Most people know that I grew up very religious.

(here, I take a deep breath and type very slowly)

In person I’m happy to bring this up and talk about it, because it’s so much easier to gauge the other person’s feelings on the topic. I usually know when to back off or shut up, when someone wants to hear more, and how I should phrase my experiences so that I’m not transmitting any judgment or disrespect. Hopefully, anyways.

Writing about this is far more difficult. Being honest while still showing love and respect is hard enough in most areas of life, and this is people’s raison d’etre. All that’s to say: I dearly hope I can manage to explore this topic with the utmost respect and sincerity, whatever beliefs you (you!) might have.

My religious past is something that strongly informs my worldview. I know what it’s like on both sides of the fence. Usually, that means reading any mainstream (secular) writing about religion is purely obnoxious. The people who feel most compelled to spout are usually those that have no real familiarity with what being part of a church community is actually like. So, it was with a little bit of surprise that I encountered this very decent article on Joshua Harris and the purity movement of the late 90’s early 2000’s.

This was quite the read for me.

As a teenager, I went to multiple purity seminars where I signed my name on a heart to give to God. I went to a bible camp every summer where there were 2-3 sermons every day, half of which were about sex and lust. Joshua Harris was frequently mentioned by folks in these circles and at church – the article does not exaggerate his prevalence in this movement.

One of the core tenets of this ideology of purity is that by having any kind of lustful thought or desire, you are sinning against God. For me, this meant I was in a constant, unending state of sin.

Have you ever wronged someone you love – intentionally or not – so badly that there is no amount of apologizing that would make a difference? The kind of harm that you can only hope that the other person will forgive you for…eventually? You know the way that guilt hangs so heavily from your heart, makes you want to sink to the bottom of the ocean? That is what my guilt over my sin felt like.

It was relentless, inescapable, and all-consuming. For years, I prayed regularly and earnestly for God to take away my lustful thoughts and dreams. I wrote about it in my journals, on my blog, and took up hours and hours of my mentors’ time to anguish about it. And this is as someone who didn’t start having sex until 19 (right around the time I left the church). I barely dated in high school.

Hopefully now you can imagine the strength of my feelings on this topic, having gone and done all of the things I swore not to do, to find that very little of what I was told turned out to be true:

You really can fall in love more than once. There is more than one possible companion out there.

It is possible, and often necessary, to talk openly, without shame or judgment, about past relationships with someone you’re dating.

Sex can be safe. Birth control works. STD tests are accurate. It’s possible to fully trust someone on these issues without being married.

People have wildly different desires and expectations from relationships. Not everyone needs the same thing. For most people, your virginity is not important.

There is no platonic ideal of sex. Sex can be a lot more different than you might imagine and still be perfect.

If you’re with a good person, you will not be loved less for your past mistakes.

Sex is not inherently ethereal, transcendent, or magical in any way. It is made fabulous by passion and creativity.

You might indeed lose parts of yourself through some of your relationships. But this will not dilute you. You will also walk away with a piece of them, too. What they leave with you will make you a far better person than you were before.

These are a few of the things I wish i’d heard as a teenager. What the purity movement gave me was the exact opposite.

I hope that Christianity can embrace sex-positivity, some day. But I’m not holding my breath.

Time Will Tell


One of the most consistent features of getting older has been the changing nature of my relationship with time. It’s not just, as the cliche goes, that it flies by, but the passing of days takes on a very different tone and architecture. I remember how agonizingly slow the world felt as a child. I remember staring helplessly at the clock in school, knowing that the very act of watching the hands tick was increasing my agony.

Tick. Fuck. Tick. Fuck. Tick. Fuck. Tick.

But lately, days blur seamlessly into weeks and months. Some of this is circumstantial; I now work entirely from home, and it is not uncommon that I go weeks without prolonged human interaction, even while I live in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. I have no commute. No morning or evening routine. I have virtually no interruptions during my day. I work. I read. I might play some games for an hour or two. I watch some lectures or a movie. I sleep.

When I look at the clock, there is no anticipation, nor any dread. Time is just a number to make sure I don’t forget my appointments. Once in a while, it’s a pressure, a deadline, a countdown — but I love my work, so I have no resentment for this aspect.

Memories begin to slip through my fingers more and more as there are fewer landmarks to orient my internal narrative. For perhaps a brief moment recent experiences stay near to me, but it’s not long before they disperse into a vast ocean of thoughts, or become lost inside the dense forest of my subconscious. Though I know these experiences are still a part of me, floating somewhere in the expanse of my cognition, many are no longer retrievable as distinct events.

Continue reading Time Will Tell


A brief comment on the resignation of Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich.  In particular, the contents of the quite viral article from Ars Technica are what inspire me to write.  I have one point to make, and it’s a simple one.

Let’s do some phrase replacement with the quotes from the article.

Calls for his ouster were premised on the notion that all [opposition to the Civil Rights Act] was hateful, and that a CEO should be judged not just by his or her conduct in the professional realm, but also by [racial or ethnic biases] he or she supports as a private citizen.

Continue reading chief


If I said that I’ve had enough controversy in the last year to last for the remainder of my life, it would be an understatement and a lie. At this point, I’ve come to accept that for whatever reason, my actions frequently generate drama at a rate that greatly surpasses the national average. I don’t see myself as a dramatic person, but my personality, values, choices, preferences, and circumstances seem to combine with one another in such a way that results in situations where emotions run high, sides are formed, and battles ensue.

This blog has been the platform for more minor battles in the past. This time, however, the myriad details of the catalogue of nonsense that my life has become are not suitable for a blog post. As much as I would love the convenience of updating everyone on all the specifics in one place, there are too many friends I prefer to hold on to, or in some cases, keep a minimum of respect intact. It’s not just about pissing people off, either, but about respecting the privacy of others. No one should have to force me to sign an NDA before being honest with me.

There’s also the problem of objectivity. It’s easy to remain fair when describing simpler situations, but as more players are added to the game, it becomes much more difficult to give appropriate consideration to all relevant perspectives. Sports fans have argued passionately for weeks over who was to blame for the outcome of a single game and yet never reach a definitive conclusion; there is no reason to believe I would have any more success in trying to analyze this debacle. The best I can do is describe a few of the precipitating factors and then provide some illumination on my current course of action.

Continue reading parentstroika


The last month has seen more activity in the Middle East, complete with senseless murders and vast rioting.  Yet again, this has spurred a great deal of head-scratching as to how in the world a feeble insult in the form of a minute-long YouTube video could inspire such a response.  The usual explanations are everywhere: large groups of unemployed and alienated young men, hyper-conservatism fostered through theocratic rule and aggressive media filtering, or America’s incomprehensibly bad relationship with the entire region – there’s so much to choose from.   However, whatever the situation over there predisposes people to feel or do, the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of people were rioting about a YouTube video.  I propose to you that it’s because they aren’t getting trolled frequently enough.

Trolls are a vaccine for the social immune system.

Continue reading pathogen


A foray onto the topic of gay marriage, inspired by the book of faces.  I’d like to take a look at a few ideas that seem to fuel much of the opposition to homosexuality.

  • Strictly defined gender roles

I watched a great Norwegian documentary a few months back that investigated some of the dominant theory in psychology and sociology in Norway, where most explanations tend to favor nurture over nature in the development of the human psyche and society.  Over the course of the series, he demonstrates how the desire to create total equality leads to dogma which rejects the possibility that people aren’t just blank slates.  To the point: as much of the anecdotal evidence suggests, men and women are fundamentally different from one another in certain ways.  This observation forms much of the basis for “ought” statements concerning the genders, but to stop here is to use incomplete evidence.

Continue reading quibble


There’s a lot of work yet left to do, but so far I’m pleased with how things are coming along.  From the design side of things, I want to convert the background to SVG so that I can take it to the next step, that being a dynamic and potentially interactive scene.  I’ve had musings of changing it based on the tags within a given post, or perhaps animating the birds, waves, the sun, and so on.  It’ll be a while before I get around to that, but I’m already getting a bit tired of the existing scene, so the clock is ticking.  Moving on: thoughts after reading my entire blog from start to finish – the first time I’ve ever done so.

Memories are recorded very differently in words than in photos.  I go through all of my pictures on facebook once a year or so –  not as a ritual, but at some point I just find myself scanning through them, revisiting the progress of my life, trying to see what the pictures say about the names and faces contained therein.  Photos capture moments, but they don’t immerse you into the time and place.  They make that moment easier to access, but the only story they tell is the one you already know.  Writing, on the other hand, is quite like a short film of thoughts and feelings, available to be re-experienced an infinite number of times.  In this sense, I relived the last nine years of my life through the lens of my writing.  It was more intense than I had expected it to be.

Continue reading identiclasm


I attended a forum at Cornell a few months ago, framed as a dialogue between two scientists, one Christian and the other atheist. To be frank, the entire thing gave me a headache. I was disappointed at both sides, but for quite different reasons.

The Christian plasma physicist Dr. Ian Hutchinson spent much of his time railing against a notion which he described as “scientism”, the philosophical belief that the only valid source of knowledge is scientific inquiry. At no point did he name any relevant person or theory that could be accurately categorized as submitting to this fallacy, but he was nevertheless quite passionate in ridiculing it. Following this, he then claimed that there exists no conflict between science and faith, going so far as to admit that he believes the laws of nature can be broken at any time and place.

To my great frustration and disappointment, his atheist partner in this discussion, Nobel laureate Dr. Roald Hoffmann, failed to counter Hutchinson at any of these junctures. What’s worse, Hoffmann abandoned a number of key epistomelogical pillars of secular humanism, stating that he felt analyzing and describing human behavior at the level of neurons and neurotransmitters was overly reductionist and threatened to destroy the magic of such experiences as beauty and love. Although I would like to take the time to expound more on reductionism, it is outside the scope of my current focus.

Continue reading straw


As little as I post, the blog weighs heavily on my heart from day to day. I think often of the posts that I should and could be writing, but the last three years have found me incapable of seeing the process through to the end on a consistent basis. I have this overwhelming sense of potential for this place, reinforced by a nagging awareness of how cathartic writing actually always ends up being for me. I’m easily discouraged, however, and if I don’t find myself spewing forth beautiful imagery with every keystroke, I wander away to other corners of the Internet that promise more immediate satisfaction. I’ll leave a tab open with the two or three half-fulfilled paragraphs just waiting to be injected with life, and every time I sit down I am forced to conjure a new reason why I can’t complete the entry. At this point, I feel with certainty that I would benefit greatly from lowering the bar for what’s worth publishing. I have been awkwardly using social networks to do what this blog is much better equipped to do. Shorter posts will go a long way by placing less pressure on each individual entry. But enough melancholy.

At a friend’s recommendation, I read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (wiki). It’s a philosophical text written in the form of the Socratic method. As it happens, the last book I read was also written in this format, so I guess I have an affinity for the style. Halfway through the book I began to realize that the author was genuinely crazy, which was a shame given how valuable a lot of his insight had been up to that point. Still, I enjoyed his perspective on culture and mythology.

Continue reading cull


Early morning found me awake, so I decided it was time again to see how my old church was faring. As I hoped, the visit brought forth a slough of new perspectives on ancient paradigms. This time, my ponderings focused on the concept of “living by faith”, a phrase often employed in many religious contexts.

I’ve learned that a critical part of the process of reevaluation is finding a functional definition of the concept at hand – one that shies away from vagueries and can be envisioned practically. To this end, I felt this description accurately described the act of “living by faith”: engaging in any behavior where the outcome is uncertain or unknown. By nature of going forward with an action where there are a high number of unknown and uncontrolled variables, the risk of a negative outcome is much higher. Uncertainty naturally engenders much anxiety, which is why this concept is often paired with a call to trust in god to provide a positive result.

Continue reading grain


Even when I was still a consistent driver, I never paid much attention to bumper stickers. Aside from the minority that provide a cheap laugh, they seem to me like the most cowardly and ineffective way to make a statement. Every victim of the bumper sticker is left unable to make any sort of response; the argument starts and ends on a 12 x 3″ adhesive pad. The ultimate last word.

While I doubt the bearers of the stickers I saw while on my most recent monthly errand run really understood the philosophical and theological ramifications of their banners, some old concepts were brought to mind. A simple “JESUS is GOD” sticker brought a flood of memories of my childhood bible camp. Another “Jesus SAVES” led me on a long chain of thoughts; I’d nearly forgotten that the whole idea behind Jesus was that he’s meant to be saving us from something we cannot save ourselves from. Most people think of that something as being hell, but the more technically accurate answer is sin.

Continue reading naturally


It’s been a long time since a classic post. Forgive me if I’m a bit rusty.

Every few months, I go back to church just to see how it compares to the last time I went, and each time the experience is more bizarre.

The service itself has become increasingly uncomfortable for me. When the congregation speaks in unison, the chorus of mumbles precisely imitate what I imagine hypnotized zombies to sound like. I still enjoy the singing, but the emotions involved are more akin to singing along to Rihanna than anything else. The lyrics are distant and meaningless, simply being a mechanism by which to carry the tune. The sermon is a long series of statements that I just don’t agree with; where once I felt great confusion over how I felt about the implications of the content, I now simply see totally different interpretation of our existence. The crowning moment of awkwardness is when I lift my hand to deny the communion plate. The server pauses for a moment, as if to make sure he didn’t just imagine that I did what he thinks I just did. The guy sitting next to me stares at his piece of bread with absurd intensity. Every time. I remember how I looked around to see who was and was not taking communion, and I know that a very large number of eyes took note of my choice. I know that single decision molds the interactions I experience thereafter. I can sense in each conversation a careful tiptoeing and delicate probing to see where I am, and how I am doing.

Continue reading transform


I thought I’d go ahead and share two papers I wrote recently. This first paper is from one of my sociology classes, Definitions of Normality. I referenced a few posts back. Although I had to resort to some hyperbole to make my point and I had to gloss over some really huge stuff to cram it into six pages, I like how it turned out.

The purpose of the paper was to write a time in which I’d “passed”. We recently read a book detailing the lives of various people that had pretended to be people they weren’t – black for white, gay for straight, etc.. I asked her if I could take an alternative approach, and she approved it.

If passing is defined as an attempt to circumvent unjust exclusion, I cannot confess to having done such in any meaningful way. I cannot recall a time in which I chose to hide important realities about my history or identity for the sake of attaining personal social equality. That is not to say that I have always loved who I am without reservation, nor do I suggest that I have never faced situations in which I wanted desperately to fit in – at any cost. My response to those feelings and circumstances, however, has not been to pass, but to consider the worthiness of the challenge, and change myself accordingly, all the way from appearance and mannerisms to my core values and beliefs.

This story starts in Mississippi, where my father was the vice president of a prominent theological seminary in Jackson, while my mother managed a large campus ministry. I lived there for ten years, until my father left his position to pastor a Presbyterian church in Ithaca. Until we moved, I had never once been challenged on or had any reason to question the religion of my parents, and I thought little of it until I was thrust into a new culture that did not embrace my father’s ideals. With this move, I continued to fit in marvelously with my peers at church, but I did not fare well in my elementary school experience. At the suggestion of my homeschooling friends, I spent most of my time in junior high homeschooling, a choice which radicalized my religious and political views. I began to read my Bible daily, prayed for God to take away my lustful thoughts (he never did), and I cheered as Bush took office.

Throughout this, however, I was tremendously unsatisfied with myself. From elementary school onward, I had a piercing desire for one thing: a girlfriend. I talked often of my loneliness to my mentors at church, and I trusted them when they assured me that God had a plan for me, and that I need only wait until God decides I should have one, if ever. They stressed that secular relationships would not afford me any happiness, and that I should seek to attract a holy woman by earnestly seeking God. The idea of adapting to modern romantic standards was repulsive; dating was a flawed and selfish system, devoid of any redemptive qualities. I should not seek to be ‘cool’, either, because ‘cool’ was not the measure by which men served God. So I ignored the conventions my few secular peers followed, even as I entered high school, and I took pride in being different.

I had but one friend (from church) as I entered my first day of high school, and he invited me to come to a gaming party at his friend Ben’s house – eager to see what exactly I’d been missing for fourteen years, I arrived without any notion of what to expect. Descending into a pitch-black basement, I entered a room whose walls and ceiling were covered with soft-core pornography, while half a dozen adolescents cursed furiously and compared everything to boobs and penises. I had no clue what to do, so I threw myself at an Xbox and tried not to look away. I managed to inquire why the walls were covered with tits, and Ben matter-of-factly explained that this was his sister’s room, and that she was a lesbian. I decided to save my shock for after I won the current round of Halo.

I quickly realized that this reality was at complete odds with what I’d been living for years before. I walked into church a day later with nothing but compunction and confusion. My father’s sermons told me that there was something fundamentally wrong with what I witnessed; they did not go to church, they were lustful and vulgar, they were sinners. My training told me that because they did not know Jesus, they were missing something from their lives and had no true purpose – but the more I came to know Ben (I went to every party he had thereafter), the less this conviction revealed itself to be true. Ben was an intelligent, caring, and hilarious person whose day-to-day problems did not find their solution in religion. He had something I wanted – even beyond a girlfriend – he seemed to have no need for the God I deemed so necessary.

I could have chosen to live a dual life. I could have easily maintained the facade of a proper church boy while participating in the godless hedonism of my peers, but I chose, instead, to integrate the two. I played both sides of the fence. I engaged my friends at school in much religious discussion, attempting to convert them to Christianity, while I did the reverse to my peers at church, playing the devil’s advocate, borrowing from many of the arguments my friends from school offered. I did it as a means towards figuring out which path contained more truth. At times, I resonated far more with one side than the other. But I never pretended that I was someone that I was not. I sought first and foremost to accrue knowledge, that I might make more informed decisions on my future.

I began to part from Christianity. A slow realization started, wherein I saw that the relationships around me – particularly the romantic relationships – operated on a set of rules that I was not properly following. My religious background had taught me to ignore these rules, but as Professor Baker noted, rules are what bind us together, they help make sense of the world. I realized that these rules existed for a reason, and that I must understand them if I wished to be a part this society around me.

So I changed. I decided to pursue and conform to these rules as best as I could. I started running and working out nearly every night. I started observing the fashions around me, I noted which colors went best together, how they wore their clothes, they way they walked and the way they talked. I watched movies, and I examined the men that my female friends considered so dreamy, and what made them so attractive. Cooley would be proud, no doubt; I shamelessly sought to emulate the best of what secular society had to offer. I wanted to be awesome. This wasn’t a new pursuit; I’d always wanted to be awesome. I was redefining what awesome meant to myself, and rethinking what awesome meant to others.

Quite simply, I was repeating the process of socialization. Baker describes this as the means by which people learn to be members of their social group. I was altering my primary social group to include a wider variety of people, who operated by a very different set of folkways. Prior to this, I had seen popular culture as being devoid of meaningful rules, but in fact, its folkways formed a network at least as complex as what was within the church. It wasn’t simply that I was adopting new folkways to achieve a goal, nor that I was abandoning old folkways; I was altering my core values in such a way that adopting these new folkways would be completely natural.

Over the following two years, I left Christianity completely, even after spending four months at a Christian study center in England. I got a large tattoo of a phoenix on my chest. I started smoking. I went through my first serious relationship, with all the accompanying highs and lows. My musical tastes expanded from almost exclusively listening to techno, to chamber pop, death metal, and trip-hop.

Goffman says that we are forever performing for one another, projecting an identity to those around us. Not everything I’ve done and all I’ve changed has been a grand projection for the entertainment of others, but the lifestyle changes I made feature an important common factor: they are, for me, parts of my life that I share with practically all of my peers. In changing my body, my religion, my music, these were expressions to those around me (as well as to myself) that I’ve changed, and that I’m no longer the person that I once was.

The path that these changes have taken me on has not been easy in any regard. The distance between the old church culture and myself grows ever wider as I lose common ground with their values and I decline more of their folkways. I am still close with many of my church friends, but a tension lingers over every conversation, composed of unspoken challenges and questions. I still yearn for what the faith purported to offer; the idea of an intimate and involved God is both beautiful and powerful. The community was also open, caring, and supportive, and the norms of my chosen social group do not lend themselves to such entities.

Although change is a difficult and frustrating process, I feel strongly that it’s a superior alternative to passing. Many people have “successfully” managed two separate lives, one for religion, and one for everything else – but such duality is ultimately destructive, as well as deeply disingenuous to both cultures. Passing, in this matter, seems unacceptable, a choice made out of weakness, an inability to choose between two competing societies that offer different realities and promise radically different futures. I have devoted my identity – the only identity I have – to one world, rather than diluting it, and I’ve changed it as has become necessary with society’s evolving norms. I take pride in having avoided passing thus far, and I hope that I can continue to do so for as long as possible.

This next paper is a little more obscure. I wrote it for my ethics class. The goal of the paper was to utilize Aristotle’s virtue ethics in approaching abortion. It’s a little meta, but I love me some meta, so I really enjoyed this one.

The realities surrounding an issue such as abortion are inexorably grim. At the core of the matter lie millions of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, for which abortion offers a permanent solution. This solution is not without its concerns, and it holds a number of grave reflections upon the virtues we hold dear as individuals, as well as a society. What virtues are at stake when considering abortion? Does abortion lead us towards those virtues, or does it send us astray? Although Aristotle would have had no concept of abortion as we know it today, his ideas can form a powerful basis for considering what is worthwhile in this debate.

To determine the virtues relevant to abortion, we must consider the consequences of an abortion. An abortion is not just about ending a nine-month pregnancy, but about preventing the birth of a child that will exist for years to come, and the burdens that are involved with raising that child. An abortion is also a matter of desire; excluding cases in which the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life, abortion is being considered because the child is not desired, whether due to a lack of financial or emotional readiness, or a simple absence of motive to become a parent. Finally, abortion also holds serious consequences for the physical well-being of the mother, particularly when contrasted with the alternative outcomes involved with childbirth.

All of this is largely a matter of looking forward. How will the mother’s life change with the presence of this child? In what ways will society be altered? What can the child look forward to? Although a multitude of virtues are weaved throughout the nuances of these questions, a few can be considered of greatest importance. These are questions of prudence. Is it wise to birth a child into an environment that is not prepared for her arrival? It is likely that such a child will be afforded far fewer opportunities – educational, financial, and social – than a child brought up inside a ready home. Likewise, an unprepared mother will certainly suffer stresses and anxieties that other mothers might not. When a child’s home cannot provide for all of his needs, it is left to society as a whole to provide support, a pressure which becomes quite serious with each unexpected child.

Aristotle would look to the importance of prudence as a matter of balance, an approach which works surprisingly well in this regard. Too much prudence might involve aborting every unexpected pregnancy, regardless of the mother’s wishes, for fear of the burden these children bring upon their mothers ans society at large. Too little would see abortion struck out as an option entirely, with mothers foolishly embracing the potential of new children without any consideration for their practical ability to care for these children.

Abortion is also an issue of fairness. If a woman does not desire her pregnancy, is it fair – to the mother and to the child – to bring the pregnancy to term despite this? Is it fair to bring a child into the world only to send them to an orphanage or foster home? By the same token, is it fair to place such an expectation on society to support the child? Is it fair for a woman to undergo the rigors of a nine-month pregnancy and risk childbirth against her will? If the unborn possess full human rights, is it fair to end their life despite these concerns? Is it fair to abort a pregnancy simply because its future is not the same as others?

Aristotle’s approach proves less effective in this regard. The median of fairness is highly nebulous; how may a woman be too fair as she ponders an abortion? Can society truly be too fair, too considerate of all relevant interests? To further complicate the matter, fairness is a more subjective virtue. If one values the life of an unborn child very highly, it becomes more fair to ensure the pregnancy comes to term, regardless of what outcome that child faces on the other side of the womb. Conversely, if one values a woman’s ability to control the future of her body as greater than her pregnancy, the fair choice is already made. Indeed, the answers to questions of fairness seem almost independent of the virtue itself, being predetermined by our attitudes on independence and the nature of human life.

Another direction to be taken with fairness is the simple answer that nothing about an undesired pregnancy, aborted or not, is fair. It is ultimately unfair that we are forced to make these choices, and as Aristotle himself acknowledges, the point from which we start our lives is hardly fair, regardless of how prudently we plan ahead. That being said, this route opens up a better question: are there cases in which it is more fair to abort, than to bring to term, and what are they? In this way, the virtue of fairness is still the goal, but it is less about achieving an objective status of equality, so much as choosing the fairer of two imparities, and we may still honor the importance of fairness in morality.

This brings us to the third, and perhaps most important virtue, conscientiousness. While it might first seem but a synonym of prudence, the conscientious person is driven by a conscience that is satisfied only by a wide awareness of what is it hand and a cautious examination of available evidence. Prudence and fairness without conscience are lifeless, as the goal in ethics is to make decisions that are moral, not just reasonable, for what is strictly reasonable is not always moral. The virtue of conscientiousness drives us to use our prudence and our pursuit of fairness to achieve a most moral end.

Conscientiousness is a virtue whose mean can be found in relation to prudence and fairness. While it may sound odd to be too conscientious, giving too much weight to our conscience would be to defy reason, to follow our gut without consideration for the practical realities and consequences of the situation. Too little conscience would, as mentioned before, result in purely mechanical decision-making, holding no regard for the sanctity of life and happiness, stripping us from what makes these matters important in the first place.

There is a potent example within Rachels’ book, The Elements of Moral Philosophy. He describes the infanticide that was once common in Eskimo society. The Eskimos lived in a harsh environment with very scarce resources, and families could only grow as large as the hunters were able to provide. As such, families were simply incapable of supporting more children; thus, they enabled society to survive by limiting how many children they raised; raising them was simply not a feasible option. Their choice was prudent – they looked to the long-term future of their community, and saw that they could not support more dependents. Their choice was fair – how could the life of a child outweigh the survival of their entire society? Their choice was also conscientious – they did not do this on a whim, but as was grimly necessary.

Considering the importance of these characteristics helps to reveal which choices are truly moral ones. If we thoroughly ponder each virtue, we can uncover a multitude of important questions – questions of prudence and fairness, questions that challenge our conscience. If we follow these questions to their end, it seems that the ethics of virtue may hold a multitude of answers, even if it does not yield them easily.


I recently wrote a paper for one of my sociology classes detailing my motivations for leaving Christianity. It was pretty silly to try and cram it down into five pages while attempting to incorporate random quotations from papers and presentations, but it did cause me to reflect on precisely how much I’ve changed over the years. I’ve reversed my position on nearly every issue I argued so vehemently over, four years ago.

A part of me continually wishes that someone, or something will come along that will make it impossible for me not to return to Christianity. Growing up, I read countless stories of people like myself that left the faith, but were confronted with some undeniable truth or overwhelming experience that brought them back a greater faith than they had left it. When arguing my stance against my extended family a few months ago, a few of them treated me with the assumption that I would simply do the same.

The more I change on these issues – abortion, gay marriage, sex – the less I feel it’s possible I could ever make that return. I live with a small terror that I’m simply adopting all the views around me wholesale, but as I reflect on how I approached these issues before, that was precisely how I came to obtain my stances in the past. Still, I dislike becoming less distinguishable from those around me; it feels like I’m giving up what once helped make me unique. This might be a hold-over from having spent so much time looking down on modern society, but there’s a numbness that comes along with knowing that no one around me will disagree with what I’m saying. It’s one thing to have support, but it’s another to simply not have opposition.

This leads me to wonder why, exactly, I didn’t feel this way inside the church community, where solidarity within was certainly stronger there than I’m finding within the college community. I think it’s because I always had an issue that I knew many of those around me didn’t agree with me on, and I focused on that. It started with rethinking my opposition to evolution (I’m sure some of you still remember that epic bible study), then my stance on social services and capital punishment, then my views on sexuality and sex as a whole started to change, and so on. Maybe my departure from the faith was just an inevitability, as each of the dominoes tipped over, each issue I rethought being a logical consequence of the next.

I still pray, on occasion. My prayers focus on roughly the same issues that I have always prayed about. It doesn’t feel much different than it used to, and I don’t know if that’s comforting or disturbing. As always, God’s responses are enormously silent, though I wait for them as I ever have.


Every night, I step outside to assess my situation. The stars are mostly unsympathetic to my questions, and I can’t blame them; thousands others have groped for answers under their dim light, and I doubt I am all that different from my predecessors. It’s comforting to imagine that on a night like this, somewhere in the world another man is stepping onto the balcony of his apartment to stop and consider just what kind of man he is, and that he will be looking at the same sky that I am. Perhaps Socrates did the same thing, shivering in his fruity little toga as he watched the moon wax and wane in precisely the same manner as it does for me. He probably didn’t have any trip-hop to listen to while he did this, though I’m certain he would have liked some.

The timelessness of the universe is shocking, to me. When I consider the earth, it feels so tumultuous and unstable. The trees around me can only count their years in decades, but the stars above have watched for eternity. The stars are so overwhelmingly countless. Consider this picture of the Great Orion nebula. Look at all those goddamn stars. Each of them in their own solar system, most of them larger than our own. Millions of planets and moons, asteroids and comets whose light is unfathomably old. How would Socrates feel, considering himself in the glow of such ancient entities? I am but one person, standing alone upon a stretch of snow, in a city of thousands, in a state of millions, in a country of many millions, in a world of billions. Though Socrates’ world was so much smaller than mine, his sky was just the same as mine, give or take a few supernovae.

I often consider how my understanding of such realities changes with my philosophy. When I began to conclude against Christianity in England, the first question I asked of myself was this: what does it mean to look at the stars as a Christian? What do they become, when I deny Christianity? More importantly, who do I become?

In my brief time off between Christmas and New Years, my family went down to Pennsylvania for our first gathering with my mother’s side of the family in a few years. Inevitably, my aunt probed me about my experience in England, and when I revealed that L’Abri’s tireless encouragement of asking questions and embracing doubt led me to conclude against Christianity, a three hour battle ensued between myself and the whole of my family (or at least, my grandparents, parents, aunt, and uncle). I dearly love a good debate, and I enjoyed the challenge quite thoroughly, but the attitudes revealed throughout the course of the discussion were exemplary of why I’ve left the faith. I should make it clear that I love my family, and that our disagreements have not left me bitter or feeling any less fond of them, but I’m also of the conviction that they’re wrong. And so the discussion went forth.

A key argument for my father and grandfather lay in the idea that Christianity is responsible for the majority of modern progress, and that Eastern societies have only succeeded once Christianity entered into their culture (they cited China as an example, lol). In particular, they cited democracy as a Christian invention. Christ’s focus on human equality, they argued, was a new idea and is the primary reason that modern democracy is able to succeed.

I was quick to point out democracy existed long before Christ’s time, but I focused more on pointing out that it could be argued far more easily that Christianity ended up stifling the rise of democratic government because of the reign of the church in the dark and middle ages. Which brought my aunt and uncle to argue my next example of infuriating thought: Anything that might seem to be a negative product of Christianity, was brought about by false Christians.

Around this time, I started flipping out a little. It was about two and a half hours in and this was an argument they’d brought up repetitively, and each time I pointed out the incredible convenience of labeling anyone that makes your faith look bad as false or confused. Although I can certainly recognize that more than a few folks have taken up the label of Christianity with devious purposes in mind, they seemed to stress that true Christians can do no evil, that any evil that might seem to be a product of Christianity was actually a product of sin. Furthermore, at several points they attempted to distinguish Christianity from religion. When I pointed to the Crusades or the Inquisition, they claimed those were products of religion, and not Christianity. These were impossible arguments to overcome, and I confess that my temper flared just a little in the face of such ridiculous defenses.

A third attitude that left me vexed was the notion that science is ultimately futile. This came up when I was arguing that science offers new ways to understand ourselves as humans, to pinpoint why we are the way we are, rather than dismissing crime and malevolence as sin and exploring no further. They scoffed, however, citing how scientists are constantly contradicting each other and releasing studies that invalidate research released just weeks prior. My attempts to explain the scientific method did not seem to satisfy their qualms with this cycle.

The discussion ended on the topic of homosexuality. After attempting to explain the important discovery of the role of genetics and environment in determining sexuality, my grandfather simply stated that “Science has shown all homosexuals to be liars”, at which point I shook my head and bowed out – further debate would most certainly have led to more regrettable words. My father later came outside to commend me for my performance, a gesture which speaks much to his credit.

After all this, I’m left feeling quite strongly that if Christianity were true, their faith would not produce such convictions. I believe quite firmly that the truth will set you free – but I do not see freedom, here. A faith that produces the belief that “circular reasoning is okay if you’re right” (a quip from my father, during this debacle) is not, for me, intellectually honest. God would not grant us intellects of truth and logic if he did not intend for them to be fulfilled.

There’s a lot more to say on the matter, but I’ll leave it at that, for now.

“In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.” – Nietzsche


By nature, humans are born with limited awareness and a single perspective through which the world is experienced and understood. We’re left with finite quantities of knowledge, and the quality of this knowledge is at times unverifiable. The basis of any disagreement is in knowledge: I believe my knowledge is superior, until my opponent can provide me with new knowledge that forces me to reconsider. It’s hard to provide new knowledge, though. People with strong opinions tend to believe they already have a complete knowledge of the matter at hand, and telling them otherwise raises a lot of ire. Although ‘pure knowledge’ is theoretically universal, the knowledge we use and experience is worlds away from being pure: it is extremely personal. To threaten something so personal is fundamentally impolite, and it’s why Americans have chosen to label the discussion of religion and politics as unfit for civil conversation. This is one of the fundamental powers behind America’s religious right.

Religion exists to fill in the gaps for our immensely incomplete knowledge. It answers the questions for which there are no answers, or for which the existing answers are not satisfying. The answers to these questions – why is there evil, what is the purpose of life, where did our universe come from – are monumental, and will ultimately decide how a person lives his/her life.

Politics, on the other hand, exists to make decisions about how society will function. At its best, it is the art of compromise, seeking to craft policies that will satisfy as many people as possible without alienating the minority. At its worst, it is a tool of control, a system for amassing and maintaining power over others. Religion holds a striking parallel here. Religion can give birth to harmony unequaled – the peace and fulfillment that results from a community that earnestly seeks truth and goodness is overwhelming, and this is a reality I’ve experienced first-hand. Religion also offers immense opportunity for control, when a community devotes itself to dogma and doctrine, particularly when these doctrines are maligned by a leader with impure motives. When a politician refuses to vote outside party lines, he is not doing justice to the purpose of his profession. Likewise, when a believer unquestioningly follows doctrine, her faith loses focus. Instead of having faith in Christ, her faith is in her doctrine, and it becomes enslaved to technicalities and fine print.

Thus, when political policy becomes indistinguishable from doctrine, and a community of believers dare not question doctrine, a political force is created that cannot be talked down. To doubt policy is to doubt doctrine. To doubt doctrine is to doubt faith. To the ears of such a citizen, promotion of, say, abortion, gay marriage, or sex education is a direct attack on faith, an assault on God himself.

This kind of thinking was the power behind many of history’s greatest dictators. Stalin, for example, crafted himself as being one with the State, the essence of the people’s will, unified with the needs and desires of the nation. To question Stalin, then, was to question your friends and neighbors, and nothing less than treachery. Less extreme examples are not hard to summon. Many a pope, king, and emperor made use of similar tactics to maintain their power.

The logical fallacy here is simple: it’s all non sequitur. Doubting the quality of one man does not necessitate doubt in everything that man purports to represent. Likewise, questioning the church’s stance on one matter does not necessitate doubt in the entire church. A community based in love has room for disagreement. Two intellectually and morally honest persons can examine the same situation and reach different conclusions. Alienating the opposing side is not the solution, nor is ignoring it, nor dismissing it. These attitudes permeate both sides of America’s socio-political landscape, so please don’t think I’m only ragging on the right-wing, here – but I do believe that Falwell threw the first stone, in this matter.

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
– GK Chesterton


Throughout time, human sexuality in western culture has gone through a multitude of phases, which modern culture tends to use as evidence for the superiority of modern sexual customs. The story starts with Grecco-Roman abandon, which at times saw an abundance of pedophilia and orgies, mixed with classic anti-female mindsets. Pompeii – the Roman city frozen in time by a volcanic eruption – touted many a penis on the threshold of each home (though it should be noted these were more concerned with fertility than sexual conquest). Some men even felt that since women were simply a necessary evil, homosexuality was the far more wholesome and manly option, though it seems to me these men were simply bitter towards their mothers in some sort of reverse Oedipal complex. In any case, this leads many neoconservatives to believe that any abandonment of homophobia, particularly the allowance of gay marriage, will see Americans forced into duct-taping dildos to their front doors.

After half a dozen sexual revolutions between now and then, American culture is at something of a half-way point, it could be said. The Internet’s chief use continues to be porn, with every search engine finding that their most abundant search requests are always related to porn. yet while Brazil hosts its annual carnival involving children in costumes and women wearing nothing but glitter and thongs (NSFW, but it’s not porn, trust me), Janet Jackson’s career was briefly shattered by the brief and completely un-erotic glimpse of one of her breasts. There’s something wrong, here.

I think of all this as I return to pondering the nature of sin. Sin is defined as what separates one from God, quickly followed by a long list of no-no’s, which for America’s Christianity will revolve around sex. Every Christian camp and rally I attended as a child was intensely focused on sex. Since this all took place after the 1960’s it was qualified with a “Sex itself isn’t bad”, but the message was definitely a little mixed – very few seemed comfortable speaking positively on the matter, but were quite prepared to launch into a sermon on the havoc it can cause.

The damage this sort of repression has caused is well-known. More than a few have fled from the faith of their youth, but find themselves eternally wounded by the thoughts and habits that were built in to them. One blog, Letters from Johns, features letters from men that are confessing to having visited a prostitute. A common theme in these letters is sexual repression in youth. For some, it simply creates the kind of curiosity that comes only when told we can’t have something. For others, it sparked an insatiable desire for the forbidden, for which they could find no suitable outlet.

I guess the conclusion I’m approaching is that sex is not as important as many set it up to be, including myself. If the pursuit of this distant goal drives us to other iniquities more deadly, is it truly worth it in the first place? And, since when did nudity become erotic regardless of context? While I still hold to my decision to abstain until marriage, perhaps it wouldn’t be the death of beauty were I to fail (more than I already have) in that endeavor. There are certainly those that value sex too little – but I would venture that America’s Christianity has valued it too much, perhaps as a reflection of its own obsession – though that may be a matter of the chicken or the egg.

The source of these convictions is far from new. Virginity (in women, at least) has long been associated with purity and innocence. The loss of virginity then becomes a scarring of the heart, a blackening of the soul, and the physical significance of this makes it feel that much more pressing to preserve. Unfortunately, however, innocence is not a technicality. Innocence is a quality of the heart, not of the genitalia. If virgins hold any innate purity above their peers, I must have missed it.

Purity is the ideal. We do not live in the ideal, however; we live in reality.


Years ago, I absorbed one belief about love – that love is a choice, and that true love is not a matter of planets aligning and stars colliding, but of mutual intention and desire. As such, love – real love – is less concerned with compatibility than it is with character. If the state of Western culture is any indication, this is not a common reality. Our culture’s dream of finding the right person is rarely realized, leaving most of us to settle for significantly less than what we had hoped for. While comparing happiness is a dangerous foundation for argument, our many social revolutions have not created a culture of happy marriages and happy families.

This kind of focus on counter-culture was (and continues to be) a source of great interest and admiration for me, when I look upon Christianity. I find much truth in examining our culture’s failures, and the basic tenet of questioning the nature of what is deemed acceptable is more than just a worthy ideal, but the only sure-fire path for fulfillment.

As I explore what a world-view without Christianity looks like, my desire to stand contrary to my society’s lifestyle has not waned, yet I find myself thrown into a maelstrom of un-identity. I have these convictions, yet I have no one to share them with, no group to identify with, no cause to believe in beyond this vague notion of betterment. As I look back at every moral juggernaut in history, I can readily see that every one of them was a piece of a greater movement, a portion of a greater identity that more than just a few participated in.

My fear compounds itself as I see that my convictions cannot stand on their own. My will alone is not enough to carry me through hardship and tribulation. My wisdom is not enough to understand what needs to be understood. If I depend upon myself, I cannot be selfless. To try would be self-deception, and it’s what many others do to assure themselves of their true ‘goodness’. Truth, beauty, and goodness cannot be realized alone, but are the fruit of strong community and living relationships.

Where, then, can I find this community, when I have forced myself to be so strictly alone? I’ve said often that my phoenix remains true regardless of my faith – Christianity will forever be ingrained in to me, belief or not. Christianity engendered my ideals. Am I not fooling myself when I attempt to find others of similar conviction so far away from the source of my own identity?

I have not forgotten my many frustrations with the faith – they remain as strong as ever, and I do not think I must abandon my critical eye to revive my faith. I see, however, that I have demanded perfection in a world that is incapable of producing it. Despite what strict rationalism purports to offer, there is no undamaged truth in the world, but everything is tainted by our limited humanity. The Bible is riddled with passages that I find unconscionable and utterly repulsive, yet it is steeped in truths I cannot deny. I can only conclude that there is understanding that I lack. My craving for understanding is matched only by my desire for companionship, and the world is not about to yield these to me willingly. As one old guy with dementia said many times at L’Abri: I believe in order that I might understand. If the past few months can serve as any evidence, I am far better off serving Christ, than not.

I started this post four days ago, and not with the intention of taking my faith up again. But as I dwelt on the nature of love, this is what came out. I’m interested to see where these next few days will take me.


In describing the fundamental differences between Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism, one lecturer at L’Abri pointed to the core cultural roots that each tradition sprang from. The Greeks brought their tradition of philosophy to Christianity – a philosophy which greatly differed from what is practiced in modern times, focused much more on broad pictures rather than methodologies for precise understanding. When mixed with Christianity, a mystical framework for interpretation resulted, focusing on humanity’s relationship to the supernatural (God). Eastern Orthodoxy interpreted Scripture in such a way as to understand how humanity connects and ascends to God, emphasizing unity and relationship. By contrast, the Romans brought their tradition of law in their interpretation of basic tenets, and thus focused on the ideas of status, guilt, and forgiveness, the basis of any lawful society. They saw a need for justification in the face of divine wrath, and understood Scripture as they might a book of law.

I thought of this today, as my supervisor presented me with a few papers to sign as a part of his efforts to improve our quality of work. There were spaces for all of my co-worker’s names. It was a summary of our entire job in two pages, and my signature was to indicate that I understood this.

“So, you’re asking me to do my job.”
“And you need my signature to know that I’m going to do my job.”
“How does my signature ensure that I’m going to do my job, if I’m not currently doing my job?”
“It creates accountability. Your signature indicates you understand what your responsibilities are.”
“Am I not currently held accountable based simply on the fact that I’m being paid for my time here?”
“Yes, but this paper provides proof that you know what your job entails.”
“How does a signature prove that I actually understand that? My performance should be a far better indicator of that.”
“It doesn’t prove anything, but it means that when you break procedure in the future we have evidence that you actually know what you’re supposed to be doing.”
“This isn’t going to decrease the number of problems we’re having – it’s just a tool for punishment. Why don’t you just work with where each person is at, rather than trying to catch people on technicalities?”
“Because that isn’t working. We just took an $800 hit because someone forgot write some fucking notes, and we didn’t have enough evidence to stand up against the customer.”
“This won’t fix that.”
“Maybe not, but [our manager] wants something done.”

I’d love to live in a society where people are held accountable based on their actions, rather than what papers they’ve signed. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn’t – I’m sure that lack of false security would become terrifying.


My grandparents like to spam their address books with terror-filled articles about gay marriage and such things. Here’s a choice quote from my grandfather:

“Is “liberal” your escape from reason, or just a license to create your own morality? We have seen it all before and it is a well trodden path that allows a person to run; but not to hide from Truth. Don’t be too hasty with your judgment of biblical morality.

When the liberals discovered smoking causes cancer they virtually outlawed smoking. When they discovered homosexuality caused aids they tried to outlaw what? Truth! More good sense from the liberals!”

One of my cousins lashed out, and was promptly trounced by generic blather about how godless liberals are. To teach them all a lesson, I wrote a goddamn essay.

This whole debacle was just forwarded to me last night, so I apologize for being oh-so fashionably late to this party. But if I might be heard for a moment or two, I’d be much obliged.

Arguing the roots of this nation is fruitless. We don’t regard other nations based on what they were two hundred years ago – we judge them on what they are now. Norse mythology is no longer relevant to Scandinavia, Druidism is no longer relevant to England and France, and likewise, America’s religious roots should have little say in the here-and-now. Even if America ever was a “Christian nation” (a debatable matter, at best), we are looking at nation that has been long divided, and we must deal with this reality. Thomas Jefferson said it best: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

What does do injury, however, is the suggestion that somehow my vote for Obama is both Godless and amoral. I not only believe Obama to be a man of incredible moral quality, but but that he’s also a man of outstanding character seen only once in a lifetime. I see in him a true love for others and for his country, I see a strong desire to do the right thing, and I see the policies and the planning to back it up. I see those around me for the first time ever truly excited to be an American, hopeful that this country can for the first time in history be lead by someone else outside an arbitrarily chosen set of rich white men. I don’t expect you to be excited like me. I don’t expect you to agree with me. I respect your views and I see the validity in them.

That said, there are more important issues than gay marriage to handle. Why is the issue of two men getting married more important than reforming our utterly broken education system? Why does it even compare to the fact that over half of Americans can’t afford health insurance? Why does it even hold a candle to the fact that America has within its borders 24% of all of the world’s prisoners, with only 5% of the world’s population? There are so many things wrong and broken within our society. So many of these problems don’t even exist outside of America, too – a semester in Europe taught me that much and a half. There are solutions to these problems, and other countries have already found them. America is way behind.

Don’t get me wrong: social issues are important. But if you’re going to argue that the godlessness of the blue states is going to finalize America’s demise, I would beg you to examine the current situation in our country. Red states currently sport higher teen pregnancy rates, higher high school drop out rates, higher crime rates, and higher divorce rates (I can provide sources, if necessary). Every red states reports significantly higher numbers of Christians. If the Bible belt is to be any example, America’s problems cannot be solved by fundamentalism or neoconservatism. Our problems can’t be solved by broad platitudes, or by gross generalizations, or by a simple belief in doing the right thing. Problems don’t get solved with harsh criticism and stern disapproval, they get solved by doing something. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.”

I believe Obama went and did something – and in doing so, he revamped the American political system as we know it. His campaign registered millions of unreached voters. He opted of out of the public financing system – 80% of his donations were under 100 dollars. He’ll be the first president in 150 years to owe nothing to any corporate sponsor. He single-handedly renewed my hope in the American government, and I can safely say he did the same for others around the country. He renewed the world’s hope in America, too – for even as a waning superpower, our fate is tied to those of nearly every other nation on earth. Just look at Iceland.

All that’s to say: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Obama’s stance on gay marriage should not be the deciding factor for any person’s vote. I happen to agree that I have no right to interfere with how my neighbor chooses his or her lovers – does this invalidate everything I’ve written thus far? Does it just further attest to the liberal taint within my soul, or my complete godlessness? Please think rationally about this. See beyond red and blue. Not everything is black and white.

Respect the validity in disagreement. Honor the fact that others can think rationally and critically about important issues, but come to different conclusions. Avoid these over-simplified anecdotes and sweeping generalizations. Not all liberals are the same. Not all Christians are the same. Just look at our family: we’re not the same.

I apologize for the essay-length, but throwing one-liners back and forth does little to accomplish much in the way of reaching agreement or understanding between one another. I hope I’ve contributed positively.




I thought I should add: please don’t insinuate that AIDS is somehow divine justice over gay people. It’s repugnant simply given the fact that AIDS is currently ravaging Africa sideways and a half, and is also universally common among America’s impoverished, particularly African-Americans – unless you have a sin you might wish to label across all of those demographics, as well.

EDIT: The responses have been amusing.

A distant relative that I don’t actually know:

“I know that at the end of this election my faith is not in government, but in Jesus Christ. He has a bigger plan for all of us and he will use anything to His glory. So we wake up another day just happy to be alive and well. I know the end of the story and I am on the winning team. We still love the world through His eyes and live for King Jesus until He takes us home.”

My 80-something year old grandfather:

“I appreciate Tim’s effort to marginalize what has been said but the wordy and inane comparisons fail miserably to explain why going down a road already proven to be a failed system could possibly prove to be “positive”. Throwing more money at education than everyone else on the globe has produced a deficient product in comparison. More will do even less. Judging history has proven to be the necessary and exact measure for current appraisals. “He who doesn’t learn from the past is doomed to repeat” is a paraphrase of several political philosophers – probably a bit wiser than our contemporary young people. Seeing Obama as a man of noble character means someone has ignored his judgment. It sees him also as NOT guilty of shitting on anyone and everyone he has looked to as mentors or helpers, in his political quest, whenever they became a hindrance to his search for power. It looks past his deceitfulness when his past record, by rhetoric or votes, is brought to bear on his judgment. A look at his oration to far left assemblies and how different it was stated in a broader spectrum audience is more than a little alarming. He lied about his intentions to accept public financial support for his campaign. His sources of support have been hidden for questionable reasons. And this represents character?

The argument about red states/blue states is not proven. Those statements are inaccurate and illegitimate .

The fact that Obama wishes to support gay marriage, and abortion, represents departure from a moral code of thousands of years existence. A wise person could not possibly see that CHANGE as absolutely positive.

Sorry Tim but your argument fails to reach the level of responsible debate.”

My uncle’s father:

“‘There are so many things wrong and broken within our society. So many of these problems don’t even exist outside of America, too – a semester in Europe taught me that much and a half. There are solutions to these problems, and other countries have already found them. America is way behind.’

Tim – – you don’t know me but I know your mom and dad – – the above is your quote – – and I don’t want to sound ugly – – or start any MORE controversy – – but if this is REALLY how you feel – – why don’t you move to Europe or some third world country and enjoy your life instead of being miserable in this backward country – – just an idea – “

fury and terror

It’s been a long time since I’ve dwelt on my loneliness.

Of all the fears I have in this mortal world, to be alone is the most fierce of them all. It’s a feeling that’s been present for as long as I’ve known time, stretching back into my earliest of days. I never got on the bandwagon of cooties as a child; girls never intimidated me like they did my friends, and as I grew older it was a feature I prided myself on for no particular reason. Of course, I found myself out of my element as soon as puberty hit, and I realized that I lacked every possible quality I might need to fulfill my heart’s desire of romantic companionship. I can’t exaggerate how intensely I felt that desire, even in middle school – I cried out to God on more than a few nights asking for one, and one thing only: a true love, a woman that I could love, and that would love me. It was a longing I oft confessed to my mentors, and I wonder how they managed to take a preteen so seriously on the issue, but I’m grateful that they did. My Christian companions tended to lob the canned answer that I should want what God wants – and that may or may not include a lover. I certainly attempted to do just that, but part of my slow distrust of God’s ability to hear or answer grew straight from the fact that no answer came, and year after year, I found myself alone.

As time marched on, I eventually realized what many self-proclaimed “nice guys” tend to ignore: that there are basic rules of the game that must be played, and that being virtuous doesn’t enable one to abandon the subtleties of romance and attraction. My first and most important conclusion was that before I could share my life with another person, I must have a life I feel is worth sharing. How can you love another if you do not even love yourself? How can you honestly believe that another loves you, when you cannot do so yourself? So I went about the business of learning to love myself, as well as making myself into the person I wanted to be, a self that I could love. It’s where my writing started, my running, my tattoo, my clothes. Much of that came simply with maturity and time, but I believe strongly that who I am is quite purposeful. Perhaps that’s just arrogance – and I would certainly be a fool to claim I am anywhere near self-made – but I do know that I set out to better myself, that I had a desire, and that desire was met.

So now as I look upon the death of my first, true relationship, I find myself asking myriad questions, while the chilling tendrils of that old loneliness takes its grip upon me once more. I’ve thought back to my childhood, and I wonder if God gave me what I asked for, and simply took it away, or if this were his way of reigning me in, as if to tell me “You can have a taste of what you seek, but you won’t have it until you kneel!”, or as a third possibility, “I will not grant you what you seek and you will live your life unfulfilled, but for your impatience your punishment will be to know how unfulfilled you truly are”.

It is ironic, to me, that I would consider God in any part of this equation, after I claim such control of myself. But the end of all this has brought me to the simple realization that I truly have no control over anything. I could try to claim that I brought her into my life, that it was my confidence and strength that brought it all to pass – and I think, for a time, I believed that – but correlation is not causation. When all is said and done, I did not decide her choices. I can only be grateful for what came to pass, and do my best to be deserving of what I receive. I celebrate the fact that I am not haunted by regret and that I can walk away with a handful of wisdom – but I find the path before me to be more daunting than I’d ever imagined. My fortune feels very far removed from my control, and waiting to see what these next months will hold for me is not an exciting prospect. I’m in a lonely place, with little to do but work and study, and not enough money to pursue the many hobbies I once had.

God continues to shower me in silence despite my simultaneous fury and terror, but as hard as I try, I cannot evict my pondering over his intentions and desires. Though I no longer believe Yahweh is this same as this silent God that seems to taunt me, my desire to do his will truly has not lessened, and I’m curious to see what opportunities he presents to me in the dull days ahead.


I have, of late, felt driven to make some sort of decision about Christianity. I dislike standing on middle ground when people try to place where I am. When someone pegs me as a Christian, I feel cornered by stereotypes and misunderstandings, trapped with a group that I find less and less in common with. When another pegs me as an unbeliever, I feel undefined and vague, lacking in virtue and values, like a philosophizing windbag that thinks about deep things without coming to conclusions that positively change his life.

I know that whatever my choice is, I’ll never be rid of it all (and not just because I have a phoenix plastered to my chest). My parents, and my parents’ parents have forever been steeped in very core of America’s Christian culture. My whole way of thinking, my worldview, and my language have risen straight from that – a fact which I do not resent or regret, but that I cannot avoid due to its prominence, even if it sits only in the background of my life. I don’t mind this, because I can see that it gives me a set of experiences and a perspective that if I did not have, I would not understand a thing about, an ability which few looking from the outside in are very good at. It’s given me a drive to ask hard questions and seek hard answers – but it’s precisely there that I think the faith of my fathers does not satisfy.

I’m tired of trying to fit Christianity’s answers to the problems that the world presents. While an impressive many of those answers work and are fruitful, too many, for my tastes, do not. If I am to be expected to disbelieve my senses and to trust in an ancient dogma, I would demand answers that do not falter in the face of scrutiny. Primarily, the problem of God’s character is what troubles me.

I have rather high expectations of God – and while God is in no way bound by those expectations, if he expects me to recognize him for who he is and to honor him for that, then his character should be far more evident than I have yet found it to be, as the Bible presents it.

I see little consistency between the Old Testament and the New. I have heard dozens of scholars attempt to explain how the God of Abraham saw fit to enact genocide plural times or of his complete lack of forgiveness for deviance within his people, when the God of Paul claims to be so overwhelmingly full of love for his creations. I simply cannot reconcile the two: one is entirely similar to the gods of ancient Greece, or China, or Arabia: wholly vain, perhaps even whimsical and capricious in his judgment upon the world, while the other is suddenly willing to engage in a living relationship with people beyond an arbitrarily selected group of nomads. Yet, even this God is not willing to forget Hell, a place of judgment for those not lucky enough to be born of God-fearing parents, or (and this doctrine truly riles me) those pre-destined to know their Creator.

There is no justice or mercy in either God of the Bible. I am willing to admit that humanity is plagued by sin, and that we are in need of salvation from that sin – no one need look far to confirm that. Yet the fact remains that God is responsible, yes, responsible for his creation. I do not deny responsibility for my own actions, yet I cannot, in good conscience, worship a God that claims to be just and merciful, yet would knowingly craft billions (billions!) of people only to condemn them to Hell. It is folly to say that every person has had their chance at redemption – ill cultures raise ill families, and ill families raise ill children; sociology has taught us that much, at least, and it would be ignorant to claim that every person has had proper exposure. One lecturer at L’Abri put it roughly like this:

The Bible is not in every language. Even for those, not every person can read. Even for those, not all of them have access. Even for those, not all of them have a church to go to. Even for those, not all of them have a good church to go to. The simple reality is that most people will never hear the message of salvation.

For the longest time, I have refused to separate the many great Christians I’ve met from Christianity. Yet perhaps, like others that I have met, they were simply great people, that just so happened to be Christians. They would most certainly deny this notion, but I have yet to see anything truly miraculous in another person’s life, or my own. The change (so often attributed to God) I see looks quite human. Perhaps faith was the key to unlocking that change, but to claim that true change can only come through Jesus is to ignore the many examples that speak to the contrary throughout the world.

Even still, however, I recognize many of the truths that Christianity speaks towards. The men that wrote the Bible were geniuses – the wisdom therein is timeless and wonderful, but this does not mean it is ultimate truth, the final truth, the only truth. The Bible carries a powerful story, and is itself an astounding piece of literature – but for now, I do not believe it is more than that.

If God wishes me to be a Christian, then he’d best speak up. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong: to have some form of definite answer about the nature of the world around me would be a wonderful gift. To have a Creator I could recognize and share with and to love, would be even greater. Yet God has made no such attempt. If my experience is all I have to go on, I could conclude just as easily that he hates me rather than loves me, but of course this conclusion would merely change based on how well my day was going.

Until then, I’ve stopped wearing that good old coconut bead necklace. I’m not sure what to replace it with, though.


In an attempt to teach myself how to immerse myself in a book again, I’ve been re-reading Lord of the Rings, and as I’ve progressed through it, I’ve had a growing desire to make my speech and writing more beautiful. The first aspect of my words that comes to mind is my cursing.

Thus far I’ve felt that cursing is merely a fashion of words that polite society drowns upon. Not being much a fan of catering to the easily offended, I’ve taken pride in my choice to utilize the entire English language as I see fit. That logic continues to appeal to me quite a lot, but when I consider it in the context of beauty, it’s immediately apparent how harsh cursing is in comparison to the rest of our language. Even the most jaded ears can spot the difference it makes upon one’s message.

I don’t buy the argument that swearing is uncreative or lazy. The strength of a word such as fuck doesn’t come from its power to offend or its ability to displace other, more proper words. Its strength, as I see it, lies solely in the fact that it’s unbeautiful in its motive and in its result. The unbeauty of its sound and structure seems totally contextual, in regards to the surrounding culture or situation, and is irrelevant in a discussion that seeks timeless, absolute answers.

Considering it in this manner seems more in sync with our speech as a whole. To curse another’s name, is (in this age, anyways), to speak unbeautiful words about another. To be cursed, is to be unbeautiful, and whether that unbeauty is seen or unseen, is irrelevant. The relationship between polite society and cursing, then, becomes more logical; polite society has long thrived on its desire for beauty, to surround itself with beautiful people, beautiful things, beautiful words. Yet, the wise will see the skin-deep nature of this beauty, and thus the absence of something like cursing doesn’t make their illusion of beauty any more real.

Simply, I don’t know what to do with my favorite four-letter words. In many cases, my speech feels wholly neutered or too aloof when I abstain from it, but I often myself being too cavalier about its use. Indeed, I make a point about cursing on this blog so as to set myself apart from my past associations, and I do the same in conversation. Among Christians, I tend to enjoy being seen as a non-Christian: not in an uncouth manner, but I enjoy playing devil’s advocate, and I especially delight in challenging the common assumption in Christian groups that everyone here is of like mind and heart. In non-Christian settings, I prefer to make my mark elsewhere, as I find no moral high ground in declining to swear.

I suppose it might seem obvious that if I wish to make my speech more beautiful, and cursing is by nature unbeautiful, that I would abandon it; but a large portion of me regrets the though of parting from it, and I don’t really know why.


I’ve decided not to rebuild my computer for the time being.

My relationship with computers has always been a problematic one. The phrase computer addiction has been tossed around by a handful of people in my life, and while I am loathe to concede to such a suggestion, I am beginning to wonder if my existence is really any better off with the presence of a computer in my bedroom. While the internet’s most zealous proponents insist that the internet is totally different from TV because of its user-oriented, participatory nature, I am starting to think that perhaps, perhaps, the end results are ultimately the same for much of the internet’s usage. Particularly, when Wired starts claiming that the scientific method has been debunked in the face of the plethora of data provided by Google, I wonder if the internet has ultimately enabled nothing but glorified, slack-jawed navel-gazing, much the same as what happens when one watches television for a lengthy period of time.

Admittedly, this is also sparked by having seen Wall-E, a rather glorious film that unabashedly criticizes the focus of American culture. The human characters in the film live on a ship devoted to endless entertainment and ultimate convenience, and as a result, they’re all completely obese and self-absorbed. While this isn’t directly stated, they’re also immortal – they’ve survived for over seven-hundred years, but they haven’t done anything in that time except bitch at each other over matters of spilled milk.

This brought me back to one of the lectures I listened to at L’Abri, which had a rather unique analysis of different systems of culture. I can’t remember all of them, but here’s a few.

Communism: man’s greatest end is to produce.
Capitalism: man’s greatest end is to consume.
Materialism: man’s greatest end is to be entertained.

The more I think about it in these terms, the more convinced I become that Jesus was right in stating that man’s greatest end is to serve. I recently watched 12 Angry Men, and just tonight, Forrest Gump. While Henry Ford’s character and Tom Hanks’ character are quite different, their commonality is in their service. The remarkable thing about service is that it does not require one to be a genius, to be rich, or to have anything at all. We can serve at every moment and every point in our lives, and it seems to me that we are creatures made for serving.

Which brings me back to the start. Where does service enter in to the internet? How can a one serve anything but pwnage inside of WoW? How can one serve on facebook, youtube, or myspace? These are entities devoted to self-service. It would be like attempting to serve by watching Comedy Central.

My point is this: entertainment has its place, and I enjoy much of what popular media has to offer. But these cannot be the center of my life, if I’m to be a fulfilled human being.

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.