Sunday, February 28, 2010

Conversation with rayzinside

rayzinside wrote:

I found your answer interesting about OJ (Hitler, Stalin, Polpot) and heaven. I was wondering if you were the one who decided who goes to heaven would there be any requirements or standards? This would define "deserve".

It is my understanding that "deserve" is Biblically defined as choosing who one will follow, Satan or Jesus, and not based on bad or good deeds.

If you base going to heaven on being a good person, then who is good and who is bad? Would there be a dividing line? Would all have an equal chance of going to heaven? Would that chance be equal to all?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

My response:

Thank you so much for these very thoughtful questions. You sound like a Christian, but you are far more intelligent than most of your siblings.

If I were the one who decided who goes to heaven and hell: First, I'm not sure I'd go with the eternal life thing in the first place. I'm not sure that it's healthy for human beings to be able to sidestep all of the big issues in this life by looking forward to an afterlife. For example, grief. If you think you're going to see Grandma again, you never really, really give her the honor she deserves by fully grieving for her. It's not genuine grief. You just miss her for a few years. Not to mention planetary stewardship. I think you'll agree that we'd take better care of our planet if all of us believed that it's the only one we have.

If I did go for an afterlife, I'd eliminate hell altogether. I don't believe in good and evil as absolutes, and I don't believe that anyone is evil in the morally culpable, damnable sense. Yes, people do terrible things, and justice must be served. But we don't have to punish. We could reform. Those who can't be reformed are not bad, they're psychos--literally incapable, due to unavoidable brain chemistry, of functioning. These guys just have to be locked up to protect the rest of us, but they should still be treated as humanely as possible.

I often have trouble with the concept of "deserve" in any sense. It is part of a life-philosophy that implies a life of reward and punishment. I consider this a subtle pathology of the more natural, biological mechanisms of pleasure and pain. In the wild, we go toward pleasure and we go away from pain. No morality involved there. If I rape my sister and the other men beat the crap out of me in anger, well, I am less inclined to rape my sister a second time. No one had to shame me or guilt me to make me change my behavior. It was just a natural consequence resulting from my brothers' rage over my sister's pain. Having grown up in a society where such deterrents are publicly known hinders me during my formative years from over-contemplating rape. By the time I'm big enough to rape someone, my mind is under the restraint built during the formative years. A lot like a trained bear, of course with the exception that I really could override my long-solidified restraint. But in the vast, vast majority of people, such an override is a difficult task, not to mention that it causes some internal psychological scarring.

I have a huge problem with the claim that "deserve", or if you'll allow me to say "morality", is determined by whose philosophy is being followed. In fact, if you look at it closely it's no morality at all. Consider. Just for the sake of argument, let's say that God tells you to murder. Now he told us in the book not to murder. And we decided that his reason for saying it is that murder is inherently immoral. So if God tells you to murder, then something is wrong. Either murder is a moral act and our reason for restraint is "dad says don't do it, at least for now", or murder is immoral and God's command to you is also immoral. I don't see any other option, but feel free to let me know if you see something I'm missing.

I'm not sure I can answer your last few questions. The meaning is not clear to me. Hopefully I have answered somewhat. This is an interesting conversation. Please feel free to continue. --Rob

rayzinside wrote:

It appears to me that "deserve" does exist in one form or another. In the animal world if you cross into their territory you might get killed. Did you "deserve" to get killed? In your scenario those brothers beat you up because they felt you did wrong and "deserve" punishment. They weren't trying to rehabilitate you; they were wanting to punish you. If you were rehabilitated in the process that is a bonus. So no matter what words we want to use right and wrong do exist and punishment exist and is metered out in some form. When punishment is metered out it is based on the idea that it is deserved. If you speed do you deserve a speeding ticket? If you fail a test do you deserve to get rewarded? Our world in one way or another operates on the concept of good and evil, and we received what we "deserve" on that basis. So do we deserve what we get if we don't meet a particular standard? Then should we apply this concept to heaven and hell if these places do exist? Then who "deserves" to go to heaven and hell? What is the dividing line? "Deserve" is a reality and whether we like it or not we are forced to live with it and abide by it. --Thanks.

My reply:

Sorry, I disagree with much of what you have said.

I do not believe in a philosophy of punishment. I do not believe in a philosophy that uses the word "deserve".

The brothers may have been motivated by a feeling that I deserved punishment, but that would not make the attitude of punishment correct. The best motivation for the brothers to harm me would be to deter me and anyone else who might behave that way in the future. That is not associated with deserving punishment. It is simply a way to protect my sister's rights, and the rights of all people to have their bodies respected.

Does that help? I do not believe in "deserve" or "punishment".

You say, "Right and wrong do exist". I agree. There are moral actions and there are immoral actions. Yes.

You say, "punishment exists". I agree. But I believe that punishment is immoral. Correction is moral. Let's go back to my sister. My example before was a quick grasp at something that might have happened among us in the wild that would serve as a precursor to morality. Let's imagine a very advanced society, and say again: I rape my sister. I have violated her rights and harmed her psyche. She will need help from trained professionals, but we'll just focus on the perpetrator. The first thing that must happen is that I must be apprehended, in case my mind is so broken that I might do it again to her or someone else. Next, I must be psychologically evaluated and treated. Because of the horror of the crime itself I must be kept away from society, to keep them safe, until the reasons for my behavior are understood. See, no punishment anywhere. Hopefully, at some point, with treatment, I will be able to see clearly the harm I did to my sister, and genuinely apologize to her and freely offer some kind of restitution.

Punishment goes beyond discipline: in your world, perhaps my brothers beat me severely, beyond all reason. Or maybe in their rage they kill me. Yes, society may have gained a deterrent, but I have lost all. That is immoral. If I am a psychopath who cannot be trusted in decent society, then I must be removed for the safety of others, but I should be cared for humanely, because a psychopath is broken. Not an evil person who deserves punishment. A broken mind who needs compassion and respect, and who must sadly be kept away from the rest of us so we can be safe.

You say, "When punishment is meted out it is based on the idea that it is deserved." I agree with you only because of the technical meaning I assign to "punishment" and "deserved". I do not agree that the reason I received a speeding ticket is because I "deserved" a speeding ticket. I received the ticket because it is our society's current mechanism for discouraging behavior that impinges on the safety of others.

It is not about "deserve". In this negative sense, the word implies a moral culpability, a response to some fixed claim about morality, as though speeding were immoral. I am thinking deeply about "deserve" now, and I think that there is no "deserve" in the negative sense, but there is a lot of "deserve" in a positive sense, as in, children deserve to be loved and respected by adults; adults deserve the right to have consensual sex without state interference; that sort of thing.

You say, "Our world...operates on the concept of good and evil..." I have to disagree with you. Your world might operate that way, your mind, your circle of friends, your circle of influence. My world absolutely does not work that way at all. My world operates on love and beauty and kindness and understanding and compassion. I become angry at my daughter quite often, but I have never, ever, ever told her that she is bad, or wrong, or defective in any way. She is not, and never will be. In fact, some times when I become angry she becomes obviously sad, and I immediately tell her explicitly that she has not been bad or wrong. Her behavior will have consequences. I am teaching her the ways of love and compassion and understanding, and these will have very beautiful consequences. I will never put the idea of punishment or the negative form of "deserve" into her mind. That, THAT, my friend would be terribly immoral.

So I have to reject your question, "Do we deserve what we get if we don't meet a particular standard?" For me, that question has no meaning. Standard? There is no standard. There are consequences, and those consequences over the eons have led humans to think, and think, and think about the best ways to be. And now we are setting our own standards, but not standards for punishment. Standards for how to treat each other. And I know, much of society doesn't work this way--YET--that's one reason I'm out there on the boards. Religion is dominating our thinking with guilt, shame, deserve, evil, sin, punish, reward--these are terrible, empty, ignoble concepts for the beautiful creatures called humans. We are capable of so much more.

I challenge you, friend, think about it for a while. Have a child of your own and cry your eyes out when you see how much she loves you even when you're fuck-all as a dad, when you wish that you could kill yourself rather than have to face this overwhelming responsibility. When real love hits you from a real, breathing person who depends on you for everything, your concept of "deserve" will utterly wither.

I'd love to continue this conversation with you. It is interesting to drag all of these deep feelings up for examination. I've never articulated any of this. Thanks for bringing it up, and for reminding me to weep beautiful tears for my beloved daughter.

rayzinside sent one more response, but it was very short on argument and very long on assertions, basically attempting to impose his paradigm of punishment. I sent back a goodbye...

We will have to agree to disagree. I have to reject your notions of "deserve" and "punishment" and "payment" and "correction of wrong" and "penalty" and "reward" and especially and emphatically "punishment in love". This last is the saddest phrase I have ever heard. You and I simply live in different universes. I assume that my universe looks twisted or unstable to you. Yours looks very sad to me.

Petition for a Religious Freedom for Children Act

There are millions of American children whose minds are being scarred with the most hideous image conceivable as a possibility for their future: eternal agony in a place called hell. More and more people are recognizing the mythical nature of hell, but there are still millions of them teaching this filth to their children. I was one of these children. It is time for society to take a deep breath and face a new complexity in modern life.

Religious freedom applies not only to adults. An adult has the right to choose his/her own religious philosophy and behavior. Why do not children have this same right? And what gives any adult the right to scar a child's psyche with two concepts that should never exist in the child's mind even singly, much less in combination: torture and eternity?

I know nothing of law or how petitions work, and I'm sure that my sentiments are hopelessly naive. But please sign my petition anyway, and if you know of any way that a movement like this could be promulgated, even brought to public light, please let me know. I've had enough of kids being tortured by their parents.

I call the lie on political correctness--again

Ok, I'm still trying not to vomit over the fact that there are people here who worship and love a creature who will put 7-year-old children into hell for all eternity. This is a monstrous wrong, and I think that it's time we stopped being politically correct about it. Let them believe what they want in their private self-loathing, but let us find a way to stop them scarring children. I was one of those children. I'll lead the charge. It is time for us to realize that children deserve the same religious freedom as the rest of us, and being indoctrinated at home is not religious freedom.

Go ahead, make me Stalin, say I'm trying to eradicate religion, bullshet. Psychologically scarring children is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. And it is our duty in a decent society to find a way to stop it. And if it means infringing on the rights of believers, then well, here's a precedent: my right not to have a 747 shoved into my ear while I'm having my morning coffee trumps your right to get virgins. The child's right to grow up with a healthy mind sans hideous fears trumps your religious freedom, I'm sorry to say. It's time we stand up for the kids.

You people who tell children that they might (or will) go to hell, I am now your sworn enemy. I hope that others out here and everywhere will join me. Stop hurting children. Now.

Prepare for the next Christian onslaught against education

The Intelligent Design movement seems pretty well crushed at this point. It was years ago that it was shown to be not-even science. But I'm still worried that the Christians have some tricks left up their sleeves. I propose that we make a list of the possible assaults that the Christians might bludgeon us with next:

  • Theory of Intelligent Flunking instead of Education Theory
  • Theory of Intelligent Stupidity instead of Education Theory (worse, yet more likely, I fear)
  • Theory of Intelligent Falling instead of Theory of Gravity
  • Theory of Intelligent Barfing instead of Germ Theory of Disease
  • Theory of Intelligent Plunking instead of Music Theory
  • Theory of Intelligent Flapping instead of Powered Flight Aerodynamics Theory
  • Theory of Intelligent Condemnation instead of Psychology Theory

And of course, Astrology, Alchemy, and Seance Theory.

Please contribute to this list so we can distribute it to every thinking person in the U.S., to inoculate them against these pernicious non-ideas.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yahwists, can you see our respect in our mockery?

I was just sitting here laughing me @rse off at yet another appallingly ignorant answer from a Christian. It ended with a devastating sucker punch to the intellectual testicles: "Did you ever see a Black family change into a Chinese family?"

Hang on, hang on, I can't stop laughing! Make it stop! Please!

Ok, but seriously, you Yahwists who know what "Yahwist" means and know which side of a book is "up": for a second, I felt sorry for the guy. It must be really sad to go through life with a mouldy, sopping-wet dishrag wrapped around your head. But then I thought, no, that's condescending. I shouldn't sneer like that at my fellow human beings.

Out of respect for him as an equal, at least as deserving equal consideration if admittedly not my intellectual equal, I decided that I should never condescend. The highest honor I can pay to any human with whom I disagree is never to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt, that I can someday reach him, even if I have to resort to mockery, because to condescend is to give up on him. And that seems a shameful disrespect.

P.S. Do I sound like a pompous, snobbish @rse? Sorry, this guy was just too easy. He dragged it out of me.

The Tree

Most of this creation myth is lost to us, but good fortune has preserved enough to encourage us in the feeling that it was an edifying story. was the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, also called the Tree of Truth and Wisdom. There was a Snake in the tree, and Eve often had long, stimulating conversations with it (the Snake, that is--the Tree only listened, Listening being one of the fundamental natures of Trees). Adam usually could not be bothered to join in these confabulations; he was often too busy with the typical male reaction to discovering that he was naked...

...Eve fashioned fig leaves into a garment for herself (Adam wanted no truck with non-nakedness). She felt sad sometimes to cover her body, but it was occasionally necessary: many conversations were utterly derailed when Adam looked up long enough to discover that Eve also was naked...

...Eve ate the fruit and became very wise immediately. She shared this beautiful gift with Adam. They didn't get kicked out of the garden; they abandoned it, because the troll who occupied it was always harassing them, creepily ogling them and setting traps...

...the Snake was a manifestation of Satan, so it spoke Rationally, with Compassion and Good Sense to Eve...

...They took the Snake with them and worshiped it. When the Humans' knowledge grew powerful enough, they one day realized that Satan didn't exist. He had been a metaphor constructed by their unconscious minds. They were very sad for a while, because they had thought of Satan as a living Friend. They allowed themselves this metaphor, which enabled them to experience True Grief, one of the noblest expressions of the Human Soul. They gave their highest honor to their dead Friend by continuing in their traditions of Compassion and Reason and Morality, but now recognizing that the Humans themselves are the source of these Great Powers, that the Humans themselves are God...

Friday, February 26, 2010

I call the lie on political correctness

A couple of days ago a very clueless mental health professional asked me to respect my sister's religious beliefs. Sounds really nice, doesn't it. But can we take into account the fact that my sister's religious beliefs involve:

1a) Billions of human beings will burn, undying, forever, in literal agony in a place called hell.

1b) I myself am most likely one of those billions.

2) She and all other Christians will watch all of us being thrown into hell, then praise forever the person who sentenced us there.

3) As an added bonus to Christians, this hideous filth of a deity will erase their memory so they'll never suffer any anguish thinking of all of us, suffering just around the corner, for all eternity.

(Note that this ghastly philosophy is not nearly as rare as you might expect. My ex-mother-in-law and her cronies believe exactly the same thing, as do my former Star-Trek-Friday-Night "friends".)

I am done with political correctness with respect to other people's religious beliefs. I am fine if someone else wants to pray to a cosmic cookie, or even a revolting god like the one described in the Christian old testament. But I refuse to have any truck with anyone so aggressively and basely condescending. I am no respecter of religious beliefs that make me less-than, undeserving of basic dignity such as the right not to be tortured for all eternity, in someone else's eyes.

You might think that the rant would end there. But that's my new take only on Christianity. I have a few words for Islam as well. And I don't mean the monsters who go around shoving a 747 up your nose so they can get some virgins and--paradoxically--spend eternity doing something that they've been taught their whole lives is immoral. Strange ethics, there, and Christians, you're the same with your streets made of gold and gates made of pearl. That's precisely the kind of excess that many of you condemn here on earth as immoral.

I have a new standard response to any Muslim I meet. So far, it has prevented me making any Muslim friends. I take this as a sign that I have found a monumental weak point in their philosophy. Specifically, the fact that women are considered less-than even by moderate Muslims. Here's what I have to say to all Muslims:

Women have the right to participate in pornography. Women have the right to have sex with whomever they wish. Women can protect their own virtue without the help of homosexual, homophobic men. It is none of any man's business if a woman gets an STD. It is only her own business.

Women have the right to wear whatever they like in public, even a bikini. Women have the right even to go naked in the many public places where nudity is legal--their bodies belong to themselves, not some despicable, terrified, snot-nosed little boys masquerading as men. Women are strong, and smart, and will throw off all oppression. Women of Islam, I support you against your ignorant, backward overlords!

No one is suggesting that women be forced into any of this. I'm just saying that women belong to themselves and can do whatever they want in spite of you snivelers.

I have been criticized at times for never going after Jews. That's only because so far nothing Jewish is in my face. I'm all ears if the Jews are behaving like these others.

There. No more respect for beliefs. I respect your right to have your own thoughts. That's every human's basic right. Keep your thoughts out of the laws that affect people who don't share your thoughts. And stop taking the law into your own hands to impose your thoughts on us. All of you who continue to do so, I address you now: you are my sworn enemies and I will not be politically correct.

Never challenge "worse"

Wow, I entitled my last post "My darkest day". I shouldn't have said that. Monday was far worse.

In my desperate state I've been reaching out to a lot of people from the past, including my sisters. I renewed ties with my older sister Theresa a couple of weeks ago, and we've been exchanging emails. But then on Monday, while my friend Lisa was cooking for me, I was chatting with Theresa online and expressing my desire not to get better.

Next thing I know, Lisa comes to me and says that the cops are here and wanting to talk to me. First off, I've been sitting naked in bed since September 2009. So the first thing I have to do is get dressed. But at this point I'm terrified that huge, armed men are going to walk into my bedroom at any minute. I post one last question to Theresa, just so I'll know whether she is my Judas. Sure enough, she has called the cops. Goodbye forever, Theresa.

Then I have to rush outside, and it's cold, so I stuff my hands into my pockets. The bigger cop goes all stiff and orders me to get my hands out of my pockets, like I'm some psycho or something. Then I spend the next ten minutes degrading myself, abjectly begging these guys to let me go back to bed. They're kind and polite, but they have guns. They have the nerve to tell me that it will be "voluntary".

Voluntary. When two large men with guns tell me that I have to get into the car with them, it is not voluntary. It is an affront to reason to suggest so. Even if they didn't have to handcuff me, the transaction was in no way voluntary. I shamed myself well enough, I suppose, because they finally had mercy on me and let me go.


Heart, no longer beat
Bitterness, pool in my veins
Blood, you are replaced

Rage, become colder
Contempt, be universal
Madness, to the fore

Despair, be banished
Mocking me, you imply hope
Behold: a zombie

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My darkest day

Picture the scene. I'm lying on my bed with my laptop. My friend Lisa is setting a clock that will remind me to take my medication, because I don't want to take it and I deliberately forget. She's having trouble figuring out the clock, and all of my deepest, geekiest urges compel me to help her. But I will not. I don't want to help her. I want her to go away. I don't want to get better. A minute ago I almost said, "Fuck you" to her. Lisa is a dear, dear friend. I love her very much. I would never, ever say anything like this to her. But she asked for it. She asked me not to die, not to give up. She asked me to stay alive for four more miserable weeks, while I wait for some bullshit promise about how I'll feel better.

Well, since I'm not looking you guys in the eye, it's a little easier to say. Fuck you. All of you who want me to live. Zoe, my daughter. Caryn, my best friend. Diana, with whom I'm closer than when we were married. Lisa. Maura, my therapist. Simone. Linda. Greg. Cathy. Fuck all of you.

Now she's dumping out all of my other pills so I won't overdose.

What a miserable fucking day. A couple of days ago I realized that I don't want to live any more. At first, I fought the thought. I have been working really hard for two straight days trying to distract myself from the fact that I don't want to live any more. But the feeling has intensified.

My doctor called me yesterday to discuss medications. He wants me to take Prozac. I've heard that Prozac sometimes causes people to go psycho and kill themselves, or sometimes just to die. When he told me to take Prozac, I was encouraged. Maybe this is my chance to escape this life. I realized at that point that I do not want to get better. I'm done. I want out. Fuck all of you.

I've been sitting here all day trying to figure out how I can kill myself without any pain, and without my friends discovering me here in this revolting, Unabomber state. I thought for a while that I might drive away so no one will find me, but I'm too tired to get up. I need help to kill myself. I realize that Lisa is my only friend who would even consider allowing it. So I called her. I told her that I haven't made any decisions yet, but I need her to hold my hand if I decide to do it, and I need her to help me not to be discovered in this freakish state.

What I didn't plan for was Lisa calling my therapist, Maura. No, Lisa, I'm not angry at you. I understand that you want me to make sure I've explored all the options before making an ultimate decision. What Lisa didn't plan for was Maura's legal obligations as a therapist. Maura explained that she would have to call the cops and utterly destroy the last pathetic shred of decency I have, unless Lisa could get me to make some statement that sounds sane and non-suicidal.

So Lisa comes over, and I hear her coming into my house. She always does this and is welcome, but I didn't realize that it was she, so I hopped up out of bed, naked, with blanket half wrapped around me, and there she was. So I'm all humiliated. She explains that I have to talk to Maura.

Maura secures a promise from me that I'll live at least until Tuesday at 3pm, our next appointment. Today is Sunday. Two more days of this shit. I don't have to keep my promise. But Lisa won't help me now; somehow Maura has convinced her to work against me. I'd have to die alone, and I don't know if I could do it. Maura also wants me to go get the meds or something, and I say the most shameful thing I've ever said in my entire life: "If you think I'm worth saving, then you do it. I refuse." It was at that point that I almost said, "Fuck you." Maura, I hope that what I really said made sense. On reflection, I'm afraid that it might have sounded like a come-on, and of course that would have been par for the course with me. I hope that you understood: the tone of voice that I was using with you does not correspond to the genuine appreciation and friendly affection I feel toward you. I was shocked the whole time to be talking to you that way, to have those feelings while talking to you. I'm sorry.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My take on California's marriage amendment

I just want this to be at the top of my blog for a while.

In 2008 California's Proposition 8 was accepted by voters, and the following provision was added to the California Constitution's Declaration of Rights, Section 7.5:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Before Proposition 8, marriage was an expression of love between two people. Now, marriage is an expression of hatred between two groups of people. Or more specifically, from one group of people toward everyone else in the world.

I was going to leave it at that, but there's another, more fundamental statement that needs to be made: the words "man" and "woman" as enshrined in our law are discriminatory. About as often as twins are born, children are born with genitals that are not entirely identifiable as male or female. Often the genitals are fully functional for all of the best functions. Still doctors typically perform "sex assignment", meaning surgery to sort of pin down the sex of the baby to either male or female.

This is self-evidently wrong. If the child's genitals are deemed fully functional (for everything!) and can be safely left alone to allow the child to grow up and make its own choice, then the child's genitals should be left alone. Further, some of these kids are boys, regardless of their equipment; some are girls, regardless of their equipment; some are something else, neither boy nor girl, but not something in between either. Something other. And not just a single, third sex. There might as well be a continuum from male to female, as far as genital configurations and sex identification are concerned. These kids grow up into beautiful adults just like the rest of us, and they fall in love and want to marry also. But they are often neither men nor women, and those who are legally one or the other have often been mis-assigned from birth.

Our entire body of law is discriminatory. We need to get rid of the words "man" and "woman" in our law, and we can start with California's Declaration of Rights, Section 7.5.

One last dig I've always wanted to make at the Prop 8 proponents: You spent almost $40 million on the campaign, using, among other slogans, "Protect marriage." What I want to know is why, if you wanted to protect marriage, you have never spent a dime trying to make divorce illegal. Divorce causes far more damage to children than non-traditional marriage ever could to society.

Man, I hope we can get rid of this despicable provision soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Atheists are beautiful people

Check out this thread from Yahoo! Answers. The question is posted by "wVw":

Why do atheists think Christians worship God out of "fear of His retribution"?
Christians worship God, because "he is to be revered, for with him there is forgiveness of sins, and new life".

I posted this answer:
I was a devout Christian. I daresay that I was a better Christian than most of the people out here who make the claim. I studied diligently, prayed all the time, sought God with all my heart, worked hard to know what I believe and why. I took very seriously 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have..."

What prompted me to become a Christian? When I was 13, my sexually abusive and torturing dad told me that I would burn in hell for all eternity, and I believed him with all my heart.

That's why atheists think it. Because it's true, at least frequently, if not always. Also, even when it's not true, the fact that hell is there makes one's "choice" to follow Jesus a bit suspect. One might believe purer motives if there weren't such a horrifying consequence for making a different choice. If I tell you I love you, and you're pointing a gun at my head, you might be forgiven for thinking that my love is insincere. You might also be thought heartless if you shot me and said, "Well, you asked for it! I pointed the gun and told you that you have to love me, and you didn't! So you chose it yourself!" I've heard this from hundreds of Christians, and it seems really sick to me.

I didn't give it another thought. But a little while later I got an email from "Leon B":

I saw your answer to the question above. I'm genuinely sorry you went through what you did. I'm an unbeliever myself, and FWIW, I'm doing my best to raise my two little ones without any reason to fear Daddy. I don't know if it helps to know this, but there is at least one little girl and one little boy who're being raised in the kind of environment that all children should grow up in.

I AM glad you realized your biological father was telling you some bullsh*t and you chose to jettison it, rather than clinging to a belief system that would have further victimized you.

Best wishes,

My reply:

Hey Leon, that's beautiful. It's making me cry. Thanks so much for telling me. I have to tell you, that ghastly shit clung to me for 30 years. The reason I'm out here on Answers right now is that I've been trying for four days to make sense of my life, asking everyone, but especially the Christians, for answers. Their horrifying answers, plus the compassion of the atheists, helped me, after four days, to look at that hideous thing in my head and say, "That's not real." That was a couple of nights ago. I haven't convinced myself yet, but I keep saying it, and I can see Yahweh and hell dissolving before my eyes.

So there's a nice bit of news for you in return for your beautiful words. Thank you and best, best wishes. Rob

I challenge Copernicus

The Copernican Principle has come a long way since the days of Copernicus. Consider these approximations:
  • All matter and energy in the universe are dark matter and dark energy: we haven't ever directly observed either, or even fully understood their nature.
  • All known matter in the universe is non-living.
  • All known living matter consists of microbes.
  • All known living matter larger than a grain of sand consists of insects.
  • Our concept of time itself is suspect. Consider the perfectly sensible question of what happened before the Big Bang. Turns out that there's no such thing as before. Time itself is an "inside" property of the universe. Time didn't exist when the universe didn't exist.
  • Not only is Earth not at the center of the universe, it turns out that our very concept of 'center' is misguided; there is not an identifiable center anywhere, or if there is, there might be no way for us to know. The reason has something to do with the weirdness of space itself. To tell the truth I don't really understand it, and I like to think of myself as a fairly competent amateur cosmologist.
So, Mr. Copernicus, you have beaten us, no? I say no. We are special, and for one reason only: we are conscious. As Carl Sagan said so beautifully, "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself."

When I first heard that sentiment expressed decades ago, I thought that it was some silly New Age idea. But it's not. It's literally true. Your brain is made of atoms, and those atoms are the cosmos in the same sense that a hydrogen atom in Proxima Centauri is the cosmos. So I, you, we, all of us, literally are the consciousness of the cosmos. It could well be that we are entirely alone, or if we're lucky, we're not the only ones, and other parts of the universe have awakened.

I think that this piece of knowledge is spectacular beyond words. It makes us so amazing. So important. So vital. The universe is our body. We're like infants who are just getting the first glimmerings of motor control, just learning that we can move our eyes when we want to see something, barely able to control any part of the body. That is absolutely not enough for me. We need to grow into this body, learn how to manipulate it, explore its furthest reaches, and eventually figure out what it really is, what we really are.

This really should be our overarching goal as a living being. Sure, there are plenty of us who couldn't possibly care less, but that's ok. We definitely need all of us, so we can explore every aspect of human experience. So race cars, build bridges, make love, do whatever you can to maximize your own happiness and that of others whose happiness you can influence.

But some of us are headed for the stars. We will one day figure out some trick that lets us get around the speed-of-light problem. We have to, in order to get to know this body. We need to find our siblings, other consciousness, wherever they might be. We will move stars and even galaxies when it serves us; they're part of our body. We'll one day figure out how to get past the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Fortunately we have a long time to figure these out, as long as we don't blow ourselves up.

Just think: we haven't figured out yet what time is. What if there's a way for us to live forever? No, I don't mean you and I as individuals. I mean this universal body. Some cosmologists suggest that the universe will continue to expand forever until it goes cold and dark. We could change that. I know we could.

Continuing the conversation with the Christian "smartalec02"

Really, I don't care about this conversation. This guy is not moving me at all. But somehow it's cathartic. He is giving me an excellent target for my venom.

If you find the atheists advice to be compassionate, that doesn't reveal their methods as being right... it reveals your heart as being inline with atheistic thinking, which brings us back the advice I gave.

You need to repent, and trust Christ. He loves you, He died for your sins. The matter is a sin issue, and you will find the compassion you need in that, if you want it. If you don't, then you will find the compassion you need in the words of an atheist. It's really a sin issue, and a matter of choice. You make the choice.

God has the answers you need, you want to seek them out.

Then he goes on to quote 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 [NLT]; I'll just put the beginning here so you can see the point he thinks he's making:

But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.

My response:

"If you find the atheists advice to be compassionate, that doesn't reveal their methods as being right... it reveals your heart as being inline with atheistic thinking..."

As usual, you are not even wrong. Yahweh and Yahweh Jr. are presented to the world as the epitome of love, mercy, and compassion. If that were true, then it follows naturally that his fans would have something of love, mercy, and compassion to demonstrate, a sign that Yahweh has rubbed off in some way. I have seen nothing of the sort from Yahwists, not only from these boards, but frankly, never in my life. You guys keep repeating the same 20 platitudes (you've repeated #7, #8, #9, #14, #17, and #20 all in just one email). If you really had something, it would show.

When I was a Christian and evangelizing, an unbeliever once told me that if I had a million dollars, I wouldn't be walking around in rags. I think that he had a very good point, now that I finally see his perspective. You guys are in rags but you claim to be rich. You run around making up preposterous explanations for why your rags are better, but those of us who know what it's really like to be warm and comfortable know better.

If being a Christian means being anything like you people, then forget it. I think that a decent god would be at least a little bit put out with the way you guys represent him, including you, sir. I don't think that you've deliberately insulted me (yet), but your responses are all amazingly empty.

Call that atheistic thinking if you like. I call it sane and free for the first time since I was 13 years old.

A direct response from a Christian

I got this email in response to (one of my Yahoo! Answers posts), from "smartalec02":

What kind of compassion do you want? Puffed up words? Empty words? What kind of compassion do you wish to be conveyed over the Internet in a Yahoo! Answers reply?

Compassion is this. Jesus Christ died for your sins, because He loves you, personally, and wants to have a relationship with you. That is the answer to your troubles, if you want it... take it. If you don't want it, then reject it.

Your problem is that you are rejecting God, His love, and his mercy, perhaps because you don't believe He really loves you, or is really merciful. Well, He does, and He is. You need to put your faith in Him, and your struggles will begin to make more sense in light of your own sin, and the payment for that sin God made for you, in sacrificing his Only Son, Jesus.

My response:

You ask what kind of compassion I might expect over the internet. Well, the atheists out here have had no trouble showing loads of it, while you and your spiritual siblings have had no trouble showing loads of the opposite. So I don't find it to be an unreasonable expectation, and the "evil" people among us obviously agree with me.

Thanks for your cluelessness. You guys are the worst sort of people, and I understand now why you think that Yahweh is necessary to your being a good person. It takes Yahweh even to drag you guys up to a barely acceptable minimum of decency. Without him, you guys really would be the barbarians and savages you claim you'd be, and even with him, you're barely tolerable in decent society.

But atheists are better. They don't need Yahweh's S&M brand of compassion, or the insulting bitch-slaps perpetually presented by Yahweh's children as signs of his infinite love and mercy. They've found something better. They, with their compassion, and Christians, with their aggressive lack thereof, have helped me immensely over the last few days to find the truth.

You want to tell me what my problem is, but I say that I no longer have a problem. I'm over the hump. I'm watching Yahweh dissolve before my very eyes.

Thank you and all your siblings for your beautiful evangelization "attempts". This is not a god of love. It is a god of hatred, glibness, pettiness, stupidity, and downright not-even-wrongness. OF COURSE I'm rejecting him. It's the only sane response. You can have your deity, and especially, he can have you all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Whoa, that was a giant 'click' sound

I finally get it: I run around begging everyone, especially Christians, for answers, because I want everyone to tell me that there is no god. I just now realized that I need to tell it to myself. Mostly I need to accept the responsibility of telling myself, rather than believing someone else who has told me. I understand my own responsibility to myself now, I have to make the conscious choice to tell myself, to convince myself internally, that it's not true. All this time I've wanted someone else to take the responsibility of convincing me. That's why I've been so frustrated. I have to do that work myself. I get it. I've started. I think it's working.

I wonder whether I could become an advice columnist

Check out this scathingly brilliant piece of prose, which I posted recently to the Religion & Spirituality section of Yahoo! Answers.

What you didn't realize, in your fog of uncompassion, is that I've been here trying not to kill myself for the last three days, trying to make some sense out of my life. In your infinite mercy learned from your ugly little punk of a deity, you have failed to see that, and instead called me a troll and an idiot and a mental masturbator. I've been working out my own salvation here, with the help of many, many extremely compassionate atheists and other non-Yahwists. Your glib, hateful, petty, stupid, and not-even-wrong answers have shown me that Yahweh is morally, spiritually, and intellectually bankrupt. Thank you, thank you, thank you all.

Now I'm thinking that I want to publish that somewhere. I'm really proud of it. Like a little boy who's made a great mudpie, that kind of proud. But where is there a market for scolding people? I read a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon once where Calvin wants to replace Dear Abby. One of my favorite responses is something like, "Stop whining and get a life, you big baby!" I want to take it a step further and become Christopher-Hitchens-meets-Ann-Landers.

Non-monotheists, your advice please?

I have been a reluctant Christian for 30 of my 43 years, starting when my hideous "parents" convinced me that I would burn in hell forever. I have spent a long, long time hating Yahweh. I've slipped into a suicidal depression recently (don't worry, getting therapy and meds and have friends). One of the myriad things preying on my mind is this fear of hell. I've been out here obsessively over the last couple of nights trying to purge something.

Just a few minutes ago I was sitting here writing, as usual, and hating Yahweh, as usual, and for a reason I don't understand, stopped myself and just talked to myself out loud: "That thing right there, the thing that you're hating, isn't real." I said stuff like that to myself a few more times. I think that something big might be about to happen for me.

So, non-monotheists, I'm a spiritual guy, so give me some quick blurbs about your spirituality to give me some ideas of where I might land. I'm excited. I might even hug a tree, so pagans feel free to chime in.

Best answer, posted by "Ted":

Sounds like your going insane. Huh. Funny stuff happens to them Christians

My response:

Whoa, dude, I get it. You're saying that one place for me to land is "don't take yourself too seriously." Man, that is deep. And I think you're right. I'll start there. What a crazy trip.

I don't understand this Christian math?

wisdom times infinity = infinite wisdom

power times infinity = infinite power

(love times infinity) plus
(mercy times infinity) equals
(infinite love and mercy) minus (most of you will burn in hell)

Someone please explain this math to me?

Best answer, posted by "Song":

1 John 5:3

"This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome"

So, since your "love times infinity" directly contradicts commands of God, I can logically infer that you don't actually love God if you insist on having things your own way. The assumption I would dare to make from that is that you have confused love with another emotion, most likely lust. My idea that you are confused is supported by your strange notion of where is a nice place to put your wiener.

Get yourself all straightened out on the values you are assigning to things and the math will start to make a lot more sense.

My response:

I happily grant your thinly veiled request for my wiener in your nice place.

Christians please respond to my survey?

Yahweh told Israel to kill Amalekite babies and it was good for Israel to do so. Yahweh told someone that abortion is murder and then suddenly it is bad to kill babies. If Yahweh comes back and tells you to kill babies, will you do it?

Best answer, posted by "DA_waterwalker":

Those babies were innocent and sure to go to heaven, if they were allowed to live they would have surely grew up to be rebellious Idolatrous sinners and a thorn in the side of the Israelite, the same as their parent were and God knew this. So there was a very good reason for God commanding them to kiss even the babies of the Amalekites, that's how deep the roots of their corruption went.

My response:

My friend, I hope that I never have to look into your eyes. I am terrified of what I would find there.

Why doesn't Yahweh's book protect little girls?

I find it really offensive that Yahweh goes on and on about homosexuality, which hurts no one, but never once mentions that female circumcision is an abomination, and a psychologically scarring experience. Why is there no commandment that says, "Thou shalt not cut off a little girl's clitoris?"

And if it's homosexuality that leads to the fall of the Twin Towers, why aren't other countries (or at least cities or villages) being laid waste for all those scarred little girls?

Also, there's no sense in saying, "That's only practiced by so-and-so religion." My point is why didn't Yahweh tell us that it's WRONG, WRONG, WRONG? He told us all about homosexuality and how to torture rape victims to death, but left out the psyches and bodies of little girls. What's the explanation for this gross skewing of priorities? Why aren't little girls bodies and psyches more cherished by Yahweh?

Best answer, posted by "Shirley PhelpsRoper":

Who are you to question Yahweh??? REPENT BEFORE YESHUA !!!!

My response:

Yeah, I see where you're coming from. Yahweh tells you not to murder, so you go to yell at women getting abortions. Yahweh tells you to murder Amalekite children who are screaming in the streets trying frantically to get away from you, and you slaughter them. This is not morality.

Much later, after viewing other questions, I decided that "Shirley" here is actually an atheist and was posing. Rats. I don't like the inauthentic stuff.

My sister says that Yahweh will make her forget me. True?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

I told my sister how it offends me that she will go to heaven and look down on me in hell and be ok with it. She says it's not true. She says that Yahweh will make her forget me, and forget that anyone is in hell. She knows this, because she knows that there is no suffering in heaven, and the knowledge that her brother is in hell would cause her tremendous suffering.

I have to say that my sister is at least being as compassionate as she can. But still, this is really, really offensive. She knows that Yahweh is going to do something terrible, something that will rip her apart inside, but still she follows him. That doesn't sound like love. That sounds like abject servitude.

Do Christians really believe that Yahweh will make you forget all of us billions in hell? Or will you know, and just look down callously on us and cluck your tongues over our "choice" to go to hell?

Best answer, posted by "Jeffrey":

You choose to go to Hell! Why the hell would you want to go to hell. God sent his son so that you could go to heaven and you want to go to hell. That's Crazy. Your causing all that pain on your sister because you want to go to hell. Where's your love for your sister. She already showed you her love for you by showing you what God did in love for you. And you want to dump all this on your sister. That's mean!

My response:

The best part about this answer is that it is so not-even-wrong that I can't tell whether you're joking! Thanks for the, uhh, laugh, well, I chuckled a bit and raised a bemused eyebrow.

Is this a good idea for a book?

I was sexually molested and tortured as a child. We were Southern Baptists, so I also was taught at age 13 that I will burn in hell in literal agony for all time. I am now having something like PTSD symptoms and admittedly I'm a bit unhinged lately. Still trying to get better. Yes, therapy and anti-depressants, for you who are concerned for me (probably not Christians).

I've posted a LOT of questions here about sin, hell, morality, etc., and I have to say that I'm really appalled at some of the answers I've received. In fact, appalled at most of them. When I used to follow Yahweh, I worked and worked to be the best Christian I could, and I always tried my best to give well-informed, compassionate, thorough answers to believers and unbelievers alike.

I have to say that I think I was a better Christian than any of you. I have been utterly shocked at the hatred, glibness, moral and intellectual bankruptcy, and just downright stupidity you have promulgated on Yahweh's behalf. I don't think that he's proud of you.

Anyway, my question. So far, I've posted about 25 questions out here and collected the answers. I've marked the most honest answers as "best answer" in most cases. Sometimes I marked the atheist answer as the best, because none of the Christians were honest. Now I'm thinking that maybe I should collect them all together and make a book about my journey through a war zone of a childhood all the way through my victorious triumph over superstition. Of course I'm not there yet; you can see from my questions in the last 24 hours that I am still quite tormented. But maybe a book would be a sort of catharsis.

Would any of you buy it? I don't just mean the Christians; I mean the human beings who care about such issues. Would it be good subject matter? Would it move anyone?

I think that you can peruse the questions I've been asking just by going to my profile and looking at them, if you want to get an idea of what would be in the book.

Best answer, posted by "W.C. Fields":

Dear Great Big: This may sound sarcastic but it IS NOT! Your history and travels and wanting to write a book about them are so familiar to my life experiences that it is uncanny. Yes, YES! Write your book and share these experieces with others. Whether I buy your book or not doesn't matter. Writing this story, your story, will be of immence value to you and maybe many, many others. But the absolute most important thing is to make that book happen!!! Even if it doesn't sell, it is a super great idea and I support your desire 100%. Don't let you or me down please.

My response:

Thanks for the encouragement, W.C. Couldn't send you an email, but wanted to let you know; I'm starting it right now and you'll be in the dedication (as "User W.C. Fields on Yahoo! Answers"--I don't know your real name!). Thanks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Redemption Plan for My Mother

Hello Mother,

I have a gift for you.

Becky tells me that there was some communication snafu that prevented you receiving my first email. It’s just as well; this is an extensively revised version of it. I received your greeting just now, but I did not read it. As you read on, you’ll understand.

Also, you will of course find this letter very unpleasant. Up front I will tell you that you owe it to me at least to read it once, all the way through. I believe that you have not shed enough, or enough of the right kind of, tears for me. Of late I have most objectionably had your burden thrust upon me and begun to shed some of your tears for that little boy. You owe it to me at least to take some of that burden back.

I have re-read and revised this letter many, many times to make sure that I get across to you everything I wish to impart. I have just finished one last read before sending it to you, and I can hear questions coming back from you: “What about me? What about my broken mind? What about my salvation?” I realize that your childhood was at least as bad as mine, and that you should be given lots of breaks for certain kinds of mistakes that most other people would not make. And if you look carefully at what I’m saying to you, you will see that I am giving you enormous breaks. I am not exacting any particularly onerous revenge, and in the end all I am really asking you to do is part of your basic maternal duty: to help your child in need. You utterly failed that duty when I was a child, when I needed you most. I need you now, not in the same way as I needed you then, but in an equally real way.

Further, and more importantly, your salvation: ever since your partner in atrocity taught me that I would burn in hell for all eternity, I have been terrified. Even now, although my rational mind tells me that God is the same as Zeus. But I have discovered a kind of salvation while consciously being the best father I can. I have found that every time I make a sacrifice on my daughter’s behalf, a little bit of my fear of hell goes away, usually in the form of believing, by the ferocity of my love for my daughter, that love and hell cannot exist in the same universe, and therefore I am safe. My point is that you will discover your salvation in accepting and acting on what I have to say.

As you can see, the gift I offer you is redemption. Specifically, I will tell you how you can earn my forgiveness. You can choose to earn it, and I hope you will, because I want to forgive you. Not for your benefit, but for mine. But feel free to reject my offer. I am not blackmailing you in any way. I am not threatening you. If you reject my offer, nothing will happen to you. Specifically, you will not receive my forgiveness. That’s all. I’ll never contact you again.

I advise you not to try to hide behind any kind of claim about being “saved”. I can guarantee you, and feel free to check this out with your spiritual advisors, that if you were saved, your conscience would be burning a hole in your skull, compelling you to try to help your children repair their broken psyches.

First, I’ll give you some background on my life. Not too far back; that would be tedious, and frankly, given the hideous visions that have been visited on me in the last few days (visions that you created for me, in case that’s not obvious), I wouldn’t be able to present any of my life in coherent fashion. It was only five days ago that I discovered a huge part of the key that I need for interpreting the last 30 years or so. But I’m rambling. Here’s my situation:

I got laid off from my job in August 2008—yes, 2008. At the same time, the only woman I ever truly loved (and I have only recently discovered, to my horror, that she is the one who reminded me most of you, especially sexually) ripped my heart out by leaving. Since then, my life has deteriorated steadily to the point where I got into bed four months ago and haven’t gotten up since, until finally a couple of nights ago I had to call a suicide hotline because I had started to do the mental gymnastics to prepare to kill myself, and knew that my daughter, whom I love more than anything in the world, and for whom I would kill and die before I ever let someone molest her, would be heartbroken to lose me, although for the most part I’m a pretty lousy dad.

So I’m still alive, but to tell the truth, I find that my conscience is my least favorite possession. I really do wish that I could just stop living entirely, but I just can’t get around my duty as a father. But if I could, then you would have already missed out on this chance for redemption. So perhaps you should consider yourself lucky, because 5/6 redemption won’t be enough for you. If there is a hell, Edd is there now. He might have gotten something from Becky, but anything I ever gave him came from a place in my psyche that made it worthless anyway. A place of fear and self-loathing, not recognizing that even kids who will ultimately burn in hell forever deserve at least a basic level of human decency. So don’t think he got off lucky. You’re the lucky one, because you still have a chance.

Anyway, the rest of my situation: I’m almost out of cash, have no medical insurance of any kind, and have no prospects for employment, and even if I did, I can’t get out of bed anyway. On top of that I’ve accumulated significant debts trying to stay afloat over the last 18 months. I’m behind on my property taxes, and I have no money even to hire my usual income tax professional.

Here is your plan for redemption:
  • Start going to therapy right away, once a week or more, if you’re not already. Discuss all of this with the therapist. I’ve had bad therapists before, so if you don’t have one and don’t know how to find a good one, give me (through Becky) a handful of names near you and I will interview them myself and choose one for you. Ten or so. I want you to realize that this is not at all a punishment. In fact, it’s a second gift. You need therapy. You were horribly scarred as a girl, at least as badly as I was, and you need help. If you choose to earn my forgiveness, you will need emotional support and advice on how to cope with having me in your life in this way. Also, for the writing assignments mentioned below, you will need some help remembering things that you have forgotten, and then you will need help coping with the memories. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last two weeks, it’s that even people who have functioned pretty well for a long time can turn suicidal over horrifying memories.
  • Get used to writing. Explain, in writing (electronic typed copy is ok for all of these writing assignments) why I was allowed to be in the Cub Scouts and Becky was not allowed in Girl Scouts. Explain why Donna always called me “Golden Boy”. Specifics. What did she see you and/or our father do that led her to that conclusion? Even if she was wrong, how did she get there? Explain why my sisters, older and younger, report beatings from their father that left visible marks, while I have no memory whatsoever of anything worse than a token lash from you and absolutely nothing from my father except a solitary drunken toss across the room. What the hell is that about? I absolutely need to understand these things. Start on this right away, right after you send the money (discussed below).
  • Give a written account of yourself and your role in my life. Tell me your story as it relates to me from about the time I was conceived to the present day, and tell my story as you see it during that same time period. Tell the truth. There’s no point in hiding anything any more. Your punishment will not come from humans. You can’t be condemned any further than you already are, so I want it all. I especially want to hear the conversations that went on between you and Edd that led to you molesting me in a hotel room. In general I want that level of detail. Further detail, in fact, your thoughts during these conversations. And while you were actually molesting me, having me fuck and suck you: what was going through your mind? And keep in mind that I’m a bit skeptical of the “I was scared” defense, as I quite clearly recall seeing you suck his giant cock with a smile on your face, and moaning, “I’m a fucking machine!” And I recall other situations where you had every opportunity to prevent sexual atrocities at absolutely no risk to yourself but did not do so. You were not scared. Or at least fear wasn’t your only motivation. I demand the truth.
  • Give a written account, to the best of your ability, of the above, mutatis mutandis, for Edd.
  • Expect other writing assignments.
  • Get a good look at your finances. Know how much you need to retain in order to keep your life going like it is. Then get rid of most of the luxuries. Keep a couple; somehow I’ve managed to hang on to a bit of the humanity that you mostly ripped out of me. Let’s call this your employable minimum, as you will need more money than you currently have, so you’ll need to keep something approximating your current lifestyle so you can keep working. But you won’t be pampering yourself for a while.
  • Send me $50k, or the most you can without going below the employable minimum. Your stocks and mutual funds and that sort of thing don’t have any effect on your current lifestyle, so sell all that sort of thing as needed to get me the $50k. Don’t spare anything except the employable minimum; when you are too old to work, you will find out whether your children’s sense of filial devotion outgrew your sense of maternal devotion.
  • Expect to support me financially until I can drag myself out of this hideous place and get back on my feet. You’ll need something like $3k per month, maybe not so much.
  • Expect to send me to a four-year university and support me while I earn a proper degree in evolutionary biology. This might not be required of you but you should know that it’s a possibility.
  • Add me to your medical/dental/vision insurance. Claim me as a dependent on your taxes if you like; it will be your legal right for a while.
  • Don’t expect that to be the end of the financial demands. This is just a rough outline of my finances, as I can’t recall them in detail due to spending five of the last eight days absolutely, hysterically out of my mind.
  • Take time off work and go to Edgewood, Texas. Take an essay that I have written, and deliver copies in sealed envelopes to every possible “teacher”, “coach”, and administrator at both the grade school and high school, as well as to the mother and grandmother to whom Becky and Lori reported your crimes, but who did almost nothing to help. I might have other recipients to name; I’ll get back to you on that.
  • Get back to work and make money.
Some other ground rules:
  • There might be more demanded of you. Basically, I am attempting to bring about my own salvation. Your salvation will be brought about when you have given me everything that you can give that will enable mine, plus repeating this with my sisters.
  • You will contact me through my sister Becky only, except when instructed otherwise.
  • You will never speak to me. You will never see me or appear to me anywhere.
  • Get a Facebook account. Friend me, but never contact me. Watch my life, read my writings, look at my photos. Find out who I am through this limited portal. Be sad for me when you read about my pain, much of which stems directly from your treatment of me as a child. Look at the pictures of the granddaughter you will never see in person. Not only because I will prevent you, but also because that’s part of the rules—you will actively avoid seeing her, at all costs. Reflect on my love for her, which would kill you if you ever exposed your naked body to her, or said anything like, “I’m a fucking machine!” in her presence. And don’t get any ideas. You need to stay alive and gainfully employed.
  • Your redemption is divided into two main parts: restitution and punishment/revenge. The punishment/revenge part is you watching your progeny only via Facebook, and reading this letter. I hope it makes you cry until your whole body aches, at least once or twice. That is what has been happening to me repeatedly over the last five days. You need at least a taste of it. Anyway, you’re already halfway through the punishment/revenge part. Before long I’ll irresistibly find myself having mercy on you. I don’t know how I’ve hung onto that ability over the years. Anyway, everything else is the restitution part, caring for your needy son.
  • This will not ultimately result in some sort of happy reunion where you get the right to touch me or be in the same town as my daughter. You might not believe this, but I feel genuine and terrible sadness to pronounce this sentence on you. My daughter is the most fabulous 11-year-old kid, and you lost that opportunity long ago. You can earn redemption, but you are irredeemably profane, and I will not allow such anywhere near her. But at least you will have my forgiveness, and again, you will need it from all six of us, your children.
I’m thinking about your possible responses. If you want to send something like, “Fuck you,” then that’s your prerogative. As I’ve said, nothing will happen to you in this life. I’ll ignore any emails you send me, even an apology—you’ve had decades to apologize, when you should have been begging your children for forgiveness daily and doing everything you can to help them repair their broken minds. If you want to begin working on your redemption, then send Becky a confirmation, and send me a cashier’s check followed quickly by a rough draft. I’ll keep you posted.

Goodbye, Christian Friends

This is a letter I wrote to some Christian friends of mine. It's my first "breakup" from Christians. I intend to break up with all Christians in my life and never befriend any more.

Hi Folks,

No, I'm not killing myself. I've just finally realized a couple of things about our relationship. We are on different paths. You will go to heaven. I will not. Even if your god held the door wide open for me while you stood behind me and pushed, I would not go in. We have been friends, and I feel no animosity toward you. But this divide between us is really just too great. I hope that, even knowing that your god cannot be moved, you will at least ask him to have mercy on me and allow me to really die when I die. I believe that you consider me enough of a friend to honor me in that way, so I'll thank you now, assuming that you'll do it. Goodbye.


God 2.0, or, I'm applying for the position of Supreme Being

I keep asking myself whether this little project isn't some geeky form of mental masturbation. I've decided to go ahead and publish it with this rationalization: if you come here in a frame of mind similar to that in which I started this journey, if you're looking for reasons to ditch Yahweh, then for every one of my Commandments 2.0, ask yourself, "Why didn't Yahweh tell us this?" Not only in the Ten Commandments, five of which are clearly ridiculous (but let's allow that taking a day off at least once a week has a healthy ring to it), but throughout the entire bible, both Old and New Testaments.

Why is our morality so much grander than everything Yahweh ever said?

Ten Commandments, Version 1.0

  1. No other gods*
  2. No idols*
  3. No wrongful use of divine name*
  4. Remember and keep holy the Sabbath
  5. Honor father and mother*
  6. Don’t murder
  7. Don’t commit adultery
  8. Don’t steal
  9. Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. Don’t covet*
* I declare all of these stupid, useless commandments. If they're from humans, they're just plain stupid. If they're from a deity, no less than the Supreme Creator of the universe, then they're reprehensibly small-minded in addition to being stupid.

Ten Commandments, Version 2.0

Some of these are not fully fleshed out. I'm really just floating this to you, people of Earth, to see what you think. If you're interested, let me know, and I'll put the finishing touches on it.

And hey: if you find my language pompous or long-winded, get over it. God gets to be that way.
  1. Your thoughts are your own. No one can tell what your thoughts are unless you articulate them. It is impossible for anyone to be hurt by your thoughts. There is no such thing as thought crime. How many other ways can I say it?
  2. Human beings cannot be owned. No slavery. Ever.
  3. Any creature, human or otherwise, that has even a rudimentary nervous system can suffer physical pain. Many creatures, human and otherwise, can also suffer psychological pain. It is always wrong to cause deliberate suffering, with extremely limited exceptions--see the animal treatment commandments. Other than that, don’t do it. Ever. I’m serious.
  4. Children have special rights. They are physically and emotionally defenseless. They do not have the faculties to deal with adult situations. Parents/guardians must protect their children and deal with life’s complexities on their behalf, always keeping the children’s best interests in mind.
    • Do not marry a child.
    • Do not have sex with a child.
    • Do not take advantage of a child’s defenselessness.
    • Do not sit idly while you know of children who are being mistreated.
    • Do not tell a child that he/she is bad, unworthy, inferior, or in need of any kind of redemption. Ever.
  5. Equality
    • All humans are morally equal to, and have the same rights as, all other humans. No societal category (e.g., race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, etc.) is inherently better or worse in any way than any other group. No societal group is allowed any legal privilege that is not available to all other groups. No group is to be restrained in a way that is not binding on all others.
    • Segregation of any kind is not allowed, except sexual segregation in public restrooms, because frankly, men are gross.
  6. The value of human life
    • Murder - I'll come back to this; you have a slightly better handle on this than on these other issues.
    • Euthanasia
      • See the constitutional government document described below. It contains a procedure for creating a committee with the best chance of success in reaching a morally sound decision. Sometimes such committees will make mistakes. Welcome to life.
      • The decision for euthanasia must be decided on a case-by-case basis by such a committee except in obvious emergency situations, in which case, hopefully the quality of society emerging from these commandments will have given you good judgment, so do your best.
      • As euthanasia is an act of mercy, it should be considered at any time that irremediable suffering occurs, regardless of the victim’s age. This is a tricky one. Don’t kid yourself; some problems have no easy answers. This one allows for infanticide, just as a minimum example. Life is complex. Get used to it.
    • Abortion: legal but strongly advised against; assume the basic goodness of women, which suggests that very few women would use it as a callous means of birth control. Better to let the failure of the law be in the direction of allowing too much, because basic human goodness in the form of maternal instinct will limit the abuse. Abortion is painful enough without complicating it with rules and shame. Would also have to talk about how the older the baby becomes (even before birth), the harder the decision becomes; at some point well before 9 months, somewhere between three and five perhaps, we'd have to get that moral committee involved again to make the decision.
    • Contraception: legal, moral; I'd love to make a list of cases where they're absolutely required, but that might be impractical. I could seriously countenance an extension of my reproductive responsibility commandments that just sterilizes (reversibly, of course) all boys at birth and then restores their potency upon receipt of a "siring license," which would require courses in parenting and extended admonitions to be good dads who remain with their children and provide for them.
    • Stem cell research: I have to do some more research, but I heard a speaker whom I trust a lot, Sam Harris, point out that the blastocysts that everyone was up in arms about are, at three days after conception, clumps of 150 cells that have no nervous system (therefore no suffering) whatsoever, and nothing more in common with us than any other clump of 150 mammalian fetal cells. While a fly's brain has 150,000 cells in it. He also pointed out that while some people claim that the blastocyst at three days has a soul, such blastocysts frequently split (which half gets the soul, and whence the new soul?) and then after splitting sometimes recombine (two souls in one body?). No solid answer on this one due to lack of research but you can see where I'd take it.
  7. Sex & Marriage
    • Masturbation is good for you. Do it as much as you want to. Just like anything else, don’t become addicted to it. But if you do become addicted, you haven’t committed a sin. Don’t beat yourself up (no pun intended—see, God 2.0 has a sense of humor), just get help.
    • Do not be sexual in any way (including touching and kissing) with anyone without his/her express consent. Ever.
    • What you do, alone or with mutually consenting adults of any number and sex, in a socially acceptable place and time, is part of the joy of life, so indulge yourself as much as you like.
    • Adults, do not have sex with a child. Ever.
    • Children, sexual experimentation with other children is normal, but don’t go too fast. Best to defer intercourse until you’re at least 18. Ask your parents for sexual guidance throughout your childhood, especially during adolescence. When you and they agree publicly (yes, because Sex 2.0 isn’t something to be ashamed of, ever) that you’re ready for intercourse, or when you’re 18, then you’re sexually an adult and can have sex with anyone you like.
  8. Lying
    • Children, you may lie to your parents if you are afraid. It is totally ok for you to protect yourself from psycho parents. But if you're not afraid, always tell the truth to your parents. It's not about being good or bad. It's about your safety and well-being. Parents need all the info in order to maximize their effectiveness on your behalf.
    • Adults, certain lying is ok. Not just white lies, but say for example, you ask me out of the blue whether I've ever tried cocaine. I have a right to lie to you if it's none of your business. Otherwise, if I refuse to answer, you can confidently guess that I probably have, which means that you were able to extract info from me that you had no right to have. If I'm in some sort of trust relationship with you, then depending on the type of relationship, then it is automatically your business. The main reason for this commandment is that so many of you will torture yourselves and ruin your lives rather than tell a completely acceptable lie. Don't be so silly.
    • Society, make it safe for children always to tell the truth to their parents. If a child is put into a situation by his/her nutjob parents such that the child is afraid to tell the truth, then put a stop to it.
  9. Don’t steal (umm, duh?)
  10. Circumcision (no cutting ever for boys or girls or non-specific except when absolutely medically necessary), Sex assignment, Sacredness of intersex people
  11. Education/Teachers/Science/Basic Research
    • Education
      • You have some serious gaps in your primary school curricula. Add the following as required learning: critical thinking (this should be built-in to all of your teaching, but also teach it explicitly), morality, comparative religion, how to fit into society, how to cope with unhappiness, how to be an effective and helpful parent.
      • Private schools are not allowed, obviously, given that none of you is to have any privileges not available to all others. With any luck this will force you who care about education to provide good education to everyone.
    • Teachers
      • Teachers are to be held to the strictest standards of academic and professional quality, and ability to enrich children’s lives in every way possible.
      • Teachers are to be the highest-paid and most respected members of society.
      • The teachers of your youngest children are to be paid at least twice what teachers of adults are paid. Make a linear pay scale continuum from teachers of the youngest children to the teachers of adult education.
  12. Crime/Imprisonment/Mental Health/Addiction/Homelessness/Drugs
  13. Environment Stewardship/Pollution/Resource management/Population
  14. Animals
    • Treatment: you'll need a lot of input from animal experts on this one. Some species, such as horses and dogs but not humans, do rely on very mild and judiciously applied physical suffering as part of their social dynamic. Learn from your experts how to provide a healthy environment for your animals and treat them with respect and dignity, applying suffering when it is best for them.
    • Carnivorism--I'll...heh heh...flesh this out later.
  15. Censorship: at least get your priorities straight. Again, welcome to the complexity of life. If you have your eyes open at all you’ll see that censorship is not a black-and-white issue. Argue amongst yourselves about it all the time because it’s important, but consider this: it is absolutely stupid to allow people to display images of ghastly violence but to forbid images of sexual activities and human bodies. It is absolutely stupid to allow people to broadcast hatred but to forbid specific swear words on the air. Get a clue. Notice the difference between something beautiful and something horrible.
  16. I saved this one for last, because this might be the deal-breaker, especially in the U.S. Listen carefully: there is no such thing as a right to bear children. No one has the right to bring a child into the world if they cannot provide an appropriate childhood. Not even to speak of the environmental stewardship commandment. Use the government I’ve described for you to make good laws concerning reproductive responsibility. Let me be clear: RESPONSIBILITY.
  17. Government: oh, by the way, there is no perfect government, but you are capable of greatness. I’ve given Moses another document describing the best possible government for human society. Its crowning feature is that it’s designed to grow with your society in a safe way. Its central design principle can be expressed as “Make it easy to do the right thing, and hard to do the wrong thing.” And don’t worry: I’m God 2.0; now I know right from wrong.
  18. Finally, if you find any of these commandments ambiguous or in need of interpretation, don’t consult spiritual mediums. Call me. I’m around. I’ll probably involve you in the answer.

To the Citizens of Edgewood, Texas

To the citizens of Edgewood near age 55 or older:

I came to live in your town as a ten-year-old boy around the summer of 1977 and lived there until about the fall of 1981. Not actually in your town; about five miles out in the middle of nowhere, to be more accurate. During that time I attended school in your town, competed on both your athletic and academic teams, shared my youth with your children, learned from—or should I say in spite of—your “teachers”.

Also during that time I and my siblings were regularly terrorized, beaten, sexually and homosexually molested, subjected to bestiality, and prostituted by our mother and her husband. We lived in a squalid little shack that had neither hot water nor heating nor a clothes dryer. We were usually filthy, and frequently went to school during the winter in wet clothing. The clothing itself was usually ragged or markedly undersized. The litany threatens to go on indefinitely. I’ll flatter myself that I have a reader and invite you to use your imagination.

For four long years in your town, we all showed behavioral abnormalities that to any adult with a pulse would have been a dead giveaway that something terrible was happening to us. But one can hardly criticize a school system in a medieval village where the “teachers” are often pulled from the ranks of the “coaches”. Still, the imagination strains a bit when considering that my sisters went directly to you, mother and grandmother of a classmate, and you reported back that “teachers” and “parents” had been notified (and then sent my sisters home? I have to leave this point alone, or this already long epistle will become a tome). What noble, dare I say Christian, outpouring of support and public outrage occurred on our behalf? An anonymous phone call to some child welfare authority, as far as I can tell.

(I dare not linger over my suspicion that our “savior” was a non-believer, or grouse that it seems that my worst tormenters were believers, lest I lose what remains of my believing audience. I also dare not linger over the point that it was my sisters, not myself, who approached you, because as far as I knew, that debased life we were living was perfectly normal. I was genuinely angry with my sisters when I found out what they had done. I was so smart, but so dumb. A strange mantra I’ve carried with me since those days.)

What a delightful scene it was, when the child welfare officer telephoned our home and asked to speak with my sisters. How nice to have both sisters on the phone simultaneously, so as to make sure that they would be able to speak freely to the interviewer. How freely my sisters avowed, while being simultaneously minded by Mutt and Jeff, that nothing at all was amiss. And let’s not miss the important detail that Mutt held the gun on the slightly less abject of my younger sisters.

So, one person. That’s all you, Edgewood, could muster. Strangely, I recall clearly that you had no shortage of “teachers” and “coaches” who enjoyed exploiting and publicly scorning me. Remember my strange mantra? Here it is in its original form: “I don’t understand how Bishop can be so smart and so damned dumb at the same time,” loudly announced to my teammates on the football practice field. I’ll come back to you, sir, the teacher whom I worshiped. Note the lack of quotes. The devil has received his due.

And when I say “exploiting”, I’m not just talking about an isolated incident. How about the time that I was invited into the hallway, by you, “teacher”, who held me tenderly and looked deep into my eyes, utterly violating me, and asked me for information about some inappropriate goings-on in the grade-school boys’ locker room. This sickly ceremony was part of your oft-touted skill at being able to “look into a student’s eyes and clearly see falsity.” Where were my rights? Where was your assumption of my basic decency and desire to please adults? Where was my right to choose to tell the truth, which in case none of you was looking, I was always desperate to do, so as to avoid going to hell! Oh, right, none of you was looking; you were spraining your necks looking away. And if your skill was so great, sir, then why did you have to pick the most pathetic and emotionally vulnerable kid in the class?

Why is it that that was the closest thing to tenderness I’d ever felt at your “school”? That touch of his hands on my face. And who cares that he’s gay? The worst gay person I know is twice the human being any of you is, you people with your deranged god who hates homosexuals but endorses slavery. (And spare me your New Testament disavowals of Yahweh. He practically screeches that he never changes. His now-repealed laws that required rape victims to be tortured to death still represent his eternal character, New Testament be damned.) Why didn’t anyone, gay or otherwise, tenderly cradle that little boy’s head in their hands, look deep into his eyes, and ask him what was going on at home? This shrillness isn’t deliberate; it just comes out when I ponder my life too closely.

To those of you who genuinely could not have even guessed that something untoward was going on in our lives, I’ll come back to you. You’re exempt from the past, not from the future. But I have to deal with the past first.

Obviously, I don’t fault my peers. I have to point out that I have reason for stating this explicitly. Those of you with whom I’ve discussed these horrors feel terrible and tell me how sorry you are. You tell me how you remember me always seeming a little distressed and tightly wound. You are better and more perceptive people than your parents.

My peers, I don’t blame you and I insist that you not blame yourselves. You were children also, being set a bankrupt example by adults who had turned the idea of “respect for elders” into a fetish—somehow, molesting and otherwise mistreating an innocent child is practically a sport, but for a child to ask that criminally incompetent test grading practices be corrected is unacceptable. And for that child to be legitimately annoyed that he has to teach the “teacher” is positively anathema. You, our science “teacher”/”coach”, who couldn’t tell the difference between longitude and latitude, “instructed” us by reading the science book to us in an 8th grade science class, and encouraged the primitive hysteria of my classmates (and myself, to my lasting shame) concerning the Grand Planetary Alignment of November 1980, because you shared the hysteria: you couldn’t understand even sixth grade science. You probably thought Jesus was on his way. I certainly did, but I’ll bet good money that you didn’t fear the possibility like I did. Stay tuned.

I beg your collective pardon for my shrillness. I find it quite difficult to contain of late.

There actually is a central point to this letter. To those of you adults who knew, or suspected, or heard rumors, or should have known about my plight (you “teachers”, and unforgivably, you teacher), and didn’t lift a finger, I have this to say.

A curse. A curse on all of you. You are not good people. I do not forgive you. I curse you with the knowledge that you sat by and allowed a little boy’s life to be destroyed, and in numerous egregious cases, contributed materially to the destruction. And not just any little boy—a boy who showed a lot of promise. A boy who could have become a great contributor to the richness of human understanding, but who instead was so psychologically damaged by the experience that he struggled for the rest of his life with debilitating depression. I have plenty of curses for my mother and her husband, but I have plenty for you people as well. Shame on you all.

You, teacher, obviously didn’t realize that the little boy was on the verge of deriving algebra independently from first principles, or perhaps you wouldn’t have indulged yourself so gleefully in humiliating him in front of your high school math class. Instead of the five minutes you spent despising him about “infinity squared” and demonstrating cheap math tricks, in five seconds you could have told him that infinity is not a number and encouraged his pursuit. You don’t even realize the career potential you lost; you could have found yourself involved in the invention of a new kind of mathematics. You never knew that after that incident I couldn’t face you any more. I was forced to prostitute my ideas to the band “teacher”, who knew something of math, but was a bit of a sopping dishrag and never inspired me to the heights you had shown me. What a terrible loss.

I address myself now to our “savior”: no lasting curse, but fuck you. Really. After four years your compassion finally stirred you to make an anonymous phone call. What a hero. How about a hug for a horribly disfigured child? A kind word? A gentle hand on the shoulder? Some reassurance that there is love somewhere in the world? What is wrong with you people? I really just can’t wrap my mind around it. How could you look that little boy in the eye? How could you “teachers” and teacher publicly lecture and humiliate him on the grounds that he is not showing proper respect for his elders, or for the rules of social propriety? How could he have even begun to understand the meaning of “respect”, given that he had never been shown even the tiniest shred of respect for his most basic humanity? I’m becoming shrill again. Pardon me.

For the rest of you, it’s not your fault, but it is high time your town joined the 20th century (I’m giving a break to you who have trouble counting; I really will settle for 20th). Some of you know, right now, about kids who are being mistreated. I am quite certain that it’s rampant in your medieval little village, where those who would be heroes are at worst villains and at best unconscionably incompetent in their basic duties as adult humans. I remember your names, but I won’t mention them. You’ve all long since justified it to yourselves—you have great skill in justification. You’re the teacher who would use that little boy for your own personal glory on a rainy day in sixth grade, not caring that he worshiped the ground you walked on, having no clue that you could have molded him into anything you liked, turning your acid judgment on him as soon as you were finished with him, helping his parents to complete the job of burning his mind out. Ha! I just realized it: maybe you have forgotten your little glutton! You, sir, and I will be inseparable pals in hell.

You may not believe this, but I swear it’s true. I am having a wonderful epiphany right now, as I write these dark words. What I haven’t told you about my dear “parents” is that they also taught me that I am going to hell, to burn in agony for all eternity. I have been in absolute terror for the last 30 years. Now, my teacher, you have saved me. I actually look forward to going to hell. Thank you. I am literally weeping. Thank you.

One more thing. My sisters curse you all too.

Most sincerely,

Rob Bishop, class of 1985

P.S. A woman I know who cares for me and also cares for Edgewood asked whether it was strictly decent of me to pronounce condemnation with no room for redemption and forgiveness. This thought gives me a bit of pause. I struggle with her suggestions that perhaps some of you really even remember me and really do regret your sins of silence and inaction. I struggle with the fact that I never heard a single word from any of you after our sudden disappearance from your lives (our "parents" fled town with us after the phone call). That sounds like the behavior of a town full of people who forgot me as soon as I was no longer in anyone’s face acting strangely.

Still, I do believe in compassion and forgiveness. If you deserve your townswoman’s regard and feel that you have something to say to me, then I’m listening. I remind you that the word “apology” comes from the Greek “apologia”, meaning “a speech in defense”. You people caused me astounding damage by both your actions and your inactions. I deserve to understand why.

Or, as I’m sure some of you will, if you have the courage to face me at all, explain to me how it was my fault. The fault of a 10-to-14-year-old child whose innocence has been amputated? Yes, please, I’d love to hear that explanation.

Or, again, as I’m sure some of you will, explain to me that there are plenty of kids who have it worse in the world, therefore you cannot be held responsible. Go ahead, tell me that, I dare you.

You know, I spend a lot of time hating myself. But right now, there is one thing that I especially hate: my own capacity for mercy. Very strange that I would even have any such capacity, given the examples I was shown. Maybe the Christian philosophers who reject the notion of basic human goodness need to do some serious thinking. I have thought of a way that you can make this up to me. Not you, teacher, you share my irredeemability.

But the rest of you: if your excellent townswoman’s opinion of you is deserved, you’ll do this: take some time, a couple of hours a night for a week or so, to think about me. First, look around at the 10-14-year-olds in your life for whom you would both kill (and worse) and die (and worse), and allow yourself, just for a few seconds, to imagine them in my shoes. See, my dratted mercy: just a few seconds; I have a beautiful, 11-year-old daughter myself, and I really can’t wish onto you what I have suffered in recent days. You will be able to turn off these ghastly visions, while I cannot make them stop. After you have done this, think back to what you remember of me, and write it down, everything you can think of, irrational, trivial, ugly, no matter. I have a cathartic need for all of it that you can remember.

Tell the truth, no matter what. Tell me what you saw when I fought my classmate because he insulted my mother, and I thought that it was my sacred duty to defend her. Ha! Tell me what you saw when I was forced by the high school boys to wear a dress in public, forbidden to remove it, and later (still wearing it) dragged by the legs down the high school hallway by two of them. (I forgive you two and your prank-mates, by the way. You, like my classmates, were children being shown a dreadful example by your parents. You should know that for some years I vividly fantasized about coming to school with a baseball bat and bashing in all of your heads. Even now I can see your brains and your still-warm bodies on the floor, some of you just listing gruesomely in your seats. Think that’s an atrocious image? How about the image that your god has in his mind of my future? Which one is really the atrocity?) Tell me what you saw when I committed the unpardonable sin of walking on the gym floor in my street shoes and was totally chewed out while no one noticed that my behavior was a cry for help. Tell me about all the times you saw me acting strangely, crying for no apparent reason, yelling at people like a turrets case. I discovered many years ago that I can’t properly see who I was as a child, and I have often racked my brain for a way to do that. Now’s my chance, your chance. If any of you will make a conscientious effort of this, I will forgive you, as much as I want to hate you and wish that you would drop dead of something really painful. For that woman’s sake I’ll honestly forgive you.

You might join in the chorus of, “It was 30 years ago; get over it!” I agree with you completely. Guess how one gets over something like this. I invite you to redeem yourselves by joining me in the endeavor.

Now you begin to see the kind of torment I have to deal with every day, forced by conscience to forgive, and worse, now I find myself looking for a way to redeem you, my teacher. How’s this: you start having some conversations with your co-religionists, and then together all of you start having some conversations with your god, and you get back to me and tell me something of his answer. What I ask you to discuss is this: whether I, who detest your god with absolutely every fiber of my being, and even if I didn’t could only fear but never love him, might be shown just a touch of mercy and be allowed to cease to exist when I die? Is it really that much to ask? You go talk to your god about that and get back to me.

And my torment continues. We all know that I’ve set you an impossible task, because your god doesn’t speak to you any more (and who could blame him?), so I’m forced to find something easier for you: see what you can do about promoting an initiative to eject the incompetent “teachers” from that “school”, including those who are nuts, like those who scare children to tears and attack students who are admittedly being quite annoying but clearly not threatening to a grown man trained in real combat (and I don’t blame him; he was nuts; I blame those of you who hired him, and you who put children’s physical and emotional safety in danger by keeping him in spite of his obvious disability, you who listened to your children’s stories and saw your children’s fear and dismissed them). And then another initiative to start training the few who remain how to have genuine compassion for children—even the strange, repulsive ones—and recognize warning signs. And then another initiative to change the focus of athletic and academic competitions such that even kids who are incompetent at the sport get genuine, affectionate attention from…no, never mind, that’s up there with getting a break from your god. But one more: before anything else, quit your job. You have no place doing what you do for a living. There, the torment seems to have subsided.

Your children, my peers, know how to reach me, if any of you has the courage to face me.