The Lord Thy God I: Jealous and Proud of It

"God Judging Adam" by William Blake

“God being a dick” by William Blake

As previously mentioned in my response to J. Lee Grady’s “7 Things That Prove God Is Real,” if we were to refer only to the Old Testament and not the New, I don’t think many people would think God was very good even if he did exist. The way I see it: The Bible is not very good proof of any god’s existence, much less a very good god. Just read the Old Testament, flip around a bit, and feel free to tell me what you think.

I say that as if reading the Bible isn’t incredibly cumbersome — really, unless you were raised on it or you have a shitty new translation, you’re probably not going to dig it, so, in this series I am going to attempt to highlight at least some of the passages that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. (Full disclosure, I was raised listening to and reading the Bible throughout most of my formative years, so I’m going to jump around a bit rather than going from start to finish so we can keep to a central theme.)

Recently, I was reading the book of Amos and I began to draw parallels between the characteristics of his god and those of an obsessive, possessive, jealous, and, overall, abusive spouse. In the particular passage I was reading, the Lord is reprimanding the Israelites for the callous and uncharitable way they treat the poor, for their idleness, and for their arrogance — for such unseemly actions by the chosen people I could agree that they were in need of a stern talking to.

But this stern talking to revealed a few actions that the Lord was guilty of Himself — though I’m sure He wouldn’t see it as guilt on His part. But I’ll let Him speak for Himself:

I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me. I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me. Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me. I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me. I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire yet you have not returned to me. Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel prepare to meet your God. (Amos 4:6-12, NIVThe New International Version, or NIV, is one of the shitty new translations I was talking about earlier, but for our purposes, it’s good enough)

tl;dr? This can be summed up by saying, “I have hurt you in the past when you didn’t return to me and if you continue to turn from me, I’ll hurt you again.”

Remember this is God speaking; the same God whose mercy endures forever. In case you’re confused, I should point out that this isn’t merely the god of the Jews, this is the god of the Christians (of all flavors; Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Orthodox, etc.) and the Muslims (though they’re working from different source material that I would argue isn’t much better).

Imagine for a moment the contemptible position taken up by apologists who argue that man’s free will comes into play here. They might argue that it was the Israelites’ choice and they were being punished for this choice. Any debate on free will aside, this seems to be the same logic held by that of a foreman towards his slave on a plantation in the old south of the United States; “Sure, you’re free to run, but when I catch you I’m going to break your legs if I don’t kill you first.” You’re free to do as you wish, as long as it’s what the Lord wishes, because if it’s not then you’d better “prepare to meet your God.” Is the will free when being prompted by the threat of a lash, wrath, or hellfire?

The evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, commented in his book, “The God Delusion,” that,

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

This shotgun blast of criticism requires some unpacking. Many people I know simply do not understand how accurate this description is. It’s not merely a criticism, it’s a description that only someone incredibly ignorant of the scripture (or very foolish) would deny. In this series, The Lord Thy God, I will attempt to back up similar criticisms and descriptions of the god of the Bible and in this article I’ll be focusing on how God is jealous and proud of it.

Provided below are examples that I feel fit the description by professor Dawkins on the matter — I’ve provided the citation of the passages so you can read them in context. If you reach the conclusion that the Lord was justified in these actions I suggest you check out this website.

The Ten Commandments

Do you know the ten commandments? Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal… those seem to be the important ones, but do you remember the rest? How about the first few? (Spoiler: Those aforementioned are not the first few)

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
(Exodus 20: 2-7, KJV)

That’s 3 out of 10 commandments that regular jack-offs site as being the foundation of morality and law and they have nothing to do with morality. They’re entirely all about God flexing His muscles and reminding us that He’s the boss. (At least he gives us a day-off on the weekends as his 4th commandment – even if it’s primarily, again, a bit theocentric.)

Because having a set of mostly arbitrary rules in front of a courthouse is totally constitutional.

Because having a set of arbitrary religious injunctions in front of a secular courthouse is totally constitutional.

The rest of the commandments aren’t so bad, honoring mommy and daddy, not envying your neighbor’s ass (or his wife’s ass); but what about the kids? There’s no commandment not to rape, molest, or abuse children, no commandment to help the sick, poor, or hungry, nothing telling us not to enslave others, etc.

Anton LeVay, founder of the Church of Satan, saw a problem with the 10 Commandments and issued the 11 Satanic Rules of the Earth and included, “9. Do not harm little children.” Sure, the book was written in the 1960’s and it had the original 10 to respond to, but these give us a bit more to work off of than YHWH’s did (who is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, etc.).

I’m convinced that God is less concerned with the well-being of his people and more concerned with his reputation — even when he’s giving his followers a code to live by.

Serious Jealousy Issues

I’m not just inserting my, or Dawkins’ view, into the text here. The Bible says ad nauseam how jealous God is. Read it for yourself!

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV)

In Deuteronomy it’s repeated again and again (e.g. 5:9, 6:15, 32:16, 32:21). And in the book of Joshua, the main protagonist goes so far as to say “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.”  (Joshua 24:19, NIV)

At one point in Exodus the writer even says:

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14, NIV)

Granted, the first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were supposedly written by Moses and Joshua (whose book follows the first 5) was Moses’ successor, perhaps their view of God was slightly skewed.

Or maybe not. We see Judah stir up God’s jealousy in 1 Kings 14:22 and in Chapter 8 of Ezekiel the prophet attempts to give a justification for the wrath that God has allowed to fall upon the Jews. What was it that moved God to his actions? Guess. God’s jealousy is mentioned again and again throughout Ezekiel.

In the book of Psalms, the psalmist speaks about how there were those who had “angered him with their high places” and “aroused his jealousy with their idols” (Psalm 78:58, NIV). The psalmist is moved in his next psalm to ask, “How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?”

Perhaps in answer to that question the minor prophets remind us,

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies… Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. (Nahum 1:2, 6, NIV)

Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth. (Zephaniah 1:18, NIV)

OC because I'm awesome and proud of it.

(Exodus 34:14)

God is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and all sorts of other long o-words — but jealous? That’s not an o-word and it’s an incredibly petty emotion; it’s so human. Maybe, just maybe, we make gods in our image and not the other way around.

If God is so great, I am left wondering: y so jelly tho?

Concerning Fools

In a RelationshipOn April 1st, 2014, I announced my romantic relationship with another male friend of mine, publicly, on Facebook. Immediately the comments and messages started flooding in.

Some messages were simply shocked, not knowing that I “played for that team” or that I “loved man meat” while suspiciously noting that they thought this had to be some sort of a joke. Other friends messaged me, explicitly addressing their feelings of jealousy or envy for my new partner, but for the most part most were incredibly supportive; a very pleasant surprise:

okay, my son is gay. I’m okay with that” “You’re so brave!” “This Oleg character is quite attract. Good for you!” “Congrats buddy” “But but justin-chan how are we to wed now?!” “The rainbow flag has been posted in front of your door.” (I’m sure some of these commentators were well aware of my ruse.)

April Fools’ Day is one of my favorite “holidays” and it’s one of the few I celebrate. However, when pressed on my  foolery I am usually quick to reveal that it was simply a jest. April Fools’ Day is the one day of the year where I can lie without reservation or guilt for the purposes of fun and silliness and I do enjoy a great prank!

Now, before I am criticized for making light of “coming out” or of homosexuality in general, consider this: Would this criticism stand if I had made a joke about being in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender identity? I am convinced that this initial criticism betrays a double standard.

In response to one comment I said, “I don’t discriminate. Love is love.” This is truly my view and I realize it is not the predominate one. That said, just because some other people have different values than my own, doesn’t mean I have to play by their rules or conduct myself according to their [flawed] standards. If you agree with me, that we should be treating homosexual relationships as equal to heterosexual ones and that partners of any gender combination should be afforded the same rights as others, then I hope you wouldn’t have a problem with me joking about the two as though they were equal because this is truly my view.

This digression aside, I’d like to address the point of this article, that is, concerning fools. On this I have one thing to say:

Some people were fooled yesterday, but some people are simply fools.

The FoolI hope the rest of you had a great April Fools’ Day!

A Response to J. Lee Grady’s “7 Things That Prove God Is Real”

I am a skeptic about many things, especially my own beliefs and understandings. My friends tend to get a little annoyed with my seemingly-contrarian or argumentative demeanor, but I don’t argue just to argue (okay, that might not be true). Perhaps I’m merely misguided, but I generally want to believe as few falsities and as little bullshit as possible—and, being the caring person I am, I seek to dispel illusions, undo delusions, criticize unjustified beliefs, and reveal as many falsities as I can (as I hear that consuming bullshit is just as bad for one’s physical health as it is for one’s intellectual growth).

As a general rule, I try to entertain the ideas and opinions expressed by people who assert things I don’t necessarily hold as a way of challenging my own beliefs, disbeliefs, or lack-thereofs — and that’s how I stepped into this steamy pile of 7 Things That Prove God Is Real.

I was genuinely excited when I saw the title because I simply love to hear new arguments for theism; maybe they’ll stump me, or even better, convince me! The first few paragraphs were a litany of ad hominem attacks on some atheist woman who heads an atheist organization followed by a plug for a new movie and, frankly, I was disappointed—but then I got to the meat.. the baby meat:

First Proof that God is Real: Babies

The first proof author J. Lee Grady gives his reader is babies. He asks the zinger question, “How can anyone deny the reality of God when they see a baby?”

Here’s a picture my friend sent me of a baby puking in a woman’s mouth. Clearly engineered by a god. Loki?

A baby is a wonderful little creature (when it isn’t pooping, crying, drooling, vomiting, costing you tons of money, and diminishing your overall happiness) and I can definitely see how one might be in awe of how this tiny, little person just exists and looks so much like his or her parents (even Violent Jay doesn’t get it). Of course, we know the reason for this resemblance. The well-understood mechanisms of heredity are astounding, it’s what lies at the heart of any accurate understanding of biology.

But biology isn’t quite the same as theology, is it? The whole project of science presupposes a naturalistic understanding of the world rather than a whimsical, theistic one. Grady remarks on the amazing fact of how, “The amount of information encrypted in one cell in the human body is equal to that of 1,000 books” and “The total amount of information stored in your DNA is 40 times more than that of the largest set of encyclopedias in the world” (we’ll assume he’s not talking about Wikipedia) but we can understand this in purely naturalistic terms. The author tells us a couple trivial (albeit cool) facts about cells, but they are facts that are well explained by a science devoid of any intelligent designer and understood by anyone who paid attention in their high school biology class.

Second Proof that God is Real: Thunderstorms

Still probably the best city-building game.

Still probably the best city-building game.

“I love to sit on my back porch in Florida and listen to the rumbling of thunder. It reminds me of God’s majesty and power.” You might feel like you’ve caught on here; he must talking about Zeus! Don’t get your hopes up – Grady immediately follows it up with a quote from the Bible that he feels offers the “best evidence of God’s existence” from the delightful book of Romans by the apostle Paul.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen. (Romans 1:20)

If you’re anything like me, you might immediately be perplexed and annoyed by “invisible attributes” being “clearly seen” as some form of evidence, but this is coming from the same guy who says that we need faith to understand the world, faith being defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). I suppose if Paul can believe something merely by hoping it’s true there’s just no reasoning with him, but we’re talking about thunderstorms that, strangely enough, can be seen — sort of. Thunder is the sound lightning makes — so you see the lightning and not the thunder, but you definitely hear the thunder and you can clearly see where it’s coming from. I don’t think we need to take this one on faith.

Badass.

That aside, we TOTALLY understand how they work. There’s no Zeus hurling bolts of lightning or Animikii flapping their mighty wings, thunder has a profoundly simple, very cool, and totally naturalistic explanation:


But wait, suddenly Grady goes off on a complete tangent, “Nature is actually full of quantifiable miracles. Just consider the fact that the earth is the perfect distance from the sun to support life. If we were any farther away from the sun, we would freeze; if we were even slightly closer to it, we would burn up. It’s obvious God created this home for us!” Perhaps I set the bar too high for miracles, but I get the feeling he sets them waaay too low. For Grady, it would seem that “miracles” are simply “improbabilities”—but improbability alone is hardly an indicator of intelligent guidance. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be struck down by a meteorite or bolt of lightning on your way to work tomorrow; if it did happen it’d hardly be a miracle—that’s the sort of superstitious line of reasoning that leads to all sorts of problems. I won’t get into the science of the Goldilocks zone (the area around a star that is capable of supporting life) and why it’s a really poor reason to believe in any supernatural feat, but if you want a good break down just check out NASA’s simple explanation. On this I will just say that the Goldilocks zone is much bigger than creationists like Grady would have you believe.

Third Proof that God is Real: Flowers

“Their job is to simply make the world beautiful.” I almost wanted to give up ripping this article apart when I read that line, but, no, we must press on! So, to clear up this misunderstanding, describing the flower’s job as “to simply make the world beautiful” is sort of like saying “Dicks exist to make the world beautiful.” SPOILER ALERT: They don’t.

Flower penises. (NSFW)

Flowers are the naughty bits of plants and their whole function revolves around reproduction. Whether it’s by attracting insects or other pollen transporting agents to get their inter-special freak on or to launch their pollen (i.e. plant jizz) into the air to hopefully land on another flower, flowers are all about reproduction, not to look pretty for humans.

Suddenly, this picture of a girl blowing a dandelion just got way dirty.

“Did they just haphazardly evolve over time, or did a loving God create each individual shape and color scheme for our enjoyment?”

They did evolve and there’s nothing haphazard about it. It’s 2014, if you don’t understand evolution yet you’re missing out on the most interesting and necessary facts regarding biology that’s ever been discovered. If you don’t know where to begin, I suggest starting here:


Just remember, that when J. Lee Grady tells us, “This is why it’s really important to stop and smell the roses!” he’s telling you to go sniff plant dicks.

Fourth Proof that God is Real: The Bible

There’s something problematic that Grady doesn’t seem to grasp when he says, “Paul wrote that ‘all Scripture is inspired by God’ (2 Tim. 3:16).” The “Scripture” being referred to in Paul’s letter to Timothy isn’t the The Holy Bible, it’s the Old Testament — the latter 27 books and letters comprising the New Testament (which contains the foundation of Christianity) would have been mostly in the works (considering that this letter to Timothy itself would not have been considered “Scripture” at the time of its own writing). If we were to refer only to the Old Testament and not the New, frankly, I don’t think many people would think this God guy was very good even if he did exist. Seriously, just read the Old Testament, flip around a bit, and tell me what you think of God (or just wait for my upcoming series: The Lord Thy God).

“There is nothing like the Bible because it carries the same consistent message throughout all of its 66 different books.”

Consistent messages such as the penalty for adultery? Leviticus 20:10 tells us to stone both of the adulterers, but in John 8:7 Jesus says not to. How about God’s personality? Compare Jeremiah 13:14 to 1 Chronicles 16:34 and let me know if you’re getting mixed messages. Hell, all the verses from Matthew 5:21-42 are Jesus telling us that Moses said one thing but that we should do another — even Jesus doesn’t do what Moses told us to do. I find it very difficult to find a consistent message running throughout the whole of the Bible except for on one topic: Slavery.

When Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, in his speech on the subject of slavery in the territories said, “It is enough for me elsewhere to know, that [slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God, that it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations” he knew what he was talking about. Whether we refer to the Old Testament (Exodus 21:7-11, Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46) or the New Testament (Luke 12:47-48, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2), slavery is condoned or treated as something entirely normal throughout– never once condemned.

Don’t get me wrong, the Holy Bible is an excellent collection of books (my favorites are Ecclesiastes and Job). Many of the books contain very compelling stories, fantastic moral messages, and beautiful poetry – but the idea of taking it wholly, literally, or seriously is kind of a problem if you have a modicum of sense. Grady grants us permission to “laugh at this idea.”

Fifth Proof that God is Real: The Global Spread of Christianity

Grady is quick to point out that, “Over the centuries, the gospel message has been vilified and ridiculed” but what he fails to mention is that it was also institutionalized in many of the areas where Christianity was the predominate belief. In Christian Rome under the rule of Constantine I (reigned 306–337 CE), the emperor first prohibited the construction of new temples and later went on to order the pillaging and tearing down of Roman temples — his persecution of non-Christian mores was so severe he even killed his own wife and son for their violation of them. Christian persecution of pagans in the Roman empire lasted until its fall in 476 CE. The Crusades launched by Pope Urban I in 1095 CE to secure Christianity and influence in the Holy Land started a succession of wars that wouldn’t end until 1291 ensuring that Christianity wouldn’t be wiped from anyone’s memory anytime soon after. The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (aka Spanish Inquisition) was established in 1478 and wasn’t disbanded until 1834—during which time Muslims and Jews were given the option to convert to Christianity or leave.

With the way he's being stretched, you'd think paganism would have spread further.

With the way he’s being stretched, you’d think paganism would have spread further. (Okay, that was bad.)

The Portuguese Inquisition established in 1536 CE wasn’t even formally disbanded until 1821 and the Roman Inquisition lasted from 1588 to 1858. Today, children are often brought up in religious vacuums where the only source of spirituality they are exposed to is Christianity and anything else is literally demonized. With trends like this, it’s no wonder Christianity is still around.

“Our faith is spreading because it is the truth—and history shows that when this truth is mocked and scorned, it actually spreads faster!”

You know what also spreads faster the more people interact with it? Herpes. The spread of an idea, just like a virus, has nothing whatsoever to do with its truth or goodness.

Sixth Proof that God is Real: Jesus

I want to say that I expected better, but that would be lying and apparently hoping for better didn’t make it so. When Grady brings up Jesus as his sixth proof that God is real we’re supposed to take this on faith; presumably, faith in the Biblical account of Jesus Christ—as other accounts of his allegedly remarkable existence are surprising rare or devoid of any mention of his divinity. But this is easily circular:

1. I believe the Bible because it contains the truth of Jesus Christ.
2. I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ because it says so in the Bible.

I don’t believe Jesus didn’t exist, I found Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist? a very compelling and convincing refutation of the mythicists, but saying anything to the effect of, “He was real, ergo God is real” seems like a long shot for me. Many have claimed to be gods and the sons of gods throughout history and in many of these instances, the primary reason their cults didn’t persist was because another took its place—but if the existence of Jesus proves the existence of YHWH, the existence of any historically present figure who made claims just outlandish as those in the Bible seems to be equally permissible proof for any other god. In Christianity alone we’ve seen divergent sects making different claims about Jesus’ divinity, message, and overall nature and, if we refer back to my discussion of reason five, we can see why many of them disappeared within Christianity. Even the allegedly returned-Christ José Luis de Jesús (who died only at the end of last year) has followers who would no doubt attest to claims similar to those made by Grady in his bit on Jesus Christ. Imagine one of José’s disciples saying this

6. José. The most amazing thing about God is not that He exists, but that He loved us so much He was willing to send His Son to earth twice to save us from ourselves. Jesus/José was with the Father from the time of creation, His arrival was predicted numerous times in Old Testament prophecy, and he spoke of his return in the New Testament. He interrupted history and came to live among us, not once, but twice! His crucifixion is historical fact, His resurrection was verified by hundreds of witnesses, and his return to earth once again can be seen by traveling to his church in Miami, Florida. José was not an illusive fairy tale. He was the living, breathing, touchable Son of God.

If what Grady has said is supposed to be proof for God’s existence, I’m just not seeing it. “Jesus is not an illusive fairy tale. He is the living, breathing, touchable Son of God.” Touchable he says? Show him to me and let me stick my fingers in his holes (no homo). Why believe in Jesus and not José? Why not David Koresh, Alan John Miller, or David Icke? Why not Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, or Kanishka? I’ll tell you why—it’s because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What Grady has given us is no evidence whatsoever.

Seventh Proof that God is Real: My personal friendship with God

“Atheists may not be convinced that God exists after listening to a storm, smelling a hibiscus or reading the Bible. When I am asked to defend my faith, I don’t start an intellectual argument.”

Clearly.

Esse

Singer Sargent, John - Atlas and the Hesperides

Singer Sargent, John – Atlas and the Hesperides

I’ve gone through quite the ordeal. It’s affected my academic studies, philosophical writing and thinking, perception of myself, attitudes towards relationships, and overall productivity. The details don’t matter so much as the consequences. This article is a mix of a few journal entries and the resulting philosophy that arose as the results of my actions. September 8th was easily the worst day of my life, the following months of dealing with the fallout have been.. difficult. As Epictetus says, “It is difficulties that show what men are.” As for what I am… I haven’t exactly shined in the last few weeks, but the act of purifying a metal doesn’t happen all at once, it’s a process.

That being said, this article is divided into three parts.

The first part, “Unfinished Thoughts,” is my reflections over the preceding month — still in the midst of the fallout of recent catastrophes. It is where I began to question myself.

The second part, “Psalm 91,” follows a few days after “Unfinished Thoughts.” This entry shows the initial fruits of my reflections and sets the stage for following weeks.

The final part, “Rebuilding,” comes near at the end of a month of living in accordance with the philosophy developing in “Psalm 91.”

Just as a heads up, these are long and rich in adolescent angst as I wasn’t intending to write these for an audience (probably full of typos too). I think it’s important, however, to see how my inner thoughts have progressed in order to get a better understanding of where my expressed thoughts originate. I haven’t written much of my own philosophy on my blog in a long time, but in the light of recent of revelations I feel I will have plenty to write on and the motivation to do so.

Unfinished Thoughts (October 4th, 2013)
I have decided that something needs to change. I’ve been relatively the same person for a while and… it hasn’t gotten me far — at least not as far as I could have gone had I been a slightly different person. I often took pride in saying that I was a very stable, steadfast person — but… something needs to change.

As an atheist, I still cling to vestiges of my Christian morality.
As a materialist, I still hold to some sort of immaterial idealism.
As a skeptic, I still believe that some truths are certain.
As a pessimist, I still remain hopeful; what for?

I maintain rigid standards pertaining to what I expect of people and from myself and, without fail, these standards are never met. I realize now that these “standards” seem to function more as limitations than as guidelines. No longer do they inspire, only impede. Perhaps the direction I seem to be advancing towards is a way of hitting rock bottom, but I see it as finding a new foundation.

I sacrificed definite pleasure for possible fulfillment and it has left me empty. I’ve maintained that love and happiness aren’t feelings, they are states of mind — ways of living, ways of thought… but I believe now that I was just deluding myself, once again, in the pursuit of unrealistic goals. Love is a feeling and the experience of happiness is nothing but another feeling constructed from many other pleasant sensations. Love, like all feelings, is fleeting. The disappointment of this realization will fade as well, either with the passage of time or of myself — but fade nonetheless.

The time has come for fight or flight — to become a different man or retreat into the comfort of past delusions.

Who am I and who am I to be? As a philosopher, I’ve held “Know thyself” as the one immutable and ineffable maxim by which all other insights can be revealed — but this strangely existential axiom is seen very differently through the lenses of different philosophies — materialism, idealism, rationalism, nihilism, etc.

Perhaps there is a sort of irony that the man who is best known for discussing knowledge of one’s self is the same man who claimed to be wise only because he knew nothing. Does anyone truly know themself? Better question: Can anyone?

In an attempt to discover myself, I have forged myself a new name, new friendships, severed old aspects of myself and ties to people in my past — my entire image and personality is a construct, which is to say, it is artificial.

The first question becomes: How does one find who they actually, naturally are? Simply by virtue of being human it would seem that anything we touch becomes invention. There seems to be nothing that is naturally us, except for those feelings which are ever fleeting — coming to us and leaving us just as quickly.

Anything beyond sensation — consideration, reflection, self-control — is artificial. And is that bad?

The second question becomes: Does it matter?

If we are thinking creaures, then it seems only natural that we think. If feelings would conflict with our reason, then it becomes a choice over which side will fold; to give in to desire, cravings, and sensation or to go in the direction of thought and reason — or perhaps it is a balancing act.

This spattering of thoughts, this shotgun blast of ideas, has been ricocheting through my head without letting me fully grasp anything. Every idea feels unfinished. I feel like I’m currently afloat, waiting for the hint of land, with nothing but more ocean in sight. Without a god, it would seem, that there is no hope of a dove returning to me with an olive branch during this deluge. And yet.. I have no faith. How can I believe?

I would give up eternity for just one moment. I would give everything away for just one thing.

One moment of certainty, just one absolute truth, is all I want. When even the most seemingly certain things can be dissolved under sufficient scrutiny — what can keep us grounded?

I have had my problems with trust in the past, especially in relationships, and once again I have learned this hard lesson. If I ever trust someone with all of myself ever again, if I ever let down my walls and defenses to trust anyone with all of my heart and mind (dare I say with all of my soul?), it will only be due to my own fallibility, weakness, and inability to stay true to reason.

Psalm 91 (October 8th, 2013)
I can see the incoming collision.

I have the ability to move out of the way, but I see it coming, and I welcome it. I see the pain it will cause, the people who will morn the loss of the boy they loved, the coming tragedy to those who could honestly say they cared and… I welcome it. I see the regret, the remorse, the mess it will make and, grudgingly, I welcome it.

I never wanted this — but I can’t bear it being any other way.

I can see the incoming collision; the collision of my morality and the rocks.

I was promised angels. He said He would command His angels to guard me that they would lift me up in their hands, so that I would not even dash my foot against a stone.

But.. I don’t see any angels here. In fact, I see nothing but the incoming rocks.

If man is truly the measure of all things, as the sophists said, then I have nothing to fear.
If there is nothing but matter and void, as the materialists said, I have nothing to fear.

I have always been fairly conservative, not in my political values, but in my morality. I’ve never been one for drinking, drugs, promiscuity, partying, self-destruction of any sort…

But, when I hit rock bottom, the parties will rock.

Rebuilding (November 6th, 2013)
O Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be. Anytus and Melitus may kill me indeed, but hurt me they cannot.
–Socrates

That which makes the man no worse than he was makes his life no worse: it has no power to harm, without or within.
–Marcus Aurelius

I have let the actions of other people wound me and, ultimately, I have changed because of it — but I have a choice. Nothing has changed me, I have changed because I was weak — but even this weakness is a choice. I can choose to be scathed or I can choose to express apatheia. It is the choice not to falter in the face of hardship that defines virtue and lately I have been a very unvirtuous person. I’ve compromised my deepest principles and I’ve dishonored myself and others. I attempted suicide, but not physically; I attempted to kill what made me who I am.

I see myself as artificial; I am a construct. Each choice I make is another brick in the structure that is my self. What I’ve started to construct lately is ugly throughout and it needs to change.

Put simply, we are the sum of our decisions. It’s not who we are on the inside that defines us, but the actions we choose to express.

I have made the mistake of denying reason by living for a god and I have made the mistake of denying myself by living for another person and in response to the failure of the two I began to live for a sensation, for pleasure — but I’ve realized that the only worthy thing I have to live for is myself. Likewise, any other person should live for his or her own self. It’s only by first knowing yourself that you can know another; it is only by first loving yourself that you can truly love another. I’m not advocating selfishness here, but the cultivation of the self so one can flourish with others.

First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
–Jesus

I recently confessed my transgressions to someone and it seems the thing I was most ashamed of was that I had begun heeding Ayn Rand — but now I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. One thing she wrote in particular struck me and, over the past few months I’ve contemplated it, I’ve decided that it is a better foundation than any for where to begin repairing the wreckage I’ve made of my self: I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

If I could do it now, I would brand myself with those words, this oath. I will never let another person wound me as I’ve been so wounded. I will never live for another or by another again.

To be the man I want to be, the man I should be — nothing seems more natural, more authentic, or more virtuous than this.

Aphorisms I

No Regrets1. Beauty will fade and passions will diminish, but two things are forever; love and death.

2. Death is nothing to fear; what dies within us as we live is far more terrifying.

3. Live lovingly and you will love life; that is the secret to living a life of happiness.

4. Never be satisfied with where and what you are; that is the secret to living a life of accomplishment.

5. People look without seeing, hear without listening, and touch without feeling; if only they could see how pointless their lives are!

6. Life ticks by mercilessly and it is better to live recognizing that your life is short — there are only so many tomorrows; this is the secret to living a life without regrets.

7. Regret is an invalidation of one’s own life and experiences. It is the first step towards emotional suicide.

8. The solution to all problems in life is simple: don’t do anything you will regret.

(Originally written January 3, 2011)

Sympathy for a Skeptic

Epistemologiae

Knowledge, for the epistemic skeptic, has had a long running tradition of being unattainable. From René Descartes, one of the greatest exemplars of the skeptical approach to epistemology, we have inherited the idea that any grasping for knowledge by way of the senses is vanity.

In Book I of his Meditations, Descartes finds that he is unable to free himself from the thought that he is dreaming – even in the moment of his writing. Descartes pushes the idea further, proposing that there is a malignant demon who is “exceedingly potent and deceitful, [who] has employed all his artifice to deceive” him — leading Descartes to the devastating conclusion that one can know nothing about the external world outside of one’s mind. (Essentially, one can never truly know that he or she is not in the Matrix.)

Philosophers, such as Barry Stroud, have criticized Descartes on this solipsistic view…

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