Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

It’s all just pretend.

Thank you all.  It’s so great to have comments.  Sometimes I feel like I am shouting into a dark empty room.  I confess, I had a secret hope that when I started that my blog would be so good I could make a living at it.  I know, thats a pretty stupid, empty hope, but don’t laugh.

I’m still writing my decon story.  I had yet another realization today.  I was a Christian.  No, seriously, I was a Christian.  That means so much.  First it means I really was.  All those years waiting for the magic feeling I never got?  All that time carefully looking at others and trying to decide if I was what I was supposed to be?  All that time I was a Christian, because (Point 2) that’s what Christianity is, and (Point 3) I’m not any more. (Point 4) because it’s all just pretend.

That was the question that got me to really question Christianity in the first place.  It hit me one day.  I was waiting for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to hit me, watching my friends roll around on the ground.  And I thought, “What if it’s all just pretend?

Though I’ve called myself an atheist off and on for about 6 months now, but I guess in my heart, I thought of myself more as man God called to be damned to atheism that truly accepting the fact that there is no personal God.  And now, I’ve truly accepted that there is no God.

This makes my mortality a bit stranger.  Though I’ve long known I wasn;t going to heaven, I didn’t want to go to hell.  Now, I don’t believe in Hell.  When I die, I’m just gone, like data in RAM when the power goes out.  Gone. Forever.

And there is no story.  If something happens to my wife or daughter, just gone.  There is no ultimate justice that says I get to see them again.  We are not part of some cosmic play, acting out our lines to a great hidden script.  I seems horribly wrong that my daughter, so full of life and sparkle, could be removed from earth by the random selection that says 1 out of x number of children will die before they see 10.  But she could. Or me.  Or my wife.

My best friend leaves for Iraq soon for one of the most dangerous jobs available.  We are both sons of the church, rejected, and happily apostate.  If he dies in a firefight, it’s not because our Heavenly Father decided it was time to take him home. It’s because 2 objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, and his brain, the seat of his beautiful mind, cannot occupy the same space as 7.62mm slug doing over mach 1.

I love him like a brother.  I don’t want him to die, I want him to live.  But wanting bad enough doesn’t change physics anymore.  It never did, but I used to believe that it did.  I can’t change that he leaves.  I can’t change whether he lives or dies.  The only thing I can change is how I am a friend right now.  That’s the morality of atheism. Accepting reality makes me a better friend right now, because it matters right now.

And when I really think about, every truly good thing I ever did for or with God, everything that every really helped someone, I accepted my powerless where I was powerless, and took what action I could. Even when I was a Christian the most moral acts I did where the ones that were the most godless.

November 30, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where is this going?

My readership is slowing circling around the drain, and I’m not sure I care.  I can’t get people to comment like I want them too.  Supposablely, I am getting about 50 to 100 views a day (usually around 50) but no one seems to comment, I suspect many of these pings are seconds long as the person realizes this is some person’s blog and not what they were hoping for.

As to not caring, I am no longer as fascinated with my own opinions as I was 2 years ago when I started blogging.  I think I might possible let this blog only serve as a link to 2 new blogs.  One atheism themed one called “http://atheisthomeland.wordpress.com” and one more personal one, to be named.  The atheisthomeland is already up and running.  It just sucks at this point.

I’ve found what blogs can do, and I enjoy the way that regular writing forces me to sharpen my brain, but my hope of meeting tons of people who were passionate about the things I am passionate about is pretty much a pointless one at this point.  The people I’ve meet that I really care to discuss with are very few in number, 3 actually. 

When I write it, my de-con story is going to be one of the last.  That’s what really started these blogs.  roninyahoo360 was my first blogsite.  The journey that I started to blog originally is coming to end.

That journey was this poor desperate lost little boy, wandering the empty streets of Christianity, and pressing his nose to the glass wanting to be let in.  And now that little boy grew up.  He isn’t lost anymore, and he found a happy home with the atheists and skeptics. 

It’s strange how happy I am.  I never imagined that I could enjoy life this much, love this much, go this many places, and have so much hope.  This doesn’t mean my journey through life is over, but the broken Christian to peaceful atheist part is.  I guess I’m not sure what to write about anymore…

November 29, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Well meaning harm, the church in a nut shell

For several days now I’ve trying to write my de-conversion story. I wanted to take the time to round the corner, to mark the old part of my life from the new, and to celebrate my giving up on pondering my past.  Though you could say that my de-conversion began over 20 years ago, it began in earnest about 3 years ago.  Much of the struggle over the last three years was to be objective.  I wanted to look at the church with total fairness, separating out the well meaning harm of the church from the well meaning harm of the culture I grew up in, my parents, and even myself. After about 4 days of trying to write this over and over again, I’ve simply had to accept the fact, as the primary observer of my childhood, my views of it are pretty biased.  No amount of careful codification and fact checking can give me an objective view of the thing I experienced: The church hurt me a lot.

This makes me a somewhat poor representative of atheism.  Ideally, for the cause of de-converts everywhere, I would be able to perfectly separate the hurt I experienced into convenient causes, with titles like: Biblical doctrine, which correctly followed hurts people, common but unbiblical doctrines which also hurt people, painful church traditions, and people who call themselves Christians but act in a way to contradictory to scripture.  But I can’t.  And I won’t try anymore, for reasons I will explain shortly.  Apologists can attack my positions about Christianity as the embittered cry of a broken heart and not the calculated thoughts of a reasonable mind. They’re partially right.  My beliefs are both the calculated thoughts of reasonable mind, and the embittered cry of a broken heart.

If I was to chose one phrase to describe the whole Christian experience, the beliefs of people, their actions, the social constructs they made, and even the book stores, it would be well meaning harm. I tried at first to start from childhood and work through the specific harm which happened step, by step, carefully assigning fault where appropriate.  With each step, I put on my apologist hat, and picked apart my complaints.  This heartbreak was my fault, for not searching scripture, that heartbreak was a pastors fault for not following scripture, and that other heartbreak was the fault of institutional traditions which had grown more important than the love of Jesus.  

I know, from being an apologist, that for every cut a person receives in Jesus name, there is a corresponding bandage that explains how it wasn’t really Jesus, but some kind of false representation of him.  Jesus himself, and his word, can never be held accountable. That’s a doctrine in fact.  This filled me with rage as I tried to write.  I knew that for every pain and heartbreak the church had inflicted on me, the committed Christian could explain it away by saying “Well, that’s not really Christianity.”  To know that my 25 years of misery would simply be dismissed by saying that I never experienced the right kind of Christianity, filled me impotent fury. 

Masturbation and the guilt I felt about it was the centerpiece of my teen years.  I tried to write this into my de-con story. Like a lot of adolescents, I masturbated and looked at online pornography frequently.  Unlike a lot of adolescents, I was frequently suicidal and occasionally self harming about it. I know that an apologist would here say “Masturbation is not expressly forbidden in scripture, it’s the lusting that is a sin and God would never want you to commit suicide, or cut yourself.”

But if I said to a Christian that after I was done lusting I felt like a million bucks so I didn’t want to stop they would respond with “Oh, you’ve seared your conscience. The Lord loves a contrite heart.”  Well, how contrite?  Sometimes I felt so bad that it seemed the only thing that will take the hurt away was cutting myself.  “Oh no, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God would never want you to harm yourself.”   Christians would demand that I hurt, but not too much.  How would I know how much hurt was the right amount?

This lead me a single fact which explained all the confusion and hurt I had experienced at the hands of Christians.  Though there are clear standards of what it means to be a Christian, the measure of whether one meets those standards is totally subjective, in short there is no objective measure of what a Christian life looks like, it is totally dependent on local group conditions.

I could go into great detail about how I tried desperately to be Christian, and how I hurt people and myself in the process, but it doesn’t really matter which standard I didn’t meet, because they are all arbitrary anyway.  I could talk at length about how I, a critical thinker, become a foaming at the mouth Pentecostal, in the desperate hope that exchanging one set of arbitrary norms for another would result in me feeling the peace, hope, and joy that Christians are supposed to feel, but I never got.  

But, instead, I just accept the fact that I wasted the first 25 years of my life.  I masturbated alone when I could have been making love.  I qualified to enter MIT and failed out of a private bible college instead.  I beat myself up over meaningless infractions of imaginary, uncodifiable social norms. I accept all this, and take full responsibility for it.  I’ll not blame my parents, or the church.  Reason shined a light and I hid from it because I was afraid.

A personal relationship with God is life with the cheat codes on. He slants the odds in your favor, and softens the falls.  That girl didn’t break up with you because you were unsupportive and neurotic, she broke up with you because she wasn’t God’s best for you.  You got that job because it was gift from God. It was not Christianity that hurt me, but my fear of living without it, and my insistence on giving it every possible chance.  The fault of my fuckeduppery was not God, but fear of facing the great gamble of life without loaded dice. 

 

I will publish my decon story when in few months  when I think I can write it without the impotent rage.  Please all, feel free to comment.

November 27, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

First Snow.

YES FIRST SNOW.  I LOVE SNOW.   XOXOXOXOXOX YES! YES!  Snooooooooow!

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Self discovery, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Of Sex and Sin

Published with typos and without editing until I have more motivation.

When I was kid, growing up in the church, world view was very important.  If the basic world view of a person or group fit the Church’s, that person or group was seen to be basically good.  Rush Limbaugh and Doctor Laura are both good examples of this.  Both treat callers in an abusive and vindictive way totally incongruous with teachings of Christ, but both have managed, to one degree or another to remain the darlings of the Church.

Feminists stood up for things that Church cared about like abused moms and not objectifying women, but also things that Paul commanded the church to care about which weren’t always followed, like feeding the children of the poor. The Church held against feminists their pro-abortion stance and their anti-patriarchal leanings, and could never find anything good to say about them.  I remember Rush Limbaugh’s old saw “Feminism was created to put ugly women in power” being repeated often.

Dr. Laura’s belief that there was no Messiah (She’s Jewish) was remarkably, not an impediment to her heroization by people who believe that “If you deny the son you deny the father.”   People who aligned themselves with the world view of the Church were courted by it, and people who did not were ostracized, in both cases, totally regardless of theology.  (Bill Clinton, seen by many people I knew at the time as a harbinger of the Antichrist, was a Southern Baptist.)

The world view the Church gave us was a comprehensive package, with something to think about every issue we might run into.  Sex, of course, is of utmost importance to the Church’s world view.  There was an unofficial party line to every issue that might relate to sex in even the tenuous way.  Sex must be with the right person (your wife) at the right time (after marriage), in the right emotional way (out of love, not lust) and the right physical way (un-protected or barrier method birth control only after hours of prayerful consideration).

There were also a lot of “gray” areas that would be stated gray, but preferred action was black and white.  Masturbation was a good example of this.  The view was that while the Bible did not expressly forbid masturbation, it did forbid sexual fantasy.  Thus, masturbation is not being per say condemned, but of course it is.  What would be the possible point of masturbation without some kind of sexual thinking behind it.

Even sexual fantasies about one’s spouse were discouraged, again by the same gray-stated-black-and-white applied principals.  The argument went like this: Sexually fantasizing about your spouse acting a in manner your spouse would not normally act, was projecting the sexual heart of someone else into your spouses body.  Thus you were, in fact, not fantasizing about your spouse, you were fantasizing about someone else, (who just happened to look just like them) which was lust, and thus a sin.

By this token pornography was definite no no.  Pornography was a great evil, at a personal level, and a social one.  First off, to look at it was the sin of lust.  Second, to look and masturbate was equal to having sex with that person.  Didn’t Jesus say if you looked at a woman to lust, you had committed adultery in your heart?  Third, it was addictive.  Once you started looking at it, you couldn’t stop.  You would start missing work to masturbate and look at porn.  I was totally possible you would leave your wife if you looked at porn.  Forth, masturbating while looking at porn was giving a sexual experience that was rightfully your wife’s to a whore.  (This was true even if you were not married, because you were say, 14 years old.  God had a planned spouse for you, to “emotionally have sex” with any other was a form of adultery.  Fifth, porn would destroy you ability to have normal relationships with woman because you would  objectify woman and see their only purpose as meeting your sexual needs, instead of considering their needs. Sixth, by purchasing pornography, you were supplying helping keep woman in sexual slavery, and seven, by looking at pornography at home, you opened a pipeline of the demonic that would attack your whole family.

Hearing feminist demonized as I did, I was puzzled to find there is a group within the feminist movement as radically opposed to pornography as the Church, and with some minor restatement, for almost identical reasons.  When I began to read Christian books about the destructiveness of pornography, (I was terrified I was addicted) I was very surprised to find radical feminists, rejected even by mainstream feminist radicals, as the primary source of this information about how destructive porn is.

When I came to the conclusion that, if Christianity was true, the form I had been taught was at best, compromised, sexual behavior, and thus pornography was one of the first issues I had to deal with.

I wanted to reevaluate everything, start my world view with a clean slate.  I would, I decided, do what ever I wanted, regardless of whether it was a sin or not.  The first couple days, I was (pleasantly) surprised to find, that even with out Christ holding me back, I didn’t solicited a hooker.  I’d always been told that without God, one’s desires couldn’t be controlled and I knew I really liked sex, so I was surprised.

I decided that I wasn’t going to feel guilty for looking at porn anymore.  I was man, God made me a man, made me straight, and for thirteen years, had never provided me with any victory over this sin.  Those first day, I looked at a lot of porn.  It felt wonderful.  Since I was 12, I had looked at porn.  I’d felt like shit afterwards every time. To look at it and not fell bad was wonderful.

And then the next day… something strange happened.  I had the house to myself, I could look at porn all day, which is probably what I would have done the week before.  But the knowledge that I could look at it whenever I wanted changed something.  The internet would still be there latter that night, and latter that week.

Once I didn’t think it was a filthy, horrible disfiguring sin, I had no reason to never do it again.  And with no reason to never do it again, I had no reason to make every chance I had an all-you-can-view pornothon.

It’s been three years since that first “victory over sin”.  For awhile I thought porn was the coolest thing in the world.  I guess I was just growing up late. That’s a totally normal feeling for a 17 year old, though unbecoming in a grow man. Now, even though I still look at it from time to time, I see where the anti-porn people are coming from.  I know guys who really get into porn, it’s their whole life.  There is something not-quite-right in them.

I always looked at porn from a desire to be with women, not a desire to hurt them or master them.  So, I didn’t really understand what people where talking about when they said that porn is about men dominating woman.  Now, because I get to talk to a lot more people about a lot more things than I did when I was a Christian, I’ve talked to men who watch porn because they hate women, though rarely would they put it that way.

I think they hate women because they are jealous of them.  They would do anything to have sex with attractive famous women, yet the women do nothing to try and have sex with them.  At some deep level, it offends their sense of reciprocity.  They talk about it at work often.  They make masturbatory motions and say things like “That’s what you get, bitch.”

So, to the radicals who say porn is purely about hurting women, and to the radicals who say porn has no effect, I say, you’re both wrong, and I offer my explanation: Pornography is art and art has a message. When art must sell that message must be something that people want to hear.  Sadly, the message that a lot of men want to hear is “Woman are just here for you to use.”

But the fact that most purchasers want that message does not mean that all who enjoy the art do.  As I’ve grown as a person, pornography has become increasingly less satisfying to me.  I don’t look at it nearly as much as I used too, because for me, the message is wrong.  But if there was porn made with the message that I want, I want to look at it all the time, and I refuse to be ashamed.

The message I want is this:  one, that all woman are beautiful and two, that two people meeting sexually as equals is beautiful. I will not apologize for thinking that that is a beautiful statement, and I will not apologize for wanting to see art that celebrates it.  Most of the negative things said about porn are true.  Life doesn’t imitate art, art matches life’s message. The kind of people who really like the message “Woman are for me to use” are abusive little jackals, and the porn they like isn’t the only indicator.

But it’s not what I like, and I’m not going to pretend that I think seeing a real woman with the shape  that life and her choices have given her is bad just to not be confused with the jackals.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better than crack, I mean… hoho, cake.

This is a Hoho.

ho_hoes2 For those of you who do not know, know,

There is nothing quite as amazing as a ho ho.

Except….See, they’re creme filled, and real cream filling takes dairy.  Like a lot of organic lipids suspended in water, milk is pretty delicate, chemically speaking.   The filling has to be made from raw or semi-raw (pasteurized) milk, because the heating process of making milk truly shelf stable (ultra-pasteurization) breaks the lipids down to far for them to cream properly.  

The answer is to replace the milk fats with petrochemical based lipid substitutes like PEG80.  PEG stands for Polyethylene glycol.  The number after refers to the length of the polymer.  PEG is pretty safe and its used in all sorts of things, meant to go in the body (laxatives) on the body (skin creams) and both in and on (sexual lubricants).     PEG has many interesting properties, but in commercial cookery it contributes two things: taste and mouth feel.  It has no taste. (A note to adventurous readers: The taste of sexual lubricant is caused by the glycerin and perfumes, not the the PEG.)  It also, in comparison to real fat, has a really weird mouth feel, because the melting point is often above 98.6 degrees.  This is why twinkies and hohos leave that sort of funky coating in your mouth.

 Well, for my birthday, (28, and yes I had a great time) my wife made me HoHo cake.  Not the stack of Hostess Hohos in a cake shape that other have tried, this is the real deal.

 

Ho-Ho Cake

 

Cake

1 stick butter

½ C oil

2 C flour

2 C sugar

1 t baking soda

1 C water

3 T cocoa

1 egg

½ C milk

 

Filling

1 C sugar

1 C shortening

½ C milk

1 T water

¼ t salt

1 t vanilla

1 C powdered sugar

 

Frosting

1 C sugar

6 T milk

6 T butter

1 ½ C chocolate chips

 

1. Cake: Combine butter, oil, flour, sugar, baking soda, water, and cocoa. Beat well.

2. Add egg and milk. Beat well.

3. Pour into greased 15 x 10 x 1-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool.

4. Filling: mix together sugar, shortening, milk, water, salt, and vanilla.

5. Add powdered sugar while beating. Spread over cooled cake.

6. Frosting: boil sugar, milk, and butter for 1 minute.

7. Add the chocolate chips. Beat and then pour over cake. Cool.

 

 Now, I must warn you.  Lacking the PEG, this does not, in fact,  taste “just like” Ho Hos.  If you like the MSG/PEG sort of after taste in other foods (like Cool Ranch Doritos for instance) , you are going to find this merely passable cake.  However, if you like real taste, this is absolutely amazing.  Which brings me to my second warning.  It eats like crack smokes.  Make for a large group, or accept the fact you are going to eat an even pound butter/shortening ect. and 4 cups of sugar in a 24 hour period.  Did I mention it’s absolutely amazing?  

 

Better than crack, I mean hoho, cake.

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Pharmacology, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Press bias, shesh bias

So, I continue to attempt to hammer out a constitution based on skeptical reasoning.  It’s insanely difficult.  The constitution is not the law of our land, thats the US Code.  Cornel has a searchable version of it on their website.  The Constitution is the spirit of the law.  Now, you might assume that because I am not a rightwing christian, that I could use the UN charter.  I read the UN’s documents again tonight. What a load of hooie that rag is.  The writers of the UN declaration of human rights seemed to missed the verbally subtle but methodologically mammoth difference between a right to pursue happiness and a right to happiness. First, they decide on what, ideally, a government should do if it has the money, then they say all governments worldwide must provide this service, and then they say that the provision of this service is a right.  Let me be very blunt…

Government….services….aren’t….rights.  Yeah, it’s just that simple.

In the United States you do have right to Social Security, because the government is a service provider who has entered a contractual agreement with the people to provide the service of social security insurance.  But your right is as a contract holder, not a citizen. Your parents got it because you paid.  When it comes your turn, you will get it because your kids paid.  That’s how insurance works.  It’s crappy retirement plan because it isn’t a retirement plan, it’s retirement plan insurance.  If your nest egg goes belly up when the market tanks, you sill have a bare sustenance to fall back on. And no, you don’t get anything if you manage to put away a ton of cash.  You don’t get a fire insurance payoff after 50 years of your house failing to catch on fire either.

If the government would let you stop paying for SSI, and you wouldn’t have the option of getting it anymore, then it would go away.  Free speech does not go away when you quite paying to hear government officials talk. One of the many differences between a service and a right.

But you do not, contrary to the UN declaration of human rights, have fundamental human right, on equal ground with the freedom to practice the manner of worship of your choice, to… not have to keep a job when you get too old too work.  Sorry.  Just because you want something, doesn’t mean the government must get it for you, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean that you have a right to it. Reading through the Declaration of Human Rights is like reading a constitution written by a 13 year old.  “Uh, I’ve got freedom of speech, and..uh, freedom of worship…and…uh, I’ve got a right to all the pizza I can eat….um, hey yeah! I’ve got a right to honk girls’ boobies!  That’s a good one!…Right to…uh…trial by jury…”

But, as I laughed to myself at those silly Frenchmen, I realized something evil.  Americans do something worse, about something more important.

The US Constitution lists the right of “freedom of press”.  I hear all these people complaining about conservative domination of the radio and liberal domination of the TV networks.  Someone I talked to recently bashed the lies he’d heard on the “liberal media”.   Liberals I know would like to see the “Fairness doctrine” enacted to make radio less conservatively bias.  

That’s when it all came together for me,  (1.) all this swirling crap storm about bias, and (2.) the purposed solutions of mandated balance.

One, about bias.  You do not have a right to truth without effort! Of course the news is biased!  You think that some of the wealthiest companies on earth got that way by carefully reporting the unvarnished truth?  Of course not!  They are businesses, and they are in the business of telling the news that sells the most ads.  They always have been.  “But what about government supported news,” someone snivels.  They are a business, and their bottom line is funding too, it just comes from a different source.  Most information is biased! If you want the truth you are going to have to work for it.  I say again You do not have a right to truth without effort.

Ok, the whole “we-have-a-right-to-free-press-but-there-is-a-bias-so-it’s-not-really-free” argument.  First of all, it’s all going to be biased. The right to a free press does not mean free of bias; It means you are free to print your own bias.  You don’t have right to find any viewpoint you wish in print, you have a right to print any viewpoint you wish.  Freedom of the press means you are free to buy a press and go at it, not that you can sit on your ass and have prechewed ideas spoon fed to you.  

The world is market place of ideas.  These bias/not-really-free presses chants are the pathetic, infantile prattle of people who think their ideas are a lot more important than everyone else does.  If no one is listening to you, it’s gotta be that the media is too biased, and the free speech isn’t really free, and a homosexual/privileged white male/post patriarchy/Zionist/fundamentalist agenda is keeping you back.  In short, it’s just gotta be anything except the idea that no one is listening because they don’t care about your stupid viewpoint, because in the marketplace of ideas you are selling a rusty Yugo. 


November 19, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Skeptics Constitution

I’m a  big believer in the theory that you really learn the ins and outs of something by trying to do it or model it yourself.  To better understand politics, I’m trying to write my own constitution.  It’s shockingly difficult.  I mean, I did expect that it would be hard, but this is crazy.  One of the first ideas I had to let go of was my theory of no contraband.  My basic thought here was guns, drugs, and pornography. I know some conservative person just read this and is now convinced, more than ever, that I am rapidly going to hell.  Allow me to explain.  

I don’t believe in bad objects.  I believe the morality of an object is decided by its use.  To try and legislate against an object, instead of its use is to say to the world at large, “You’re all either to stupid to use this responsibly, or just plain evil.  Either way, you couldn’t possible use this object morally.  No one could!  So the object is banned, banned I say!”  I think that is wrong and sort of stupid.  

Let me make a parallel to free speech.  True free speech means speech you don’t like.  It’s that freakin’ simple.  Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, they all believed in a kind of free speech!  They all believed they should be free to say whatever they wanted.  It was the freedom of others to speak they made illegal.  Because we, and the people we agree with, want to be free, we grudging accept the fact that everyone is going to have to be free, and we tolerate other’s ridiculous babble so that we allowed our Righteous Pulpit of Truth. 

Free ownership is the same.  Free ownership means some people are going to own things some people don’t like.  Again, communist tyrants and the kings of old were very pro-private property: the party or royals should be free to own anything and maybe everything. The people, not so much.  Since we all want to own things that some people aren’t going to like, we must grudgingly accept the fact that everyone is going to have to be free, and we must tolerate others ridiculous and vile possesions, so we may keep our treasured and divine baubles. (To the moralists who might think they don’t have or want any offensive possession, I remind you that every religion’s holy book has been banned in part or totality at one time or another.)

I always thought it bizarre that people I knew who were the most pro-gun seemed to support any new anti-drug law which came down the pipe. My father is rabidly pro gun ownership, believing any restriction at all on gun ownership is a plot to disarm law abiding people and take over the country.   But, on the other hand, I remember Dad explaining to me once that even though some people might have the self control to use, rather than abuse drugs, most people would not.  Their abuse would cost society in lives, crime, and money.  Thus it was better to have drugs be illegal.  “But, Dad, if that’s true of drugs why not guns?  I mean some people might have the self responsibility to use rather than abuse guns, but most people wouldn’t.  Their abuse would cost society in lives, crime, and money.  So shouldn’t guns be restricted?”  

Oh no, he assured me.  Gun crime was lowest in the places with the least restrictions on guns, proving guns had a positive effect on society.  “But wouldn’t legalizing drugs have the same effect?  Where we have drug dealers now, we’d have tax paying pharmacies.   Where criminally supporting addicts need to steal thousands of dollars now, they’d only need to steal tens of dollars for the same high.”  

We never did come to see eye to eye on the issue.

I still see it the same way, though.  Guns can be for recreation and utility.  They can provide a fun afternoon of target shooting, put meat on the table, money in the economy (in the form of hunting licenses, boat licenses etc.) and they can save your life from an attacker.  That’s using a gun.  They can also be abused. They can rob a bank, terrorize your fellow man, kill someone accidently, or even murder.  Drugs are the same.  They give people something to gather around, they numb heartache and physical pain.  Many can be grown in your backyard and sold (if legal) at a farmers’ market.  They can also kill, drive to desperate acts, and destroy families.  Use or abuse, the choice is up to you.  

And I think porn is the same.  Porn can be an outlet for the outlet-less, a fun way to kill an afternoon, a business opportunity, and, if both partners enjoy it, a relationship builder.  It can also be an obsession, a perversion, a gateway to far more damaging behavior, an avenue to exploitation, and, if both partners don’t enjoy it, it can eat a relationship alive. 

So my original idea, to prevent the government from promoting the freedom of one group to dislike something over the freedom of another to like it, was to simply remove all laws defining “contraband.”

Congress shall make no law forming any contraband of any kind.

My theory was that, yes, this would allow people to own crazy, dangerous things, but; (1.) You can already own anything you want in any society. Illegality just makes the profit margin thicker for the seller because it does nothing to decrease demand, but increases the scarcity of supply; (2.) Making it legal would decrease demand because it’s not as cool anymore; (3.) Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you can get it.  Cyanide is deadly and dangerous, but legal.  It’s used in some welding operations. Anyone can get it, they just have to have the right bits of paper first; (4.) Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you can afford it.  It’s not illegal for a person to own radioactive material, for instance.  There’s some in your smoke detector.  But the price to quantity ratio makes it unlikely that anyone will do anything antisocial with it; (5.)  We tend to misunderstand risks of legality all the time.  Car’s kill around 50,000 people a year in the US alone.  Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for people under 40.  Cars are legal and kill in the tens of thousands.   Treehouses (stats on treehouses as a cause of death, anyone?) are illegal in many cities.  

It’s a good theory on all of the above points.  I don’t believe in punishing people for the capacity to do wrong which certain objects might give them.  You shouldn’t prevent someone from owning a gun when there is no reason to believe they won’t use it responsibly.  You shouldn’t prevent them from growing poppies or weed or owning a car or having a treehouse because they are assumed to be responsible and free until they prove they are going to use their freedom to harm others, instead of just themselves.  

The problem is an odd and specific one; items, the creation of which requires breaking the law, but are not stolen.  Example one: bits of an endangered species.  So, you go to the store and you buy a white tiger robe.  You didn’t kill a white tiger; the poacher did, and once the tiger was dead, it’s not like you could make it alive by not buying it.  If there is no contraband, then a person cannot get in trouble for owning a white tiger robe, only for killing the white tiger to get it.  So, supply is illegal, but demand is fine.  

There is a solution to example one.  All free game belongs to the people, whose right over it is administered by the State. (It’s already that way in New Jersey, by the way.)  Then, owning it constitutes owning stolen property, as such, it can be seized, and returned to it’s rightful owner, and the un-rightful owner held to various consequences depending on their level of involvement in the original theft.

Example two is a bit more evil: child pornography. While I believe that any consenting adult should be able to see (and do) pretty much anything regarding another consenting adult, the sexual exploitation of children is never acceptable.  Applying a parallel of example one doesn’t work, because even if all children are the property of the state (a profoundly lousy idea) the image of a crime is not identical to the crime.   Owning a stolen tiger pelt is not the same as having a picture of someone stealing one.  

My basic theory was that property is not good or bad, but can only be used for good or bad, but this sort of falls apart with child pornography. There is no good side to child pornography.  There is no way to “use” rather than abuse it.  For it to exist something unconscionable must happen.  How can a society embrace the freedom of adults to own what they wish, and follow the general truism of the amorality of tangible things, and yet keep this one thing contraband?

My answer is this: what makes child pornography is wrong is the exploitation.  The photo is amoral. The evil is the exploitation which went into making the photo.  As such, the real problem here is one of exploitation.  Pornography of a non-consenting adult is no more and no less wrong.   That being the case, exploitive pornography is treated as any other evidence of a crime (in this case rape).  The holder of the evidence is accused as an accomplice to the crime until they can provide evidence otherwise.  Child pornography is especially evil, but we need not throw out due process to pursue and punish it.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sarah Palin’s bigotry and ignorance revealed again.

Strikethroughs represent changes suggested by commenters. 

So, presidential vice presidential reject Sarah Palin has announced that the failure of her campaign was not caused by her own, or her party’s incompetence, but by 30 year old bloggers, still living in their mom’s basement, wearing their pajamas all day.  There is sooooo much wrong here.  I told this to my wife.

First, the thoughts of my adorable wife.  “Ya know, not understanding a new medium cost the Republicans the 1960 election when Nixon looked like a zombie on the first televised election. The Dem’s got TV and ran the country.  Then in the late 80’s early 90’s when talk radio was new medium the Repubs really got it.  They came to totally dominate talk radio, and used it as platform to achieve a Republican house, senate and presidency. Now, the new medium is blogs, and it’s like the Republicans just don’t get it again.”

I couldn’t agree more, though my first thought was not nearly as deep and reasoned.  My first thought was that Palin is a total bigot who has no opinion gained by any reflection at all.  She is walking repository of pop culture knowledge with no depth whatsoever.   I mean, seriously: 30 something, mom’s basement, pajamas.  I think the good governor has confused the pop culture image of hackers, with bloggers.  Smart people don’t assume that the pop cultural image of something is the solid truth.

I have a lot for friends who are bloggers.  I have on my blog list, an independent political theorist, an older mom, a new mommie, a rocket scientist, a nuclear physicist, and doctor of etymology, a philosopher, a doctor of linguistics, a pastors wife, a militant lesbian and many more.  Their ages are between 50 something and 20 something.  One is my wife, one a coworker, one my sister, and many I have never met in person.  Bloggers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and levels of education.  There are as many different kinds of blogger as there are different kinds of people.  

But, I guess that Sarah Palin, who through years of Christian training hypocritical thinking, has learned to pass ridiculous judgements on people she has never met, wouldn’t think twice about assuming that everyone who spends time online is a socially retarded failure.

She then accuses us of losing her chance at the presidency vice presidency. 

She didn’t need our help.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Planet X found!

Today is red letter day for geeks everywhere!  A photo of older system with a cool gas giant planet and a photo of a much newer system, with 3 new, still hot from the forming planets!  Maybe in my life time, my daughter can drive an electric car to an observatory, and look at images of an earth-like planet. 

Now, if only we colonize the moon, mars, and the astroid belts.  

 

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/11/13/huge-exoplanet-news-items-pictures/

November 14, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Religion, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment