Archive for May, 2008

Know Thyself

Posted by tungtide on May 26, 2008, 10:08 am

There’s an article over at Yahoo that I found while randomly surfing this morning. It’s entitled “A Dozen Ways to get to Know Your Real Partner” and includes some decent advice, but oversimplifies many of the issues. As a way for readers to get to know me a littler better, and to point out where I think the list falls short, I’ll take the items point by point.

1. Protocol: First or Second – The author asks whether one person in the relationship needs to dominate and be the first to do everything. From walking through doors to getting the first bite of a batch of cookies, she feels that this is an indication of self-absorption and possibly an excessive ego. Personally, I think this is a good indicator depending upon the situation. I’ve been called a control freak in some situations – usually relating to being late for something. I have an unnatural need to be on time – but for the most part I couldn’t care about whether or not I’m the first person to do something in or out of a relationship.

2. Politics: Liberal or Conservative – While I agree that political disagreements can quickly divide a relationship or a family, there’s always more to the issue than the left and right labels. I’ve commented over on The Fletcher Memorial (If Only History Class Taught History) saying that I think both liberals and conservatives have, what they believe to be, the best interests of other people and the country in mind. There are smaller sub-segments of both groups with more “sinister” plans but those are often only the most vocal and not the majority.

3. Television: Sitcoms or News – This was the first point on the list where I felt the author was grandly oversimplifying. There are obviously most than just those two genres of television available, and despite her claim, viewing sitcoms does not mean an ignorance of world issues or a lower intelligence. I get most of my news online and hate watching most of the nightly newscasts. They are filled with fluff pieces, human interest stories, and rarely touch on issues that I feel are important. I’d rather watch a Simpson’s rerun than waste the same 30 minutes hearing a recap of stories I read about online that morning.

4. Money: Flash or Stash – Rhyming scheme aside, I don’t think that the amount of money spent on the first few dates is indicative of a guy’s financial views. Better to see how he lives, whether he’s always maxing out credit cards (or getting new ones all the time), buying the newest and greatest gadgets, basically whether he’s living within his means. This in no way means that only guys are doing this, but since they are often the ones shelling out money early in a relationship, it’s easier to find these things out about him first.

5. Stress: Freak or Peak – Again, there’s no need for the rhyming. Mellow is good, take the time to assess a situation and react and respond rationally. A partner needs to have a compatible level of stress response. I tend to be easygoing about most issues. About a year ago my sister fell during a dance practice and I was the closest emergency contact. She had fallen on her head and possibly had injured her neck. Paramedics were called and she was taken to the hospital. Her dance instructor was amazed that I didn’t freak out and start yelling and blaming him. (Apparently he’s dealt with some crazy parents before.) I asked questions, found out her status, and with the information available I determined that there was nothing else that I could do. Stressing would have been pointless. She was fine, which made my calm response all the more appropriate.

6. Conversation: You or Him/Her – Well, that depends upon the flow of the conversation. Some will focus more on me, others will focus more on you.

7. Pets – The author believes that the way someone treats pets is a direct indicator of how they will treat children. Probably true, but not all people want children. The types and number of pets are also an issue. A house with a single dog or cat will have a profoundly different effect than one with a dozen assorted critters.

8. Communication – This can’t just be broken down into listening or ignoring. If there’s a problem in the relationship, tell me. If I appear to be ignoring you, I am likely just not paying attention (get my attention and I’ll be happy to listen). On average, guys like to be problem solvers. They like to hear a problem and come up with a solution. I realize that this is a gross over-generalization of the subject, but the biggest issues in communication stem from expectations and the approach. If all you want is an ear to listen for a while, make that clear.

9. Strangers: Kind or Rude – the article mentions people such as grocery baggers and waiters as deserving of kindness. I try to be as friendly as I can to those people. I tip well (at least 20%) and will often converse with the checkers and baggers at the supermarket. If these people are rude to me first, they get no sympathy. There are other strangers that are less deserving of kindness – telemarketers and solicitors. If you are calling me or knocking on my door without prior permission to try to sell me a product/service/religion/Buick I am not going to be happy. I will be rude, ungrateful, and at times downright nasty.

10. Priorities: Family or Work  – If the only way to provide for the family is to work (or take that business trip) while the kids are sick, I’d say your priorities are still in place. Family should come first, but providing for them is equally important.

11. Appearance – Honestly, this one’s all subjective. Know that you’re not likely to change the things you don’t like about the other person (and this goes for many of his/her habits as well) unless the person wants to change.

12. Faith: Strong or Weak – The title of this one annoyed me, because there are many options besides strong and weak (such as none). The rest of the response is pretty spot on though, saying that you can learn a lot about someone by learning their core beliefs. Faith need not be one of those core beliefs, but it is important to know where someone stands on the issue.


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Random Thought for the Morning

Posted by tungtide on May 25, 2008, 10:52 am

You know you’re tired when you try to put your dirty laundry into the computer instead of the washing machine

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Posted by tungtide on May 24, 2008, 7:53 pm

I’m late to the party, I know, but Deconversion needed to be the first blog entry.

As almost everyone knows by now the California Supreme Court ruled that a voter-approved ban on marriage between two people of the same gender is against the state Constitution. My wording in the last sentence was deliberately devoid of any mention of sexuality because the way I see it, there are multiple aspects to the institution of marriage and the ruling affects only one of those parts.

Marriage is both a religious and a legal institution in this country. The religious aspect of marriage is independent from the legal aspect, and often ties into social norms associated with a religion, or what society deems to be “morally acceptable.” When two people choose to marry in a church under the oversight of a priest, rabbi, pastor, or flying spaghetti monster deacon (not sure what the FSM equivalent of a priest is) it is because they are choosing to incorporate their own religious beliefs into the institution of marriage. In these cases the people involved often believe that god has chosen to bless this marriage, or will do so because of the conditions surrounding the union (in a church, married while still a virgin, etc.)

It is the legal aspects of marriage that make the argument for gay marriage a no-brainer in my eyes. There are rights and privileges available to married couples that are not available to unmarried ones. These include tax benefits, the ability to make decisions regarding life and death in emergencies, and the transferal of property in the event of death. While many, if not all, these rights can be established through other legal methods, the institution of marriage has served as a recognized right of passage towards obtaining these legal allowances. Phrased another way, marriage provides a means by which a large number of legal rights are granted to a couple and shared between them, in a simple predetermined contract.

Now, some states have taken it upon themselves to create “domestic partnerships” that extend many of the marriage rights to couples of the same gender. Does one coupling between two consenting adults have greater weight in the eyes of the law than another? Any marriage between a man and woman is granted equivalent rights in any state in the country, independent of race, religion, height, or any other irrelevant criteria. How then, does a coupling between two individuals of the same gender differ? If a state chooses to extend “partnership” rights to a gay couple it is creating a double standard, a separate and unequal institution that is designed to keep the “undesirables” away from the institution set up for the straight couples. I had thought that the separate but equal debate had been settled before I was born, but it has instead raised its head with a different group as its target. Furthermore, any domestic partnership that provides all the legal benefits of marriage is a marriage. A duck by any other name would quack just the same…I think I’m mixing my sayings now.

The point remains that while marriage was once dominated and administrated by the church, it is now as much a governmental institution as it is a religious one. In order to equally and justly apply the laws of the United States, all couples should have the right to marriage simply for the legal benefits of the union. Now, if these legal benefits were removed and religion was once again the sole keeper of the institution of marriage, they would be within their legal right to deny it to anyone not meeting their criteria. But they would also be heartless bastards.

With that being said I am willing to take this a step further. I am willing to support other types of marriage above and beyond gay marriage. Polygamy (both polyandry and polygyny), line marriages, group marriages, and any other combination of humans is acceptable if it meets the following criteria:

  1. Any marriage must, first and foremost, support the raising of children in its care. A marriage need not include children and need not be for the purpose of creating children, but the welfare of the children must be the first priority.
  2. All members must be consenting adults. This means that marriages like those seen in the FLDS that have fourteen-year-old girls marrying men older than their fathers are against the rules. We have a legal age at which a person is considered an adult and capable of making their own decisions (barring mental damage, defect, drugs, abuse, etc.)

That’s it, two simple rules – kids come first, and adults enter freely.

Opponents to gay marriage are fighting to keep people out of marriage when they don’t stand to lose anything in the first place. Their marriage will still be worth what it was the day before; only, more people will be able to share in the experience without having a direct effect on anyone else’s marriage. If a church chooses to deny confirmation to a person based on sexual orientation that’s their business (but again, heartless bastards). There are no legal advantages to confirmation into a church, so the law is applied equally to all people independent of the confirmed status. When the law is not applied equally to couples based solely on gender it is against the constitution.

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Upcoming Post – Marriage and Sexuality

Posted by tungtide on May 23, 2008, 6:44 pm

I am currently working on a post on the topic of marriage (gay, straight, and otherwise) and sexuality. Not sure if I will have it completed tonight. Look for an update Saturday at the latest.


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Posted by tungtide on May 22, 2008, 8:40 am

I’ve  moved my blog posting to the front page, realizing that I don’t want to create separate pages for each and every blog that I add. The blog, Deconversion, is now available below.

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Posted by tungtide on May 22, 2008, 8:37 am

I’ve decided to begin this blog with a bit of a testimonial. Often, these are used in religious circles as a means of patting yourself on the back and showing how devoted you are to the cause. Mine is a little different.

I never really defined myself through my religious beliefs, I just faked it well.

“Everyone in this room is saved. We are the ones going to Heaven and it is our job to save everyone outside these walls. Those people should be fighting to knock down the door to this room so that there will no longer need to be a Bible Club, but everyone will instead share in the love of Jesus Christ.”

Something similar to this was actually spoken to me about ten years ago (credit to Jamesly Brad something-with-an-L, for those who know him). Looking back, this was one of the earliest moments at which I began to question my beliefs. Who was I to say that everyone else was wrong? Why should I be forcing my beliefs on someone else and trying to convince them to give up something they believe in, only to trade it in for another equally absurd story. At the time I was part of a bible club at my high school. This involved taking time out of lunch once a week to meet up with other like-minded individuals. Initially it was a way to interact with my Christian friends and share our beliefs with those interested in the subject. Well, that was my take on the situation. As the club evolved we began discussing ways to become more visible, as if it was a simple matter of sharing a message before the “unsaved” would change their ways. I would often return from these meeting with stickers affixed to my shirt, trying to show off my moral superiority through tacky slogans and phrases. I suspect that this was a mild to moderate annoyance to those around me. Thankfully, those same people had the good sense to ignore the issue and it did eventually go away.

I immersed myself in the institution of Christianity as much as I could stand. I would attend regular services and at least one evening a week with the youth group. By the time my senior year rolled around I was assisting with some of the younger students and helping them “find their way.” Throughout the process I had my doubts but was certain that if I kept working at it I would find that spark, that divine intervention that so many had experienced, and I would finally feel the same excitement and joy as the other Christians in my life. As the months and years wore on I became increasingly uncertain regarding my motives in the church, the youth group, and the bible club. While none of them began with an evangelical philosophy, eventually they all began to impress upon me the need to preach and convert those around me. Changes in positions of power led to a new and more aggressive policy of evangelism and this led to new and profound changes in my interactions with the church.

By the time I left the bible club it had become a monster of a different beast. We were told to bring unconverted friends on a regular basis, to witness to people in our lives (especially family and friends), and to constantly have a biblical explanation for why things should be the way that “we” wanted them. Needless to say I was a little unsure of my place.

I don’t remember ever actually doing any of these things, other than perhaps dragging a friend to one of the lunch meetings. No matter how deep I found myself in this religion, I never felt that it was my responsibility to tell other people that they were wrong.

A similar series of events took place with the youth group. I was told that I should not date anyone of a different religion, that I should avoid sex (and any physical intimacy) until marriage, and that it was my job to bring in the “lost souls” who had not heard the news of Jesus. Luckily, it never got to the point of blaming women for “original sin” or condemning homosexuals as “evil.” Instead, the group focused on the indoctrination of its own members. We would actually go around in a circle and pledge not to have sex until marriage. Those few people who had had unmarried sex would tell us their shameful tales and how sex did nothing to further their relationships. One of the youth pastors even said that an evening of sex between him and his fiancée was the cause behind the delay in their marriage. Still others told of having sex only a single time before marriage and how that lead to sexually transmitted diseases and prevented them from being able to have children. I believe this was the same couple that didn’t believe that Reykjavik was the capitol of Iceland (this was prior to the point where the internet was available in nearly every household, and there was no way to look up the answer at their house). As the youth group took this turn toward evangelism I turned away from both it and the church.

Starting college distanced me from the few remaining friends I had in those groups. I rarely saw any of them and I hadn’t been to church in a couple months (as far as I remember,) but I still considered myself a Christian.

As I worked my way through my undergraduate education I paid little attention to the role of religion in my life. My girlfriend at the time was Jewish, but this was her genetic heritage and not the definition of her personality. I went to church only on Christmas and even then only because it was expected of me while I was visiting home. I became more hostile towards the concept of religion and never really noticed how I was breaking away until after the fact. By the time I graduated I was irreligious, but still afraid of calling myself an atheist. I know that the word, the thought never crossed my mind, since atheists were still a stigmatized group as far as I was concerned. Having grown up initially Catholic and then having experienced the edges of Evangelical Christianity I still had a nagging voice in the corner of my head that would not let me give up on religion so easily. The same persistence and stubbornness that I demonstrate in other aspects of my life was actually a determent in letting go. These traits had me holding on to the last shreds of my belief long after it was dead.

Still, I had never used the work atheist to describe myself. I was simply a non-believer, one who distanced myself from religion and was amused by the arbitrary restraints that (otherwise intelligent) people put upon themselves in their lives in the name of religion. Instead of tackling the issue I sidelined it and decided to learn about the people around me. I learned about how religion played a role in their lives and the aspects that they considered grey areas.

I met couples who were married without ever having lived a day of their lives under the same roof, and couples who believed that the woman should submit to the will of the husband. There were individuals that believed it authority figures should never be questioned, that they should always be given the benefit of the doubt. I saw the positive and negative effects of religion on family: if two consenting adults in their early 30’s had decided to actually spend a night together unwed, they would have each been disowned by their parents. As long as they played by the rules though, the families were as supporting and loving as parents could be.

It was after seeing the irrational, illogical, and sometimes hurtful restrictions that people put upon themselves in the name of religion that I began admitting that I didn’t believe. A young married couple (former neighbors of mine) was shocked to learn that I didn’t believe. The concept of disbelief was foreign to them, and they had never met a person who would openly admit such a fact before. I’m pretty sure they kept this information secret from some of their other, more closed-minded friends, as it would have driven a wedge in at least one of the friendships.

My disbelief lifted a weight from my shoulders and I have enjoyed my life immensely since. Since there are many confusing definitions of atheists and what we believe, so I’ll state it simply: the only unifying concept for atheists is disbelief in any and all supernatural forces. This, of course, leads to a more specific definition of who I am on top of my disbelief, because I do believe in many important issues.

I believe that this life is the only one that I will get, and that makes it all the more important that I do something important with it (as long as I can get a full complement of naps.) I believe in equality, diplomacy, science, and imagination (I think that last point is crucial in understanding this world.) Finally, I believe that I can be wrong. With new data and new evidence I am always willing to reassess who I am and my place in this world. But it had better be really good evidence.

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Posted by tungtide on May 21, 2008, 2:55 pm

The first few links are available. These are established blogs written by various friends of mine, covering a wide array of subjects and (in some cases) diverging viewpoints.  The first major post should follow tonight


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Posted by tungtide on May 21, 2008, 4:21 am

Welcome. Please be patient while I get things up and running here. Once I’ve explored all the controls and adjusted the visual scheme there will be blogging aplenty


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