Monday, July 11, 2011

Rockin' Religiosity

I have a co-worker, we'll call him Ben, who is quite the religious fellow. If you ask him how his week was, he'd tell you right out the gate about how the Wednesday service at church was 'full of the Holy Spirit' with lots of 'casting out of demons.'  You'll usually hear that the pastor had a 'powerful message' that 'challenged the soul.' You certainly couldn't go a day without hearing how 'God had changed' his life, and nary an hour without hearing that something was a 'blessing' or 'gift' from 'God.'

Ben is a Protestant Christian, in case you didn't gather. Pentecostal or maybe one of those random Southern Baptist sub-denominations. You know those movies set in the Bible Belt where you would see a church filled with people yelling hallelujah and someone would faint and someone else would have seizures in the aisle or start speaking gibberish? Yeah? That's not fiction. Those places and people actually exist.

Scary, I know. Scary that people get so worked up and excited about something that has no scientific basis whatsoever. Other than mass hysteria and herd mentality, of course, but I don't think that's what they're going for. Scary that such madness is a lynchpin of their life. It informs how they think (or don't think) about science, how they vote on things like gay marriage (against), and how they deal with their fellow human beings (with pity for the unsaved).

But then I got to thinking... Have you ever been to a rock concert? The kind where the band comes back for three encores because the crowd is cheering so hard? Where there's a mosh-pit up front that could turn into a bloody riot and everyone is chanting the band's name to get five more minutes of stage-time? Sounds a bit like something else I've heard of...

It kind of adds up. Where else are you going to hear people yelling 'do me!' (or 'save me!') at the top of their lungs? Speaking in tongues or rock 'n' roll screams? Hand-waving to 'Amazing Grace' or lighter-waving to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?

In these kinds of churches people rush to the front at the end to be saved (or 'meet Lord Jesus'). At the end of concerts you rush to the front to meet the band. Wear your Sunday best, wear a rock shirt. Pay a tithe, buy a ticket and shirt. A bit too far on that last one? Probably.

I definitely won't go so far as to say buying over-priced liquor is like taking communion. Communion wine is the worst.

Kind of odd, though, the similarities between a 'sincere' religious service and a 'for fun' rock concert. You'd almost think that both were just different forms of community and entertainment, based around a similar interest. But you'd be wrong.

Because my taste in bands doesn't influence my views on science, equal rights, or the non-existent state of people's afterlife. If it did, then I think I'd qualify as a hipster.

And then you'd have to kill me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

One Helluva Mountain to Climb

So, I'm trying to quit smoking.

That's hard.

That's really f#$king stab everybody in their facehole hard.

I've tried for two weeks and I've cheated every damn day.

Dammit! I'm a skeptic. I know all the bad shit smoking does. Hell, I worked in a hospital a few years, I've seen what it does. Logic-brain should be "hey, dumbass, this is what's going to happen. Cut that shit out." And I love logic-brain. He tells me not to do stupid stuff. He asks all the fun questions about science and gives me sweet debates to get in to.

But addict-brain is "tasty tasty fuckin' awesome gimme a cig gimme a cig fuck yea! fuckin' awesome! screw the gum fuck ya just-"

Addict-brain is really predictable and really really hard to argue with. He wants cigarettes. Fuck it, I want cigarettes. I think I'm a smart guy and then I bought a frickin' pack on the way home. I want them so damn bad and I know they're so damn bad for me but, damn, the hooks are deep.

I want to quit smoking, but then the other part of me doesn't and then I realize I really don't but I do and goddammit I really do because-

*slow breath* I gotta. I'm 25 and I am this much a slave to anything. Cigarettes own me. No one, no sentient sapient being, should have lost it like this. I can't go from work to home without breaking? Fuck health, I gotta do this to show me that I'm strong enough to do this.

I'm a being with free will. I've got to own this addiction. Not for anyone else, not for my friends or loved ones, not to prove a point to the Christians around me that have said an atheist doesn't have a reason or a source of power to quit addictions, not to show my strength to my dad who kicked it even though he started at the age of eleven and beat it (to which I say, damn!), not to my bank account that'd love $200 a month more, but for me.

This is for me. This has gotta be for me. And that's not selfish. If this is for anyone else, anything else, then it could fail. People and things can let me down, but I'm the only me I have. I just gotta show myself I can deal with this so I can move on. If I can conquer this, I could walk up stairs without breathing like an asthmatic and maybe climb mountains like a pro and maybe conquer the fucking stars. Because if I can beat this...

I can beat anything.

But fuck, I want a cigarette right now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beach Logic

Suppose you stumbled upon a watch while walking down a beach with a friend. If you're the decent sort of bloke, you'd go to the nearest National Guard post or life-station or whatever and turn it in. If you're an indecent fella, you might pocket it and see if you can pawn it later. If you're the navel-gazing type, you might wonder about the men and women who made that watch. After all, the existence of a watch presumes a watchmaker, right? Someone had to have intentionally make such an obviously fabricated thing, of course.

Now, suppose you are walking down a beach and stumble upon a friend while looking at your watch. If you're the decent sort of bloke, you'd greet him and maybe take him to get a beer at the nearest bar or pub or whatever and get drunk with him. If you're an indecent fella, you might sell him to slavers or draw penises on his face. If you're the navel-gazing type, you might wonder about the man and woman who made that friend. After all, the existence of a friend presumes two people boning to create the friend, right? Someone had to unintentionally make your friend in the backseat of a '78 Camaro, of course.

Wait. That's not quite true. Your friend's biological parents didn't make your friend, they made the biological entity that is your friend, right? After all, you had a hand in making him your friend. You are the decent bloke who bought him a beer instead of drawing dicks on his forehead. You helped him move that couch that he didn't tell you was a hide-a-bed, which are really heavy, until you tried lifting it, but you didn't complain because he's your friend and his weak-ass isn't moving that on his own, that's for sure.

Where was I? Oh yeah. His biological parents didn't make him your friend. They just put a sperm into an egg. All the events in his life and all the things you did and didn't do made him your friend. He wasn't created. He came from physical stuff mixing with other physical stuff and, through you being as awesome as you are, the two of you became friends. So there's no 'friend-maker,' really. Just biological happenstance of him and you existing at the same time and you being best buds because you don't draw phalluses on each other.

Suppose you're walking with your friend while wearing a watch and you stumble upon a beach. If you're a decent sort of bloke, you might pick up some litter and put it in the conveniently located trash receptacles or go for a swim. If you're an indecent fella, you might throw your used water bottle on the ground like a jackass or yell shark when there isn't one like an even bigger jackass. If you're the navel-gazing type you might think about the men and women who made that beach. After all, the existence of a beach presumes a beach-maker, right? It-

Wait, what? You're really going to ignore all that tidal action and geological activity and erosion and just go ahead and assume somehow someone made sand and water out of nothing? Despite all the evidence that shows that the frickin' beach exists because of physical laws that you should've learned about in middle school, you're going to assume it was created intentionally? By an invisible super-being, despite there being no evidence whatsoever of such an entity existing?

Okay. Well, in that case, I have a bridge to sell you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Like almost everyone, I am surrounded by indirect people. People who rarely say what they mean and say what they feel even less. This is a problem. A big problem that's hard to fix because, well, no one wants to talk about it.

Why is this a problem? Isn't our ability to not say what's on our minds a trait we wish to harvest? After all, damn near every person can think of a coworker who talks about their feelings to an awkward extent or a loved one who says exactly how they feel to people directly to their face, usually with hilarious (read: bad) results.

And that's true. Spouting your opinion or feelings at every opportunity isn't going to win friends or sway people to your side. A religious person who slips Jesus into every conversation isn't going to gather converts, they're just going to get people to avoid talking to them.

No, what I'm talking about is when there is a problem. As an example, if you think a loved one is an alcoholic because you've found stashed booze and smell liquor on their breath before lunchtime, but aren't sure whether they're 'really' an alcoholic, what do you do? Most people, even spouses and parents and siblings, would try to avoid making a scene. After all, you are suggesting they don't have full control of themselves. They might think you're calling them weak, a drunkard, an addict. You can try to help them, but it might make things socially uncomfortable if they refuse.

They might even *gasp* get angry. And you can't have that.

Is it really worth the risk of making a scene to help someone save themselves from liver failure and job loss and higher rates of obesity and dementia? I mean, really, do you love them enough to let things to get weird?

But I'm not being direct. I'm being sarcastic. If you love them, you would help them no matter how awkward things would get. Because love is in and of itself awkward and uncomfortable and weird.

And love takes care of its own.

Friday, May 7, 2010


We aren't destined to be entwined with one another. True loves, soul mates, BFF's, whatever.

There is no Almighty Being holding us together like a child yelling 'Love each other!" like we're dolls in His or Her playroom. The universe isn't, hasn't, and won't conspire to make things work that way. These are knots we tie ourselves. No one else is binding us to the problems that we have. We can bind ourselves, and others, to our own problems very well, thank you very much.

Yes, it's a great deal more complicated than that. There's familial motivations, financial issues, psychological problems, etc. But the real reason is dependency, plain and simple. That's what entwines us. That's what binds us together. That's what makes friendships last longer than they should, and the realization kills friendships long before they should die.

I'm not talking about being dependent financially. That is a problem that a willingness to work hard and face the consequences can deal with. It will suck and you might not win in your lifetime. Assuming you have a win-condition with your finances, in which case you have planned much further ahead than I have. You can be financially independent of parental and governmental support. It's hard, but their help is not something you need. Unless you are taking care of three kids and are yourself a paraplegic, in which case you are more than free to ask for help. Because, seriously, that sucks.

I'm not talking about being dependent socially. Sure, we usually end up sharing a social circle with our romantic partners and our friends. My friend will usually turn into another friend's friend, and all that. But all that, friends and lovers, can be replaced and rebuilt, over time. Another life, another set of friends.

Psychological problems concerning dependency is a subject I am neither experienced with nor qualified to talk about, so I'll just skip over that.

I guess what I'm saying is that there is nothing forcing us to be entwined with the people around us. We don't need them to survive. Anything that can be replaced by something else is, but that very fact, unnecessary.

We need up being entwined with the people around us because we like being depended on, and like depending on others. The first makes us feel important, even if our role isn't a necessary one. Someone's coming to us with their problems, whether they are medical or financial or emotional in nature. That means we're special, right?

We like depending on others because it makes us feel relieved. The day-to-day needs of work, providing food, as well as the natural desire for social contact, entertainment, self improvement and so on can often seem overwhelming to even the strongest of us. And to have other people in our lives that we can expect to help us with these problems makes the burden, at least feel, lighter.

But we are not destined or forced into this. It's a personal choice.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Passage of time

Look, things aren't the way they were before. They never will be, ever again.

That's rub with the whole 'passage of time' problem. Situations and people and things change. We, you and I and us, can't stop that. We will change. And the situation around us will change, whether or not we ask.

Time continues to march on and sometimes (well, most of the time) we get left in the dust.

Old friendships die. New friendships are born. Most of the time, you lose more friends than you gain as you get older. The older friendships sometimes become more important and sometimes become vacuums. Sometimes you gain friends that weren't as good as the friends that you had, and sometimes you gain friends that are better than the ones you had before.

People grow, like plants, in different ways but always towards the same goal. We all grow towards what we think feeds us. Plants grow towards the sun. Some people grow towards a desire of success, others towards stability, others towards control, others stay on the path of simple pleasure. The thing about growth is that it is, or at least should be, natural.

But unlike plants we don't necessarily grow towards what feeds us, do we? So many times we grow towards what we think will feed us. What we think will satisfy us. Why would we grow towards something that we think would satisfy us, but won't? Shouldn't we, as a species and a society and a sentient race, know better?

The simple answer is, obviously, no. Of course we don't know better.

Because we're stupid.