Awful Arguments

Do you remember when you had “vocabulary” as a subject in school? I remember, that we had to learn the spelling, and meaning of different words, and in first or second grade, the teacher told us that we couldn’t define a word with itself.  If I was asked what a shirt was, I couldn’t say “a shirt,” I had to say “a piece of clothing, made to cover the top half of your body,” or something similar.  Not too hard of a concept.

For some reason, people haven’t retained this idea, and what we get is circular logic.  It’s infuriating, because I’m seeing more and more of this circular logic pop up in discussions, and arguments.  The reason I’m writing about this, today specifically, is that last night I saw some of dumbest arguing I’ve ever seen, and I wanted to talk about it.

Circular logic, can make the argument of someone who’s premise I agree with, seem completely ridiculous and unintelligent to me, and if the opposing side has a more thought out argument it can make me think about the other side, no matter how much I disagree with the premise.  A couple of months ago, I wrote about Tomi Lahren, and Ben Shapiro being opposite ends of the arguing ability spectrum, and it’s kind of what I’m talking about now.

So, the argument last night, started when a friend of mine said, “I’m sick of this God out of schools shit. If you want to brainwash your kid do it your damn self. Don’t you know not everyone has your same beliefs,” on his Facebook status.  Of course, the pro-God arguments came in like a flood, and while some were reasonable, or were at least non-combative, there was one that struck me as particularly unintelligent, “So here is one for you all!?? If Jesus ain’t real why are so many Christians getting killed and persecuted for our belief? ? And why does the devil want to hide the truth from people if God ain’t real?? Think about it folks. Jesus loves you and died for your unbelief. Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are saying. All i know is i ain’t no monkey and didn’t come from a Ape. How ridiculous does that sound. Truth can make people upset it’s in our hearts.”

Now, I’ve heard very good arguments in both defense of God, and in defense of atheism, but this is certainly not one of them, but you can tell that this man doesn’t understand that.  It’s like a lesson in how not to argue.  So I want to break it down line by line, because really if everyone were able to make better arguments, and think critically, perhaps things would get better, or at the very least we’d be able to have intelligent conversations, so let’s start from the beginning of that statement:

“So here is one for you all!?? If Jesus ain’t real why are so many Christians getting killed and persecuted for our belief?”

Alright, so is this circular logic, not exactly, but it is poor logic, based on a hugely flawed premise.  Many people, of many different belief systems have been persecuted, that does not at all mean that they are correct.  In fact, some of these belief systems are in conflict with each other, so it would only be logical that they cannot all be right.  Now this point doesn’t disprove Jesus, or Christians either, it effectively provides no evidence or proof, and should offer no persuasion whatsoever. Now to the next line:

“And why does the devil want to hide the truth from people if God ain’t real?? Think about it folks.”

I think this is a kind of circular logic that only seems to happen regularly with the God/no-God argument.  In this way of thinking, the person is aware that their opponent or conversation partner does not believe in God, but for some reason thinks he or she does believe in the devil.  Now, I’m not an atheist, but every single atheist I know, believes there is no devil either.  It’s not that they think the exact same scenario is true, with the exception of God.  They’re not imagining Heaven run democratically by angels; they believe that this life as we know it, and in some cases science we have yet to explain, is all that there is.  No God, no devil, no angels, no demons, no Heaven, no Hell.  So, while this argument may not appear to be ‘circular logic’ at face value, it is in this manner. The assumption that the atheist concedes there is a devil, and the fact that the devil is trying to disprove God must in fact mean there is one, is in itself circular logic.

“Jesus loves you and died for your unbelief. Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are saying.”

Telling us part of story, whether it is a true story or not, does not prove the story to be true.  Repeating the reason Jesus died adds nothing to this argument, except for condescension, which leads into the second half of that line.  This isn’t at all an appeal to the argument, but rather a manipulation.  If you want to pray for non-believers, go ahead, I think there is a level of arrogance to that, but ultimately that’s your business, but posting your prayers into Facebook makes no sense.  Do you think God’s gonna ‘follow’ this conversation?  This is nothing more than virtue signalling, and perhaps an attempt to manipulate any doubt the atheist might have into feeling ashamed of his or her non-belief.

“All i know is i ain’t no monkey and didn’t come from a Ape. How ridiculous does that sound.”

While I wholeheartedly disagree with this line, it is the closest thing to a coherent argument being offered.  He (the author of this response is a male) actually offers something outside of the Bible, a secondary source.  Whether he knows it or not, he’s making reference to The Origin of the Species, and the theory of evolution.  I think there is an overwhelming preponderance of evidence in favor of evolution, but I can understand why if you don’t know much, this may seem illogical.  So, verdict on this one, I disagree with the point, but I’ll at least call it a point. Lastly:

“Truth can make people upset it’s in our hearts.”

Again, more virtue signalling, more condescension, no actual point, nothing new introduced, nothing new examined.  This is just a shitty comment to feel superior.

 

So what is my point? Like I have mentioned many times, I’m not an atheist, (in all fairness, I don’t identify with any particular religion either) but I’ve heard people make arguments that can make a lot of sense, on both sides, and I feel as if I learn more when I hear them, regardless of side, and I feel like I’m more complete.  When I see arguments like this (and it’s not just religious, unfortunately there are a ton of these dumb arguments in real life, and on the internet) we don’t gain anything, and you realize that the arguers are unwilling to hear anything.  There is no growth on either side, regardless of how great the opponents argument may be.  It’s stagnation at best.

So how do we fix this?  Honestly, I’m not sure that we can.  I have had these conversations on a variety of topics, and I say to people “no think about what you’re saying, trace it back a few steps, if you think Z, what was Y? If you then realize Y backs up Z, then what was W?  But the problem is, whether you believe in God or not, (or gun-control, or abortion, or the death penalty) and you’re using circular logic like this, it is likely that you have been brainwashed, regardless of your side.  Circular logic is what people often use when parroting back beliefs that were ingrained into them, and so they don’t require logic, or thought, they just believe, and that’s the opposite of intellectual, or honestly, spiritual growth.

I’ll leave you with a quote that one of the God believers in the conversation said, that I thought wasn’t necessarily a great argument for God, but was a great argument for thought and discussion:

“i have read the bible numerous time over my life and each time i get something more out of it, it told me to question everything, EVERYTHING!! it also says that one man sows, another man waters, but God provides the increase. Which from my understanding means don’t force your beliefs on someone, but we can have conversations about it and maybe we will both learn something,”

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.

Daily Calendars and The Danger of 365 Days of Planning

On New Year’s Day, my wife and I were going to go out and do some shopping.  We just needed to get out of the house, and it was too cold to do anything truly ‘outside.’  So we ended up at Barnes and Noble, and while we had each got our share of calendars as Christmas gifts, my wife suggested I get some kind of daily calendar.  You know these calendars that you remove a sheet each day, and there is some fun joke, or fact, or word each day.  The reason she suggested it, was because I used to love these calendars.

On a few occasions, I’ve purchased for myself daily calendars mostly containing the ‘italian word or phrase of the day’ in an attempt to learn Italian.  It’s a fun way of passing the time, and I put it on my desk at work, and I always enjoy them, for the first few months at least.

When she suggested that I buy one, my response to her was “I’ve never finished a whole calendar” because I end up leaving a job and it goes in a box for ‘later’.  When I got laid off in 2016, there was just a month and a half left in the year, and we found the calendar months later.  Before that, I left a job I hated and the calendar got lost in the process.

So, in one of my rare fits of superstition, I decided not to buy a daily calendar, for fear that I would not end the year at my job.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of options in which that is a great thing, and I won’t fight it if something amazing comes along, but I guess it was mostly out of a fear of losing this job.  I enjoy where I am work-wise, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s pretty damn good, one of the best atmosphere’s that I’ve been in a long time, and I don’t want to lose that.

Also, I don’t want the job to become something I hate and then lose.  That happened at my last job, it was a great job, with a great atmosphere, and then the last 6 months were terrifying, and ultimately ended in me getting laid off.  I don’t think it makes it better when the job deteriorates first.

I just realized— just now, while I’m writing this— that I’m starting 2018 from a place of fear.  Which totally isn’t what I feel like overall, I’m very excited about where I’m at, and where I think I’m going, but ultimately I just don’t want to make any plans for work that consume the next 365 days.

Happy New Years everyone!  Don’t worry like me!

I Shot Myself in the Foot

I want to tell you a story, about an idea I had about ten years ago.  I wanted to write a novel about myself as a time-traveler, going back in time in a one-way time machine to the 1980’s.  I wrote the first chapter, I think it was something like 20 pages, and quickly realized that I didn’t know where to go with it.  But I’ve had the idea on the back burner (it’s getting crowded on the back burner) for the last ten years.  Then, in October, I thought, “why not write the same story, but as a blog.”  So I started writing it as a blog.

Not only was it going to a really easy way to hold myself accountable, to try to post in some kind of regular interval, but also, I thought it would be fun, since WordPress allows me to backdate my blogs all the way back.  So I wrote a post from October of 2010, and then the next from January of 1980.  It’s a gimmick, but one that I really like, and one that has helped to motivate me to write.

Now it’s been about 2 months since I started writing, and I’m writing a ton, I have 26 posts with about 100 pages of content up, and more idea, and it’s been some of the most rewarding writing.  I’ve been exploring the history of my family, plaid with some of the tropes of time-travel, made my mother cry (not fun, but noteworthy), and like most writing, the more I do, the more I want to do.

The problem is this.  I have enough content, that I’m at the point where I want people to start reading it.  I have enough, that I’m confident it won’t be like “oh that was a cool 500 word post, too bad that’s it” and someone forgets about it.  My hope is to get readers on board, and hopefully make it slightly more interactive, while it’s kind of a novel being written as a blog, it is still most importantly a blog, and therefore I want it to be seen and read.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, in my fun gimmick, I have backdated all my posts, so that the newest (actually the oldest) post showing is seven years old.  It doesn’t show up in feeds, because every time I add a new post, it gets placed where all the WordPress posts from 1980 do (WordPress wasn’t created until 2005, so there is a reasonable likelihood that my blog looks like the oldest on the site.)

I could abandon the gimmick, but personally, I’m still really into it.  I’m just going to have to fight an uphill battle trying to get readers, but that’s really only the secondary purpose of writing it in the first place, and the first is the creative outlet, and this gimmick is part of that outlet.

As I’ve said a couple times before here, as I continue to write more for other sites, and have my writing appear in other places and publications, this blog is going to transition into more of a traditional blog, and so one of the functions of this is going to become the desire to talk about (and shamelessly plug) the other writing that I’m doing.  It won’t be all of it, but my hope is that you’ll stay interested.

Now, if you’re into time-travel, and you’re looking for a good long-read for your smartphone or tablet, check out my new(ish) time travel blog, Without A Tether, which may be able to boast the ‘earliest’ WordPress posts ever posted!

The Most Underrated Feeling: Exhaustion

I have found myself lately answering “tired” or “exhausted” whenever I’m asked how I am.  Understandably, the response I get in turn is concern, or empathy.  I’m worrying family members, or irritating others, as if my proclamation of “exhaustion” is inherently a complaint.

Sure, there is some level of complaint to it, but its not really meant that way overall.  Not when I say it.

Being “tired” or “exhausted” are just results.  Sure, all emotions are results, but these are results that in themselves aren’t indicative of their cause.  It’s not anger, where something had to piss me off, or fear where something scared me.  The only thing you can accurately surmise from exhaustion is that something wore me out.

In the last year and a half, I cannot remember too many times in which I didn’t feel tired, but largely that same time period has been undoubtedly the best of my life.  Not every day is excellent, but the batting average is way higher than any other time in my life (maybe when I was a baby, I can’t really claim knowledge of that.)

At first, I was exhausted waiting with my wife at the hospital for induction, then exhausted as we stayed up late while she was in the early stages of labor.  She likes to joke about how I slept pretty well in the hospital, but really that was only in regards to how well she slept.  I remember sitting with my son in the nursery, with him under the heat lamp, holding my finger.  I was so tired it felt like I was drunk, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. Obviously, the first few months of having a new baby is always exhausting, but it’s so intensely awesome.

So why am I tired lately?  I’ve been tired lately, because I’m working a 9-5 job, and then I come home and I edit novels for a second job, I’m constantly writing, and trying to find time for every little project that pops into my brain, and I’m still making sure I find time to hang out with my wife and son.  My son is at this incredibly fun stage, and I don’t want to miss any of it, and I don’t want to miss any of these writing and editing opportunities which are the most fun I’ve ever had while working.  So sometimes, it means that he’s sitting on my lap watching “Paddington” (or “Pa Da Ta” as he calls it) on one monitor, while I’m reading someone’s manuscript on the other.

I have twenty hours of activity to participate in on almost every day, and I’m squeezing and overlapping, and ultimately, the thing that misses out is sleep.  But that’s ok, in fact, I would rather be tired from doing all of these things I love, than be wide awake and bored, or unfulfilled, or unhappy.

Your gas tank is less likely to be empty if you never go anywhere.

So when I respond “tired” or “exhausted” to “how’re you doing” please know that it’s the best possible answer I can give you.