Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I'm evolving as we speak...Well, not me, but killer whales in the waters around the UK.

I've never done drugs and I've never even tasted alcohol. I did enjoy smoking tobacco but that's not so much a drug as it is just a really cool thing to do. See below:

Cool as a polar bear's nuts.

When you're a musician who doesn't drink, I think it's fair to say that you're a bit of a freak. When I was younger everyone generally assumed that it was because of my faith that I didn't drink. That may have been the case when I was 12 and blindly accepted what my baptist church taught about alcohol, which is that it is essentially bottled evil. When I actually read the Bible, I learned that Jesus loved to slow his roll with some drank, so it couldn't possibly be morally wrong, right? Yet, I still never indulged and the reason is that it simply did not/does not appeal to me. I've had friends challenge me with "How do you know you won't like it if you haven't tried it?" Great question. To which I always reply, "Have you ever had sex with a man?" (I say this to men) and they always say "No" (I've only asked this of straight men). So then I say "How do you know you won't like it if you haven't tried it?"
So there's, obviously, nothing wrong with drinking alcohol. The reasons it's never appealed to me, personally, are these: It smells like shit, it makes you smell like shit, and it lowers your inhibitions, which has always scared me because I know what kind of shit is in my head and I don't want anything lessening my ability to keep it in check.

Being a musician that has never smoked pot is almost as weird. Hell, being a person who has never smoked pot is becoming quite the oddity. I've mainly never done this simply because it's illegal and I've always felt like it would just be irresponsible to risk it. I'm pro-responsibility. Recently, I have also come to the conclusion that I would probably be one of those people who get really paranoid. I took a couple of Green Tea Caffeine fat burner pills that Tommy had a few weeks ago, and just that made me trip balls in the van on the way to a show. I can only imagine what real drugs would do to me. Still, I would much rather a teenage Harper be caught smoking pot than drinking alcohol. It's by far the safer drug. Non addictive, doesn't give you cancer, and nobody ever gets high and beats their wife. The irony that the dangerous drug is perfectly legal, and we've got a "war" on the relatively safe one, is ridiculous.

Anyway, who cares about drugs? I'll most likely try and go through my life with as little chemical perspective altering as possible. It didn't appeal to me as a Christian and it still doesn't as an atheist.

Speaking of which, I was looking back through old blogs and I happened upon one where I posted this list and asked all the readers to rate themselves. My position has changed on it since I last answered so I wondered if anyone else's had.

1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.

2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.

3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.

4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.

5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.

6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.

7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

Then I asked these questions:

1. What number on the chart do you most closely relate to?
2. What, if anything, would you change about your life if someone, somehow, proved you wrong about your belief?
3. If you put yourself between a 3 and 7, why do you feel the need to live a moral life (assuming that you do)?

Originally, I put myself between the 2 and 3 but now, less than a year later, I find myself somewhere between the 5 and 6. What's changed? I read more books (both atheist and apologist), I had a lot of conversations (with Christians and non-Christians), and I wrote a lot of songs (which is my favorite way of looking at and analyzing oneself and one's beliefs).

Where do you find yourself today?


  1. Before I read your answer, I said between 5 and 6.


  2. We were meant to be everything together, except explosive.

  3. I don't remember what I put before, but I am currently between a 3 and a 4:

    1) I believe that God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable...but I am inclined to believe that a God exists. I do not believe that any religion can define that God so I do not believe that any religion is "right". I think that at this point in my life I have no idea if I will move fully to a 4 and maybe even someday a 5 but I think it's possible and is the most likely course of things. Something very spectacular & unknowable (at this point in time) would have to happen for me to move backward to 2 and unless I saw & heard God himself I could never be a 1 again.

    2)If someone proved that there was no God, I would continue to live my life as I do now but probably with less fear. If someone proved that there is a God, I would probably become a Christian again though a very different one than I was in the past. I would question, I would seek out, I wouldn't accept a lot of wht Christianity is today. If I could be a Christian, without feeling as though it was going against so much of who I feel I am, then I would do it. I may feel differently about that later in life, but that is how I feel right now. I don't believe that that "means" anything - like because there is an inkling of that desire there that there must be a God. I think it just means I am still learning to find comfort in myself, in others & in life and that is harder to do than to believe in a God that will take care of you no matter what.

    3)I don't know why I feel compelled to live a "moral" life, I just do. I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons, some more complex than others...but I have yet to really dig into that area of my psyche very deeply.

  4. I'm with you on the drinking and drugs. I've never done it, don't care to. It sucks that drinking is such a huge social thing to most. I always feel awkward in a place where everyone is drinking. I also fail to realize that an intoxicated person does not understand sarcasm. ha. I also hate it when my parents are drunk; it's like they can't have fun without it. I do not get it. I could go on forever about this though.

    Oh, and I'm still at 6 but leaning more towards 7 every year I get older, but who knows.

  5. 5, this year and last. I don't think I'd really change anything about the way I lived if somehow it was proven that God existed. I feel the need to live a moral life (or my version of a moral life) because of the real-life consequences that occur from [my] actions.

  6. Hi Taylor,
    My name is Travis, and my wife and I have been fans of Quiet Company for a few years (she introduced me to you).
    I’ve been interested in the philosophy of religion for a long time, and I get a lot of dorky satisfaction out of these sort of things.. so thanks for giving me the opportunity to indulge myself.
    1) I’m not sure that the first few selections accurately characterize my position. I guess the closest one is 2, although I am much more confident that God exists than say, that you exist, or Barack Obama exists, or that I am currently in the United States, or that the year is 2010… et cetera.
    2) This is a hard question to answer, because I believe that the existence of God is a necessary precondition for belief about anything whatsoever. However, suppose that tomorrow I was convinced that Naturalism is true. I think that would have a completely transformative effect on all of my other beliefs. If I didn’t believe in God, then I couldn’t believe that I (or anyone else) was made in his image. I would no longer believe that he was responsible for blessing me with the eggs I eat for breakfast, or the coffee I enjoy. I would no longer have a place for my gratitude. I’m not sure how I would think about my life as a whole. I would have no obvious reason for my moral sense, and I would be puzzled as to why I constantly fail to live up to my own ideals. I’m not even sure what it would mean to have an ideal. I would have to go on living, and no doubt I would mostly go on doing what I do already (how could I do otherwise?)… but I think everything would have a distinctly different and unsettling flavor.

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  8. I think that characterizing the differences between people’s different beliefs in this matter is a little misleading. The word atheism is terribly ambiguous. Instead here’s another survey.

    1) Classical Jewish/ Christian/ Muslim Theism
    By classical theism I mean basically our western conception of God. This position maintains that a personal, all powerful, all good, all knowing, necessary being exists and caused Nature to come into existence. In addition to His creating Nature, Classical Theists believe that he has causally interceded in history. Accounts of this interaction with Nature are related in the old and new testaments, and in the Koran.
    2) Deism ( the Philosophes and Thomas Jefferson… et cetera)
    This belief maintains that the universe was brought into existence by some sort of powerful transcendent being (usually personal) from outside it, but that he/she/it does not act causally within the universe. In other words, God is responsible ‘winding up’ the universe, and then natural laws take over from that point.
    3) Pantheism/ Idealism (Some forms of Hinduism, Spinoza, Hegel)
    In this view, God is said to be identical with what we call Nature. But on this conception, God usually is not considered a personal being. Rather, everything that exists is said to constitute a "unity" and this all-inclusive unity is in some sense divine. Hegel called this ‘spirit’, and some Hindus call this Brahman.
    4) Naturalism (Epicurus, Democritus, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, et cetera…)
    In our present context, when someone introduces themselves as an ‘atheist’, they usually mean that they are a naturalist. Naturalism is the position that the universe is a causally closed system. As Carl Sagan put it, “the Cosmos is all there is, was, or ever will be.’ Naturalists are usually Monists, meaning that they believe everything is made up of one kind of thing. These days, most naturalists are materialists.
    5) Creative Anti-Realism (Porthagorus, Richard Rorty, Derrida, other post-modern thinkers)
    This is actually an anti-metaphysical position that bridges just about all areas of philosophy. To simplify (I hope not too much), the idea is that it is we human beings who are responsible for the basic structure of the world. The activity of our minds literally shapes the universe. There simply is no fact of the matter concerning the universe that is independent of us.

    Question 1: What do you most closely identify yourself as?
    Question 2: What implications would this position have on your beliefs about human beings, politics, your moral obligations, et cetera.
    Question 3: If you discovered that human dignity and moral responsibility were inconsistent with your position above, which would you give up?

    Thanks. I enjoy reading your posts.

  9. Hi Travis,
    Thanks for listening and joining us here. I'm well aware of the differences between Atheism, Theism, and Deism, though my understanding of Deism is that it is the belief that god is distinctly not personal and is more like what you're calling Pantheism.
    The list that I used is from Dawkins' "God Delusion" book but out of your list I consider myself a Naturalist, I suppose, with some "Non personal god deism" leanings, depending on which day you catch me on. The term I most prefer is Humanist, though, because while I certainly enjoy these talks about whether or not god exists, to me the real question is "does it matter?" and I believe the answer is most likely "no."
    To answer your questions...
    1. Naturalist/deist/pantheist/whateverist
    2. I believe that people don't need religion to know what's right or ethical. Hell, more than believe it, I know it. I can get you a lot of boring statistics to back it up if you'd like. Humanity has, for whatever reasons, evolved a sense of empathy, and with that empathy comes a certain kind of responsibility. Theists like to say that the only reason we have empathy or a sense of justice is because of their god. Well that's possible, but I would challenge it by saying that you have absolutely no evidence to support your claim. Least ways, no evidence that every other religion, cult, or crazy person doesn't have to back up their god(s). Postulating an answer to fill in the gaps of our knowledge isn't a noble endeavor to me, and can be horribly dangerous.
    3. I'm not sure if I'm understanding the question but I'll take a stab nonetheless. Do you mean would I give up Humanism if it was inconsistent with human dignity and moral responsibility? Like if Humanists had been responsible for the Holy Inquisition in the 15th -19th century, or the Massacres of Indian Independence in 1947, or the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572, or the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, or the Bosnian Civil War in 1990, or the Crusades from the 13th - 15th century, or the Hussite Wars in the 15th century, or the violence in Sri Lanka, the Ivory Coast, Rwanda, East Timor, Sudan, & Chatila, ongoing for decades now, or even everyone's favorite terrorists, Al Qaeda? Would I give up Humanism if it were responsible for all of that, which we can certainly consider a loss of human dignity and moral responsibility? Yes, wouldn't you? What kind of person would I be if all that violence, that all stemmed from one unsubstantiated belief or another, didn't make me question my place in the belief system?

  10. You say you believe in god more than you believe in me. I'm intrigued. I actually read that sentence a few times before I was sure I was reading it right.

    I'm sure you're a very nice person, you'd have to be to listen to Quiet Company as we only attract funny, smart, nice, and attractive people, but I must say that whenever someone essentially says that without god they have no reason to be good, I'm inclined to fear them a little bit. Of course, I don't believe anyone actually means that when they say it, though they may think they do. If someone could, hypothetically, prove to you that there was, without a doubt, no god, you wouldn't immediately run out to rape, kill, and steal, would you? You might be a little bummed but you'd probably find that you're the same person with or without this hypothetical information.

    This is getting really long. I'll leave you with a challenge in the hopes that you'll frequent this blog and continue to participate in the discussion.
    If I told you that your wife was cheating on you, or that I had a bottle of tea that upon ingestion gives man the power of flight, how would you react? If you're a rational person at all, you'd hopefully be incredibly skeptical. You'd want evidence right, because hopefully you've got no reason to think your wife would behave in such a way and the idea of the tea is incredibly farfetched, right? What if I told you with such passionate conviction that I at least convinced you that, regardless of what the truth may be, you know that I really believe these things? Would you be convinced or would you still want evidence? Probably the evidence right? I'm asking you to believe two things which, if true, will change your life forever, so you're not going to just accept it because I passionately believe it. I think I've made the point, you'd be incredibly skeptical, and rightly so. I think and hope that most people would be. So my challenge is this: provided that you are justly skeptical about any farfetched claim I could make, how can you possibly accept the claims that religion makes since it is virtually evidentially bankrupt? Why do we give matters of "faith" a free pass when it comes to reason? Or what evidence to do you possibly have that enables you to believe in god more than you believe in me or Barack Obama?

    Thanks again for posting and listening.

  11. Hey Taylor,
    First of all, before I say anything else I want to be perfectly clear about something.
    Under no circumstance would I want to give you the impression that I am arguing that belief in God is necessary for living a moral life. I know many atheists and agnostics who live as moral a life as any of us can, and an equal number of despicable people who profess a religious faith. If you were to produce statistics (which you mentioned you could, and I’ll take your word for it) that outlined the moral behavior of theists and atheists (taking into account equal education, income, mental health, et cetera) I would expect that they would be virtually the same.

    Second, I would have to be an absolute fool to attempt to defend every injustice that has been committed in the name of God. I wouldn’t even attempt to defend everything that I’ve ever done or said as a believer in God. Each of us, and every one of our institutions (even the good ones!), are guilty of hypocrisy and despicable moral behavior. Unfortunately, that is the condition we find ourselves in as human beings, and if you judge a philosophy only on the basis of its adherents you will be looking forever.

    So with that said, I hope my third question will be a little clearer. I asked: If you discovered that human dignity and moral responsibility were inconsistent with your [Secular Humanism], which would you give up?

  12. Now, you’ve identified yourself as a Humanist. As you have said you don’t believe in God, or at any rate hold a certain level of agnosticism toward that belief, so I hope it’s accurate to assume that you are something like a Secular Humanist .The problem here is that Secular Humanism is an attitude toward ethics, and not a metaphysical position. It doesn’t attempt to answer questions about what the universe is like. Instead, it takes for granted that the universe is a certain way, and from there attempts to formulate a position about how we should live our lives given that view.
    You did mention that you tend to identify yourself most strongly with the naturalist position, allowing the possibility of some sort of deism. The unsteadiness is ok by me, because I think they really amount to almost the same thing anyway.
    So my problem with your position isn’t so much the particular things humanists believe. I like the idea of democracy, and working together to better ourselves through science, technology, reason, and philosophy. My problem is that I can’t see how Humanism can possibly follow from the Naturalist position. Remember, naturalism is the view that ‘the cosmos is all there is, was, or ever will be.’ If you are a naturalist you will almost certainly be a materialist about the universe In other words, everything that exists is describable in terms of matter acting in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry. The problem is ethical obligations are prescriptions, not descriptions. Moral propositions are not accounts about how we act, but how we ought to act. As such, physics and chemistry are blind to them. This is called the Is/ Ought problem in philosophy. Naturalism does not allow for the existence of moral propositions, because moral propositions are not physical.
    This is what informed theists mean when they say that if atheism (read: Naturalism) is true, then we could not act morally. Naturalism, were it true, would make morality unintelligible. Again, atheists act morally all the time. This, however, is only because theism is true. Incidentally, I think the same thing goes for reason and science.
    So, after all that, I return to my original question. If my horribly sketchy argument above works, Naturalism (and therefore Humanism) is incompatible with human dignity and moral responsibility. Which are you more willing to give up? Ethics, or Naturalism?

  13. Now, let me go on to briefly talk about the later part of your response. In regard to the illustration where you claim that my wife is cheating on me / that you possess tea that can make you fly, I would of course want evidence. Not only that, I have a pretty good idea of what would count as good evidence one way or the other. It wouldn’t matter how passionate you were about either of those propositions. I would want to know why you believed them. Your challenge amounted to this: Why, if I demand evidence in some areas, do I not demand evidence in other areas? Your claim is that theists give religion a free pass intellectually, and if they would only take the time to look into it they would find that it is evidentially bankrupt.
    Here is my brief response:
    First of all, what is implied by your challenge is that a claim can only be rationally accepted to the degree that we can find evidence for it. But this is just plainly false. You and I both have beliefs that are perfectly rational but that we have no good evidence for whatsoever. You have no good evidence, for example, that all the people you interact with are conscious minds like yourself. It is possible that though they walk and talk like they are conscious, they are no more so than the chair you are sitting on. Any evidence that would count toward their being conscious would count every bit as much for their not being. Similarly, You have no good evidence that the universe didn’t pop into existence five minutes ago with all the apparent age of the world and past memories built in. However, despite your lack of evidence, you believe in other minds and an ancient universe more firmly than you believe in almost anything else, and you are perfectly rational in doing so. To summarize, some beliefs should only be rationally accepted with evidence, while others ought to be accepted despite their lack of it.
    Second point. I like philosophy. I like reasons. I like evidence. A great deal of my life revolves around them. I don’t have the space here to give an argument for my belief in God, but if you would like to talk about in the future, I would be eager to do so. However, for you to claim that theism is evidential bankrupt is just false. There are tons of arguments for God’s existence. You may not find these arguments convincing, but to claim they don’t exist is just incorrect. In 2000 years of the history of philosophy, religion has never gotten a free pass. It has always, except in our contemporary popular culture, been talked about as a factual claim susceptible to rational inquiry.

    This has run really long, and I apologize for that. I don’t want to turn into that guy who bursts onto another person’s blog and goes on and on and on… But I really like your music, and I identify with your earnestness about important questions. I’m sure you have every bit as much going on in your life as I do, so I don’t expect pages and pages of dialogue back and forth. But… if you want to take issue with anything I have said, I would be happy to look at it. Either way, good to talk to you.

  14. There will probably come a time in this where you and I will have to agree to disagree, but until then...

    I'm afraid I'll need you to clarify your "sketchy" argument for me. I see nothing in what you said that proves that Humanism is incompatible with human dignity and moral responsibility, unless you and I have different ideas of what human dignity and moral responsibility entail. Humanism makes no metaphysical claims because A) there is no evidence to support those claims and B) there is no need for it to. You'll also have to explain why you think Humanism can't possibly derive from Naturalism (though it doesn't necessarily need to). We live in a material world though I'm not writing off spirituality across the board. There is apparently data from a psychological and neurological stance that shows that some spiritual exercises produce real tangible and beneficial experience. But that's neither here nor there. The first part of your argument seems to be taking the "non overlapping magisterium" stance, saying that science can't really inform spirituality, but I believe that to be false. Just because we currently have little to no way of scientifically investigating these types of claims doesn't mean that that will always be the case. But I may be interpreting your argument wrong and if I am, please correct me.

    As far as Theistic evidence goes, I spent more than half my life as a devout Theist and I'm familiar with the things that Theists consider evidence. However, most, if not all, of that evidence is only evidence in the light of wishful thinking. For instance, things like the fact that the world is tilted just right, just the right distance from the sun, with just enough water seem to support a Theistic view. Well, they do if you're already a Theist. So if you already believe in god then you'll have no problem believing that your loving god did these things purely for our benefit. (I think its more logical to say that "because of these things, life evolved" not "someone made these things so life could evolve.") But then we have to deal with the question of which Theist god can take the credit. Jehovah, Zeus, Osiris, Mithra, Attis, Dionysus? There's no way to know, so why bother? But we do bother, unfortunately, which causes a huge regress in that it causes us to ask "what created god?" Yet another question we cannot answer.

  15. You said "First of all, what is implied by your challenge is that a claim can only be rationally accepted to the degree that we can find evidence for it. But this is just plainly false. You and I both have beliefs that are perfectly rational but that we have no good evidence for whatsoever."
    That's actually not what I'm implying. You and I do have beliefs that we have no evidence for, but surely you see the difference with the kind of things we're being asked to believe. For instance, if you came to me and said "I once had a dog named Yancy" or "I am not, nor have I ever been an android" or "the sky was grey once in the year 19000 BC" then I wouldn't have any way of acquiring evidence to the contrary but I would be inclined to accept those things without any. The reason is because those are normal, reasonable things that are completely rational under the laws of nature as we understand them. However, if you told me that once upon a time a baby was born with the ability to speak, or born of a virgin, or walked on water, then those things are not as easy to accept and I'm going to need to see some evidence. Why shouldn't I?

    You also said, "To summarize, some beliefs should only be rationally accepted with evidence, while others ought to be accepted despite their lack of it."
    I still have to say, "why?" Why is this a good idea? How is this not giving it a free pass?

    Since you're new here, I'm nervous about you thinking I'm being an asshole because these types of discussions can easily become heated with the wrong types of participants. But I hope you don't feel that way and I hope you know that this is a perfectly acceptable place to indulge yourself with these kinds of discussions. So as I said before, thanks for posting. I'm curious as to which Theist god you favor and to which religion do you belong, if you do belong to one..

  16. I'm a 7, with a few snippets of 6 creeping in every now and then, and have been at this level since high school, which is about 10 years now. (Yeesh, that makes me feel old.)

    I honestly can't say what I would do if someone were to prove me wrong. Mainly just because my mind can't wrap itself around that ever happening. Is that snobby? Maybe. But I'm pretty convinced that I'm right.

    I don't think that morals stem from religion at all. I think it's pretty obvious that killing someone would be bad, and I don't need anyone to tell me that, whether they give me a reason that's religious or not. The argument could be made that the only reason that some things are considered to be immoral is due to the influence of religion on society. For example, the Guaraní, a South American tribe, are a matriarchal tribe. An older brother serves as the "father" to the children of his sister, fathers are given very little emphasis and are not at all constant, and the adolescent men who live together are pretty much expected to have liaisons with each other. From pretty much any religious view I can imagine, these behaviors would be "immoral". But are they really? Who is it harming? Can you think of a reason why it is wrong that doesn't stem from some kind of religious argument? I can't. This is kind of a random tangent.. I'll move on.

    "You have no good evidence, for example, that all the people you interact with are conscious minds like yourself. " I don't really understand this.. If you ask someone a question, and they can process it and answer it, how is that not evidence in itself that they have a conscious mind? While there may not be 1 single piece of evidence that the universe is billions of years old, there are lots of little ones. Radiometric dating of asteroids and earth and moon rocks put the earth at about 4 billion years old, the fossil record and layers in rocks tell us lots of things, the discovery of hominid fossils that point towards evolution over millions of years... these all make me logically reach that conclusion, and reject what religious texts claim about creation.

    Evidence is also more about the person receiving it than the quality of the evidence itself, in my opinion. If you have a fear that your spouse will cheat on you, the only "evidence" you might need was someone else telling you that they are. If you don't want to believe it, or can't make yourself believe it, a picture of them together may not even convince you. Photoshop! Mistaken identity! Foul play!

    It's the same with religion. If you have a propensity to believe in a higher power(for whatever reason this would be..), it's easy for you to accept someone rose from the dead or that a virgin miraculously conceived, or whatever. But if you're like me, (cynical, doubtful, practical.. who knows) I just am never going to believe it. Even if I saw someone who was dead come back to life, I would give the credit to the doctors, or some freak biological factor, never a higher power.

    Anyway, I feel like none of this makes sense, but I like discussions like this. Thanks for humoring me. :)

  17. Ok, part of that didn't make sense. I said "I don't think that morals stem from religion at all." And then go on to talk about how they do. Fail. I will revise: Morals do stem from religion, in the sense of the semantics, the IDEA of morals, but the need or desire to act in a way that is good does not.

  18. Smoking definitely looks cool, but it makes you smell and taste like burning shit. Which is to say, I don't mind when my friends do it but when Josh does it I make him take a shower before he's allowed near me.

    I'd say I'm somewhere between a 4 and a 5, but I generally try to act like a 3 for my family's sake, which really means, to avoid having to talk about it with them. I'm much more comfortable having such discussions with people who aren't going to be all that concerned with what they beleive will happen to my soul based on what I say.

    Now I wanna go back to that old post and see what I said before..

  19. I guess I'm somewhere around a five. My parents are really Catholic, and I was raised knowing nothing but Catholicism, although I guess I was skeptical of it... and felt really guilty about that. My first serious boyfriend, Andrew, was crazy religious (and crazy in general), so I was really into that when I dated him. I guess I would say I combined the idea of purity with the way I was in love with him, if that makes any sense. I muddled religion with Andrew, which was bad in a million ways.

    After we broke up, I was kind of cuckoo bananas and rejected all religious anything really angrily, because I was so mad at myself for not being myself the entire time I was with him. I guess I cooled down eventually to whatever I am now: I'm pretty skeptical, but I guess I can see how people might feel better believing what they do. Um, I worry about people using religion in a superstitious or kind of compulsive way, but I also know a lot of Italian Catholics, so you can't read too much into that. :-)

    Part of my sense of morality is Catholic guilt. Part of it is that I want to be good and do good (to summarize it really messily) because geez, a lot of the world is pretty awful, and we don't need any more of that. I strive to be happy, and I like feeling like I'm doing what I can, I guess. I want good things? I love people? Hmm. I don't know.

    I love reading your (and Leah's, duh) blog(s). I'm just saying that because I don't always comment, but I always like seeing new posts!

  20. Leah stopped believing in God in less than a year, apparently. Interesting.

  21. Neither 5 or 6 states that the person doesn't believe in God- that they are skeptical. Either way, I don't spend too much time thinking about it all together.

  22. Just like last time, "Theist" doesn't accurately describe me. But if I had to answer based on this incomplete list of choices, I would say I'm a 1.

    I don't believe that you need Religion to have morality, but I do believe there has to be some positive force out in the universe that has given us the standard by which we judge right and wrong. I think it's because God is ultimate "good" we know what Evil is. Not because of the Bible, but because we are "made in His image."

  23. Hi Taylor,
    Before I attempt to clarify my argument that Humanism cannot follow from Naturalism, let me make a few points that I think will help me do so. I should make explicit a few of the things I was assuming when I originally made that argument. They are as follows:
    1) Every ethical system presupposes a metaphysical position.
    2) The only kinds of ethical systems worth having take Moral Realism for granted.
    3) Moral truths do not have spatiotemporal properties, and are immaterial.
    From your response it looks like you take issue with at least one of those assumptions: number one. You have claimed that Humanism doesn’t make any metaphysical claims and doesn’t have to. I’m a little unsure about what to say about this except that if I were you I would find that extraordinarily unsatisfying. If you think you can make moral judgments without metaphysics you are effectively saying that you can make those judgments without regard for reality. I doubt you want to say that, at any rate, I hope not. Maybe you take the word metaphysics to imply something religious. I’m just using it in the general philosophical sense: metaphysics is the study of the fundamental nature of reality. On this view, both naturalism and theism are metaphysical positions.
    I’m also a little confused because traditionally Secular Humanists have quite explicitly espoused a metaphysical position. The first thing the original 1933 Humanist Manifesto affirms is, “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.” That is just about as clear a metaphysical statement as it is possible to make. The 1973 version is more vague and much more ecumenical, but it still clearly states, “We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural… As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity. “ The most recent version displays this as well. Maybe you don’t identify yourself with a Humanism I am familiar with. What do you mean by Humanism?
    Let me try lay out the argument very simply so that, if you want, we can go into it more after you have told me what your definition of Humanism is.
    1) Humanism entails Naturalism and Moral Realism.
    2) Naturalism is incompatible with Moral Realism.
    3) Therefore, Humanism is irrational.
    Before I elaborate any more than that, I want to make sure I understand your position so we don’t end up talking past one another.

  24. You did mention that you would possibly allow for some sense of ‘the spiritual’, and that there have been some scientific suggestions that “spiritual exercises produce real tangible and beneficial experience.” This reminds me of some of the odd, uncharacteristic remarks Sam Harris makes in passing in some of his books. I guess I have just one point: The only thing that science could tell us about such things is that there is some sort of correlation between engaging in a ‘spiritual’ activity (meditation, prayer, et cetera) and some other event, say improved mental health, or reports of some other sort of ‘spiritual experience.’ However, science in the strictly empirical sense could only detect a correlation between 2 events, not causation explaining them. I have no doubt that meditation in eastern traditions has correlated with some sort of measurable beneficial experiences, even though I also believe that the religious traditions in which they take place are false. Some Naturalists for example have argued that although Theism is false (because naturalism is true), it has nevertheless conferred beneficial results in our evolutionary history.
    Now, if this sound likes I’m advocating Gould’s view on non-overlapping magisteria, I hope I can make clear that I’m not. I think scientific advancement can help us theists interpret how God structures our world, and could even shed light on how best to interpret the early parts of Genesis, inform theology, et cetera. However, I also do not want to fall prey to the Naturalist’s epistemology Scientism. I think we theists need to be properly reverential towards science, but I don’t think we have anything to fear from it whatsoever. That isn’t because science doesn’t have any bearing on religious questions (all factual claims have bearing on religious questions), it’s because the truth theism is the precondition for being able to conduct science in the first place.
    You have stated that you are familiar with theistic arguments but that most of them can be dismissed as wishful thinking. Well, as an atheist I can understand how you would think so. As a theist, I could also dismiss atheistic arguments as wishful thinking and just an attempt to evade reality. I don’t know that that gets us very far. I understand why an atheist wouldn’t be impressed by the so-called ‘anthropic principle’ that marvels at how the solar system seems tailored so perfectly for us. What I call providence, you call chance. That’s fine. This is exactly why I don’t use arguments like that. Your commitment to the non-existence of God leads you to interpret evidence one way, and my commitment leads me to interpret it another way. That is why science can’t help us in resolving this question. We have to try and resolve it in some other way.

  25. You said that giving credit to a God only results in the question ‘Who made God?’. This is a common objection, but I think it misunderstands what cosmological arguments for the existence of God are trying to show. There are many different kinds of cosmological arguments: 1 2 3 . What they attempt to demonstrate is that the universe is contingent, and that therefore we can’t take it to be necessarily self-existing. But something has to be necessary and self-existing. Therefore, there must be something outside the universe that is necessary and self-existing. Objections to the argument will have to show that we have no reason to suppose that the universe is contingent as a whole. Naturalists believe that the universe just is necessary and self-existing, and will have to give arguments for that. Simply asking ‘Who made God?’ isn’t anywhere near sufficient to dealing with those kinds of arguments.
    Traditional arguments like the cosmological ones are interesting and worth looking at, but ultimately I don’t find them all that compelling. That’s why I don’t generally like to use them. We can talk about them if you want, but I’m not really committed to them one way or the other. The arguments I am more inclined to use would attempt to show that Theism is the precondition for reason, science, and morality. They would argue that Naturalism, if true, would render reason, science, and morality nonsensical. That wouldn’t mean that a Naturalist would have to believe Theism is true to use reason or act morally (plenty of atheists do this all the time), just that despite their belief Naturalism is false.
    You gave a few examples of things you believe without evidence and then went on to say, “The reason is because those are normal, reasonable things that are completely rational under the laws of nature as we understand them.” But notice that what counts as ‘normal’ and ‘reasonable’ and ‘rational’ will draw from what you believe the universe is like. Given that I already believe in theism, the miracles recorded in the old and new testament, while wondrous and extraordinary, are not unreasonable or impossible. Given our difference in opinion regarding what the world is like, we have different conceptions about what the ‘laws of nature’ are.
    The miracles in the bible are, you say, “not as easy to accept and I'm going to need to see some evidence. Why shouldn't I?” You have every right to want evidence for them, and lots of people have written books on the subject providing it. Maybe the evidence is good, ad maybe not. However, if you are really consistent in your atheism no amount of evidence could possibly convince you because supernatural events have to be ruled out prior to investigation, not at the end of it. Given that you don’t believe in God, any evidence for miracles will have to be interpreted in light of that belief. So naturally, no amount of evidence will be sufficient.

  26. I argued that some beliefs (like that solipsism is false, and the world didn’t pop into existence 5 minutes ago) are perfectly rational to accept despite there being evidence for them. You said “I still have to say, "why?" Why is this a good idea? How is this not giving it a free pass?” I guess all I can say is that some beliefs, like the existence of other people and the existence of the external world, are just properly basic beliefs. Notice, no amount of science could prove to us that there is an external world because science has to take the existence of the external world for granted. In this case, it would beg the question it was attempting to prove. That doesn’t mean it isn’t rational to believe in the external world. We human beings are just so constructed that it is perfectly normal for us to believe some things without evidence. Indeed, for some beliefs, it would be insane to think otherwise.

    I know your not being an asshole, and I hope you don’t think I’m being one either. From what I can tell by your music and what you have written, you seem like a smart, interesting, earnest person who is concerned with the same things I am. We obviously have very different beliefs about these sorts of things, but I view that as an opportunity to understand myself and others better, and to correct any views either of us accepts uncritically. That being said, I hope you don’t take any of these points as a personal attack against you. That is not my motivation at all.
    In the interest of full disclosure, I consider myself a Reformed Protestant of a pretty ordinary stripe. I typically prefer to talk about Theism rather than specifically Christian theism, because otherwise I believe it’s very easy to get sidetracked into questions about theology, or the bible, et cetera. Those things are important and worth talking about, but they are not as intellectually interesting to me and I feel less confident that I can clearly defend them. We can get into them if you want, but I will probably have less to say.
    I look forward to what you have to say, and will do my best to keep up.

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  28. Apparently I suck at html. Here are my links in order:

  29. Shit, Travis, you write a lot!
    Past clarifying my position a little bit, I think we may have reached the end of this thread because we've come to the "world view" argument and that is the natural "agree to disagree" point of this discussion.
    First, let me say that I took metaphysical to refer to supernatural explanations, so that was my misunderstanding.
    I identify more with the 1973 Humanist creed but if I were to sum up my humanism in a statement it would probably go like this, "No one seems to really know if there is or isn't a god or if it even matters, and since no one can tell me for sure one way or the other, I don't suppose I need to factor it in to my philosophy. I like living in a world where people are kind, courteous, responsible, and think critically, so it stands to reason that I should do my best to serve my community by being those things."
    To me the big question has never really been, is there a god or not. To me the big question is "does it matter?"

    I really appreciate your position, not for its originality or its ability to persuade me, but because you're clearly someone who has his beliefs but has allowed them to be challenged and I appreciate that. You recognized the Sam Harris that I lifted so it proves that you've read the critiques of your faith as well as the support. (I love Sam Harris, but I did think it was uncharacteristic of him as well. I just threw it in nonchalantly because I'm currently reading The End Of Faith and I didn't want to write it off before he's had a chance to back it up).

    If I can sum up what you've said here, it's that it comes down to world views and the things we take for granted in our specific world views. Because you believe in god, then it's totally rational for miracles and whatnot to happen and therefore totally rational for you to believe them. And because an Atheist believes that there's no way a god exists then any supernatural explanation is immediately written off.

  30. You hear this argument a lot when you're arguing evolution vs. creationism. To me, its a clear difference between letting the facts inform your faith vs. letting your faith determine your facts. Perhaps you believe science to have an atheistic bias but I don't. I think nature comes out how nature comes out and we should let that inform our faith or lackthereof, and not the other way around. Saying that you already take it for granted that theism is true seems like you've decided your conclusion before we even know the question. Assuming there is a god, is no small assumption. I have yet to hear an air tight case for a god, let alone the specific, personal god of any one chosen religion. It seems that at the end of every argument for theism, it essentially ends with, "...and then we don't know how or why that happened so it must have been god." I propose that that is a huge lapse in logic. Why must "god" be the answer to every currently unanswerable question? Why not say "Batman" did it, we've got just as much evidence for allowing Bruce Wayne's alter ego to fill the blank as we do for god, and Batman has a cape and a utility belt! Not to mention the car. I kid.

    I'm not married to Atheism, and I fully admit that one day I may be something else. I was a christian once, after all. But it may just be that the only correct, humble, and honest answer to those unanswerable questions is "I don't know."

    Anyway, diff'rnt strokes and all. I'm not sure how long you've read my blog but I've said several times on here that nothing would thrill me more to be wrong about this. Not about Christianity as much nowadays because Jehovah's a bit of an ass, but Theism for sure. I've love for there to be an afterlife because nothing terrifies me like an early death. But as I've also said on here, my fear of death does not give me license to postulate a post-mortem paradise for myself out of thin air.

    I've enjoyed this, and I'll spend some time with the links here soon.

  31. 1. ok, i think the list is a little lacking...however, i know i'm a 1...but i'm not just a theist, i'm a monotheist and i don't just believe in a god, i believe in God.

    2. no one is going to change my mind or prove me wrong

  32. OK everybody, I know the list doesn't include every possible describing word for people who believe in god. It's just to see if you believe in one or not.

    And I'm really surprised how few people realize that you can't really be a 1 or 7. It's like having "the Macarena" in the juke box. It has to be there but no one's supposed to pick it.

  33. Hi Taylor,
    If it’s ok I’ll throw in my last few cents.

    I agree with you that ultimately all questions, especially those about God, will ultimately come down to a difference between worldviews. I guess my challenge to you would be this: While no amount of science, or what philosophers call a posteriori arguments can resolve the debate between theists and naturalists, that does not mean that the debate must end simply with an agreement to disagree. I believe theists and naturalists can resolve this debate by looking into the internal consistency of the other’s worldview and to see if it can provide the preconditions for reason and human experience. My argument for theism would go something like this: Theism is the only worldview able to provide the metaphysical (again, in the ordinary philosophical sense) preconditions that enable us to reason and make judgments. Naturalism, I believe, fails spectacularly to do so. If naturalism is true, then philosophy, reason, science, logic, mathematics, aesthetics, and ethics are impossible and incoherent. Emmanuel Kant called this a matter of ‘transcendental necessity’. I would be happy to elaborate if you want, but it’s a long argument and would take some time to talk about.
    If this picture is right, the situation you would find yourself in as an atheist wouldn’t simply be the inability to prove God’s existence. If naturalism is true, you could not think, You couldn’t tie your shoes, or pay your taxes, or write music, or love your wife. In a world where everything is governed by the immutable laws or random quantum events of physics, nothing can be rationally thought about because our brains are slaves to them. If naturalism is true, you are not a Humanist because you think it is rational. You are a Humanist because of the accidental combination of particles bumping into other particles in your brain. Again, I don’t think the argument between us simply ends at a standoff. Your worldview doesn’t provide you with any weapons. To debate my worldview you have to borrow my worldview. Yours ends thought.
    Let me be clear: You are a smart guy. You do think, you do tie your shoes, and write music, and love your wife. But this is only because you (very sensibly) live inconsistently with your worldview.

    You summed up your basic position in this way:
    “No one seems to really know if there is or isn't a god or if it even matters, and since no one can tell me for sure one way or the other, I don't suppose I need to factor it in to my philosophy. I like living in a world where people are kind, courteous, responsible, and think critically, so it stands to reason that I should do my best to serve my community by being those things.”
    I also want to live in a world where kindness, responsibility, serving the community and clear thinking are essential for living a good life. I’m relieved that you adopt that attitude over, for example, a Nietschzian position. But again, I’ll point out that unless you come to a coherent position on what the world is like all of those ethical beliefs you espouse will be totally arbitrary. The existence or nonexistence of God is crucial to your understanding of being a good person because what the words ‘good’ and ‘person’ mean will be informed by your view of reality. The existence of God is the most important thing you can think about.
    The ethical consequences of adopting a Naturalist position are not trivial. Eugenics is just one example of what sensibly follows from a naturalist worldview. The crazy positions on infanticide, involuntary euthanasia, and bestiality advocated by contemporary Naturalist ethicists like Peter Singer make this point terribly clear. I know you wouldn't endorse those sorts of things, but I don't know that you have any rational way of arguing against them given the worldview you espouse.

  34. You Said: “To me, its a clear difference between letting the facts inform your faith vs. letting your faith determine your facts. Perhaps you believe science to have an atheistic bias but I don't. I think nature comes out how nature comes out and we should let that inform our faith or lackthereof, and not the other way around. Saying that you already take it for granted that theism is true seems like you've decided your conclusion before we even know the question.”

    Our philosophies do inform the facts because our philosophies provide us with the tools necessary for dealing with the facts. You can’t approach science or any empirical activity without taking many things about the world for granted. For example, you have to assume the existence of an external world, your mind’s ability to represent the world, the uniformity of nature, the structure of formal logic… All of these things, I would argue, only make sense if we assume theism. Theism can’t be found at the end of an argument because theism is just the thing that makes arguments possible in the first place.
    The question over any scientific question does not come to ‘just looking’ at nature. In the Philosophy of Science that belief is referred to as naïve realism, and it has been very convincingly refuted by Thomas Kuhn in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. I don’t think science as such has an atheistic bias (I think science would be impossible if atheism were true). However, I do think that many atheists do try to pass off their Naturalistic interpretations of science as just the default position for Science as such. This happens time and time again in ‘The God Delusion’ and ‘The End of Faith’ and ‘god is not great’. Some naïve theists calling themselves Creationists do this too and much less subtly than atheists.

    Because we are finite human beings, we do have to live with some mystery. I agree that assuming God’s existence is no small assumption, but it is tiny compared to the colossal and mind-killing assumptions you have to make by accepting naturalism.

  35. Finally, I have just one more thing. From most of the references you’ve made it seems that you have been greatly influenced by the popular writings of the so-called ‘New Atheists’. If I’m over estimating that influence, I apologize and you can ignore the next few sentences. I really hope the basis for your disbelief doesn’t rest in the critiques of religion that Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens have provided. The books those men have produced are well written polemics (Dawkins is a very gifted writer, and I’ve been a fan of Hitchens as a journalist for a long time), but the actual arguments they make betray an incredible indifference to taking the side they oppose seriously, or a willingness to really grapple with the issues. When you combine this indifference with skillful rhetoric and an assertive, confident tone you end up with a vapid book that nevertheless feels convincing.
    Please don’t misunderstand me here… Sometimes when people criticize very popular books they can come off as wishing to suppress any ideas different from their own. I would never want to discourage anyone from reading anything, including these books. However, I do think that if you stop there, your understanding of the issues is going to be terrible shallow. Again, I don’t know the extent of your reading, and I do not think you are shallow (I wouldn’t take the time to write any of this if I did). But I think the arguments made in the books are embarrassingly bad, and many informed atheists agree.Ruse contra Dawkins and Nagel contra Dawkins. I do read them and do my best to take them seriously, but that’s only because they represent a recent cultural force that people new to these questions often refer to and have been greatly influenced by.

    If you want to call it a rest, that’s fine. I know engaging in talks like this takes time away from blogging/ family/ work et cetera. But if you want to keep going, or have some challenge/question in the future, I would love to engage with you again. If it’s ok, I will leave you with a short bibliography that represents some of my favorite books written by theists and atheists on these issues.

  36. Some online material:
    The Great Debate: Does God Exist
    This was a debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein. It’s a classic, and Bahnsen represents a position similar to my own. This is a long audio debate, but really worth a listen.
    Alvin Plantinga At The Veritas Forum
    Here is a audio collection of Plantinga talking about various topics.

    The Miracle of Theism by J.L. Mackie
    I think this is the finest book written on the subject of atheism in the last 100 years. It can be a little difficult to get through, but it’s a rewarding read.
    The Last Word by Thomas Nagel
    This should be required reading for everyone. Nagel is one of the best people writing philosophy right now. His books are incredibly accessible without being shallow.
    Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament: Essays 2002-2008 by Thomas Nagel
    Nagel’s most recent. A good collection (includes a critique of Dawkins)
    Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel Dennett
    A thorough and clear introduction to Naturalism. I disagree with almost everything Dennett says, but it is still a great book.
    Atheism: A Philosophical Justification By Michael Martin
    Not as good as Mackie’s book, but this gives a great introduction to atheism and deals more in depth with some of the arguments for theism.

    Warranted Christian Belief, Warrant and Proper Function, and Warrant:The Current Debate by Alvin Plantinga
    These three books are probably the greatest contribution to philosophy of religion in the last 200 years.
    God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible by William Lane Craig (Author, Editor), Chad Meister (Editor)
    A very accessable book that collects essay from many different authors. I wouldn’t endorse everything said in it, but it does a good job of dealing with the “New Atheists”

    The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism by JP Moreland
    I’m currently working my way through this. I haven’t always agreed with Moreland, but this is a very powerful book.

    The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
    By Edward Feser
    A critique of the New Atheism from a Catholic theistic perspective. I wouldn’t endorse Thomism, or some of the political things thrown in for no apparent reason, but it’s still a good book.

  37. Hey Travis,
    I know that the argument doesn't have to end here, but it might as well as long as you insist on taking your position for granted. The best any argument for Theism can do is point out an end of our understanding and postulating the existence of a god that they cannot prove exists. I'm inclined to end the thread here because I just feel like if you had a sound argument I would've heard it by now. Perhaps you think you've provided one but it just feels to me like all you've done is insist that unless you were right nothing could exist of have meaning and expected me to see something self-evident about that. I still don't see how you could possibly say that unless theism is right we couldn't think etc. I don't see the correlation. Obviously we do think, and obviously (to me) the non existence of a god is very possible. The weapons my world view provides me are reason and critical thinking, two weapons I still don't think you're applying to this area of your life. Obviously, I think you're also very smart and clearly well read. Maybe one day we can sit down and have an actual conversation but I don't see this thread doing much more good.
    As far as the "New Atheists" goes. I left theism long before I read any of their books. I haven't read that many, just The God Delusion, Letter to a Christian Nation, and I'm reading The End of Faith currently. I enjoy them, though I don't find Dawkins to be as elegant a writer as everyone else seems to. I've recently read a couple of the response books by theist, one called A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists which was actually very good and another called Surprised by Faith which was very very bad.
    I'm not sure if I'm coming off grumpy at all here, I probably am. I don't mean to take it out on you but since I'm the only atheists a lot of my friends and family know, I feel like I'm constantly having a much dumber version of this conversation and I got possibly the dumbest email ever today from a girl from high school. No offense but I'm sure you know that there are some incredibly weak, cliche', and easily refuted arguments for Theism, and she sent me a very taxing, dumbed down version of what must be every one of them. Anyway, all the best.

  38. Hey Taylor-
    I know what it feels like to have to defend yourself on all sides, and I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel like you have to do so with another person (and a stranger, at that). I can imagine that being in your position, with lots religious friends and family, it can get a little overwhelming. I’m sure this is made worse by the fact that many Christians see it as their mission to do whatever they can to save your soul. That, I imagine, would get old very fast. Well...maybe your soul does need saving, and maybe not. I take comfort in knowing that it’s really none of my business. My motivation for wanting to talk to you had more to do with an interest in the subject matter and not in preaching.
    If my arguments have felt like empty assertions, then I hope you will take that more as a familiar to clearly communicate on my part. The argument that attempts to show that God is a precondition for intelligible experience is not original to me, and is a form of what philosophers call Transcendental Arguments. These are generally anti-skeptical arguments that attempt to inform us about what the universe must be like given the fact that knowledge is possible. I hope you will see, at the very least, the fact that our minds are capable of employing reason places constraints on what it is possible for the universe to be like. I guess my argument, if it works, shows that Naturalism cannot meet those constraints.
    There are some very bad arguments for the existence of God, and I do find it embarrassing when fellow theists use them… But I don’t think that from there it follows that theism is ‘rationally bankrupt.”
    Who knows, maybe one day we can sit down and have an actual conversation. I’m from Texas originally, and my wife and I are considering moving to Austin if I am unable to get a teaching position right out of school. I guess we’ll see.
    Take care,

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  40. Taylor, as a next step in your exploration you might be interested in "The Meme Machine" by Susan Blackmore and "How Brains Think" by William Calvin. Frankly, for a guy in his mid twenties, your transformation across the spectrum you originally posted is nothing short of astonishing and exceptional. The ability to reflect and examine and write as a songwriter must have something to do with it.

  41. Hello. Travis' wife here. I thought I would chime in with my 2 cents, since my husband seems to have dropped about $100 dollars worth.
    I would place myself between 2 and 3. I'm not as strong in my faith as my husband is, and I don't place myself in any one religion. I was raised a reform Jew, but now disagree with a great deal inherent in that faith. Now I basically label myself a secular Jew or a Yom Kippur Jew. As in, I only go to temple on Yom Kippur, if then. I still identify as Jewish mainly out of convenience. These questions in faith are coming up a good deal in our family lately, as I am pregnant with our first child.
    I don't really know where I am going with any of this. I just wanted to chime in. Anyway, Quiet Company is awesome. Thanks for making great music in a world full of crap.

  42. Hey Pete, thanks a lot!

    Hey Sara (& Travis), congratulations! Religion started coming up a lot for us when Harper was about to be born, as well. Personally, I don't think people should raise their children to be anything. They're only going to grow up and shit all over what you taught them anyway. Leah's family are predominantly secular Jews too, and my family leans toward fundamentalist Christian, so there was a lot of speculation about how we would raise her. I'm more concerned with teaching her how to think rather than what to think, though. Anyway, good luck, and thanks so much for the kind words.

  43. This





    My response to the rating chart doohickie: #7 would be an irresponsible answer.

    I'm a solid #6. It took me (at least) ten years to loosen religious constipation and alleviate my mind of it. Now I'm free and clear. I read Travis' responses, and I appreciate them as I was certainly an avid reader and advocate of such a stance for a long time. However, I found that position insubstantial over time.

    Now, if there were some way I could slip your blog under my religious brother's pillow to get him to read it. He's a singer/songwriter musician and a great mind and reader.

    I'm certain that if he explored religion through his writing, conversations and book reading as you have ... He'd make his way up your ratings chart as well.

    Keep up the excellent work.