Eject the Core

My last post turned into a small confession.
I have felt too often my views are stifled, primarily by my instinct to not draw attention to myself and not make waves of any kind. While I say the ridiculous among those I love, I do it because I know that love is enduring and I have comfort in spouting what I can. Also, this generally means I pity my loved ones for having to live with me.

There was a brief time where I thought of keeping anonymous at a separate blog, the Simple Humanist. A combination of me whittling down my philosophies of life, physical and metaphysical. I posted a few times, but it went essentially nowhere. Looking back, that project was a while ago.

Time speeds by us all. You have to get on the trolley or you do nothing. Either way, you wind up dead.¬†My silence is me standing around doing nothing. I can’t get on the trolley without taking a step. Even if it could pick me up, standing on the tracks would be more likely to shorten my time.

My plan is to be more honest with myself, to deny less of who I am. I don’t think I’ll intentionally be rude, and nobody’s place is to say if someone is stupid for thinking one way or another. It’s all a matter of pointing out fallacy when you see it. I missed plenty of notes in rehearsal, but it never meant I wasn’t a capable player. That was bad, you’re not bad; the difference is right there.

So I can’t really apologize in advance for what I say here. Besides, this is my blog, my brain, and you enter at your own risk. Plenty of other channels out there.

(Why do TV channel metaphors on the Internet feel just as dated as trolley references?)

I am a lifelong atheist, and have never been a Christian. The latter is a given based on the former, but due to the majority around me, that statement often clears up confusion. I’ve not strayed from the flock nor fallen from grace. I’m a clean-living, silly-talking family man who finds religion not only unnecessary to lead a good life but is often a negative influence.

I don’t care much for the term atheist, either. Defining yourself by a negative is weak. It does help though when most people have a different basis of reference. But I think Humanist is the better noun, atheist is the adjective. I believe in the good of humanity as a whole, that we are capable of progressing ourselves for the better. We’re built to live and protect as a group, with love and art being the enormously powerful reaction based on the fusion of those simpler elements.

Atheist for me remains the adjective, remaining not the sole defining factor of who I am. We all have many facets to ourselves, there’s no way a single moniker tells the whole story. My Humanism is certainly a part of who I am, and holding it in at some times while not at others is ridiculous.

I’d rather the ridiculous in my life be limited to the things I spout out rather than what I hold back.

Too Young To Decide

I play cards at a game shop about once a week. It’s nice to have a break from any screens or even concerns outside of what strategies are and aren’t working.
Last time I was out on Friday night, it was at a much larger gathering. There were more younger kids, ones that were about middle school age, with the rest of us ranging from late high school through middle age. I’m naturally a bit aloof and outside of conversation, and this particular place wasn’t my regular haunt, so I spent most of my time observing and listening. It’s amusing to hear how young kids speak, and considering this is similar to the crowd I grew up amidst, it’s plenty familiar.

Some of the younger kids were chatting and at a random point, one of the boys declared that he’s an atheist. The others at my table heard it too and gave each other looks. They were a group of brothers with another friend or two. And one said to the group, “Wow. A bit young to be deciding that sort of thing?”

As is my normal reaction, I am silent with a non-commital look. Think of Jim from The Office.

And then it festers in me, until I’m doing some other irritating, mindless task, such as trying to get my sprinkler pump to work again (no dice on that). Then the realization: it’s a huge double-standard.

I could be incorrect, but my presumption is that group of nearly identical, blond young men were Christians. And I should have replied to that statement,

“Well, that’s a bit of a double-standard now isn’t it? How old were you when you could tell someone ‘I’m a Christian.’ Even more specifically, when could you first say definitively that you were a Lutheran or a Baptist? I know I disbelieved in a god earlier than I disbelieved in Santa Claus.

“Granted, every 14 year old is a fool, as well they should be. We all pick absolutes that get completely shattered by our second decade. Kids spout whatever they think will make them strong, so there you have it. But drop the idea that we’re all Christian by default and everything else is a decision.”

Something along those lines. Wish I was a combination of more outward and quicker wit to come up to any kid’s defense. But alas, I’m left with passive aggression on a mostly-neglected blog.

They Dance

(Via Bad Astronomy.)

This video made me think of us. We’re the only ones here. And we’ve only recently become capable of seeing planets dance with their moons. We strapped cameras to rockets and flung them to the heavens.

We aimed for these specks of light that have traveled among the stars our entire existence. We’ve watched and traced and slowly figured out how to anticipate them. And in the process, we’ve found that we’re one of them. They’re our family.

Now we’ve taken so many pictures that we can watch them move, watch them dance. They’re out there in the depths of cold beyond cold, held onto by the invisible marionette strings of our single, lonely star.

They always would be moving, even without us watching. But we get to, in all the glory of a simple flickering video, like watching experiments with film at the end of the 19th Century. Knowing that this has gone on for time beyond comprehension, yet we finally are seeing it.

Since we are who we are, we will keep looking. Not only do we get to watch our ancient family dance here, but we search on to see how many other dancers there are in the skies.

And since we are who we are, we will never stop. We can’t. Give an animal some thumbs and plenty of time and its progeny will crack rocks into axes and build fires and eventually run around strapping cameras to rockets.

Maybe those animals would start seeing the faintest traces of those marionette strings pulling on our dancers spinning around our single, lonely star.

The planets would still be out there without us. The tree would definitely fall in the woods and vibrate the air. Those planets would be moving with their moons, nameless and silent. But we are the ones who get to see them dance.

Crossing a Thin Line

The line between diplomacy and cowardice is much finer than one would imagine. I walk it daily. We all do. It’s the grey area between what we honestly think and what we actually say. But my wife recently broke down such a barrier in her life. I was scared for her while still being so proud.
She admitted her apostasy to her devout, Catholic family. I never saw it coming. I knew her feelings about the church itself and its tenets, but all the way to disbelief in the divine? That was entirely through her own contemplation.

So I should move forward as well. One would think I’d have less inhibition about such things, as I have never been a believer. I think I believed in Santa Claus longer and more deeply than a god. After all, at least I had evidence of that once a year.

Yet for years my tongue has been bitten. I went through hoops for the sake of love. I lied when asked to swear oaths regarding Jesus and Satan in order to keep the peace with those I love and care about.

It’s a fine line between diplomacy and cowardice. All those nods and acknowledgements, even when my children started repeating things they’d been told that contradicted fully what is known about the world. I was as diplomatic as I could be.

And every moment of it I felt like a searing coward.

I have read stories of people coming out atheist and being ostracized by their families. Parents, siblings, friends, all suddenly turning on a person they loved unconditionally moments before. My wife is still waiting for the other shoe to drop and we continually prepare for serious discussions over what is passed through our children.

By all accounts, I should have the easiest time admitting how I see the world. I have never believed in God beyond any general contemplation on divinity. To say it more clearly for the majority to understand: I have never been a Christian. And I despise having to say as much. Not believing is the default.

We’re not born with a belief in anything. Early life is all food, sleep, and bitching about the lack of both. Even as adults, that’s a solid 80% of what we have going on as well.

I loathe defining myself as a negative. Hi, I’m Evan, and I’m not a German. Well, I have ancestors who were. And I learned a bit of German language… Yadda, yadda, yadda.

It’s ridiculous. I’m Evan, and I’m an American. I’m Humanist as well. People are naturally kind and open; it is other factors that turn them dark. We’ve developed amazing tools and art, and more tools and more art, all to the benefit of humanity. Things aren’t perfectly good and balanced now, but they’re progressively getting better. And knowing my own limitations and mortality is a powerful driver for making what comes after my death better. For that, for all our faults, I am humanist.

Most importantly, though, I am Evan.

And I will let diplomacy be the key to my honesty.