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.


One of my ponderances of late has been how our exposure to the news shapes our perception of the world.

I read at least 100 headlines a day, knowingly or otherwise. I scroll through facebook, reddit, twitter, and my RSS feeds a few times a day. It’s all filtered through the people and organizations I like or trust, building into some vague sense of what the state of the world is, what the nearest possible futures look like. But that whole sensation of knowing what really goes on in the world is just a complicated lie, a house of cards built from countless availability heuristics.

I try to counter that by searching for data and statistics, but this is just a fart in the hurricane. For instance, there’s no way to test the idea that global xenophobia is actually getting worse; I can only make a guess based on the number of bigoted statements that make it into the headlines over the last month. And the certainty of that guess is always haunted by the very plausible notion that the world is the same as it has always been, and I just happen to hear about more of the awful things that occur.

What is the true value in this increased awareness? There’s so much anxiety to be found in keeping up with the goings-on of humanity, but I feel a responsibility to keep trying, lest I unknowingly perpetuate the sins of my ancestors or participate in the errors of my own generation through my ignorance.

Some of these matters, I tacitly know that I lack the discipline to contribute to the solution. Knowing full well the horrors of industrial farming, I really do just love beef, even the stuff they dole out at Taco Bell. Meanwhile, my outrage over racial injustice seems to be limitless. My heart ached in very literal pain and anger as I read of the latest shootings last week, even though these incidents are total deja vu.

There is a temptation towards nihilism as I add all of the latest crises together. There are so many, and none of them can be considered unimportant or irrelevant. Is it possible to care about everything that much? Can our hearts stretch infinitely so that we become capable of empathizing with all the important goings-on of the world? Or are we forced to pick our battles and hope that, between the lot of us, someone else cares enough about the other problems – climate change, education, sexism, poverty, health care – to take care of them? Don’t most of these problems require effort and attention from everyone to truly solve? Is humanity really capable of solving its own problems, or have we built a society more complicated than our meager brains can manage?

Happy Monday, friends.


I generally try to avoid jumping on media bandwagons when picking topics to explore, here, but I’ve seen one too many glib quotes from people who want to explain the world as having one big problem that just so happens to coincide with their worldview. I get as choked up as anyone else reading about the Sandy Hook shooting, but there’s some hard facts that demand recognition.

This is going to happen again. And again. And again. No matter what.

The only factors we can control are the frequency and the severity.  I’m entirely on board with much stronger gun control – but we’re kidding ourselves if we think it was a lack of legislation that allowed this event to happen. Broad legislation is not effective in dealing with lone individuals that aren’t a part of any organization or group. It’s the same with drugs; prosecuting users is a waste of time, and that’s why the focus of law enforcement agencies is on producers and distributors. The goal is to reduce availability and increase the cost of acquisition to the point that it’s no longer desirable or feasible, particularly at larger scales.

Continue reading massecrate


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


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

Dominate, pt. 2: Defiance

It’s overwhelming to live in a society which is besieged by such a wide variety of destructive forces. There is no unity against a great enemy, nor agreement about what the highest priorities are. Causes become like clothes, seasonally fading in and out. Devotion to an ideal becomes inefficient and impossible in the face of a populace with a memory that seems only to stretch back for a handful of years.

In an age of such relativity, where just causes must find their source and justification within the self, and not by any objective rule, we have not yet seemed to abandoned our desire for moral unity. The appeal of a story so wicked as a father raping his daughter in a basement cellar for twenty-four years is the complete lack of a grey area. It is as black as black comes, the depth of a depravity we like to think was extinguished with the end of the Nazi regime.

Yet, what I find most unsurprising, is the complete normalcy of the surroundings of this event. Mr. Fritzl was (at least, from all reports) not insane, nor dysfunctional, nor was he otherwise visibly different from you and I. He chose to do what he did, with full knowledge and complete mental capacity. Many people comfort themselves with notions that they are fargone from such a beast as Mr. Fritzl, yet it is just one choice that can send us into the blackness of that moral oblivion. Humans bear incredible responsibility; our choices have such infinite consequences that we will never know.

The more rapidly we embrace the ideology that nothing – no choice, no consequence, no means, and no ends really matter, the faster we will truly find ourselves there.

We must defy our instincts.

Dominate, pt. 1

A few years prior to the release of Half-Life 2, there was an infamous source leak that lead to a long series of delays for the final release. Shortly after the leak, however, one physics professor, while looking through the code, remarked that the programmers had stumbled upon another approach to the Grand Unification Theory. The basic idea behind the GUT is that all of the forces of physics can actually be merged into one force – that ultimately every physical interaction in the world can be defined by one formula. A theory of everything. There is currently no evidence that this formula actually exists, but that’s irrelevant for the topic at hand!

I am a universalist. I believe that humans are a part of a whole. I believe we’ve all got a lot in common, the foremost of which is that we’re all human beings. I believe that as such, there are universal facts and laws that are true for every last one of us, that cannot be escaped. I believe a single model can fit every human being. A theory of everything.

“Nobody knows the age of the human race, but it is certainly old enough to know better.”

#1: Humanity’s flaws are timeless. The Western world may taut stories of a society with less racism, less sexism, and greater equality, but the reality is that half the world lives in utter poverty, that the wealthiest 1% own more than the poorest 50%, and that this situation is not changing for the better any time soon. We are as hurtful and hateful and selfish as we have always been – just perhaps more ignorant to reality than before.

#2: Humanity has never been happier, nor more depressed. While the Industrial Age is hailed as the saviour for much of the (Western) world’s working class, I see no evidence that the Western world is, as a whole, any happier than before the divide was simply between rich and poor. The trick here is that it is impossible to gauge how happy any person is at any time. Yet, what did the poets and playwrights focus on in the Middle Ages? Love and war, politics and religion, friendship and hatred. What do our musicians sing about now? What kind of movies do we watch? Nothing has changed – we are much the same humans that we were back then. Our form of expression has changed, but that which we wish to express is in every way the same as it has always been.

#3: Humanity is in the constant pursuit of happiness, but most people will never find what they seek. I believe every person is ultimately looking for happiness, whether by money, power, love, family, enlightenment, or any combination thereof. If we could be happy shoveling sand all day and stopping occasionally to eat and reproduce, that’s what we’d do. But for some reason, we can’t. We always want more, no matter how unnecessary the extraneous portions are. I believe the process of seeking more simply makes us want more.

#4: No race, nation, culture, gender, or age is exempt from any of this. I believe every person is equally unhappy, and equally unsuccessful at making themselves permanently happier. This is especially important when examining culture. Many people praise other cultures for their difference in values. Consider the classic battle between independence/self-actualization versus selflessness/being part of a whole. The former is a highly Western concept, stating that you are responsible for your own happiness, that you are what you make of yourself and you are no one’s bitch. If you’re unhappy, it’s your fault and you’re simply not skilled enough to satisfy your own demands. The latter, a highly Eastern school of thought, states that fulfillment comes from serving the greater whole, that there is no greater honor than being a cog in the wheel, and that propelling others to greatness is what is truly worthwhile. I believe both result in equally unhappy populaces.

Once upon a time, a strong battle of cultures existed. Eastern cultures, especially, were highly ethnocentric, believing most (if not all) other races and cultures to be inferior, and therefore mandating domination and elimination. Globalization has toned down some of these conflicts (if only for the sake of doing good business), and in its place is the school of Relativism, that states it is not worthwhile to compare and contrast; every man knows what he needs, and if he is pursuing it, obviously that is what he needs. It states that we cannot know who is happy or unhappy, and as such, we can’t say who is happier. Under Relativism, we must assume every person is perfectly happy. That is not what I am suggesting.

In my mind, nothing productive comes of the observations of Relativism, and it forgets the nature of what it is to know. Most of what we “know”, we do not actually “know” – we heard it on the radio, we read it on Wikipedia, we saw it on TV. That is not knowledge, but a collection of factoids that, in the end, hold no relevance to what it means to be a human being. True knowledge comes from connecting the dots, putting the pieces together, seeing the whole picture. That is not anything that can be observed or proven. If I’m going to limit my powers of observation to everything that I can directly prove, then I may as well sit down, shut up, and accept that this world has nothing for me. No – we make thousands of choices, think thousands of thoughts every day based on what it is that we truly know, everything that we truly believe. I believe true knowledge is a matter of belief, and beliefs cannot be proven, nor disproven. What we truly know is going to trump what the reality is – if you truly believe it, it becomes a fact to us, a fact that can only be changed by altering our perception of reality.

Unfortunately, a handful of words and numbers are not what it takes to alter someone else’s reality. That’s why listing off a statistic like “half of the world lives on three dollars a day” does not evoke an emotional response. To allow our reality to be altered, we have to be presented with a compelling reason to change our perspective, and a viable means to change our reality accordingly. Relativism, I believe, can offer neither of those. It’s a belief designed to conform. It rests on the hope that everything might be okay, but it’s not willing to say one way or the other. When faced with conflict, it cannot offer a solution, because it is designed to work for anything and everything. It’s like a blanket. It’s comforting in times of peace and quiet, but is wholly useless when real conflict arises.

Hopefully to be continued.

Hot Coffee v2.0

As many of you should know, yet another video game scandal has boiled over, before even the mighty Jack Thompson trounced upon it (although we’ve only got, at best, a week or so before someone puts him on TV again). Oblivion has been modded to include teh nudities and was subsequently rerated to mature, at the protest of Bethesda.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. The last scandal was pretty ridiculous – there’s no reason a game should be re-rated based on material not intended for inclusion within the game, but really, San Andreas should have been rated AO off the bat, with or without the Hot Coffee mod. In the end, though, it wasn’t Rockstar’s or Take Two’s fault that someone uncommented some code. They shouldn’t be blamed for that.

I don’t feel so generous with Bethesda. Maybe their whole “pay us two bucks for a model of a horse with armor” deal put me off but, it seems that this is entirely preventable. Oblivion is an extremely well made game (and yes, I will eventually do that review thing I was talking about ages ago), and it also happens to have an engine comparable to that of the Source engine in terms of flexibility. They made it to be modded, and because their game contains female characters with an obvious need for breasts in order to maintain realism, they should expect someone to go out and do this. No, it’s not their fault if someone does, but, whose fault is it if someone steals your car because you forgot to lock the door? Not yours, but you certainly aren’t getting much pity from me.

What I mean to say is, why didn’t Bethesda take some preventative measures? I see two options here. One involves making it harder to toy with the skins on the models – this would be the lesser solution, as it would be punishing all modders for the possible actions of one modder. The other would just be to ask any and all Oblivion mod databases to not host any nudity mods. Honestly, I’m positive every one of them would comply. It’s totally reasonable. But, Oblivion didn’t do that, and now Jack Thompson’s got fresh meat.

A minor point of speculation on my part begins here. The degree of complexity to the nudity mod seems to be disputed – many people are under the impression that it requires some complex retexturing of the basic models, but that does not seem to be the case. Equally many people have described a much simpler process, one possible within the Construction Set (the editing program for Oblivion). I should stress the fact that when I was cruising through the thousands of available mods, I saw at least five mods claiming to add nudity (ironic wording there – “add” nudity). It’s one thing if the mod is mildly complex, but I don’t think this is the case.

As for the rerating of the game to Mature, I think it’s stupid that it was rerated over a mod. It’s kind of like (using the car analogy again) blaming the car manufacturer for car theft (there are obvious cases in which this is reasonable, but, stick with me here). Oblivion probably should have been rated M anyways, though. As many have pointed out, you’re gonna find rotting corpses, on fire, hanging from the ceiling, with knocked over chairs below them. And once you get close enough, you can take the gold and meat out, complete with a squishing noise as you open and close the inventory! I’m no proponent of the idea that we should ban anyone below 18 from buying such horrid filth, but really, there’s stuff in the game that makes me cringe occasionally. Are breasts really worse than decapitated corpses and festering zombies?

I think the ESRB generally does an okay job of rating games, but I just hate to see them become pawns of the lesser forces in our country. It is an inevitability, of course, but one that I hate to see nonetheless.