it comes to faith & spirituality & that everyone else is wrong IS arrogant. AND – I absolutely understand that someone who holds to Christian beliefs will pretty much always find this insulting and hurtful. I don’t think there is any way that anyone could explain it to them that would not be hurtful. Just like it is nigh impossible to explain to a non Christian that Christians aren’t trying to judge them when they share their faith & try to convert them – they believe it is an act of love. It is not exactly a Catch-22 but it is like trying to have a discussion with someone when you are speaking different languages: you see a table, but they see a chair – so you can’t quite agree on anything. I think when it comes to this, it is best to agree to disagree as it is intensely personal for people on both sides of the issue.

    Most religions believe that their way is the “only” way, not just Christianity. But Christianity is special in that it is the only (or one of the only) religions that evangelizes – that attempts to turn other people towards its beliefs. This is another aspect that people find arrogant (I wish I could put another word in there that would fit better – no one likes to hear that word attributed to them and I don’t want to be continually using it or offending anyone). Christians tend to forget about those that they cannot convert. A few will hold out for years and even fewer still will hold out forever but those people are a rarity. One thought for Christians to consider is: how would you feel if every person you met & befriended would only continue to be friends with you if you conformed to their way of thinking & believing? I know they don’t put it on the line like that and I know, I KNOW, that their intentions are pure and good…but rejecting people (even mildly, indirectly or uneventfully), is still rejection.

    I was a Christian for 25 years and it was my whole world. Now I am not, but I mos def don’t blame anyone who is or wants to be a Christian – I totally understand because I use to be in the same place as them. I get why they are insulted by someone claiming that their beliefs (not them personally – but then, they cannot separate the two) are arrogant…but I also get why someone would say that. I think both are valid.

  15. Seth, when I said "special" I was referring to people thinking they are special on an individual basis. That God has a special interest in them over anyone else. But since you brought it up, I think maybe we've got different ideas about what makes a creature special or worthwhile. Just because some other species are less evolved and don't have the cognitive abilities of a human, it doesn't make their lives have any less meaning. Lots of other animals are intelligent, or emotional, or creative in their own ways. Our ape cousins have very strong bonds to each other, use language and tools, and even have wars just like us. Elephants mourn their dead. Countless species have complex languages that we can't understand. Humans aren't the only species that aren't just instinct-driven robots hell-bent on reproduction. (Although you could argue that some humans are. ;)) Having the ability to comprehend religion isn't the precursor for being whole or worthy or good.

    Yes, I suppose we could call people in third world countries starving to death "natural selection", but that's a very loose interpretation of the concept. And kind of a cruel one. I'd just prefer people didn't view the suffering of others as an "example" for them, or a missionary opportunity.

  16. To use terms that are familiar, I believe that humans are definitely the most evolved creature on the planet, making mankind the dominant species over the earth. However, I don't believe that the earth is here to serve us, but that we are here to serve it and take care of it. However, being the apex of this creation bears many responsibilities that we repeatedly fail at. Such as peace and harmony.

    I also do not believe that we can agree on what is "good" or "evil" unless there is some universal standard, which all mankind seem to know exists, whether we live by it or not. But this is the not the issue.

    According to the arguments I have read here and elsewhere, Arrogant is simply a nasty way of saying that someone who disagrees with you thinks they are right about something. Which is completely unfair, from either side. I wish only that those who disagree do so in more of a kind manner and avoid name-calling and schoolyard tactics to get the point across. All that does is make the other person angry.

    Also, please don't confuse acceptance with approval. I will be friends with anyone, but I don't have to agree with how they live or act or think.

    I don't think that that is a "loose" interpretation at all of natural selection. I think it's dead on. If we are a part of nature, which I believe very much that we are, then to apply the rules of Evolutionary theory to some species and not to ourselves is in fact an arrogant view of nature, placing ourselves above it.

  17. Hey Seth - I hope you don't feel like I was calling you any names (?). I certainly wasn't directing my comment at you - just sort of putting it out there. I often feel so totally in the middle of these conversations - unable to decide who I agree with more. I can tell from past comments that you are a genuinely kind & caring person and that you LOVE your family.
    And I'm not sure if you meant me when you asked to please not confuse acceptance & approval? I promise I don't - though I think some of the things I said may have made it sound that way.

    I would never expect my family (or any Christian) to change their beliefs & approve of me or my lifestyle simply because I have changed what I believe. It can be hard to accept (at least for me) that they won't but that is simply because I want them to be proud of me, to think that I am great like they use to :) I try to always remember that it is hard for them too to know that I'm not living as a Christian - I know what that pain feels like because I felt it too when I was a Christian and others left the faith.
    Anyway, I hope I haven't offended you.

  18. One thought for Christians to consider is: how would you feel if every person you met & befriended would only continue to be friends with you if you conformed to their way of thinking & believing?

    That's what I was referring to with 'don't confuse acceptance with approval." I don't think you were calling me anything Lindser. I think your post was well said and diplomatic.

    But any club or team or organization has rules and criteria for you to join it. That's what makes it exclusive. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Atheism, health clubs, sams club, all have criteria. If that is a crime of Christianity then it is a crime of everyone to be exclusive. Rejection is not only a part of religion but a part of all life. Even the social groups you hang out with have the certain people in them that meet some unspoken criteria. That's all I meant.

  19. Your natural selection comparison would imply that people living in poverty (or whatever else you can define as suffering) lack a trait needed to survive that priveleged people have and that isn't true. They are victims of circumstance that transcends the natural world.

    This isn't really relevant to what I originally said, though, and that was that it is silly for people to accept the existence of suffering as a creation of God that was put here for their indirect spiritual benefit. That's an awful way to think and I've seen it expressed by many Christians. "X Person was born disabled so that we could all learn something" or "People starve to death so that we can appreciate life". That is arrogance. I'm not saying you think this way, but it does seem to be the common explanation for the existence of suffering when a theist is confronted with that question. I'm not even sure why I'm going on so much with this, it was just a side-thought. :]

  20. I see your point and also hate that point of view. Know that I do not think God created suffering, especially for our benefit. I think we create it, either directly or indirectly.