Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Being a Tolerant (and Honest) Athiest

So I read the following article a while back:

Where Are All the Honest Atheists? by Damon Linker

And as I read through the article I found I disagreed with pretty much everything it said on a fundamental level.

So, here's the thing. The article states that to believe there is no God is a tragedy, and to deny that is to be dishonest. Now, these days I consider myself agnostic/borderline atheist. And I can say, with 100% honesty, that it is not a source of tragedy for me.

I find it very reassuring that if I am suffering, it's not because God has chosen not to spare me for some reason that I don't understand. I find the idea that it was just a bad roll of the dice much more comforting. Oh well, bad luck. Could have happened to anyone, and often does. Everyone's turn comes eventually, this one's just mine. Roll again.

And to me the concept of an afterlife in any form is frightening. I find the concept of nonexistence much more comforting. This idea that losing my self is something tragic just doesn't make sense to me. Really, why should it bother me? How it can bother me if there's no me to be bothered by it? If I don't exist, I won't be there to notice the difference!

To my mind, death is much harder on the survivors. The loved ones left behind who now need to find a way to go on living without the person they've lost. All the things you didn't get to do or say together when they were here, and now never will. Knowing you will never see that person again for the rest of your life.

Which is where religion comes in. For many people, the idea that once your life ends you will be reunited with those lost loved ones gives them hope.

And really, what's wrong with that?

And that's why I'll probably always be "borderline" atheist. Because the atheist movement can be so damn anti-religion. When I first started accepting that part of the reason why no religion has ever stuck with me was because I was too skeptical, I started looking in to atheism. The animosity and vitriol I found there just turned me off. Comments like "for every one good thing you can name that religion has accomplished, I can name five bad things."

Yes, religion has been the cause of a lot of atrocities and really bad stuff. But here's the thing I feel the atheist movement misses: That's not their God's fault. Did Jesus lead the Spanish Inquisition? Did Allah hijack a plane on 9/11? No, that was all human beings doing that. Oh, sure, they did it in the mistaken belief that their Gods wanted them to, but here's the key: if you went back in time and removed all religion for the timeline of the human race, those events (or others on a scale with them) would still have happened anyway.

Because basically, haters are gonna hate. Take God out of the equation, and those people will do the same thing in the name of Homer Simpson.

Is that tragic? Hell, yes. (Pardon the pun.) But is religion to blame? Not in my eyes, it isn't.

I guess because I've known too many good religious people, people who actually got the message of "help everyone you can, and don't hurt anybody" that seems to be at the base of all religions. People who lived really messed up lives until the Bible helped them turn their lives around. People who were lonely and found honest comfort in the church.

So if religion can bring some people peace, hope and comfort, and cause them to reach out and help their fellow human beings, why should I consider that a bad thing just because I don't believe there's some supreme deity out there watching? For me to automatically assume that they're selfish, self-serving hypocrites just because they believe in God is being just as closed-minded and selfish. To ignore the good that's come from religions because they've failed to produce only good things strikes me as unfair.

Which brings me back to the "Honest Atheist."  The idea that I should somehow be upset that I don't believe in God anymore is like wishing my exes never got over me, that I was The One Who Got Away that they regret breaking up with for the rest of their lives.  Sure, losing one's faith is never easy, and I spent a lot of time being wrestling with it when it was happening to me. There was a period where I mourned losing my God. But once it was over, I found myself much more at peace with my beliefs.

I don't find the concept "that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter" tragic, I find it inspiring; we, as a species, struggled, persevered and grew until we became the creatures we are today. We rose above those non-animate clumps of matter, and then we invented the concept of dignity. That's incredible. Linker finds tragedy in the concept that "our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense." Again, I couldn't disagree more. If our lives are all we'll ever experience, if all we've got is the here and now, then the love we share becomes the greatest thing in the universe as we know it. That's huge.

So I can't speak for other agnostics/atheists out there, but I'm being completely honest when I say I don't find the concept that there isn't a God tragic. I think it puts the responsibility for all the terrible things we've done squarely on our own shoulders, and at the same time makes all the wonders and achievements we've accomplished that much more astonishing and something to be proud of.

The important thing to remember is that as individuals, we're not all going to be comforted by the same things. Everyone's got their own belief system that makes the most sense to them. That diversity is what makes us such an interesting people.  As long as what comforts you brings you peace, then you believing it works for me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Don't Invite Trouble

Presenting what may (or may not) be the first in a series of Photoshop Blog Cartoons!
(Click Here to view it full size and be able to read it.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

On anti-depressants? Then give up the gun.

Ok, I can't avoid all the gun talk, so here's my two cents.

(Oh, and for the record, I'm stealing my friend Lisa's (buy her book!)
zero-tolerance attitude for this as well. This is my opinion, and it's not up for debate. If I feel like deleting a response, then it's gone. Want to disagree with me? Fine. Go post your own blog.)

It's not violent video games or anything else in our culture that's causing this. It's the anti-depressants.

I'm basing (or biasing) this on experience. The last time I had my meds reduced I had a few days where mass-murder-suicide seemed perfectly rational. Luckily another part of my brain kept saying, "Noooooo, howabout we just go find something to eat instead?" But after that, every time I heard that a shooter was either on or coming off of anti-depressants (which so far has been all of them) I just found myself saying "well, there you have it, that's why."

I'm not bashing anti-depressants. They've done a lot to help me and many others get through some very rough times. But you are MESSING WITH YOUR BRAIN CHEMISTRY. You know, your BRAIN? The thing that tells the difference between right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable? And I can also say from experience that it's a total trial-and-error process. They pick one that works for most people, and based on your reaction to that decide whether to keep you on it or switch you to something else. Now to be fair, I was monitored pretty closely at that stage, because when it goes wrong it can go REALLY wrong.

But there really needs to be closer monitoring of those of us on these medications to see the warning signs, especially when it's being reduced. You know what my counselor did to help me when I told him how I was feeling? He had me sign a paper saying that I wouldn't hurt myself or anyone else. Yeah, because when your brain is telling you that it's never going to get better ever again but you can't kill yourself because it will affect too many other people, so the only rational solution is to kill them too, and that spiral doesn't stop until you come to the conclusion that really the entire human race really just doesn't deserve to live anymore
and you'd be doing everyone a favor if you wiped everyone out, the only thing that pulls you back off the ledge and keeps you from doing it is remembering that you signed a little digital signature pad saying you wouldn't go there. Right. 

And from there it was "See you next month." You know what, if I'm in such a bad shape that you're making me sign contracts not to harm anyone (and let's be real, that's probably more of them covering themselves from legal responsibility than anything else), maybe that's a sign I should be seen again a little more often during this rough patch. Ya' think?
Now for the gun control part of the equation. 

All of you pro-gun people shouting and screaming that only the criminals will have guns and we need more guns to save us from these shooters and Obama better not take our guns-- get real. No one is going to take your guns away. 

And all of you anti-gun people dreaming for a gun-free America-- get real. That's never going to happen either.

The bottom line is that love it or hate it, that genie was let out of the bottle over 200 years ago, and there's no putting it back. This country was founded on guns, the Second Amendment protects the guns, and there will always be guns. So both of you, just chill out.

But to me this is a clear-cut obvious place where gun control is needed. If you're on mind/mood-altering meds, then you should not have access to a gun. At all. Period. Not only should it automatically disqualify you from buying a gun anywhere (gun shows, the internet, all those lovely loopholes), you need to turn in any gun you already own while you're on them. And that also goes for anyone else in the house you live in as well. You should not be able to have access to a gun at all

After you've been off the meds for a few years and have had enough evaluations to prove you're stable again, then you can have them back. But someone has to sign off on it, being willing to put themselves out there and say "yes, I think this person is okay to own a weapon again."
If it's illegal to drive a car when your brain is intoxicated, then it should be illegal to own a gun when your brain chemistry is being altered as well.

I like to think that my own sense of morality, my being able to recognize even in my lowest state that I didn't want to hurt anyone, was enough to keep me from being one of those crazies you see on the news. But you know what? I don't have access to a gun. And I don't doubt that that helped.

Oh, and one last thing.

To those of you who actually think Sandy Hook has any kind of conspiracy behind it... shame on you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Not About Sex

I generally refer to myself as "bi" and not "bisexual."

It's not that I have a problem with the term bisexual per se, but I think a lot of people only see the "sexual" part of the word. And that's a problem.

'Cause I've been in a monogamous marriage since the '90s, see, and here's the thing-- the whole bi part of my identity hasn't gone away. And that's a bit of a surprise for me, because for a lot of my friends who used to identify as bi, it did. They would say things to me like "Ehh, with no [same-sex partners] in my life I never think about it anymore." So I just kind of assumed that when my wife and I settled down and got monogamous, it would go away for me too.

It hasn't. Arguments over LGBT rights still hit very close to home, even though no law is going to be passed invalidating my marriage since it's an opposite-sex marriage. I still notice the occasional cute guy in a movie or walking past me in the mall. I still feel the need to talk to people who are in tune with me and understand who I am and not just accept or tolerate the fact that I'm different. And I still feel the need to break the stereotypes. (ie, Bisexuals are promiscuous, bisexuals can't be faithful, bisexuals can't be trusted.)

And with all this hetero, married, monogamous sex ruling my life since the late 20th Century, you'd think it would have gone away by now. It's almost like how the first twenty years of my life were, when I kept trying to deny it was there in the first place and it wouldn't go away then either.  What's up with that?

Oh, that's right-- it's a core part of who I am.

It's not about sex. Yes, sex does start with attraction, but I can honestly say I have no desire to have sex with the attractive people I meet. Yes, relationships often lead to sex, but not always. But when you tell some people you're bisexual, they think you're telling them, "I like to have sex with men and women." They hear it as "bi-SEXUAL."

They don't hear "after years of being called a fag I finally made peace with who I am, and I don't ever want to hide that again." They don't hear "I feel like my government and most religions are persecuting me, and it scares me." They don't hear "I'm bi, married, and monogamous, and I need you to understand that I'm not the only one, I'm just one of the few trying to change your preconceived notions about that being the exception to the rule."

They don't hear you saying "I just want you to honestly love me for who I am, because I love you and your opinion means the world to me, and it hurts me when you tell me to keep it to myself."

Telling me to keep it to myself is like someone saying "Would you please dye your hair? Porn stars have blonde hair, but you insist on letting everyone see you have blonde hair. I don't need to know you have porn-star-colored hair. If you won't dye it, you should at least keep a hat on, because I don't need to know about that."

I'm not talking about my sex life when I talk about my orientation. My orientation has nothing to do with my sex life any more. I'm talking about something as basic about myself as the town I grew up in or the church I went to or the pet I own. I'm talking about my civil liberties. I'm talking about not having to hide who I am, and not feeling like who I am is something to be ashamed of.

I'm simply saying "Yeah, I'm bi" in the same way that I say "Yeah, I'm Italian." A simple statement of fact about myself, my history, my identity, and yes, a touch of pride.

So I only refer to myself as "bi." Not that I have anything against the term "bisexual," but because there's more to it --and to me-- than the sexuality.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I know! Let's Bring a TANK!

Since I've given up on my "Dreaming in Emotion" blog, here's my latest crazy dream:

I was at a science fiction con, and some guy just strolled into my room.

"Can I help you?" I asked.

He peered at me over his glasses and smiled. "Don't you recognize me?" Well, no, I didn't, but I don't recognize people who recognize me all the time, so I just smiled and let it go. So he just went and made himself comfortable in the next room and went to bed.

I looked at my buddy. "Who is that?!?" I asked.

"Beats me." Hmm... I think I've been had.

I walked out to see him, and he was all curled up in a bed. "I don't really know you, do I," I asserted.


"Okay, you need to leave."


"No, seriously, this isn't cool. Get out or I'm calling the cops."


I picked up the phone and made a big production of actually calling the police, to the intruder's complete indifference.

And soon enough, someone did show up, but it wasn't the police... it was the Army. Soldiers came rushing in through the door, with a giant tank making its way through the room and out onto the balcony. Luckily, it was a great big balcony on the roof, with stairs leading down to a giant landing with a swimming pool. Although the balcony doors were wide enough for the tank, the stairs were only the width of a person, so the tank got stuck.

And all the while, the intruder was still sleeping blissfully away, indifferent to the madness around him. Unfortunately, the madness was also indifferent to him, as none of the soldiers ever thought to look in the bed, and now they were all scurrying around trying to figure out what to do about the tank.

Well, that did it. I had had my fill and finally lost my temper, and started stomping on the landing and shouting at the soldiers in a perfect Lewis Black rant. "What a genius idea, bringing a tank up to the thirtieth floor! 'Hey, we've gotta go catch one guy on the top floor of a building! What should we bring?!? Oh, I know! Let's bring a TANK!!!"

The next person to knock at the door was a guy who looked a lot like the intruder. Turns out he was here to meet up with the first guy, so the intruder just casually got out of bed and strolled out, leaving the mess of the Army behind him. Soon the Army themselves moved on, leaving the tank wedged on the stairs with a green wide-headed antennaed alien slumped up unconscious against the tank.

Then Frank showed up wearing a Greatest American Hero neck tie. The dream got a little bizarre after that, so I'll stop there.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Got Your Class Warfare Right Here [Updated]

Before you read my ranting, it might help if you watch these videos. They only take about 11:20 total, not counting the 30 second Kashi commercial you have to sit through before each one, which makes for a total of 12:20, which is almost a quarter of an hour which now that I think about it is rather a long time so on second thought never mind.

And if you can keep up with that line of catastrophising thinking, you'll see the state my mind is in right now for the real topic.

I still want to believe in the human race. I want to believe that deep down, in their hearts, people understand that other people are people too, and not just a commodity to be bought and sold, to be used up and thrown away.

But I'm losing that faith. It dies a little more with every headline I see, every news article I read, every "news" story I watch.

I used to feel that slavery was something in the past, something we knew had been a horrible mistake on the part of the human race, a lesson painfully learned that we would never make again. But no, oh no no. We've just learned to play around the rules, to find new ways of making sure that there will forever be a Ruling Class and a Serving Class. Masters and slaves by new names.

"Demonizing the rich?" Are you kidding me? The only ones demonizing the rich are the rich's defenders. The more they protest the more obvious the greed becomes. Neil Cavuto says at the 1:37 mark in the first video that Warren Buffett needs to "stop assuming the rich are all billionaires." Oh, those poor poor millionaires who may never see their first billion! Why are they being persecuted? No, instead Cavuto says "before you start demanding that one group pay more, maybe get everyone [the poor] to put skin in the game." (Second video, 2:17.) Yes, that's it, those damn freeloading poor people, clinging greedily to their lower 2.5% of the nation's wealth. How dare they.

It's not enough that the rich and the politicians have been destroying the middle class. No, now that the end of the middle class is in sight, it's time to turn our sites on the poor.

Who can we count on to watch out for us? Not the politicians. They make more money than we'll ever see, so they're part of the rich as well. Their only job is to protect their jobs, and they do it well. The human decency of those running the corporations? Don't make me laugh. With the phasing out of unions (and corruption of some of the unions that are left) they've learned the best way to save money is to get rid of the workers they've had the longest who are at the top of the pay scale and replace them with someone at minimum wage. "Get me another monkey for the press," as a boss of mine once said.

Fox News will have us believe that Warren Buffett is enacting Class Warfare. They need to shut the frak up before they give the poor ideas. Because thanks to the NRA, the one thing the poor do have left is their guns, and thanks to the right keeping them uneducated they may not realize that a "class war" doesn't involve shooting.  And really, what good would it do them? Let's say the Lower Class does rise up into an all-out rebellion against the rich (which will never, ever happen, because they're too busy watching Jersey Shore). Then the politicians would have to start sending in the military to deal with these Poverty Terrorists, which would undoubtedly lead to less civil rights and a stronger wall being built between the rich and the poor. Maybe even a literal wall. And then there we are, with the elite living in luxury and safety inside their castle while the rest of us live in tents in the wastelands outside watching our government-provided televisions with no off buttons, until one day a group decides to gather up 4400 people from various points in human history, augment them with special powers and then drop them all back in time to try and prevent what happened, but of course the rich won't want that to happen so they'll try to sabotage it...

...Maybe I should just get my meds checked.

UPDATED: I got together with two friends of mine after I wrote this, and they helped talk me off of the ledge. One of them pointed out to me that I was being prejudiced towards all rich people, forgetting even Warren Buffett. And he was right, I was letting generalizations fuel my paranoia. He also helped me put things in perspective. We have a friend who is considering joining the Marines (I'll call her Betty). When I started saying that the military was going to round up all the poor people and put us all in labor camps, my friend said "Good, then maybe Betty won't get sent to Afghanistan, she'll just have to shoot hobos." The absurdity of which made us all laugh, and gave me a serious reality check. I considered pulling the post, but I've decided to let it stand as an experiment in creative writing. So don't take it too seriously, and I'll try not to either.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Logging into Facebook tonight, and here's the headlines that greeted me:

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That's right bi folks NBC is prepping to call you a whore. And they're whitewashing stuff. Happy to see Racebending and perhaps even Marissa Minna Lee are tweeting the issue. Seems like a good story for Kanika Ameerah K Tempest Bradford too! Props to Paige Listerud for the info!

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More Biphobic Blather: Say It Ain't So Joe - The usually evenhanded, intelligent and amusing blogger Joe Jervis of the popular JoeMyGod has really struck out with this throw-away post. Please stop by and (politely) remind him and his regular readers/posters that just like Polish Jokes or anti-Semitic Jokes are not actually funny, Biphobic ones aren't either.

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And neither do any of the trans guys I know. In fact, for someone who tries soooo hard to be hip, you are making yourself less cool every day.
[Like I really need another reason to dislike Ke$ha. - Fer]
- - - - - - - - - - - - -  

You know what?  I'm sick of this shit. I joined these various bi groups for support and encouragement, not for constant doomsaying about how we're being erased by the gay community and stereotyped by the straight community.  We're hated by both sides.  I get it. 

The thing is, if they hadn't told me, I never would have noticed.

The majority of my friends are straight.  They've never treated me with anything other than acceptance and respect.  I've had a few gay friends over the years, one of which I still keep in touch with.  And they've always been accepting and cool with me too.  I've organized a bi section in our local Pride March, and the people running the march were downright thrilled to have a bi group in it and have the "B" in LGBT not be just lip service.  More thrilled than everyone else in my local bi group, in fact-- the only one who marched with me was a straight ally friend from outside the group.  And that's really been my only problem being on my own-- the feeling that although I am accepted, no one around me really "gets it."

The point I'm making here is that I joined these bi groups to help lift me up and feel less alone.  Instead all I'm getting are depressing situations dragging me down from the national groups, and down-right apathy and being completely ignored from the local group. I've come to the conclusion I was happier when I was alone.

I'm not saying that these things shouldn't be brought to light, that we should just let bi-erasure and biphobia slide without doing anything about it.  I'm saying that I, personally, am sick of the fight.  I'm sick of feeling like I can't make a difference, because haters are gonna hate, and because no one answers my messages to my local group anymore anyway.  I can't improve things locally.  I can't improve things nationally.  All I'm accomplishing by trying to remain a part of the "bi community" is making myself upset.

While I don't know enough to not write and post a blog when I'm mad, I do know enough not to completely burn my bridges.  I'm not going to completely quit these groups just yet.  But I think I'm going to try hiding their messages and not reading their e-mails for a month or two and see how I feel then.

But for now, I've had enough.  I'm out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Plan B

Spoiler Level: High

They say we want to see ourselves reflected in the world around us.  It must be true, because why else would I sit through two whole seasons of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila?  Probably for the same reason I rented Plan B.  I want to see people and characters that I can identify with, and being bi, there aren't too many.  For what it's worth, Plan B is far and away the better of the two.

Plan B is the story of Bruno, Pablo and Laura.  Bruno is obsessed with his ex, Laura.  But Laura has moved on and has a new boyfriend, Pablo.  Well, kind of moved on.  She still sleeps with Bruno.  But she emphatically tells Bruno that's as far as it will ever go between them again.  So, after hearing that Laura's new boyfriend Pablo was with a guy once, he hatches Plan B:  get Pablo interested in him so Pablo will dump Laura, paving the way for Bruno to get her back.  But of course, things don't go as planned, and Bruno starts getting confused when he finds himself genuinely falling in love with Pablo.

It's a decent enough movie.  It's from Argentina, and it reminds me of the days before Joy & I started our own business, when we'd go out to the movies with Dave and watch just about everything.  I haven't seen a good art house movie in a long time.  And it's definitely good, albeit very slowly paced.  Very slowly paced, which allows things to unfold in a very delicate manner.  And there is something very charming about Bruno and Pablo that sticks with you after the movie has ended.

As to the whole personal reflection thing, I was quite surprised the first time I found myself feeling emotional over another guy, so there were definite scenes I could relate to.  It doesn't really relate to where I am now, but that's okay.  Oh, and I could be wrong about this, but I don't recall the B word ever being used; I read in a bi forum that the maker of The Kids Are All Right said that if she used the word bisexual, she wouldn't have been able to get the film released.  You wouldn't think that would matter in Argentina, though, but hey, I've never been to Argentina so for all I know they're even more uptight there.

So all in all it was nice to see, but I'll still be looking for something I identify with a little closer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer

This is one fantastic book.

Michael Shermer takes a skeptical look at topics such as ESP, UFO abductions, near-death experiences, creationism, Objectivism, Holocaust denial and more.  But the main purpose of this book isn't to debunk them (which he skillfully does) or ridicule them (which he carefully doesn't); what makes the book great is that he's out to understand why people believe them, despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Since he says it himself at the beginning of the book, it's not really giving anything away for me to include the short answer here:  we believe these things because we are pattern-recognizing creatures with intuitive thinking.  And while this worked great for our survival as a species, it means we're also great at finding patterns for things that aren't there, assigning meaning to them, and then skillfully defending them.

The rest of the book gives the long answer as he looks at each item individually, showing the different ways we bring such beliefs into existence in the first place, presenting the evidence against it, and exploring why people are able to discount that evidence in a way that seems logical to them.  It's a wonderful blend of science, psychology and sociology, all while keeping a skeptical approach.  It kept me fascinated from beginning to end and has introduced me to the benefits of healthy skepticism.