What John Chau Should Teach Us About Religion

This morning, I listened to a podcast that talked about John Chau, and then I did some reading. Basically, Chau was a Christian missionary who repeatedly traveled to an island that is not only secluded from the modern world, but there are laws prohibiting travel there, in order to help them learn about Jesus and save their souls. He was met with hostility, and repeatedly went back, until eventually he was killed. (There is some speculation that he wasn’t killed and is still alive, but the speculation seems uncredible.)

Chau knew what he was doing was illegal, and he repeatedly went back. Because he thought it was a moral imperative. He feared for these people’s salvation, and felt he had to do what he could.

Now, I’m not happy that he died, it’s sad for him, and it’s sad for his family, and so I really don’t want to be a dick about that, and honestly, he was probably a good-hearted person, and it is genuinely sad. What I want to talk about instead, is the ridiculous structure that creates these types of problems.

Now, if you have faith in Jesus (or Buddha or any other religious prophet/figurehead/messiah), and it makes you a better person, and it makes you feel good, that’s fine. I don’t want to strip anyone of that. But these religions have become corrupted, and while they were likely started as a way of guiding a tribe, or larger group of people, they’ve grown out of control like a tumor.

The idea that we tell people these stories when they’re children, when they’re super impressionable, and able to be brainwashed, and then add in those little bits about “and that’s the only way to get into heaven” or whatever other religions tell their people, is life altering. Sure, kids stop believing in Santa at a certain age, but largely that’s because the adults stop playing along and older kids ruin it. The authority whom has perpetuated the lie admits “there is no Santa,” and the kid eventually accepts that. Now imagine if you were able to raise your kids in a society in which no one spoiled the truth for them, they would then likely become parents who never admit to their children that it’s untrue, because they still believe it. And when they aren’t buying the presents from Santa, and no presents come from Santa, they start assuming “oh shit, you must be bad kids.” This is what religion does.

So you get a guy, who’s been taught by his parents, who were taught by their parents, that if someone doesn’t know about Jesus, and dies, they won’t get to go to heaven. They’ll be damned (which if you think about it from any logical perspective is a super fucked up message, to punish them for something they knew nothing about) then you get a person who thinks risking his life, to disturb people who’ve been living alone by themselves for however many thousands of years, in order to introduce a concept that may have little to no effect on their lives, in order to save their afterlifes.

Is learning about Jesus worth the tremendous amount of germs he could have introduced them to, without any antibodies?

I think his actions were selfish, even though I think his intentions were not. Giving someone generations of moral imperatives based on religious teachings that were likely written in part to keep tribes together, is setting them up to have little concept of the realities of what their actions are in fact doing.

The thing about John Chau, is that he wasn’t a priest molesting children, or grifting people for their money with the false promise of salvation, he was likely honest, and well intentioned. There would be nothing to gain for him personally in this situation if he didn’t actually believe it, unlike so many other religious corruptions and misdeeds. He was taught something which flipped a switch in his brain, and if anything he took what he was being taught more purely than most, the problem is what he was being taught.

Like I said at the beginning, if your religious beliefs make you a better person, and give you peace or happiness, that’s great. But try to recognize the pieces that are beneficial and pass those on, and discern the harmful, and teach your kids about those. “Treat others how you would like to be treated,” is really only harmful if you’re a masochist. “The only way to Heaven is through me,” is potentially really harmful, and unnecessary. Also, if you’re unable to do this, try to choose a partner with a somewhat different perspective. My parents are a devout Catholic and a non-religious person, and I have a decent perspective for when an element of religion doesn’t serve any real purpose and is harmful. I cannot recommend that enough. Religion is currently the most harmful social force in the world, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ll leave you with one last thought, it’s not mine, but I love it, “religion is like your penis, if you enjoy it in the privacy of your own home that’s great, but don’t whip it out in public or on children.”

Weird (Credit/Blame)

I haven’t seen Shape of Water, I’m gonna start off by saying that.  But the film being nominated for, and then winning Best Picture has kicked off something that I really can’t stand.  It kicked off people being bewildered/upset by the popularity of something deem “weird.”

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word “weird” is an adjective, defined as “of strange or extraordinary character.”  This is now t good, nor is it bad.  The characteristic of being “weird” holds no positive or negative judgment, and yet it is often used to dismiss the quality of something. This drives me crazy.

Why are people so concerned with what is or is not weird?  Do you really want Best Picture to be not-weird?  Or anything for that matter?  The antonyms to weird are “normal, regular, usual.”  Do you want a “regular” Best Picture?  Do you want to eat the “usual” meal? Or have a “normal” vacation, or party, or life, or whatever?  I don’t.

Variety is the spice of life, and yet we really like to surround ourselves with homogenization.  When will we overcome this engrained protectiveness against “weird,” and just start rolling with it?  “Weird” pushes us forward doesn’t it? The Wright brothers probably seemed weird to anyone around them, same with artists and scientists.  What good, or what growth and advancement has come out of normal?

Personally, I don’t think of weird as good, or bad. I think of it as interesting, as different, and with that there are some good things, and obviously some bad, but “weirdness” is not a measurement of quality.  Just like a blue car is not better than a green car (having a preference is ok, but one’s not better than the other).

Last thing that I want to say. I haven’t seen this film, like I said. And I am sure there are some legitimate reasons to love it, and some legitimate reasons to not love it, but weirdness should not be one.  Also, I get that people think it’s weird that a woman has a sexual relationship with a fish man, but is this only based on his looking grotesque, right? I mean people loved Beauty and the Beast, and while vampires may look he same age forever, there is something inherently creepy about someone over 100 years old falling for someone sixteen or seventeen. We can admit that right?

Unemployed Again

Alright, so the title of this post isn’t exactly accurate.  My day job, was a contract position, and that contract is now over, but I do still have my second job working as an editor at a small publishing company.  So I’m not unemployed, I’m just not making a living at the moment.

I was given almost a month’s notice that I was going to be finishing up, so for that I’m grateful, and honestly, working for almost 9 months at the company that I just left was really good.  They’re a good company that treated me really well.  So, I have no complaints about them, no resentment or regrets.

That being said, it’s a bit overwhelming.  I don’t like uncertainty, and while employment itself is most often uncertain, unemployment is a higher level of it.  Could I get a job that ends up being my dream job? Definitely.  Could I get a job that’s a step backwards? Definitely.  The potential negative is really bad, while the potential positive is really good.  That’s not exactly a comfortable place to be in.  But, comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing, comfort can breed complacency, and I don’t want that.  I want to continue to push myself forward, and so perhaps, this is exactly what I want.

My hope is that, like I did last year while unemployed, I can take advantage of this time not only to find a new job, but to build up Chocolate Diamond Media, to continue my own fiction writing, to continue to contribute to World’s Best Media.

Being unemployed last year was terrifying, and there were moments when I thought it would ruin my life, but I got more than 6 months with my son, to bond; and I was able to start this blog properly, and so I don’t regret any of it.  I’m going to go into a mental space that will have truly awful days, days when I won’t know if I’ll be ok, but I really think that I will also have days that will justify those, and I will be supremely grateful for in the future.

I’m looking for jobs, but my hope right now, is that I will use this time in such a way that I will not be reliant on others in the future.  Will it occur this year? Probably not, but I’m laying the seeds that will hopefully help me in the next five years, so that I won’t be sitting in an office staring at kind people who have to inform me that I no longer work there.  That’s the worst, because truthfully, I could see on both occasions that it happened, that they feel truly awful about what they have to do.  So, my hope is to get to a place where that’s no longer required, at least for me.

I will now ask you very kindly, and a bit shamelessly, to go Chocolate Diamond Media and subscribe to our blog for updates, to follow this blog, and to subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and if you’re looking for an awesome book to read check out mine here!  Thank you.

The Jesus/Christian Paradox

This post, despite it’s title, should not be offensive to anyone regardless of religious affiliation, or lack of religious affiliation.  So keep reading!

There is a thing that I’ve found myself referring to a lot lately, but I came up with the idea a long time ago.  I refer to it as “the Jesus/Christian Paradox.”  What it is, is when someone starts to get backlash, because their followers/supporters/fans are assholes, and not based on their own merit or lack thereof.  If you listen to most of what Jesus said, it’s pretty non-controversial, and while there are many amazing Christians, there are a few that are so irritating, that they make us not want to associate with the term anymore.  It’s not really fair to Christianity on the whole, but we feel the need to go far away from it. Like the Westboro Baptist Church, they’re just so far from what we consider reasonable, that we want to disconnect.

When I first came up with this concept, it was after having spent a few years disliking Joss Whedon.  For a while, I thought he was a talentless hack of a writer, and then I watched some more of his shows/films and realized, he is a talented writer, but I hate his obnoxious fans who would tell me how he’s the most brilliant and innovative writer because he killed Buffy.  He wasn’t the problem and it took me a while to realize that.

In the last year, I’ve referred to Boston sports teams (and I stand by it) as being guilty of this Jesus/Christian Paradox—most sports teams might be.  Then there was Oprah, after the week of talking about whether or not she’d be running for President, I had to explain to several people who hated her for it, that she hadn’t said anything, it was her fans that were driving the hype.

Now, it’s Black Panther.  I just watched a video about how the hype is dampening excitement for some.  I think the creator of the video does a pretty fair job of not blaming Marvel or the cast and crew for the issues.  It falls onto the fans, followers, supporters, whatever the term is for them.

We need to properly advocate for what we think is best, and I think being over-zealous, becomes a massive turn off for most, and ends up having the opposite result intended.  Jesus said things that can be appreciated whether you’re Jewish, or Buddhist, or Atheist, but we really don’t see that in modern society.  Christianity doesn’t seem to mean following Christ’s ideas any more, and is in many cases a status symbol, and a necklace you wear, while you attack others and use him as the excuse.  The Patriots play football well, whether you love them or hate them, they’re pretty good at the game, and for the most part the really obnoxious team members get weeded out, and they’re probably a bunch of otherwise average guys, but we think of the fans crying when they lose, or being assholes when they win (btw, the reaction I saw on Facebook after their Super Bowl loss was better than any other experience I’ve ever had with their fans).

So, try not to judge someone (or something) by it’s fans, but by its content.  At the same time, fans, try not to be obnoxious.  Ok?

Can Their Be Victims Without Perpetrators?

In the last 24 hours, I’ve read three articles about Aziz Ansari.  The first is the Babe.com article, in which a young woman accused him of sexual assault.  A second article, from The Atlantic, in which another woman discusses the events described in the first, and claims they are not sexual assault.  And finally, a third article from KatyKatiKate.com, in which a third woman explains that events like those described in the first article have happened to her, and while she hadn’t considered them sexual assault, that doesn’t mean they aren’t.  (I’m over simplifying all three, so please go check them out.)

With all three fresh in my head, I started wondering about victimhood.  I don’t mean that in this “I don’t like the word victim,” or “we’ve become a victim culture,” I mean legitimate victims.  In the past four months or so, we’ve had many victims come forward, and naturally, when something’s wrong we look for someone to blame.  Now, in all of the cases that I’ve heard that have popped up in the past few months there have been clear predators, anyone who’s defending Harvey Weinstein, or Kevin Spacey, is part of the problem.  I don’t know if Al Franken was as maliciously intent as those others, but what he did was wrong, and he needed to own up to it, and step down.

With Ansari, maybe he knew what he was doing was wrong, but this is definitely the most ‘grey area’ story that I have read in these past months.  So it got me thinking, assuming Ansari is telling the truth, and he didn’t get that she wasn’t into it, didn’t pick up on her non-verbal cues, is he a perpetrator?  If he’s not, is she still a victim?  I wonder if it’s possible for someone to be a victim without a perpetrator.

Let me run a scenario by you, something that I used to do as a boy, into young adulthood.  I think most would be hard pressed to call me a perpetrator in this scenario, but I’m not sure that doesn’t make others victims.  When I was 13, I was one of the tallest boys in my class, I already had some facial hair, and acne, and I was about 6 feet tall.  I was also the oldest in my class, and so I lumbered over many of the other kids, but especially the girls.  I constantly had crushes on the girls, and would ask them out regularly.  One of my problems was, that I didn’t know how to take a hint.

I would ask, “Do you want to go to the movies on Friday?”

Usually I’d get back, “Um… I can’t I have to… (insert polite excuse here)”

I didn’t get it, so I’d say “how about Saturday?”

Now, I just wanted at that point in my life, to go to the movies, maybe hold hands, or kiss them.  I knew about sex, but really hadn’t connected it with my interaction with girls.  I literally meant no harm.

But as a 33 year-old, I now know, that from a very young age, girls are warned about predators, and told about them, likely by that age they had encountered some to whatever extent, and so a giant kid, who they find creepy and unattractive won’t stop asking them out, is probably terrifying.  I think back, and I have to imagine, I was the physical embodiment of everything a young girl has been warned about.  Despite not having any bad intentions, or really any awareness of myself.

So were those girls victims?  Not of assault, but I think they were of harassment, definitely of intimidation.  How can anyone argue with that?

On the other hand, was I a predator?  I don’t think so.

It’s a level of nuance that I’m not sure this current wave of awareness has.  Obviously, if someone knowingly assaults, or intimidates, or harasses, they should be punished, and corrected, but perhaps there are the unknowing harassers and intimidate-ers, who need to be corrected, and educated, but not necessarily punished.

I think one of the fears that has come out, is that if we don’t listen to a woman, we risk falling back into the same old routine, and so we’ve taken that to mean that we must take her side against the person who made her feel whatever way.  There are cases when that is obviously true, but then there are cases like mine, or maybe Aziz Ansari’s in which you can hear the victim, have empathy, or sympathy, and help them make it as right as possible, and hopefully correct this going forward, but not necessarily have such a black and white stance.

What are your thoughts and opinions on these more nuanced stories?  Are my ideas way off base?  Let me know below in the comments.

Kicking My Addiction

Something that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on this blog before, is the fact that I’m addicted to soda.  Now, I don’t mean that in some flippant way, I mean it literally.  It’s not as bad as many other addictions, but when I don’t have soda for about twenty four hours, I start to get severe headaches, partly it is the caffeine, but I also assume it’s the sugar.

Right now, I’m in the middle of trying to quit soda.  I have successfully kicked the habit for months at a time, probably 5 times over the last six or seven years, once going nearly a whole year.  This time, I haven’t been doing it cold turkey, which I think has been causing me some problems.

You see, when it comes to soda, I have two drinks of choice, Mountain Dew (typically the blue ‘Voltage’ flavor, but really any Dew will do) and Coke (I prefer Vanilla, but Cherry is great, and regular will do).  This time, I’ve been avoiding those drinks, and thinking that having lesser sodas would help curb the headaches and fatigue that I feel without it.  So I have drank quite a bit of Sprite, and my work supplies me with all the Cheerwine (imagine a deliciously sweet soda version of cough syrup).  Yesterday, I had a Boylan Cola, with real cane sugar, and thought ‘well at least it’s real sugar.’  I have been using these justification tactics for a few weeks now, and the result has been lesser withdrawal symptoms spread out over a longer time frame.

In addition to trying to quit soda, I have increased my water consumption, which honestly is difficult, because I don’t like drinking water, but I’m finally starting to get to the point where it doesn’t seem like a chore anymore.

So I think that, starting tonight, I’m going cold-turkey altogether.  It will be a rough few days, but then it will be over.  At that point, the key is to not have soda when I’m out and about.  That is how I get pulled back in every time.  You know when someone says, “I stopped drinking soda six months ago, and now if I even have a sip, I can’t stand the taste?”  I don’t have that problem.  If I go six months without, and then have a sip of Coke, or Mountain Dew, it is the greatest taste I have ever had upon my tongue.  I’m not exaggerating.  One bottle of ‘Voltage’ after months of abstaining, and I will be buying a case, or a two liter.

I know this about myself, and this time I have to do better.  I don’t want the health issues that come with it, and so I am going to quit, and stay off of it for real.  If not, I’m going to write about it the first day I break this vow, and I hope you all will hold me accountable.

Have you quit an addiction?  What was it?  What method did you find to be the most helpful?  Let me know in the comments below.