Atheist in the pews (part 2) October 26, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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A little while back, I wrote an article about my experience in visiting a Presbyterian church. I contacted the gentleman who gave that sermon that day, exchanged a few pleasantries, but never heard from him again after he read the article. But I am not dissuaded! I press on, and I visit other churches in the hope of maintaining some communication between people like myself and those with whom I share little in terms of metaphysical opinion.
But, as I discovered yesterday (Sunday, October 25th, 2009), I do have a fair amount in common in other areas besides my theological persuasion. Yes, I might say that I found that I can agree quite closely with a worldview expressed at certain churches on certain days. And with that, allow me to report what I found at a local Vinyard church yesterday…
A gathering of young, attractive, and slightly swaying people gathers under the chord-changes that seek to immitate the presence of a holy spirit. Some sing along in praising the resurrection that supposedly brings them joy and peace. One, standing before them, prays for all those who, assuredly still attached to the unseen powers of the real world, arrive late. As they sit, a prayer of fear is offered. It is that which should be learned; fear. But wait, there’s more! See, God will come to the down-trodden and those in need. No doubt pain, loss, and fear are felt here. No doubt they come to this place with this need.
One day, every knee will bow
one day, every tongue will confess
they sing. An insecurity sits in this song which hovers over the crowd like a mist, almost visible it is so strong. A vindication of their faith lives in these words. Their belief is justified by that promise this time of all bowing and confessing which cannot verified, but its hope is palpable here. Their swaying continues with the new song. Hope, genuine affection, a few hands raised as if to catch something unseen but certainly felt. The evidence of things unseen? Perhaps.
Then they sit. I have been sitting and jotting my impressions. This has earned me some attention. They seem to wonder what I am writing, and perhaps why I am writing. Perhaps they wonder why I am not moved by the spirit as they are. Perhaps I project. Perhaps they are just not used to seeing this particular action in this particular place and time.
God comes close to us when we grieve
starts the pastor. He talks of loss. There are those that are no longer with us. We must set aside time and space to grieve for those who are gone. Do not be satisfied with the thought that they are in a better place. Well said. But well said for different reasons than the ones I might give.
And this would be the theme for me throughout the next hour. I, the atheist in the pew, will find myself in agreement with much of what is said in this sermon, but will wonder a recurring question throughout;
What does this have to do with any god?
The inspiration, as it were, for this sermon is Matthew 6: 25-33. For those of you who don’t remember, it is the section where Jesus instructs us (supposedly) to “look at the birds of the air” and to “consider the lilies of the field.” In fact, I’ll just quote the section that the sermon was derived from (NRSV):
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,* or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
This is a section that I am well aware of. I remember a British sketch comedy bit about it that I found funny (I could not locate it to embed–sorry. If you know of it email me a link). I will tell you that I think that this passage is plagued with some problems, and as soon as the pastor began his discussion I wrote them down immediately.
But don’t the birds have to work for their food and shelter? The ones that could not died out and the ones that could are still here, so how is this supposed to be an inspirational analogy? Quite simply, I think Jesus is wrong here, and frankly looks quite ignorant of the life of birds and lilies.
The problem is that the passage states that the birds and lilies are taken care of. The idea is that in a similar way, god takes care of us. We should not become anxious over our lives because God will take care of things. We need, says our fearless pastor, strive for peace and simplicity.
Simple enough, right? See, it isn’t up to us. “We think that we are in charge,” but in fact God is in charge. God wants us to buy into a discipline of not worrying so much; to live a life of simplicity. We are complex, but Jesus preached simplicity. And in this materialist culture where one can get distracted by gadgetry and so forth, we should live by some basic guidelines to simplify our lives.
In a world of competition, we need to avoid the temptations of power in an attempt to maintain a life of integrity and value.
OK, I’m with him so far, mostly. So what does this have to do with God? What does this have to do with Christianity? I’m with you, my friend, but just because this idea was drawn from a passage from the New Testament, does that make this message a Christian one? Because as you continue to speak, dear pastor, the more I am reminded of Epicurus.
But there is more. You see, children buy into things easier.
Richard Dawkins is shitting himself…but in a dignified, British way…
I’m being a little unfair, I suppose. The idea is that we should try and maintain a child-like approach to learning and truth. We should remain open-minded and receptive. Perhaps, but not so open-minded that our brains fall out. In my opinion we need to remain open yet skeptical. Children are not always so skeptical. They tend to believe what you tell them because they need to be so open in order to learn and to survive. Had it been otherwise, those children thousands of years ago who didn’t believe their parents that the tiger didn’t want to be petted would not have survived and that particular trait of needing to verify everything they are told as a child would not have been passed down to the next generation. Simple natural selection.
Child-like, indeed. It allows the theology to be swallowed easier if we don’t ask too many questions. Child-like adults all gathered here listen intently, a few subtle motions and grunts of agreement can be pulled out of the quiet congregation.
I was partially with the pastor at this point. I thought there was some value to the idea to not try and control everything and to try and simplify our lives. I do not agree that we are not in charge and that God is, only that while we are in charge, there is no point in trying to control everything and to take a step back sometimes. This will help with anxiety, I agree. I strongly disagree with the idea that the responsibility is in a god’s hands. I think this is antithetical to our responsibility, and it seeks to have people not take pride in their accomplishments or to take responsibility for their mistakes. I do not believe the pastor would agree that this idea promotes irresponsibility, but this is precisely what the logical conclusion of this line of thought leads to, in my opinion.
But then he made a comment that stuck out to me even more. “Because we lack a divine center, we seek materialism” (or something very similar to that statement). This is the point where he lost me completely. See, I’ve never been a man of any god. I’ve never believed in Jesus, Allah, or any of those silly things, and yet I am in almost complete agreement with his essential message that he will deal with in the next section of his sermon.
He then discusses our insecurity (irony?) We seek answers, community, etc and sometimes we reach in the wrong direction in life. Amen, brother! But what does this have to do with God? Oh, right…without a divine center (that is, without God) we don’t have a goal-post to strive for. We don’t have s source of wisdom with which to make better decisions in our lives. Thus the following pieces of advice are really based upon God.
There is a terse reply to such a claim; fucking bullshit.
I call bull on this because I know that I, who have never been a Christian and don’t believe in any gods, agree with the rest of the sermon (mostly). I have come up with and learned the same pieces of wisdom from secular philosophers (such as the previously mentioned Epicurus), and many of them pre-date the Bible or are from non-Christian sources. These are not Christian pearls, they are usurped wisdom taken from the real world and illegitimately associated with Jesus for Christians, partially in order to feel special and different in comparison with a materialistic amd power-driven world.
Then, there was a list of ten pieces of advice that was derived from a man whose name seemed familiar but that I could not place at the time; Richard Foster. And the more the pastor went on and on, the more I kept thinking ‘this reminds me so much of my Quaker school and the stuff they talked about’ and thinking that this guy, this Foster, was ripping stuff off from the Quakers. And then I remembered (later) that Foster was a Quaker theologian. And I laughed. I had simply found yet another liberal Christian church who had a message that was just like the one I had grown up with. But I had never been a Christian. I had just attended a Quaker school. And the Quaker school I went to was dominated by Jews as much as Christians.
But I had learned these ideas not in relation to a god necessarily, but as good rules to live by in society. These are liberal ideas which can also be found in the Bible (although perhaps not for some), although they are not the only messages contained therein.
Again, what does this have to do with god?
Nothing. Nothing at all. All of this God-talk is merely a metaphor (an excellent article, so read it) for these ideas to live by. These things would be true whether or not thereis a god. God is being given the credit for this wisdom just because a passage in Matthew happens to touch on the issue, and only sort of. A better source for this discussion may have been Ecclesiastes, in my opinion. But this is what pastors do; they take a passage and associated with some cultural message and give the credit to their concept of god rather than to themselves.
The bottom line here is that in churches like these where God is talked about but only in ignoring the nasty stuff he has done according to that book, what is being preached is just sense. It should be common sense (and perhaps it is) but as I watched people react to the sermon, I saw them inspired and in love with this concept of god not realizing that they are giving this god the credit rather than taking it themselves.
We are not the ones in charge, he had said. God deserves the credit. I disagree as strongly as I can disagree with anything. This is a disgusting and anti-human message. It de-values us by making us puppets for a megalomaniacal bully (seriously, read the whole book some time). It seeks to humble us in a way that not only does not cure the insecurity within us, but perpetuates it. It is a slave morality, as Nietzsche called it. It is a way to keep people down under the guise of worship.
And what’s worse is that they don’t realize it. They don’t see that this message of allowing God to ‘take the wheel’ (as that awful song said) can take away anxiety, sure, but it also takes away the joy of accomplishment, the pride of success (it is not a sin to be proud–what kind of sick and twisted view would claim that out loud and call itself moral?), and the responsibility that we have for the world around us and within us because it takes away the credit of our effort. It’s all gone to the glory of God. That’s disgusting!
Do I sound angry? Well, I am a little. I am angry that people go to these churches to receive mediocre advice that can be found in any number of places without having to prop up a belief in a god for which there is no evidence. Further, these efforts continues to give credit for this mediocre wisdom to this imaginary being and circularly gives ‘evidence‘ for that god by actually sounding like it makes sense. After all, things that make sense can only come from God, if you assume that God is the source of all wisdom. Gotta love circular logic.
The bottom line is that I had a chance to hear a sermon that I agreed with a fair amount, but I didn’t see any reason to believe that it had anything to do with a god. Modern liberal Christianity still seems to me to be nothing more than a group of young and progressive people who like hearing nice things, especially things that challenge the consumerist and materialistic capitialistic world they live in, and then attributing the ideas to Jesus who will take away their pain and let them live forever. I wonder if they have really contemplated eternity. That’s a scary concept. But Jesus is magic, so he’ll take away that scariness too, I guess.
At least they aren’t Pagans; man, they annoy the crap out of me.
The atheist conspiracy and secular culture October 26, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Atheists are distrusted more than any other group in the United States according to at least one poll. Things such as the “war against Christmas” and the culture wars in general help to create the perception that atheists and other secular thinkers are working together to destroy “traditional” values within American culture. “Family values” and Christianity are being discriminated against under the banner of the First Amendment. This secular goliath, led by academic elites, Liberals, and homosexuals, is threatening to destroy thousands of years of cherished, God-ordained, ideas.
If you listen to such luminaries as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc, then you may be aware of a concerted, omnipresent, and culturally destructive power structure behind the media, schools, and the atheistic scientific community that threatens to take God out of the world. This conspiracy has been in motion for decades, if not centuries, and will continue to destroy traditional Christian America until we are all living in an Atheistic, Communistic, and permissive culture that will drag the world into the recesses of hell.
What makes this feat so amazing is that it is carried out by a small (yet growing) and largely politically impotent group of people made up of often fiercely individualistic people. The various organizations for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc throughout the United States, despite their differences, splintering, and lack of cohesive voice, have somehow managed to take control of the culture.
Wait…. a relatively small, disorganized, and powerless minority without any more in common than a shared disbelief in a divine being (for which no evidence exists) has somehow managed to overpower a majority who follow an omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal creator of all that exists?That some serious undertaking.
If you’ve ever talked to more than one of two atheists at a time, you’ll find that it is often difficult to get them to agree to much more than said shared disbelief, let alone organize effectively. The organization and size of the various Christian communities, despite their differences, with their massive media presence and cultural acceptance are in a much better place to maintain influence than any group of atheists. Therefore, another theory must be presented to account for the secular threat that faces religion today.
To begin with, we need to define secular. Secularism is not anti-religious, but rather a-religious. A secular person is not, at least not necessarily, against or opposed to religion. A secular person is someone for whom religion is a minor concern or at least of vanishing concern in making decisions about their society and culture. Their decisions are not made with any religious notion in mind, whether it is to follow or intentionally rebel against one. Secularism, therefore, is not the same as atheism.
Most people believe in some kind of divine existence. For the most part this belief does not shape the entirety of a person’s worldview; people still believe in using critical thinking of some kind for most of their every day decisions. Rationality, logic, and science have won out the day for the vast majority for what kind of medical treatment to get, how to understand how our computers work, and roughly how much we should pay for groceries. These are the tools that the secular world uses. They answer questions about many things, and still leave us pondering over others. When questions about ethics, purpose, and origins of life come up, most people pull out some kind of god or religion, but for most things god is essentially irrelevant.
Most of our decisions in life are made based on the secular tools we all have available. Secular ideas are everywhere, and to an extent they do threaten many religious ideas. But these secular ideas are not the result of a conspiracy to implement them in society by atheists, humanists, or any other freethinkers; they are just ideas that work, which is why we use them. It just so happens that skeptics, which tend to be atheists, tend to accept ideas which work. Thus, when many theists see secular ideas pervading culture and they see atheists and their ilk promoting these ideas, it looks like the ideas are emanating from these people rather than the other way around.
That’s right, the secular ideas, technologies, etc that have been developed throughout history—whether they were created by secular people or not—and tend to impress the power of rational thought and scientific methods onto people. When these people apply these methods onto the world, many of them tend to move further away from religion (especially more fundamental versions of religion) and become more secular people in general.
It is no surprise that some people employ these tools with more effort and to more areas of concern. Some people are meticulous with reason when it comes to their finances but will not even touch their spiritual life with those same tools. Most atheists that I know have simply applied their secular tools to religious ideas and concluded that they don’t hold water.
What this means is that not all people will become atheists. Many will still believe in a God or gods, but will find a balance, reconciliation, or separation between science and religion in such a way that their worldview is not threatened by secular culture. This is partly because secular thinking does not threaten religion unless said religion is so anti-science and non-rational that it is incompatible with all of the stuff that those secular tools create. The problem is that many religious people—fundamentalist Christians especially—accept claims about the world that secular tools tend to break when applied to them. It is from this that some Christians conclude that they are being attacked, oppressed, or discriminated against.
These people are not being discriminated against; they are simply disagreed with by people who accept secular methods for figuring out how the world works. If they feel persecuted, it is because they accept ideas that are unacceptable by standards of rational thinking. They are allowed to believe whatever they want, but they have to accept that when they try to claim that their beliefs are a part of our tradition, law, and culture, they have the right to be mistaken. Christianity in general is indeed a part of our shared history and culture, but not a part of or laws. And as far as tradition is concerned, sometimes traditions need to change just as they have been doing throughout history.
The more that secular ideas are understood and internalized by people, the more culture will move away from religion and belief in gods. I don’t think either will ever fully disappear, and perhaps that is alright. Science, rational thinking, and logic do not support many religious claims, but they also do not disprove many others. But the more we process towards a more complete understanding of the world the less that religion is asked to explain. Further, the explanations that religions continue to offer are all pseudo-explanations or simply insufficient, at least for those who have applied their secular tools to them. The many good ideas of secular culture will tend to support the atheistic position rather than the theistic position.
So, many people may not like atheists, but in most cases atheism is the result of use of the best tools that humankind has yet developed. Our disbelief in deities is simply due to the fact that, despite it’s presence in history, culture, and human life, religion just doesn’t work, at least not when we apply those highly regarded methods. I see it as an optimistic sign that secular ideas are accepted widely. I hope that it means that the future will hold greater organization among atheists, skeptics, and freethinkers of all kinds. This will be a sign of brighter futures.
The pseudo-depth of religion October 17, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: illusion, meaning, Nietzsche, purpose, religion, truth
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We, unfortunately, live in a largely anti-intellectual and unsophisticated culture. There is not ample interest in things philosophical or subtle. I will not lament this here for its own sake, but I will mention this as a pretext to address another issue.
We are pattern seeking beings that desire meaning and purpose in life, but we are rarely exposed to the various approaches to finding these things. The depth of that search is often too terrifying to traverse, and so we try to find other ways to fulfill this need. And, lucky for us, culture and its complex structure has supplied our history with just such a function. The vast majority of people are usually exposed to one source of meaning and purpose; am ancient cultural tradition that still holds sway for many people.
I want to call it religion, but that is too simplistic in the end. It is my view that religion is a natural expression of our desire to explore the world for meaning. It is a way to look inward and in many cases to project outward what we desire to find there, and to latch onto narratives, myths, and the illusion of ‘something more’ in order to add color, depth, and importance to a world that seems meaningless.
It is a kind of metaphysical or ‘spiritual’ impulse to explain the universe in terms of intent, intelligence, and often in love. And the result of this impulse that we share are the many religions an spiritual pursuits of the world. These are the vehicles of providing meaning, purpose, and intent into an otherwise meaningless existence. And because we sense this meaninglessness often enough, we seek shelter from those cold winds of loneliness and purposelessness.
That is, people seek the part of our psychology that is responsible for the religious cultural impulse to find meaning. The easiest way to do this is to take an atavistic glance back to the introduction to such feelings; the religion of our childhood. And if not our childhood, the religion of our early attempts to look for meaning in the world. For many, groups such as Campus Crusade for Christ (or some similar group) seek to fill the insecure holes that creep into our lives in a time of emotional upheaval and change of the early tastes of freedom that college provides.
In general, whenever the insecurities and fears of life emerge, the desire to see meaning and purpose weaved into the fabric of life and reality act as a sort of blanket against the coldness of the world.
But before I continue I must hark to the whisper of a ghost which has come my way. A strange and somewhat lively sprite—lively for a dead man, anyway! A moving of thoughts tussles its way to my mind’s ear and words resolve into a thought:
Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial
And with such a deep strike into the heart the thought evaporates and the spirit haunts another. Or perhaps it has sunk so deep into me that I can no longer distinguish between it and myself. The difference—it is indifferent! But the whisper of the name of “Nietzsche” reverberates throughout and my mind returns to the task at hand.
But this spiritual visit has had a purpose, I fathom. Because in a largely unsophisticated world, the early reaching for meaning and purpose are mitigated by religion; they are softened for us by a pseudo-depth of assertions of truths that are always bolstered by nothing but faith—in other words by sheer preferential desire for them to be true.
It is common for people to scuttle through there youth while largely unconcerned with the ramblings of religious ideologies. Yes, if pressed they parrot the memories of their early exposure, but they live secularly and leave to Sundays (or some other bequeathed holy day) the quandaries of any depth. It is only to these holy days that purpose and the insecurities of meaning emerge into the sunlight of our thoughts.
We have not yet allowed the scab to form over such insecurities in order to have our fears heal. And so we protect our raw minds from the exposure to the dangerous world and we often miss the sophistication and depth which lives there while distracted by this protective preoccupation. Because we spend so much energy nursing our fears in public, we miss the true depth of the world.
And so what of true depth and subtlety? What of philosophy? Why, upon the hardship of emotional turmoil, of loss, or of dissatisfaction do people turn to their lord, to the false depth of dogma and myth rather than to do the real, hard, and growth-inspiring work of looking deep within without the lenses of faith and childhood brainwashing?
We avoid the difficult in life and revert to looking at it through Christianity or some other absurd softening of our mortality and ultimate meaninglessness. And in doing so we miss that it is our responsibility to lend meaning to our lives. We must take responsibility for how we face death, loneliness, and dissatisfaction.
So often churches will remind us that in the pursuit of money, power, or otherwise transient things, happiness can only be temporary. They cannot supply real meaning for us, which we crave. But then they assert that a real happiness, a real and eternal answer may be found. But this is only an assertion. It is a promise that cannot be kept. It is another distraction from the truth that mature and aware adults have to face. It is a fantasy to cover a scary world.
The thing is that the churches who remind us of the ultimate meaninglessness of our earthly desires are correct. They just fail to acknowledge that they are not offering anything different. Their mystical explanations are only deep in an illusory way. Their façade is not even willing to dip its little toe into the waters of the universe out of fear that the water is too cold. And it is cold.
Warmth can only be found with one-another. And so churches, in gathering communities, are creating a mirage; it is not the message of eternal life that provides meaning and purpose, it is the company that sits upon this superficial message that supplies the meaning. It is the illusion of having eternal companions, covered by real but temporary ones, that perpetuates the illusion.
When we find meaning and purpose in shallow promises of eternity, we find not even a shallow pool in which to swim. The universe is deeper than we can comprehend. Its true beauty lies beyond the fear that is manipulated by religion which only thinks itself deep. Come and join the universe and dive into fathoms unfathomable. Rather than transcend this world, transcend your fears of it and come swim with us in oceans of reality. And when you do, you will find true warmth in the company of the disillusioned and the free.
The cultural assumption of monogamy (and gods) October 2, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
It is clearly true that most people believe in god and that, in the end, we should at least try to choose one life-partner. Not everyone will like that term, conservatively preferring the more traditional ‘husband’ or ‘wife,’ but this seems to be the prevailing assumption among people in our culture. Polyamory or some other form of non-monogamy (i.e. swinging, swapping, etc) is almost always seen as the exception to that rule.
So, how much of this is natural? Well, strictly speaking I believe (being a metaphysical naturalist) it is all natural because everything that happens in a natural universe is natural. The artificial distinction between the natural and the artificial is, well, artificial (to be slightly ironical). But I digress….
How much of this is due to our in-born behavior and how much of it is cultural? I am really not sure, to be honest. There seems to be components of both nature and nurture going on here. What I do know is that I’ve never believed in any gods, never actually believed in any supernatural powers or beings, insofar as I actually understood what those terms were supposed to refer to. I have also felt, in my moderate experience with monogamy, a little unsure about the idea that neither my significant other nor I would date or maintain other relationships while maintaining our own.
What’s wrong with monogamy?
I certainly do not believe that monogamy is wrong. Even for people within the polyamorous community (one among many), being committed to a relationship with only one person (even if for only temporarily, but sometimes for many years) happens and people are often quite happy with this arrangement. But why is it the cultural ideal or goal to work towards? Why, when we talk about the long term, do our minds assume monogamous relationships?
If I say that I am engaged and getting married soon, do you assume I mean that my partner and I will be monogamous (or at least attempt that ideal?). If I were to say that I was just married and that my partner and I are monogamous, would that seem redundant? Would it seem redundant or extraneous to say that I’m married and am not monogamous? How about if I said that I am in a committed relationship but not monogamous? Does relationship commitment imply monogamy? It does not to myself nor many polyamorous people.
My view about how relationships should form and be maintained is through conversation about what each individual wants and what can be negotiated through open and honest communication. But it seems that the assumed track, even now with our more promiscuous society, is that while we can date a number of people early on, there is a point after which one has to decide if they will initiate a “real” relationship with someone they have been seeing. The assumption is that after some time and intimacy, it is time to get serious and to make a choice about commitment, marriage, etc. And this, of course, implies the ideal of monogamy, if not its actual practice.
And that, of course, means that continuing to date other people or–*gasp*–maintain another loving and possibly sexual relationship cannot be permitted to continue. This would be cheating, after all, right? A commitment is a commitment. It is not possible to commit to two, three, or even four people, right?
But how often do people actually discuss the nature of and boundaries of their relationships? I do, and people who know how to maintain a healthy relationship do, but I wonder how prevalent this is. How often is the question asked “do we want to be monogamous?” rather than merely assume it? Certainly, some couples with ostensively ask “do we want to be swingers?” or “when I’m away on business trips can I fool around with other people?” but it seems that these are the exceptions to the rule; the exceptions to the assumed monogamy.
But why assume that?
The work and the benefits
Many will argue that monogamy is more stable. Possibly, but I don’t see why this is necessarily so. They will also say it is less complicated. That last part is very true. But we have to balance that against the fact that when we love someone, we can’t really not love them.
So, why artificially create a rule that you can’t act on or express those feelings because you have a relationship with someone else? Why limit this love to one person unnecessarily and arbitrarily? Convention? Tradition? Because that is what people want? Well, if it is what a person wants then I have no problem with that, but what we want certainly does not always line up with convention or tradition. But when people like myself want something else, allow them the same courtesy please, is all I ask.
The benefits of the work it takes to maintain a loving, communicative, and healthy relationship is worth it, and it will be worth it no matter how many people are involved, assuming those relationships are all desired to begin with. What else would be worth work more than that? And if people choose to love more than one person, share their lives with those people, and create a loving family not confined by the rules of monogamy, then why wouldn’t this be a goal worth working towards? Why would our culture not widely sanction this?
Fear is part of it. Insecurity, the daughter of fear, too. We fear that our lover will love their other lover more than us, that we will not get enough attention, that they may leave us for them, etc. But the bottom line is that these fears still exist within monogamy, and quite often they are not talked about between partners. Our creating the rule that we don’t act on these potential state of affairs (*ahem*) will not necessarily make them unwarranted fears. It’s not as if people in monogamous relationships don’t meet people they are attracted to, love, etc and act on it.
And when they do act on these feelings with the loving approval of those with whom we are in relationships, then we have one possible expression of a polyamorous lifestyle. Polyamory is what we make of it, after all. It is really just responsible non-monogamy.
Poly people quickly learn how to communicate with their partners well or quickly find their relationships failing. People in relationships of all kinds will find that this failing is allowed to often stretch into long periods of resentment and hostility that will boil under the surface without the presence of triggers such as seeing the person you are resentful of loving their other partner. The presence of such things don’t allow festering relationship sickness to hide under the surface for very long. Thus, where in monogamy unhealthy relationships can often be maintained for long periods of unhappy time, having other people involved tends to magnify these problems and bring them to the surface more quickly.
Relationships succeed in the daylight of honesty, openness, and effective communication; whether polyamorous or monogamous. The fact is that these skills are essential in being polyamorous while only being highly preferable in monogamy (unless you want an actually healthy monogamous relationship). Poly people become adept at being good at communication, honesty, and openness or they don’t succeed at maintaining loving healthy relationships with people. That seems to make sense to me. I wish the rest of the world would learn from this.
Polyamory is not for everyone…at least not yet at least
I sometimes have trouble understanding people who say that they could never be polyamorous. I understand that some people recognize that the work necessary to be successfully polyamorous is too much and so they choose not to try, but not the fact that they would not even want to. But other people want different things, and I recognize this.
But there are practical concerns too. I understand the social pressure to conform in order to not make their life more difficult; people are, after all, judgmental pricks quite often. I understand that from a practical point of view rocking the boat only makes things more difficult for you and your family.
But the above are more emotionally mature rejections of polyamory. The prerequisite to successful polyamory is the ability to maintain a healthy relationship with one person first. Only after this has been established can one even try to maintain a healthy relationship with other people, at least in some romantic and/or sexual way. There are other people who do not recognize that polyamory requires difficult work, and so their desires for more partners will often fail because they will do so at the expense of the needs of those they are with. This leads to cheating, broken marriages, jaded people, etc. To reject polyamory because one has not mastered first the -amory is not rational.
Isn’t polyamory just sanctioned cheating?
Embedded within the assumptions that many of us carry about relationships is that to allow your partner to develop loving and/or sexual relationships with other people is to just to allow cheating. But within the paradigm of polyamory, the open loving relationships that we have are all legitimate, and so your other lover is not a sanctioned affair or someone with which we are cheating. It is truly a relationship paradigm-shift in many ways.
Cheating is possible within polyamory; for when there is a lack of honesty and openness, the intimacy and sex that happens with others is not always acceptable to everyone. Polyamory is not a license to do whatever one wants to do. It is a continuous negotiation and discussion with the people we love to decide, collectively, what structure the relationship will take. A couple deciding that polyamory is a good idea is not license for either partner to go home with whomever they please automatically. This needs to be agreed upon. The rules of a relationship are for everyone involved to decide together.
So, what is it that I want? I want to live in a world where monogamy is not assumed as the ideal for a relationship. I would just like to get to the point where openly loving more than one person would not be stigmatized.
Let me emphasize that. I just want the freedom, for everyone, to openly love more than one person and maintain relationships with them to not be socially stigmatizing for doing so. That’s the state of our culture; it is considered wrong to love and maintain a relationship with more than one person. That sounds completely absurd to me. What a screwed up world we must live in!
And belief in god, especially the silly gods of the major world religions? Don’t even get me started…. That will be a rant for another day.
Most people believe some really silly things. Here’s to a world of rational and loving consideration of our human conditions. And here’s to real freedom of thought.
Love openly, love fully, and love well.