My Approach to Skeptical Friends: A Guest Post

This is a guest post by fellow blogger Pascal. You can find his blog by following the link. I’m deeply appreciative of the fact that he took the time to write this as a guest post. Thank you Pascal. 

Greetings Mike,

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to write here.  Your general guest-blog invitation and our specific e-mail interactions were indeed gracious.  I’m a neophyte concerning the topic I’ve chosen.  These stirrings are only about two years old and were prompted by a person – – I’ll call him Russell.

I’m a follower of Christ.  I was raised that way but came to the same points of decision that any adult must.  Do I believe this?  Why?  Will I teach it to my children?  I don’t think the same as my parents did about the age of the earth, conservative politics, homosexual people, or the nature of scripture.  Yet I do follow Christ and consider that to be my core identity.

From the perspective of a Christ-follower, what do I think about skeptical friends?

1)  Have them.  This wasn’t always so clear to Captain Obvious here.  I was raised in a rather homogenous environment.  I know that skeptical people were all around me.  I just didn’t stop to meet them.  I’m ashamed of that now.  Did I live in a Christian ghetto?  Probably so.  That is something my wife and I actively try to do differently in the life of our children.  We love the public schools and try to be “that house” where the teens feel accepted.   My oldest son and I frequently talk about his agnostic or atheistic friends and why they are welcome in our home.

I don’t take the word friend lightly.  In fact, like most men, I don’t have many friends.  Many acquaintances, many colleagues, but few friends.  I think that a man is rich to have one or two people he could call at 0200 in the morning without fear or shame.

2)  Listen.  I am not patient by nature.  I’m not a good listener.  But, oh how powerful it is when I shut up and stop trying to formulate my answer before – – listening.  So many reasons that I thought were present for atheism were only my own constructions – – straw men waiting to burn.  And honestly, so many topics where neither (a)theism are relevant to living well.  In those topics we find the common ground of respect and affection.

3)  Invest.  What is the currency of love and friendship?  Time.  Sit and talk.  Share a meal.  Write.  I would rather have a few deep friends than many shallow ones.  These types of friends require 10’s of 100’s of hours in aggregate.  It takes years to build trust, seconds to evaporate it.  Russell and I have now met with growing frequency for almost two years.  He has an amazing intellect that works very differently from mine.  I’m reading areas that I ordinarily would have skimmed or passed completely just to understand him better.  Probably one reason that I’m fascinated? – –  He really reminds me of my mechanical engineer father.  Freud would be proud.

I’ll take my final point out of the bullets.  Don’t try to evangelize.

Technically, I’m an evangelical Christian.  I’m not married to that term at all and prefer to describe myself as a simple follower of Christ.  So how do I reconcile my advice not to evangelize with the Master’s instruction to do so?  Friendship over years is so much more powerful than any clever argument.  My friendship with Russell has value for what it is.  Neither he nor I need a debating or sparring partner.  We need a faithful friend.  Do I have a hidden agenda to bring my friend back to following Christ?  Not so hidden.  But I trust God with his soul and our topics of discussion range wide.  This friendship is a two way street.  If he never turns to faith and I never turn away – – I think we’re both okay with it – – trusting either God or the universe with the outcome.

Thanks again Mike for the opportunity to share.  Believe it or not, I tried to keep it short.  You should see Russell’s posts!  I welcome your post on our blog soon.

Ba Humbug!

I’ve never been a big fan of Christmas.

It has nothing to do with religion or the lack of religion, but the whole hypocritical commercialization of the holiday.

I like getting together with family. I like the feast part (probably too much) and I even enjoy the giving of small gifts, but the pressure to buy, buy, buy is relentless and unnecessary in my opinion.

Hell, even if you’re a Christian, you have to admit that Christmas isn’t really about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – it’s more about how many presents you can fit into your sport utility vehicle and how you’ll manage to pay for it all.

My favorite part of the holiday is when it’s over, and I can go back to the peace and quiet that isn’t Christmas.

But truth be told, I do look forward to going to my aunt’s. She gives out presents every year and she’s a bit…eccentric. But that’s the best part! She spends all year getting gifts. They’re nothing spectacular, but you never know what you’re going to get and it’s always a hoot opening her gifts.

For example, one year she bought my kids (who were probably 12 and 9 at the time) oven mitts. The funny part was that she split the pair up so each got one mitt. We all howled with laughter, including my kids.

Good times. Inexpensive but far more memorable.

So to all my readers, I hope you have a Merry Christmas, holiday or whatever you call it, and a happy New Year!

Ba Humbug, indeed!~

My YouTube Channel

So I checked my email for this site yesterday and I’m excited to announce that I will be having a guest blogger visit shortly. I’ll also be writing a post for them as long as the planets align…and they will…align I mean.

So I’ve been neglectful of my blog and for that I’m sorry. I’ve been working hard at a new YouTube channel. I’ve never done anything like that before so the learning curve has been super steep. I’ve been busy trying to figure out how to record, narrate, add music to and create a quality YouTube video.

I still have a long way to go, but the journey has been fun and I’ve enjoyed myself immensely.

So what’s this channel going to cover?

Well, it has nothing to do with religion, secularism or atheism. It’s about gaming – in particular Clash of Clans, although I will (and have) covered other games I’m playing for the first time. I think the hardest part is the narration. I’m always super-nervous while recording.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to. This site is very important to me so I hope my subscribers are patient with me as I explore this new avenue. I also hope you all have a Merry Christmas, holiday or whatever you celebrate this winter season. I have a lot to share with you guys, but I’ll save it for another post.

If you have experience with creating YouTube videos, I’d love to hear your tips and please, feel free to share a link to your channel. I’ll definitely check it out, like and subscribe.

If you’d like to check out my channel, just follow the link. I hope you’ll like it enough to subscribe and like. I know they’re not the best quality out there but I’m trying hard to learn a new craft.

There Should Be No Statute of Limitations On Rape

I’m not going to bother trying to figure out whether Bill Cosby raped 15+ women. That’s for a court of law to determine, but then again, maybe it isn’t.

Let me explain.

What I should have typed is: ‘That should be for a court of law to determine’.

As I watched various news sources reporting on the allegations of rape made against Bill Cosby, one thing became frighteningly, terrifyingly real – he might never face criminal charges because apparently, parts of America have a crazy, stupid, mind-blowing statute of limitations on rape cases. In Canada (where I live) there is no statute of limitations on anything, except ‘lesser (summary) crimes and misdemeanors’.

Look, if you owe a few bucks or are caught jaywalking or something, I can see there being a statute of limitations.

If you drug and rape someone, you shouldn’t get off free as a bird. There is a clear difference between jaywalking and raping someone.

I’m not saying Bill Cosby is guilty, but he should definitely face prosecution (if those women wish to press charges) for something as heinous as possibly raping someone. If he’s innocent, then he’ll be exonerated, but a ridiculous statute of limitations on something as serious as rape is un-freaking-believable.

Especially when you consider that rape is one of the least reported crimes:

“We all know that rape and sexual assault are the most underreported crimes in the world, and it’s very hard to say that the problem is declining,” Christopher Krebs, a sexual violence researcher at nonprofit research institute RTI International, told Slate this week. “The NCVS data could be missing a lot.”

Come on…

Get rid of those statutes of limitations and prosecute sexual assault when you can. Not only are these statutes of limitation silly, but they’re extremely dangerous because they could allow rapists to get off the hook and continue sexually assaulting people in the future.

 

Responding To ‘The Horrors of Atheist Indoctrination’

I ran across (because I follow) a blog post called, ‘The Horrors of Atheist Indoctrination‘, that thoroughly explores the emotional blackmail that usually come prepackaged with religion.

He starts off with:

Over the years I have talked to a number of atheists who have a serious problem with Christians who indoctrinate their kids.

I wrote here that indoctrination is not an issue, all parents, regardless of their beliefs, pass those beliefs on to their kids.

I disagree. I find a whole lot wrong with indoctrination.

I wonder if the author would be singing the same sort of tune if the indoctrination in question was Nazism or Islamism?

Why not teach them to think for themselves, question everything and allow them to make up their own minds?

What I never thought about, until today, is the deep regret former atheists can have when they realize the error of their ways.

He then goes on to recount a woeful story about a father who (supposedly) realizes that because he’d been an atheist when he was raising his children, they would now likely go to hell.

Enter the emotional blackmail.

Most parents love their kids and would do anything to prevent them being tortured for eternity – something this all-knowing God seems fine with. Next, all you have to do is convince them that their children are destined to such a fate, if they don’t indoctrinate their children with their own beliefs. If that doesn’t work, bullying may ensue, because the thought of their children burning for all time is something they can barely stand.

The emotional blackmail is complete. It could tear apart families and convince people of nonsense.

Thankfully, there is no need to believe such things. Even if you do believe in God; an all-knowing, all-loving God willing to torture people endlessly is a contradiction in terms.

If you are an atheist parent, like Wally was, are you similarly indoctrinating your kids into disbelief? If so, are you OK with that?

No.

In fact, I encouraged my kids to read everything they could, including holy books of any kind. I didn’t tell them there was no God. If asked, I told them what some people believed and encouraged them to find out for themselves. Getting angry at them for believing (or not believing) the same things I do never entered my mind. My son is sort of a deist, although he leans towards belief in Jesus and my daughter doesn’t care about religion much at all.

Think the horror of Hell isn’t bad enough?

Imagine how your kids are going to feel when they find out it was the teaching of the people who were charged with caring for them, loving them, and looking out for them that got them there.

Further imagine how they will feel when they learn you won’t be with them to share in their suffering…

…that you’ve moved on without them.

If I’d moved on without them and knew they were being tortured eternally, it wouldn’t be heaven to me.

What if the tables were turned? What if they learned that you’d indoctrinated them with ancient, mythological nonsense that contradicts itself and goes against the reality we observe today? What if they feel duped and lied too?

Besides that, what exactly would an atheist indoctrinate their kids with? There is no atheist bible. It’s a lack of belief in god(s). That hardly makes for a set of rules or guidelines needed for indoctrination.

400 Subscriber Celebration and The End of Meat

Here’s the deal: yesterday I got my 400th subscriber (I hate the word ‘follower’) and I want to thank everyone who subscribed, supports, reads or comments on this blog. You guys and gals are awesome and I’ve loved interacting with you all. I’m deeply flattered that anyone would read this blog, let alone have 400 of you decide to click the ‘follow’ button.

So thank you and I look forward to more blogging in the future!

Second of all, I finally did it and became…basically…a vegan. I say ‘basically’ because the transformation isn’t complete. I haven’t had meat in nearly a week, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally sworn off the stuff yet.

I’ve written before about the ethical concerns I have with eating meat, but it’s taken me a long time to work up the courage to do anything about it. Last year around Christmas time, I quit smoking and haven’t touched one since. This year (coincidentally) I’ve decided to take the next step and lose weight (and assuage my guilt about unnecessarily eating meat) by adopting a diet plan that doesn’t include meat, dairy or animal products.

Now this doesn’t mean I’m going to go around and preach to people about how they eat. This is very much a personal decision and I’ve eaten meat my entire life (and loved every minute of it) so I have no right to talk down to people who still choose to eat meat and partake in animal products. Everything I say here is from my own perspective and is about my opinion only. So if you still eat meat and want to continue, that’s totally your choice and I’m fine with that.

With that said, I’ve lost a total of five pounds after about a week. I didn’t exercise during this time. I just spent that time concentrating on changing my dietary habits. I stick to fruits and vegetables mostly, including huge salads. I don’t add salt to anything, and avoid anything that is packaged with sodium etc. My diet mainly consists of beans, whole fruits, vegetables and nuts (sparingly). I have cut out dairy products, animal products, fruit juice and oils, except small amounts of nut oils, such as almond butter when necessary and a dash of cream in my morning decaffeinated coffee, which I hope to cut out soon.

Keep in mind that during the day, I would drink HUGE amounts of coffee. I would consume at least 4 large cups, and that was a slow day. Usually, I would drink between 4-8 big cups of triple-triple coffee. I now allow myself only two normal sized cups, with a splash of cream and two sweeteners instead of sugar.

It’s my one cheat so sue me.

The first two days I experienced some stomach upset. By ‘stomach upset’ I mean I had gas and some gurgle action going on. I also had a short attention span and a slight headache – the latter probably from caffeine withdrawal. I also experienced mild fatigue.

However, after day two, I felt markedly better. I find the food is tasting better and better, and more importantly, I feel more energetic than usual. In fact, I feel fantastic.

I used to have a very, very (understatement) hard time getting up for anything besides work, but I now find that I have a ton more energy and I feel better than I have in quite a while. I hope this trend continues and isn’t a sort of placebo effect, but I guess time will tell.

As I type this, for example, I’m enjoying a beautiful butternut squash soup that my wife made last night.

IMG_20141119_120239874

My soup!

I’ve also cut out any and all sweets…commonly referred to as ‘junk food’.

That doesn’t mean I’ll never have another sweet, but I plan on sticking to this aggressive diet plan till at least Christmas, before I allow myself any more small cheats, such as a cookie or something.

So where did this radical idea come from?

My wife and I have a friend who started this diet (found in the book Eat to Live) and he has lost 20 pounds in about a month. He also doesn’t stick to it as religiously (bad pun alert!) as we are. He allows himself small portions of meat, such as steak, fish and chicken with some of his meals.

So anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to. If you have any recipe suggestions, comments or questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my progress or lack thereof.

And thanks again to all of those who have liked, commented or read my work here. It’s greatly appreciated!

 

If You’re an Atheist, Where Do You Get Your Morals From?

ethicsI often get asked where I get my morals from, just because I don’t believe in a certain god or gods. I always find the question strange, since I tend to think we all (for the most part) ‘get’ our morals from the same place, using much the same method.

Culture For The Win?

In some respects, I think we get some of our morals and biases from our respective cultures. It’s why different cultures vary in what they find ‘moral’ behavior.

For example, I find cutting off a thief’s hand or executing people as part of our criminal justice system unethical, yet I can cross the border into the U.S and find the death penalty or I can hop on a plane and visit a country that thinks chopping off a thief’s hand is perfectly acceptable behavior. In some cultures, human sacrifices were given to the gods, and it was considered a great honor to give your life in such a way.

Ironically, in a way, religion is a culture being passed on through a book. I think if you’re trying to get your morals from an ancient religion and the culture that spawned it, you’re still deriving your ethics from an ancient civilization.

I think the question we need to ask ourselves is whether this is the best method?

Personally, I don’t think so.

Empathy

Most of us have empathy and can mentally put ourselves in another person’s shoes. This is basically where the ‘golden rule’ (which predates Christianity and other mainstream religions) comes from.

For example, I can imagine what it would be like to have a possession stolen. I then realize I wouldn’t like that feeling and so decide not to inflict that feeling on another human being by stealing their things.

Of course, the golden rule isn’t perfect. There are things I might consider to be okay, that someone else wouldn’t like. If I’m into pain for pleasure, for example, not everyone is going to share my enthusiasm.

Moral reasoning

Coupled with the above two is moral reasoning.

Basically, it boils down to this:

Moral reasoning can be defined as being the process in which an individual tries to determine the difference between what is right and what is wrong in a personal situation by using logic. This is an important and often daily process that people use in an attempt to do the right thing. Every day for instance, people are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to lie in a given situation. People make this decision by reasoning the morality of the action and weighing that against its consequences.

It’s not a perfect process and it evolves along with our culture, but I think it’s far superior to an ethical system that doesn’t (or isn’t supposed to) change, such as religion.

We (most of us) can weigh the consequences vs. benefits of our actions and figure out if it’s worth it. We can use our reasoning and logic instead of rigid dogmatic beliefs.

In fact, most religious people use these methods. Even religion is forced to evolve or die according to our cultures and the moral reasoning of the time. As more information becomes available, we are forced as a society to reevaluate our actions.

If something isn’t eternal, what point is there?

I don’t understand why something must be permanent in order to have meaning.

If I do a good deed, it matters now. Our happiness matters now. It doesn’t have to matter 3 billion years from now to have meaning now.

Whether there is a heaven or a hell, it isn’t required for us to give meaning to our lives and it certainly isn’t needed for constructing an ethical framework of behavior. Even many religious people will acknowledge that atheists are perfectly capable of acting ethically, yet they don’t believe in god(s).

But…without god telling us rape and murder are bad, what makes it so?

We do. Human beings can figure it out using our own reasoning and empathy.

What’s more scary is the thought that for some, ancient literature is the only thing keeping them from thinking murder and rape are great ideas.

If you can’t think of any other reason that rape and murder is wrong, you might want to seek help.

So if you’re an atheist, where do you derive your morals or ethics from? And if you’re religious, what do you think about morals and ethics in general?

As always, thanks for reading!

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