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."
-Socrates

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