Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category

I hate the home school movement sometimes   Leave a comment

Anti-authoritarian leftist snob confession #2.
I secretly hate the homeschool movement. It is not, in fact, all sunshine and gumdrops, and some people in it desperately need more accountability. (1.) So many of the good ones are so freakin’ self righteous about it. (2.) Some home schooled kids are dumb and ill behaved (3.) A surprising number of parents home school because they are paranoid, delusional, psychotic, lazy, abusive or some combination of the five.

Let me be clear.  I was home schooled.  My daughter was home schooled for the first few years of her school career and will be again (at least partially) in the future. I am not anti-home school. HOWEVER, I sometimes hate the movement.  I puts forward this idea that parents are always the best guardians of their kid’s interests.  Some parents are all the time. Many parents are most of the time, but there are people out there who are simply too immature, unhealthy, or stupid to make all the decisions homeschooling requires.  Those people need the accountability that public school allows, and because of the feel good, pro-parent clap trap the movement publishes, they think that homeschooling is a good idea for them.

I grew up with a lot of home schoolers.  Many of them have gone on to start their own businesses or get college degrees.  They are life-long learners, with great life outlooks and ethical mindsets.  However, what the movement doesn’t seem to want to talk about is some of my other home schooled acquaintances over the years.  Many of the home schooling parents I knew were home schooling their kids because they thought that only by home schooling them could they keep them from getting laid before they got married, and protect them from the Russians/New World Order/Federal government/Satan/Whoever-the-big-bad-was-that-week.  Their sexual obsession combined with their political and religious paranoia was passed on to their children as a lot of weirdness that continues to haunt those kids as adults.

I’ve known “unschooled” kids who were as sharp as tacks and witty conversationalists to boot, but I’ve also known parents that “unschooled” their kids because they were literally too lazy to get their ass out of bed and get their kids to school.  I’ve known functionally illiterate kids, kids that didn’t know any math you couldn’t learn off a flash card, kids whose understanding of world history stopped in 1957 and included only subjects starting with B, C, N, R, and XYZ (because that was the publishing date of the incomplete set of World Book Encyclopedias their parents got at a garage sale), 16 year olds who didn’t know where babies came from, and 18 year olds with 6th grade educations because their parents decided that was enough.

That is to say nothing of the kids I knew who parents beat the living hell out of them, and they had no mandatory reporter (like a school teacher) that they had regular daily contact with.  Kids that got punched through walls, kids that were ordered to beat their siblings or their dad would beat them worse, and one 16 year old that actually recognized that she was painfully stupid and had no social skills so she got a boob job the day she turned 18 so she could snag a rich guy.

Yes, there are kids like that in the public school too, but I’ve never met a parent who moralizes for hours about how awesome the public schools are, or how parents who really care send their kids to public school.  I’ve also never met a parent whose kids are are public school who tries to tell me that their teachers know best and no government oversight is needed. But I have been moralized at length, told homeschooling is the best option, told that any accountability is a government take over, etc. etc., etc. by otherwise mainstream, healthy home schooling parents.

Home schoolers: I support you.  I support your rights.  But the utopianization of home school families has to stop…for everybody’s benefit.



The poster child strikes back   Leave a comment

Today I read this blog Survival Sex, by Holly P.

This part really resonated with me

This is the kind of thing that I’m reluctant to talk about, because I worry that it hurts my credibility as a sex-positive person and especially as a BDSM-positive person.  It fits too neatly into a narrative of “she’s fucked up and that’s why she does freaky shit.” I don’t think that’s true–I was freaky before this, I know freaky people who weren’t abused and abused people who aren’t freaky–and I also don’t think I should care so long as my freakiness isn’t hurting me now.

But I’m wary of the “damaged goods” pity-smear, of being reduced to my traumas, and sometimes it silences me.  I don’t want to make this blog into a narrative of “ex-child-prostitute/emotional abuse survivor/sexual assault survivor has promiscuous and painful sex!”  Every part of that is technically true but it’s not my story.

And this just hits me like a truck.  Why do we do this? By we I don’t mean homo sapiens, though at some level it probably is true for all people, I mean “us”.  I’m not sure how to precisely spell out what the rules are to belong to this group, I only that I know I am in it.  I know we all do this.  I know we are all terrified of being the poster child for atheism/feminism/polyamory/alternate sexuality etc., not so much because of our shitty childhoods but because of how we fear others will respond to them.  Here’s some identifiers I find that ties this little group together:

Identifier 1:

Bad childhood.

Holly’s was awful.  I was never exposed to abuse even remotely like what she talks about.  My parents were not particularly physically abusive (to me), they weren’t even, per say, emotionally abusive.  I will stress here, as I always try to do when I talk about this, that they did their absolute best.  It’s just their best was subtly destructive, like corrosion.  Religion brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others.  In my parents it brought out both.  I think Christianity served as a moderater and brake to some of their more intense craziness, but at the same time modern Christian teachings like a “personal relationship with Christ” and “end times” got all mixed up with their own delusions of grandeur and paranoia to make my childhood a terrifying and insecure place.  Teaching an 8 year old how to kill people with a garrote or that police and psychologists (the two kinds of people who can help you)  are part of a demonic new world order hell bent on controlling your mind or sending you off to the gulag is simply not OK.  (Note: I love and respect my parents. They really tried. They just fucked up on that one.)

Identifier 2

Wickedly smart.

Holly got her bachelors degree at 19.  I’m not that smart, or at least not in that way, but I keep getting smarter. As I get better I can put less and less of my energy into dealing with my emotional problems, and I get smarter.  I wonder if I had started therapy at at say, 9 and antidepressants around 20 or so where I could have gone with my life.  My ACT score was high enough to get me into MIT, but I never applied, because I knew I’d have an emotional break down sometime in the first year. (I was right, too.)

Identifier 3

Sexual different

It’s like we just can’t be hetero normal.  The sexuality of this group, whatever this group is, tends strongly towards polyamory and polysexuality with a dash of S&M thrown in.  Whatever kink there is, we have it.  Now, there are hetero normal people in this group, but they tend to be the exotic other in these circles.  I’m not sure if openness attracts weirdos or if weirdos attract openness.  For this reason there is a strong approval of feminism, and affirmation of homosexuality, transgender, etc.

Identifier  4

Religiously different

Our religion tends towards two extremes: relativist pantheism and militant atheism.  If you think about it there is very little functional difference between between saying there is a little bit of god everywhere or there is no god anywhere, because in either case, no one thing, person, or idea, is more or less sacred in comparison to any other thing, person, or idea.

Identifier 5

Freakishly high need and ability for communication.  This is acquired because being really smart means being really alone until you learn communicate with people who aren’t as smart as you.

This is my theory:

Intelligence is largely inherited, so a smart adult was a smart child. The great story of civilization is largely one of mass delusion.  Highly intelligent abused children have to confront the bullshit of society’s delusion at an earlier age than most people. In fact, some people never confront those delusions.  They pat themselves on the back for catching delusions that are engineered badly on-purpose so they can feel good about catching them, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and never move on to the 300 level courses, like theism, American exceptionalism, and gender binary.   We, whoever we are, have the intelligence to see the strings that hold the puppets up, and the intelligence to think “Well if that treasured belief is a lie, what about X, Y, and Z?”.  That’s how we end up as feminist, atheist, polysexual, polyamorous, folk.  And we have to communicate with others about it, because we have a huge need for communication, hence…we seem to have more community with our fellows than other hobbists (like say, model train builders) seem to have with theirs.  This why so many conferences and blogs.

None of this answers the question of “Why are we so afraid to be the poster children of the movements that give our lives so much meaning?”  I don’t know.

So excited I forgot to blog   6 comments

Last time I blogged, I wrote about depression.

Let me write about it again.  I made what I suspect will be a life long change not long after I wrote that.  My dad is a recovering alcoholic.  If you hang around AA or recovering drunks, you will run into people like my dad who were at least as addicted to the double life as they were the alcohol they consumed in one life and not the other.  In a way, for the last 20 years or so, I’ve been living a double(ish) life.  Now, I wasn’t flat out lying like my dad did, but I hid the symptoms of my depression vary carefully.  I would tell my very close friends, and some members of my family because they needed to know why I acted the way I did. Whether it is in accordance with the ‘proper’ realization of Christianity or not, most of the church sees depression as a sign of enormous spiritual failure, and despite the pity, the effect of telling your church that you struggle with depression is something akin to the effect of telling your church you struggle with going to homosexual bath houses: it’s OK if you say it once, but if you are back next week saying the same thing, it’s because there is something wrong with you, or the way you are working the solution, and not the solution itself (which is, of course, more of Jesus).

One of the wisest things I ever did was really explore Christianity and my doubts about it.  I think most people who knew me hoped that this would strengthen my faith, but instead I became first became an increasingly radical Christian, then a theist, then a diest, then an agnostic, and finally an atheist adhering to the philosophy of existential nihilism.  However, disappointing this was to my friends and family,  the result for me was the peace and freedom I had always sought in Christianity but never found.  Enormous loads of my depression sloughed away over about a 2 week period.

I remember in particular waking up one morning and realizing it was the first time I could remember that I hadn’t woken up wondering if today would finally be the day that I would disappoint myself so completely that I could finally kill myself and have done with it.  So that was a great day.  Improvement, sadly, is not cure. Several times a year I still found myself struggling to go to work.  Struggling not to cry all day.  Struggling not to kill myself.  Most often the fear of making myself a quadriplegic and no longer having the ability to kill myself was what stopped me.

So, last week, I’d had enough. I was hitting a pretty dark stretch. I went to my doctor and told her I couldn’t stop thinking about killing myself, I hadn’t slept more than a few hours a night in weeks, I was having trouble remembering to eat, and I was carefully avoiding my family so I wouldn’t scream at them or start weeping or both.  She strongly recommended that I take an anti-depressant and start therapy.  So I did.

I’m not sure how much of the following is the effect of the drugs, or after a mere 5 days is placebo, because I didn’t think I would change so fast. And frankly, I don’t care. I’m not euphoric.  I’m not excited, or ‘too happy’…I’m just not depressed.  Looking back over my life, I feel like I am walking up from a dream.  How in the world was it OK with me to hurt myself?  Where did that come from?  Why did I let so much guilt from a faith I no longer hold keep me in sway?  Why did I hate myself so long?  Why was it OK with me to put my wife daughter through my symptoms?

I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m on the other side of it, even if this temporary or placebo.

Existential nihilist relationship primer.   Leave a comment

So, I wanted to write about depression today.

I’ve said before that I struggle with depression.  I realized recently how weird of a phrase that is.  Depression for me is a minor disability.  Struggle sounds so temporary, so transient.  When you hike up a mountain, the steepest part is “a struggle”, the rest is just the hike.  Depression is more like missing a foot.  A lot of things you can do just like everyone else, but then randomly, you find some new thing you can’t do.  Further, I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone say “I struggle with cancer.”  or “I struggle with angina”.   You just have it, or you don’t. (Though people might say they struggled. Past tense.  Again, pointing to the transient nature of the experience.)

So, I’m going to stop saying I struggle with depression.  I don’t struggle with it.  Sometimes as a symptom of depression I struggle get out of bed. I struggle to love people well.  I struggle with a lot of things, but I don’t struggle with depression.  I just have it.  I struggle with the symptoms.

The other thought I wanted to say, is accepting the OKness of relationships ending.

All relationships will end. That’s not pessimism, it is reality.

(1.) Only part of relationship is with a person.  Part of it, maybe even most of it, is with your perception of the person.  Frequently relationships end because the perception and the person are just to far apart.  Because your vision of the future relationship was based on the perception, when the perception is proven wrong, sometimes you don’t want the new vision.

(2.) Even if you perceive the person perfectly, or perfectly enough, they might not perceive you as well.

(3.) Even if you both perceive one another perfectly, or perfectly enough, people change.

Your youness is the result of chemicals interacting.  Some of those chemicals are inherent to you, like your DNA.  Others are unique to your experiences (memories are coded as chemicals, or chemical changes).  Others are totally situational, for instance you might be very tired, or very high.  We all want to pick the “me” we like best and call that one real, but that’s magical thinking.  The fact is, low-blood-sugar-cranky you, giggly drunk you, darkly depressed you, head-over-heals-in-love you, jamming out to the car radio you, and many others are all equally the the real you.  There is no good reason to chose one and say “that’s the real me”.  The reason most of us do it is because we want to claim the parts of ourselves we find the most noble, and divorce ourselves from the parts we find the most ugly.

Where do those lost fragments of self go?  That’s a subject for another time.  But my point is here, because the list of our experiences is always growing, and the chemicals in us are always changing, we change.  If two people change the terms of the relationship they used to have, ends, because its about different people now.  Some relationships, like my marriage, terms are renegotiated constantly so that the relationship continues to keep up with us. This creates the illusion that the relationship continues, but the reality is, it does not. Long term relationships are series of beginning and dying relationships.

People change, even if they regret it, or wish not too.  That which is seen cannot be unseen, and you will change as a result of your experiences. If the chemicals didn’t change, there would be no memories.

(4.) People die.

All the time.  Billions of them.  You will die. Everyone you love will die. Everyone you hate will die.  Entropy means the tendency of a system to decrease in order/non homogeny.  Life is not immune to entropy.  Entropy happens to you all the time, but the pieces of you that don’t work are replaced constantly.  Eventually, the pieces which replace them cannot keep up.  Disorder increases faster than it can be repaired….the vast symphony of chemicals that makes you different than your weight in badgers or butterflies will play it’s last chord and everything that makes you, you…will stop.  Then, very soon after, everything that makes you, you, a badger, or a butterfly will stop, and you will be base constituents: hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen.  Everything that lives dies.  People die. You-ness stops.

Not persuing a relationship for fear of ending is stupid.  Relationships end.

Further, your emotional response to relationships ending will follow a bell curve. Not can.  Not might. Will.

Most of your relationships will end averagely…which is to say “badly”.  Psychologists find that relationships ending is a huge stress factor for people.  Badly is in irony quotes because if it is average it’s not really bad.  Bad would be deviating significantly from average in one direction, good would be deviating significantly in the other direction.   A better word than badly would be painfully, since pain in this case is average.  Most relationships will end in the region of the bell curve near the center: heartbreak.  You will have a few relationships that end with significant deviation from bell curve center.  A few of these will be painless, perhaps even pleasant.  You will have a corresponding number that will really cause long term psychological harm , perhaps even death. (Dying of broken heart is a real phenomenon.)

Since all relationships end, and virtually all will end in normal statistical scatter around heartbreak, it would be stupid to avoid them.  To say “I should avoid relationships because they hurt” makes about as much sense as saying “I should avoid food because  I will poop.”  Avoiding a behavior that is fundamentally required for human life because you don’t find the outcome as pleasant as the behavior is just…mind bogglingly stupid.


Shit Christians Say to Atheists   Leave a comment

This isn’t what I was going to post to day…but…man do I get this.


Posted January 17, 2012 by israelkwalker in Atheism, Christianity, Religion, Skepticism

Tagged with , ,