Honestly

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I’m an anti-theist. What that means is that I’m against religion for many valid reasons. For example, an ex-girlfriend had gone to her priest and confessed that she had lost her virginity. The priest scolded her, telling her that she had sinned. She never confessed again. Another example is the segregation of people by faith, sexuality, or magic underwear. “If you don’t believe in what we believe, then you’re going to hell!” Think about that for a moment. A serial killer in the U.S. can seek forgiveness from Jesus and be allowed into heaven. But a non-believer will go to hell. That’s fucked up.

So much of religion is based on the idea of faith. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of faith is: firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Though, theists often vehemently decry the Theory of Evolution, demanding transition bones, blah blah blah. But to believe in god, you must have faith. Hypocritical much?

Because I’ve been watching the Atheist Experience on YouTube, I’ve gained a superficial knowledge of logic and have found a small hobby of talking to theists about their beliefs. I’m under no illusion that I’ll convert them to non-believers. But it’s always fun to challenge their faith. The issue comes when theists aren’t willing to have an honest conversation about it.

I was talking to someone who was very skittish about taking his lord’s name in vain.

“I know there’s a god,” Skittish said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I can feel it.”

“Imagine this. You’re walking down a dark alleyway and see a shadow moving behind a dumpster. How do you feel?”

“I feel concerned.”

“Cool. You keep walking and you find that the shadow was just a garbage bag fluttering in the breeze. Now how do you feel?”

“Not concerned.”

“So your feelings aren’t a good pathway to finding the truth since they can lead you astray.”

“But the word feeling is so broad. It can mean anything, blah blah blah...”

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Here was where the dishonesty had happened. I showed that his feeling that god existed can’t be used to show the truth. Feelings can be unreliable. So he diverted the discussion by focusing on something else. I’d wager that if he’d admitted that my argument was right, then he might begin to doubt his faith in some deity. That was why he channeled the subject onto the some vague thing about the meaning of a word. To this day, he likes to muddy words instead of focusing on the subject we’re discussing.

There’s another theist that I talk to, and he commits something called guilt by association fallacy. He spent a lot of time trying to discredit Evolution. I explained that Evolution is both a fact and a theory. He narrowed his eyes at me and started to debate me, and I realized he didn’t understand the difference between fact and theory. So I talked about that. Then he diverted the conversation to how scientists couldn’t be trusted because grant money depends on their results. They’d manipulate the data or ignore evidence that proved their hypothesis wrong to preserve their grants.

I then tried to explain the peer review process and how competitive it is in scientific community. So, if someone wants to make a name for themselves by proving the Theory of Evolution is wrong, for example, then they would garner fame and fortune beyond most people’s dreams. Ignoring what I had said about the peer review process, he continued on the path that some scientists have “cheated”, so science as a whole couldn’t be trusted. Hence, guilt by association fallacy.

I suggested that he talk to a theist who was also an evolutnary biologist and get their point of view. This way they could have an open discussion without having the heaviness of opposing worldviews. Alas, he declined.

Having honest discussions is paramount to growing and learning as a human being. If we’re all about protecting our egos and our beliefs, then we’re never open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

I’m wrong a lot. That’s why I go to my writing group on a weekly basis and have them critique my pages. Otherwise, my writing and story would never improve. I like to say that I’m wrong 50% of the time and am guessing my way through life the other 50%. Life’s too short to worry about being right most of the time. Sometimes making the wrong choices can lead to the right outcome.

Listen to my writing group discuss writing and masturbation on the Uncontained podcast.

Ignorance Is Bliss

Wow...this pakalolo is good...

Wow...this pakalolo is good...

The soft sounds of the of the Pacific waves washed over my ears and caressed my yearning for the Hawaiian Islands. The day was full of screams from the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz, the smell of funnel cake meandering around the Boardwalk, the hot burning sand, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and the all too common sunburns. Twenty of us had met up for a full day at the beach, which was something I needed.

Toward the end of the day, some dude had made the statement that he doesn't read fiction anymore because it was a waste of time.

If he was going to spend time doing something, he'd rather watch documentaries because they were both entertaining and educational. He was all about education and fun. But I guess you can't do one without the other, in his world anyway. 

Immediately, I asked him, "So you think art isn't important?"

"It is." Then he talked about his love for ballet. And that basically shoved my ego back where it belonged. Not sure where that would be.

Being a writer, I can be sensitive when someone tells me that fiction is a waste of time. I had to remind myself that not everyone reads fiction, not everyone who loves art is going to love every form of art (I certainly don't), and everyone connects to different forms and that can change as they grow as a human being.

My best friend had succinctly defined art by asking the question, "How does it make you feel?"

Story is the epitome of feeling, emotion being a subset of that. According to Wikipedia, feelings are the subjective perception of emotion. But emotion doesn't necessarily dictate how we feel. I imagine President Abraham Lincoln having happy emotions after getting the 13th Amendment passed and winning the Civil War, but feeling sad and spent from the effort and the sacrifice of human life.

So the question becomes: Why tell stories, specifically the written word?

As Robert McKee stated in his Big Think interview, novels can focus in on characters' specific inner conflict, something that movies, and yes, even ballet, can have a hard time doing.

What the esteemed gentleman, who graciously stated that fiction was a waste of time, doesn't understand is that fiction allows us, the readers, to process our own inner conflicts through story. If someone had lost a child, they may read my book to see how my main character handles those feelings of loss. Whether readers agree with my character's choices or not is not the point. Seeing a character go through that horrible event, forcing him to go through the ups and downs of life afterward, making wrong choices as a result of that event can help readers look at themselves and say, "I'm not crazy for feeling guilty, blaming others for my loss, or having thoughts of anger and suicide."

Reading fiction can also help us feel when were forced not to during the one place most us spend our lives: work. And most people work in the corporate world where having emotions or individualism is really frowned upon. Corporate leaders may deny this, offering the importance of work/life balance. But once we get pissed off, show some balls (not literally), or express individualistic ideas and opinions, we're forced back into the line of conformity. But that's for another post.

What more do you want, ladies?

No where is the need to feel more prevalent than the genre of Romance. When I tell people that at least half of the money spent on fiction is on romance novels, they're very surprised. So much attention is on fantasy type books like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Divergent, superhero movies, and other spectacles that romance novels get glazed over in our minds. Women clamor to feel needed and loved and wanted and most don't get this in their real lives, so they delve into books. Most men don't see this and realize their women have needs, and it's not a surprise that women cheat just as much as men do for the exact reasons I've listed.

Obviously, the esteemed gentleman made a very ignorant comment because fiction has affected our way of life in more ways than he'll ever allow himself to know. Look at Christmas. It's a well known fact that writers Washington Irving and Charles Dickens helped influence the way the world celebrates Christmas. Family gatherings, gift giving, peace and love and thankfulness are emphasized in their stories.

I didn't put up much of a fight after my ego-laced 'Do ya 'preciate art' comment. I don't know why I took myself so seriously. Maybe because the guy was ignant and smug when he hated on fiction. But then he was rambling on about his travels, his knowledge of other cultures, his appreciation of ballet, and how great his life was in an effort to impress a young woman. And I'm not one to try and cock block anyone unless I was interested in that person as well. So I backed off and turned back toward the soft waves, the velvety breeze, and the smell of meat cooking from a nearby barbecue. And I realized that maybe ignorance for him was bliss.