When discussing politics in America, there’s a lot of talk about left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, and so on. Most of these distinctions have some meaning but fail to accurately represent reality. Some people have mapped political views along two separate scales in a sort of Cartesian graph, which makes a lot of sense (one source is the Political Compass). I’m going to explain such a graph in my own words, with a few tweaks to hopefully make it more clear what the graph means to me, who I oppose, and why.
This is my first holiday season as a solid non-theist. Last year I was still clinging to the remnants of a liberal Christianity that was the result of trying to eliminate falsehood and bias from my belief system. That’s the troubling thing about honestly searching for truth…it leads you places you may not expect or even want to go. I never was very good at hanging onto beliefs that don’t fit what I know of reality. Perhaps I’m just too sensitive to cognitive dissonance.
The holidays can be a difficult time for secular people with religious families. They’re literally “holy days”, held sacred by various religious people, some of whom will get mad if you say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” (because apparently Christmas is the only holy day that matters). Of course, there’s little of the sacred left in our mainstream celebrations, which in true American tradition tend to focus more on greed and exploitation. Behind the saccharine ahistorical story of the “First Thanksgiving” lies a much broader story of the greed of Europeans, and exploitation of the natives and their land. We’ve changed so much and yet so little.
I came across this list of “questions for atheists” on an apologetics website thanks to a YouTuber named Steve Shives. He’s an atheist who is giving his own answers to the questions in a series of three videos, and I highly recommend his channel for a clearly-presented atheistic viewpoint. He has several video series in which he reviews apologetics books extensively and explains why he doesn’t find them convincing.
I thought it would be interesting to answer these questions myself, although I’m not an atheist. Some Christians insist that I am, since I don’t believe in their particular god. Of course, by that reasoning any Christian could be called an atheist for not believing in the god of Islam. If you really think about it, pretty much everyone holds an atheistic view toward other people’s gods. Some Christians like to frame atheism as a belligerent, angry, or irrational point of view, but not believing in the Christian god is really no different than not believing in the god of Islam. Perhaps we can recognize the commonality we have there, and perhaps my answers from a middle-ground position will help to clear up misunderstandings.
So with that said, let’s dive into the questions.
Leaders of both major political parties in America gathered last Friday to argue about which of them has been more effective at fostering stupidity and greed.
Republicans cited their strong record of creating mass hysteria, saying it has turned out to be one of the best environments for self-centered behaviors to flourish. However, points were docked for their ineffective approach to fogging up promising young minds, which mostly consisted of repeating the same nonsense over and over and expecting it to become real.
Democrats claimed that their ability to take intelligent people and make them totally lose touch with reality is unparalleled. “It’s one thing to lure in a bunch of idiots,” one member said, “but it’s quite another to turn formerly reasonable people into slobbering dimwits.”
I was never taken very seriously by anyone, even as a Christian. I’ve always had rather unpopular ideas, and I come across few people who are willing to entertain them and give me a reasonable discussion. For the most part, I’ve been left to figure out everything on my own due to major obstacles preventing me from properly connecting with other people. Since I think and talk differently, I’ve become keenly aware of the fallibility of my own mind, and that there are many things I don’t understand yet. I tend to test my ideas by presenting them to people who disagree with me, in order to get a very different perspective that may help me weed out flaws in my thinking.
But often that isn’t useful because they don’t even get what I’m saying in the first place. It’s like what I say gets filtered through a decoding process and means something different to them. I believe the filter is emotion, since I tend to explore philosophical ideas without any emotion, while people who disagree with me often react emotionally. This is particularly evident when the subject is religion.
This morning my truck decided to blow out its head gasket and spit coolant and oil all over the exhaust header, thus producing a pungent cloud of smoke. I was about halfway to work when I noticed it running poorly and making weird noises, so I drove the other half-mile and waited for the sun to come up before I looked at the engine. After a quick and easy diagnosis (there aren’t many issues that cause a mixture of oil and coolant to spew out from the middle of the engine), I ordered the gaskets.
Then after work I sputtered one mile back home and hopped in my latest Porsche for a short spirited drive on some twisty roads to improve my mood.
Oh, right, I haven’t written about this one yet. Once again, I failed to stick with a car (the gold Golf) and traded it for a 1987 944 Turbo. I had to add some cash, but it was too good of a deal to ignore.
I enjoy food very much. I grew up on an ever-changing diet subject to my mother’s latest discovery of a “natural” foods fad, and money was usually stretched–with up to eleven people to feed–so I learned to be creative with the ingredients I had.
Lately I’ve been seeing articles posted on Facebook from two very distinct groups of friends. I have mostly conservative mothers and young adults posting a variety of things about alternative medicine and natural foods. Some are harmless, some are reasonable, some blatantly lie, and a few verge on dangerous.
The other group of friends are skeptics, of all ages, who post articles exposing the bad science and outright lies behind some common fads. Most of those happen to be reports of scientific studies, whereas the first group often gets their data from blogs and bad websites run by the “persecuted” quack doctors or alternative medicine celebrities.