Willful Ignorance

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I debated a friend of mine about theism. He’s working on his masters in pastoral ministry. Me? Well...I’ve read a few verses of the bible, so I’m not qualified to debate him in any way. Most of my knowledge of that historical fiction came from watching the Atheist Experience on YouTube. So my religious knowledge remains rudimentary. If that.

In one of our debates, he condemned the validity of the Theory of Evolution. We argued in circles, and I kept telling him that I was nowhere close to having the knowledge of an evolutionary biologist, let alone a biologist. Needless to say, neither did he. He asked me to read a book that has interviews of scientists who stated that the theory has serious problems that put its validity in serious question. I was a bit shocked to find that there were scientists that doubted evolution. I didn’t know how to argue against that except to read what those scientists objections had been and research to see if they were valid. I then challenged him to speak to an evolutionary biologist who is a believer and get their views on the theory. He declined, stating that he has read enough to know that evolution was not true.

While watching the Atheist Experience, I had come to learn about the Discovery Institute, a creationist organization, which had compiled a list of almost 900 scientists who don’t support evolution. In response, the NCSE, National Center for Science and Education had started Project Steve, honoring the late Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionary biologist. The project asked scientists who supported the theory to sign their names on its list with one caveat: Only scientists with the name Steve should participate. From the NCSE’s FAQ: Not only Steves (can sign), but also Stephens, Stevens, Stephanies, Stefans, and so forth. Etiennes and Estebans would have been welcome. As of March 9, 2018, there were 1424 signatories.

When I relayed this to the pastor, I mistakenly stated that the NCSE created their own list to mock Discovery’s. So instead of acknowledging that only Steve’s could sign the list, and that that list had surpassed the number on Discovery’s, the pastor lamented the NCSE for mocking the creationist organization.

Now, whoever has the bigger dick, the longer list, doesn’t prove one thing or another. But the point of Project Steve was to show the overwhelming support for evolution by scientists, since only about 1.6% of the US population is so named.

Still, the pastor stood stern and reiterated my need to read his book. I said I would, despite the fact that he wouldn’t take me up on my challenge to him. I told him that I was pretty confident that I could debunk the issues the book presented.

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He said, “It takes a lot of faith for you to make that statement.”

He has a point.

I don’t know what objections were made in that book, but stated that I was confident in debunking them. The reason is simple: there are mountains of evidence for the Theory of Evolution. Mountain ranges worth.

At this point I went quiet, shutting the debate down. For a pastor to use faith against me is farcical. Faith is central to religion. Without it, all religions would evaporate like a mirage in a desert. Faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Hence the idiom blind faith.

And this is why I’m an anti-theist, someone who is against theism. Many religions purport to have all of the answers, but this can negate the need to explore or find the truth. My pastor friend is a prime example. He won’t explore the truth behind evolution because he’s protecting his own world view. And the sad thing is he doesn’t realize it.

I don’t go around proselytizing my atheism. Though, I’m willing to discuss theism because I’m open to having my mind changed. There’s comfort in thinking that an all-powerful being is there to save and provide for us. However, when I learned that every day 21,000 children around the world die before the age of 5, my belief in that being died as well.

I may be told that we cannot know god’s plan. But if this is god’s plan to let 21,000 births happen only to let them die, I’m gonna question the validity of that plan. And I’m gonna question anyone’s prayers for silly things like getting their promotions, or winning the lottery, or having their cancers cured.

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.

Center of Universe

Take me off yo list, sucka!

Take me off yo list, sucka!

Do you sign up for emails you wished you didn't sign up for only to have them barge into your email, despite unsubscribing to them?

When I started writing, I was very open to learning cool techniques and concepts about storytelling. I read magazines, blogs, talked with other writers, read their recommendations on writing books, taken seminars, and gone to conferences. Almost all talked about theory. Very few talked about actual techniques.

Waaaahhhh!

Waaaahhhh!

As I checked my emails, I saw one come in. And he, a published author, who mentors other writers, interviewed a woman, who is also published and mentors. She said something interesting:

Beginning writers tend to think of themselves as the center of the universe and expect huge successes. They're often not open to criticisms. Blah blah blah...

I haven't encountered that, but I don't mentor other writers. In taking classes, I am asked to read others writing and comment.  Whether they listen to me or not doesn't really matter because it's not my work. Only they can determine whether the criticisms are justified.  I've applied many suggestions and criticisms and rejected those that don't help the story. I don't make changes from a place of fear. Another words, if I fear that my book won't sell because I don't have a certain element, then I'll probably reject that criticism.

Well...this is more than a grain

Well...this is more than a grain

Now going back to the email, here's an example of taking advice with a grain of salt.  The interviewer asked her why she got into writing.  She said (her exact words):  For me it's been looking back over my life and seeing all the input I've received over the years. Folks told me I could write when I wrote Christmas letters. My teachers saw the gift. And, yes, mentors have helped me hone the gift and encouraged me to continue.

Paraphrasing:  Praise the Lord, for He hath layeth on me a gifteth!

Is this what the Lord looks like?

Is this what the Lord looks like?

Did you read that?  She, in her head, is the center of the universe. She thinks she's special after she just said beginning writers think they're special. She ain't no beginner, so does that mean you don't have the right to feel special unless you've acquired a certain level of success?

In every moment of life, people should feel special about themselves. Who else, besides our doting parents, is going to feel that way about us?  Everyone has the right to exist. Everyone has the right to follow their passions, to explore their lives in different ways, and to live it as they wish, barring hurting anyone outside of themselves.

And the interviewer went along with it.  And this guy is reputable!

There's some good advice out there. But when it comes to a story that is close to your heart, trust that that story will come out well, use actual writing techniques that will help tell your story (don't use a flat head screwdriver on a phillips screw), and be clear about where your story and characters are heading.  That way when people give you suggestions or criticisms, you'll know what to implement and what to throw out.

My face!

My face!

I usually use Steven King's method.  Pay attention to the most common critiques. It's a good sign you may need to fix it. But I had a friend point out my character's reaction to a tragedy felt false to her. She explained why and I immediately took her suggestion and made the change. No one else pointed it out, but it matched exactly where the character was headed.  This same friend made a similar suggestion farther down the story, but to change it would flatten the overall character arch.  So I rejected it.

No one knows your story better than you. So be confident in it. And be open to learn and see what others see. Sometimes we writers are too close to see the forest.