A: “Hi everyone. I am a member of (minority group). I would like to talk about my experiences as a member of (minority group). I would like to hear about the experiences of other members of (minority group).”

B: “Hi, A. I am B. I am also a member of (minority group). My experience has been [etc].”

C: “Hey guys, I am also a member of (minority group). My experience has been [etc].”

D: “I am not a member of (minority group), but I can tell you: you guys have got it all wrong!”

A: “Excuse me, D, um, you’re not really adding anything to this conversation. You don’t really know what it’s like to be a member of (minority group), so don’t pretend like you do. If you’d like to listen to us, that’s fine. We encourage that, actually, but please refrain from making comments that don’t further the discussion.”

D: “OMG you are racist! You hate (majority group)! I can’t believe you are treating me this way! I was just trying to say that people in (minority group) and people in (majority group) are exactly the same, and so are their experiences! There is no difference! My experience of life is exactly like everyone else’s, even people who are different than me!”

A: “Maybe if you’d just shut up and listen to us, you’d see that there are in fact differences in the experiences of people from (minority group) and people from (majority group). I agree, people are all basically the same, but our experiences aren’t.”

D: “I can’t believe how terribly you’re treating me! How dare you have a conversation where I am not the center of attention! You are a racist! I am appalled!”

B: “A, please block this person, so we can continue our conversation.”

C: “Yeah, as long as D is here, we’re not getting anywhere.”

D: “I am being discriminated against because I am a member of (majority group)! OMG I can’t believe you guys! You are such hypocrites!”

A: “…and blocked.”

B: “Good.”

C: “Great.”


D, enraged and genuinely offended, takes his imagined mistreatment to his own forum:

D: “OMG you guys! Seriously! (Minority group) is racist! They wouldn’t let me in their discussion about what it’s like to be a member of (minority group), and I was totally trying to contribute to the conversation you guys!”

E: “Typical. They talk about ‘discrimination’ and then discriminate against us. Hypocrites!”

F: “Hurr durr shoulda gave a trigger warning!”

G: “You invaded their ‘safe space’, huh huh.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

G: “Hahahahaha that is so sweet!”

H: “Um, guys, I read that conversation, and D was kinda, well, being a dick. D just kinda butted in with something that didn’t have anything to do with what they were talking about, then wouldn’t shut up when they asked him to. I eavesdropped on the conversation, and I learned some new insights about what it’s like to be a member of (minority group.)”

E: “But they wouldn’t let you in the conversation?”

H: “I didn’t really have anything to add. I just wanted to listen.”

D: “OMG you are such a pussbag you stupid pussbag! I was totally making a good point about how racist they are, and you come in here all ‘look at me, I am sooo tolerant of others and politically correct, ooh, I’m so nice to everybody’. Pussbag!”

G: “Huh, huh, regressive leftist, huh, huh.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

E: “This is a common occurrence among those individuals whose misguided notions about ‘equality’ lead them to self-loathing practices such as the one so pitifully illustrated here. It is obvious to anyone with any sort of moral sense that all conversations should be open to everyone, and that reason demands that all discussions remain open to all people, no matter how offensive their point of view may be. Forsooth, ’tis a sad day indeed when the so-called ‘liberals’ and ‘intellectuals’ in our grand society forsake their own will in a futile attempt to crawl across the desert of ‘political correctness’ to reach the elusive and illusory oasis of ‘multiculturalism,’ which everyone knows is a false idol only fools seek.”

F: “That is soooo deep, dude.”

E: “Thanks.”

G: “[Meme]”

H: “I kinda think you guys are blowing this out of proportion.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

G: “TRIGGER WARNING! Hahahahaha!”

E: “You are so misguided, H. Those people in (minority group) are all pathetic. They create an echo chamber where only their own views are allowed. They exclude all other viewpoints. And you are pathetic for your idiotic pandering to their blatant assault on freedom of speech.”

H: “Well, they were talking about something we as members of (majority group) don’t have any experience with. I mean, come on. None of us are professional baseball players. If a group of professional baseball players were talking about their experiences as professional baseball players, would any of us have anything to contribute to the conversation?”

G: “But there are professional baseball players from (minority group) and (majority group).”

H. “…yeah, but that isn’t really the point.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

E: “But you have to work very hard to become a professional baseball player. You don’t have to do anything but be born to be a member of (minority group).”

H: “That isn’t the point, either.”

F: “[Meme]”

H: “Look. All I am trying to say is that different people have different life experiences. And personally, I find it enriches my own life to learn about what life is like for people who are different than me.”

E: “You have done nothing but allowed yet another anti-intellectual echo chamber to flourish. This is why ISIS exists.”

H: “What?”

F: “Regressive leftists are the real terrorists.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

G: “Echo chambers are bad, mmmkay?”

D: “Hahahahaha”

E: “Echo chambers do not produce anything of value to a rational society. They are the antithesis of rational discourse, and they contribute to a society where everyone must be pampered and treated as if they were special little snowflakes whose opinions are priceless gems that adorn the tiara of that syphilitic whore called ‘liberalism.’”

F: “Dude, that is sooooo deep.”

E: “Thanks.”

H: “Guys, speaking of ‘echo chambers,’ has anyone else noticed that I am the only dissenting opinion here?”

E: “Yes, but D, in his infinite wisdom and patience and respect for rational discourse, in the hopes that true freedom of speech will not perish from our illustrious  society, allows wildly deluded people like you to comment here as well. I salute D in his continuing use of intentionally offensive words, despite the fact that he knows better ones, and furthermore if I want to tell a member of (minority group) or (minority group) or even (minority group) that we are all human and that my experiences are exactly like theirs and if they don’t think so they are stupid then I’m gonna, and if I want to make fun of trigger warnings traumatized people ask for I’m gonna, because while I am not a licensed psychiatrist I know that what is best for me is best for everyone.”

D: “I agree with E. We are right. I was totally not doing what you said I was doing to those racists who excluded me from their conversation you guys.”

G: “I am sorry you had to go through that, D.”

F: “You’re all wet, H.”

E: “Guys, don’t be too hard on H. One day, he will see that we are correct in our arguments, for we, my friends, are guided by Reason. Reason is the only thing that guides us, not these piddling self-interested petty little discussions conducted in echo chambers by pathetic fools who cling to antiquated notions of identity politics and rape rational discourse with the foolhardy and bittersweet poison they call ‘political correctness.’”

F: “You are the smartest person alive.”

E: “Thanks.”


H, tired of being berated, returns to the previous discussion, reading silently.

A: “…well, that was a nice discussion, guys.”

C: “Yeah, after we got D out of here.”

B: “I don’t understand why people like that have to butt in all the time.”

A: “People like what? You mean members of (majority group)?”

B: “No, not all members of (majority group) are like that. But some of them are, and man are they annoying.”

H: “Hey guys, I am a member of (majority group), and I have been following this conversation. I hope you guys don’t mind. I learned some things today that I would not have learned otherwise, and my worldview is now a little wider. Thank you for that.”

A: “That’s cool, H. You’re welcome!”

C: “Glad to have you.”

B: “Nice to meet you!”









So it’s the new year, and I have already broken a few resolutions. For one, I resolved to limit my time on Facebook and other social media with sort of an “office hours” approach, and I have yet to do so. These “office hours,” when the plan is implemented, will likely be early in the morning – an hour or so some time between 5 and 7 am, ideally – maybe half an hour during lunch – noon-ish – and then another hour or two later in the evening.

This sort of approach is undoubtedly already followed by many of my Facebook friends. The hours I have listed here are based around a normal 8 to 5 workday schedule. As I am not currently employed full-time in such a fashion, I have a tendency to spend far more time than that on social media.

And as I am (ostensibly) a “blogger” and “author” (first novel yet to be finished), I need to think of those activities in more of a workday sense than I currently do. Or at least for the duration of time I am able to get away with not having a full-time job, ha ha. I am hoping to make at least a little money off of the novel I am working on, but in all honesty I am not optimistic. It isn’t that I don’t have “faith” in the quality of the novel itself – personally I think it’s pretty decent – it’s just that my taste in fiction doesn’t exactly line up with mainstream tastes. And anyways I don’t want to spend hours and hours and hours (and hours and hours and hours) working on something that I myself would not personally enjoy reading. I would rather do something else to make money, I mean.

But anyways, I suppose we will see what happens. As I have stated before, if it sells ten copies, I will consider it a success.

Moving on, I have so far kept up with a couple other resolutions. I have been eating better – I have had a salad for lunch every day this week – and I have been drinking less alcohol. The only alcohol I have consumed since January 2 – so I celebrated the holiday with a glass of wine or three, sue me – has been in the form of NyQuil, and also DayQuil, if it’s got alcohol in it.

I also exercised a little, before the cold started dragging me down. Not a lot, just a few squats, a few chin-ups, a little dumbbell stuff, not much.

I have tried to be nicer. I have tried.

Anyways, what I want to express with all this blathering is that these are things I have decided to do to improve myself. I am not preaching at anyone. It is none of my business if you – whoever you are – do or do not choose to adhere to any sort of “self-improvement” plans like the ones I am attempting to adhere to.

If these things prove to be beneficial to me, I may or may not recommend that you do them yourself. If I see that you are struggling or suffering or whatever you want to call it with the same things I am struggling/suffering/whatever with, I may recommend them. As a matter of fact, friends of mine have recommended things like this to me, and my “resolutions” were influenced by these recommendations. And I am grateful to these friends, more so than I can really express here.

But – and this is a big “but” – I can’t force you to do the things I do. I can’t force you to change anything about yourself or your behavior.

Why not?

Put simply: I am not the boss of you.

And conversely, you can’t force me to do the things you do. You can’t force me to change anything about myself or my behavior.

Why not?

Put simply: you are not the boss of me.

And if you are thinking that this all sounds like hippy dippy drivel, and that I am probably woozy-headed from the DayQuil I took just a while ago, well, no comment.

What I am getting at, in a roundabout way, is the concept of “Freedom of Religion.” That is to say, the freedom to follow any religion you choose, or to not follow any religion at all.

I am not “anti-religion.” Many religious people may think that I am; I am not. I am all for religion, if it is something that enriches your life and the lives of those around you.

Because if you are happy and content, the people around you are more likely to be happy and content. If you are happy and content, you are less likely to bring negativity and turmoil into the lives of those around you.

This goes for me, too.

This is why I have made certain resolutions for the new year. To better myself, and thereby to be less of a drain on the people around me.

But the problem with religion – every religion – is that more often than not, adherents to whichever religion do not use their religion to improve themselves. More often than not, adherents to whichever religion use their religion as an excuse to try and change other people.

They don’t use religion as a means of self-improvement, they use it as a means to condemn other people.

I personally don’t care what religion you adhere to. As long as you use your religion to look inward, to improve yourself, I support you.

However, the moment you begin using your religion to project – the moment you begin attempting to force other people to adhere to your religion – then we have a problem.

I have written about this many times. I have said this exact same thing more times than I can count. But to repeat it once more:

Your religion is for you. It is something you follow to guide you in your life. If that is how you approach your religion, I support you, and I won’t ridicule you for it, and I will discourage others from ridiculing you for it.

And if you tell people about your religion and the positive impact it has had in your life, I will support you. But if you start trying to force people to follow your religion, you lose my support. If you start condemning people because they don’t follow your religion, you lose my support.

And if you start abusing people because of your religion, all bets are off.

Another resolution I made was to write every day. So far, most of my writing has been done on Facebook, which kinda sorta negated my resolution to spend less time on social media. And I had hoped to make more, well, focused blog posts than this one, but as I mentioned I am a bit woozy-headed.

But anyways, to repeat it once more: your religion is for you. Use it to improve you.

Otherwise we have a problem.

Thanks for reading.

May the Force be with you.


Stephen Jay Gould said that science and religion are “non overlapping magisteria (NOMA),” two things that are completely separate from each other. Here is his definition of the term, from the Wikipedia article about it:

“Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain these facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings, and values—subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve.”

Richard Dawkins disagreed, saying that religion constantly inserts itself into the scientific world, and that if there were scientific proof of claims made by religion, religious authorities would quickly adopt more scientific principles, rather than opposing science, which they tend to do when it brings into question the validity of religious claims.

I agree with Dawkins, sort of. I agree that religion often attempts to hinder science — stem cell research, for example — but I am not sure I agree completely. Claims made by religions are by definition unprovable. It is scientifically impossible to prove that God or any other deity exists.

It is, don’t get mad at me for saying so. But at the same time, belief in God (or any deity or set of deities) is an actual thing many people around the world possess. The effect this belief has on them and their environment is quite tangible. Some effects of religious belief are positive, and some are negative. Some effects are constructive, many others are quite destructive.

Dawkins tends to focus entirely on the destructive effects. And to be sure, there are plenty of those to focus on. But I disagree with Dawkins on his assertion that all religion must be eliminated. I think Gould would probably agree with me there. Here’s another Gould quote:

“Religion is too important to too many people for any dismissal or denigration of the comfort still sought by many folks from theology. I may, for example, privately suspect that papal insistence on divine infusion of the soul represents a sop to our fears, a device for maintaining a belief in human superiority within an evolutionary world offering no privileged position to any creature. But I also know that souls represent a subject outside the magisterium of science. My world cannot prove or disprove such a notion, and the concept of souls cannot threaten or impact my domain. Moreover, while I cannot personally accept the Catholic view of souls, I surely honor the metaphorical value of such a concept both for grounding moral discussion and for expressing what we most value about human potentiality: our decency, care, and all the ethical and intellectual struggles that the evolution of consciousness imposed upon us.”

Dawkins might say that Gould’s statement

“…the concept of souls cannot threaten or impact my domain.”

isn’t strictly correct, for religious authorities, whose very authority is given by things like a “concept of souls” have used that authority to hinder scientific progress time and time again.

So anyways, on that end of the concept, I suppose I have mixed feelings. Both sides make valid points.

But what about the other side of NOMA?

“Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings, and values—subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve.”

I have to say I fully agree with Gould here. With regard to “values,” each religion has a set of values its followers adhere to. “Values” and “value judgments” are what produce the real-world effects of religion. The good stuff as well as the bad stuff.

That is not — is *not* — to say that one has to follow a religion to have “values” or to be “moral.” It’s a pretty common misconception among religious people that atheists are amoral. This simply is not — is *not* — true.

But at the same time, can “science” prescribe morality? Or is one’s own sense of morality, if one is an atheist, derived from a sense of compassion (or lack thereof) with her or his fellow humans?

Prominent atheist writer Sam Harris, for example, has written extensively about the real world atrocities committed in the name of Islam. And to be sure, he has a point: killing for an ideology is horrible.

But with the same keyboard (presumably) Harris uses to denounce Jihadis for killing because of an ideology, Harris also writes about the inevitability of “collateral damage” with regard to drone strikes and other such Western anti-terrorism strategies. It’s unfortunate, Harris argues, that innocent bystanders get killed when drones blow up this or that terrorist, but it’s necessary to get the terrorists.

The difference between a Jihadi and a drone pilot, Harris says, is intent. A Jihadi wants to kill innocent people and does so on purpose, a drone pilot wants to kill terrorists but accidentally kills innocent bystanders.

And there’s something to be said for that argument, but in both cases, innocent people get killed. And given that “collateral damage” is considered more or less inevitable — it’s avoided whenever possible, to be sure — doesn’t that sort of muddy up the whole “intent” argument?

Harris’ “intent” argument is based in his own moral sense. But what is that “moral sense,” and where did it come from?

From science?

Harris and Dawkins and others argue that the morality of religion springs from fear of divine punishment, and since it’s impossible to scientifically prove God or any other deity exists — again, don’t get mad at me for saying that, it’s true — then morality that arises from fear of divine punishment is an inferior sort of morality than the morality of atheists like themselves.

I disagree. I think Harris’ attitude toward “collateral damage” and whatnot springs from the same place that religious morality springs from: self-interest.

Religious people believe it’s in their best interest to please the deity they worship. They are therefore following their own self-interest by doing things they believe will please that deity.

Harris believes it’s in his own best interest that all the Jihadis get killed, even if that means some non-Jihadis get killed in the process. He was following what he believed to be his own self-interest when he wrote about “collateral damage.”

Friedrich Nietzsche once said,

“Fear is the mother of all morality.”

Do you agree with him? I fear — no pun intended — that I do.

But back to NOMA: can science prescribe morality?

A better question: *Should* science attempt to prescribe morality?

Personally I don’t see any way science could prescribe morality without degenerating into something less than “science.” Science infused with moral value judgments ceases to be objective, I mean. And the naturalistic fallacy — the way things are is the best way they could be, and anyone who tries to change things is wrong — has also been used by religious authorities over the years to justify horrible things, like slavery, subjugation of women, etc. etc. etc.

What do you think?



Something I find hilarious about support for those militia guys in Oregon…actually a couple things:

1. The people who they are allegedly “protesting” on behalf of — the Hammonds, who were convicted of arson — have said they don’t want to be associated with the protest,


2. Many if not most of the people who support the Oregon “protesters” also supported the Keystone XL pipeline. Why is that hilarious? Because the main complaint towards the government with regard to the Oregon “protesters” is that the government allegedly took land from farmers. These “protesters” are standing up to an evil regime that takes hard-earned land away from upstanding Americans, and so on and so forth.

Many supporters of Keystone XL were apparently blissfully unaware that many people lost their homes because of Keystone XL. And many more would have lost their homes if it had been completed.

Where was the uproar on the right about that? Where were the armed militia men, bravely storming into public buildings, looking for a game of shoot-em-up? Where were the endless idiotic memes? Where was the outrage over hardworking Americans being relocated to make room for an oil pipeline to Canada?

It didn’t exist. It never happened.

Nobody on the right gave a shit.

I dunno. I find that sort of thing hilarious.