On Books Men Must Read – Part 2


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Here is part 2 of my reading project:

The Professional by W.C. Heinz

My good friend, Ben, is a skilled illustrator. He is often told by others that they wished they could draw. “You can,” Ben will reply. “You just have to practice.” If there is a lesson I would fully advocate taking from this novel, this is the lesson. To accomplish something, you will need to put in the time and effort to hone that craft.

Now, this novel celebrates the aesthetics of practice. It advocates a sharp, sparse, demure honing of craft: a professionalism that strips itself of extras. It singles out that which is needed for success, and it focuses on only those things; honing them to near perfection. Professionalism is doing the craft well, and doing it well the right way.

Sometimes, I am inclined to think this correct. Other times, I find it complete bullshit. In matters of sport, where I fall tends to correlate with who I am supporting. If my team plays beautiful and loses, well, at least they play the game correctly. If my team plays ugly but wins, well, it is about winning, right?

In the end, style doesn’t matter. Why? The upset. If style mattered, we wouldn’t want an upset.

Lesson for Men: You have to practice to get good. You have to get good to taste success. You get great to minimize the vagaries of luck. But, remember, you are never fated to win.

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

A couple weeks ago, at work, my coworkers and myself were discussing the youth of today (I work at a university). I was mentioning my general disdain for the “Kids these days are so… [insert negative characteristic]” when the following conversation ensued:

Director: “My friend always says ‘Don’t judge other people’s kids until your kids are dead.’”
Me: “Ha. I like that.” [Pause] “Your friend’s Catholic, isn’t she?”
Director: “Yup.”

That’s what it was like to read Flannery O’Connor. There are some great moments, and I could secularize a lot of what is expressed. However, O’Connor is unflinchingly transparent. I don’t mind a story that’s a parable; I just prefer the moral doesn’t punch me in the face again and again and again.

That being said, O’Connor has some great lines epitomized by the Misfit’s gem of a line from A Good Man is Hard to Find: “She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Lesson for Men: The minutiae of your life does not excuse you from being a decent person.

Other Thoughts:

-When I see a game where I don’t have a prior preference for either team, I tend to support the underdog. I think this is common. I like to consider this the quintessential example of Nietzsche’s slave morality.

-On the one hand, I can admire Doc’s dedication to honing Eddie into the greatest fighter of the day. Supposedly, that’s what he does. But Doc is called crusty for a reason. He complains that everything has changed such that no one recognizes that Eddie is truly the greatest fighter. Sorry, Doc, but the times have changed. You don’t recognize that Eddie is the greatest fighter for an era that no longer exists.

I will admit that I’m not one for nostalgia. I believe sport can be artistic, but I will always reject the notion that commercialism (or prima dona athletes or rule changes, or pick your poison) has ruined the game. They’ve simply changed the canvas upon which the art is displayed. There is still beauty. Stop pining for the past. Find the beauty now.

-Over all, O’Connor’s short stories were enjoyable; I just don’t think I was their intended audience.

On Science Answering Moral Questions


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Sam Harris’s 2010 TED Talk about science and morality was laid out in a more formal style by Kuba at the Knowledge Guild.

I found the post because it was reblogged on My Atheist Life with an accompanying question: can you see a reason to disagree with this post?

I haven’t read Harris’s The Moral Landscape, where he gives more detail on this topic. Recognizing that the argument laid out is imprecise (e.g., taken from speech not book, is someone else conveying Harris’s words), I figure I’ll try and find reasons to disagree. I don’t think of this as a thorough critique; I’m doing it for the exercise.


First, I want to start with quibbles. These are issues I have that may simply come down to a choice of phrasing.

2.4 There is no version of human morality and human values that is not at some point reducible to a concern about conscious experience and its possible changes.

This is obviously false. Divine Command Theories are human moralities that are not reducible to a concern about conscious experience. Deontological ethics, likewise, cannot be so reduced due to their focus on laws or duties. The list may go on.

However, we can take a more charitable reading of this line to be something like: I believe that.. [2.4] …that have not been shown inadequate. Obviously, people who champion those systems will disagree. Also, this is a weaker claim, but it gets the same point across.

10.4.C How have we convinced ourselves that every culture has a point of view on these [morally relevant] subjects worth considering?

Descriptively speaking, every culture does have a point of view on moral concerns, and there is a good amount of disagreement on many morally relevant subjects. Harris concedes that we do not already know all moral truths; hence, his desire for a moral science. Even if we know many of the points-of-view will prove false, they are worth considering for the insight to know how to structure our moral-science explorations. This is punctuated by the fact that Harris has to use silly rhetoric to try and justify this point. Yes, looking to the Taliban regarding physics is silly. However, the Taliban are very clearly relevant to morality. We may not think their policies will be morally good, but considering them can help refine the kinds of moral-science questions we ask and test. Of course, with a bit of eye-squinting, I think we can read Harris’s point charitably and assume this sort of caveat was intended.

A Non-Substantive Disagreement

I call this a non-substantive disagreement because it doesn’t engage the main substance of his argument. In his desire to elevate expert voices, Harris may have given a case for excluding his own. We can do this by rephrasing section 10.3:

10.3.A If you ask the smartest moral philosophers around who is the smartest moral philosopher around, G.E.M Anscombe or Sam Harris, probably half of them will say G.E.M Anscombe. The other half will tell you they don’t like the question.

10.3.B So, what would happen if I [Harris] showed up at a morality conference and said,”Deontology is bogus. It doesn’t resonate with me. It’s not how I chose to view the universe at a small scale. I’m not a fan.” Well, nothing would happen because I’m not a moral philosopher; I don’t understand moral philosophy. I wouldn’t want to belong to any moral theory club that would have me as a member.

10.3.C Whenever we are talking about facts certain opinions must be excluded. That is what it is to have a domain of expertise. That is what it is for knowledge to count.

The consensus among moral philosophers is that the ‘fact-value distinction‘ cannot be bridged*. Harris is not a dedicated professional moral philosopher. Since Harris’s argument hinges upon denying the crux of the fact-value distinction, his argument may be akin to going to a physics convention and denying string theory. As such, we may be able to consign Harris’s opinion to the ‘must be excluded’ bin.

One may reply that Harris’s string theory example uses justifications like “doesn’t resonate with me” and “not how I chose to view the universe” and “not a fan.” These are very different than the structured and reasoned argument Harris has provided. I am happy to concede this point and fully agree. However, Harris’s conclusion in 10.3.C is not that there are types of reasoning we should exclude. He concludes there are opinions we should exclude; specifically, opinions that lack in the domain of expertise. Per this conclusion, if we judge Harris to lack in the domain of expertise, we can safely exclude him.

 A Substantive Disagreement

Finally, I will provide a substantive disagreement. This critique boils down to how Harris tries to bridge the fact-value distinction.

Harris does this by defining a value as a factual claim:

2.1 Values are a certain kind of fact about the well-being of conscious creatures

3.2 There are truths to be known about how human communities flourish, whether or not we understand these truths.
3.3 Morality relates to these truths.
3.4 So, in talking about values we are talking about facts.

4.3.B Values can be reduced to facts about the conscious experience of conscious beings.

Harris is suggesting that moral values are those values that relate to changes in human well-being, which is reducible to the conscious experience of human beings. The ‘good’ is that which increases human well-being and the ‘bad’ is that which decreases human well-being.

Where this attempt to bridge the fact-value distinction runs into problems, morally, is its inability to rule out morally-inconvenient facts about human well-being. Let’s take Harris’s example from section 10:

10.1.B Ted Bundy was very fond of abducting and raping and torturing and killing young women.

We could do a study of how rape impacts people, and the study may well find that it has a positive correlation with well-being for the rapist and a negative correlation with well-being for the person who is raped. As such, the scientific findings would support committing rape as a method of increasing human well-being, making it a human value and a moral value, objectively. This suggests something has gone wrong.

We may want to say that the harm to others overrides the increased well-being of the rapist. However, Harris’s system doesn’t give a means for doing this. What can we discover, scientifically, that says we should forbid a gain in well-being from rape if that which is morally valuable is that which increases well-being? If our scientific inquiry cannot provide an answer, either we bite the bullet and accept rape (so long as it increases the well-being of the rapist) as a moral value, or we abandon Harris’s approach.

We may want to appeal to our moral intuitions, but this would abandon Harris’s argument. We can’t say rape is obviously immoral because our empirical data shows otherwise. We may want to exclude individuals like Ted Bundy; however, this contradicts Harris’s point in sections 8 and 9. We may want to appeal to a comparison. For example, if the harm to the victim is greater than the benefit to the perpetrator, we may be able to deem the act immoral on consequentialist grounds. Of course this could prove problematic. If the harm was ever not greater than the benefit, we’d have to deem such a situation moral.

However, even if we were to concede that the harm will always be greater than the benefit as regards rape, appealing to the consequences may produce other strange situations. For example, consider tennis matches. If losing tennis matches proved more harmful than winning them proved beneficial, winning a tennis match would be an immoral act. Again, we can bite the bullet and say winning tennis matches is immoral. However, it seems we’re biting some bitter bullets. Instead, we may want to acknowledge that the fact that something increases human well-being does not make that thing morally good.

Final Thoughts

Again, I haven’t read Sam Harris’s book, so some of this may be directly addressed, or his argument may be worded differently. Specifically, Harris needs to show how we can address morally-inconvenient facts about human well-being without expanding his definition of moral values. An answer may exist; I just don’t see what it is. As such, I’m more inclined to disagree than admit that Ted Bundy’s actions may have been morally good.



Other thoughts:

*I’ll back up this claim with this quote from the linked Wikipedia page: “Virtually all modern philosophers affirm some sort of fact-value distinction, insofar as they distinguish between science and “valued” disciplines such as ethics, aesthetics, or the fine arts.” Take the claim with the requisite amount of salt.


On ‘Noah’ the Movie


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I saw Noah this weekend, and I enjoyed it. My review in five words: pretty, well-acted, humanistic, overwrought, moving.

[This will contain spoilers, but I'm not going to spell out too much of the film in detail.]

The movie has been controversial, which is unsurprising, but I find one of the controversies really strange. Throughout the movie, the characters refer to God as “the Creator.” In fact, never once is the god of the story called “God.” As far as I can tell, this controversy boils down to some Christians forgetting that Jews are not Christians.

As I understand it (and backed up by the about.com Judaism page), Jews do not say God’s name out loud. Instead, other descriptors are substituted. In the about.com page, “the Creator” is cited as an example. The story of Noah appears in Genesis, which is a part of the Hebrew Bible. I shouldn’t have to spell it out, but just in case, this means the characters taking part in the Noah story are Jews. They wouldn’t say “God,” per se. They’d say something like “the Creator.”  As such, there’s nothing controversial about that part of the film except that it doesn’t privilege a Christian reading of the story of Noah. It keeps that part of the story historically accurate, so to speak.

On Sunday, Fox & Friends interviewed Father Jonathan Morris about the film, and I find his criticisms of Noah way off the mark. In particular, these two lines stick out: (1) “[God was an] impersonal force that tells you to do crazy things” and (2) “[Noah was] borderline schizophrenic.

Regarding the first criticism, yes, commanding someone to build an ark to house their family and the animals while the rest of creation is destroyed does seem a crazy thing to tell someone to do. However, I’m pretty sure that bit is accurate to the Bible. One of the things I liked about the movie is that it doesn’t go out of its way to justify God’s actions. Yes, it uses an environmentalist message to give God a motivation to etch-a-sketch creation while preserving the innocent; however, this isn’t treated as a justification. Aside from a throw-away line from Noah about how humans broke the world, God’s actions are just presumed to be justified. This helped the story because it allowed the narrative to focus on Noah coming to terms with his role in the eradication of humanity, and it does this without getting preachy and telling the audience they shouldn’t feel a sense of injustice about the whole thing.

This leads nicely into the the second critique. Noah wasn’t “borderline schizophrenic;” he was a human tasked with saving the innocent creatures of creation while ensuring no humans survive. That is a burden to carry, and it would tax anyone. Noah has to steel himself so that he can see the task to conclusion. If he doesn’t, everyone else’s death is in vain. If Earth is not going to be cleansed of humans, why drown anyone? Noah isn’t schizophrenic. He is trying to remain steadfast in light of the suffering that surrounds him and in which he plays a role.

The climax of the film involves Noah failing in his task, and his failure is the result of human love and compassion. Noah didn’t directly kill those who died because they weren’t on the ark. However, circumstances force Noah to kill twin baby girls to guarantee humanity ends with his family, and he cannot bring himself to kill the infants. Love causes Noah to fail God. It was a fucking great scene, and it brought a tear to my eye.

My final point regarding the criticisms, though the film does not hide the suffering experienced by those drowned in the flood, it never condemns God. As I said above, God’s actions are presumed to be justified, and the movie is better off for it. Perhaps a stark portrayal of the flood is causing people to really grasp its literal implications, and this is why they think the movie portrays a heartless deity, but the movie doesn’t actually do this. God is neither judged nor condemned in this film. The audience is left to judge for themselves.

Okay, now that I’ve praised the film, my critiques. First, as the film is wrapping up, Noah’s daughter-in-law spells out the moral of the story in case we didn’t get it. That was really annoying. Come on, respect your audience. Second, the whole Tubal-cain plot line was of little value. Tubal-cain was a pantomime villain. He’s supposed to be a foil to Noah, and he works to demonstrate the level of violence found in humans, but he comes off like a one-dimensional misquote of Nietzsche. Moreover, his plot line extends the middle of the movie way more than it needs to be. It results in some decent action sequences, but I didn’t think the story of Noah needed a scene with a large army fighting rock creatures.

My two cents: see Noah. The acting is solid, the visuals are stunning, and the story’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses.




On Being a Weak vs a Strong Atheist


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Another blog to share, Marginalia, recently posted an “interview with an atheist” in which he answered 30 questions directed toward atheists. If you haven’t read it, give it a visit. And read his other posts. Some good reads there.

A few of the “interview questions” illustrate a question I have about “being an atheist.” This is about the weak vs strong atheism. In short, my question is “Which one am I?” But, this skirts the context, so let me explain further.

The Weak vs the Strong

The difference between weak and strong atheism has to do with the kind of statement you are making regarding atheism. Weak atheism is lacking a belief in gods: “I don’t believe in gods.” Strong atheism is declaring gods don’t exist: “There are no gods.”

Although this may be an oversimplification, the difference comes down to whether or not you consider the case to be closed on the existence of gods. So, if you’re willing to leave open the possibility that gods exist, but don’t believe any exist, you are a weak atheist. If you don’t believe any gods exist because you claim their nonexistence is sufficiently demonstrable, then you are a strong atheist.

In this regard, I would call myself a weak atheist.

Doesn’t that Answer Your Question?

I know what you’re think, didn’t I answer my own question? Well, here’s where I can start to provide the context. I want to return to the questions Gerald Taylor (the blogger behind Marginalia) was answering. Specifically, questions 6 and 7.

6. Do you affirm that atheism is a worldview? Why or Why not?

7. Do you act in accord with what you do believe in (there is no god) or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in god)?

For question 6, I would use a more specific definition of worldview than the one Talyor uses: “…is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society’s knowledge and point-of-view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.”

However, I would come to the same basic conclusion: that atheism informs a worldview without fully encompassing the worldview.

Question 7 is the million dollar question, for me.

Living Like there are no Gods

Taylor’s response to question 7 is a common one and the response I would give: “I can’t claim to prove that God doesn’t exist (and really, who could prove such a thing?). But, functionally, I live my life as though there isn’t a God.” This response professes a weak atheist belief while living in accord with a strong atheist position. Now, I don’t think there is anything inconsistent with this. However, I wonder if we should feel like it is inconsistent.

Should I take the ontological implication of the “way I live” more seriously? If I live like a strong atheist, why don’t I just call myself a strong atheist?

On the one hand, it seems like using the “way I live” as reason to call myself a strong atheist gives more conviction to the “way I live.” Alternatively, I see a value in embracing the contingency of maintaining the weak belief position when that is the case. I am happy to admit that I may be making much ado about nothing. Also, I really don’t have a solid answer to this.


On Intermingling ‘Isms’


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Ryan Bell posted a reply to Jonnie Russell’s [not the Russell of the previous post - I presume :)] article looking at ‘Evangelical Atheisms’.

I highly recommend Jonnie Russell’s piece, as I think it gives a very fair look at the Sunday Assembly and Bell’s ‘Year without God.’ He notes the ‘Christian-ness’ to them while keeping a fair assessment of the two projects.

One part of Russell’s article, regarding Bell’s journey, really stuck out to me: “Does Bell’s Christian exploration inevitably cast atheism as some kind of subtraction (life minus faith) rather than as a completely different way of experiencing and describing the human condition?”

If I had to sum up what ‘atheism’ does poorly, it is this last bit – clearly explicate how it is “a completely different way of experiencing and describing the human condition.”

I’ll have to comment on this more when I’m not extending my lunch break to post, but I thought I should share the article.

On New Blogs and Being a Nonbeliever


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I recently encountered a new blog here on wordpress: Russell & Pascal. It is a blog written by two friends (one a Christian, one who recently deconverted). The blog aims to have a dialog about religious (non)belief that always remains civil.

I’ve touched on it from time to time, but growing up a nonbeliever, I often enjoy reading the experiences of people who have left religion because they provide a different perspective on nonbelief.  In this manner, reading Russell’s posts has been a pleasure.

In particular, I had an interesting experience reading Russell’s ‘about‘ page. In this post, he writes:

I am an aAAth. This is so very hard. I have actual tears trying to type that word. It appears I’m not ready to admit it yet.”

For all intents and purposes, I have been an atheist my entire life. It’s not quite right to say I was raised an atheist, but I was definitely raised without religion. My parents did not invoke god (or really even discuss god) while I was growing up. Let’s put it this way, my sensus santa clausis was much stronger than my sensus divinitatis. As a result, calling myself an atheist comes as easy to me as calling myself Jeff.

A common part of many deconversion stories is a sadness in leaving a religious identity, and Russell’s expression is in line with this theme. However, for some reason, reading this line from Russell’s about page struck me differently. He was brought to tears self-identifying as what I’ve always been. I don’t know how to describe it but that I had one of those life is weird moments.

I wanted to read Russell’s line as: becoming like Jeff brought Russell to tears. Obviously, this is completely false and misses the point entirely. Russell is going from Christian Russell to atheist Russell, and accepting this means letting go of certain ways Russell understood his place in the world. In so doing, Russell was bringing himself to tears. Jeff has nothing to do with it. Jeff is a totally different person. Jeff is feeling kinda weird referring to himself in the third person. But, in the moment, I couldn’t help but personalize it.

When I encounter religious people say things like “being an atheist is lonely and depressing” or that “atheists actually know god exists but they delude themselves to justify being selfish,” my response is a hearty, often defensive “fuck you.” My reaction to Russell’s post wasn’t a defensive reaction. I want to say it was sympathy, but I don’t think that’s quite right. In my head I was saying: “Nah, Russell. Wipe those tears. Atheistland is awesome. I’m walking on sunshine! Whoaoh!  

In a post from a couple weeks ago, Russell listed some of the reasons he is not a Christian. His list had 43 points. I remember laughing to myself as I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled. There is something chuckle-worthy in how the earnestness of human conviction can result in really long lists.

For myself, I am not a Christian for 1 reason: I don’t believe in the existence of any gods. I cannot say I’ve come to this position for intellectual reasons. As I mentioned above, I’m here by parentage. However, I’ve never become a theist because I’ve never been given a convincing reason to believe in a god that mattered. More importantly, I’ve never felt compelled to seek a god. Contrary to the platitude, there has never been a god-shaped hole in my heart. I recognize that these are vague explanations. Perhaps I’ll unpack them at a later time, but I’m leaving them for now.

This world, this life, has always been enough for me. It has to be; it’s what I’ve got. I’ve got my interests, my relationships, and my ability to have a positive impact on those around me. I can be a good person and a good example. My life feels small and simple. It’s mostly getting up, getting some coffee, and getting on with it. But it’s quite fulfilling.

That fulfillment. Reading about Russell’s tears didn’t mesh with that. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to express a sense of contentment. There are things in my life and in the world that I want to be different. But that’s all just a part of the getting up and getting on with it. Living. It’s fulfilling.

To be fair, if I found myself intellectually compelled to leave my worldview, I would be sad too. It would be disquieting; my worldview defines the meaning of my life and my relationships. I don’t fault Russell his tears. I’d have them going the other direction. But, again, that’s the disconnect. That’s the “sympathy” I mentioned earlier. Leaving this life is worth crying for as well. As far as I can tell, at least. Being sad about becoming something you’d be sad to leave. I don’t know. Life is weird.

On Things That Make You Go “Ugh”



Key Quote: “Actually, Dr. Hawking, our biggest blunder as a society was ever listening to people like you,” said Rep. Bachmann. “If black holes don’t exist, then other things you scientists have been trying to foist on us probably don’t either, like climate change and evolution.”

Minnesota, I get that she holds office due to gymnastics-level gerrymandering,  but I blame all of you. You’re dead to me until her term’s finally over.

2a. Headline: Fake arrests of pastors cause real grief for Summit County sheriff

Key Quotes: “The goal of the dramatization is to make people more aware of what it takes for pastors to defend the Christian faith beyond preaching on Sundays.”


“Barry said his deputies (two who were off duty and unpaid and two who were on duty and paid) participated as an act of good will to help the faith community in its efforts.”



Key Quote: “A California resident applying for U.S. citizenship has had her application denied because immigration officials did not accept as valid a conscientious objector, declaration to “bear arms” in defense of the U.S. because it is secular in nature.”

So, pastors are joining up with local police to stage fake arrests as part of a marketing campaign for their upcoming stage show, while a person is being denied citizenship because of her secular beliefs. It really is hard to be a Christian in America.

On that Facepalm Moment – Atheist Edition


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Dave Silverman commented on Facebook on the recent stories of faith-healing parents whose children die due to the fact that faith-healing, well, doesn’t heal. In all fairness, Silverman admits that his comments will be unpopular. I’d call them stupid, but I am a pedant.

To quote Silverman directly: “We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.” Silverman also says: “They [those parents who follow faith-healing] deserve admission to a mental health institution for as long as it takes to rid them of the religious poison that was inflicted on them….”

First: religion as brainwashing. The fact that parents will ignore both experience and (what I think can fairly be called) common sense to forego standard medical care in favor of faith-healing is a peculiar behavior found in some of the religious, and it results in a sad number of needlessly dead children. Likewise, we read numerous personal accounts of people leaving religious cults and fundamentalist sects, and we can fairly label the practices of those groups as akin to brainwashing.

So, we might fault Silverman for being imprecise by calling religion, whole cloth, a form of brainwashing. However, we can grant a charitable reading. Also, as far as I understand, brainwashing isn’t a form of mental illness. Anyway, we are going to be charitable and facepalm free, for now.

Second: the religious are mentally damaged. Come again? Okay, he qualifies his comment, but he only does so parenthetically. Asides in parentheses are typically understood to be unnecessary. Also, hyper is a matter of degree, not of type. Super liberal, hip religious people can be hyper religious just like ultra fundamentalist religious people. So:

Martin Luther King Jr.? Mentally damaged.
Malala Yousafzai? Mentally damaged.
Mohandas Gandhi? Mentally damaged.
Isaac Newton? Mentally damaged.

You get the point. Facepalming has begun. Oh, and let me quote myself: “In all fairness, Silverman admits that his comments will be unpopular. I’d call them stupid, but I am a pedant.”

Perhaps we want to be very charitable and think that Silverman only means to be talking about the fundamentalist fringes. Fine.

Third: institutionalizing the religious? What the actual fuck?!?!?!?!?!

Mental health is an actual concern people have. There are real reasons to visit mental health institutions and receive actual help. Mental illness is still a heavily stigmatized thing. You know what it isn’t? A tool for cheap rhetoric. Oh, and the rhetoric is so cheap, it has to use mental illness as an insult for it to work! FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!!!! Did you think before you typed? At all? My face has now swallowed my palm.

For the record, no, this still doesn’t make Dave Silverman a fundamentalist.

I will say this. I do think I’ve found a new way to explain the difference between the religious and atheists:

Religious: True facepalming requires a God.


(Image via Lightstock)

Atheists: True facepalming needs humans, alone.

(Image via the Internets)

[Edit]: I follow myself, so my posts appear in my reader, and I find the presentation of this post quite funny due to the fact that it suggests a whole different context to this post. Ha! Oh well. You can’t win them all.

On Higher Powers and Self-Gratification


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Ruth, at Out from Under the Umbrella [edit: or is it Gullible's Travels? I'm confused. :)], recently posted about meaning and purpose sans a higher power. The post is a response to a conversation she was having, and her jumping off point was this quote:

“The only sensible reaction to a complete conviction that there is no higher power would be to place self-gratification above all else. What logical reason would there be for not doing so?…

…The one who utterly believes in no form of power or purpose would be mentally unbalanced not to go for self-gratification over completely purposeless self-denial. ‘Doing the right thing’ is an acknowledgement of purpose.”

This quote is, to my mind, riddled with equivocations that render it silly. Even so, it allows us to demonstrate how our lives have meaning without a higher power. Continue reading

On How Frank O’Hara is an Idiot


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By chance (and clicking around the internet), I came across Frank O’Hara’s poem Having a Coke with You.

It starts:

Having a Coke with You

is even better than San Sebastian, Irun,…


You don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing is better than San Sebastian. Frank O’Hara is just some shitty, artsy-fartsy, postmodern obsurantist who doesn’t recognize the objective fact that San Sebastian is the (probably scientifically proven) greatest place on Earth.

I am going to print this poem, climb to the top of Monte Urgull, and let it go. Defying the laws of physics, the sheet of paper containing the poem will drop like a stone, impaling itself on one of Txillida’s combs. There it will remain for the amusement of locals and tourists, who will laugh at Frank O’Hara’s achievement in simultaneously reaching the pinnacle of hubris and idiocy in just 11 words of poetry.

Then I read the rest of the poem. It’s pretty good.


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