Bad Capitalist

Philosophy, Politics

DNA moneyWhat is a capitalist? You hear the term thrown around a lot in the media and on blogs. It is often defined as someone who has a powerful nose for the dollar; someone who is always looking for ways to make money.

There is good capitalism; the type of capitalism that grows, innovates and improves our lives. There is bad capitalism which seeks to degrade, exploit and leave nothing behind. The latter, I believe, has been given too much reign over the American economy.

I feel this way because everywhere I look there is an example of some CEO or venture capitalist wrecking companies for profit, selling stocks short to make money off a market crash or finding creative ways to skim profits from those who actually work for their salary.

Who are they?

They care for nothing except currency, capital. They do not have any loyalty to God, country, family or anything else. They sure as hell don’t care about their workers. Everything is expendable when it comes to profit. One cannot underestimate this particular aspect.

They don’t want steady growth. They want volatility. They profit off the constant up and down. I attended a seminar full of energy traders and a woman giving the keynote speech said as much. She took a marker to a dry erase board and drew a steady line going up and then she drew a zig-zagging, jagged line that trended up. She pointed to the second one and said, “This is what we’re looking for.” There were a lot of nodding heads in the crowd. My jaw was on the floor. An economic crisis wasn’t a crisis for these people, it was an opportunity to make even more money.

They feel because they’re smarter, richer and more educated that it really makes them better people than the rest of us. They believe that somehow those three elements are literally part of their DNA that other people just don’t possess. This fuels an extreme sense of entitlement.

So what? Someone might say. Who cares? These people make money that also goes into 401(k) accounts and hedge funds, which benefits the lowly investor. That’s true. Except when things go south, like they did in 2008, the investors pay for it while the capitalists come out smelling like a rose, as usual.

They spoon feed the public nonsense about ideas such as the “invisible hand,” “a rising tide lifts all boats” and “war is good for the economy.” They want everyone to think that their fortune and our misfortune is due to causes beyond anyone’s control. In truth, extreme capitalists are the invisible hand. A swelling tide lifts their boats. War is good for them.

In 2008 oil companies were making record profits off the ever-increasing price of fuels. Their product had tripled in cost over the span of a year while demand was dropping. Executives told Congress “this is just how the market works.” Financial experts got on TV and said the same thing. They were doing their damndest to convince people that they’d stumbled upon all of these price increases like Jed Clampett.

As it turned out, oil prices were skyrocketing thanks to the clever trading methods of speculators working for investment banking firms. It wasn’t the end users of the oil who were buying the product. It was financial institutions buying and then selling oil as if it were a stock. Guess who turned out to be some of the masterminds behind the increases? Former traders from Enron.

CEOs earn more than 300 times more than most employees. According to the laws of capitalism, that would mean that they’re somehow offering 300 times more value than workers. Which isn’t true. Workers have their title for that reason, they’re doing the work. CEOs and managers make decisions and select the person best-suited for the work. That’s an equal partnership regardless of what the CEOs say about their leadership. Their value is not inherent in their salaries, it’s just what shareholders are willing to pay them.

Personally, I have no problem with capitalism. It has served me well. It has served America well. However anyone feels about capitalism, any objective look at America’s situation will see that it has fueled this country’s greatness.

But the capitalism and capitalist I speak of is unhinged, financial sociopathy.

Capitalists working in the government shroud themselves in conservative cloaks. The only thing they understand is cutting taxes regardless of spending levels or government excess. They do their best to choke government agencies through budget cuts or legislative restrictions to force a public sector necrosis. As the government fails under the pressure of reduced revenue and toothless authority, the capitalists point to the ineffectiveness and say “You see? Government doesn’t work!”

Government is ineffective. It is mired in bureaucracy. It doesn’t work because the capitalists don’t want it to work. They want the roles now served by government to be disintegrated so either the private sector can take that role over or that role ceases to cost taxpayer dollars.

They care nothing for equality or social progress. By nothing I mean they don’t care if equality improves or worsens, so long as it doesn’t affect their bottom line. Once lawsuits happen, then you begin to see business pushing back against added discrimination standards.

Take a CEO in America. When someone dies due to their product, a CEO’s first though isn’t, “How do we fix the problem to keep it from happening again?” They first think, “How do I keep this from costing the company revenue? How do I keep the public from finding out about this? How do I fight this in court to prevent hemorrhaging cash?”

They claim these principles are part of a philosophy. They say that they believe in the private sector’s ability to be efficient. They claim that their companies’ profits support their employees and their families. They claim their success fuels the success of other businesses. They pontificate about the multiplier effect.

Don’t be fooled. At the end of the day their goal is simple: they don’t want to pay taxes and they want more opportunities to make money. They don’t care about anything else. They don’t care about taxpayers. They don’t care about customers. They don’t care about responsibility. They don’t care about the environment. They don’t really care about the quality of their own goods and services. They don’t even care about their own company. They care nothing about these constructs unless it serves the purpose of generating profit. They don’t care about any system of social justice, government or civilization. They only care about themselves.

That is their mind.

They’re always around us and we can do nothing to rid ourselves of them. But we do need start recognizing who they are as opposed to the effective capitalists. We have to stop lionizing them and rewarding their exploitative behavior.

This begins with identifying them.

Black Belts and Brown Shoes

Philosophy, Politics, Religion

Humans have such highly-charged brains which has led us to accomplish some pretty amazing feats in our brief history. Space travel. Global communication. Combustible engines. Mass media.

It is equally amazing and mystifying how we waste that surging intellect on the oddest social constructs whether it’s what color shoes to wear with what belt or how no one looks each other in the eye when they’re in the elevator. There are books written on the subject of etiquette and how to avoid social miscues that draw unapproving looks from fellow hominids.

I’m fairly certain some of those odd social hang ups have some sort of survival root such as not making eye contact with strangers. Some of them though, like the belts and shoes, not wearing white pants after Labor Day and fork placement in a table setting, have no important basis. To me they are preferences that have somehow become “proper.” This is stupid of course. Many of these fabricated faux pas are things that don’t really matter in life and yet we spend so much time trying to adhere to them.

Why are we so concerned about this stuff? I woke up one morning and made a mental note of every action I took that was designed to fit some social norm. Yep, it started with my belt and shoes; then the right color of socks with my pants; then brushing my hair; then holding the door open for someone.

It’s probably that herd mentality that runs so strong in our DNA. Our survival has become irrevocably linked to social connections. We need each other to make it in this world, especially now that most people don’t know how to grow their own food or build their own shelter. Somewhere along the way though, these insignificant habits have become ingrained in that social necessity.

What’s worse is people who refuse to play along with some of these dumb rules are labeled misfits, non-conformists and abnormal. We even diagnose people with a disorder when they don’t pick up on specific social cues. We also make these social norms part of religion. Not only do we make people outcasts because they’re different, we also try to tell them that they’re going to hell too. There’s something wrong with labeling someone as diseased because they won’t make eye contact or their obsessively absorbed with a hobby or they just don’t care about matching their belts to their shoes.

To me, that’s dangerous. Criminal behavior is one thing. There are acts which work against the societal model on which our survival depends. But behaviors considered odd that have no effect on others is not the same thing. And therein lies the tragedy. What is considered different sometimes becomes anathema. We begin to judge people’s worth and abilities based on how they dress themselves. We interpret someone’s skill level with how well they fit in with others. We try to draw conclusions about each other on things that are, at the end of the day, preferences.

I firmly believe that we’re smarter than that. But yet again, this whole habit of judging based on immaterial social norms is based on one thing: mental laziness. We don’t want to think. Looking beyond someone’s appearance and odd behavior requires work. We actually have to invest time into getting to know someone and we just don’t want to do it. So we take shortcuts and pass judgment based on whether people know how to dress, use a salad fork for their salad or how neat they keep their desk.

Yes it does take a lot of energy to get to know someone and it’s not always feasible to do that with every person who crosses our path. But there is one thing we can do when it comes to dealing with people who are different: stop judging them so quickly based on superficial habits. We don’t have to take them to dinner or become their best friend. But we can reserve judgment until we’ve had time to know them and understand where they’re coming from.

We can do this because we have such high-capacity minds. Maybe it’s time that we used them.

Are you a Dexter or a Heisenberg?

Philosophy

Dextenberg
Since I’ve become a father I haven’t had much time to sit in front of the silver screen like I used to. I loved sitting in the theatre, alone, getting drowned in a celluloid universe.

But now a lot of my pop culture needs are met through television and Netflix. I have lucked out and happened to pull fatherhood at a time when TV shows have never been better. There’s a trend that I’ve noticed in these past two years as a parent with regards to those shows that has piqued by philosophical nature.

I find myself torn between Dexter and Heisenberg.

First though, I’ll start with Nietzsche. I’ve always been a slight fan of his philosophy on a person pursuing their best self. Whether someone is extremely religious or not (and Nietzsche wasn’t) there’s still something important to gain from his ideology. We should all be more introspective to find out what our true purpose is and then go all in to fulfill that purpose.

You can find the basic Nietzsche philosophy in a lot of popular culture these days, especially TV. Tony Soprano, Dexter Morgan, Walter White, Greg House, hell even Barney Stinson are characters driven by a deep, personal desire to become something great, regardless of what others or society thinks.

Interestingly enough, Dexter and Walter White, or his alter ego Heisenberg, represent two distinct personality types, goal oriented vs. process oriented. Having been a big fan of both shows, I wonder at times which one I’m more like in so far as how I seek to be the best me.

Dexter is very much someone who is goal oriented. His every waking moment is spent working towards the next kill. He does his best to balance a lot of background distractions such as family, work, etc. but his motivation is about getting someone on his table. Once he finishes one victim he begins to move on to the next. He revels in each one by keeping a drop of blood in a slide to represent each time he’s achieved a kill. Dexter is always after another kill.

Walter White, however, is more about a process. Throughout his career in the meth world, he worked to perfect his product. He was obsessed with the process, the right amount of chemicals for each batch and striving for the highest purity. He does have a goal of leading a meth empire but he knows fully that it has to be built on a superior drug. For Walt, there is no dollar amount or purity level that serves as a finish line. He wants to make the best meth.

Yes, they’re fictional characters. I understand that. What I like about the comparison though is that they demonstrate two different paths for living your life. I don’t mean choosing to kill people or make meth but the focus on what is more important: who you are or what you do.

I’ve decided I’m a Heisenberg. In my writing I care more about becoming a better craftsman as opposed to creating a masterpiece. I like finishing stories and books but at the end of the day I want to believe I’ve improved my skill.

While goal-oriented people are highly valued in the job market, there are two major pitfalls for someone who is obsessed with results. 1) When you are too focused on the finish line, the means by which you get there blurs and you may use unethical behavior and possibly take short cuts. 2) If you are going after a major goal, what do you do when you get there? If someone has a goal of running a marathon, the motivation to keep running might dwindle once they finish one.

For me it’s more important to master a process. Results are important. Otherwise how would you know if you’re becoming better at your process? I guess a person who’s truly successful at self realization is adept at focusing both on their skill as well as their accomplishments.

I’d rather be known as a good writer than a person who wrote a good book. I may never achieve either, but my pursuit will be the process.

 

God Threshold III

Philosophy, Religion

You take a photograph with a digital camera. You upload it to a computer. When you look at the image on the screen, it’s a familiar scene that you’ve just recorded. Underneath it though, is code, lots of code. While you see a picture, the image is produced on screen through a long string of coded information that the computer needs to display said image.

It’s not really all that different from your brain processing your sight. You open your eyes. Images are processed and the information is sent to your brain through signals in your nervous system. It is your brain that actually produces the image.

But there’s a tremendous difference between how a computer and a human brain translate and display images.

You can take two computers and connect them with a wire. That forms a network. Using software you can take the code of a photograph and send it to the second computer through the wire. The second computer, regardless of its operating system and sometimes regardless of its internal architecture, can then take that code and produce the exact same image that you first saw on the first computer.

The brain does not do that. If you witness two cars hitting each other on a street and a person standing next to you witnesses the same wreck, both of you can walk away with different interpretations about which driver was at fault. People disagree on what they see even if they see the same exact thing. You can show the same picture to two people and they can both see different things.

The point? No matter how much two people relate to each other whether it’s verbal or physical, it is impossible for one person to completely transmit their own personal experience to another. We can all look at the same thing and agree on the details of what we see but we can’t all see it the same. We can all listen to the same songs but we can’t fully share those songs between each other so that each person has the exact same code as another person.

No matter what we process through our experiences and reason, it is all colored by our individual minds. And every individual mind has its own color.

People, while they can communicate like a computer network, cannot have their brains wired together to share information and then experience that information in the precisely same manner. At the end of the day, all we really know is what we process through our own minds.

Is it any wonder then, that we can never fully agree on what reality is? We can all look at the same picture but we all have a different perspective.

Perhaps I’m wrong and reality does exist. It still doesn’t matter. We can never fully know reality because said reality would be processed by each of our different, unique minds.

Much of this boils down to the same question which I’ve posed many times on this blog: can something exist that is beyond our ability to experience? By that I mean is there something that we don’t possess the physiological necessities to experience? We didn’t have the ability to see bacteria until the microscope was invented. But even then, we had been experiencing bacteria (illness, etc.) despite the fact we couldn’t process its existence through base, empirical means. Our minds are incapable of processing the microscopic life form. But through technological advances, we can and did eventually experience it through sight.

I am speaking of something that can exist beyond any ability to experience; something that no amount of technology could ever find for us?

Or is the whole universe accessible to us and we can’t we just can’t experience it yet?

Shot of Reason

Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized

Injection

We all know how I feel about vaccines. Vaccines do not cause autism and there is no reputable study that proves this.

A recent study released shows that campaigns intended to lure anti-vaccination parents back to the dark side of reason have backfired, turning parents who were lukewarm to the idea into total crusaders against the needle.

What bothered me about the story was not the argument of vaccination vs. anti-vaccination. It’s the core issue of people being turned off when they’re confronted with an opposing view. There was another study done in 2006 when people who considered themselves conservative were shown a fake report arguing the case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were then given a report that factually refuted false report’s claims. Did the test subjects shift their thinking? Nope. Apparently being accosted with facts only strengthened their resolve.

That’s a problem with people that has always bothered me. And this isn’t about conservative vs. progressive, science vs. God, global warming vs. Big Oil. It’s about basic logic and how our biases can so easily overpower our abilities to think straight.

I’ve touched on this before, about thinking. We become quite entrenched in our beliefs and once we reach that state, we can’t be convinced otherwise, facts be damned. We’ll result to all different types of faulty arguments to hang on to our cause, strawman logic, anecdotal evidence, sometimes just outright denial.

But why? Why do we latch on to our personal ideas and refuse to let go? The problem really boils down to one thing: laziness. That’s a dangerous combination. Considering two sides to a debate takes work. Keeping an open mind actually requires intellectual energy that we are either too lazy or too obstinate to maintain.

A closed mind requires no energy. It requires no thought process. It requires no ability to comprehend. It makes life simple because we don’t have to waste time trying to understand a different point of view.

The other danger non-thinking laziness presents is that it propagates pseudo-debates. Thanks to petroleum-funded “research” about global warming, they have managed to create a “debate” about the issue that does not exist. More than 95 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and that it’s our fault. But those who stand to lose billions and possibly trillions to CO2 emissions caps and other regulations have created an image of a two-sided issue. You don’t really need to have a debate, just the appearance of one, to confuse those who haven’t yet made up their mind. Once the undecided people find out which side they’re on politically, they gravitate in that direction and there you go, a contentious issue where there previously was none.

The anti-vaccination folk have now done the same thing and they don’t even have well-funded, contrarian research on their side. The numbers of those without vaccines are going up, as are the number of cases of preventable diseases like whooping cough.

How exactly do you solve this problem? How do you get people to stop blindly going in the direction they’ve always traveled?

It starts with one thing: thinking. But that can’t happen with a closed mind.

First World Problems

Philosophy, Politics, Religion

first-world-problems-51
If it’s one thing I can’t stand to hear from someone is how some particular thing is “destroying our nation.”

Whatever it is, no it’s not. Our country is just fine. Lately every single politician, political movement, religion, atheist, communist, socialist, fascist, congressman, president, governor, mayor and the Post Office is destroying our country.

What exactly is so bad that some sort of harbinger has been unleashed declaring the end of the United States? Are we slugging it out in the streets for a top spot in bread lines? Do we face some kind of energy crisis? Are armed guards kidnapping random people in the night? Do we wake up to assault gun fire and mortar shelling every day like they do in Syria? Any genocide going on?

No. None of that is happening. We don’t have any REAL problems. We bitch about the political fighting in Washington, tax breaks for the rich, lazy people on food stamps, etc. But, I’m sorry, those are not nation-destroying troubles. Ronald Reagan’s Iran Contra scandal, George Bush’s recession, Bill Clinton’s philandering, George W.’s warmongering and Obama’s fight for his healthcare plan have not destroyed this country and none of it will.

Do we have problems? Yes, we do. The government spies on everything from our phone calls to our top scores on Angry Birds. Politicians on both sides lie about facts and use fear and anger to generate fervor among their electorate. Our economy at times seems to hang by a thread. The public denies scientists when they don’t like what scientists have to say.

But by and large, these things ARE being held in check. We still have our smartphones and our memes. We still drive our gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. We still have McDonalds, buffalo wings and Pizza Hut. This Sunday our nation will sit collectively for five hours while we enjoy our annual descent into junk food and beer during our beloved Superbowl.

Can things escalate to the point that our country will be destroyed? Of course. But we’re nowhere near that point. The fact that we’re so much in arms about the NSA, political discourse, climate change, economic regulations, welfare costs and healthcare shows that we do at least care about what’s happening even if we keep electing 90 percent of incumbents in Congress who do nothing about it.

And I won’t lie, sometimes I get caught up in the drama of it all and join in the chorus of doomsday. But I think enough is enough.

I’m not saying we should never be worried. I’m saying stop it with the histrionics. Let’s keep our eyes on the realities of our world. There are countries with genuine war zones, food shortages, widespread disease and genocide. But it’s not our country. Our issues are, at the end of the day, first-world problems.

It’s the deep paranoia and the actions that people take based on that paranoia that can cause serious problems. But even then, that won’t be the end of us.

How to Find a Skunk

Philosophy, Politics, Religion

Skunk

During the height of his steroids scandal, a reporter asked pitcher Roger Clemens about his opinion on those who accused him of juicing. His response was a quote from his mother.

“Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk.”

This is pretty good advice, especially when it comes to social media. In the past couple days I’ve found myself soaked quite a bit in skunk urine thanks to the discussions surrounding duck caller Phil Robertson. In case you haven’t heard he made some ill-advised comments about the lives of African Americans prior to the Civil Rights movement and the sexual effect of a woman’s vagina vs. a man’s anus. Like many of the great debates in our time, the intellectual back and forth has been aired out on Twitter and Facebook.

Most of the time when there’s a controversial news topic, I shy away from the online bickering. I once lost a friend (well on Facebook anyway) about the Trayvon Martin shooting. When I do venture into a hyped discussion, I try to keep my opinions on topic and usually I stick to it.

Couple of things I’ve learned about social media squabbles 1) you never change anyone’s opinion about the subject matter and 2) you never feel better after unleashing your view on said subject matter.

My  latest foray into online debate centered on Robertson’s incendiary comments and how 1) he was entitled to make them, 2) A&E was entitled to kick him off the air, 3) Biblical edicts are sometimes relative (i.e. slavery, bacon, gays, etc.) and 4) I have a poor habit of “selective reading” as one of my friend’s friends put it.

I had a long night answering comments from people who claim 1) that Christianity is under attack,  2) that my education is inadequate, 3) that Muslims have free speech which Christians don’t, 4) that my remarks really miss the point, etc. etc. etc. etc. Luckily I think I survived the night with most of my friends and followers lists intact.

I knew what I was getting into but I just couldn’t help myself. Why do I, and others for that matter, feel the need to argue even when they know they can’t win? For me, I guess there’s this hope that maybe I can at least get others to see a different point of view. Their personal stance may not change but they’ll broaden their perspective. Hopefully.

This never happens. Ever.

I think that social media and the Internet in general fuels people’s sense of self-importance. Maybe because we feel that we can broadcast our opinions to the entire world in an instant it somehow gives those opinions some sort of credence. It’s particularly enticing when you know that your message is concentrated to people you know. (Only egomaniacs spout their opinions for everyone on a blog.)

Unfortunately though, online “debates” usually become nothing but a bunch of people sharing opinions that everyone already knows. No one becomes educated or enlightened. It just turns into a digital yelling match and the volume of your voice does not make you right. (Except for me. I’m always right.)

Word of advice though, when you see a skunk, turn around. Walking away doesn’t mean the skunk is right about gay marriage.

Extreme Christ

Religion

Jesus earring

So there’s this tattooed, progressive, vulgar woman making the lefty church rounds spouting her particular message about Jesus Christ in her own distinct way. Minister Nadia Bolz-Weber’s delivery seems to speak to today’s generation of disillusioned youth seeking some kind of spiritual catharsis from an unconventional source.

Her style is really nothing new. But lately she’s been drawing a new audience — regular folk. Turns out that you don’t have to be some violence-desensitized, angst-ridden twenty-something in order to be turned off by traditional, organized religion. It’s a rising trend that shows no sign of slowing. The most rapidly growing religious identity in the U.S.? Athiesm, agnosticism or unafilliated.

People have problems with religion, at least the traditional model be it Catholics, Protestants or Evangelicals. They’re just not filling the pews anymore. Some feel the exodus has to do with the political involvement with conservatives in government. Others blame secularization. Personally I feel there is a bit of hypocrisy in how people act compared to what they profess to believe. I also think  too many people use their religion to justify divisiveness, violence and outright avarice.

In the past maybe young people felt obligated to stick with religion despite their reservations but I don’t think that guilt is working anymore.

Movements from unconventional ministers like Bolz-Weber are growing and in different manifestations. Many of these non-denominational churches are centered on a dynamic personality, like Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer. Others are based on a theme like Cowboy Church. I once went to a service crafted entirely for bikers. People are capitalizing on those seeking God in a nontraditional setting.

It bothers a lot of people. Even Pope Francis, the loose-talking Jesuit recently named pontiff, is facing backlash from traditional Catholics irate that he’s doing such cavalier things like not judging gays and granting interviews to athiest journalists.

I’m a faltering Catholic, a heavily liturgical denomination. The mere presence of a guitar at a Protestant service rubs me the wrong way because the only version of Amazing Grace I’ve ever heard was accompanied by an organ. Sadly, contemporary is just not my cup of tea. I can see why some are repulsed by Francis, Bolz-Weber and Biker Church.

Yet, so what? To me all of those who have been devoutly religious their entire lives should be happy that the prodigal children have found another path to the same destination. Even if they don’t like the way the message is presented, they should at least rejoice that the lost are found.

Some of the deniers are more afraid that the newcomers are changing the message. Legitimate fear, maybe, but I think that fear is usually based on the notion that unless someone’s worshiping the way they worship, then they’re not true believers. Ironically, this is the large part of the reason why people get sour on God in the first place — worshipers look at those who believe different and condemn them for being different. This irks me particularly with Christians because Jesus preached the exact opposite. There’s a certain instance in the Bible when His disciples walked up to Him complaining that there was a man performing miracles in Jesus’ name. He rebuked their intolerance.
“Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

-Mark 9:40

God Experience

Religion

symbols

My first experience with God wasn’t a happy one.

It was in a CCD class. My teacher was going over the experiences of hell. Some woman had gone to the depths of the inferno in some dream and came back to tell people what it was like. She was some sort of inverted prophet.

The teacher told the story as though she was recalling a memory about a past storm. She described the fire and how the flames burned hotter than coals.

I don’t know why, but her talk got to me. I was only about 12 or so. Since I’d been born, God and the devil and heaven and hell were nothing more than theories, beings who were out in some ethereal world that had nothing to do with me.

But that day, the reality hit me that my actions did matter. Somebody was watching and keeping tally. I didn’t look at it though, from the stance that I had heaven to gain by doing good. I became all about avoiding hell. For all I cared, I could get stuck in some dentist’s lobby for eternity as long as the fiery coals weren’t sticking to my skin.

How did the talk from some volunteer Sunday school teacher get to me? It wasn’t as if she were a nun or a priest. She was just some mother who was trying to get through to a group of teenage kids.

I never shared with anyone that experience and how it thumped my soul into action. I started sitting closer in the front pews, while my parents stayed in the back. I paid attention to the homilies and the gospel readings.

Profound effect. Still didn’t know why.

I looked at ways to avoid hell. Someone told me if you died wearing a scapula or a rosary, you were guaranteed refuge in heaven. Then they taught me about confession and how if I died after confession my soul would be cleared and I’d be safe. Others told me to lead a good life and do good things and God wouldn’t condemn me. The inferno and my escape from it was always on my mind.

What bothers me now is I never questioned it. I never tried to investigate the teacher’s claims or ask myself why I got so scared.

Since then, I’ve come to believe that it was because of my first memory as a child. When I think back as far as I can, the first thing I remember happening to me was burning my hand on a barbecue pit. I was at some family get together, some second cousin’s graduation or something. I was walking around and I remember my hand sticking to some 55 gallon drum cut out as a pit. Searing pain, that’s what stuck with me. It burned and wouldn’t stop. Family members scrambled around me, some relative grabbed a bag of ice and put it on my arm. I’m not sure if it helped or not.

That’s it, that’s all I remember from that day, that moment. Talking to my mom about it one day, she was surprised that I remembered that, I was only about 18 months old, she said. She told me she kept bandages on my hand for a long time, even had to put a sock on it to keep me from hurting it again while there was raw skin exposed.

Maybe my mind connected hell with burning my arm. Maybe it’s bullshit. I don’t know.

It’s taken many years but the effect of putting hell off has waned, though not entirely.

Now, 34, I don’t know how God works and how people go to heaven or hell. I see good people, great souls, who don’t go to church or tout any religious ideology. I’ve met righteous muslim people and Jewish There are good “church-going” people, judgmental, narrow-minded, who have no business being rewarded for their intense dislike of things that are different.

I do believe there is a God but I think He’s more of a mystery to me than that day in Sunday school.

So, at a crossroads now, not knowing where I’m heading or what to do about it. Boat listlessly drifting in an open sea.

I’m not an atheist but I now see where they’re coming from. There is so much unfathomable evil in this world and this God that believers describe doesn’t seem to fit with that reality, or reality as we know it.

How can a God who drowned the whole world let genocide go unchecked? I mean a vile genocide, like Rwanda or Cambodia. People hacked to death, heads cut off in public. Women raped. Outsiders tortured. But no God.

Athiests see so many people utilizing religion as a channel to dominate and justify heinous activity. I see now how evil the institution can be and how they really believe that it’s ok to kill, rape, torture and destroy those who think different.

How can you blame someone for thinking that no divine would let these things happen?

Sure there are testaments, Bible passages, inspirational stories that are offered by ardent believers that there is something great and unknown.

I can’t say I don’t believe in that ideal. What I can say is, I’ve slowly  shed off the memory of the day I became firmly entrenched in the idea of hell. I’m awake now. The afterlife is uncertain again and I can’t go back to sleep.

God Threshold II

Philosophy, Religion

galaxy cutout

Regarding the God Threshold.

Can something exist that we don’t have the physiological ability to experience? If it does exist, do we have the ability to comprehend and/or identify it? Can we ever fully understand that unknowable unknown?

I am not talking about something like a far-flung galaxy, a parallel universe or string theory. Those are things that we don’t yet have the capability to understand; we have the ability. I am referring to an ultimate unknown. We are all endowed with reason and the ability to process our experiences. How do we put our thumb on something that’s beyond both?

Heisenberg states that we cannot know the exact location and velocity of a given particle at the same time. It lends to not being able to know two things about one thing at the same time. How do we know something when we know nothing, and can experience nothing about it?

It’s an important question I think. If we think that everything is within reach or could become within reach, then to me, we make ourselves the center of the universe. If  nothing exists beyond our ability to experience, then we feel that nothing is beyond our grasp. It is then our universe; everything else is just a part of it.

To be continued…