Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hermit Crab

It's been awhile since I posted on my quaint little 'blog. Or this one. The past week has been, for me, rather busy. Last week I helped my brother and his wife open up their store, Go Fetch Pet Supplies, and after that I bolted out to see my beloved; I just got back last night. Linda sometimes has difficulty persuading me to "be social," as I'm perfectly content to be with her and her alone forever. Well, not just her, but my brother and my circle of friends and comrades. Outside of that, I'm also of a mind to be totally alone for long periods of time. I'm so much more comfortable alone, reading and listening to music or watching Double Indemnity for the 100th time. In this godless universe, when I'm alone and there are no strange eyes taking me in, I can relax a bit more than I could possibly otherwise. And that brings a modicum of relief from the paranoia and anxiety that, I'll say yet again, really disturbs and troubles me. Thus, if it weren't for those who love me working so hard to drag me out into the world, I'd no doubt wither in this little flat. So Linda's affable, social nature is exactly what I need to avoid turning into a hermit, or worse, and disappearing into my own mind. One of the many reasons that I love her.

But why would I want to spend so much time alone with by brain, which is clearly not functioning properly? Not to mention a source of vexation, annoyance and crushing depression and mania? I have an answer for that...perhaps for another time. Something to look forward to! Also, later today I'm going to write something about atheism, because the woman I love said something yesterday that really surprised me. She's a theist, and her family is very religious. Naturally, I'm an atheist, and I didn't become one lightly. It was a long process from believing in god (or something), then at age 9 I remember having anxiety attacks and vomiting because I started to think that there was no god. A few years later, I was a full-blown atheist. I take my atheism seriously...again, I'll kick that around later.

The conversation with Linda, and her surprising response, was about morality, compassion and some kind of god, or "sky king" as I called it. I simply asked if she thought it was necessary to believe in god in order to be a good person. She said, "I'm not sure." I felt my stomach clench tight and a wave of warm, tingling anxiety spread within my chest. Like a bat taking flight in the small cave that also contains my heart. I didn't want to tell her then, but not only do I not believe in god, but if a Christian god did exist, I would hate Him. I refer you all to B.F. Skinner's "Problem of Evil" if you're interested in knowing why. Although that shouldn't be hard to figure out, either.

But as it is right now, I don't hate god because I know that there isn't one. I'm also a compassionate person. If I thought for a second that I wasn't, I would slit my wrists. Compassion and reason are needed in bulk if we're going to survive against fanatics of any kind, and the unscrupulously ambitious. There is nothing more dangerous than someone who puts their beliefs before simple kindness, to help each other get through life as happily, or even just as painlessly, as possible. And life can be unspeakably, seemingly impossibly, agonizing. Life can continue even when pain becomes crippling. It does all the time, physically and emotionally. Imagine all the mothers out there who lost a child, or children who lost parents, and the physical and emotional agony, and the sadness and horror that travels with it. I could go on. Not to mention the loneliness that is fundamental to living. And the more you struggle, the more alone you are, and the more you reach out. As far as I can see, nobility comes from helping each other survive comfortably past all that and feel less alone.

So I have to convince my girlfriend that it is possible to be good and not believe in god. In case you're wondering, she thinks I'm a good person (I'm not, but I try, I really do) who is in denial about god. Deep down, she thinks I believe. I love her like no other, but she is wrong.

Again, more on that later.

I think I've said enough for now. Shalom!


Apocalypse Cow said...

I've had to explain multiple times to multiple people how a person that does not believe in god can be a good person. First, you have to realize the mindset of the theist, and why they think that there is a need to believe in a god to be a good person. Basically, its accountability. They think that the guy with the beard will punish them if they are not good, and will reward them if they are good. In their minds, if you're an atheist, you don't have that control system in place, and therefore have no overlaying motivation to be a good person.

For myself, as an athiest, I don't feel that I will be punished by a sky king any more than I feel that I will be punished by King Geedorah. However, I also think that I'm a good person, precisely because I don't have that control system in place. I only have other peoples reactions and society's reactions to my actions as a feedback, and therefore I can't justify horribly evil acts, such as protesting at a veteran's funeral, by saying that god considers that a good thing. I can't cloak my actions, therefore if people seem to think I'm a good person, then well, I'm a good person. If people think I'm an evil person, then I'm evil.
If you ask your girlfriend if she thinks you act like a good person, I'm guessing she'll say yes. And therefore, because you have no overriding power telling you what to do and not do, you are acting like a good person because you ARE a good person.

God is a filter and excuse for many theists, and they use it like soft lighting in a Hallmark Special. It covers up the ugly bits, and makes everything easy to look at.

Linda said...

A.C., you are quite right. Darren is a good person.. When he asked me that question, I had to think a bit, because no one has ever asked me that before, which is why I answered, "I don't know."
I see your point. I really do. You don't have to believe in any other worldly or non-worldly being to be a good person. I believe in God. I don't always agree with what he does, and I believe I will go to Heaven when I die. That's the way I was brought up, and that's what I believe. However, I do not hold it against anyone, especially Darren, if they choose not to believe. Just for that reason, that a person is good because that's who they are, and either believing in someone, or not, will not change that.
A question to you.. Does a bad person need to believe in God to become a good person?

Apocalypse Cow said...

First, i neglected to state in my comment that I am fine with theists, if they honestly believe,(as you obviously do) and aren't just going through the motions, or blindly following church teachings. I think atheism and theism is akin to food preferences. I despise fish, but my wife will gladly pay $4 for a 3 oz tin of herring in tomato sauce from the Scandinavian shop down the road because she can't get it elsewhere.

Second, to answer your question, the bad person is a bad person until they make themselves good. Belief in a god might help a person make those changes from bad to good, but I don't think that just the belief in a god will automatically make that person good, nor is it necessary for a bad person to believe in a god to make that change.

I think its wonderful that you don't hold Darren's atheism against him, and still think that he can be a good person despite your theological differences.

Darren W. Lyle said...

Happy to see a friendly discussion in the works. I don't see any relationship at all between what I would call "goodness" (compassion, and the ability to do things that benefit others but not necessarily yourself) and religion. Think of the Irish or Italian mafia godfather, devoutly Catholic but also a murderer (among other things) who repents on his deathbed. Belief didn't change his actions at all, they're just couched in a belief system. As far as the world is concerned, however, he may as well have been a Zoroastrian Buddhist meta-ethical relativist.

Your thoughts and emotions matter only to you, but your actions are felt by those around you. I'm sure I'm decanting a very large debate here, but as far as I can see, religion is more likely to motivate people's actions in a negative way. A person who is inclined towards empathy and compassion can find solace in, for example, the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount). But I strongly feel that if a person has a kind nature, religion is just window dressing.

On the other hand, if you're pissed off at the world but are disinclined to hurt others (most people are), religion can give you the confidence and incentive you need to abandon your natural inclinations. And you can't reason with a fanatic. You can't beg for mercy from a fanatic. They're getting messages from the Almighty, and as a result you and I are of no importance. To a fanatic, you and I are just challenges in the natural world to be overcome.

Another point I'd like to make is that we're talking in the abstract about a belief in god, which is very different that believing in a specific religion. Spirituality vs. religion, as it were. It's one thing to look at the universe and say, "I know there is a god" and quite another to claim that any one religion is EXACTLY right and all the others are wrong.

The Bible, for example, is not shy about getting into minute details about what god wants from YOU. And worse than that, there is a politial heirarchy on Earth (the church) that claims to know god better than you do. And that is wrong, wrong, wrong. If there were a god, I have no reason to think that the ArchBishop of Canterbury or the Pope know him or her any better than I do. But people in these positions of power aren't shy about pushing people around.

The point I'm trying to make is that I don't automatically think a person is good or bad, kind or cruel, based on his or her being spiritual or religious. But religion is empowering, and it can make a dangerous person far more dangerous.

Suicide bombers, for example, are a great example of the power of faith. If they didn't believe in an afterlife with virgins I'm sure they'd be less inclined to blow themselves to smithereens.

I'm simplifying, I know, but this is the comment section. Keep 'em coming though...

Linda said...

Darren is right about one thing at least... Suicide bombers.. they're fanatics, as he says, and to blow people up, including yourself, all for one God you believe in, is just crazy. I believe in God, and I'm not about to strap on any dynamite any time soon. They use their religion has a shield, I believe. "It's okay to bomb people, Allah would have wanted this." No. God loves all people.
But that's another long story.
And of course, I don't hold Darren's religious beliefs against him. It's a free country, and anyone can believe what they want to believe. It doesn't have to match any one person in particular. I guess I've been around long enough, now, to know that people are people.. The way they are is the way they are.. period.