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VacuumFlux last won the day on August 16 2013

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About VacuumFlux

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    python, data analysis, books, music (mostly irish, right now; i play woodwinds), sewing, crafts (many of them)

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
    not for now

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  1. Fred Clark http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/ Didn't find his blog until after I deconverted; I'm not sure how fundy-me would have reacted, and if I'd have been fascinated or horrified. He comes from an Evangelical background and spends a lot of his time calling out his fellow Christians for the things they're doing wrong. He points out a lot of the things that bothered me about the Christianity I grew up with, and even explained a few things I knew felt weird but couldn't articulate why. And, much to my surprise, I found it comforting to hear someone talking in christianeze and using all those terms to argue for being good people instead of judgemental pricks.
  2. I do think there is some objectivity to morality, in the sense that actions have real consequences and you can measure whether or not your action result in the desired consequences. Which puts me quite at odds with some christians, who think that the whole point is to enforce their god's rules, consequences and harm to others be damned. (Of course they believe that if everyone followed their rules we'd all be happy, therefore it's everyone's fault but theirs when their moralizing causes harm.) The part that's subjective is what the desired outcomes are. I, informed by modern western society, tend to want peace and autonomy for all humans on the planet, pleasant as possible lives for non-human sentient things, and to maintain bio-diversity for the non-human-non-sentient living things (mostly because it will benefit the sentient things like us and make sure our descendants far into the future have plenty to eat). But I'm wealthy enough to have the luxury of caring about all those other living things, since I and those I care most about are unlikely to ever be short on food and shelter. Poorer societies will place more value on providing resources for the in-group, even if that means taking it away from other groups of humans. Some societies place a high value on maintaining order in the social structure. Others value "honor" and "saving face" (I've heard stories that other cultures honestly don't believe that cheating is wrong; getting caught may be shameful to you and your family, but there's nothing inherently wrong with doing your best to get ahead or to help your children succeed).
  3. Those that rebel against societal norms and take action against societies' laws tend to have less offspring than those that don't. To the extent such behavior is genetically based, basic evolutionary theory predicts that those genes, and resulting behavior, will diminish within the gene pool. To the extent such behavior is contrary to the expectations of the society in which the subject lives, the behavior will be admonished, discouraged, punished, etc. Either way, or in combination, this explains why only a small minority of people behave like this. Flipping it around, humans are social animals. Certain behavior, deemed moral, ethical and correct within the particular society, is reinforced either though genetics or social pressure, resulting in a higher percentage of folks who act within those norms. I've noticed that many of the smartest animals are also the most social. Apes, crows, elephants... they all live in larger social groups. It's quite possible that the main reason we as humans are so smart is that it's an evolutionary side effect of the brainpower needed to keep track of a large social network (that idea is not original to me, but the evolutionary causes of intelligence are still being studied and argued over; this is just one set of ideas I particularly like). We have an entire section of our brains devoted to identifying and reading our fellow humans' faces! We also have a part of the brain called "mirror neurons" that fire when we perform an action, but also when we see other people perform the same action. That's how we learn skills from each other; we can actually "feel" each other's motions and emotions. So evolution did give us empathy, physically hard-wired into our brains. There's this weird idea in the culture that "survival of the fittest" means the strongest and meanest. But it's not that kind of fitness; it's reproductive fitness. Sometimes the more "fit" animal is the one who run away from danger and lives to breed another day than the one that charges boldly into a fight it can't win and ends up dead. Sometimes it means the laid back animal who plays nice with others and has a whole pack around to watch its back, and not the asshole who makes the rest of the pack mad and gets kicked out to fend for itself. So evolution can push animals towards "being nice" well before they get to the level of complex human-style societies.
  4. Pre-natal hormones are an interesting one. Boys who have older brothers are more likely to be gay, because the mother's body produces a different set of hormones. I was surprised by that one when I first learned about it, because that means that it be true both that it's environmental not genetic, and that you were born that way.
  5. I told god, while I still believed, that the version of Him that I'd learned was really messed up and I've have to walk away for a bit. I fully intended to come back later, once I'd had time to heal and grieve. And then... I didn't. I still read stuff about world religions because humanity is fascinating, but I never did feel a need to go back and take Christianity seriously to disprove it. Was kinda surprised when I realized that. So take a break from thinking about Christianity, and if you need to go back and deal with it later, go ahead, but maybe you'll just stop caring.
  6. I sincerely doubt ancient people took all of their myths literally. Ever read "The Case for God" by Karen Armstrong? She underscores the importance of keeping "Mythos" (symbolic and spiritual interpretation) and "Logos" (literal approach to the world. For instance, history and natural science) apart, and makes the claim that many ancient people were more capable of this than many of us seem to think. I still think some myths have something to offer us. They're not simply fairytales, but have messages embedded in them, told in a fantastical way. It does become a problem however, when they're interpreted as literal fact, and this is what the fundies are so fond of doing. I recently read a book called "Did the Greeks believe their myths?" and the answer was... complicated. It varied over time, location, and educational level. Kinda like today, the more highly educated you were, the less likely you were to believe that the myths were literal truth. And even if you did believe in them, they may have happened "Once upon a time", not exactly in the distant past, but almost is a timeline that isn't exactly the same as ours. Or they may have been real events with fantastical stuff tacked on top of them later. All the different ways modern liberal Christans have of relating to they mythology in the Bible, the ancient Greeks had too for relating to their myths. Though even if you didn't believe it was literal truth, it was still important - kinda like the way we argue over Who Shot First in Star Wars. Except their arguments over Who Shot First weren't just in fandom, they were serious components of political fights; if you can make some other city out to be a good guy or a bad guy in some old story, you can use that to argue about whether you should ally with or fight with them in the current war. Orators loved that stuff. Looking at our modern political debates, I can't really claim that we're any better. Going back to the original post, the Greeks also had a magic time in the past where everything was prosperous and peaceful, sorta like Eden except with more people. They even had the same freak out about morality/pollution (they didn't quite do sin in the same way Christians do) and atheism as modern Christians. Like they'd charge atheists with treason, because godless people can't be moral and atheists were going to destroy the fabric of society. But the transition between the golden age and today in Greek myths seems more gradual, and more about external influences than human moral choices. Still weird to be reading this stuff and thinking "Hey, wait... this sounds familiar..." Especially after hearing years of Christians claiming that their myths are totally different from everyone else's myths, and that that uniqueness is part of why you should believe them. The answer I'd been given growing up is that in Eden, people had the Holy Spirit or something like that; that's why they were ok being naked, because they glowed with holy light and you couldn't see their naughty bits (see Moses's glowing face and the transfiguration for more examples of glowing people). But once they sinned, that piece of God was taken out of them, and that's why their behaviour fell apart. Kinda like brain damage. How that squares with a just God, no one's ever given an explanation that I find satisfactory.
  7. I wouldn't recommend doing that until you've been out of church for a while. I had a while where I thought I'd read the bible from a secular perspective to see what it said, instead of what I'd always been told it said, but I found myself shaking and upset every time I'd try. But after a few years of being deconverted, that calmed down on its own. I don't feel such an urge to read the bible now, because I don't have as much to prove to myself, but I can read bits of it on occasion without it being traumatic. I did spend a while reading a blog from a progressive liberal christian, the kind who thinks that Jesus cared more about feeding the hungry than about spreading dogma, who thinks gays are quite ok with God, etc. It was nice to see the terminology I'd grown up with used by someone who wasn't an asshole. But seeing it through a blog meant that I didn't have to interact with any people while processing those emotions.
  8. As to fetuses, a lot of the stuff you use to describe them could also be applied to newborns. I'm not trying to be ridiculous here, but I think life begins at least when heart and brain activity begin. The fetus already has it's own DNA...not mom's or dad's. I actually don't know if there is a scientific consensus on the matter or not. That's what interests me, not religious or legal opinions, and I think that's where other people don't always get me when this issue comes up. Yes, the big difference between a late term fetus and a newborn is whether its self-supporting (with food and care, etc) or depending on the mother's body. I would be fine with legislation that says if it's a viable late term pregnancy and you want to end it, that "end" should be either inducing or C-section and then you can give it up for adoption and have nothing more to do with it. But what happens if someone's trying to end a late term pregnancy because the fetus isn't viable, if it's a certainty that after birth the baby would die? What if going through a birth would put the mother at risk of death? Aborting the pregnancy by killing the fetus and taking it out in pieces does a lot less damage to the mother's body than going through a full birth or cutting her open to take it out, and I'm perfectly fine with that option if the baby would never have survived anyway. Forcing a woman with a non-viable fetus to give birth to a live baby seems equivalent to keeping an elderly person on life support even when they're mentally not there any more. If they're dying anyway, why not make it as quick, painless, and as minimally harmful to others as possible? (Most late term pregnancies happen because the woman wanted a baby but something's going horribly wrong.) The problem with that reasoning for younger fetuses is that there's no way for the mother to end a pregnancy without killing the fetus. Would you be ok with a woman deciding she wants to withdraw life support from the fetus by having it extracted whole (either induced or c-section), have nothing to do with the resulting child, and have the government or potential adoptive parents foot the bill for the NICU? That may or may not result in a living, healthy baby? And even earlier in a pregnancy, there's no hope of the fetus surviving outside the mother's body so that's not an option. I don't see any point in having a right to life without a right to bodily autonomy; then we'd be ok with keeping women drugged and artificially inseminated as breeding stock. We're obvious not ok with that, so we do value the bodily autonomy of adults. No one, adult or fetus, has the right to use another person's body parts, even if that lack means they'll die. We've clearly established that in the laws about organ donation and blood donation. It's volunteers only. Why should birth be any different, especially when it requires so much time and resources from the mother's body? For a super contrived and silly example, if there was a blood drive going on next to a food place, and you were trying to go get lunch but accidentally got in the wrong line, should you be allowed to get out of line once you realize your mistake or should you be forced to donate blood anyway? Blood donation saves lives! Without your blood, someone may die. In every other case of lives vs bodily autonomy, we've legislated that someone else's bodily autonomy trumps your right to life. As to the scientific consensus, I don't think that's a specific enough question. The consensus on when life begins? Sperm and eggs are alive - and a woman's eggs formed in-utereo before she was born. Blastocysts that never implant and get flushed out with the woman's next period are alive. Blastocysts that implant but have flawed DNA and spontaneously abort were alive. When the heart beat begins? When there's a functioning nervous system that can feel pain? When sentience begins? When the fetus can live on it's own without the mother's body? Science can answer all those questions (except maybe sentience and feeling pain; I think there's ongoing research on what exactly that means, which requires defining things like "sentience" and "feeling"). But science can't tell us which one of those questions should determine when that the fetus should have legal standing to compel the mother's actions. Society decides that. As I stated in my previous paragraph, our society values consent and bodily autonomy, so with that reasoning the relevant science question is when the fetus can survive without making use of the mother's body. Which is why we draw such a sharp line between fetuses and babies; one of them is living off the mother's body and the other is not.
  9. My grandma was "gone" long before she died. With the right meds at just the right time, she might know who and where she was, and who you were, for a few minutes each day. We wanted to hold on to those moments for as long as possible, but they kept slipping away. When her body died, it was something of a relief to know that it was all over - that the husk that used to contain grandma wasn't going to be taunting us with memories of someone we'd never see again, and that whatever was left of the person we'd known was no longer suffering the fear and confusion of being trapped in a body that no longer responded to her commands. To me, it felt like her soul was gone well before her body died. I certainly grieved at the finality of her bodily death, but I'd been grieving for her mental death a long time before then. So no, I don't think that medical science's measurement of heart and brain activity is the only thing that matters when talking about the value of a human life, and I don't think that it's a single moment in time, either. Grandma faded away from life gradually with her bodily death being the end of a slow decline. It seems equally natural to me that at the start of life there's a similar gradual transition that starts at conception and grows more "ensouled" (for lack of a better term) over time. "With the right meds at just the right time, she might know who and where she was, and who you were, for a few minutes each day" I see what you're saying here VF, and I don't want to seem mean. That isn't my intention. I'm sorry about your grandma. After my grandma got sick, she insisted that she heard me a lot on country radio which is what they played, I guess, at the adult foster care home where she lived. I assure you that my songs were never played on any radio. Grandma used to play guitar for the local Baptist church, and she knew I played guitar too. Somewhere, I guess things got messed up in her brain. It's damn sad, but she was still my grandma. I would no sooner put a knife in her heart than I would that of my niece (closest that I have to a daughter) or my unborn baby, should I ever have one. Ok, so you wouldn't put a knife in her heart, but would you stop the medication and disconnect the machines if you knew they were keeping her body functioning but not her mind? With my other grandma we had to make that decision. She'd been unconscious for over a month, maybe it was two months? We'd thought that maybe she was doing some of the hand squeezing and stuff when we talking to her, but for medical purposes, she has to be able to do that twice in a row and she never did manage that. So we might have been fooling ourselves and she'd been completely gone the whole time. So we choose to let her die, to take away the machines that were running her body for her, because there was no hope of "her" ever coming back to that body. In retrospect we wondering if we'd made that decision later than we should have, if our hopes for recovery clouded our minds and we'd put her through more pain and suffering than necessary (she did have the paperwork in place that said she didn't want her life dragged out unnecessarily by machines, so her wishes might have been to have it all end sooner). So... fetuses. How much of that personhood that my grandmothers lost at the end do they even have yet? They haven't had enough brain development to know who they are, know who other people are, to know what life feels like. They haven't been using their own bodies long enough to understand that their fingers and toes are their own. If they even have finger and toes and neurons yet - early pregnancies are just a mass of stem cells that haven't split into specific functions yet. At what point does the fetus have enough personhood to override the bodily autonomy of the fully formed woman who's hosting the fetus? Why? It's already happened. Woman goes to ER due to all the bleeding from a miscarrage or stillbirth, which she freaked out about and disposed of the body, she can't prove it wasn't an abortion (she did talk to a friend about ordering abortion drugs online, but there were no records of her ever doing so and no traces of them in her blood), and now she's in prison for 20 years (on charges both of killing an unborn fetus and abandoning a living, post-birth child). http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/indiana-has-now-charged-two-asian-american-women-feticide-n332761 http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-03-13/indiana-jury-says-purvi-patel-should-go-prison-what-she-says-was-miscarriage Pregnant woman falls down the stairs after an argument with her husband over the phone. Woman goes to ER, says she wanted to make sure the baby's ok. Cops arrest her for attempted abortion, say she told the nurse that she threw herself down the stairs on purpose to try cause an abortion. The result of the ER visit was that the baby's fine, but she still got charged with attempted abortion. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/did-christine-taylor-take-abortion-into-her-own-hands/ http://www.thegazette.com/2010/01/22/iowa-woman-accused-of-trying-to-kill-unborn-baby-in-fall-down-stairs-charged-with-attempted-feticide Woman pregnant with twins refuses a c-section the doctors say is medically necessary, and after giving birth without the c-section, only one of the twins survives. She's charged with murder for the other one. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mom-arrested-after-utah-stillbirth/
  10. My grandma was "gone" long before she died. With the right meds at just the right time, she might know who and where she was, and who you were, for a few minutes each day. We wanted to hold on to those moments for as long as possible, but they kept slipping away. When her body died, it was something of a relief to know that it was all over - that the husk that used to contain grandma wasn't going to be taunting us with memories of someone we'd never see again, and that whatever was left of the person we'd known was no longer suffering the fear and confusion of being trapped in a body that no longer responded to her commands. To me, it felt like her soul was gone well before her body died. I certainly grieved at the finality of her bodily death, but I'd been grieving for her mental death a long time before then. So no, I don't think that medical science's measurement of heart and brain activity is the only thing that matters when talking about the value of a human life, and I don't think that it's a single moment in time, either. Grandma faded away from life gradually with her bodily death being the end of a slow decline. It seems equally natural to me that at the start of life there's a similar gradual transition that starts at conception and grows more "ensouled" (for lack of a better term) over time.
  11. Planned Parenthood also provides birth control, so these weren't just pregnancies that would have been aborted, these are conceptions that never would have happened if the low income women had access to health care. The low income part is tragic because these are women who don't have other ways to afford health care (which includes pre-natal care for wanted pregnancies), who, with access to birth control, would likely have chosen never to get pregnant because they feel like they're already too poor to take care of the kids they have. Kinda like how it's tragic that teen pregnancies go up when kids aren't taught comprehensive sex ed. If there were better post-birth support for low income mothers, and better educational opportunities for the kids, I bet more low income women would choose to carry to term even when abortion is available. With politics in the US, the people who tend to vote to defund all heath care for the poor, and to defund schools, also tend to be the ones who want to outlaw abortion. Which makes them sound like hypocrites who don't actually care about the value of human life.
  12. Well, as long as it stays in your head, who's being harmed? Now, granted, if you harbor grudges you'll feel miserable and it'll leak out in your actions eventually. But getting annoyed at people sometimes, feeling negative emotions, is just part of being human. I've found that when I let myself feel pissy in my head, but keep it to myself, and don't bother feeling guilty about it... then thinking those thoughts is sufficient for "expressing" my negative emotions. But if I feel guilty I start obsessing over negative emotions, they don't go away, and I feel worse and act worse.
  13. Don't be ashamed of your sexuality. Feel free to exercise it within in the limits of medical safety and informed consent. Don't let anyone shame you for having too much sex or for having too little (though if this is a recurring conflict in a long term relationship, it will need worked out and you should take the other's feelings seriously). Don't let anyone pressure you into sex you don't want (or even don't feel ready for right now but might want later), and if you're in a relationship with a person who does so repeatedly you should probably get out. Don't be vague about consent because you're afraid that it'll make you less "pure" even though you want things to happen - that's unfair to your partner (emotionally and legally), and may result in you having less of a good time if you won't let yourself fully participate. Or just missing out on something you wanted because they took you at your word and tried to show you respect. When you ask someone out and they turn you down, don't take it personally. It's probably not about you at all. Maybe they even think you're a great person but know that you'd have personality conflicts if you got too close. Maybe they have a lot going on in their life right now and aren't ready to start any new relationship with anyone. In the vast majority of situations, it's not a rejection of you as a valuable human being, and if you start thinking it is, your resentment will show and it'll make you less likely to get a yes from anyone in the future. Know where your money's going, even if you don't keep a formal budget. If you want a fun expensive toy, make a plan to save up for it instead of financing it. Save the loans for things like houses, cars, and starting a business.
  14. There are certainly going to be paths that open up for you in life that you didn't expect, coincidences that line up, etc. The circumstances you're born into, your DNA, they all influence you in certain directions. Whether or there's an intelligence out there deciding to make things line up like that for you, that doesn't fit into a definition of a god, is a different question. I personally see no evidence of any intelligent beings directing my life or the life of others, but I do see a lot of... zeitgeist, I guess. And riding the waves of history is certainly a way of being involved in forces larger than yourself. If you're asking about free will, I don't think we have "free" will. I also don't believe in mind/matter dualism, and a lot of talk about free will seems to be asking if there's a ghost separate from the machine that is playing puppet master, or if the puppet is the one pulling the strings. But I don't think there's two entities at all, so there can't be conflict between them. I happen to be a materialist, and see our minds as a thing created by the action of the matter in our brain; the "ghost" is just the pattern made by the dance of matter. And I do think that the material controls us more than we like to believe, but I don't think that's all bad. We evolved to have instincts that keep us alive; we are part of nature, nature that can be cruel and dangerous. We have defenses in place that will protect us faster than our conscious mind can think things through. And I think these things are good. Good in the sense that we survived, we thrived. Because we don't have a "free" will, we have a will that responds to the situations around us and adapts accordingly. Sometimes it does seem like the idea of destiny is the simplest way to make sense of your life when looking at the past. Humans like stories to connect events together. And if you come up with a compelling story of your past that you tell yourself, you may well end up choosing actions in the future that fit in with that same story. I suppose that's a kind of destiny, even if it is self-created.
  15. Sometimes I describe myself as an "materialist atheist Jungian polytheist". Carl Jung came up with the idea of the Collective Unconscious and the gods as Archetypes. Now, I think he actually believed that this was a collective thing external to individual humans that we could tap into, whereas I believe we just all have similar ideas unique to our own brains, but in practice those are very similar ideas. I have not yet actually read any of Jung; that's on my list to do some day. As for book recommendations, I don't have many. I've mostly read blogs and academic books - working at a university has some nice perks. The one I'm reading right now is "Did the Greeks Believe Their Myths?" by Paul Veyne. The answer seems to be that that's a very modern question. And that the Greeks weren't monolithic in what they believed. They did get to a period where they (or at least the educated) decided that the supernatural probably isn't true because no one was experiencing anything like that now, but that it must have been based on real people and real events that just grew in the retelling. And even if it's not all true-true, if tradition treats it like truth then it's quite alright to play along - I think the term "customary beliefs" came up in a translation of a Greek talking about that (that might have been from Plato's Republic). Mostly I've picked out books by picking a topic, figuring out which area of the library it's in, and then grabbing a few that sound interesting. For my next topic, after I finish all the Greek books I checked out, I can't decide if I want to follow clothing history from the Romans up through the Middle Ages (I found out that some aspects of Byzantine formal wear were basically blinged-out vestigial togas! What other weird things might I discover?) or learn about a particular Egyptian deity that the internet doesn't have much to say about. I like this guy's thoughts on what it means to be "Pagan": http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2015/01/the-big-tent-of-paganism.html That's a post about "The Big Tent of Paganism" supported by the 4 pillars of "Nature, the Gods, the Self, and Community". Pagans will vary widely in which of those aspects they're into. My primary interests are probably self and nature, but due to my local community I'm also curious about gods.
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