Showing posts with label Philosophy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philosophy. Show all posts

Monday, January 31, 2011

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On why I would be a great superhero, or a really bad one, depending on your perspective.

I've been watching Smallville a lot lately. It's one of those shows that I always wanted to get into, and thought I would probably like, but never got around to. So now, I'm playing catch-up with the DVDs. I like the show a lot, but all the back and forth, will they/won't they between Clark and Lana gets a little maddening. It got me thinking about what I would do if I had super powers.

First off, I'd tell everyone. Well, not everyone, but several people. The whole idea of a secret identity keeping your family safe is kind of bullshit if you think about it. As long as you keep your inner circle small, you'll be alright. Just don't get caught by strangers doing super shit. But if there was a girl I really liked, I'd probably tell her the first time it became a problem. "Oh yeah, I know it was weird when I inexplicably ran out on our date the other night, but the reason is that I'm actually an alien and I have super powers as a result of your planet having a yellow sun and my home planet having a red one, and some people needed some super help. You understand right?" Or, "Oh yeah, I know I was a total dick to you the other day, but what had happened was that I'm actually an alien from another planet and as a result of the radiation from your yellow sun on my cells for all these years, different colored pieces of my home world, called 'Kryptonite,' affect me differently, and someone slipped me some of the 'red' and I just lost my shit." And maybe at some point, you could do the reasonable thing and say, "Hey friends of mine, who I've saved on countless occasions and all owe me a life debt or two, could you all please make a point to find and destroy as much Kryptonite as you can, as there seems to be a disproportionately large amount of it lying around? Thanks, it seriously harshes my mellow."

Here in the real world, to really be a good guy, you'd have to be willing to get your hands dirty. How easy would it be for Superman to fix a lot of the worlds big problems? First, I'd make a bunch of big, brightly colored, hand lettered signs that all said something along the lines of "Be nice or Superman will mess your shit up!!! :-)" and place them all around. And then I would proceed to kill all terrorists and warlords. Totalitarian? Kind of. Fascist? Maybe a little. Everyone thanking me later? You bet your sweet ass. The question you have to ask yourself is this: "Is it really noble of Batman to spare the Joker's life, knowing full well that the prison won't hold him forever, and it's only a matter of time before countless innocents will pay the price for Bats' nobility?" The answer is "no." The truly moral thing to do is to kill the Joker at the first opportunity.

One of the reasons I've wanted to get into Smallville is that one of my favorite heroes is now on the show.

Green Arrow is a badass, but when you think about it, only in a comic book could someone get away with being Green Arrow. Now, if some kid in New York got bit by a radioactive spider, developed spider powers, and started using those powers to fight crime, then we'd all think "Ok that person is crazy, albeit good intentioned." Because dressing up as a spider and swinging around on webs and beating up baddies with your bare hands is quirky and endearing.

Green Arrow's M.O. is to shoot people with a bow and arrow. Usually not even "trick" arrows. Just regular ol', "assault with a deadly weapon," arrows. Now, Batman may break several of the bones in your body and hospitalize you indefinitely, but he won't stab you! He won't shoot you in the arm! He won't run you through with anything!

...Green Arrow will, though. I don't know, just seems....well, it seems like Assault With A Deadly Weapon.

Looking forward to seeing him in Smallville, but I'm only on season 3. I can't see him and Clark getting along, somehow.

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?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When my wife yells things like "Hit him in the mouth!" at a hockey game, I know we'll be together forever.

Last night was amazing. I've always known that I like hockey, ever since Disney's immortal classic, The Mighty Ducks, came out, but now we actually have a team where I live, that plays five minutes from my house. Leah and Robin surprised Jeremy and I with tickets to last nights game and so we all went to see the Texas Stars (our team) battle the Houston Aeros (we lost in overtime 2-3).

There's not a lot of points scored in hockey but I think that just makes each goal mean that much more. When someone finally puts one in the net, you know they've been working their collective asses off to do so. Hockey is also the best sport to watch because it combines skill, aggression, violence, and grace so seamlessly.

I also enjoy watching tennis.

We're going to go to more games, and Leah will probably always cheer for the visiting team because she feels bad for them. Maybe I'll join her if we're sitting far enough away from other people and I feel like we won't incite an angry mob.

I finished My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn just a few minutes ago. It was really good but there's something frustrating with Daniel Quinn's books and its not his short-coming really, but mine.

Almost everything I've read by Daniel Quinn makes perfect sense to me in that way that the concepts seem so obvious that you wonder why you never saw the world in this way before. After I read Ishmael I must confess that, initially, I thought he was suggesting that the only way to really save the world was to return to our Hunter/Gatherer origins. After some thought I realized that he wasn't really suggesting that since that is an impossibility and a ridiculous one at that. When I read The Story of B I began to see a little more clearly and now that I've finished My Ishmael, I think I've got everything he means to give. However, that doesn't make it any less frustrating, and here's why.

Daniel Quinn isn't a messiah and the laziest parts of me want him to be.

He's an amazing teacher/philosopher/writer and his books have forever changed me, but he hasn't told us how to live. And why should he? Why should I expect him to know? How could he? After all, one of the biggest truths in his work is that there is no one right way to live, so why am I so hungry for him to give me one? I finally understand that the burden is on those of us with changed minds to figure out how to live sustainably, not on a leader to show us the way.

I have no idea (yet) how to live my life outside of what Quinn calls "Mother Culture," but I know that I have to start with these truths:
-There is no one right way to live.
-It is possible to adapt our culture into one that is sustainable.
-There is nothing inherently wrong with people, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with butterflies or grizzly bears.
-Human beings like us lived with a culture that worked for them for hundreds of thousands of years and these peoples can serve as models for us to learn from.
-We must be inventive and fearless. Keep what works and prune what doesn't.

I'm probably not smart enough to do much good in this world, but I can do my part by raising my child to be aware of these things and maybe she'll be smart enough to do a lot of good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut and George W. Bush: Two people directly responsible for my Socialism

With all the talk on health care reform, I feel like Socialism is being used with a harshly negative connotation, to try and conjure images of Stalin and the like. You could fill volumes with what a typical American doesn't understand about Socialism. Hell, you could fill volumes with what I don't know about Socialism, and the reason is this: There are a ton of different kinds of Socialism. And just like Capitalism, its been used for good and evil.

So I wanted to talk a little bit about why I consider myself a Socialist. First off, I don't think that any reasonable person would consider themselves 100% affiliated with any political party. I would hope that Democrats and Republicans can find, at least, some merit in the other side. Second off, I should mention that I have a job that provides a health insurance benefit for my family, so we're very lucky. I say that so you know that I don't necessarily have a vested interest in a social health care program.

But what I don't understand is why people are so scared of Socialism. We already have several social programs that are huge parts of our culture that I doubt anyone wants to move into the private sector. The next time you need a cop, would you rather have to look through the phone book to hire the most affordable one? No, of course not. Everyone needs police, so everyone should own the police. The same is said for firemen, public schools, public libraries, etc. Hopefully, you'll never need a cop or a fireman, but I bet you're willing to pay taxes to make sure they're there if you ever do need them. I don't see a difference with health care. I may never need a doctor, but I'd be willing to pay taxes to make sure that they're there if I do need them. Every time I see a Socialist program in America, it seems to be improving life, not hindering it. They create jobs and they provide services, ideally, that don't discriminate against any human beings. Personally, that's the kind of America that I want to live in.

I don't vote Socialist Party though, or at least, I never have. Partly because a socialist candidate has no chance of even getting on the ballot in Texas, and partly because voting third party (especially in Texas) is effectively throwing your vote away. What I do do is vote for the candidate that seems most likely to share the principles of Socialism.

Its not about government controlling your life, its about putting power into the hands of the people and having a government that provides for, represents, and is accountable to its people...all of its people. Its about class free democracy and workers having control of their lives and doing away with wage-slavery. Its about equality. "From every man according to his ability, to every man according to his need." Or in other words, "we're all in this together, let's act like it." Doesn't anything Socialist just make you sick?!?

Is it perfect? Hell, no. But people aren't perfect, so how can anything we make be? But at the core of it are principles that I value, so I consider myself a Socialist. After all, "as long as there is a lower class, I am in it." And, after all, somebody has to help the meek inherit the earth. I'll part with a story from the "Socialism in America" Wikipedia about good ol' Eugene Debs.

In June 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Espionage Act, which included a clause providing prison sentences for up to twenty years for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty… or willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment of service of the United States”. The Socialists, with their talk of draft dodging and war-opposition, found themselves the target of persecution. Scores were convicted of treason and jailed.

After visiting three Socialists imprisoned in Canton, Ohio, Eugene V. Debs crossed the street and made a two-hour speech to a crowd in which he condemned the war. "Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder… The master class has always declared the war and the subject class has always fought the battles," Debs told the crowd.

He was immediately arrested and soon convicted under the Espionage Act. During his trial, he did not take the stand, nor call a witness in his defense. However, before the trial began, and after his sentencing, he made speeches to the jury: "I have been accused of obstructing the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war… I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere…" He also uttered what would become his most famous words: "While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison, stripped of his citizenship, and disenfranchised for life.

Friday, July 3, 2009

OK but this is seriously the last one...

PZ Meyers posted this and I just thought it was so appropriate that I decided to repost it here. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hurry up and get the Zeitgeist in the car before Ann and Pat realize that we've left...

I've often wondered, and for that matter, continue to wonder what happens in a person's life that fills them full of poison, the way that people like Ann Coulter are full of poison. Its one thing to passionately disagree and another thing entirely to seemingly devote your life to being the most malicious, mean, and thoroughly bad person you can possibly be, short of committing genocide or molesting children. At least with Ann, you get the impression that deep down she knows what a snake she is (my apologies to snakes), while Pat Robertson's deluded senility seems to run rampant under a guise of "good, Christian morality."

Spend some time here if you want to have your stomach turned. I found this collection this morning and it makes me physically ill that not only do these people exist, but several of them have positions of power (political or otherwise), in our country.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A celebration of parents!

I've had a couple of suggestions for what to blog about today, so I've decided to take them. One of my best friends(and Quiet Company manager), Paul, told me a while back that becoming a parent made him realize how much his parents must love him. I'm starting to see that now, as well. I've never had any doubt that my parents love me, but having a child of your own makes your understanding of that love that much more tangible. You start to appreciate all the little things you know they did for you but you never saw, the sacrifices they made and whatnot. Seeing Leah go through her pregnancy so gracefully makes me appreciate all mothers, but mine especially. The knowledge that someone wanted you enough to put their body through pregnancy is humbling, to say the least.

I think my earliest memory is of my mother's love for me. I couldn't have been more than 4 years old and I had just woken up from a nap. My brother Seth, told me that Mom had gotten me something while she was out and he would show me where it was hidden. She had bought me a Superman action figure. Now, I wasn't a fan of Superman, necessarily, but I distinctly remember thinking, "she didn't have to get me anything." I was really moved then just by the fact that Mom was thinking about me when she was out and got me something she thought would make me happy, just because she loved me. It wasn't my birthday and I'm sure I hadn't been exceptionally good that day. Its such a small thing but hey, it stuck with me and as cheesy as it is, it still warms my heart when I remember it. But that's what life is, a series of little things. I love my parents and my memories are full of little things they did to show that they loved me, and sacrifices they made for me, and tough decisions that they made that pissed me off at the time but in hindsight were good ones and always made with my best interest in mind. I think its also a kind of evolutionary process. You look back at how you were raised and say "this was good and this wasn't" and try to do a little better when its your turn. Well, good luck, Harper.

Since I'm on the subject of mothers, there's something else in the news that is heartbreaking. A doctor in Kansas has been murdered in his church. Dr. Tiller was killed because he performed abortions. I understand this is polarizing, but bare with me. Tiller had already been shot in both his arms in 1993 and had his clinic bombed as well. I'm not trying to build a pity case for him but at the same time I don't think I should have to. Everyone is making a huge deal out of the fact that Tiller performed "Late Term Abortions" which I agree is disgusting, but what no one is saying is that late term abortions are used in cases where the mother's safety is endangered and its not a form of birth control. I'm just really saddened by all the people saying things like "justifiable homicide." I don't like abortion, I don't think any person in their right mind would say that they're a fan. Being a parent, its almost impossible to imagine. That being said, I do consider myself pro-choice because there are several situations that could arise where I would rather have an abortion than risk the birth. While I'm pro-choice, I'm also pro-responsibility. I don't believe abortion is an acceptable form of birth control, especially when there are so many couples that would love to have children and can't for one reason or another. I don't know, it just makes me feel disheartened to see anybody rejoicing in a man's murder and acting like he got what was coming to him. I'm sure that Dr. Tiller was doing what he considered best for women's health, and its especially sad to see yet another person making Christians look so un-Christlike.

Paul would also like me to mention that the newest Star Wars game looks amazing. It really does.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Yet another evil socialist.

Another hero of the Socialist Party, championed by Vonnegut, is Powers Hapgood. He was an American Trade Union organizer who was famous for all manner of derrings-do on the side of worker rights and civil liberties. He was imprisoned several times for his protests, in fact, Vonnegut's novel Jailbird pays homage to him.

Hapgood came from a distinguished family and was a Harvard graduate. However, after graduation he opted for manual labor in the coal mines, and found his place fighting to make life better for the working man. Later in his life, he led protesters at the execution of the anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in Massachusetts in 1927 and after some trouble at the picket line, had to testify in court about what he'd witnessed there. After his testimony, the Judge asked him why, with all his social and educational advantages, would he choose to live this way? Powers delivered one of my favorite responses. Its my favorite largely because of the way the conservative media is trying to paint Socialism in America today.

Powers replied, "Why, because of the sermon on the mount, sir."

I think most, if not all, of the Christians I know and love would agree that the ideas of Jesus are more in line with the ideas of Karl Marx than of Joel Osteen.

PS. If you find that you have had a comment deleted, please do not be offended. I had to delete a few for reasons I won't go into publicly but would be more than happy to tell you in private. I promise I won't ever delete your comment for any trivial reason. Thanks for understanding.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mark Twain and Superman.

Cameron found another good Mark Twain quote about courage:
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." --Mark Twain

I'm reminded of something in one of my favorite movies, Angus. In one of the more touching scenes the protagonist's grandfather says that Superman isn't brave. Superman is invincible and therefor has nothing to lose. True courage is knowing you could lose everything and still doing what you think is right. Also the soundtrack kicks ass.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why be an artist at all?

Maybe I'm feeling a little lazy today or maybe I just don't have many original words to write, either way, I've decided to post some of my favorite quotes from two of my favorite authors: Kurt Vonnegut & Mark Twain. I also threw in a few from Eugene Debs, who you probably don't know. He was the most successful person to ever run for President in the Socialist Party. He was always being arrested for protesting (peacefully) for labor laws and civil liberties, because socialism is evil (according to your tv) and that's the kind of thing that kind of riff raff get up to. People likes to send out email forwards about how it would be the worst thing in the world for the U.S. to adopt more Socialist policies (I say "more" because we already have several that work just fine i.e. the police, fire department, public library, public schools, etc). I love Bill Cosby, by the way.

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Eugene Debs

“I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.”
Eugene Debs

"I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'."
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake,

"A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."
Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan

"I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."
Kurt Vonnegut, I Love You, Madame Librarian

Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
Mark Twain

I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.
Mark Twain

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Mark Twain

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Why can't everyone just be cool?" or "Basketball Diaries"

I grew up in east Texas in a really small town called White Oak and I have a lot of memories of good times and great friends from White Oak that I wouldn't trade for the world. That being said, I also have a lot of horrible memories of awful people saying and doing awful things to and around me and that's why I left as soon as I graduated. White Oak High School was full of bullies, both physical and verbal, and being remotely different from their redneck view of "normal" was sure to make you a target. It probably goes without saying, but my best friend Jeremy and I walked around with what seemed like large red targets painted on our backs. I won't go into details about what it was like but I do want to use it as a jumping off point for a question. Why can't people just be cool?

I've never understood it. What character trait must you possess that makes it seem rational to torment someone you don't really know, who has never done anything to you? White Oak is a tiny town, so I used to hypothesize that it was boredom that must be the culprit. In the past year I've substitute taught in a lot of high schools in the area and I'm pleased to say that I never saw the kind of thing that Jeremy and I dealt with in the schools that our children will go to. So maybe there is a direct correlation between size of the town and amount of crap kids have to deal with. I also think that bigger schools allow for bigger cliques and that's a good thing. When Jeremy and I were given shit, we had no one but each other (and a small handful of others) to turn to. In a bigger school, we might've had some strength in numbers. I wonder what that would have felt like.

The Internet has become just one more place for assholes to fester. Last night someone tried to comment on Leah's blog saying that whoever they are and I slept together during Leah and I's relationship. Obviously, its not true. Not that its any one's business, but I've never had sex with anyone other than my wife nor have I ever cheated on her in any way. And just as importantly, I never will. I love my wife more today than when we first fell in love, and I'm sure that in ten years time, I'll say I love her even more. I've never felt, in any way, discontent with our relationship to the point that selfish men often justify looking around. When she read it, my mind started going through the list of band mates that I've shared a bed with on tour over the years and which ones might be stupid enough to think that this would be a fun joke with semantics. Anyway, the point is not to defend myself against a ridiculous claim, the point is to say, "WTF!?!" What does someone gain with this sort of behaviour. Leah, obviously, didn't believe it for a second but its still upset her, and therefore, upset me. Leah's been blogging for a long time, so, she has a lot of readers. Most of them are really sweet people, but some of them are just human garbage, so this wasn't altogether shocking.

Still, why can't people just be nice? Why does North Korea have to keep testing nuclear weapons when they know it makes everyone sad?

Inevitably, Harper will have to deal with undesirable people at some point and when she does I plan on telling her this story:

I've never been really into sports. True, I did go to state for tennis, but if we're being honest, it was kind of a fluke. I did play basketball in middle school, though, and every summer our school would have basketball camps that lasted about a week. I don't remember ever wanting to go to the camps but somehow I ended up there more often than not. The highlight of the camps, for people who actually wanted to be there, was the one on one tournament that they held on the last day. I never liked competition or confrontation and even more, I dreaded embarrassment, so to me, the tournament was the worst part of the camp.

In my school, there was a guy named Josh Verhoeff. He was really tall, regarded as a tough kid, and always reminded me of Vanilla Ice. I'm going to use some strong language now so if that's not your cup o' tea, you'd best skip ahead. I hated that guy. He was the biggest prick I've ever met and seemed to only exist to pick on kids smaller than him. He had nothing real to offer the world as people like him often do, and he's probably dead or in jail now. And if he is dead, then the world is better off.

My dad was a coach at the time and the morning of the one on one tournament, I asked my father, with butterflies in my stomach, who I was facing first. Of course, it was Verhoeff, so I begged my dad to let me stay home. I think Dad knew I was dreading it by the way he told me who my first opponent would be. I don't remember if Dad gave me any kind of pep talk but he might've. All that's really important is that he didn't let me stay home.

So when I walked into the gym that day, Verhoeff was already waiting for me with a group of boys who had all clearly decided my fate before my arrival. Verhoeff told me, among other things, that if I beat him, he would cry. He said it really loud so that everyone in the camp would be sure to associate embarrassment with a loss to me because, apparently, what could be more preposterous than me beating anyone.

The rules of the tournament were simple enough. Basic basketball rules, make it take it, first to 5 (win by 2). And so the tournament began.

I'd felt sick with nervousness all day leading up to this. In my head, I was cursing my dad for making me come, and thinking about how I never really even liked basketball. But all that aside, the truth was... I'm actually pretty good at basketball. A truth that Verhoeff didn't know or was happy to deny. Not only did I beat him, but I beat the shit out of him. He managed to throw up one lucky shot but didn't touch the ball again after that. He became so frustrated by the way things were going that he stormed off the court in a huff when I was one point away from victory and only came back when the coach sat him down and forced him to play. As soon as he came back, though, I threw the ball up for the final time and the game was over.

True to his word, Josh Verhoeff cried when I beat him.

Now, I'm glad my dad made me go face him and I think I learned something about myself that day. We are all as strong as we want to be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What choice do we have?!?!?!

In the recent weeks, in the discourse about my faith, someone referred to the "choices" I've made about religion. I was thinking about that word and how its used incorrectly in a few hot button issues. Are the things we believe or don't believe the result of us choosing to believe or not believe them? And if so, is that really believing? Where religion is concerned it opens up a lot of other issues about motives and why you're choosing to believe in the first place.

While you can certainly choose to shelter yourself from ideas you know will contradict what you believe, I don't believe you can choose your beliefs, really. There have definitely been times when I was confronted by a truth that clearly contradicted my belief and at the end of the day the only reaction really available to me was, "Well, shit, the damage is done." In my experience, for the most part, things either make sense to you or they don't. Simple.

You also hear the word "choice" thrown around when you're talking about homosexuality with people who don't know any homosexuals. While no one is sure (yet) whether gay people are born that way or if sexuality is shaped by experiences, or more probably a combination of the two, one thing we are sure about is that no homosexual will ever tell you, "I weighed my options and I opted for homosexuality." Its really quite absurd and ignorant to think anyone chooses their sexuality.

I think in the case of homosexuality people like to believe its a choice because it makes the gays responsible for what's "wrong with them," and therefore, easier to hate or at least be weirded out by. By the way, we're not the only animals that do it. Apparently, there's at least two penguins who are going straight to hell.

Anyway, if you believe that it is possible to choose what to believe then that choice is certainly necessary in the task of believing impossible things. I'm sure that believing in gravity is no chore for anyone, whereas, believing that a man fit at least two of every kind of animal on a boat or that a baby was born speaking requires some hefty faith. I guess faith is the right word for things we choose to believe. So why do we bother? I think "faith" is a word that gives a lot of intelligent people an excuse not to think about things that they can't explain. Why can't we just be OK with not knowing for sure?

Personally, I think the bulk of it stems from the whole "fear of death"/"what if we're wrong" thing. What if I'm wrong and Christianity is completely right? I guess that's as valid a question as any. I guess the answer to that is that I'll go to hell. Shit. Of course, that question begot other questions. What if Christians are wrong about Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Judaism, or Deism, or Islam, or Zeus, or Scientology? Better choose wisely.

Does anyone remember Columbine? One of the things I remember the most in the aftermath of the tragedy is the "She said 'yes'," shirts. If you're unfamiliar, a story surfaced about a girl who was confronted by the killers and asked if she believed in god. We'd all like to assume that if she'd said "no" then she would've lived, but she was brave and courageously said "yes." Who knows, maybe they would've shot her anyway. They clearly weren't the most stable of kids in the first place. I was in high school at the time and more Christian than I have ever been. I remember thinking, if someone put a gun in my face would I say "yes?" I felt secretly ashamed of myself because the honest answer was a definitive "NO." It made me think, do I really believe this or do I just want to, and is there a difference? If Christianity was right and I got to heaven would Yeshua be more likely to say "Hey there, friend! Great job with the faith!" or would my reception go more like, "Sorry man, sticking feathers up your ass doesn't make you a chicken. You pretended to believe and I knew the difference."

I maintain that nothing is my fault (with the exception of a lot of things).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Wherever my foot falls... "(in which we discuss Joshua)

I have a really cool brother in law named Brad. Right before I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2002 I went and hung out with Brad one night and as a going away gift he gave me a book he thought I'd enjoy. It was called "Skinny Legs & All" by Tom Robbins. I didn't like it and put it down pretty quickly. I was a very different person then (a republican even) and I had never really questioned my beliefs up to that point.

A year or two later I decided, for one reason or another, to give "Skinny Legs & All" another shot and this time I finished it. Its pretty good but this is not a review. In the book one of the characters, a rabbi, tells the protagonist that Old Testament Israel perpetrated what he considered to be the first Holocaust on the cultures of Phoenicia and Canaan. I thought this was interesting so I dived into my copy of the old testament for some investigation. I think this was the first big step in my de-conversion from Christianity.

I'm not going to go through the story in detail because you can find your own copy to reference, but I'll summarize the big points for you.
Moses had been leading the Israelites around in the desert for quite some time, because they weren't quite ready to enter the land that Yahweh had promised them. But then Moses died, and made Joshua their leader. Whereas Moses was content to wander around in the desert until Yahweh, in his wisdom, deemed it the right time to move into the promised land, Joshua wasn't so patient. Did I mention that the "Promised Land" already had people living there? It did. They were the Canaanites and Phoenicians and they had their own cultures with rich, creative, full lives and if our holy text can be relied on, they didn't pick this fight.

But Yahweh told Joshua that "wherever the sole of your foot falls, I have given to you." So big Josh decides its time to take the land they were promised. He sends spies into the city of Jericho to scope it out but the authorities get wind of it and start looking for the spies. Thank god for whores though, because one of them hid the spies in her house and lied to the cops for them. She basically sells out her own people to save her ass and makes a deal with the spies to spare her and her family when the onslaught comes. What character! What integrity!

So according to the good book, Josh and his crew march around the city seven times and then when they do their battle cry the walls fall down. Then they proceed to murder every man, woman, and child in the city. They also kill the donkeys and steal all the silver and gold because that's important to Yahweh. I guess the 10 Commandments should read "Do not murder.. except people that aren't Hebrew...I don't care so much for them."

Some people will say that the miracles are proof that Yahweh wanted this done. Oh yeah, he also parted another river so they could get there. But I say that history is told by those who win. Who was left to contradict them? They perpetrated genocide and infanticide on the opposing culture. They could've written that Yahweh himself came down and ended the fight with a sawed off shotgun and a flaming baseball bat, if they'd wanted to. And what was the Canaanites' crime? Not being Israelites? Living on land that was someone else's even though they were probably the first to inhabit it?

Then the book of Joshua also makes sure to mention how famous Joshua became and how everyone thought he was such a badass. Yeshua makes a big deal about humility and the meek inheriting the earth. I'm wondering how he would've worked this invasion.

I don't even honestly know if this happened at all. I mean, I'm pretty sure all of the miracles are made up to make it look like a mission from the Most High and not so much a crazy blood thirsty bigot leading his people to commit mass murder. But I think my biggest problem is how the church views this asshole. As a hero.

So to me there are two different ways to view this epic, each as distasteful as the next.
1. This is the story of a sick man who came into power over a nomadic people who were tired of being nomadic. They committed a holocaust and used a deity to cover their shame with arrogance and self importance. This was ethnic cleansing in its earliest incarnation and if we read about it anywhere other than the bible it would turn our stomachs and rightly so.
2. Let's suppose that every word of this is true and Yahweh really did request these things of his humble servant Joshua. If that is the case, then Yahweh is simply not a loving god. He is a monster; a primitive, sadistic, blood thirsty, racist, monster to whom we are all playthings. I wouldn't want him living on my street let alone bow to him.

The church could look at this story and say, "Let us never forget how we have inside us all a potential for evil, as Joshua did. Let us learn from his vanity." Instead they look at it and say, "He had to wipe them out or else their cultures would influence the Hebrew culture and they were God's chosen people, they had to stay pure. So its good that he did that. Yahweh has a plan." The whole thing is silly. If someone came up to you and said with conviction, "God has given me your house." What would you honestly think about that person? Would you move your shit out that day to make room for God's servant? Or would you call the cops because this person is clearly deranged and makes you feel more than a little uncomfortable? That's the one I'd do. If god wants someone else to have my house he should at least run it by me first. I'm sure the Canaanites would've appreciated the courtesy, as well.

I know a lot of the people that read this blog are Christians and Jews and it is certainly not my intention to offend you in anyway. It is my intention to share my journey in the hopes that it makes you take a little closer look at your god and your faith. I've talked to a lot of believers lately and to me it seems that the only difference between me and several of them is that they still have a desire to believe these things and I do not. But wanting something to be true or good and something actually being true and good are not the same things.

I hope we all find what we're looking for.