On Donald Trump

"Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half."
-Gore Vidal
Before I begin this post, I'd like to clarify a few things. First, I would like to remind you that disagreements are welcome here. It is perfectly acceptable for you to comment on the post or on Facebook expressing your disagreement, provided that you do so in a logical manner. That is to say, don't type, "you're wrong," type, "here are my reasons for disagreeing." There should be reasoning behind what you say. Saying "you're wrong" doesn't convince anyone. Next, I would like to address any potential concerns stemming from my opening quotation. There shouldn't be any, but you never know. After all, Gore Vidal was a Democrat. Some Republicans would discount my entire post based on that quotation. But if we make the assumption (for the sake of argument) that Democrats are a bunch of idiots and don't know anything, then we can bring into play the saying that says, "even a broken clock is right twice a day." Finally, I would like to clarify what this post will be covering. I will not be addressing Donald Trump's policies or background. I will be addressing first his temperament, and then his popularity. While his policies and background may be relevant to the conversation in general, they are not relevant to this post. Just in case they're brought up in the course of conversation, I'll make the assumption that his policies are good and that his background is bad. Both of those could be argued for or against in various ways, but I'm not mentioning those to convince you, I'm just putting a starting stance in place for the sake of context within following conversations.

First, we'll look at his temperament. This is the most controversial aspect of his campaign, bringing him extreme amounts of both popularity and hatred. If you are reading this post, you clearly have access to the internet, so I'm going to assume that you know at least the basics of who Donald Trump is and what his personality is like. When he entered the race for the Republican nomination, he was an instant success because of his straightforward way of speaking. I've never been good with names, faces, or people in general, so I originally didn't know who he was. (In fact, the only candidates I knew on either side before the first debates were Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson.) As I saw his candid manner, I started to lean in his direction, thinking that the only way to change the way the nation is headed is to speak the truth regardless of people's feelings. (After all, the idea of truth trumping feelings, pun intended, is something that I try to hold to in my day-to-day life.) However, my thoughts on Donald Trump's attitude quickly changed as time went on. His way of speaking is very blunt, which some see as good, and others see as bad, but I would contend two things about his temper.

The first would be that his temper has a different purpose than people think. Or should I say, a different backing. There are two potential reasons for speaking the truth when it conflicts with somebody's feelings. The first reason is because you care about the truth. The second is because you don't care about people's feelings. Donald Trump's reputation is for caring about the truth, but when we look at his comments, is that really true? While we can't read people's hearts, we can look and see if a person's actions are consistent with what they say. Do you speak the truth with a purpose, regardless of feelings? This would exclude things like insults. Insults don't have a purpose, or anything to be gained. They tear people down, but that's it. Someone who speaks the truth for the gain that it brings wouldn't insult people. Insults aren't a fight against political correctness, they show that the person speaks the truth because they just don't care about people.

My second contention regarding his personality is that fighting political correctness isn't unique to Donald Trump. Let's assume for the sake of argument that my last point is wrong, and insults are a fight against political correctness. Plenty of people have been willing to insult Donald Trump, and he hasn't been very fond of it. Aren't those people, who were willing right from the start to insult Donald Trump before it was even popular, fighting against political correctness just as much? There are a few candidates on the Republican stage who haven't attacked Donald Trump. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, in spite of occasional attacks from Donald Trump towards them, have not struck back. I believe that they recognize the difference between insults and fighting political correctness. See, Donald Trump has a reputation for standing up for the truth, but he's not really speaking out on political issues any more than other candidates are. What sets him apart from the others is only his insults.

Finally, I would like, once more, to make the assumption that my previous points were incorrect. Let's make the assumption, for the sake of argument, that Donald Trump is the best candidate on either stage, and that he would be the best choice for president. If that's the case, he still can't win. "But Jared!" you say. "He's at the top of the polls! Why do you say that he can't win?" He's at the top of the polls in the Republican field, but look at how much hatred he's getting at the same time. Look at how many Republicans hate him. I've seen any number of articles talking about large groups of Republicans threatening to boycott the general election if Trump is the nominee. The common response to that is, "they're not true conservatives! They're a bunch of idiot liberals!" Again, let's make the assumption that that's true. If even registered Republicans wouldn't vote for Trump, then how could he win a general election? He could easily win the nomination at this point, but the assumption tends to be that if he's nominated, he'll get the support of the Republican party. That's how it typically works. I'm sure that many Republicans would support him, but many wouldn't. And what about the independent vote?

Donald Trump's lack of political correctness stems either from a love of truth or a neglect of people's feelings. Many believe the former, and many believe the latter. Because so many believe the latter, he won't be able to win a general election unless he changes his stance. With that in mind, it would seem prudent for his supporters to pick a second-favorite candidate that may have a chance of actually winning the general election.
"Working with him was sort of like trying to defuse a bomb with somebody standing behind you and every now and then clashing a pair of cymbals together. In a word, upsetting."
-Stephen King

A Christian's Christmas

"If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree."
-Michael Crichton
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Winter is here and New Year's Eve approaches! Ah, the music, the lights, the chill in the air... And, because I live in southern California, I also get to celebrate the rain! It truly is a lovely time of year. But as Christmas approaches, it's time to take a look at this popular holiday. In particular, I'll be examining how the holiday relates to Christians. As with the last time we looked at a holiday, we'll begin by looking at the history. And once again, I've looked around to try to determine the exact origins of the holiday. While nowhere is entirely consistent, there are some things that seem to match across my various sources.

Many people are aware that Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25th. (In fact, our calendars may even have the wrong year set as zero AD, but that's something else entirely.) While the Bible doesn't mention the specific date of Christ's birth, we are told about shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, which wouldn't have happened in winter. Some sites say that He was likely born in the spring, while others say He was probably born in the fall, but they all agree on one thing: December is out of the question. When we take that into consideration, it seems like almost any other day of the year would be a better choice than December 25th for celebrating the birth of Jesus. So why did we pick this day? To answer that, we go back to the original holidays celebrated during winter.

Saturnalia, the most commonly mentioned holiday when looking at the history of Christmas, was a paganistic ritual in Rome taking place from December 17th to December 25th, or possibly even for an entire month. Through a number of articles, I think I've been able to pin down the basics of the celebration. One source says,
"Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun."
Another source claims,
"During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration."
This source goes on to describe a tradition in which the Romans would choose one enemy of the Roman people to represent the Lord of Misrule. They would force him to indulge in excessive amounts of food and various other pleasures, before brutally murdering him at the end of the festival, believing that this would cleanse their civilization of evil. During the festival, offerings and gifts would be brought before the god Saturn to win favor with the emperor. (This author also mentions, with citation, several other traditions that I'll not mention here due to their gruesome nature.)

While this seems to be the main holiday that provides a root for Christmas, various other holidays have been mixed in. One holiday involved people bringing trees into their houses, decorating them extravagantly, and worshiping them. And it seems that in Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule beginning on December 21st and lasting up to twelve days.

How is it that these holidays became what we now know as Christmas? Many theorize that the early Catholic Church decided on this date specifically because it coincided with Saturnalia. While they renamed the holiday Christmas (Christ's Mass), the Church did little else to reform the holiday or change its traditions. This gave the members of the early Church an excuse to participate in the paganistic rituals, and at the same time eased the conversion of many pagans, since they didn't have to leave behind their favorite holiday. One change that did seem to take place was that the humiliating, disgusting, and/or fatal roles were now filled by Jews. It seems that during that time, many Jews were abused, murdered, maimed, and raped in the name of Christmas.

Over the years, the traditions surrounding Christmas seem to have died down, and yet, they're still here. We still give gifts, and put up Christmas trees, and celebrate Christmas in general. Most of our traditions come from pagan rituals, and yet we make an effort to "put the Christ back in Christmas," ignoring that December 25th is one of the days least likely to be the actual day of Christ's birth. Many, upon being confronted with this information, answer that "this isn't what it means anymore," or, "that's not what we're celebrating." I respond to this in two layers.

The first layer asks if it is glorifying to God to celebrate Christmas at all. One author makes the rather extreme comparison between Christmas and Hitler's birthday. While the effects of Christmas certainly weren't on the same scale as the holocaust, the point remains. If traditions of joy and happiness arose on Hitler's birthday (or rather, specifically because of his birthday) over the course of many generations, wouldn't it be seen as irreverent at best? If we could travel forward to that time and people brushed off protests with, "that's not what it means anymore," would you really be convinced? In the same way, while the history of Christmas doesn't draw close to the horrors of the holocaust, it still has a disgusting and bloody history. This history is now ignored, but it's still the history of this holiday; it isn't some unrelated thing that happened to be on the same day hundreds of years ago.

The second layer asks, are the traditions that we still have glorifying to Christ? Even if we were to continue to use this day to celebrate the birth of Christ, how does a Christmas tree bring honor to Him? How does mistletoe, or holly, or Santa Claus glorify God? Even if we take these at face value and ignore their history and origins, do they bring about anything good or beneficial? Aren't we called to be set apart? Does a Christmas tree help us witness, or a red bow, or presents, or any of the other modern traditions? I would go so far as to say that Christmas has the potential to even hinder witnessing, as many atheists will look at the history of Christmas and see Christians as idiots for thinking that this is when Jesus was born.

Some places I've found say that the Bible even condemns birthday celebrations in general (though this may be a bit of a stretch). But if we're going to celebrate His birth, why do we celebrate it on one of the days that is least likely to have been His birthday? Because everyone else does it? And because this day has been commonly referred to as the day of His birth, do we ignore that the day was chosen not because they thought it was His birthday, but because a paganistic ritual took place at the same time? And then why do we do nothing to set apart our traditions from theirs, but rather, adopt their traditions as our own? Jesus is the reason for the season because He is the reason for every season, but Christmas always has been, and still is, a pagan holiday with a thin coat of Christian paint.
"I am positive that much that passes for the gospel in our day is very little more than a very mild case of orthodox religion grafted on to a heart that is sold out to the world in its pleasures and tastes and ambitions."
-A.W. Tozer

Minecraft vs. Terraria

"What does it mean to be the best? It means you have to be better than the number two guy. But what gratification is there in that? He's a loser—that’s why he's number two."
-Jarod Kintz
I have a few larger topics planned for the upcoming weeks, so today I'm going to lean back and cover something smaller. You may have guessed what it is from the title. But just in case, I'll tell you anyway. It's Minecraft vs. Terraria. Minecraft Alpha was released in May of 2009, and then to Beta in mid-December, 2010. It passed one million purchases in early January of 2011, having been advertised mainly (if not exclusively) through word-of-mouth. In May of 2011, (the day before the anniversary of Minecraft Alpha) Terraria was released. Minecraft was updated to version 1.0 in November of the same year. Because both games are block-based sandbox games, a lot of competition has arisen between their fans. Supporters of Minecraft often claim that Terraria is a sad ripoff of Minecraft, while supporters of Terraria say that Minecraft is superior to Terraria by only one dimension, and no gameplay aspects. So, I'm going to go over the differences and similarities between the two games. (I will not be offering an opinion as to which is better, because I've played both games, and therefore would be able to pick categories to judge that would benefit one or the other.)

Both games are, as has been previously stated, block-based sandbox games. In other words, there isn't really a specific story. The world is made up of various blocks that represent different objects or items. You can mine and place these blocks at will to customize a house, piece of art, or whatever you want. Because these games are similar in this respect, many have chosen to compare them. In a way, they are very similar. However, there are differences that set them apart. Let's examine them in the order of their original release, meaning that we'll look at Minecraft first.

Minecraft is a game of exploration, building, and survival. Beginning with nothing, your first task is to punch a tree. ...Yes, you read that correctly. (Or rather, I assume you did. If you thought that it said your first task is to punch a tree, you read it correctly.) Many blocks can be mined or otherwise harvested by punching them repeatedly. Other blocks require you to use special tools. You can use your wood to craft a workbench, which will allow you to craft armor, a furnace, a sword, a pickaxe, and a vast number of other items. You craft items by putting the correct ingredients in the applicable positions on the crafting table. Monsters appear at night and in caves, and most players build a base or home to keep them at bay. Minecraft has been praised for its diversity and wide variety of options. Several difficulty settings and gamemodes are available, including peaceful mode, which removes all monsters, and creative mode, which gives you access to flight and an infinite number of almost every block in the game, allowing you to build massive structures and creations. In addition, Minecraft includes a complex wiring system called redstone, allowing users to automate a vast number of functions in the game.

After Minecraft, of course, came Terraria. Because this game was similar in many respects to Minecraft, people instantly began comparing the two, even going so far as to call Terraria "2D Minecraft." Terraria includes similar gameplay features such as mining, crafting, and building. However, Terraria is not at all identical to Minecraft.

Terraria is a game of exploration, survival, and advancement. You spawn in a forest with a shortsword, an axe, and a pickaxe. You will use these tools to harvest the materials you need and make a shelter to keep you alive throughout the night. When you make your first house, an NPC (or, Non-Player Character) called The Guide will move in with you. He gives you various tips about the game. If you make more houses, more NPCs will move in. The Merchant provides simple items used for exploration, such as torches, rope,  and arrows. The Nurse will heal you when you're hurt. The Goblin Tinkerer will reforge your items to give them different (hopefully better) stats. As you upgrade your weapons, armor, and even how many health points you can have, bosses become available for you to fight. If you defeat them, you get loot that allows you to become even stronger and fight the next boss. About halfway through the game, you can defeat a very particular boss that, upon being defeated, will upgrade your entire world. Terraria has several different types of difficulty settings. These determine how your character's death affects the game, how hard enemies will hit, and what types of enemies will spawn. Defeating this midway boss will upgrade your world to "hardmode," allowing new monsters, ores, and bosses to spawn.

The games are certainly similar in some respects. Both include a blocky world where monsters spawn at night. Both involve mining ores and upgrading your armor. Both include a minor fishing feature (with Terraria's being a bit more developed) and a wiring system (with Minecraft's being far more diverse and complex). However, this is as far as people really go when they compare them. Minecraft is extremely diverse, allowing for mods, texture packs, and custom maps. It has command blocks, redstone, and a lot of features centered around creativity. Terraria, on the other hand, has a vast number of weapons and tools. Hundreds, if not thousands, of unique items that each have a different function. Rather than the upgraded armor just giving more defense, you also have to question benefits about speed, strength, etc. You can equip accessories that will grant you new abilities. Unlike in Minecraft, your tools and weapons don't degrade over time, meaning that you don't have to keep crafting more. It has a lot of features centered around combat.

Terraria and Minecraft are similar in some respects, but while Terraria may have been inspired by Minecraft, it didn't copy it. Each is a different game, with a different emphasis. Minecraft uses flight for creativity, and doesn't allow you to take damage in creative mode. Terraria uses flight for combat, allowing you to equip a pair of wings and fly for a limited period of time. Each game has a creative side to it, and each game has a combative side to it, but Minecraft has always been more about, "what can you make?" while Terraria is more about "how far can you go?" The games are similar, and yet, different, and therefore, can't be truly compared. However, there is a bigger question. What does the comparison gain you? If Minecraft is better, what do you get for being right? If Terraria is better, why does it matter? If a comparison will have some benefit, then go for it. But if not, then why does it matter if team green triumphs over team yellow?
"Comparison is the death of joy."
-Mark Twain

Open to Infections

"Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out."
-G.K. Chesterton
 I'd like to begin with one of Zeno's Paradoxes. This paradox claims that we cannot reach any location. His reasoning is as follows. Before you can get someplace, you must get halfway there. After that, you must get halfway to your destination once more, and again, and again, and again. The space inbetween you and your destination can be divided in half an infinite number of times, and thus, you can never reach your destination. I am aware that technically, the majority of an object is made up of empty space, so think of this rather as the negative field from the electrons in your fingertips touching the negative field in the electrons of your destination, rather than actually bringing yourself into physical contact with a wall. Alternatively, you could think of this as a location on the ground that you can never reach. However, Zeno's paradox goes further. In order to get halfway to your destination, you must first get halfway to the halfway point. And before that, you must get halfway to that point, and to that point, and so on. Because these distances can be divided infinitely, we, effectively speaking, can't move anywhere. Rather disappointing, no? I liked motion. Unfortunately, it seems to have been proven impossible. I guess that's the end of that. I know that this post has only been a paragraph so far. There's more that I'd like to say. But seeing as how motion is impossible, and I must move my hands to type, this will be the end of the post. I won't be able to say anything else. Fare well, and may you have pleasantly motionless lives.

...You don't seem convinced that motion is impossible. I can't even see your faces from behind this computer screen, but I can still tell that you're not convinced. That's how unconvinced you are. Good. Zeno's paradox is stupid. It doesn't work. We can see that it doesn't work. We know for a fact from our day to day lives that it doesn't work. And yet, can you prove it wrong? I have seen an explanation from Aristotle saying that it doesn't work because it takes a shorter amount of time to travel a shorter distance, so when you divide the distance, you're also dividing the time. This may be true, but you can divide the distance infinitely. You can go down to a molecular level and still divide that tiny distance in half. What is the smallest distance in existence? Not the smallest measurement, but the point where we no longer move smoothly from one place to another, but instead just "teleport" from one location to another, as if we're pixels on a screen?

Here's my point with Zeno's paradox. I can't prove it logically wrong. I'm sure that there's a mistake in it. I know that there's a mistake in it. I know that it's logically wrong. But I can't prove it. I understand that it's wrong, but I don't understand why it's wrong. So, shouldn't I believe it, because I don't see how it could be wrong? No. I'm not that openminded. Openmindedness is good, to an extent. But there's a point where your mind is so open that you'll let in even pure idiocy. I believe that to seek the truth accurately, a certain amount of stubbornness is required. I refuse to believe Zeno's paradox, and would continue to do so even if everyone around me were to affirm it and speak it as truth. Why? Because it's worthless.
"One word, Ma'am. One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things- trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."
-Puddleglum; C.S. Lewis (The Silver Chair)
Bear something very important in mind: I don't reject Zeno's paradox because it makes me feel bad, I reject Zeno's paradox because it has no value. If it were true, how would it affect my life in any beneficial way? If the truth is worthless, then there is no value in believing the truth. These are not my feelings or my emotions speaking. It is only reasonable to reject what seems reasonable if it has no value. Now, I do believe that the truth tends to be fairly evident. For example, I can see that I can move. I don't fight Zeno's paradox in spite of the overwhelming evidence showing me that I cannot move. I can see the evidence against Zeno's paradox. Zeno's paradox was thought up in spite of all that we see, and yet even though we can see contrary, I can't explain it away. Some would say that because I can't explain it away, I ought to believe it, but because it has no value, and because I can see otherwise, I see no reason to do so.

We must not be so openminded that foolishness like Zeno's paradox is allowed in. And yet, we must not ignore the truth based on what we feel. We don't look at the truth and decide to believe otherwise because it makes us feel bad; rather, we look at what some claim to be the truth, and refuse to accept it because not only can we see otherwise, but it would be worthless to believe it if it were true. They say that we must examine it to see if it checks out, and yet, I see a basic summary as enough. Any more than that would be a waste of time, because even if I found that everything I had previously believed was a lie, even if I found that I really can't move and I'm trapped in one spot, what would be the value in the truth if that were the case?

There are times when we must be close-minded. I do not say this to encourage you never to change your mind, or to stick to what you believe nonsensically. Rather, we must not be deceived into leaving the truth simply because somebody knows his way around with words. We must ask ourselves, is there any value to the truth if what this person says is true? If yes, then it's an important topic. But if their statement would cause the truth to be worthless, then a brief summary is enough without an in-depth analysis. After all, why do we seek the truth in the first place, if not to glorify God?
"The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."
-G.K. Chesterton

Next Week: On Habits

 "The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken."
-Samuel Johnson
I was once in a class called Great Books Tutorials. As one might expect, the class revolved around great books and literature (except for one time, when our reading assignment was to look at a painting. We enjoyed that assignment.) At the end of each lesson, our teacher would finish up by saying, "Next week, we'll be looking at [book and idea that it covers]. You are dismissed." We learned this rather well, and it began to affect us.
After we'd already taken the class for a few years, I and a classmate were sitting in our Sunday School class. Our teacher went over the lesson for a bit, and then said something familiar. "Next week, we'll be looking at [section of the Bible and topic that it covers]." I and my classmate put in our bookmarks, closed our books, gathered our things, and stood up. I think I even went so far as to push my chair in. We stood there for a few minutes, listening to our teacher continue the lesson. Eventually, he looked at us and said, "We're not finished yet." We sat back down and opened our Bibles and notebooks again.
What happened, of course, was that we heard the words, "next week." Those words, particularly in a classroom setting, told us that it was time to gather our things and prepare for the words, "you are dismissed."

This was an amusing little situation that happened once. Over the course of a few years, we had formed a mild habit. The habit wasn't anything important. It wasn't anything big or monumental or damaging. But it was still a habit. I think that people often confuse the idea of habits with addictions and/or routines. While the three are, of course, related, they aren't the same thing.
An addiction is something that you go to, whether literally or figuratively. You may seek it out intentionally, or hate yourself for it, but it's something that you choose, and have trouble deciding not to choose it.
A routine is something that happens on a regular basis. You have a set schedule for this particular action. It may be relative to something else, such as brushing your teeth after dinner, whenever that may be, or it may be at a particular time. It may even be on a specific day of the week, or month, or year. In any case, there's some form of scheduling and planning involved, even if you go through that schedule without dwelling on it.
A habit differs from these in that it's an unconscious action or reaction with no set time frame. You don't choose to do it. You don't schedule it. It just sort of... happens. Maybe it happens constantly. Maybe it happens as a reaction to something. But you don't even think about it.

Take, for example, a glass of wine. An addiction is somebody who finds themselves drawn to the glass. They keep staring at it. They want to drink it. They can't stop thinking about it. They have to force themselves not to drink it because they want it so much.
A routine is somebody who drinks a glass of wine every night with his dinner. He doesn't really think about it in general, but that's when he does it. He doesn't tend to drink wine outside of that time period; dinner is when he has a glass of wine.
A habit is somebody who is constantly drinking wine, and doesn't even realize it. He sees a bottle of wine on the table, pours himself a glass, and drinks it, but he doesn't choose the action consciously. If somebody told him that he shouldn't drink so much, he would realize suddenly how much he was drinking and set the glass down, and not look back. He doesn't care about the wine. But later on, he would pick it up again- not because he's drawn to it or desires it, but because he just isn't thinking about it, and that's his habit.

While addictions are seen as bad and routines are typically seen as good, habits can be either way. For example, when I would go to Speech&Debate tournaments, I would carry around a bottle of water with me and drink from it regularly. I didn't think about drinking from my water bottle. I would at one point notice that my bottle was empty and fill it up at the nearest drinking fountain. It was a habit for me to drink water. However, I also bounce my leg. It helps me think. I don't wiggle and squirm and fidget because I have decided that I want to do so, I do it without realizing it. I can stop if I think about it and focus on it. I just don't think about it.

While addictions are issues because we do think about them, and while routines have been set in place at some point, habits are more dangerous because we don't analyze how we behave when we're not thinking about anything. It just sort of happens. We can habitually perform a certain action, or think a certain way, or any number of things, but we ought to seek out our habits to learn what they are and whether or not they should be removed.
"We become what we repeatedly do."
-Sean Covey

On Activism

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not."
-Dr. Seuss
What is it that you care about? By which I mean, what do you really, really care about? What's important to you? Are you willing to fight for it? The obvious answer is "yes." Of course you're willing to fight for it. That answer has almost certainly been drilled into your head since you were very young; maybe parents or other relatives taught you, or maybe the culture taught you, but if you really care about something, you fight for it. So here's a bigger question: why don't you?

I'm going to use Christians as my main example in this post. This is partly because the majority of my audience are Christians, and partly because there are so many Christians in America. According to a quick Google search, over 70% of Americans identify as Christian, and over 50% of those are, specifically, Protestants. This leads to a very important question. Why isn't the nation run by Christians? This country is a Democratic Republic. That means that, within the boundaries of our constitution, the majority gets to make the decisions and decide how the country will be run. And seeing as how the constitution doesn't say anything that would restrict a Christian's beliefs, it would seem as though every political decision would be compatible with the Bible, since the majority of the country identifies as Christian.

Are Christians really the majority of the country, though? I would argue that our culture has had the name "Christian" tacked onto it, with no further changes. Most of the people who identify as Christian are really just "Sunday Christians." This term refers to somebody who goes to church on Sunday and calls themselves a Christian, but doesn't really let it affect their lives.
At this point, most Christians reading this post are probably nodding to themselves, thinking about how true this is. "Yeah, he sure is calling out those Sunday Christians! Well, actually, the Sunday Christians are thinking the same thing you are. You may even be one. The problem is that the Sunday Christians don't realize that they're Sunday Christians. Because they think of themselves as "Christian" every day of the week, they don't recognize that it isn't a part of who they are.

Sunday Christian doesn't mean that you don't call yourself a Christian on other days of the week, or that you don't interact with other Christians outside of church, or even that you don't read your Bible every day. What it means is that the Christian culture is all that affects you. And this is where the Christian majority of the nation comes in. Because so many people call themselves Christians, it's safe to continue doing so. It's easy to look at all the articles online and think that Christians are being persecuted in America. Maybe we are. But are you? Has anything happened to you worse than somebody shouting at you and calling you names? Has there ever been a time where being a Christian has cost you more than you gained from the community? If you stopped being a Christian, would you lose anything? Respect of friends, standing in your community, etc.?

I don't know about you, but my friends pretty much all identify as Christian. A few people online have called me names. One person refused to buy a candy bar from me when I was fundraising for AWANA Leadership Camp. But if I stopped being a Christian, I would lose a whole lot more than I would gain. I would gain the respect of a few random people online that I'll probably never meet, and I would lose the respect of friends, family, and so on. Not that they would stop talking to me or hate me or anything, but I would lose more than I would gain. This isn't why I'm a Christian, but it is why many people are, and they don't even realize it.

Here's my point. If you aren't willing to fight for something, it isn't really important to you. Planned Parenthood, which should have been defunded so many times by now that it isn't even funny, is still in operation. In a "Christian" nation, where the majority of people believe that life begins at conception as the Bible indicates, Planned Parenthood should never have even started, and by now, even non-Christians should be able to see what's going on with them. (I recently did a post on abortion, showing why it shouldn't be legal even from an atheistic perspective. You can find that post here.)
"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."
-Elie Wiesel
Christians are still nodding. "I do hate abortion!" you say. So here's the question to prove it: does it show? Are you an activist? Or is activism too "extreme?" Activism means exactly what it sounds like. To be active. Here's an example: I don't eat Ben&Jerry's ice cream because they donate directly to Planned Parenthood. This isn't really activism, actually. More like abstention. But it's more than most people can do. Here are some examples of excuses that I've heard from Christians regarding this topic. "Out of my purchase, only a few cents go to Planned Parenthood. They'll keep getting money anyway." I despise abortion so much that I can't stand the thought of them getting even a few cents from me. Even if Ben&Jerry's ice cream were free, knowing where they donate their money, I would probably get sick eating it. Do you understand? I hate abortion. I believe that it is murder, and I take that belief seriously. Out of sight should not mean out of mind. Here's another excuse I've heard. "For all we know, they could be donating to someplace else too, like orphanages. The situation is too complex." First of all, we don't know that they're donating to anyplace else. This isn't a good reason to keep buying, this is a potential excuse. But let's say that you could prove that they're donating to some other cause. If this cause is so important to you that you're willing to let some of your money be donated to Planned Parenthood so that some of your money can also be donated to this other cause, then surely you would be even more willing to give up the ice cream and donate to said cause directly. This way none of your money is going to Planned Parenthood, and the organization you're donating to will end up getting more money out of it as well.

This doesn't just apply to Ben&Jerry's ice cream. It applies to Starbucks. It applies to Pepsi. It applies to Macy's. Here's the problem. People think that I'm some type of extremist. People are so addicted to their Starbucks coffee that they can't bear the thought of just shopping somewhere else, much less giving up coffee altogether. People think that I'm taking ice cream too seriously. Actually, if I were taking ice cream seriously, I would be saying to give up all ice cream. Look at the things I've mentioned giving up. If what they have in common is that they are all ice cream, then I am taking ice cream seriously. If what they have in common is that they donate directly to Planned Parenthood, then I am taking seriously what I believe to be murder. If you can't even give up your coffee, ice cream, etc. for what you believe, then how exactly are you taking your own beliefs seriously? I'm considered to be an activist, but actually, I just take my beliefs seriously. An activist isn't what I am, it's what I aspire to be someday. I write a blog post once a week and avoid certain brands. If you consider that to be extreme activism, there's a problem.

I'm not telling you what to believe. That's for my other posts. I'm not telling you (in this post) that abortion is murder, or that gay marriage is an oxymoron, or that we didn't evolve, or any of that. I ordinarily attempt to show logically why certain beliefs are accurate and important, but here, in this post, I'm not telling you what to believe. I'm telling you that whatever you believe, you should take your own beliefs seriously. If you call yourself a Christian, I should be able to see in your actions that this is what your life is about. I should be able to see that when you say you care about the Bible, you're not just flowing along with the Christian culture, you're acting like you really do care about the Bible. If you care about something, let it show.
"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."
-Elie Wiesel

A Starter's Guide to Politics, or, Politics for Dummies

"'Tradition:' one of those words conservative people use as a shortcut to thinking."
-Warren Ellis
"There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'"
-G.K. Chesterton
I started my blog almost ten and a half months ago. This being the case, I think it's about time for me to start telling you how to vote. Should you be liberal, or conservative? Republican, or democrat? Fortunately for you, I am here to provide answers to all of your political questions. At the end of this post, you will have been properly educated and will be ready to enter the political arena. Keep in mind that terminology and specifics will be geared towards Americans. However, even if you're not an American, I'm sure you can glean something from the wisdom in this post.

The first step is to pick a political affiliation. There are a few different methods for deciding which political party you'll be in. The first method is to pick the same party as your parents, friends, favorite celebrity, or another person that you like. This is a common method, and seems to work well for those who don't want to be too politically active. Another method is to choose the opposite of your parents, family, and friends. This option is good for people that want to be more active in the political arena, because it allows you to claim that you've looked at both sides and have chosen the truth objectively. You will then have the ability to instantly shut down anybody that picked the same side as their parents, because they're clearly brainwashed and don't seek the truth as honestly as you do. You will become one of the heavy hitters for your team. However, if you do choose this option, look out for the people on the other side who did the same thing that you did. They will be the heavy hitters on their side, and your worst enemy. Do not come into contact with them unless they don't seem to know what they're talking about.

The next thing to remember is argumentation. It is impossible for two people of different political affiliations to have a reasonable conversation, so don't even waste your time by trying. Anybody with different views than you have is idiotic, and should be treated as such. Do not, however, under any circumstances, explain to them why you think they're wrong. Insults are perfectly acceptable, but do not explain the reasoning behind your views. Instead, make it seem like your point of view is obvious, and anybody who doesn't share your view has severe mental deficiencies.
Alternatively, if insults aren't your style, you can, in some situations, have polite conversation with somebody of the opposing side, but remember that even now, this conversation is not meant to help increase understanding, but rather to show that you know more than they do. If they attempt to bring up a point, you have two options. The first is to brush it off saying that you've heard the view before, but not actually give a real refutation. The second, if you think you know that you're talking about, is to respond to their point, but at the end of your statement make it clear that you're not interested in a debate- i.e. that they oughtn't to respond to your response. This will not only end the conflict with you having the last word, but will also make you seem like the more mature person for being willing to avoid this type of discussion.
If all else fails, remember the most powerful tools of all: pictures and political cartoons. These pictures can be supportive of your side or detrimental of the other side; either way is highly effective. This method is invaluable in debates (especially online) and will prove your point once and for all. Anybody who doesn't see the truth in your pictures is beyond hope. Examples of such pictures can be seen below.

I think, therefore I am Republican

Republican Fail
SNOB: It's an elitist thing. You wouldn't understand.

Next, we'll learn how to do elections- in particular, presidential elections. First, you must look at the candidates from your party. Pick your favorite (or, if a few of them are so similar that you can't really tell them apart, a few favorites) and declare that candidate the only hope for America. Anybody in your party not supporting said candidate(s) cannot be a true member of your party, and is just as bad as the people from the other party. Be sure to tell them this. If you are a Republican, say that your candidate is the only one who can make America great again. If you are a Democrat, say that your candidate is the only one who will bring progress to our nation. (Remember these arguments; you can use them again in the general election.)

When the primaries roll around, vote for your chosen candidate, and see who wins. Regardless of whether your candidate won or not, the nominee for your party is the only candidate who can do the job properly. Be sure to say so as often as possible. The difference is that now you're not going against your own party, but against the vile enemies on the other side. You can bring in a few comments from before, but now you also have the opportunity to go on the offensive. If you're a Democrat, accuse the Republican of sticking to old, outdated traditions that have no bearing on our modern society. Be sure also to accuse the Republican of despising minorities and poor people. If you are a Republican, respond by saying that the Democrat is attempting to tear down sacred traditions without understanding why they're there. Follow this up by pointing out that the Democrat doesn't care about human life, the economy, or a solid work ethic.
After the general election, if your candidate won, celebrate, and ignore any mistakes made by this new president for the next four years. If your candidate lost, be miserable, and ignore any positive actions taken by the foul president of the opposing party. Go back to standard political participation until the next election rolls around where you will repeat this phase.

Now, before I end this post, I must speak about another group of people who identify as neither Republican or Democrat. These people claim that both parties are corrupt, or that they disagree with both parties to some extent. This is perfectly fine, and may be the best option for you if you have parents or other loved ones of differing political affiliations. However, there are guidelines here as well. You are now the ultimate debater. You seek the truth so strongly that nobody of either party can oppose you. But you pay a dear price for this power. Because of this insight that you have, you may not vote for a Republican or a Democrat. If you desire to vote, you may vote for a small party candidate that has no chance of winning. If none of the small parties or their candidates appeal to you, you may not vote at all. Remember that your opposition is neither Republicans nor Democrats, but the system itself, which includes both parties. If either party makes a valid point about the other, you must not acknowledge it, but rather point out that their party is just as corrupt. If one party does emerge as better than the other, you still may not vote or acknowledge that one party is doing a better job than the other. Rather, you must let the country destroy itself so that when we eventually crumble, you can say "I told you so." You must not acknowledge anything about the system that works properly, but must only complain about the system we have, while doing nothing to fix it.

I hope you now have a better understanding of politics and how you, too, can become an active participant. Remember, participating in politics is not about making the best choices, but about showing how smart you are. Mocking the system is not about improving it, but about refusing to acknowledge that either party may have a point. Once you've learned this thoroughly, you will be prepared to talk with your political friends and show that you're just a smart as, or smarter than, they are.

"Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it."
-Mark Twain

Theseus' Ship

"If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is."
-John von Neumann
This past week I've had a bit of a cold. My health is returning, and my brain is clearing up, but I figured I'd do a fun post for today. Something that I understand easily, in and out, because I've analyzed it so many times before. Not that I have an answer. After all, mathematics is simple next to this. Today we'll be looking at Theseus' Ship, and there will be more questions than answers. Today's topic is more about broadening the mind than it is about a specific point, or lesson to be learned.

For those of you who don't know of the Theseus' Ship debate, or need a refresher, I'll first describe the backstory. According to Greek mythology, there was a great hero named Theseus. As all heroes from Greek mythology, he went around slaying monsters, saving people, and that sort of thing. And, as many monster-slaying princess-savers did, he had a ship. This allowed him to get from place to place easily- especially if the damsel in distress was on an island.
Time passed, and eventually, so did Theseus. But his ship, being an inanimate object, stuck around for a bit longer. The people, grateful to Theseus for all his heroic deeds, decided to put his ship in a museum to honor him for all time. They also decided to preserve his ship and restore it as needed. And thus, the questions begin.

Over a period of time, the ship begins to rot and decay, and the people working at the museum replace the rotted boards one by one. They use the same type of wood, and keep everything as similar as possible. Eventually, every board in the original ship has rotted and been replaced. So, the first question is this: is it still the same ship? If so, how do you account for the fact that no piece of the original ship remains? If not, then at what point did it cease to be the same ship? When one board was replaced? When the last one was replaced? Why?

Now, the original wood wasn't burned or destroyed; it was simply replaced when it was no longer seaworthy. But the descendants of Theseus decide to take the original wood and rebuild Theseus' ship to honor him. So they rebuild the ship, each plank in the same place as it was originally, and although this ship isn't seaworthy, it's still, other than that, exactly the same as the ship that sits in the museum. Thus, the next question: is this the same ship? If so, what about the ship in the museum? Isn't that Theseus' ship, repaired bit by bit? And how can it be the same ship if it was entirely disassembled and reassembled? If it isn't the same ship, then where is Theseus' ship? After all, it was never dismantled. And aren't these the original pieces that were used?

Eventually, the museum decides to use a cheaper type of wood than the kind that was originally used. So, bit by bit as they repair the ship, the type of wood changes. Of course, it looks identical, and it's still wood, so no big deal, right?
But after a while, the museum starts to lose business. They aren't as popular as they were before. So, in an attempt to draw in a younger crowd, they decide to modernize and use metal to repair the ship instead. Of course, it's still replaced piece by piece, and it keeps the same shape. Eventually, the ship is made entirely of metal. Is this still the same ship? If not, then where is the original? After all, the original ship was never dismantled. And when did it cease to be the same ship? Was it when one new piece was put in, or two, or fifty? Was it the first plank of a different kind of wood, or the first piece of metal?

This topic isn't meant to have an answer. (I believe that it probably does have an answer, but I don't know what that answer is.) While it isn't profitable to spend long periods of time thinking about this sort of thing, it is enjoyable on occasion, and, I believe, expands your mind. Those who say that it is the same ship have to account for different parts, and eventually even for different materials. Those who say that the family remade his ship need to account for the fact that they're constructing a ship completely from scratch. People who say that his ship no longer exists need to account for the fact that his ship was never dismantled, only repaired. Can you repair something so much that you destroy it? All sides have to answer the question of exactly when an object ceases to be the same object. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, but don't expect everyone to agree with you; remember that neither I nor my friends have found a firm, unquestionable answer.
"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel."

To Know, or Not to Know?

"I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."
-Isaac Asimov
If I were to tell you that there is no such thing as a round square, or a noiseless sound, would you believe me? What if I showed you my empty hands and said that there was no bright red ball in my palm? How about if I told you that I love you? Would you believe me then? I imagine that most of you would believe me on the first two (unless you thought I was about to employ some philosophical trickery with words or some slight of hand), and possibly the third as well, depending on how well you know me. Today, I'm going to be covering the three types of knowing that I've found. Each is different, and is applied in different areas.

The first level of knowing is knowing by definition. This is the deepest level of knowing, and the easiest to understand. With this, you know because the definition doesn't allow for another possibility. If a sound is noiseless, it isn't a sound. So you can prove, as a matter of fact, that there is no such thing as a noiseless sound. You can do the same with any number of things, like round squares. I've also heard the example given of married bachelors. This area allows us to know, for a fact, that we exist. I know that I exist because I am here to know. If I didn't exist, then I wouldn't be able to think about whether or not I exist.

The second level of knowing moves away from philosophy and into the realm of science. It is a matter of what we can see and, ideally, test through repetition. Your existence falls into this area. My existence falls under the first level, but because you do not need to exist by definition, you fall under the second level. Of course, from your perspective, it's the other way around. That is to say, I can prove my own existence to myself, but not to you, and I can't prove your existence at all. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Imagine that I hold out my hand and say that there is no shiny red ball in my hand. This is clearly true. I can see my hand, and feel it, and so on, and I know that there is no ball in my hand. You can see it too, and anybody who looks into my hand could confirm that there is no ball contained there. However, I am still making the assumption that I can trust my eyes and my hands. I could be in a coma. I could be dreaming about all of this, and be dreaming that I'm writing this post right now. It could be that the reason I use a shiny red ball as my example is because, deep down in my subconscious mind, I know that as I lie on that hospital bed, I have, clutched in my hand, my favorite red ball. So, if I know something on the second level, it means that I can see it, and know it, but I can't really "prove" that it's true anymore.

The third level of knowing is where we explain the coma. After all, I'm not in a coma. I can't prove it, but I'm not. I know that. This third level is where we know something even though we can't technically "prove" it, even by seeing it. Bear in mind, of course, that this doesn't work without evidence. For example, you cannot say (no matter how strongly you suspect it to be true) that you know for a fact that the Loch Ness Monster doesn't exist, and never has. Similarly, I couldn't say that I know for a fact that it does exist, or has at some point in time. This third level does require reasoning and logic. It's just that you can't see it. If a friend tells you that they love you, you can't prove it. It's not true by definition, and you can't take their love in your hands and examine it. But you still know that it's true. You can see it in their actions. Could they be performing those actions as part of an elaborate ruse to get something out of the situation even though they don't really care about you? Technically, yes. You can't prove that it's not the case. But you know that it's not the case, all the same.

The difference between the second and third levels is actually simply one of scale. In neither case can you technically prove that one opinion is correct and the other is false. The issue, of course, arises when people try to use this third level for things like science. An example would be people who say, very firmly, that there is no God. They can't prove that God doesn't exist by definition, and they can't look around and show that there is no God, so that leaves level three. I have never heard even the most committed atheist say that he thinks he can disprove God's existence. And yet, people are very adamant that we not even teach the possibility to God or creation in schools, and that we not even mention the thought in the realms of science. What we need to recognize is that if there is a spiritual realm, we wouldn't be able to see it. Science doesn't look at the spiritual realm. Science looks only at the second level of knowing. So to bring in your opinions about something you can't see is out of place. You can certainly say that your findings support your views (if, in fact, they do) but cannot insist that we teach one origin theory as science and the other as religion (ignoring the fact that if God does exist, He created science itself).

I know that God exists. I have evidence to back it up, but I can still only know of His existence on the third level (just like, if He didn't exist, people could only know that on the third level). This is where faith comes in. Anything that cannot be seen (and, to some extent, even what can be) must be taken on faith. Interestingly, this includes the idea that there is no God. Thus, atheism requires faith. I find that rather amusing.

Bear in mind that saying "I know" isn't the same as actually knowing. You cannot know a lie to be true- only suspect. Thus, if one person says that they know (on the third level) that God is real, and another says that they know He isn't real, one of the two is mistaken, or else not being entirely honest with themselves.
It could be argued that there is a level of knowing between what I've listed as the second and third levels, which involves knowledge like my having a brain. Technically, I cannot see or touch my brain (while I'm alive). We can do brain scans, but those aren't actually letting us see and touch my brain. We could confirm that I have a brain, but then I wouldn't be around anymore. And yet, we have seen that people have brains. We know that I have a brain, even though we haven't seen it. We could see it, but we don't, and ideally, we're not going to.

The point of this post is to show that you can know different things on different levels, and each level has its own time and place for usage. Understanding the difference between what you know, what you know, and what you know will allow for conversations and debates to stay on track, rather than jumping to different levels.
"I'm not young enough to know everything."
-J. M. Barrie

A Christian's Halloween

"And now, my poor old woman, why are you crying so bitterly? It is autumn. The leaves are falling from the trees like burning tears- the wind howls. Why must you mimic them?"
-Mervyn Peake
The discussion of Halloween among Christians is a rather controversial one- much more so than Christmas. Halloween and Christmas are, for most people, the biggest holidays of the year. Christians are generally agreed about celebrating Christmas. (Don't worry, I'll do my best to destroy any preconceived notions you have on that topic as December draws nearer.) But Halloween is a bit trickier. Where does Halloween land? To examine this topic, we'll first look a bit at the origins, and then at what it's become.

A quick Google will reveal that Halloween comes from an ancient Celtic harvest festival called Samhain. It seems that it was once believed that on a certain day of the year (i.e., October 31st) the dead would walk among the living. This had several effects. One major effect was that it supposedly made it easier for the druids to contact the spirits. But these spirits could also be rather troublesome. To appease them and keep them from causing trouble and playing tricks, the people would leave food and other treats on their doorsteps as offerings for the spirits. If they needed to leave the house for some reason, they would dress up in ghastly costumes so as to be mistaken for other spirits.
The Catholics eventually established All Martyrs Day, to honor those who had died in the name of Christ. It was later extended to include all saints, not just martyrs, and was called All Saints Day. I should note that the dates I'm finding are a bit confusing. As there are a number of festivals going on in this time period (including a couple Roman ones that were added on), I'm finding dates that include October 31st, November 1st, and November 2nd. So the exact dates of the exact festivals are getting a bit mixed around. But what I am finding clearly is that the night before All Saints Day, also called All-Hallows, was called All-Hallows Eve, and later, Halloween.

As a Christian, I don't see any reason to celebrate Samhain. I don't think any Christians would contest my saying that such a celebration is demonic in nature. All Saints Day was moved from May 13th to November 1st, some believe, in order to try to blot out their festivals with another holiday that had to do with death. But as it turns out, the traditions remained pretty much the same. And as time has gone on, the traditions have still changed very little. The description I gave of Samhain likely seemed very familiar to you. On Halloween people still perform those actions, albeit in a different manner and for different reasons. People still dress up in costumes, bob for apples (coming from a Roman celebration honoring their goddess Pomona, whose symbol was the apple), and have a tradition that we now refer to as "trick or treat." The difference? "We don't actually believe in that stuff. It's just for fun." I'll address that in a moment, but first let me look at the Christian alternatives. The main ones I've heard of are churches hosting harvest festivals and "trunk or treat." This is basically Halloween, but with an emphasis on general cosplay rather than horror. It's a "clean" Halloween.

We agree that the origins are demonic, right? "Yes, but that's not what it means anymore. It's just for fun." I didn't ask what it means now, I just asked about the origins. If we agree that the origins are demonic, then why would you want to mimic that? This isn't something where it was mostly a good thing but there was a little piece that you needed to cut out to make it clean, this was something that was wholly centered around demonic practices. "But is it wrong to dress up in costumes and eat candy?" No, of course not. If I had unlimited materials to use for cosplay, you would probably never see me in normal clothes again (except for maybe in October). Cosplay isn't the issue. The issue is what the practice is based on.

The early church put one of their holidays on the same day as a pagan holiday and attempted to change its purpose, while changing as few traditions as possible. Why? It's been speculated, as I mentioned before, that they may have wanted to wipe out the original holiday completely. (We can see how well that worked.) It's also possible that the traditions were, simply speaking, fun. The question isn't whether celebrating Halloween ("clean" version or not) is technically "wrong." It's about the basis. The celebrations are based on a demonic holiday, and the day is still revered by Wiccans, pagans, and Satanists. We are taking something that we acknowledge as demonic and mimicking it, then saying "it's not a sin." Whether it's a sin or not is debatable, but it's not the question. The question is, is it glorifying to God to mimic a demonic holiday? A rose by any other name is just as sweet, and a corpse by any other name is just as foul.
"When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations."
-Deuteronomy 18:9 (NASB)
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!"
-Isaiah 5:20 (NASB)

Here's the issue. When you despise something, you don't mimic it. You don't copy it. You don't try to do things in the same way. You get as far away from it as possible. I'm not just saying that that's what we should do, I'm saying that when we really do hate something, that's what happens naturally. We may not be successful in getting as far from it as we'd like, but we sure do try. And if we, as Christians, really hated the demonic celebrations that started Halloween, and that still continue in some places, we wouldn't be trying to get as close as possible without crossing the line, and especially not with "it's just for fun" as our excuse.

Am I saying that we ought to just hide away on Halloween and do nothing, or cease to exist on that day? No, of course not. But we shouldn't be getting as close to the world's traditions as possible; we should be set apart. We should be noticeably different from the rest of the world. If we really believe what we say we believe, we ought to act like it.
"There is a difference, I have learned, between not crossing the line and causing the other to stumble, and actively pushing that person toward Christ all the time. Whether you're talking Bible or not."

What is a Bed?

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe."
(This is not a pipe.)
René Magritte

Today's post is extremely simple. No, the title was not a metaphor; that really is what this post is about. What is a bed? Like I said, it's very simple. After all, you probably already know what a bed is. This is more of a post for preschoolers, you know? I mean, I have to expand my audience. So if you don't know what a bed is, raise your hand. Everyone else, you can go.
Well, not right away, I suppose. I mean, we can't have you pretending that you know what a bed is just to get out of reading this post. So before you go, prove your knowledge to me with a simple test, and tell me- what is a bed?

Of course, I know that you won't just say, "it's where you sleep." After all, we all know that simply sleeping someplace doesn't transform its nature. If I sleep on the floor, the floor is still a floor, not a bed. If I sleep on the roof, the roof does not change in its nature to become a bed for my sake; of course, I could sleep on the floor, and refer to it as my bed, but that would be in the sense of, "this is where I consistently bed down for the night." That would not change the floor's nature- merely what I use it for. Similarly, if I jump on a bed, it does not become a trampoline, even if that's how I decide to treat it.

Similarly, I know that you will not say, "it's an object intended to be slept on." As you certainly know, somebody can intend for an object to be used in one way, without it being actually used in that manner. For example, if I am a carpenter-in-training, I may set out to craft a bed. And yet, in my inexperience, I come up instead with a pile of broken wood. Certainly, I intended for this to be slept on, and yet, it is clearly not a bed. You might say that I intended for it to be slept on, because I intended for it to be a bed. But alas, though I meant to make a bed, I failed. So we can see that intent does not necessitate a particular essence.

Next, one might clarify that it's an object that was not only intended to be slept on, but was designed correctly. Of course, I know that this isn't what you will say, because while I may intend to make something to be slept on, and while I may build the object correctly, I may also have rather poor ideas as to what a bed is. I may, for example, make  guitar instead. I designed for it to be slept on, and I made it according to my blueprints, but my initial idea was off. Even if I lay it on the floor and sleep on it, it doesn't make it a bed. I'm just sleeping on a guitar.
"[A] piece of furniture upon which or within which a person sleeps, rests, or stays when not well."
Well, yes, of course that's what the word means. But that's all the dictionary describes- the meaning of the word. What we're looking for is the very concept- that is to say, if you take a bed and you take away one piece at a time, at what point does it cease to be a bed? Or, what if you take it away one molecule at a time? At what point then is it no longer a bed? Where is the specific set of traits that we can look at to determine whether something is a bed or not? And how many traits can be missing before we cease to call it a flawed bed and start to say that it is no longer a bed at all?

The value in a word is to point to a particular concept. The word and the concept are not the same, but the word points to a concept so that I can tell you what it is that I'm thinking about. Defining a word is significantly easier than defining a concept. To define a word, all you have to do is point to a particular concept and say "that's the concept that I'm talking about." But in order to define the idea itself, we have to come up with boundaries, which is much more difficult. At what point is a bed "strange" or "broken," and at what point does it cease to belong to the same idea?

As it turns out, this can also apply to abstract concepts. At what point is something in the circle, and at what point is something outside of the circle? At what point does somebody fit into a certain category? As humans, I don't think we can know for certain where the boundaries are on certain concepts, which is why we should be careful when choosing our words. For example, let's take the word Whovian. One person says that all Whovians are annoying and will obsess about the show and let it run their lives. (Seeing as how some Whovians not only act in this manner, but are proud of it, even somebody who calls themselves a Whovian may use this definition.) However, I also refer to myself as a Whovian, because I find the show to be entertaining. I do not, as it turns out, obsess about it, let it run my life, or make my friends feel bad if they don't happen to like the show. Thus, people define the same concept with different borders. Does this mean that the concept is different for different people? No, it just means that different people see the concept as starting and ending in different places, and we should be careful about jumping to conclusions about how somebody else uses their terminology.
"Boundaries aren't all bad. That's why there are walls around mental institutions."
-Peggy Noonan

Great Expectations

"Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
-Alexander Pope
Today we'll be looking at expectations. The issue with expectations, of course, is that everybody has different ones. So we will be looking at these expectations- particularly, expectations of people- and what they're based on, to see if these expectations are reasonable. Because everybody has expectations, and everybody thinks that their expectations are perfectly acceptable.

When you meet somebody, you will tend to make subconscious judgements about them based on how well they fit into the many expectations that you have. Some expectations are very common. For example, I imagine that you probably expect for somebody that you meet to be standing or sitting when you meet him or her, as opposed to licking your shoes. This is a common expectation- so common, in fact, that most people don't even think about it. Is this expectation reasonable? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I despise small talk. When I meet somebody, I expect them to greet me with a real conversation, as opposed to the weak chit-chat of the world. This rarely happens; most people that I meet do not live up to my expectations. But let's look at the other side of the coin. Somebody else may expect me to greet them in a socially correct manner, using small talk, before we get to know eachother better. I will, of course, engage in polite small talk with them (even though I may prefer to repeatedly bang my head against the wall,) but afterwards, they will expect me to remember their existence. If we ever speak again, they will be rather disappointed in this area (as explained in my last post).

One person may expect me to meet their eyes when we speak. I, on the other hand, expect for them them be understanding as I avoid eye contact. One person expects me to be respectful of their personal space and not give them a hug so soon after we've met. But I expect them to give me a hug instead of a handshake, which is a bit too standard for my tastes (though I have gotten used to it through speech&debate). Whose expectations are reasonable? Isn't it perfectly reasonable to expect me to meet their eyes, not lick their shoes, and behave in a civilized manner? In fact, we could go even more basic than that. If those expectations aren't reasonable, then isn't it at least reasonable to expect me to actually care about them enough to give them some basic respect, whatever I may consider that respect to be?

I would contend that we ought not to have expectations of others prior to meeting them, however reasonable those expectations may seem. This includes expectations that they will respect you or care about you. Does this mean that I don't care about people that I haven't met? Of course not! But it shouldn't fall into one of their expectations. The reason being that everybody's expectations are different. One person is offended when I don't remember them after small talk, because they expected me to remember them. However, as I explained in my previous post, this isn't for lack of caring about them, but rather because of small talk itself. What seems to them to be a reasonable expectation is, in my case, extremely difficult, if not impossible.

But as I've said before, don't I have my own expectations of people? In a sense, yes. But the reason that I don't tend to grow closer to people who meet me with small talk isn't because they've failed my expectations, it's because I don't know how to grow closer to somebody that I can't remember. I don't reject people who engage in small talk- rather, I try to fight small talk itself. If someone doesn't meet your expectations, the thing to do is not to reject the person, but rather to discuss the expectations themselves. Every person thinks that their own expectations are reasonable, and each person who doesn't meet your expectations thinks that said expectations are unreasonable- even somebody who doesn't care about your existence and doesn't respect you by even their own standards would say that you must earn their respect.

Of course, expectations among friends are reasonable, to some extent. This is because you've had time to discuss expectations and get to know eachother- you know how to behave in a loving manner towards your friends, and they know how to behave in a loving manner towards you. But you can hardly have expectations for somebody that you don't know. Even if they try to meet your expectations, they don't know what those expectations are, because the last person they spoke to may have had completely different expectations. Each person has a reason for doing things the way they do; whether they're right or wrong, you can't expect them to be perfect before you've even met them.
"When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are."
-Donald Miller

Small Talk

"Many [introverts] have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions."
-Susan Cain
I believe that there are several layers of small talk, and several ways of looking at it. So it's difficult for me to address the topic as a whole. A lot of this will be looking at how I see small talk, which will tie into some future posts. But let me say up front that, while I believe there is a time and place for everything, including small talk, I also believe that small talk is detrimental to society as a whole.

Small talk is, as I describe it, a waste of breath. It has, in most situations, no value or purpose. The very name describes it. "Small talk." Not "meaningful talk," or "helpful talk," or the like. "Small talk." However, I have heard some attempt to defend small talk. They say that small talk is how you get to know somebody before you can engage in more meaningful conversations. But I beg to differ.

In my situation (though I accept that not everybody is this way) small talk makes a person more difficult for me to know, recognize, or speak to. Part of this is because I don't recognize people until I know them. I see strangers as male or female, but unless I get to know them in some way, that's all. Every male looks identical, and every female looks identical. As I get to know them, their faces become more distinct. I start to recognize them. Bear in mind, this is not based on how often I see somebody. My sister has some friends who are sisters, and for a while I saw them every week at a class that Hannah and I were taking. After several years, I couldn't tell them apart, despite my sister's instances that they looked nothing alike, and didn't even have the same color of hair. On the other hand, there have been people that I've talked to online for months before meeting them in real life, and I've recognized them, because I had gotten to know them.
As I talk to someone, their face becomes molded to their personality, and also hardens into place. Small talk, therefore, is damaging. When the first conversation I have with someone is small talk, it almost guarantees that I will not recognize them later, because it hardens their face, but doesn't shape their face. Thus, they are setting their face in stone as the "default" face, making it harder for me to remember them in the future. If someone asks my name, I can usually handle it. But if they follow that up by asking about work, school, family, church, where I live, and other questions like that, it becomes very difficult for me to tell them apart from anybody else. Thus, the idea that I ought to meet people through small talk falls apart.

Small talk is discussing trivial matters that have no real meaning- talking for the sake of talking. This is why I call it a waste of breath. Does every conversation have to be some deep philosophical discussion? Of course not! But each conversation should have meaning, even if it's a lighthearted talk with friends. If nothing of meaning is there to be said, I'll enjoy spending time with you anyway. We don't need meaningless words to fill a gap in the air.

I consider small talk to have its place in professional settings where a friendship is not required. If you approach me with small talk, I will return in kind. I will say what I am supposed to say, because that's what you do with small talk. You fit in with how the world expects you to behave. So I will be polite and say, for the most part, what you want me to say. But in thirty minutes, I'll have forgotten your name. In an hour, I'll have forgotten anything I may have learned of your face, and in a day I'll have forgotten your existence. All you gave me was the identifying information- the information that's only important for distinguishing between people that you know, but has no real meaning in and of itself. (Because of this, I believe that small talk should be eschewed in church more than anywhere else- sadly, however, it seems to me that church is where small talk is the most welcome.)

Like I said at the beginning of this post, much of this is simply my view on small talk. I would, of course, be pleased if small talk were obliterated from this world, which is why I have analyzed this topic today, but I do realize that part of this relies on my personality. Thus, I plan to have this post tie into further posts in the future. For now, let it be known that if you want to be my friend, a real conversation will go further than remembering my name.
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
-Bilbo Baggins (J.R.R. Tolkien)

On Abortion

"No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."
-Margaret Sanger (Founder of Planned Parenthood)
Today's topic shouldn't even need to be discussed. However, considering our culture today, it seems that it does. Two challenges have been made for today, the day of Tuesday, September 29th. Planned Parenthood has issued a challenge to wear pink on this day, supporting their organization and a woman's right to choose. A counter-challenge was made to wear red on the same day, representing the innocent blood that they shed, and thus, opposing Planned Parenthood. These challenges show that this is a big issue in our society. So, sadly, the topic must be discussed.

Where do I begin? Where can I possibly start the analysis on this subject? I suppose the only place to start is to look at whether this is a living baby or just a clump of cells. After all, the entirety of the discussion depends on the answer here. And of course, the answer is that they are living babies. Why do I say this? Because children have survived abortion attempts. Other children have been born early in emergency situations, during a time when it would have been legal to abort them, and have lived. Some of these are children that I know. The very fact that this is possible shows that the babies are alive. If they were just clumps of cells, then they would never survive abortion attempts, because there would be nothing to survive. It would just be the removal of some tissue, rather than killing a baby. And of course, since it wouldn't be killing, there would be no survival involved, because it was never alive to begin with. But babies have survived. Babies have been born while abortions would still be legal. This clearly shows that it is a living baby, not a clump of cells.
Adam4d.com comics regarding this topic:
Subjective Life
Jeremiah and Abortion
Does Slavery ever Bother You?

To expand on this topic of whether or not the child is alive, we must ask what we know about it. That is to say, can you prove with 100% certainty that it isn't alive? If it is alive, then knowingly killing it is murder. If you don't know whether it's alive or not, then you shouldn't do anything that could kill it. You don't get to say, "well, we don't know that it's alive," because you don't know that it's not alive either. The only situation in which abortion is acceptable is if it isn't a living baby, and you know with absolute certainty that it isn't a living baby. So, can you provide proof that it isn't alive? I doubt it.
Further reading/source for this logical chain:
If You're Not Sure, Don't Run it Over
Don't Know What a Fetus Is? Here Are Your Options.
"I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."
-Ronald Reagan
The next area to be looked at is whether down syndrome or other birth defects have any bearing on this topic. The answer here is clearly "no." A life is still a life, regardless of whether or not they have any sort of birth defect. After somebody is born, it is not legal to kill that person just because they have a mental disorder, or a physical disorder, or because they're annoying you, or any other reason. Birth defects do not make the baby less alive if it is alive, or more alive if it is not alive.

Well, what about in situations of rape? Should an abortion be legal then? Rape is a terrible thing, but again I have to say that no, it doesn't excuse an abortion. Imagine a scenario in which a woman is attacked in a dark alley at night and beaten up. But instead of raping her, the attacker shoves a one-year-old child into her hands and runs away. Is it okay to kill this child? Of course not! You can talk all you want about how the woman isn't ready, or doesn't want it, or can't handle the responsibility, but the child is still just that: a living child. The child can be brought to an orphanage, but should not be murdered, under any circumstances!
 "It seems to me as clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime."
-Mahatma Gandhi
Of course, the main issue that's brought up today is that of women's rights. After all, isn't it the woman's choice? Logically, the answer here is once again, no! I do not have the right to choose to kill another human being, no matter how much they inconvenience me. Does this mean that I have no rights? Of course not; rather, it means that the other person does have rights. The woman of course has the right to make certain decisions, but those rights end when it involves the removal of another person's rights. The baby, if it is a living human being, has the right to life, and nobody can remove that right from it. The only way that abortion is acceptable is if, as shown earlier, it could be proven that the baby is not alive, and therefore, has no rights. If the baby is alive, then his or her right to life triumphs over the mother's right to convenience.
Adam4d.com comic regarding this issue:
Freedom and Rights for All Women
"When we consider that women are treated as property it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."
-Elizabeth Cady Stanton
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."
-Mother Teresa
There are, of course, a few remaining objections. I have heard from several that we ought to have our focus on those children who have already been born. I absolutely agree, those who have already been born are important, and we should do what we can to help them. This does not, however, negate the importance of those who are still in the womb and are being killed daily.

Ultimately, we must look at the topic of abortion and decide where we stand. Regardless of whether other topics are important as well (e.g. women's rights, post-birth orphans, etc.) abortion still must be dealt with. You must either prove that these are not living beings that are being killed, or you must call for an end to abortion right now, until such a time as you can prove that they are not alive (if indeed you even can, in spite of the previously explained evidence to the contrary).
Adam4d.com comic regarding this issue:
Silence in the Face of Evil

Women have the right to choose- unless that choice infringes on the rights of another human being. And unborn children must be assumed to be alive unless it can be proven that they aren't (which, considering the evidence, I don't believe is possible). We ought to take a stand on the issue of abortion and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
"I certainly supported a woman's right to choose, but to my mind the time to choose was before, not after the fact."
-Ann B. Ross

Being Right and Wrong

"You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it."
-Malcolm X
A while back, I was watching a speech about creation vs. evolution. It was only three minutes long, as it was for a class that I was helping with, but I was still rather exited when I first heard the topic. By the end of the speech, I was rather disappointed. The speaker had, as I had expected, taken my own side in the issue. But his speech had been based entirely on the logical fallacy called personal incredulity.

A common evolutionist argument against creationists is that they only believe in the Bible because that's what they were taught. That is to say, they were brainwashed at a young age and never bothered to check whether what they were saying was true or not before spreading it around. A common creationist argument against evolutionists is... well, the exact same thing. That children are stuffed into public schools (A.K.A., propaganda machines) and brainwashed to believe in evolution, even though no real evidence exists for it. So, are the evolutionists correct, or the creationists? In this area, both.

The issue, of course, is that people believe what they want to believe. Republicans are Republicans because that's what makes them comfortable. Democrats are Democrats because that's what makes them comfortable. Creationists and evolutionists believe what they do because that's what makes them feel good. This means that someone can have the correct opinion, but have entirely the wrong reasons. Just like the speech I heard, which took my own stance, but used a logical fallacy as justification.

Not everybody wants to believe what they were taught to believe, of course. But they still believe what they want to believe, regardless of whether it's what they were taught or not. They believe what makes them feel comfortable. So the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to believe that the Republicans are right? Do you want to believe that the Democrats are right? Or do you want to believe the truth, wherever it may lead? Not what feels like the truth, I should add. After all, nobody is comfortable if they're aware that what they believe is a lie. So not what feels true, but what is true. What you believe may very well be true. But do you believe it because it's true, or do you believe something that happens to be true?
"You presumed that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself must be wrong."