Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blasphemy Day: Freedom of Belief

Today is blasphemy day. In honor of that, here's some blasphemy: If God exists, he is monstrously evil. People do not get reincarnated when they die. Bad actions are not always punished, and good actions are not always rewarded. The writings of bronze age goat herders are scientifically inaccurate. Human sacrifice is not necessary for the sun to rise. Bunnies don't lay eggs.

Doubtlessly, you believe at least one of these things. Which is why I support Blasphemy Day. Because something you believe is blasphemy to someone. The price you pay for being able to express it is that others can express something that you may disagree with or find personally offensive. To oppose that is to oppose the very concept of free speech.

And so here's another piece of blasphemy: Religious belief should not be treated any differently than any other belief.

I don't believe in freedom of religion. I believe in a more general freedom of belief. Everyone should be allowed to believe whatever they want, including but not limited to religious beliefs. I prefer this formulation because as above, religious belief should not be treated any differently than any other belief.

There are lots of times when beliefs are treated differently because they're religious beliefs. The most obvious examples are blasphemy laws, which is what Blasphemy Day is in protest of. For some groups, simply disagreeing with their religion amounts to disrespecting it, which is a totally different standard to non-religious beliefs.

The reason religious beliefs should be treated just like any other is that they are just like any other. They can be right or wrong just like other beliefs and wrong beliefs should be discarded for right ones. Bad beliefs cannot be improved if they are specially protected as religious beliefs tend to be.

Another reason to treat religious beliefs the same as others is who gets to decide what is a valid religious belief and what isn't?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reclaim Socialism

I know someone who, despite having socialist tendencies, refuses to be called a socialist because, she says, it would mark her as being on the fringe. I suspect this is a rather common sentiment.

But I say it is for exactly that reason that we should embrace rather than avoid the term.

Universal health care is attacked as being a socialist idea. You know what? Universal health care is a socialist idea. And that's a good thing. You know what else are socialist ideas? Public education, police departments, fire departments, roads...

We need to reclaim the word socialism so it isn't perceived as being on the fringe, because it's not and shouldn't be considered to be. We need to reclaim the word socialism so it can't be used as a thoughtless insult. We need to reclaim the word socialism because we live in a society, and that's a good thing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Self-Consciousness and Existential Angst

I was watching this video, and a thought occurred to me. Self-consciousness, by that I mean not simply the feeling of being overdressed for a social event, but more generally being aware of your state of being, reflecting on your own existence, is generally an unpleasant feeling.

It's not exactly an original thought. Buddhism came up with it 2500 years ago. In order to achieve enlightenment and hence nirvana, you have to let go of your ego. It's also a fundamental part of existentialism, the idea of angst.

It's odd that one of the few things that seems to be uniquely human is so apparently negative. It makes you wonder why that is. I have a couple wild ass guesses, but they aren't worth mentioning without further research.

It also makes you wonder what you can do about it. The simplest answer I can think of is to maintain a state of flow as much as possible, to do things that are engaging and challenging, so you can think more about it than yourself. (And it is apparently possible to achieve a state of flow by philosophizing about angst, paradoxically enough)