Goodness and Guilt on the Dark Edge of Life


I’m thinking about guilt as a driving force of religion. If you treat somebody badly, and they later die before you have a chance to apologize or correct your action, you have no way to make it right with them. If you’re religious, though, you can regain balance both through the ceremonial forgiveness your religion offers and through the “knowledge” that you will either see them again and have the chance to make it right, or that they’re alive-after-death and able to see you, hear … [Read more...]

An Epiphany on Road Rage … Online

road rage

I had to do a silly damned "defensive driving course" at work. It was this SIX HOUR LONG online thingie, where you have to read a short screen of text, and then wait out a timer before you can click to the next short screen of text, and read that. Argh. If you were ever a student and had a writing assignment that included a necessary word or page count, and you used up your facts or thoughts halfway through that assigned length and had to pad things out with extra words, you can imagine what … [Read more...]

GMOs, Part 3: Sociopaths in Paradise


GMOs, Part 1: The Horizon of Sanity GMOs, Part 2: Functional Sociopaths I should probably make the point here that when I use the term “sociopath,” I’m using more of a common-colloquial understanding of the term than a clinical one. One of the more formal definitions goes like this: Diagnostic Criteria (DSM-IV) 1. Since the age of fifteen there has been a disregard for and violation of the rights of others, those rights considered normal by the local culture, as indicated by at … [Read more...]

GMOs, Part 2: Functional Sociopaths


[ Start here: GMOs, Part 1: The Horizon of Sanity ] Given this horizon of sanity, is it possible there are people out there who not only seem crazy but crazy in some really bad way? Well, sure. Perfectly ordinary people, people who function in the real world just as well as you and I do, nevertheless believe and do things that you’d consider insane, even evil. And here’s the thing: The people around them, the ones used to them and well within their horizon of sanity, think they’re … [Read more...]

GMOs, Part 1: The Horizon of Sanity


I've gotten into several arguments online about GMOs, and inevitably, if you have any reservations at all about genetically modified foodstuffs, somebody will instantly claim you're an idiot, a luddite, a conspiracy theorist, and a wearer of tinfoil hats. (Why do you want to kill the starving children, you bastard?) Science aficionados will earnestly point out that thousands and thousands of studies have shown GMOs to be totally safe. Besides which -- and here's a glib argument I truly hate … [Read more...]

Feeling the Pain of the Rich and Famous


Apparently actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died. He ROCKED "Capote," but hell, I liked him as far back as "Boogie Nights." There seems to be some doubt about his death: Yep, dead: Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead with needle in arm Nope, alive: Philip Seymour Hoffman Death Hoax ... but his Wikipedia page lists him as deceased, so I'm going with that. Considering it a "teachable moment," I said something unflattering about Whitney Houston back when she died of an overdose: "Whitney, … [Read more...]

Beta Culture: The Footprint of the Past

War Dead

One of my many interests is the residual social / societal effects of historical events and social movements. For instance, the fact that we still say “God bless you” when people sneeze, 14 centuries after the supposed origin of the practice ... One explanation holds that the custom originally began as an actual blessing. Gregory I became Pope in AD 590 as an outbreak of the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer and parades of … [Read more...]

Population Pessimism and Diminished Personal Freedom

No Limits 1

Face it, if your Superbowl party includes a sofa that comfortably seats four people, and you have game snacks for four people, but two more people show up ... Everybody has less room. Less popcorn. Less beer. Those two extra people COST something to the others. Further, if you lived on an island with sharply limited resources, in a situation where growing population had finally bumped up against those limits, you’d be forced by the situation to demand less for yourself, to work more … [Read more...]

Things I’d Like to Take Home on the Eve of Christmas


The impulse, I suspect, is in all of us. Put a 5-year-old on a beach with his mother, and he will spend some large part of his time picking up shells, one by one, over and over, running them back to her, proclaiming in awe and delight, “Mommy, look at THIS one!” You find a great new eating place, you go back and TELL everybody. You discover a beautiful little waterfall on a hike, you take pictures and go back and SHOW people. You hear some juicy, or sad, or amazing, bit of news, your … [Read more...]

Clarification of an Argument for Atheism

Bull copy

What follows is an excerpt from my book (Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist: Simple Thoughts About Reason, Gods & Faith), specifically a section from Chapter 20: Uneven Ground, about a double standard in arguments about atheism. The double standard is that one side gets exacting scrutiny, while the other side too often gets a pass. I made reference to the argument — "As I explained in my book ..." —  in my most recent post, Beta Culture: Proposing A New Definition of Atheism, but so … [Read more...]