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?

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?

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!

What an Amazing Learning Opportunity

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