Raisins vs. Midwest Floods

My priorities are clear.  I know what they ought to be.  But I also see very clearly in my actions what is actually going on.  A sizable chunk of this and neighboring states are underwater.  Few lives have been lost, but many have been ruined.  And I want raisins.

Human suffering matters.  I care.  God cares.  People care.  But I do not care as much as I ought to.  At the end of the day, the only human suffering that really matters to me is my own.  My blood sugar is getting low and we are almost out of raisins.  This is a problem.

But there are two bigger problems.  1) Iowa is covered by waves of mud, not amber waves of grain right now.  And 2) I don’t really care.  Maybe it’s the distance, or the overstimulation of my senses, or the fact that my news source is CNN without audio while I’m at the gym.  I don’t know.  But the bottom line is that right now raisins are vying with the suffering of my neighbors for first-place in my consciousness… and the raisins are winning.  God, help me.

We Hate the Wedding

“Which do you hate more,” I asked, “the wedding or the jewelery store?”

She replied, “That’s like asking who was meaner, Hitler or Stalin?!?”

We’re 35 days away from the Big Day.  I now approach it with stoic resolve.  Then again, I don’t have to wear the dress.  Or go to the fittings.  Or suffer through the shower.  Or have my gender identity questioned because of failing to embrace glitter and glam, but that is exactly what jewelery stores do to women with simple tastes.   And so the love of my life now hates the day that everyone tells her should be the best day of her life.  Damn.  We should have eloped.

Justin Timberlake: “Manslut”

Gone are the days when a man is a “pimp” or a “playa” for behavior that would earn him the status of a “ho” if he were a woman.  Let us usher in the era of the “manslut.”  That’s what they are.  Let’s not be afraid to call ’em like we see ’em.

What worthier recipient of the new term could there be than Mr. Timberlake?  He’s been around the block more than a few times… and show’s no sign of stopping.  He’s got the rhythm.  He’s got the moves.  He deserved to be crowned as the new King of Pop.  But he’s also a skanky, male ho.’  The inauguration of his “Futuresex Loveshow” tour should be evidence enough of that.  (Don’t even get me started on how little sense the title makes.)

Here’s to you, manslut.  The double standard stops here.

“Service” = Sales = Suck

We live in a “service-based economy,” they say.  This sounds like a great idea, but the sad reality is that service equals sales.  Health insurance companies are not a services, they are businesses.  Their goal is to turn a profit, not to help you.

And so it was that I wasted half an hour yesterday at a cell phone store, trying to buy an accessory that they have in stock, but walked away empty-handed because I was not allowed to buy anything unless being directly helped by a sales representative, and the one sales rep spent 30 minutes serving two people.   

But it isn’t as if they didn’t have enough of a staff budget.  Just inside the door was Ad Girl.  I asked her to help me, but she said she couldn’t do anything but show me how I could watch T.V. on my phone, an utterly amazing, utterly useless feat.

I’m a strange shopper, I suppose.  I decide what I want before I walk in the door, I go in, buy it, and get out.  But require me to work through your sales staff, who will attempt to suggestively sell me things I don’t need, and I’m liable to take my business somewhere else.  Thanks for wasting my time.

Can you hear me now?

Speaking of Conspiracies….

 Chris Paine has given us one more reason why open-minded Republican-sympathizers (they exist!) should be careful what they watch.

His 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? only mounts a secondary attack against right-wing politicians.  Big business and big oil are center-stage.  They seem to have screwed over the little guy, yet again.

I feel angry and sad, but mostly angry.  I tried to think of other historical incidents when the very technology we had longed for was within our grasp – we already had it! – and we let it slip away.  I tried, but I couldn’t find anything else this collosally depressing.

We have lost great technologies before, only to later regain them.  But have we ever lost them on purpose?

Kind of reminds me of what Dark Helmet once said: “So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”

Evil can be pretty dumb, too.  If we were not dependent on foreign oil….

Atheist-Christian Dialog: On What Basis Good?

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

After two-weeks of e-mail back and forth, Skeptigator and I have posted the polished results of our conversation: On What Basis Do You Decide What is Good?  The venture is as much mine as it is his, but for sheer simplicity’s sake, the conversation is posted in full only on his site.  That way, we can both reply to one stream of comments.

However, I will give you at least the cliff note’s version here.  That should give you a flavor for what you’re in for with the full version of this conversation and with future conversations on other topics.

Introduction

Skeptigator’s original question to all of us was: Does atheism lead to humanism?”. He concluded that it had for him and that, even if “humanism” was difficult to define, it had to include emphasis on human responsibility for fixing the world’s problems via reason and science.

My question: If humanity is to solve the world’s problems, how are we to decide which problems are worth solving? And do those ends justify any means? In other words, how do you determine moral goals and the moral actions necessary to fulfill them? On what basis do you decide what good is? Or is there no basis?

My conclusions:

Skeptigator and I agree on four basic things: that we should alleviate human suffering; that reason should play a role in that process; that we should all be willing to work together in practical ways; and that this is a conversation worth having. I commend him for his desire to alleviate suffering everywhere, regardless of any benefit to himself.

The details of our disagreement stem from one primary source (surprise!): the existence of God. And not just any God, but a God who is engaged in human history and knows our suffering on a personal level. An intellectual solution to physical suffering is insufficient. “Every one of us is made to suffer,” Annie Lennox says. It is true, for which of us has not known our fair share of physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual woe? Our problem is bigger than we by ourselves can fix, although we are a part of the solution. The God of Jesus knows, cares, helps us now, and promises that final justice is on the way.

The second less obvious source of disagreement is human nature. Skeptigator, by his own admission [in original “Does Atheism Lead to Humanism” comments], sees no need to define it. I do. I have no business believing that we need God unless I believe that we are needy! By ourselves, we cannot do good. “If history has shown us anything, it is that you can kill anyone,” said Don Corleone. And we will kill anyone, I might add. Christians, Muslims, atheists and everyone else in power throughout history have always abused that power; and they always will, until this world ends, because we are human. We will always seek power, always abuse it in the name of the greater good, and always insist that this tendency is the problem of an isolated few.

The third significant issue is what began this whole conversation: humanism’s basis for determining good. Reason, human experience, and science are useful tools, but are not sufficient for establishing morality and purpose in life. Neither are they sufficient for establishing a consensus, even a wrong one. Disagreement is in our nature. Human reason has its limits, which we are wise to acknowledge.

In the end, we’re both skeptics: him about God, me about us. The burden of proof is on me, but I have none. Evidence and testimony, sure, but no proof. The only one who can prove His existence is God Himself. He refuses, for the time being, for our benefit. Faith will have to remain faith: “the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Skeptigator’s Conclusions:

Faithfool obviously has a religious faith and I obviously do not. Faithfool in his quest for understanding (and I dare say a budding skeptic but that’s perhaps wishful thinking) wanted me specifically to further explain where I derive my sense of morality.

The purpose of this conversation was to offer a unique way of discussing the source of morality if you do not have a religious faith (at least from my perspective). I think Faithfool and I could have gone for much longer than this however I believe we’ve each had enough space to make our cases. I do hope that this conversation will add to a growing number of conversations between people of faith and those without. As Faithfool pointed out recently to me, “we are not the only ones having this conversation”.

I do want boil down my primary answer to Faithfool’s question, “On what basis do you decide what good is?” Essentially my answer came down to “we are”. The combination of humanity’s experience, rational thinking and a scientific worldview is an extremely powerful tool or set of tools for understanding reality and the correct moral actions. I believe that this offers a better alternative to blind faith (a bit redundant I admit). I believe that moral actions have always been determined by human reason and that religion all too often captures/justifies immoral behavior at a certain point in time and that fossilizes and becomes incontrovertible dogma.

I am willing to accept uncertainty since a scientific worldview will never offer complete knowledge or certainty. I am willing to accept the possibility that we will make the wrong choices however and perhaps more importantly unlike many religious faiths we have a self-correcting mechanism in place.

Dear God, WTF?!

An Open Letter to God

Dear God,

Heard from a friend today, who reminded me of everything wrong in the world.  Children in sex slavery in Cambodia.  Where the hell are you?  And where were you when the Holocaust happened?  Or slavery?  Or the Taliban?  Or the crusades?  Where?

So I sit, waiting for you to split the sky and come down, burning to a crisp every twisted bastard among us.  I sit, weeping, rocking gently in my chair.  I breath in the air-conditioned coolness.  I look up at the white ceiling of my new house, waiting for you to tear off the roof.  I fume with anger, and then I remember: I had forgotten.

I have known for the years about the child sex trade.  A friend in college did recon and sting operations with the International Justice Mission.  But I forgot.  I became comfortable, distracted, self-centered.  I was so busy being so excited about how many hits my blog got today.  Screwed-up bastard that I am, I forgot to care.

If you’re waiting for me to be ready, God, before you come down… if that’s what’s holding you up, thanks, I guess.

If you’re waiting for me to take action, God, if that’s what these children need… help me!  Help them!  Help me help them!

We need you.  I don’t know how much longer we can wait.