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.”

The Thing About Indoctrination…

I’ve been thinking a lot about indoctrination lately.  There is often a push to keep certain religious teachings out of school, because people don’t want their kids learning about the Quran (it’s most often the Quran that’s being complained about) while those same people complain that the reason we have problems is that we “took God out of the schools.” It’s shit that I see online a ton.  It doesn’t make much sense to me, it feels disingenuous, like “Hey, we don’t want the kids being indoctrinated with your fake God, but by our real God instead.”

The other big ‘indoctrination’ thing that people keep talking about is the ‘fact’ that kids don’t say the pledge of allegiance any more in school.  Now, I have seen this a ton online, but have tried to research it, and come up with no evidence that it’s actually true.  I mean, I went to Catholic school for the last 8 years of grade school, so things are a bit different, but I haven’t heard anything about “you know I asked my kid about the pledge, and they don’t say it.”  My own kid is too young to be saying it either way.  But this got me to thinking about the pledge of allegiance, and how it’s kind of an intense piece of patriotic indoctrination.  We are (or should be if you believe the people saying it’s not done anymore) having our kids “pledge allegiance to the flag,” I will be honest and say I get the flag as a symbol, but have never gotten the level of obsession people give the symbol; “and to the United States of America,” in theory, assuming the country does the right thing, this isn’t problematic, if you believe that the country does the right thing, and that if it doesn’t you believe that children (or adults who’ve been told it since they were children) will be able to disconnect that ‘pledge of their allegiance’; “and to the Republic, for which it stands,” alright, now that I can agree with; “One nation under God,” you can tell that’s been added after because it just doesn’t fit the rest of it; “Indivisible,” I’m assuming we’re talking about the country and not God on this one, and so I have no objection to it; “with Liberty and Justice for all,” now only a real asshole could disagree with that part.

So on the whole I think the pledge is fine on it’s face, but it is weird to be pushing it into kids heads when they’re so impressionable.  Why not just say “it’s an imperfect system, but hopefully if we keep working together, we can keep improving it,” which inspires conversation and dialogue as to how that can happen, and explain the process of democracy.  A rote pledge isn’t helpful, it’s too religious.  It requires no thought, and when I think of rote things you’re “supposed” to say or think, I tend to think there is someone who doesn’t want you to really think about it.

Like I said, I went to Catholic school, and was raised Catholic, and there was something that I learned fairly early on, and that was that questions, even earnest ones, tend to be the enemy of organized religion.  Then as I grew up, I started realizing it wasn’t just religion, it was any organization, with power, didn’t want me or anyone else to think or to question.

I have not considered myself a Catholic in a long time, but on occasion when getting into a conversation with non-Catholic Christians, I’ve caught myself saying “us Catholics” or “as a Catholic,” because it’s ingrained in me in a way that despite not believing it has (at least in part) become part of my identity.  That’s fucked up.

There’s a degree to which it’s impossible to not leave some imprint on kids, I know that.  I have a 2 year-old who loves superheroes and Star Wars, and so I cannot think that he just came to that conclusion on his own, but as he grows, I have to try to let him explore outside of it because I want him to be a fully realized human with his own thoughts, and feelings, and not just a little echo-clone for myself.

Let’s teach kids how to think, and not what to think, and I’m sorry, but teaching kids rote is teaching them WHAT to think, whether it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, or the fact that when I go into a Catholic Mass I can do all the prayers on autopilot (except for the new ones to trick all the Christmas/Easter Catholics, you know like Christ would do) it’s harmful.

The way to do that is to say “I like living in the US because…” and try to be fact based, and fair, or “I believe Jesus is the Savior because…” and try to do the same.  If the ideas hold up, they shouldn’t need to be force fed, and I think we’ll get a better version of patriotism, or religion if people come to them by natural conclusion, based on merit.

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,”

I Don’t Know What to Do

My son is almost a year and a half old, and I’ve started to shift how I behave despite my belief system.  The best example, is I say ‘fuck’ a lot less in front of him than I used to.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with the word fuck, and personally, I don’t care if he says it, but I realize that other parents, and teachers don’t agree with me, and I don’t want to deal with it.  It’s one of those ingrained beliefs that regardless of how much logic, I won’t be able to explain to them in a way that convinces them my son is doing nothing wrong, so out of the laziness of not wanting to have that particular argument, I have reduced my use of the word.  Moral compromise number one.

Yesterday, at the park, my wife and son and I met a couple with their baby, who is a month or so older than my son.  We had brought bubble guns and both children were having fun and interacted in a very sweet manner.  It was adorable, and the little girl’s parents were extremely nice.  At the end of talking with them, the little girls mother invited us to their church.  It was genuine, and having just found out we were knew to the state, it was inviting us into a community in which we may meet other people with kids.  Her intentions were great, and as a result, I find myself tempted to go.  It is a chance to meet nice people, and I think one thing that churches CAN do well is create a sense of community, and I think that would be great for my son.

On the other hand, I don’t want to go to church, in addition to being something I was never interested in, I do think in large part that organized religion is a huge detriment to society.  I have no problem with people’s individual faith, but for some reason when you introduce an organization or governmental structure to it, corruption seems inevitable.

It has been more than 12 hours, and I’ve been weighing it in my mind, back and forth.  I could go, because obviously there are some genuinely good churches, and I could try to just stay vigilante that their teachings align with what I want my son to grow up knowing/believing, but I also like the idea of him not growing up with organized religion.

My wife, strongly believes in Jesus, and yet she has never really been (at least not for any decent stretch of time) a member of a specific church.  Her faith, and her kindness are no less than that of the people I know who go regularly (I find in a decent amount of those weekly or Wednesday and Sunday churchgoers that she is a better person).  I on the other hand was raised Catholic, an institution which I would not recommend to anyone, and I think I’m genuinely fucked up because of it.

Sure, I know more about religion than most protestants that I know, but the amount of guilt and conflict I feel regularly is seriously problematic to living a happy and healthy life.  I often feel guilty about things I know that I shouldn’t, and the fact of how deeply embedded in me some of their bullshit is really makes me disgusted with myself.  I haven’t considered myself a Catholic in at least 15 years, and yet, when discussing religion with Protestants (many of whom have annoyingly referred to themselves as ‘just Christians’) I have often said “we’re Christians too, we’re the original Christians” finding myself lumping myself in with a religion that I couldn’t want less a part of.

As I said before, I have no problem with people of faith, and to be honest, I have a great respect for many of them.  My mother is a devout Catholic, and while I have a lot of logical issues with the way she thinks, I think that overall she’s a great woman with a strong moral compass, and I have the utmost respect for her.  Also, I have a goddaughter in the Catholic Church, and while I don’t personally believe in that faith, if I ever were left in charge of her, I would raise her in the religion as I promised to do (luckily she’s 17 and I don’t think that’s really something I’m going to have to do, but I would if it happened.)

My problem is that I don’t want my son being raised with the hang-ups, or round the attitudes that I associate with religion.  I don’t want him thinking sexual behavior is deviant, or sinful if it is between two consenting adults, and there are all of the other obvious issues that many people have with religion, but there are the less obvious.  I think church itself is in many ways a bragging right issue.  I know people, who think they are better than others simply because they go to church, people who are kind of crappy people, but they go show up in a building once or twice a week, and listen to someone else tell them about a book they haven’t read.  I believe, if there is a God, and He (or She) made everything, then why do I have to go to a special building to celebrate him?  Why isn’t all of nature ‘His house?’  Why do I have to go listen to some other flawed human tell me what He means?

I have spent the last 33 years determining my own views on God.  Trying to un-brainwash myself, and figure out what I believe, and I’m worried about bringing my son into that same scenario.  On the other hand though, what if this is one of the good ones?  What if this church is truly not-for-profit, and these people are genuinely loving and good people?  I don’t want to deny him that either.

So, I’m torn.  Because I want what is best for him, and at this point, I’m genuinely not sure what that is.

Something in Me Might Be Broken

I’m a strange guy, and I have a lot of strange thoughts, and viewpoints, but I want to talk about a few things that I think, which I think are abnormal in a special kind of way.  I think some of my thoughts go against the survival instinct.

Have you seen Doomsday Preppers? Or met anyone who talks about survival readiness?  I am not one of those people, but deliberately so.  I don’t want to survive the apocalypse.  I don’t mean that like “I don’t care if I survive,” but exactly as I said, I don’t want to survive it.  If something wipes out the majority of humanity, including my family, what is there left for me?  I don’t have any grand delusions that I’d be Mad Max, I know I’d at best be a blood bag.

If my wife and son survived, I would want to survive to help them, but the second they’re gone I’m fucking out.  I’m not driving (or walking depending on which post-apocalyptic future we get) across a hellscape in search of food, and life.  I don’t want a harem, or anything.  It’s time to die.

I’m afraid of death, and I don’t want to die, but I certainly don’t want to live in the world as it shuts down and kills off the last of humanity.  As much as the idea of nothingness scares me, I know that once it happens, I’ll feel no fear, no pain, nothing, and that sounds a lot better than loneliness that we’ve romanticized about being the ‘last man.’

Here’s a second thing that I think which is strange about me.  I don’t think we should definitely fight for the future of the human race.  This probably isn’t clear.  I want everyone alive to live long fulfilled lives, and obviously I just had a kid, so there is some progress forward, but when it comes time for humans to ‘figure out’ how to survive like in so many sci-fi movies, whether that means terraforming Mars, or finding a perfectly inhabitable planet, why?  We had our chance, if we screw it up, it’s nature’s way of taking care of the problem (us).

Imagine it’s 1000 years after the last human has died here on Earth, the Earth has done some repair work on itself, the animal kingdom is more balanced.  What is missing that we contribute?  Essentially everything we contribute is to ourselves, or in order to counteract something we deteriorate.  That’s fine, but ultimately why are we needed?

I don’t mean that to sound like humans are evil, but to an extent we’ve removed ourselves from the natural cycle, and in other ways we’ve augmented that cycle, and there really isn’t anything else we contribute to the Earth that isn’t specifically in our own favor.  Will nature thriving and evolving again at a natural pace be less successful or impressive, or important without humans contributing literature, art, war, politics?

I’m not as sinister as Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Kingsman: The Secret Service, but we’re the virus, and when the Earth is ready it will eradicate the virus, and honestly, that’s what should happen, so don’t hold on to it.  That being said, I don’t think we should have a seven billion person suicide pact, so my suggestion is, that we do our best to quell the ‘fever’ and keep the Earth healthy, so we can all enjoy the time we have left.

Call to Action

All week, I have been obsessing over the events in the news, and trying to make sense of them, more importantly, I’ve been trying to think of how I can contribute, what I can do to make the world better.  I’m not kidding myself and thinking I can solve the problem, or that I can have some giant impact, but ultimately I’m not happy with doing nothing.

I came up with an idea, one that you are free to steal if it sounds good to you, one that you can contact me if you want to participate.

On a small scale (either a town, or a county) or maybe on a slightly larger scale (in the big hub city closest to you) we throw a catered event.  The “Everyone’s Welcome Dinner,” where we get food donated from restaurants, or perhaps its more potluck style, and we cater to every dietary restriction, so that everyone feels enticed to come.

As the title says, everyone is welcome, and that means everyone.  The idea would be that we would get people of every race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and just be a community.  Everyone is welcome also means people in racist organizations, it means everyone.

The key, is that we get the best food options to really make people want to come, and the rule is we talk about things that we have in common, not things that divide us.  Do you play the guitar?  Were you on the football team in high school?  Have you always dreamed of climbing a mountain?

Now, I’m aware this seems pretty unlikely, and perhaps a lofty idea that won’t happen.  I’m not delusional.  What it would need to start out as a group of like minded (open-minded) people, who invite one or two people they know who are more clothes-minded, enticing them with the food, but also being completely upfront about what the event is.  We don’t scold people if after the event they return to their everyday beliefs and behaviors, we don’t even scold them if they don’t do a great job of mingling, we just continue to invite them back.

I think it becomes very easy for us to seclude ourselves not only in political echo chambers, but in groups of people where we can blend in, whether that is our churches sticking with people who know the same general behaviors, or our race where our skin doesn’t stand out with others.  This may be a melting pot, but I think largely there are a lot of chunks where the ingredients have stuck, and not fully melted in.

So the idea is this is a place where everyone is welcome to come and brag about their kids, or reminisce about their sports triumphs, or make plans to climb Everest.

These are the things that will make humanity great, when we see goals, and dreams, and accomplishments, and fond memories, but we’re stuck on these other things.  So maybe once a month, or quarter, or however often we can manage to make this happen, we should get together and focus on those things, with what I like to think of as the other great human effort, and that is food.

Please let me know if this is something you’d be interested in working on, or if you have any ideas for it, or any other thoughts you may have (try to remain cordial, that’s gonna be the key to all of this, even if it’s just a formality).