And now, three cute picture of our cat.
Last week, we had a photo of Lydia looking uncharacteristically noble and dignified. So this week, in the interest of full disclosure, I thought we should have some much more typical views of Lydia.
Lydia is an unbelievably sweet cat: a little dim, but affectionate, good-natured, unlikely to start fights with the other cats… and completely shameless in her bid to get scritching and belly-rubs. In many ways, she’s more dog-like than cat-like: she doesn’t have the aloof, stand-offish thing at all, and she sees no point in playing hard to get. And as a result, she probably gets more attention than both of the other cats combined. I feel that I have a lot to learn from her.
The top picture is of Lydia getting a belly-rub from our friend Tim (of Christmas Rhapsody fame). The second is of Lydia getting a belly-rub from Ingrid. And the third is of Lydia getting a belly-rub from me. The girl likes her belly-rubs.
The gist of these apologetics: Nobody knows anything for 100% certain. Atheists and believers, scientists and philosophers: nobody can be 100% certain that the things they believe are true. Whether secular or religious, we all have some version of faith.
Therefore, religious faith is as valid as any secular kind. Believing in God, in angels, in reincarnation, in 72 virgins awaiting us when we die, in Jesus dying to save our souls, is every bit as valid as believing that the earth goes around the sun.
Let’s take a look at this thought process, and see if we can spot the logical flaw.
The thought process goes like this:
Two: Therefore, all ideas are equally likely to be true, and equally valid.
(Three: Therefore, my idea is right. But I think it’s pretty obvious why that one’s wrong, so I’m not going to bother shooting that particularly slow fish in that particularly small barrel.)
But the fact that we can’t be 100% sure of any idea doesn’t mean that all ideas are equally likely or unlikely.
And yes, for the record, I do think religious belief, while not 100% disprovable, is highly implausible. I’ve discussed why I think that elsewhere — here, and here and here and here, and here, and here, and here, and here and here, and here — and I’m not going to do it again here. Besides, I digress.
The point is this:
No, none of us can ever be 100% certain that anything we know is really true.
Does that mean we should give up on trying to understand the world? Does that mean we should give up on trying to separate the implausible from the plausible, the likely from the unlikely?
To do otherwise — to assume that, because we can never be absolutely certain about the world, therefore we shouldn’t even try to understand it — is like a child crying for the moon. It’s like never falling in love because you might get your heart broken. It’s like a stoned college freshman being backed into a corner in an argument, and trying to get out of it by saying, “What is reality?”
It’s an abdication of responsibility.
And grown-ups aren’t supposed to do that.
Note to family members and others who don’t want to read about my personal sex life: While the focus of this post is on sexual things that I don’t engage in rather than sexual things that I do, it still discusses my personal sex life, as well as my fantasy life, in quite a bit of detail. If you don’t want to read about that stuff, please don’t.
It may seem strange, but although I’ve been practicing SM for about twenty years now, I have almost never done what is almost certainly the most common form of SM play. As a top, I’ve done punishment less than a handful of times… and I’ve done it as a bottom exactly never, except in a jokey, “wink-wink,” kidding around way.
It’s not that I haven’t done role-playing. But the role-playing I’ve done hasn’t been about, “You’ve been bad, so I’m going to punish you.” It’s been about, “I have power over you, so I’m going to do what I want with you.” Punishment has just never interested me.
No, more than that. Punishment has actively freaked me out.
Lately, however, punishment has been sneaking into my fantasies with increasing insistence, and increasing stubbornness.
So I want to look at what it is about punishment that freaks me out… and what it is about it that I’m beginning to find so compelling.
For more on why I find this form of play both compelling and freaky, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!
It’s an important thing, a genuinely useful thing. And it’s a thing that atheists are going to have to find a replacement for if we’re serious about creating a more secular world.
What Christianity does is provide a framework for forgiveness.
All of us. You, me, everyone. This seems to be a universal human trait.
So we have a truly fucked-up paradox: The more appalling your immoral act was, the more likely you are to have a rock-solid justification for it… or a justification that you think is rock-solid, even if everyone around you thinks it’s transparently self-serving or batshit loony. And the more solid you think your justification is, the more likely you are to do the bad thing again.
And I think the Christian concept of forgiveness helps with that.
Besides, it’s clear that Christian forgiveness isn’t the only way for us to accept our bad deeds and move on with our lives. Atheists — and for that matter, believers in non-Christian religions — are clearly able to accept responsibility for bad things that we’ve done, deal with it, and move on. At least some of the time.
I’m just saying: The tendency of human beings to justify our bad decisions and bad behavior isn’t going away. And we probably wouldn’t want it to. It can be very irritating and very harmful… but it’s also necessary. Without it, we’d be paralyzed with guilt and shame. Perpetually. We’d be having dark nights of the soul every night of our lives.
I just got this religious spam email that was so hilariously inappropriate, I had to share.
Dearly Beloved Pastor ,
Greetings from India! We are so glad to meet you through this mail. I happened to visit your website just now and so happy after reading the contents. First of all, I would like to introduce myself and my ministry: I am pastor Ravi, serving the Lord full-time for the last over 8 years. I am married and have a daughter & son. My wife Christina also works full-time in the ministry. We would like to fellowship and connect with your ministry. Would you please let us know your heart for our nation so that I can share more about my vision and burden of the Ministry. Thank you. !
Pastor Ravi (last name, city, phone number deleted), India
Okay. Let’s take this one step at a time.
Clue Number Two that this is spam: “I happened to visit your website just now and so happy after reading the contents.”
Which part of my site made you happiest, Pastor? Was it Why Religion Is Like Fanfic? If not that, was it perhaps A Self-Referential Game of Twister: What Religion Looks Like From the Outside? Or was that beloved classic, Atheists and Anger?
Or maybe Christian Spanking Porn?
Clue Number Three that this is not only spam, but a scam spam, the opening gambit in what will almost certainly turn out to be a version of the Nigerian scam:
“…so that I can share more about my vision and burden of the Ministry.”
I’m almost tempted to reply. If I had time and energy, I would. But I’m not sure if I’d go the “stringing him along and pretending to be a real pastor while gradually becoming more and more outlandish” route, or the more direct “Do tell, which part of my atheist porn blog did you like the best?” route. It’s a tough call.
There’s an odd assumption that often gets made about bisexuals. (It got repeated recently in a letter to Savage Love — third letter from the top — which reminded me that I’ve been wanting to write about it.) The assumption: Bisexuals are constitutionally incapable of being monogamous.
The logic goes something like this:
Bisexuals are sexually attracted to both women and men.
Bisexuals enjoy sex with both women and men.
Therefore, bisexuals are unwilling — even unable — to give up sex with one of those genders. We must have sexual access to both women and men at all times in our lives. Without both, we’ll be dissatisfied, restless… and eventually, we’ll be tempted to stray. We’re attracted to both women and men — how could we choose just one, forever?
Here’s an analogy, to show exactly where this logic goes wrong.
To find out exactly where this logic goes wrong, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!
Humanist Symposium #13 is up at Faith in Honest Doubt. My pieces in this Symposium: “Let Them Make Up Their Own Minds”: Bringing Up Kids Without God, and Atheist Funerals. My favorite other pieces in this Symposium: How can we console others (and ourselves) without heaven or an afterlife? at Mind on Fire, and Political Considerations for Religious Belief at Atheist Ethicist.
Carnival of the Godless #82 is up at Axis of Jared. My piece in this Carnival: The Meaning of Death, Part 2 of Many: Motivation and Mid-Life Crises. My favorite other piece in this Carnival: Respect is a two-way street at The Mutt’s Nuts.
If you’re a humanist, godless, or liberal blogger, and want to get in on the blog carnival fun, here are submission forms for the Humanist Symposium, Carnival of the Godless, and Carnival of the Liberals. Happy reading, and happy blogging!
A quick recap, for those of you just joining us: Oscarology is a system of astrology I invented — excuse me, that was revealed to me in a powerful mystical experience — based on what movie won the Best Picture Oscar for the year you were born. I blogged about it a couple of days ago, asking for people’s birth years… and have been spending the time since then communing with the Spirit of the Oscars and transcribing the visions it has vouchsafed to me.
FYI, some of these movies I haven’t seen, and am totally guessing based on the little I do know and what I looked up on Wikipedia. Unlike real astrologers…
So let’s get this started! And if you haven’t chimed in with your year yet, it’s not too late. Give me your birth year, and I’ll fill in the gaps. (Readings start after the jump.)
As I write, in New York in mid-December, the city is full of Christmas trees and menorahs. I would be inclined to say, as an old Jewish atheist, that these things mean nothing to me, but Hannukah songs are evoked in my mind whenever an image of a menorah impinges on my retina, even when I am not consciously aware of it.
Neat! I like how casually he mentions it; not as a big “I Am An Atheist” announcement, but as a passing reference to explain a point. This may be the first time he’s come out in print as an atheist, though; he’s currently listed on the Celebrity Atheists site under the Ambiguous category. If that’s true, it makes me like the casualness of it all the better. It makes me think that the atheist movement is having an effect, and making it less of a big deal for people to declare their atheism in public.
Addendum: He’s no longer listed as Ambiguous in the Celebrity Atheists list. I just updated the listing.