philosophy

Religion and Suffering: a Lemon (Drop)

I didn’t want to bother my mother—that’s what I remember most. I was choking on a lemon drop in the back seat of her Dodge Spirit, but she was driving and I didn’t want to bother her.

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What’s Wrong with Monogamy?

I had an epiphany this week. It was as I was reading a less-than-nice comment about the wedding, which has gotten a lot of attention through Offbeat Bride. The epiphany was this: the people who are angry about polyamory are, often, really just defensive of monogamy. And more, I completely, totally get it. In fact, I’m on their side. Hear me out.

Please.

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Heaven is Irrelevant

That is, it is irrelevant to your moral choices. There is a persistent view that atheists and agnostics are devoid of morality, with which I disagree, and this post is not about that. I’ll say it again: I’m not talking about not having any moral code at all; I’m just saying that Heaven is not relevant to the moral code you do follow.

Let’s explore.

Imagine that you are gay. Your religion says that gay people will go to Hell, or at least be shut out of Heaven, so you spend your life hiding who you are and torturing yourself because Heaven is supposed to be this great place of eternal happiness where your soul can frolic forevermore. You want to go there.

Or do you?

What gay person wants to frolic for eternity in a Heaven full of homophobes and homophobia? Is that eternal happiness for you, the gay person? No, it is not. That’s denial of yourself at the deepest level, and that is not the path to bliss.

Let me suggest instead that you, whoever you are, live your life with intention. Examine yourself and your choices, so that whenever possible you only do or say the things that you think are right to say and do. Be the ideal person you can be, according to the morals in which you believe. Be good, whatever that means to you. (To me, it means that my right to swing my fist ends at your nose – i.e., I am free except when my freedom would harm another, or limit their freedom.)

Then, when Judgment Day comes (if it comes – who knows?) you can be judged as you are. YOU. And if your definition of goodness does not match up with the definition upheld by the powers that be, then you would not be happy in that Heaven anyway. That Heaven is not Heaven for you. That Heaven, with its different (even opposite) ideals, would be a misery for you to endure as you are. If you aren’t welcome there, you wouldn’t want to go there anyway.

Make sense?

Make God Believe in You

I had a dream: an angel said,
“Child, you are strong.”
He cautioned me with sober eyes,
“I won’t stay very long.
 
“I just came to tell you,
Though you’ll soon forget,
Even wrongs will serve you rightly
If you reason through regret. 
 
“There are those that beg me
For help they wouldn’t need
If they’d only help themselves
By getting off their knees.
 
“If what you want is to impress me,
I’ll tell you what to do,
Don’t make yourself believe in God,
Make God believe in you.”
 
This having been said,
He left me thus adorned
With knowledge I was soon to lose,
For right then I was born.
I admit, this poem is a little Hallmark-y. But there are some interesting ideas here. I was fifteen when I wrote this, and had recently finished reading Ayn Rand‘s The Fountainhead. I’m not sure if this poem is Objectivist, though. It’s more existential, though I wouldn’t have any formal idea of what existentialism was for another five years.
Something else in here is that idea at the end, about being born and thus losing all knowledge. It’s very much like Socrates’ explanation for how human beings can go from not knowing something to knowing it. (He argues that all learning is actually just remembering: before we had bodies, we were souls that looked upon the Forms — Beauty, Truth, Courage, Wisdom, and so on — and knew everything. Then, we were put into bodies, and our souls were distracted by things like hunger and sex drive, so we forgot it all.)
So it’s rhyme-whymey. I still like it. If there must be a deity at all (and I’m happily agnostic, so in my opinion there mustn’t be), we should endeavor — I think — to be exemplary humans rather than helpless, impressionable, weak ones. If I were a supreme being, I’d be really lonely for someone of whom to be proud.