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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Thoughts on Conservatism

I often tell my ultra conservative friends that it would do them good to take some time off, learn a foreign language, and move to a foreign country and live there for 3 years.

Of course, in my recommendation of this I am proposing they broaden their worldview. Not in a condescending you don't know anything way, but in a way that has a proved track record of results for opening a person's mind and really helping them see the world, and themselves, in a new light.

This suggestion of course brings with it the obvious side effects of growing more liberal. This automatically happens when you take yourself out of the center of your world and have to learn to communicate with others, learn patience in listening to them, and learn to accept that the way you do things and have done things is likely 99% inadequate if not completely wrong.

The inability to express yourself clearly forces you to think long in hard about what you say before you say it. What's more, it teaches you to really evaluate what you devote time and energy for.

Second, the unavoidable daily miscommunications you will experience will teach you patience in listening to others, and teach you patience in having to explain to them in ways that are counter-intuitive to how you go about your regular daily life just to get by. 

As a side effect, it teaches you how to come up with new solutions to simple problems you wouldn't regularly have had before.

Third of all, it gives you a vital new perspective in how other cultures think and behave and lets you gain a new perspective on how you used to think and behave. It allows you self reflection and criticism as you overcome your weaknesses by adapting and evolving to work within a new cultural framework.

At the same time, absorbing a new culture and learning a new language give you invaluable knowledge to work with, and these new tools will aid to help you get by in your everyday life.

As a side effect, you grow more empathetic toward others, you learn to accept a different way of life and a different point of view and then learn how to incorporate this into your own personal identity, and this gives you the ability to not only sympathize with others more readily but it strips away you conservatism and any ill-side effects that come with it, such as trading exclusivity for inclusivity and learning, thereby getting rid of xenophobic or racial hangups you may have had in the past. It teaches you to cope with frustration while letting you gain new problem solving skills. It teaches you how to accept the fact that you are probably wrong and that compromise isn't always bad.

People often worry that you can become too liberalized. But this isn't necessarily a worry for people who've undergone it, because of the borders and artificial boundaries we draw for ourselves, it is often the case that normative conditions will regulate one's liberalism within a culture so that it finds a nice equilibrium. 

I for one haven't seen a parallel in conservatism. Your culture can either be a little or a lot conservative, but usually you cannot grow more conservative than your outlying culture without becoming radical. The same is true of becoming more liberal. You only can become liberal to the extent that your culture accepts as an acceptable level of liberalness. More than that and you risk becoming radical. 

That said, there is very little danger of flying off the rails as you open yourself up to new ways of thinking and doing things, and a healthy liberalization often brings with it many other benefits. Whereas, it seems to me, an ardent conservatism seems to stifle these same benefits or render them thorns to be avoided because growing more understanding, rather than less, has always been the bane to ultras conservative values.

My Thoughts on Critical Thinking

Changing your mind about something you believe deeply and truly isn't easy. In fact, it's downright hard to do.

Changing your views on something you hold to be an absolute truth, something you feel in your deepest self to be self-evident, something so undeniably and incontrovertibly true there's no contesting it... but then having the fortitude to examine it closely and re-think what you think you know, and consider all the objections as fairly as possible, realizing you do hold biases, and then strive for the best possible objectivity and finally, upon finding ample evidence / reasons to doubt yourself, consider other options / possibilities is not easy. Not by a long shot. 

What it is, is downright hard.

Critical thinking, learning to be skeptical and doubt within reason, setting bias aside, striving for objectivity, all in the pursuit of the truth are skills one must develop them over time. And not everybody posses these skills. Just like not everyone can play the piano. 

Of course, you know why many cannot play the piano, right? Because playing the piano is downright hard. It's a skill that one has to develop over time. And even then, after years of practice and diligence, there is no promise you'll be great at it.

The same is true of critical thinking skills. They are downright hard to develop and even harder to hone. Not everyone has taken the time to develop them. In fact, most haven't. And those who have, well, like the analogy of playing the piano, there's no guarantee they'll be any good at it. It's something you have to continually work at.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

"I'm Praying for you." Please, don't.

If an atheist says "Fuck God" or "God is a douche" then the Christian becomes offended and annoyed by these words.

I know many Christians who accuse atheists of being angry. And maybe some are. 

But what I find funny, not to mention rather telling, is that Christians think it's perfectly alright to say "I'll be praying for you..." in condescending fashion when they find out one of their friends or family members is an atheist not realizing it's about as annoying as a rude atheist saying "Fuck God, that asshole."

Sure, a Christian might say, but hey, I'm genuinely concerned for you. For your soul. And that this comes from a good place, rather than just being a rude person calling someone's sacred idol or preferred deity names.

And although their heart is in the right place, it's no less rude or condescending to assume someone is in some way not good enough to reach whatever made up standard you're holding them to, religious or otherwise. 

Whereas calling a non-existent entity a nasty name really doesn't harm that entity any -- because it doesn't exist.

The moral of the story is... it's not about you. It's about how you treat others.

Me calling Superman a "Big pussy" doesn't hurt you any. You judging me as less than and thinking I need fixing makes it about me and in a way that's designed to make me feel less of a person... so yeah, you're praying for me? Don't.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Vick Fam Japan Earthquake Relief

Please help my family piece our lives back together after the back-to-back devastating Japan quakes and chip in if you can. Any amount helps.

You can click HERE to go to the GoFundMe campaign page if you want to donate.

You can also share this link:

Every little act of kindness helps.

Thank you.

Monday, April 18, 2016

So Hard Not to Make Penis Joke! Sooo Hard!

So, a few years ago I tried to switch my Advocatus Atheist blog over to Word Press. At the time, however, they were messing around with their interface and didn't have easy to use templates they do now. And I didn't want to fiddle around making a full website, I just wanted to blog. So I moved back to blogger. 

I did however leave my Advocatus Atheist blog up and running though. And although it never gets updated, I still receive the odd comment now and again. 

This one though... this one made me smile. For obvious reasons. But I felt the commentor was being sincere, so I gave a genuine answer.


Here's the transcript of question (I know, I know... try not to laugh).

The entire universe "works" like something that has been PROJECTED. Only a thinking mind could make the world the way it is. Once I read in a comment on the internet that we should look at the bodies of men and women, at the way they perfectly match together to understand that a thinking mind created them. I totally agree with this. We just need to keep our eyes open and see... Einstein said that a bit of science brings you away from God, but a lot of science brings you to God.

And here's my response:

Physical laws may appear to be eternally present because we don't understand all the causes for the laws themselves. But the picture is getting filled in by science, not by believing in supernatural things that don't seem to explain anything least of all an actual physical law -- like gravity. That was explained by Isaac Newton. 

As per the rest of your comment, I just have to ask, do you actually believe in Intelligent Design because God made man and woman and because they "perfectly match together"? I assume you mean their anatomy, not their individuality (since personalities rarely ever match perfectly), correct? 

So am I to believe your argument for God and his intelligent design because a penis fits perfectly into a vagina? Really?

Believe what you like. But beliefs are not substitutes for facts. 

Everyone has beliefs. I do too. But would you simply be willing to believe them because I believed in them too?

What if I said to you... I have a belief. I believe that every turtle I see, and or ever have seen, or will see is the exact SAME turtle! Always. No matter what. 

You would say, that's not a sound belief. And you would ask me to prove it! And I'd say, well, all turtles look the same to me, so I believe every turtle is the same turtle.

You might think I'm crazy. But, hey, it's my belief.

I would say to you, obvious it's turtles all the way down, how could it be any other way? And I'd say it's one giant turtle that the world rides on. You can't disprove it, so it must be true.

And since we have evidence of turtles, which all look the same mind you, we can know it's true. 

I think it was Abraham Lincoln said a bit of turtle appreciation was all you needed to know it's turtles, all turtles, and nothing but turtles. We just need to keep our eyes open and see... after all.

Of course, I wouldn't expect you to take my word for it.

So why do you think I should take your word for it?

The short answer is, I don't have to. Because what you believe doesn't matter all that much to me in the same way my beliefs don't matter all that much to you.

Which is why I think it's more important to talk about what we can know and how we can know it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Conversation with my daughter about homosexuality

My daughter constantly surprises me with her open mindedness, compassion, and ability to empathize with others simply by logically deducing things.

She remembers something her pre-school teacher told her over two years ago. In class, they discussed whether it was polite to laugh at a person who had a deformity or didn't have legs. The example was an amputee who was missing their legs.

The teacher said, you don't know why they lost their legs. Maybe they were born without them. Maybe they fought in a war and lost them. But how do you think they'd feel if you started laughing at them?

The children unanimously agreed that they person with no legs would feel bad. Maybe they'd cry. And they all realized it would be really mean to laugh at that person. After all, if they got hurt, and lost their legs, they would feel bad if people laughed at them too.

Flash forward to today (which is actually yesterday). And we're flipping randomly through the television channels and suddenly we stop on one and -- bam! -- two lesbian women are kissing.

My daughter looks at me and I look at her. I had no idea such a scene was going to be on. But she turns to me and says, "Daddy, why are those women kissing each other?"

I said, "Because they love each other."

"Are they gay?" she asked me.

"Yes," I replied.

"That's good!" she chirped.

I raised my eyebrow. Curious as to how she reached that conclusion so quickly, I probed a bit. "Why do you think so?"

"Well, everyone's different!" she exclaims. "Some boys like girls. And some girls like boys. And sometimes girls like girls. And boys like boys."

"That's true," I say.

"Are there lots of gay people?" she asks me.

"Yeah," I inform her. "I suppose there are."

"If there's lots, how come we don't see many?" she asked me in all sincerity.

"Well, because some people are mean to them... and they think being gay is somehow wrong... so they make fun of them or say something to hurt their feelings. So gay people sometimes try to keep their personal lives private."

"That's not right!" she gasps. Growing serious, she informs me, "There's nothing wrong with being gay, Daddy. They're just different! And my teacher said not to laugh at people who are different than us or be mean, because it will hurt their feelings."

She then told me the story about her teacher giving the example of the amputee and not laughing at those with physical deformities.

Needless to say, she is one hundred percent correct. And I am amazed at how well she empathizes with others and how loving she is innately. And I have to think -- if a kid can come to this conclusion on their own, and logically deduce that mistreating others or being unfair to them, being mean, is the same across the board -- then to think otherwise means you had to have been taught it.

Here's the thing. If you think being gay is gross, or wrong, or morally reprehensible, odds are your parents FAILED to teach you how to properly empathize with those who are different than yourself.

If you teach your children that gayness is something to be shameful about, or that it's gross, or wrong, or morally reprehensible then all you have done is teach them how to hate.

And YOU have FAILED to teach them compassion and empathy and how to be loving towards others.

My six year old figured it out on her own. If a six year old can do that, then there's no excuse why a grown adult should ever have a problem with homosexuals and homosexuality. The same goes for the trans community.

If you have any sort of problem with these fine groups of people -- the problem is YOU.

You're the problem.

And it's your problem you need to fix.

Think about that for a moment. Think about how my six year old girl just schooled homophobes and transphobes and anyone whose ever been an asshole towards those different than themselves. If a six year old can best you in ethics and morality, then you should feel ashamed and embarrassed for yourself.

As for those who don't feel ashamed for treating others poorly, well, then you're no better than those assholes who make fun of amputees for simply being amputees. And, personally, I wouldn't want my daughter hanging out with you or your brainwashed-to-hate kids.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

In Response to Joyce

The Imperfect and Immoral Teachings of Jesus Christ was an article I wrote in what, admittedly, was a rather crude attempt to consider some of the character flaws and moral failings of Jesus Chris. Needless to say, the religious scholar Hector Avalos did a much better, and far more thorough, critical analysis of Jesus Christ's moral flaws and failings in his book Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics.

At any rate, having re-read my original article I still stand by my criticism, although I now see that I could have worded it much better -- yet perhaps not any less scathingly. That said, it remains one of my most read and consecutively commented upon articles on Advocatus Atheist and as a new comment popped up in my feed today, I re-read some of the other comments and found one by Joyce Clemmons which I was never able to properly respond to because of the privacy setting wouldn't allow me to write a direct reply.

Having re-read her comments, I wanted to address some of them here, as I think some of her comments -- although well intended -- largely miss the point I was trying to make.

Here's Joyce's comment in full (screencap):

I agree with Joyce's comment that Jesus was basically re-interpreting the 10 commandments. What I disagree with is that he stressed, or heightened the moral responsibility to abide by them.

Although Jesus did say "love your neighbor" and although she is right in saying this is also the reason people, including good Christians, decried slavery saying if you would not want it done unto yourself then don't ask for it as a right -- would put Jesus as implicitly against slavery -- my point was that this assumption is merely a logical progression stemming from our own moral understanding of slavery being bad. 

Someone who didn't think slavery was innately bad, i.e. morally wrong, wouldn't necessarily think to include slavery as something they wouldn't want done to themselves. Case in point, if they believed they were destined to be a slave, they may have felt that it was their God given duty to fulfill their lot in life as a dutiful slave. In other words, slavery to them may have seemed a brute fact of life. The the wealthy and elite classes, it would have been a necessary part of life.

So there is no direct link from the Goldon Axiom to the admonishment of slavery, since there are ample reasons one who subscribed to Jesus's own moral outlook could still defend slavery.

The fact remains: Jesus not admonishing slavery or making a point to decry the practice appears to be part of the context of his views being largely couched in the historical context of his day. Which is why he appeals to Old Testament law when asked about slavery in Luke, making the implicit statement that he actively supports the practice by NOT decrying it when he had every reason, moral or otherwise, to do so.

And that was the gist of my point. Jesus, if we are to assume him a moral philosopher of any caliber whatsoever, would have to make an explicit statement on the subject decrying it's practice as immoral for us to say -- hey, this guy was a good moral teacher. But this we do not find. Rather, the scriptures give us fine examples of Jesus going along with the practice and even using it in his moral parables without so much as a mention of its immoral and unethical implications.

When Joyce mentions I am against world-wide violence against women. This is true.

The reason Joyce knows this is because I have spoken out against the mistreatment and inequality of women numerous times. I support causes that seek to empower and give women access to education in developing nations. But I think her example backfires. Because whereas I can do little about it without actively leaving my home and going out into the field and fighting the good fight, (ignoring all my other responsibilities as a father of two and as a teacher -- but never mind this triviality), I have made it expressly clear that I detest the abusive treatment and violence against women wherever it is found. 

And I just did it again, here. 

But nowhere does Jesus Christ make it expressly clear that he detests the abusive treatment and violence against slaves or the practice of slavery.

Rather, he admonishes people not to beat their slaves so severely that they lose their teeth or eyes, but again, this is just a reiteration of OT laws which most abiding Jews would already be practicing.

Think about that for a moment.

If somebody asked me what do I think about the abuse of women in any given context, and I merely say, well just follow the law of the land -- wherein that law of the land allows for (or maybe even calls for) the abuse of women, then it cannot be said that I expressly am against the mistreatment and abuse of women. Rather, I'd be for it -- because I support those laws.

Which is why we can deduce that Jesus implicitly supported slavery. 

All this trouble could have simply been cleared up with a single mention that slavery is morally reprehensible, in the same way I have said violence against women is morally reprehensible. Something any wise, and just, moral philosopher would have done should he have realized that slavery was morally wrong.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist