I look good in stripes...

I have recently been involved in a discussion on Facebook about "hateful atheism," which has led to some interesting conversations with friends off-line as well. I tend to find the hardline arguments on both sides to be pretty absurd, so lately I've been taking on the role of "referee." In this capacity, I have noticed that the two sides make frequent use of non sequiturs ("Illegal Procedure, Theists - 5 yard penalty..."). Another favorite illegal argument is the ad hominem attack on the previous poster ("Unnecessary Roughness, Atheists - declined, the play stands.")

What is most fascinating to me, however, is how often they use the very same arguments. For example:

"I am saving them from X!"
In this case, X could be hell, or it could be irrationality. Both camps assert that their agenda is based in concern for the other. To both, I have to say, "no one believes you." The hardest fighters in each camp seem to be motivated mostly by dislike of the other side. I will admit that I find the "holier-than-thou" Christian pretty irritating, but no more so than the "more-logical-than-thou" atheist. Be honest folks - you don't like people who differ from you, because you are convinced your position is correct.

"I am sick of being pushed around by them!"
Both sides make some pretty ludicrous arguments about how oppressed they are. Christians; there is no war on Christmas. It's the largest, most universally observed holiday in the world - get over yourselves. Atheists; Christianity is not putting an end to science, reason, or logic. They are alive and well, and they have more impact on daily life now than they ever have - get over yourselves.

"But their ideology is dangerous!"
Yes - Religion has spawned wars and witch hunts and abuse... and science and reason continue to give us bigger and better ways to kill each other and destroy our health and that of the planet. Just about every ideology worthy of the title is guilty of something shitty, past or present. Let the ideology that is without a skeleton or 20 in its closet cast the first stone.

Now, if both sides of a given dispute are using the same arguments, it might indicate that they have other things in common. I think the commonality here is faith. No atheist wants to discuss it, but it is just as difficult to categorically prove that god doesn't exist as it is to prove that he does. Certainly, they can show that it is very unlikely that such a being exists, but improbability is not proof when you are dealing with a universe that is believed to be infinite (or a finite local universe within a larger megauniverse which is infinite in nature, if you're really into this sort of thing...). Just as theists take it on faith that there is a god, atheists have faith in his absence. To the atheist who argues that at least his belief is bolstered by logic and the scientific method, the theist will reply that his belief is based on his own experiences of the holy spirit or whatever he choses to call it. Regardless of the support, these are cases of belief, not certainty. Instead of these futile attempts to convince the other side, we could talk about ways that theists and atheists and everyone in between could coexist more smoothly. But then there would be no need for a ref - what fun is that?

So, this is Christmas...

Friday is taking the hustle and bustle of Christmahanakwanzaka in stride. She likes her new hollowdaze dress well enough, but she was really hoping for an elf costume... maybe next year.

Actually, the reason she looks so calm in this picture is that she is high as a kite on Tramadol. She just got spayed yesterday, and her pain meds are keeping her very mellow. She's got a few days left on this prescription while her sutures heal, and I think it's making the craziness of the season much easier for her to handle. I recommend it for everyone at the holidays. The Tramadol I mean, not the spaying...

I have taken no end of shit from others in Flockhall for buying this little outfit. The very same people, mind you, who wanted desperately to dress her up for Halloween. I argued that she didn't need a halloween costume because she wasn't going trick-r-treating (she can't reach the doorbells) but she IS going to Grandma's house for Christmas, so a new outfit was a must. At least I stopped myself from getting the fuzzy red boots...

The Angries

I don't want to be angry anymore.

I thought this lying in the dark a few nights ago, waiting for sleep. It's hard to imagine me without anger; it's my idiom, my identity. I have a black belt in anger; it's an emotional Swiss army knife for me - it has so many uses. I'm the guy who is funny because he's angry; in fact, I have a radio show because I'm that funny/angry guy. When faced with difficulties, I use anger as fuel to get through. We've talked many times on this blog about my competitive nature - that savage gameface is based in anger. I can wring what I want out of customer service reps with anger. I have pried open bureaucratic puzzles using anger like a crowbar. I can deflect and ignore pain through anger. In fact, with anger, I can put up a shield that Montgomery Scott would envy.

Despite all of that it carries a downside that far outweighs its usefulness. Regardless of how scathing my ire might be toward the topic of the moment, I always reserve my greatest fury for myself. I am often moved to trembling rage at my own lack of focus and forgetfulness. For example - I brought a bottle of flavored water with me to work today. Once I got in the building and got to work, I realized I had left it in the car. For some inexplicable reason, I was enraged by this. I am not dying of thirst, and I could easily slip away from my desk for a few seconds to retrieve it, but instead I spent a few minutes berated myself for not remembering it.

This was a minor incident. You should see the personal fury that can arise when I misplace my car keys or wallet. Worse yet are the days when I can't remember where my sunglasses are. These spacey moments sometimes create a rage in me that, albeit brief and self-contained, is still ridiculously out of proportion to the moment. I have, thankfully, become adept at containing these fits so that no one has to endure their full brunt but me, but this is pale comfort.

It should be noted that not all of my anger is without merit. If you can read the news and you're not angry, you're not paying attention. Wars, the economy, intolerance, and the short-sighted wrangling of our elected officials is reason enough to make the blood boil. It's just that I don't dissipate it well. I stay angry, to my own detriment.

It is a trained response, I think. There is the proper, healthy anger that aids you in survival situations, and then there is the anger that takes the place of other, more useful responses. In our modern world, there is little opportunity for the former; the greatest threats to my survival each day are my own eating habits, not actual struggles for life. In most cases, the anger I feel could be more productively replaced with another response - compassion, humor, etc.

I know - I'm late to the party on this. I know that most of you are thinking, "Yes - and this is why you're a jackass, Linus." Sorry. I'm slow. Better late than never, right?

Facebook 1, Blog 0

Yikes - over a month without a post.

Is it because I'm too busy?
Is it because I'm working three jobs?
Is it because blogging is SO 2005?

Yeah, probably. But I'm going to blame it on Facebook.

I didn't understand Facebook at first. I've had a page for some time, but I never checked it unless I got an email telling me that someone had sent me a message on it. Even then I was irritated by it - I just didn't understand how people could spend any time on it. It always took me about 5 minutes to become bored by it, so I'd read my messages, remind the people who sent them that I could be reached on Gmail, and leave.

What irritated me about it was the way it turned the internet into a popularity contest on several levels. First, you have the question of friend count. Who has more than you, and why? Why is that person friends with her and not with you? Should I mine her friend list to increase my own? All pitiful things to ask yourself. Shouldn't your friends be more a matter of quality than quantity?

Then you have the daily contest of status updates. Should I be honest about what is actually on my mind, or is today a day for song lyrics, movie quotes, or your "Which Twilight Character are You?" quiz results? Score is kept in "likes" and comments, but it's not a simple process of addition. You must also figure in the content of the comments, subtracting half for those who both like and comment, and then you must consider the "likes" OF the comments - do you get those points, or do you share them with the commenter? I'm not sure - I believe the scoring system is actually based on a combination of the rules for the BCS rankings and Quidditch...

There are other arenas for Facebook combat as well. Pictures, for example - you can post, caption, tag, like, comment, untag, and generally bore everyone with the photos that aren't good enough to use as wallpaper on your phone. These fall into three broad categories; 1) profile pics so heavily 'shopped that your mom wouldn't recognize you, 2) horrible pics of you tagged by someone else, and 3) a category simply titled, "dude, we were so faded that night..." Incidentally, none of those albums are going to be particularly flattering to you twenty years from now when you run for office.

Despite how ridiculous I find this all to be, Facebook now occupies far too much of my time. For all its narcissism and shallow quantifications of net friend worth, it actually does what it claims to do - help people stay connected.

Do I think it might do that at the expense of face-to-face communication? Yes.
Do I worry that it is killing internet exchanges in longer formats? Absolutely.
Do I believe that it's creating an even more dysfunctional and self-aggrandizing generation than my own? Almost certainly, and that's saying something because let's face it, we Gen X babies are pretty much the poster children of me-theism. Never the less, it expands the neurological boundaries of our ability to establish network ties, allowing us to build "friendships" in numbers unknown to humans at any previous time in our existence. The ties are weak, certainly, but it is the sheer quantity that is remarkable - it has enabled humans to maintain sociality at a level beyond our cranial capacity. For that alone, it may be one of the most important things to arise on the internet so far.

So that's my excuse. I haven't blogged for over a month because I have become far too enthralled with Facebook. Sorry, but it's true. I'm sure that's not a shock to any of you - you probably got here via a Facebook link anyway...