Monday, November 29, 2010

Something Else To Mix With Soda

I was thinking of maybe taking this blog in a whole new direction. Perhaps writing more about my personal life and thoughts, and my experiences being a young man in contemporary New York. Sure there are thousands already doing that, but no one quite like me. No one is as crazy and weird. I got back into partying on the weekends. I love going out and meeting new people and losing myself in the moment. There's more to life than just being an Atheist. I can comment on each experience, each situation from an Atheistic perspective.

Saturday nights are best spent very intoxicated, and around a lot of people. A cool bar or lounge will do. A loud club will do too, on some occasions. Making out with a cute girl you just met on the dance floor will definitely do. Running your fingers through her hair while inhaling her scent will do even better. Getting kicked out of a bar after being falsely accused of selling cocaine in it will definitely not do. Looking for more girls to talk to after already making out with one is, well, what you do when you're drunk.

I'm in a weird state of affairs right now. I kind of want to settle down, and be monogamous to one special girl. But then a part of me wants to live the party life that is oh so glamorized. I suppose the right girl can change everything. Is there anything immoral about that lifestyle of debauchery and carnal lust? Everything in moderation is what I believe in, but periods of indulgence are hard to refrain from.

I have to admit that I have not forgotten how fun it was to party every weekend. During my college years, I was working the night shift as a security guard on the weekend. I was taking night classes and that was leaving me with literally no time for any partying. I was sleeping all day and working all night. There was a 2 year period where I think I might have went out less than a half-dozen times. 2008 was the most boring year of my life. This period of my life was my sacrifice, it was my propitiation, but of course not to any god. It was what I had to do to get where I am today, with not only a degree, or a job, but with a career. I have every right to party my ass off now. I sacrificed more than 2 years of the prime of my life, often falling into deep depression because of it.

So to those who criticize, know this: I've paid my dues. I've abstained. I've refrained. Now I have earned my right to indulge. I have earned the right to have that next drink and grab that girl by the waist, and lay a deep, passionate kiss on her. It's a good thing she wanted to kiss me back.

Now on to the girls of today, the modern women of the Secular Metropolis. One thing to know is, they aren't always so secular; arguing religion with a girl you've just met at 4 a.m. may not seem like a bright idea at the time. Another things is, is that they're all so different. Some greet you with a big smile and flirtatious eye contact, while others totally ignore you. You can meet quite an interesting array of female specimens at a busy bar. From my experiences, girls that are provocatively dressed are most often the ones that are the most stuck up. It's the girls who are more subtle in their desire for attention, who are, to put it mildly, the biggest sluts.

The thing about women dressed slutty, is that we men all desire that, but will rarely look at a whorishly attired women and think she'll make a great wife. Such women are ideal for a short fling, largely based on physical attraction. Of course, any woman can wear the uniform of a slut, while still being a good girl at heart. Meeting a girl at that one moment she decides to dress a little daring, might leave you with an impression of her that isn't an accurate representation of her. But then again, neither is you acting like a drunken idiot screaming in the streets.

Can't we all compromise?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More on Morality from an Atheistic Perspective

I still haven't forgotten religion, oh no no no. It is still a near constant on my mind. And while I may dabble in other topics, religion to me and Atheism is and always will be, the cornerstone of this blog.

I feel like I am almost writing the same things over and over again. I don't want to be repetitive, or redundant, but I do however, want to make sure that with this blog, I tackle every angle from the Atheist perspective. While continuing to watch debates on religion, and argue religion to all those that wish to challenge me on it, or any other aspect of my philosophy, Atheism and morality is one sphere I wish to dwell on a bit more.

The origin of morality is one area that many Theists believe to hold the moral high ground. They claim, that without an objective moral provider, all morality is a matter of opinion. For example, if person A thinks that killing and eating person B is morally right, than person B is in no position to assert that person A is wrong. It is only person B's opinion that person A is wrong. Without an objective, external source of moral authority, let's say person C, who says that person A in this case is morally wrong for wanting to kill and eat person B, than we are only left with subjective, and often self-serving morality. Meaning, person B thinks it's wrong for person A to kill and eat him only because he doesn't want to die, and person A thinks it's right to kill and eat person B because it would satisfy his desire.

This is a basic scenario used by many Theists to explain the importance of having a God, represented by person C, to provide clear and defined objective morality. I've never been too persuaded by this argument, for the following reasons. First, the idea of an objective moral provider makes me cringe, because it is really, when you think about it, just another opinion. It's god's opinion, and doesn't necessarily lay claim to the best possible moral decision regarding the situation. For example, in the hypothetical scenario above, if god (person C) sided with person A, in that killing and eating person B was indeed morally right, would that suddenly be true? Would it abruptly be moral for person A to kill and eat person B, because god said it was so? Would we as a society embrace such an act, because a very powerful and opinionated god sanctioned it? Or would we, in spite of the opinion of an angry and jealous god, condemn such an act? In the most simple terms possible, what do we do with do with an immoral moral objective authority?

It seems to be that the Christian, Islamic and Judaic perspective, has basically taken the position that yes, god is not always fair, and not always moral, but he's the boss and he makes the rules. Therefore, we must obey god's command, even if it doesn't always make sense, or if we have difficulty discerning the moral outcome. Atheists reject this idea and make it one of our key arguments against religion. Why embrace a moral that seems immoral, simply because it is believed to come from a powerful god? Why cancel out commonsense or scientific truth because a book says otherwise? Religions are filled with examples of morality coming from god, that if practiced today, would be so far removed from contemporary moral norms. Was it moral for god to command the Jews to exterminate all their rival tribes, keeping only the marriageable girls? Christians and Jews think it was because the objective moral authority said so.

So, as I've explained, I have some serious thoughts on the idea that the objective moral provider is the best explanation for the origin of morality, and deciding morality in general. Then, you might ask, how do I explain morality from the Atheistic perspective? Well, after giving the issue some thought, and hearing in person Sam Harris' lecture The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values I've come to mold my argument for morality.

Let's revisit my earlier scenario and run through what I think Atheism has to say about it morally. There won't be the objective moral authority, person C, in it now. God is out of the picture, and we are only left with person A and B. Imagine person A and person B are the only two people on Earth for a moment. You can see now how it would be foolish for person A to kill and eat person B. Let's say person A and B are a man and woman. Once the other is killed and eaten, the species is doomed. Nature, is the moral objective provider. That is to say, the natural effects of an action performed are the source of objective truth. It may not be perfect, for example, to commit an immoral act to suite someone's immediate needs, will help that person in the short run. But, a society based on everyone committing immoral acts to suite their immediate needs as a norm, will fall apart.

In a civilization with 6.8 billion people, the result of a gradual process moving from isolated tribes, to kingdoms, to empires, to countries, let's look at the scenario once again. We do actually, have moral external authorities. While they may not be objective, if person C was a police officer who stops person A from killing and eating person B, then person A is forced to submit to a moral authority that is not subjective to him. Imagine a society that believes murder is morally is right. "Thou shall kill". A society with such values would literally destroy itself. It wouldn't be able to flourish. Kids would kill parents, parents would kill kids, and strangers would kill strangers, with all of them thinking they were performing a moral action. In order for us as a society to have reached the level of civility where we are today, we would have to have learned to not slaughter one another. We would have to have come to the mutual agreement, that senseless murder must not be tolerated. So are you telling me that without Moses and the burning bush, we wouldn't know that murder is wrong? Do we need an objective moral provider to tell us everything we know to be right or wrong? Or is it possible that mankind, in our epic journey towards truth and knowledge using reason, evidence and the scientific method, can grasp the lower reaches of moral truth?

As I've said, the natural effects of an action performed are the source of objective truth. What are the affects of murder and rape for example? To the murderer or rapist, he might get gratification and a sense of relief. To the victim, they are either dead or emotionally decimated. In the animal kingdom, many mammalian males will kill the young of a female, to bring her back into heat, so that the male can spread his seed. Why have we decided that it is wrong for us to do this? Doesn't it give advantage to a man to spread his seed anyway possible? Part of our moral evolution has been the gradual recognizing of the rights of minorities, the weak, and the ones not in power. It took us a while to see this, too long in my opinion. It was the hard work of many enlightened secular humanists, ancient philosophers, as well as many Theists who were going against their religious ethics. For example, the abolishment of slavery in the 19th century was progressed by many Christians in spite of their religion condoning it.

Without an objective moral provider, morality is not as simple as my opinion versus yours. Actions have effects, and those effects are the only source of objective truth. Think of any moral situation at an individual level, like for example cheating. Cheating on one test, will not spell doom for a society, but a society that condones cheating as a righteous way to avoid the time it takes to study will certainly have a big problem. That's why laws were passed on cheating, and stealing and murder and rape.

Now what about universal morality? That is, a moral that is true no matter what time, and place it happens to be in. The problem religion has with this is that many of the so-called moral truths of Christianity, such as slavery, and allowing 50 year old men to marry and have sex with 6 year old girls, are considered no longer moral. No Christian today defends slavery, except for a tiny and racist few. Stoning to death adulterers was once morally right, not any more. How can any religious people expect me to take them seriously on their idea on moral truths, when religious institutions have changed their opinion so often? It is as if to say that yes, morality does indeed change with time.

So am I a moral relativist? Not exactly. I don't like the idea of total moral relativism and I actively argue against those proponents of it. Is some morality relative? I suppose a strong case can be made for that. I mean some morality is as simple as a tradition or custom that a culture has developed over time. The big issues get more complex. Is killing always wrong? Is freedom of speech a universal right? Is it ever justified to take the live of one to save many? These are not easy questions and not easy answers. I've never tried to hide my desire to spread secular humanist, and Western values around the world. It is mainly because I think the values that I embrace are morally superior to the ones that oppose it, namely theocracies and dictatorships. At least with secular humanism, morality isn't legislated from an unchallengeable dictator.

So, just to recap, I feel that an objective moral authority is not needed in order to have a moral law, or discussion. Many of our modern day laws are not derived from a holy book, but were instead passed by human beings, that were working under the studied affects of passing it. The idea of an objective moral provider also introduces other problems, such as, what to do if the moral provider is immoral. The easiest real example is the issue of slavery. All 3 of the monotheistic religions fully condone human slavery. Is slavery therefore moral, because the objective moral provider says so? Or are we the ones who are wrong, for abolishing it?

Finally, I feel that science does indeed have a say as to what is and should be morally right and wrong. The only objective authority on morality I think is nature itself. Nature will show us the affects of an action performed and whether that action has positive or negative results, for the parties involved, and of course for the environment in which it takes place. True, I need to elaborate further on this subject, that will come at a later time, but for now I have my basic talking points. I shall end this post with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, who I've never been a huge fan of, but nonetheless, “Morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose”.

Dreams of Summer

It's late November and the weather has just started to get really cold, an indication that Winter is on its way. The trees are mostly naked, with just a few of the strongest leaves managing to cling on. I brace myself for another Winter: Short days, fierce winds, hats, and gloves; shivering on the platform while waiting for the train to arrive; dirty, mucky slush hardening on the edges of my shoes.

Just recently, since I started my new job and have been hectic and busy, I started reminiscing about last Summer. My vacation to Asia, looking back at it now, was so amazing. I rarely get to appreciate moments like that as they happen. Instead, months or years later I get to think back and wish I was relaxing on that sandy beach, or navigating the urban canyons of that far off exotic city.

Oh I wish I could turn the clock back just a few months. I love vacations, and I especially do when I don't have to pay for them. I loved being able to lounge around with no obligations to worry about. I love being in some exotic locale, different in every way from where I live. I love hearing different languages, smelling new foods, seeing different streets and architecture.

When I travel, I often stay at people's houses, from either relatives or friends. I love that feeling being in someone else's home, that is designed according to the local culture. The smell of the traditional food, the chirping of birds I don't hear in New York, the lizards crawling on the walls.

Oh I yearn for warm tropical air. I mean, Winter has its niceties, but there is something about Summer that I just can't get over. It always seems to be over just as you find out you're having so much fun with it. I guess I could move to Miami, it's like 80 degrees there now. But, maybe it's best that Summer happens for just a few short months. It makes it that much more memorable. Much like how we cherish a rose, only because we know that it will die in a few weeks.

And while I long for Summer's embrace and my recent vacation, I noticed that I didn't actually write much about it. I think I had devoted one or two posts to my Asian expedition. I suppose I would have written about it more in depth. Perhaps another time. Until then, I will dream of palm trees, and fresh coconut juice, and laying carefree on a mountain of pillows, as I slowly close my eyes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Generation A.D.D.

I've come to notice that when I write while distracted by something else, like the TV, or something on the web, my writing often doesn't make sense. Or, the literary flow will seem more like a series of separate statements grouped together in a what appears to be at first, a paragraph. But it is no paragraph. It's more like how an album that is collection of singles is not grounded on a concept. Distractions are terrible for cohesive writing. I generally don't free-write. I like to stick to a central theme and plan every sentence and paragraph out before it's written.

We are the generation ADD. We lose interest at the slightest waning of excitement. When the TV looks interesting, our eyes are on it. When the internet can give us something gratifying our eyes are on it. When that video or site bores us we find something else that suites our immediate needs.

I plead guilty on all charges. That is what I am doing right now. I have the TV on while I am typing this. I just cannot focus on one thing right now. I can't stay focused on blogging. Our culture of instant gratification has resulted in a whole generation not being able to read or write or even watch TV with out having to obtain entertainment elsewhere.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Same Faces Everyday

It's strange how you can see the same people everyday on the subway in such a large city like New York. I used to think that everyday I saw different people on my commute to work. I usually don't notice who I ride the train with, but recently I have started to see the same people on the subway everyday. I've gone through this routine of riding the train into the city every morning, so many times. I've almost always worked in Manhattan. However, it hasn't been until now, that I've started to notice the same faces on the train on my way into Manhattan.

There are so many immigrants where I live, mostly Asians and Latinos. They seem almost in a way, anonymous to me. Most of them are the rednecks of their country, if you will. They are from the countryside and rural areas. They come here to work, many of them illegally. Most are totally out of style, and can't speak english. They are the type of people that I usually never notice. They all look similar, and they all look different at the same time.

7 million riders everyday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Conversation

We sat talking at the edge of the bar, oblivious to the noise around us. She was a pretty young brunette who had just transferred here from California. I was an overworked, jaded New Yorker in need of some Friday night beguilement. "I work in advertising" she says, barely audible. "Oh nice" I respond, "So what's better, New York or L.A.?" This question is one I frequently ask everyone I meet who moves to New York from L.A. I'm always comparing people's experience of New York to that of where they grew up. "Well," she says digging deep into her little mind, "New York is more convenient because everything is close by. And, you don't have to drive everywhere." I feign interest and pretend like her point is something I haven't heard. Unfortunately, I've heard it all.

I, the jaded New Yorker, have had this conversation one too many times. It's gotten to the point where, I already know what they're going to say. To spice things up, sometimes I play the guessing game, where I guess where they're from, or their ethnicity or religion. Just the other week, I correctly guessed two girls were Jewish just by knowing what neighborhood they grew up in.

Then suddenly, the conversation got interesting....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Over Employment

I have a new job, as a Technical Support Analyst, and it is taking a considerable amount of my free time. That's why I haven't been blogging as often recently. I am now over employed. It's quite the opposite from what 15 million unemployed Americans are currently undergoing. The job market appears to be getting better, but still not where it needs to be. My new job is with a software company, whose technical support is located in Manhattan. I've thought about why they haven't outsourced this position. A few years back, I got extremely infuriated when I began learning that many U.S. companies are outsourcing positions to cheaper labor markets.

It really enraged me to think, that even a college education, is no barrier to unemployment. A good paying job that required a college degree, or at least some technical training, could easily be sent to a person just as qualified, in another country. He or she will of course, be payed less than the person performing the same job in the U.S. This is a threat to millions of good paying, skilled jobs in the U.S., and a problem that will not disappear anytime soon.

For now I have a job and I'm making good money. I can move up the ladder using the skills I have learned to get an even better, higher paying position in the future. This country does reward hard work, and all I simply want is to make sure it stays that way.

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