Thursday, August 31, 2017

Here is why it is important to pay for certain types of personal interactions. Sex*, psychic readings, counseling, and other non-material exchanges.

We never do these things for free, really. When we do these things with friends, it is part of our ongoing exchanges of friendship. It's not tit-for-tat like a commercial exchange, but the recognition of value given and received is there.

When we do these things with strangers, the recognition of value given and received is represented by an exchange of money or other material goods. This closes the interaction, so that nothing else is owed. The provider and the client can go on their separate ways. They may never meet again, and that's okay.

You can probably guess what brings this up for me today. Someone tried to get a free reading, using the argument that, "It's a gift you should share with the world."


If I was a magical healer, then, yes, I would go around doing it "for free", because it would be making the world around me a better place to be in. But, giving that individual a free reading is not going to improve the world around me. Especially since they don't seem to appreciate the value of it, so will probably not heed the advice given anyway. It would be like healing someone's cirrhotic liver so they could keep drinking.

On top of that, I was not at all interested in being their friend.

*meaning one person doing sex for another person. Not a "one night stand" situation where someone does sex in exchange for sex.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Geez... I keep thinking about this.  I don't know if the original post is real or a hoax, but I have heard similar arguments in other places.  The line that keeps getting me is "God doesn't need a reason to punish you."  That's not a new idea, and goes back at least to the Puritans, and probably farther.
It's another case of not thinking the idea through.  If a parent punishes a child without reason, we call it abuse.  My father did that do my brother and to me.  We left.  He died without seeing either of us again. 

But, beyond that, is the idea that "You're bad, so you must be punished."  This rationale, carried to its logical extreme, led to the Holocaust.  The combined idea that people can be instrinsically evil, and that evil must be punished leads inevitably this way.

I'll address punishment first.  What is punishment about?  What's it for?  It is meant to modify behavior.  A parent punishes a child for doing something dangerous, because they really don't want the child to do that thing again.  A city punishes you with a fine for parking in a no parking zone, because they really don't want you to park there.  It's about changing what the person being punished does.  Therefore, punishment has a reason, a purpose for the target of the punishment.

Now, intrinsic Evil.  "Badness" as a physical trait.  I have trouble even picturing it.  I can understand bad behavior, maybe even a habit of bad behavior, but "badness" as something inbred?  How would someone observe this, how to you measure it?  Surely such a creature would never be able to do anything good, even by accident.  Would undesirable behavior count as Evil, or just destructive acts? Is playing loud music at 2AM evil, or just rude?  Is rudeness "bad", or just annoying?   It's a nonsensical concept.  And, it is not the basis of the concept of Original Sin.  That concept is not that "Man is naturally evil", it is the concept that "Man is flawed, and therefore bound to screw up.".  Original Sin is the idea that, no matter how good we are, we will sin from time to time, because we're not perfect. person is just naturally "bad".

But, for the sake of the original problem, let's suppose that it's possible.  Here is someone who is just naturally, by the fact of their existence, Evil.  Will punishing them change that?  If they are innately "bad", can they change their behavior?  NO.  Punishing a lion for eating meat will not make it a vegetarian, it will just make it a neurotic lion.  So, is there any point to punishing someone for their innate sinfulness?  No. There would be no reason to think that punishment would change their behavior.

The only reason to do something like that would be an evil reason... creating suffering for selfish personal gratification.*    I think we can all agree that doing that is BAD.

*BDSM is a different dynamic, it isn't selfish, for one thing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Someone recently asked me, "Why is it so IMPORTANT to you that people believe in evolution?"

I had to think about it a bit, because it's not really a matter of belief. But, I do have an answer for him.

There's a difference between believing something that there is no evidence for, and refusing to accept facts there are plenty of evidence for.

Faith is not the same as deliberate ignorance. The fact of evolution does not preclude a belief in God.

As an example, suppose you believe that the arrangement of the metal rails of a train track are just right to provide positive chi vibrations. So, you might believe that standing between the rails will fill you with these vibrations.

Ok, there's no evidence of that, but there's nothing to contradict it, so I won't argue with you. I will, however caution you to watch for trains while you get your vibes.

If you then respond that you "don't believe in trains" because you believe the rails were placed there by Aliens, I'll have to argue with you.

I will point out that there is plenty of evidence that the rails were laid by Humans. I will tell you about trains that carry freight across the country. I will warn you that there is a train that runs every Tuesday at 10 am. You might come up with complicated arguments about cover ups or conspiracies, but the rather solid evidence of a train will come and smash you flat on Tuesday morning, no matter how much you "don't believe" in it.

This is how you look to me when you tell me you "don't believe" in evolution.

In order to not accept the fact of evolution, you have to ignore biology, physics, chemistry, and many other sciences. It's not just fossils. All the complicated arguments you tell me confirm your disbelief are not only unsupported by evidence, they are contradicted by it.

The complex set of deductions and observations that are known collectively as "evolution" are facts. Not because some authority or ancient text said so, but because they pass the tests Science demands. They are reproducible, predictable and testable.

Maybe you won't get hit by a train for rejecting all this data. But, the habit of not accepting reality can only lead to eventual disaster.


To a Creationist, or Bible Literalist

I am not an Atheist.  I just think God is a helluva lot bigger than you do.

I believe that something that might be called "God" is the author of a universe potentially infinite, and billions of years old.

A universe so amazingly beyond our ability to completely understand that we are still learning new things about our little corner of it.

You think one Book describes Everything?  I think that thousands of books just barely start to describe Everything.

I also believe this Godness doesn't care one way or another about Faith or the lack thereof. We are not in a position to harm it in any way.

All that can happen if we retreat into your cramped cave of small faith is that we will make ourselves miserable, and miss out on being part of the grandeur.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

People get weird about things when genitals get involved.  So, here's a scenario with the same emotional factors as rape, but without the sexual content.

Suppose you really like quiche.  (you can picture something else if you hate quiche, something you really like)

You eat quiche a lot, and when people offer it to you, you usually take it.  You hang out on quiche forums, and have a t-shirt with something about quiche on it.

One day, someone you know offers you quiche.  You don't like this person, and don't want to accept a gift from them, even if it is quiche.  So, you politely turn them down.

That's when they get scary.  They insist, "I want you to eat my quiche."

Maybe your memory isn't too clear on exactly what happens next.  You do remember saying again, quite firmly, that you do not want the quiche.  Maybe you try to be nice and calm them down, and persuade them to go away.  Maybe you fight and are outmatched.  Maybe they have a gun, and, as humiliating as it is, you give in rather than get shot.

However it goes, they are able to physically overpower you, overcome your resistance, and make you eat the quiche.

Does anyone here think this was anything other than a frightening act of violence?

If this happened to you, and you reported this assault, would you expect to have your own quiche habits questioned?

    "How often do you eat quiche?"
    "How many people have you accepted quiche from in the past?"
    "Isn't it true you accepted quiche from this person before?"
    "Did the quiche taste good?"
    "After you swallowed the quiche, did you digest it?"
    "Why didn't you fight harder?"
    "What did you do to make them think you wanted to eat their quiche?"

Would you expect people, including your friends and family, to make comments such as these?

    "But, you like quiche, so it couldn't have been that bad an experience."
    "Why are you giving this person such a hard time about it?  You could ruin their career!"
    "You were wearing that quiche t-shirt, what did you expect?"
    "If it tasted good, you must have actually wanted it."
    "If you hadn't been hanging out at the quiche parlor, this wouldn't have happened."
    "It was only quiche."
    "God sent this experience to teach you to eat real American food, instead of that French stuff."

The questions and comments are just as nonsensical in a case of rape.  Just because the assault, rather than being forced acceptance of food, is forced sexual contact, does not change the dynamic.  Rape is no more about sex than the assault I just described is about food.

Exercize #1:  Most of you probably read this picturing a male assailant, and female victim.  Try the story again, picturing a female assailant, and male victim.  Try it with both women, and with both men.  How do your opinions and expectations of the two characters change with gender?  Do your feelings about the questions and comments change with gender?

Exercize #2:  How would your reactions change if the victim had never had quiche before, and only had a vague idea that it was some sort of food? 

Exercize #3:  In the story, I specified that the reason you don't want the quiche is because you don't like the person offering it.  How would things change if the quiche was being offered by someone you DID like, and you turned it down because you really just didn't want quiche at the moment?

Thursday, December 20, 2012


No matter what your stand on guns, you  have to admit, the gun did not make him want to hurt people.

This is the issue.  Why would someone want to do such a horrific thing?

I see the problem as rooted in our culture.  We are paranoid.  Our attitude toward people we see as wrongdoers is to punish, rather than help.  Our heroes are men of action, not of deep thought or empathy.  We're not happy with a crime show unless there's murder in it. 

We look askance at strangers, as though anyone might be a terrorist or pedophile.  We even hesitate to hold a friend's hand, lest it be mistaken for sexual deviation. 

What chance does someone who is emotionally fragile have in such a culture?  Maybe all they need is a good friend to keep them stable, but they can't get one, because they're "creepy".

We have plenty of solid evidence that human contact is something we NEED.  Without touch, and talk, and interaction with others, we get ill, both physically and mentally.

You want to do something about Sandy Hook?  You want to help?  Then go out every day and be friendly.  Talk to the creepy people.   99% of them are NOT terrorists, or pedophiles, or psychopaths, they are just pathetic people who need some help. 

Volunteer for some social service.  Be a Big Brother, work at a youth outreach.  Study counseling, and become an arbitrator.  Do something nice.

Stop watching reality shows where conflict is created rather than resolved.  Stop watching news about how awful the world is.  Talk to people. 

Change our culture.  I know this sounds naive, but I really believe that simply being nicer to everyone (not just people we approve of!) can change the direction our world is going.  Not through some mystical vibes, but through simple, practical, engagement.  It's going to take work.  We must be dedicated to remembering to think twice before dismissing someone as "a jerk" or "a weirdo" and think of them as fellow human beings with problems like ours.  We can't afford to continue to think of other people as "someone else's problem" or as "not worth the trouble".

If we can do this, we can help people before they do something heinous.   We've tried being harder and it's not working.  Let's be nicer.


Friday, May 25, 2012

I refuse the obligation to be "sexy".

There's a pervasive sense in our culture that everyone (but especially women) are obliged to not only be physically attractive, but to be sexy.  There are rules about what counts as attractive and sexy, that do not take into account that both of these things are in the eye of the beholder, not in the person being seen.

What I'm observing is a conflation of what used to be called sacred beauty and profane beauty.  Sacred beauty is beauty of the spirit, profane beauty is sexual attractiveness.

In old stories, and silent movies, you can see this represented. Our Hero is attracted by the sexy beauty, but eventually sees the light and settles down with the girl who is kind and practical, and spiritually beautiful.

And, no she does not have big boobs.

In modern stories and movies, both women are sexy, and the hero winds up with the one who "truly loves him", that is, obsesses about him more.

(Or, if the main character is female, she frequently marries her stalker, because he must "really care".)

Our society has lost track of what's important in relationships.  The deep attraction of spirit for spirit has been replaced by sexual obsession and a shallow desire for appearances.

Even without the arbitrary standards of what counts as "sexy", this would cause an epidemic of neurosis, but add the impossible physical requirements and you've got a whole society of very sick people.

The result is booming business in nose jobs, face lifts, breast implants, liposuction and diet programs. 

Also booming business in anti-depressants, as people who really do have better things to do with their lives become convinced that they must be "beautiful" if they are going to have a good life.

Well, I don't buy into that any more.  I enjoy getting all sexied up sometimes, but I no longer feel obliged.  I am quite happy to wear comfortable clothes and have saggy boobs.  I don't "owe it" to society to remake my body in a particular image.

I also know that I am beautiful, in my own way.