Objectivist Christians and the Unselfish Atheist

I have never read Atlas Shrugged.  Nor The Fountainhead.  In fact, other than in quote form, I think it is safe to say that I have never read a thing that Ayn Rand ever wrote.  Like Twilight or Mein Kampf (that’s right, I just compared the work of history’s greatest monster to one of the foundational tomes of Nazism), I don’t feel any appreciable hole in myself for having not ingested these “seminal” works of literature.

For me, I care very little about what Objectivism stands for in its Platonic form, the way Rand intended it.  In debates, one is often chided to contend with the best form of the argument, but if that form isn’t practiced in the real world, it’s meaningless.  A debate on purely philosophical levels is masturbatory.  If I’m going to engage with someone in a debate, I’m only interested in their philosophy in so far as it shapes their actual thoughts and actions.

I say all of that as a preamble to this post because I intend to talk about the philosophy of Objectivism in this post, knowing full and well that I am a noob when it comes to Rand’s literary output.  However, this philosophy has grown in popularity among Conservatives in recent years (as can be evidenced by all the pundits and talking heads referencing Rand and her books), and so I feel like I can comment on the philosophy as it is being preached today, whether or not it truly represents Rand’s original intentions.

Objectivism As I Understand It

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” ~ Ayn Rand

If one portion of the quote were to be bolded, highlighted and festooned with bachelorette party, penis-shaped hats, it would have to be “with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life.”  That is certainly the portion of the philosophy that has become the rallying cry of conservatives.  The ‘productive achievement’ aspect ties in with the whole notion of Free Market Capitalism, but it’s hardly a matter of grave importance to the modern Objectivist (at least, not in comparison to the personal happiness aspect).  And ‘reason’ as the only absolute?  Psh.  Tell that to the evolution-denying, climate change-denying members of the Conservative wing.

No, happiness is all that really matters.  It ties back into Jefferson’s most quoted line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s the foundation of our nation, after all, pursuing happiness.

Objectivist Christians: Oxymorons or just morons?

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

The sad irony of the rise of Objectivism in the last decade is that it’s not just popular with Conservatives, it’s popular with Conservative Christians, despite the fact that it was a philosophy developed by an atheist with an atheist’s focus on the material world.  You couldn’t develop a philosophy that stands in starker relief to Jesus’ teachings than Objectivism, but it’s being preached from pulpits and being upheld as a foundational pillar of America in the same way people like to assert that we’re a Christian nation.

Well, if so-called Christians want to claim that the selfish, all-consuming pursuit of personal happiness is the most important facet of their lives, godspeed.  In fact, I’m all for it.  The one thing that religion offers that keeps it alive and beneficial is its sense of community and concern for those in need.  If Christians start stripping their faith of those admirable traits, I foresee the whole enterprise crumbling within a hundred years.  Good riddance.

No, I don’t give a sixpence about selfish Christians.  Let them clean their own house.

I’m here to raise my objections to Objectivism as an atheistic philosophy.

Unselfish Atheists

Objectivism is atheistic to its very core.  It cares nothing for life after death.  It’s not worried about everlasting punishment or consequences for actions other than one’s own happiness (this presumably extends to the happiness of your loved ones, or maybe not?).

But just because it fits with the general godless view does not mean it is the only philosophy for atheists, or even a good one.

As atheists, we should take care of our fellow humans.  We should be concerned with the well-being of the poor and downtrodden.  We should put the happiness and welfare of others on the same plain as our own.  We should not be only interested in the pursuit of our own happiness.

And the reason should be obvious to any atheist who’s come to their non-faith by process of logic and reason and not just because they’re one of those annoying people who get off on being a contrarian.

The survival of our species requires corporation.  Our sense of community evolved not because we survived long enough to develop it, but because without it we wouldn’t have survived.  Objectivism in the wild is going to get you killed.  That’s also the reason religion evolved, to help enforce a mode of behavior that was beneficial to our continued existence.  I’m no defender of religion, but I understand the important role it played in our survival (a role it now only tangentially fulfills).

Social Darwinism is the erroneous idea that Charles Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest” concept was an ideal and not simply a description of reality.  Those who are strongest survive, fact, but that doesn’t mean we should try to govern with that sort of philosophy.  Social Darwinists would argue that helping the weak survive is detrimental to the species’ survival, because we’re ensuring the continued existence of that weakness in the gene pool.  But that’s a complete misunderstanding of Natural Selection.

If we see a bird with a long pointed beak pecking into a tree for bugs, we understand that the natural force of evolution selected his ancestors for survival because they were better adapted to retrieving hard to reach food.  But in another environment, with different vegetation, a long beak may not be helpful, and could even be detrimental.

In the same way, our long, often regrettable history has helped shape a modern society in which some people thrive and others falter.  It’s not a matter of strength or weakness (as if Mitt Romney being born into money proves his worth).  Out in the wooded wilds, a hunter would survive longer than a computer programmer, but no one is going to claim Bill Gates is a weak member of our species.

How about alcoholics?  Or manic-depressives?  Or schizophrenics?  Those are clear weaknesses, right?  If those kinds of people fall between the cracks, wouldn’t we all be better off?

I must ask: How many of our greatest artists have been addicts?  How many of our greatest thinkers, inventors, creators and philosophers have been plagued with mental illness?  If we had been able to wipe out such afflictions, how many of our treasured works of art and science would be lost?  How many will be lost?

But the better question is, how much can be gained by fostering a society that cares for its fallen?*

Just because one does not believe in God or eternal consequences doesn’t mean one must necessarily think only of one’s self.  If an atheist can understand the logic in not murdering or raping, they can understand the benefit in living for others.

No, selfishness isn’t a viable philosophy, especially not for those of us who put no stock in gods or the supernatural and, instead, concern ourselves only with our physical world and the natural process by which we evolve to survive.  A species that favors variety in its ranks and does not willfully allow its own to perish is a species that will continue to survive.  That’s as Darwinian as it gets, and any atheist worth their salt has got to appreciate that.

Think of it as the successful implementation of Game Theory.  Call it a Welfare State or just call it humanity, but however you see it, if your happiness isn’t directly tied into the happiness of your fellow homo sapiens you are unfit for survival.

And in that sense, Jesus got it right, even if his followers don’t.

*I will leave the discussion of how for another post, but I’ll just say here, I absolutely believe the government should be a player in the game.

The complete lack of evidence is the surest sign that the conspiracy is working

Conspiracy Theories

Everyone I meet seems prone to imagine conspiracies.  There are always the flashy ones like, “9/11 was an inside job” or “The moon landing was fake,” and then there are the more grounded ones where [Fill In The Blank Group] is manipulating [Fill In The Blank System] for some agenda, secret or otherwise.  Some believe in aliens, or the Illuminati, or spirits.  Others take a more pragmatic take and think that the government is being manipulated by corporate interests, or corporate interests are being manipulated by government, or both are being manipulated  by something bigger.*

Rarely do all of these conspiracies tie together, because just like any good faith, they tend to contradict each other.  That said, I have met at least one person who has never met a conspiracy she couldn’t love.  She drops the name ‘Illuminati’ like it were just another established fact and believes in global conspiracies that range from the forced emasculation of males (literal or figurative?) to the notion that a unique isotope (my word, not hers) of gold transforms people and allows us to use more than 10% of our brains**, and the world governments secretly possess it and fight over it.

I have no interest in going through all of these conspiracies and trying to refute them.  There’s no point.  If you believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, still, it’s obvious nothing will ever convince you otherwise.  You’re not looking for evidence, you’re holding onto a reason to remain prejudiced (or you’re just trying to goose ratings for you reality TV show).

It’s kind of an accepted fact that the best conspiracy theories (like the best religions) are those that cannot be proven wrong because there is always a window open for adaption.  But, frankly, even crap conspiracy theories will survive as long as someone is willing to believe it (Flat Earth Society, anyone?).  The mind that seeks conspiracies is a mind more interested in a compelling story than facts or logic.  Note, I said ‘compelling,’ not coherent or cohesive.

We all seek stories to explain experiences or phenomenon.  It’s an evolutionary trait.  It’s the reason for myths, fairy tales and religions (I mean, other than that one true religion, [Fill in the blank]).  It’s the reason science exists.  It’s also the reason that we sit around obsessing over what that girl meant when she said, “We should hang out sometime.”  We create narratives.  Smart people do it.  Dumb people do it.  People with faith do it.  Atheists do it.

Conspiracy theories are just another form of narrative building, but on crack.  The classic conspiracy theory usually assumes some body of power exists which has a secret agenda (presumably that we normal humans would oppose if we knew about it).  They have devised a complex, almost certainly nefarious means of achieving their goal, which has resulted in an ever widening net of lies, misdirections and false ‘facts’ to throw us plebeians off the scent.


When I hear a conspiracy theory (in whatever form it may take), my first thought is: Where is this going?  In fact, instead of trying to argue facts with conspiracy theorists, I’ve taken to pulling a maneuver out of every 3-year-old’s handbook and just ask, “Why?” ad nauseum.

And I usually get a pretty obvious answer, at first.  A conversation might go like this:
“Why did Bush and Cheney (or whoever) arrange 9/11?”  To invade Iraq.  To get oil.  To create opportunities for Halliburton. 

Those are all things Bush/Cheney/Whoever very well might have wanted.  “But you didn’t answer my question.  Why did they arrange the 9/11 attacks?  Because, if they wanted to invade Iraq, why pin the attacks on a ‘terrorist’ who had no connection to Iraq and required that we get involved in a war in Afghanistan first?  They had to falsify evidence to get us into Iraq, so why not just create a story where Saddam Hussein funded the 9/11 attacks and skip the middle man?”

And the response that follows starts to break down.

OK, but maybe 9/11 wasn’t about money and oil.  It’s just about power.  They needed a terrorist attack to create an atmosphere of terror in order to seize even greater power through the Patriot Act and other means. 


“So they could control the populace.”


“So they could have more power.”


Either this conversation turns into a big circular argument (they wanted power to control people, and they wanted to control people to have power) or there is some long game being played here that either has failed or is completely staggering in its scope. 

Sure, under Bush the Executive branch finagled some extra powers and some rights were curbed.  But, really (unless you’re Middle Eastern), how much have your personal freedoms really been hampered?  To borrow a Chris Rock quote, is there really anything you can’t do on Wednesday because Bush won?  Obviously, there are some troubling aspects of laws passed by both Bush and Obama, but they’re hardly of the Orwellian scale one would expect from the sort of global conspiracy necessary to fake 9/11. I guess what I’m saying is, this fascist takeover is kinda a let down.

If you want me to believe your conspiracy theory, you need to do a little better job of explaining why such elaborate schemes are needed to bring about rather unimpressive results.  I know we’re never supposed to trust the “official story,” but usually the official story makes a whole hell of a lot more sense than what ever cockamamie theory you are spouting.


People love to believe in secret power pulling the strings.  Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s the Illuminati, maybe it’s the Boy Scouts.  But somebody has to be manipulating the world, right?  Because the alternative is that we’re just a bunch of people on this planet with pretty basic wants and desires and sometimes in the pursuit of them we come into conflict with someone else.  Sometimes we’re bad people; sometimes we create plans in order to meet our needs and those plans hurt other people.  It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just humanity.

Most of the supposed conspiracies in the world can be explained by ‘emergence.’  There are multiple, intelligent actors interacting, all in pursuit of their own ends.  These interactions create networks of events and circumstances and then we stand back from them and we see patterns, like the shape of a butterfly in a cloud.  These patterns couldn’t possibly have arisen by pure chance and chaos (we think), so there must be a conspiracy to explain it.

The funny thing about conspiracy theories is that while they are often very cynical and even dire in their conception of the world, they are actually an attempt by their propagators to make sense of the world and, by turns, create a comforting sense of order.  “I might not be in control, but somebody is and that’s something.  (Maybe I will usurp the powers that be, or join them.)”

Your average conspiracy theorist is like your average American Christian: You have these beliefs but rarely do said beliefs play a substantial role in your day to day life***.  The Illuminati might control the world’s gold supply, but you’re still going to go to work today and buy your Starbucks coffee and log into Facebook and generally play into the world system that you decry as a sham.  It’s enough to have your story, you don’t really care about the consequences.

Occam’s Razor

You might not believe in the Illuminati or 9/11 conspiracies or anything of that sort.  But there is some conspiracy lurking in your mind that you flick at like it was a loose tooth.  It’s probably about the pharmaceutical companies or Wall Street or food manufacturers.  It’s not just that you think they pursue policies that might be harmful in order to make greater profits.  You think that they are secretly controlling politicians, laws and government policies all in order to get richer.

Maybe.  But it begs the question, “Why?”  Considering the amount of years and money it would take to set all these pawns in place, might it not be more realistic to believe that [Fill In the Blank Profiteer] is using legal, albeit ethically questionable means to benefit themselves, the same way you might use your friendship with a manager to get a better schedule at work.  Yeah, the system might be rigged in certain groups’ favor, but I’m not convinced it was a conscious decision by a secret panel of shadowy figures. 

Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest answer is usually the best answer.  Rarely is a conspiracy theory simple.  In fact, complexity is one of the strengths of a good theory, because it makes it harder to disprove or even completely understand.

Generation and generation of Hollywood movies and comic books have bred us to believe in evil villains who aim to control (or, for some reason, destroy) the world****.  But reality is far more prosaic.  There are certainly dictators in the world, and that’s a whole other issue.  But here in America, most of the ‘villains’ are really just people whose individual goals don’t align with our own.  It’s possible for me to find certain Republican policies repugnant without thinking they all hate women.  And it’s possible for you to oppose ‘Obamacare’ without having to claim it’s an attempt to turn America into a Socialist State (it’s not).

No matter how compelling or reassuring it might seem to believe in a great story, it’s always worth stopping and asking yourself, “Why?”

And if the answer requires more steps than the ‘official story,’ you’re probably just enjoying a good ol’ fairy tale.

*When I say that government being manipulated by corporate interests is a conspiracy theory, I’m not talking about Citizens United or Super PACs or lobbyists.  It’s a well established fact that corporations use their money to influence politicians.  I mean on a larger scale, a more systemic manipulation that involves buying off scientists (or relevant experts) and any governmental official all to line the pockets of a small group of power players.

**The 10% myth is a frequent player in a variety of conspiracy theories, as well as for homeopathic ‘cures’ and mystic healing.  If we could just rid our collective consciousness of this utter bullocks, we might save a lot of gullible people a lot of money.  Probably not, actually.

***And just like any religion, there are fanatics whose beliefs completely guide every aspect of their lives.

****Notice how these movies about World Conquering Villains usually fall apart in the 3rd act?  Because even the best writers have a hard time coming up for a legitimate reason why anyone would want to conquer the world.  Any villain smart enough to take over the planet would realize that he could just make a billion dollars and have the world hanging from his nuts.  No henchmen required.

I Want An Atheist President


It’s May, now, which means only 4 years and 7 months until the 2016 presidential election.

Of course, before that, we have to survive this one.

Since Mitt Romney is the Republican Nominee (yes, I know, not technically, but…) and we have a 2-party system in which a 3rd party can never hope to be anything but a minor nuisance to one or both candidates, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

I don’t want that to sound like I’m ‘choosing the lesser of two evils’ or something of that nature.  I like Obama.  He’s my president.  I am by no means enthralled with everything that has happened under his presidency and he has definitely punted on some issues when he should have probably fought harder.  But, I’m a pragmatist and a realist and I know how politics works.  Which is to say, it doesn’t.  You get your guy (or gal) in office and you should be ecstatic if even a tenth of the campaign promises get fulfilled.  Part of that is because politicians lie, and part of that is because our government is an intricate (one might even say, convoluted) system that favors the status quo over change (sometimes too our national detriment).

Some of us who voted for Obama in 2008 were probably a little too naively optimistic for the changes his presidency would bring, but better foolishly hopefully than filled with the paranoia and hatred that marks his most vehement opponents.

One of the most exciting moments of Obama’s presidency, for me, came very early on.  As in, the day of his Inauguration early.  For the first time ever, ‘non-believers’ were expressly mentioned in an inaugural speech.  The pertinent excerpt:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.”

I remember hearing that and feeling an even greater sense of pride in my president, which was already pretty high.  The President of the United States acknowledged that, indeed, there are people in this country that don’t believe in any god, any faith, and they should be included in the conversation and recognized as part of our nation’s heritage.

A Christian has no idea what that moment feels like.  Despite talk of ‘attacks on religious freedom’ and ‘the War on Christmas,’ there has never been a question that Christians are always part of the equation.  Though the U.S. is secular (no matter what David Barton falsely claims), the truth is that this nation is still predominantly Christian in its make-up and politics.

When you’re a person who doesn’t belong to any particular faith and refuses to pretend to believe in a god, you tend to get left out of the conversation, intentionally or not.

Almost every single man who has been President of the United States has been nominally Christian.  We have to go back to William Howard Taft for a President who may have been an atheist, though he denied it (Wikipedia lists him as Unitarian).  The further back we go in history, the more we find that the Presidents were willing to eschew official religious affiliation, though most were still some denomination of Christian.

There are still some who claim that Obama is a secret Muslim, which is ridiculous.  But, I’m interested to see if those people will vote for a Mormon, since most likely in their view Mormonism is not Christianity, and thus a false religion (I was raised believing Mormonism was a cult; from a theological point of view, I do think Mormonism constitutes a different religion from Christianity, but since I’m not a Christian, I feel the point is moot).

For some people this will be an election between a Mormon and a Christian (who’s really a Muslim).  The Evangelical right will likely choose the lesser of two evils as they see it.  Or as pastor David Jeffries said recently:

…Given the choice between a Christian like Barack Obama who embraces non-biblical principles like abortion and a Mormon like Mitt Romney who embraces Bible principles, there’s every reason to support Mitt Romney in this election.

It’s all about principles, after all.  Like, the principle of standing for what you believe.

While Christians may have to wrestle with their faith this year, we atheists will vote on the issues we care about and the policies we think better lead our country forward.  Many of us will vote for Obama.  I’m sure a healthy contingent will vote for Romney, and there will even be a good number who throw their vote away on Ron Paul (aren’t I a stinker). 

Atheists aren’t a singular voting block.  We don’t have a Pope or an Evangelical Conference to tell us which way to throw our vote.  Sure, many of us revere the same men (Dawkins, Sagan), but those people don’t tell us who to vote for, and we wouldn’t listen if they did.

We call ourselves Freethinkers.  Yeah, it’s a self-aggrandizing title, so sue us.

While you will find online groups for atheists and a growing number of organizations attempting to bring some cohesion to a historically disparate group (it’s like herding cats), our very nature tends to make us resistant to unification.  After all, we are the kind of people who critically question everything and many of us at some point intentionally left behind a community of faith.  Of course, even as I write that, I have to admit that many atheists probably don’t fit that description.

And that’s the point.  Atheists only share one thing in common:  We have no belief in a god.  We don’t “have faith that there isn’t a god.”  We simply don’t accept that there is evidence for a god and thus remain at our default position: No faith.

There isn’t an American atheist alive today who has ever seen their lack of faith reflected in their president.  Granted, Muslims and Jews are in their same spot, but as this well-trod survey shows, atheists have a greater hill to climb to the White House.*

I want an Atheist President.  I want an Atheist President exactly because his or her views will be that of a freethinker, and thus not inherently locked into one stance.  S/He could be a Republican or a Democrat.  S/He could be a wartime president or a lockstep pacifist.  S/He could hold any stance on any number of issues without beholding to faith.  That doesn’t mean s/he would oppose faith or religion, only that their stance towards it would be a dispassionate acceptance of it based on the principles of the Constitution (Establishment Clause/Free-Exercise Clause) and reason.

There will always be a portion of Americans who believe that atheists are evil, the scum of the earth, as useful as a third tit.  Atheist President isn’t going to get their vote.

But there is no reason intelligent, moderate Christians should oppose an atheist.  I have Christian friends who support gay marriage, oppose the death penalty, believe in a strong safety net for the poor and are supportive of equal rights across the board.  In other words, if I was running for president (if I could find time in my busy schedule of child sacrifices and depraved sex), a substantial percentage of the non-Evangelical Christians, the same ones who voted for Obama, could vote for me, an atheist.

Now, I have no personal political ambitions (blech!), but there are plenty of atheists out there who do.  As an atheist, I hope that in my lifetime I see an atheist in the White House.  Let’s be clear: I don’t want to see it because I think it’ll mean all of my interests will be represented. 

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that the unofficial religious test for Presidency which has been in effect for at least 100 years will finally be abolished. 

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that a majority of Americans accept that a lack of faith does not equal a lack of character.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that intelligence, experience and ideas matter more than church affiliation.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean the president will take responsibility for his or her decisions.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that the promise of Religious Freedom will finally be fulfilled.

You don’t have to be an atheist to want an Atheist President.  You can be a believer and accept us non-believers.  You can understand that what makes me an atheist doesn’t undermine my integrity.  In fact, it strengthens it.

In 2012, the presidential candidates each profess faith in a higher being.  I have no problem with that, I only care about their policies.  Their faith, in my mind, is no more pertinent to their qualifications for president as whether they are left or right-handed.  As long as faith is not a motivation for political policy, you can believe anything at all and be president.  Or believe nothing at all.

It’s okay to vote for an atheist.  We come in peace.

If you want an Atheist President because you know that one faith doesn’t have a monopoly on morality, ethics and compassion, say it with me: I Want An Atheist President.  Tweet it with me: #Iwantanatheistpresident.

You don’t have to be an atheist to be a freethinker.

*The question specific to the presidency was asked in 1999, prior to the 9/11 attacks, so undoubtedly Muslims have taken a hit since then.  But as the other surveys reveal, even after the attacks atheists remain the least trusted group across the board.

EDIT: My suspicions were correct, Muslims did take a considerable Public Relations hit after 9/11, but atheists still remain the least trusted group.

They do not move

ESTRAGON:Wait! (He moves away from Vladimir.) I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off alone, each one for himself. (He crosses the stage and sits down on the mound.) We weren’t made for the same road.
(without anger.) It’s not certain.
No, nothing is certain. Vladimir slowly crosses the stage and sits down beside Estragon.

VLADIMIR:We can still part, if you think it would be better.
It’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
No, it’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
Well, shall we go?
Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.

Waiting for Godot, Act 1, by Samuel Beckett

“They do not move” is my twelfth tattoo, all but two of which I have gotten since beginning 10 Cities/10 Years. With each new piece of ink, I try to incorporate a message that speaks both broadly to the project as a whole and specifically to the previous year of my life.

The phrase ‘They do not move’ is the final stage direction in both acts of Beckett’s seminal work of absurdity, Waiting for Godot. The play is repetitive, both in the repeated dialogue and in the way nothing really changes from the first act to the second. This is one of those plays that absolutely invites interpretation and pretty much rewards anyone’s personal take with intentionally ambiguous lines and phrases that go in a hundred different directions.

Probably the most common reading of the play is to assume that “Godot” is a reference to God, and the fact that Godot never arrives and the characters don’t really seem to know who Godot is (though they’re pretty sure they know who he isn’t) gives weight to the idea that this work is Beckett’s criticism of religion and faith. However, Beckett has denied that he intended Godot to represent God, while still admitting that it could have been an unconscious choice. Beckett never gave a definitive interpretation, which means we readers are left to read into the work what we want. It is a literary Rorschach test.

Personally, I think the God-centric reading of the play makes a lot of sense and certainly jives with the frequent references to Jesus and the Bible throughout the play.

Who or whatever ‘Godot’ represents, though, I take the larger message of the play to be a pointed criticism of people who waste away their lives waiting for something, anything, to give them direction, instead of just picking a path and going. The absent instigator could be God, or a career, or a romantic partner or just any sort of passion that never arrives.

I think we all know people who talk about what they’re going to do, someday. They’ve got a lot of dreams, a lot of plans, maybe even genuine ambition, but what they don’t possess is will and self-actualization.  They’ll bitch about their job and tell you what they’re going to be doing in 5 years, but 5 years later they’re still bitching about the same job. They do not move.

Over the last year, I’ve received a lot of support from both friends and strangers who have encouraged me through this project and have offered their support.

But I’ve also received a fair amount of criticism from people who think my life is irresponsible, that because I’m not securing a financial future I’m somehow harming myself and, apparently, them, too. I need health insurance, they’ve admonished. I’m never going to have a career, they’ve warned.  I’m going to end up mooching off the government, they’ve fumed.

What I’ve taken from this critique is that there will always be people whose imagination is only as big as their wallets. They are afraid of the world and taking risks, and they want others to share their fears because that will validate their inertia. How many of these people who would deem to tell me how to live my life are actually satisfied with their own?  In my experience, the people who actually enjoy their lives rarely spend time criticizing others.

I have no patience for people who bitch about their lives but won’t take action to change it. If you’re waiting for the Deus ex machina to come fix your life, be prepared to wait a long, long time.

I move. And I commend the people I meet in my travels that are making moves of their own. That might mean relocating to a new city, but it just as well could mean taking the plunge with a serious relationship or going back to school or finding a new career. A change is a change, and sometimes all life needs is a catalyst.

In Beckett’s hand, an immobile life is an absurdist comedy, but in the real world it’s nothing short of tragedy.

ESTRAGON:Well? Shall we go?
Pull on your trousers.

Pull on your trousers.
You want me to pull off my trousers?
Pull ON your trousers.
(realizing his trousers are down). True. He pulls up his trousers.
Well? Shall we go?
Yes, let’s go.

“Atheists are about as useful as a third tit”

I don’t normally do this, but this is irresistible.

In response to my blog post, “In Support of Jessica Ahlquist,” a commentator calling himself “Lord Monty” wrote this:

You must love North Korea a fine atheist nation as is China and the rest of the fucked up nations of the world.. your kind will bring the demise of mankind eventually.. Do you really believe mankind along with the concept of GOD has survived the millenia accidentally?.. FAITH is why man still exists and wtihout it he will surely not last long.. it’s as essential for the continuance of mankind and spiritual moral as the air we breathe. Atheists are about as useful as a third tit, their influences are counter productive. I would be insulted the mentally handicap to call you retarded but you really are nothing more tha worthless DNA .. the propagation of your seed contributes directly the regression of the species into animal sub-class. you are a cosmic fuckup in other words that you can comprehend

Now, I only post this because just the other day, a different drive-by commentator told me that I was going to hell if I didn’t repent.

What these comments both have in common (besides a second grader’s grasp of grammar and spelling) is that, for some reason, my very existence has angered them.  Neither one of these posts (the other one was about Gay Marriage) was an angry tirade against religion or an insult-laden piece of faith-baiting.  They were just my arguments for my views.

In fact, I would say the Jessica Ahlquist post was more than evenhanded and went out of its way to simply show support for the teenage girl, without vilifying the opposition.

I’m not sure why I’ve received 2 such comments in as many days.  Maybe my site has been linked on some Christian/Right Wing message board or blog.

Whatever the reason, it’s amusing.  These are the comments that don’t actually require a response because they’re pure angry id, poured out on the page.

I am an Atheist.  I know a percentage of the world agrees with this commentator simply because of that fact.

This is why I write.

Relativism On The Rocks

Let me set the scene for you.

Me and a friend are shooting some skeeball outside of the school… wait, wrong story… we were in a bar.  After a few rousing rounds of skee (that’s what the pros call it), we sat at the bar with some whiskey and beer and compared war injuries while discussing the merits of Keynesian economics.  Or we might have been talking ’bout how bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.  Probably the bitches.

Anyway, in walks this girl and she sits next to me.  For whatever reason, I decided to chat her up.  I blame the whiskey.

She was traveling through the Northwest, visiting from PA.  We had a thorough conversation about our individual years of traveling and the similar stops along the way.  After a few minutes, my friend excused himself (what else was he going to do?) and took off, leaving me with my new acquaintance.  We continued our conversation through another drink or two, then I decided to show her around the city.

We walked from Belltown, where we met, to downtown where we sat down at another bar and had a couple of martinis.  So far, so good.  We’re getting into life stories, enjoying our drinks and the freedom of a city that only born travelers can truly experience.

From downtown we saunter on up in the direction of the Space Needle and saddle up to another bar for a $3.50 whiskey shot w/can of beer special.  It was called a ‘special’ because that whiskey and beer was retarded.  Ugh.

So anyway, this is where things turn sour.  You had to know it was going to sour at some point.  This is me.

I’m honestly not sure how the topic got broached, but all of a sudden I’m in the middle of a heated argument with this relative stranger about whether or not we have any right to impose morality on another person or group.  She is claiming that we have no right to tell people how to live, and she goes so far as to say that we shouldn’t have even stopped the Nazis from killing the Jews because that was us inflicting our views on them.  I mean, she wouldn’t kill Jews, but she doesn’t feel it’s her (or anyone’s) place to tell someone else not to.

She’s getting angry, starting to yell and I’m staring at her like she’s crazy and egging her own with my patent pending Super-Condescending Tone (that’s right ladies, I’m single).

I’m six sheets to the wind at this point, so I can’t exactly say how it came to end, but I do recall at one point she exasperatedly stood up and went to the bathroom.  Then she never came back.  Or I left before she came back.  It’s a little foggy.

But seriously, Relativism? 


Relativism as a philosophy is a blatant reaction against Absolutism, and it has its surface charms.  Live and let live.  Let it be.  Don’t touch me and I won’t touch you.  If you don’t think about it too long, Relativism seems like a very appealing way to live.

As an atheist, there are people that would probably assume I’m a relativist.  After all, I don’t believe in a God or a central moral authority, so shouldn’t I by default believe in Relativism?  My drinking cohort even suggested that me trying to impose morality on others was the same thing that religion was doing to me as a child, and didn’t I hate that?

First of all,  I didn’t stop believing in God or Christianity because of its morality.  I stopped believing in it because it didn’t make any sense and reality doesn’t align with its teachings.  People love to assume I’m an atheist because I was hurt by religion or because I’m angry at God.  Neither is true.  Faith is empty to me, plain and simple.

And secondly, just because I don’t believe in the absolutism of religious morality doesn’t mean I don’t have a moral center.  In many ways, my ethical code is more absolute than that of religious people, because I don’t believe that praying for forgiveness justifies my ‘sins’.  I act morally because it’s right, based on a logical understanding that our evolution as a species requires cohesive coexistence.

The Golden Rule exists in every major philosophy for a reason.  It makes sense.

There are some things I do or accept that others would call immoral, and there are things that I think are immoral that others do not.  Morality is a complicated subject and it’s unlikely we’ll ever all agree on a universal rule.  But, that doesn’t mean we need to say, ‘Fuck it, do whatever you want.’

Murdering someone is clearly immoral.  Whether you think so because God told you or because you understand how murder undermines society, almost everyone would agree it’s wrong and we should stop people from doing it.

Except for my companion.  She thinks stopping someone from murdering another person (or, say, an entire race) is just as bad as the murder itself.  In fact, she claimed my wanting to stop Nazis as being equivalent to being a Nazi.

Of course, in that very statement she’s betraying her true stance because she clearly believes Nazis are bad.  Relativism and morality cannot coexist.  She’s acknowledging that she thinks the actions of Nazis are terrible, she just won’t stop them.  So, it isn’t her morality at play when she preaches non-interference.  It could be indifference, it could be fear or laziness, but absolute Relativism is never the moral high ground.  It’s a moral  no ground.

If she were being attacked and someone just stood by and watched, she isn’t going to praise their relativism after the fact.  You don’t have to be a moral absolutist to know that helping someone in need is the right choice.

I find Relativism as a philosophical stance to be reprehensible and indefensible, not just in morality but in anything.  I’ve heard people use Thomas Kuhn‘s concept of Paradigm Shifts in science (don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar) as an argument that we don’t really ‘know’ anything and all science is essentially faith or insubstantial.  In other words, we can’t really know what we know, so it’s all relative.

Just like the relative morality stance, though, this view crumbles when it’s actually tested.  We don’t ‘know’ anything thanks to science?  Really?  So why, when you walk in a room, do you flip on a switch to turn on the lights?  How come when you’re sick you take medicine?  Or when you want to read an incredibly suave and handsome blogger’s latest post of genius, you turn on your computer/Ipad/Kindle/Magic Eightball?

Science and the things we ‘know’ because of it are all around us. 

Anyone can philosophize as a relativist, but no one lives like one.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m a lousy date.  But hey, it’s all relative.