Quote of the Day–Stuart Hampsire


Some quotes from Stuart Hampshire

A man’s interests direct his perceptions, and his perceptions pick out the facts that are relevant to his interests

Our biases affect how we see the world, plain and simple. I only hope that our interests would include the truth.

As self-consciousness is a necessary prelude to greater freedom of will, so it is also a necessary prelude to a greater freedom of thought.

and…

A man becomes more and more a free and responsible agent the more he at all times knows what he is doing.

We need to pay attention not only to our surroundings but also to the environment of our minds. There are hidden corners, shadowy alleys, and subterranean caverns within our psyches that will continuously confound us if we do not investigate them.

We need to perpetually challenge ourselves to become better, more aware, and to transcend ourselves.

Finally, I’ll allow Nietzsche to have a say:

To translate man back into nature; to become master over the many vain and overly enthusiastic interpretations and connotations that have so far been scrawled and painted over the eternal basic text of homo natura; to see to it that man henceforth stands before man as even today, hardened in the discipline of science, he stands before the rest of nature, with Oedipus eyes and sealed Odysseus ears, deaf to the siren songs of old metaphysical bird catchers who have been piping at him all too long, “you are more, you are higher, you are of a different origin!”—that may be a strange and insane task, but it is a task

Zombie Crawl 2009


I found Jesus! He didn't eat my brain, but he did steal Nicole's heart, I think...
I found Jesus! He didn't eat my brain, but he did steal Nicole's heart, I think...

So, yesterday was Easter. Now, since I’m not Pagan, I don’t celebrate this holiday. Apparently, Christians do something with this holiday too, although since the day is named after an old Pagan goddess, this doesn’t seem to make much sense.

And since I love me a zombie or two (or several dozen), I couldn’t resist getting all zombied up and joining the festivities of the Philadelphia Zombie Crawl around South Street. Here I am if I were a zombie.

BRAINS!
BRAINS!

We got our itineraries, grabbed some beers, and eventually groaned and lurched our way through the streets, occasionally finding a window to slap against menacingly which startled a few and amused most. No brain-eating commenced (as far as I know), but much beer was drank.

So, as the night progressed, we met up with lots of friendly zombies and had a great time. I remember, while in the bathroom recycling my beer, overhearing a conversation just outside the door. Two guys were having a conversation that went something like this:

Guy#1: “I wish I weren’t Christian, because then I could have been here all day getting drunk instead of going to church.”

Guy#2: “I’m not Christan, but I didn’t think about that. Yeah, and if we had been here all day by now we would be like zombies!”

Guy#1: “I just wish they didn’t do it on Easter Sunday, you know?”

Now, in listening to this I could not help but think that this guy missed the point. It’s done on Easter because, in some ways, the Jesus resurrection story, especially with the dead rising from their graves as part of the story, might be the world’s first zombie story. That’s why the image used to advertise the event looked like this:

Come get your zombies!
Come get your zombies!

Granted, the story about Jesus’ resurrection is not exactly like a zombie story, but there are similarities. And for those of us that hold little to no reverence for the story of Jesus, this is just a fun day to act like zombies for a while and hang out with Jesus while having some beers. After all, if Jesus ever did exist, he probably would have liked such an event, I’d bet.

In any case, we had a great time. I will look forward to the Zombie Crawl next year. So, I want to thank everyone who showed up yesterday and made it a great time. Here is a picture of some of the people we crawled with, as we waited for our greasy and delicious food.

Zombies do eat more than brains
Zombies do eat more than brains

BRAINS!

Death and the Rapture of Life


While we are talking, jealous time has fled. So seize the day, and put no trust in tomorrow.

Horace

“Seize the Day.” What does that mean? Does it mean we take each day as if it were the only gift we are ever to receive? Does it mean that we eschew all responsibility? Or does it mean that we relish the wonder of every moment of consciousness, of sadness, of indelible pain?

A very close friend, someone whom I love with great sadness these days, has lost her mother to the inevitability of our mortality. The funeral was yesterday. I feel a pain for her great loss, and I also feel a sympathetic wrenching of the pain that will never end until death brings its inevitability to all of us. And yet we move on. We move on because we must, the continuing of life demands it to happen somehow. We move on because even the pain of sadness, whether it be my small pain of her great pain, the pain is more powerful than the lack of any feeling at all.

We are mortal, this is clear. What is not clear is what will be done before that moment comes. How will we celebrate life, and how will we even enjoy its pain? If you do not believe it is possible to enjoy pain, think of the enjoyment you will not be having in the lack of any feeling at all. Imagine oblivion. You cannot. The thought brings about an awe within me that I cannot penetrate. It enthralls me and freezes me in a moment of existential terror.

And yet…and yet….

Despite this I am glad for every moment of this meaningless existence. I love it and so I lend it meaning, just so long as I am able to care in order to cover it with this meaning. I spread meaning over life like a plastic sheet over some irreplaceable work of art in a rain storm. It will not quite cover it, but I stretch it and pull it in the unquenchable desire to preserve it, and yet I know that the work will ultimately be destroyed. Knowing this, I do not quit. I cannot quit.

I will not quit.

And so until I can no longer draw breath, until my consciousness fades into the oblivion from which it climbed into as my life formed, I will lend this life meaning. I will love it and I will hate it, but I will live it.

My deepest condolences to your loss, my love of days gone. And to all the rest of you, carpe diem et noctis.

I hope that we all will find awe in the beauty of this ultimate meaninglessness. It is only in finding beauty in the lack of any meaning that we can understand its power. It is because of the absurdity of it that it becomes beautiful. It pains me to think of it. It is wonderful.

To life!

Is Polyamory Right for You?


What is polyamory? What would it mean to become polyamorous? Polyamory is much more prevalent than you may think.

Earlier in its history, polyamory was often called non-monogamy. It was a reaction to the social norm of monogamous coupling, which to many seemed artificial and arbitrary. People began to notice that the underpinnings of so-called normal society, where people are supposed to get married and remain with only that person for the rest of their lives. This is what is expected by most, as anything else will threaten the very nature of relationships and possibly society.

Really?

Since that time, polyamory has had time to mature into a community that advocates more than just mere non-monogamy. We are a group of people that understand that relationships of all kinds already exist in our lives. When we are able to share our lives with many different people in many different ways, then we benefit greatly as a result. We have learned to share our lives in ways that eschew the assumed normality of sexual monogamy. That, and only that, is the difference between polyamory and what people think of as normal. In order to live a polyamorous lifestyle, all you have to do is to not accept the automatic assumption of monogamy as the goal of any romantic or sexual relationship.

Non-monogamy is already a part of the normal world. It’s just that the apparent distinct difference of this radical idea from what we are used to, because of its association with polygamist cults and other groups that genuinely manipulate people into non-monogamous situations, make us uncomfortable with the idea before we even know what it is. That is, we distance ourselves from non-monogamy because it seems radical and fringe. It isn’t.

The fact is that we already do this in society. We have friends who fulfill roles for us that our significant other cannot or does not. And over the years, in most relationships, there will be times when we act on our sexual desires in ways that eschew the monogamous lives that we try to pursue. I’m sure that you, my dear reader, can imagine a plethora of examples where this could happen and yet its occurrence does nothing to make you love your partner any less, but would only add to the depth of your life. If we as a society understood this, then we would not assume monogamy as the automatic value and goal of a relationship, and polyamory would feel as natural as it actually is.

Often, when faced with situations where we find ourselves drawn to someone else sexually, we may act on it in secret. And this, my friends, will almost always lead to problems in one or both of these relationships. The error is thinking that because this secretive situation is destructive, then therefore talking with your wife, husband, etc about the possibility to a sexual relationship with others will necessarily be destructive. If your relationship is built on trust, honesty, and and openness, this conversation may lead you to discover things about your relationship you didn’t know were possible.

We all have insecurities and jealousies, and these are some of the reasons why we remain monogamous. But if you and your partner are secure enough with yourselves and with the stability and strength of your relationship, you may be able to discard the assumed monogamy and discover that you are capable of a shared kind of love with others out there that can act as a boon to everyone involved. We are complex beings with various needs, and we cannot allow our insecurities to limit ourselves because of these unspoken fears. Finding one person to satisfy our every desire is exceptionally rare, I’d bet, and when it does happen I am happy to see it. But I don’t think that this ideal circumstance is most monogamous relationships look like. It seems that most couplings amount to a willingness to resign to the belief that there are certain things that we will not be able to have because our partner cannot fulfill it. We are social and sexual beings, and to impose the constraint of sexual monogamy must be explained; why do we assume this constraint in the first place?

Trying to limit ourselves to one sexual and romantic partner leads to cheating, repression, or to some form of serial monogamy. Why? Because in feeling a desire that our current partner cannot fulfill, we find someone who can in secret, we repress the desire, or we simply find someone new and dump the old. And then we often discover that there are things about our ex that we miss, and thus the cycle continues. Eventually, hopefully, we find someone who is close enough to what we really want, and we settle. We do this for the sake of the more long term goals of family, children, and a life of growing together. And with polyamory, you are able to have all of that, except that it can be shared with other people as well.

So, is a polyamorous lifestyle right for you? My guess is that there are many people out there who are already practicing some form of polyamory and don’t know it. You see, polyamory does not have to include sex to be polyamory (although it is often more fun when it does). Polyamory might mean having a very close friendship with someone besides your lover, someone who spends time with your and your lover. Perhaps they even live with you or spend their weekends with you because you love their company so much. It might mean it’s someone you would like to have a sexual relationship with, but don’t because you think that this would be damaging to your current relationship. Maybe that is true, but maybe it isn’t.

Polyamory is natural. Sharing ourselves in various ways is natural. Assuming monogamy is cultural. Repressing or secretly acting on our desires is only the result of accepting certain sexual and social mores that, upon reflection, seem unnatural. They are not unnatural (nothing is, in my opinion), but some cultural expressions make more sense when examined next to what we really desire and what we are actually capable of when we grow past our childish jealousies and insecurities.

Is polyamory right for you? I think it’s right for most people to some degree. The boundaries of any relationship will have to be discussed between all involved, and for some the result will look like monogamy and for others it will look like polyamory. Everyone has different needs, and I think that polyamory provides our world with a view of an expression of needs to many more people if they are open to the idea.

Jesus is Polyamorous


No, think about it. Jesus loves you, me, and everyone else. He is in your heart right now. He wants to have a relationship with you and with everyone. If that isn’t polyamory I don’t know what is.

In all seriousness, I actually think that the concept of polyamory is not so removed from the experiences of people. Most people have a few close friends who they care about in addition to their girlfriend, boyfriend, hermaphrodite-friend, or whatever. Polyamory does not require sex to be part of any loving relationship we have with more than one person, it just makes it more fun if it does ;).

I really have trouble imagining that people truly don’t understand that it is possible to love more than one person and to maintain relationships with them. I believe this because people do it all the time and don’t call it polyamory.

Not all relationships need the same amount of energy to maintain them. Some relationships are great with little maintenance, and others need a lot. Think of a married Christian; they maintain a relationship with their spouse and with god, right? Never mind that one of these relationships is imaginary, but the effort is there to some degree on their part nonetheless.

I’ll leave you with this. Why is it that we believe that one special relationship with one person is better than many special relationships? If it is not a form of insecurity concerning how the ones we love also love others, then what is it? Is this monogamy really the only ideal goal for a truly emotionally mature person?

What would Jesus do?

Why are atheists (like me, specifically) arrogant?


This is what I’ve been told recently. OK, it is not the first time this has been leveled against me, but nonetheless…

So, why was I called arrogant? Well, essentially I come across as being too sure about my views. Generally, this is a charge that is leveled when I talk about religion, especially about atheism and my views on religion from that perspective. So allow me to propose a theory (and I hope you will not find it arrogant). When talking about issues that pertain to personal beliefs, any tone will appear more aggressive, obnoxious, and arrogant to the listener. That is, when someone talks about things like atheism, no matter the actual tone it will seem more aggressive than it would seem if they were to talk about baseball or even politics.

But before I expand upon this, allow me to postulate something else. I know quite a bit about religion. I know quite a bit about the various positions and arguments concerning atheism, agnosticism, etc, and so when I speak about them I do so with whatever authority comes with having debated, discussed, and generally considered the opinions I have on the subject for many years.

And as I talk with various people, most of whom have not thought about these things as much as I have. Therefore when I make statements, it is the two factors above that work together to make my comments seem arrogant. People simply are not used to hearing such things, and when they do it looks like some half-baked idea from some angry and intolerant malcontent. And quite often, I’ll admit, this is the case with many people.

I think that when many of us find our views challenged our emotional reactions will flare up, causing us to become defensive. People are naturally resistant to change. To think thoughts that don’t already jibe with our world views is quite literally painful, as the ideas that we don’t agree with don’t find an easy neural pathway in hostile territory, and so they are rejected by the mind and tossed aside. This is one of the major factors in what makes cultural progress so slow. It is why liberals and conservatives talk past one-another, why atheists and theists tend to think the other is crazy for not seeing the truth, etc.

And yet there seems to be another factor here; there are some people that think that not only do these things not really matter, but that these things aren’t the kind of things that we can be certain about anyway, so to make any confident claim on the subject is simple unwarranted arrogance. This idea comes from the incorrect idea that atheism is the claim that there is no god, which I then have to correct as being the lack of belief which is actually quite common. But since they think this position is called ‘agnosticism,’ when people are asked about their views about god they say that they are ‘agnostic’. And when I explain all of this I will come across looking arrogant because how am I to speak with such certainty for all atheists?

The bottom line is I cannot speak for all atheists. But despite this, I have thought about these issues and have concluded that the only definition of the term ‘atheist’ that can apply to anyone who might call themselves an ‘atheist’ and not completely misuse the term is to say that it is the mere lack of belief in any gods. And so when I can tell someone whom is used to being referring to as an agnostic that they are actually an atheist, it looks arrogant because who am I to say what they are?

Well, I have considered what these terms mean and if they say that they are an agnostic because they are unwilling to say that a god does not exist, my clarifying the definition implies that they (assuming their agnosticism is a way of saying that they are not sure but don’t believe) are in fact an atheist just like I am. This is not arrogance, this is making sure that someone else knows what I mean when I say I’m an atheist, pointing out that it is a very similar position as compared to the one that they hold. In a way, it’s trying to have people understand that my position is not one of extremities, it’s very similar to theirs.

And that comes across as arrogant.

So what is an atheist to do?

I suppose that I could not say anything. Or I could say it with less certitude in my tone. Perhaps I could try a more subtle approach. Perhaps….

But this won’t work, and you should already know why. These are subjects that people don’t want to talk about, and so in order to be heard at all I must be more forceful. They think that either these things are not worth thinking about, that they are inappropriate to talk about in ‘polite company,’ or they already know who I am and they think that my position is extreme or intolerant, and want no part of the discussion. And yet they don’t realize what my position is, because they know I’m an atheist and atheism is an arrogant position to hold, especially if you actually challenge people. We can’t have that, now can we?

Many of my long-standing friends fall into that last description, and so most of them simply will not talk to me about these things. Much of it has to do with the fact that they went to the same Quaker school I went to, and the Quakers teach tolerance, diversity, and all of that shit. What this really amounts to is a dislike of challenging others. It boils down to a well-intended respect for the beliefs of others which only results in people not talking about these fundamental differences in world views. They say that there are more important things to think about.

From the outside it looks like people are afraid to challenge others because they are often afraid to challenge their own views. From the outside it looks like cowardice masked in tolerance and dressed in apathy.

Is that arrogant of me to say?

Probably. But no matter what I do, people like this will find people like me to be arrogant. So, I might as well play the part, right?

Perhaps I should tell them that they are arrogant when they talk with certitude about whatever they have spent years thinking about. Of course, that would be obnoxious.

Thoughts on Religion


Religion. This strange behavior of humans was always a bit of a fascination for me. It’s not that I was raised in a society bereft of such things; it’s just that, even from the inside, it felt like a rather strange bird.

I had no clear conception of god as a child. I have a distinct memory of one Easter at a gathering of family when there was a thunderstorm rolling towards us. I, being quite young, did not have any understanding of what the nature of a storm was, and so I asked my aunt what the rumbling sound was. She said, with a wry smile, that it was god bowling. This struck me as odd, and so I asked what the lightning was, and she replied that it was the angels taking pictures.

Now, being quite young I have a vague recollection of quasi-acceptance of this claim. I remember imagining a large bowling alley in the sky and some large, bearded man, wearing some sort of white toga, rolling massive bowling balls at, well, giant pins with angels looking on with their cameras flashing. This is one of the earliest memories I have of what religion is. And while I don’t think I ever literally believed this claim, in some child-like innocence that allows the blending of truth with fantasy, I accepted this as at least an acceptable idea.

Much later on in my life, I began to understand that as children we accept rather strange things that adults tell us. This is, perhaps, necessary because children have a need to become acculturated, socialized, and otherwise trained as to how to navigate the world. We accept what we are told, and so long as what we are told does not obviously conflict with the possible, it will be accepted.

God bowling in the clouds is obviously absurd to me. But as I began to investigate the genuine claims of religion, they became absurd to me as well. Virgin births, Jesus being god, resurrection, heaven, hell, and papal infallibility all, eventually, became as laughable and silly as lightning being the flashes of angelic cameras. How, I wondered, could intelligent people accept these things?

The problem exacerbated as I began to learn about other religions. So many strange beliefs, so much conflict, so little reason to accept any of them. They could not all be true, and yet at least one might be right.

The concept of god was at least understandable. And while I never actually believed in god—I had no idea what it was supposed to be, after all—I was at least able to understand that despite the silliness of specific theologies, I could not find it so obviously ridiculous the idea of a supernatural being responsible for the existence of the universe. And this seemed to be the prevailing opinion of many that I talked to. It still seems to be a common point of view today.

Imagine my surprise when, in more recent years, I find a sort of beauty and sublimity to religious traditions, but found that the idea of a god to be absurd. I eventually found that I was an atheist who understood why people are religious. I became, in effect, non-spiritual but understanding of the religious.

I do not think that religions are true in any sense, but I see that it is an expression of human desires and hopes and a reflection of human creativity and our ability to abstract the best of ourselves onto the universe. Through our creativity, one powerful aspect of humanity, we are able to transcend mere existence and generate stories about ourselves, but told them about the world. Religion, for me, is when we take the brute fact of our existence and project the beauty we find onto the world and say that it is there, and not within us, that creativity exists.

And in this sense religion is a travesty of our humanity. It takes the wonder out of ourselves and thrusts it, unnaturally, onto the universe. Because we see meaning, intention, and consciousness within ourselves, we feel the impulse to project it onto the world, creating intelligences and intentions in the world and calling them gods or spirits. And when, upon finding that these forces of nature appear blind, we push god back to the farthest depths of reality, to the point beyond our understandings, and the gods become God (the one and only God, of course) and we place the attributes of humanity, all of the best that we may be capable of abstracted into an impossible superlative being which is ultimately a reflection of ourselves seen through lenses made out of omni—omniscience, omnipotence, omni benevolence, omnipresence, and on and on….

And this is how religion can exist without deities, because it is an expression of our humanity that, in our ignorance, we thrust gods into unnecessarily. And now we find these ‘spiritual but not religious’ people who have reversed reality. This belief in some god or gods, but rejection of religion, is ultimately a rejection of our natural humanity. God is the pinnacle of anti-natural (we usually call it super-natural, but they are really the same thing). ‘God’ is the ultimate abstraction of our projection of our humanity in a universe that is unconscious, blind, and without intelligence. It is the ultimate reversal of the value of humanity.

I cannot imagine that the world really needs gods for any explanation, source of hope, or morality. And while religions are not necessary either, they at least have given us a canvass for our expression as creators. We are creators. There is a great and complex universe to spread this creativity upon, and this is the best aspect of what religion has been for us.

And yet, despite this, I still feel no need for religion. It is because I recognize that most of the expressions of humanity are purely fantastic, even while often beautiful, that religion must be outgrown. Myths, legends, and other stories have a central part to play in our existence, but they have a limitation that many of us have reached. I am content to appreciate the beauty of our creations, but would rather find awe and beauty in the mysteries of nature—of reality. There is enough in the world without imaginary beings, rituals, and theologies littering our creativity.

For me, religion has had its day, and while it was a beautiful day in some respects, the day is over. Let us express ourselves without the need for such things. Let’s enjoy this wonderful stupid little meaningless existence together, and stop projecting ourselves onto the universe.

What happens when an atheist dates a theist?


Hilarity ensues?

Not exactly….

For most of my life I’ve dated non-religious women. The reason is that I’ve always been non-religious, and I tend to get along better with non-religious people. Further, I’ve tended, especially in the past few years, to date atheist women. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but mostly it has to do with the fact that atheist women tend to be more experienced sexually as they don’t usually have reasons to not be sexually open and free. But other factors, like atheist women don’t often think I’m going to hell and am a minion of Satan (although some may think some secular equivalent) come into play as well.

Now, I do know about those naughty Catholic school girls (although I tend to date them after they are done high school…), but the fact is that religions often tend to have a repressive role in sexuality. For many, guilt is a factor. Guilt at having certain urges, guilt at giving into them, guilt about having urges for people that they think god finds it sinful to have urges for…you get the point. Then there is the idea that sex is supposed to be reserved for marriage. Fucking ridiculous! I mean this truly in the sense of this being an idea worthy of merciless ridicule.

Sex is a beautiful and tremendously fun aspect of life. In fact, I’ll highly recommend this set of articles by Hambydammit on the subject of myth, sexuality and culture. In my opinion any religion of spiritual belief that associates sex with guilt, repression, or anything similar is highly problematic.

Now, I have never been particularly promiscuous, although to some people I would be considered a down-right slut. And for other sluts out there, I have a book to recommend. Most of my sexual experiences have actually come in the last several years. In fact, I graduated high school a virgin. Of course, I was embarrassed by this at the time, especially since, being insecure as I was, I told some people otherwise…but never mind that now! I waited until the time felt right, I suppose, and only in retrospect do I think that maybe some earlier opportunities should have been seized. And it was not until after college that I really became a sexual dynamo, having somewhat limited experience in college (although I did discover polyamory at that point).

So, I now realize I’ve digressed too much. So, what happens when an atheist slut, like myself, meets a nice Christian girl? Well, in most cases I would probably go the other way, fast. But what happens when I have already found that I like said girl even before knowing that she is a Christian? Well, now that’s more complicated. If I like her enough to look past the imaginary friend, then the question becomes what I do about it.

I must point out that someone believing in god is not an automatic turn-off. I have to judge a person by more than this one criterion. I am willing to look at the person’s personality as a whole and overlook a very obvious difference in worldview in order to see a person’s worth beyond this silly question about gods. And if, upon looking deeper, I find a person who is willing to challenge their beliefs, is interested in what others believe, and has other attributes worthy of attention (and no, I don’t just mean that they have to be hot…although that helps too…), then I let nature take its course. Of course, she’ll likely think it’s god’s course or something, but never mind that.

And then what happens when she learns that on top of me being an atheist I am polyamorous? Well now, that depends on how truly open-minded she is, right? And then I’m reminded that Jesus loves everyone, and this must be some kind of polyamory, right? I mean, he is married to thousands of nuns, right? Talk about a harem…. And then, on top of that, Jesus has millions of adoring fans, both male and female, who love him more than anything else and have these really close relationships. Well, Jesus might be alright with me, if he’s open enough to not only be bisexual but also polyamorous to such a degree. And no, this is not some April Fool’s Day attempt to act like I’ve accepted Jesus. I still am not convinced that the guy ever existed, and I’m still an atheist. It’s just that the idea has a kind of appeal, in some ways.

So, what of it then? What does happen when an atheist guy meets a Christian girl. Of course, this is a completely hypothetical situation (crap, I forgot the html code for sarcasm again…). I must say that so far, this purely hypothetical situation of mine is working out just fine.