Tag Archives: thoughts

I’m At a Loss

I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.

Taxes are not evil. The Rant

Taxes are not evil, taxes are not bad, taxes are not good either. Taxes are a necessary part of being a member of a larger community. Taxes and tithes have existed throughout the ages and, in more recent history, have normally been collected through some form of currency. But there have always been some expectations that you will give back to your community. As our connections to our larger communities have grown more abstract, as a result of our communities swelling into massive cities, and it became simpler to connect with people all over the world, our sense of allegiance and to whom we feel indebted too also changed, as it becomes harder to appreciate how the work of the rest of our community impacts our lives. The most common place this occurs, in my experience, is in how people talk about taxes. “I don’t want no government stealing my money” is an attitude I regularly encounter both in my personal discussions about social policy and all the time on the internet. It’s as though taxes get taken and you never gain any benefit from them.

Now, before anyone bursts out, I understand that for any given system of taxation and the levels of corruption in a system you going to see different effects, and yes, I’m sure there are a few examples scattered around (the most obvious being certain aboriginal communities in North America) where people really don’t see any benefits from paying taxes. Accepting those exceptions doesn’t change a thing as I’m speaking in generalities. We as individuals benefit immeasurably from the social structures around us. With the dawn of enlightenment and the rise of concept of individualism, also came with a disconnection from more communal thinking. So while many benefits arose from that way of thinking (and we still get many benefits) it makes people more willing to think that they are “self made” and have not real conception of the benefits wright from a stable society as they are just assumed. The costs forgotten.

Yet the benefits wrought by a stable society cost a lot of resources and time. Though that cost is nothing compared to if every person had to handle themselves.

For example lets look at roads. Could you imagine a world where every person had to look over their own section of road? Could you imagine every single person having to organize and pay for the little section of road in font of their home to be paved? Assuming everyone on your street were willing to pave theirs? You’d still probably end up with a patch work of roads of various qualities and outside your immediate area you might lack plausible routes, and whole sections of road decay as no one maintains it. And there might be road taxes where people set up tolls to make their money for the roads directly from commuters. Now, of course market effects can take place, and some people will die out and others will succeed, but monopolies, and the resulting extortion, would run rampant and different groups would be able to control great swaths of road, allowing them to charge whatever they like for the use of their roads.

Now imagine that for every utility, water, gas, electricity, you could have any of it or you’d end up getting it from some Baron who has massive control over your area. Sure, you might collectivize to control your own local resources, but then you’re back to having a government. Sure it’s a small government, but you’re probably subsisting whomever runs the community’s organizational effort. You can’t escape the sort of efficiencies you get from controlling and organizing large amounts of resources from the single governing body, and, given human history, that generally means you either have some sort of democracy of changing leaders, or some kind of totalitarian government run by a single person and their immediate power base or some kind of council.

What’s the point of all this rambling? One way or another, unless you go live out in the mountains completely off the grid, you’re going to have to give up some of your resources back to the community you live in. That isn’t a bad thing, that’s the responsible thing to do. Most of you reading this will also lie in democratic countries with something like freedom of speech and the ability to have your voice heard. So if you don’t like something that’s being done in your local government, or you don’t think tax money is being used correctly, well, you’ll need to do something about it. Make some phone calls, and send some letters. Talk with some other people and convince them to do the same. The answer will never really be as simple a raising or lowering taxes, and getting rid of taxes is utterly impossible without dissolving society as we know it.

So next time you hear someone talk about how they don’t like paying taxes or complain about how their tax dollars don’t work exclusively for them, remind them they are not the center of the universe. Remind them that society is not made just for them. Remind them that they gain far more in benefits then they are forced to pay back (thankfully we are not playing a 0 sum game here). So if they don’t like taxes, they would go live out in the wilderness where the fruits of there labour can be hoarded without the “threat” of taxation.

Taxes are not Satan. Although, unlike Satan, taxes do exist.


Correction on Some Terms: Nihilism.

I realized recently that I have manged to get turned around on some philosophical terms, so I decided to write a post to publicly correct myself.

First and most pressing was my misuse of the term nihilism. Nihilism comes is several forms and, depending on the particular type of nihilism, the meaning can be subtly, but still significantly, different. That said, there are two primary groups which exist: the nihilism that refers to intrinsic values, and the nihilism that refers to knowledge claims.

In the knowledge claim camp we have most notably metaphysical nihilism and epistemological nihilism. Metaphysical nihilism questions the very notion that objects exist. This is the idea that we have no objective basis for anything at all. It is not the idea we can’t know anything. It’s the idea we can’t know anything for certain, because we lack any means for objectively proving that objects, including ourselves and even our thoughts, exist.

What is it when you reject all knowledge claims? There are two terms I’m familiar with. Epistemological nihilism and epistemological skepticism which can also be called true skepticism or hard skepticism. Epistemological nihilism simply is the extreme idea that we cannot have access to knowledge, or that you cannot know anything.

Now, moving on to moral nihilism and existential nihilism. Moral nihilism is the idea that there exists no inherent or objective source of morality with no action being inherently better then another. The extreme form of this being that there is no morality at all. I, for example, subscribe to moral nihilism, but I still think that morality relative to humanity and out planet is both useful and exists, but in the sense that it is a tool that we have created.

Existential nihilism is the idea that there is no intrinsic meaning to life. Not the idea that life in meaningless, but that it does not come with some meaning tagged on to it. Most moral nihilists subscribe to the idea that the only meaning in life is that which you attach to it, and those you make meaningful.

I’m sure most of you can tell that, while they are related to one another, each form of nihilism is subtlety different, and each makes it’s own unique argument. So, while Nihilism often gets a bad wrap, I for one subscribe to forms of moral, existentialist, and metaphysical nihilism, though the particularities are for another post.

I’d like to add a word which I had forgotten until recently. That word being Solipsism. The most famous phrase related to solipsism being “I think, therefore I am,” which was written by Descartes. If you subscribe to solipsism then, while you think that you cannot be certain about objects or other minds, you can at least be sure that (your) thoughts exist. The only real difference between solipsism and metaphysical nihilism is that metaphysical nihilism goes one step father and says you can’t be completely certain about anything, not even the existence of your own thoughts.


My Theology Book Choices

As you all know, I’ve been reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis along side the Bible. I have made my decision as to which other books I will read. I have chosen Summa Theologia by Thomas Aquinas, Fundamentals of the Faith by Peter Keeft, and Confessions by St. Augustine. I also intend to read some counter-arguments against all four books, but I haven’t decided what I’ll read quite yet.

All four of those books focus on Christianity. I will look at some non-Christian books when I have finished reading the Bible. I also intend to read other Holy books. However, I’m going back to school in a week and will likely be unable to finish the Bible before the end of the school year. It may take me even longer to finish the four books along side it.

Of Large Families and Religion

As a culture, we have a fascination with what we see as odd. We can see this fascination with a lot of the shows on TV. One channel, TLC, likes to focus on families. The Duggar family has had a show on TLC for years, and the Bates family had a show on their for a short time. Those are the largest families featured on the network, but there have been many similar shows with 8 or more children per family.

There are many different opinions held about these families. Most people worry about whether or not the family is on welfare and whether the children are properly cared for. Some care about the issue of over-population and pollution. However, many also praise these families for their religious convictions and good parenting.

For the last few months, I have been quite fascinated with these families myself. I grew up with one brother, so the idea of having many brothers and sisters is odd to me. But I’m more interested in the religious convictions. I can’t say whether or not the Duggars are good parents, but some of their religious convictions bother me. For one, I don’t think it’s healthy to teach a girl to rely on her father when it comes to picking a future spouse. Her father will not be marrying him. He will not have to spend the rest of his life with this man. The daughters should be given the information necessary to decide without parental guidance who  they wish to spend the rest of their lives with. I also don’t like the idea of courting. In the case of the two Duggar girls, one only courted her now husband before getting engaged. They got married in under a year and are now expecting a child. The other Duggar girl courted for 5 months before getting engaged. She will be getting married in three months. While courting they weren’t allowed to be alone, they can’t kiss or hug (Christian side hugs only), and they were expected to keep their thoughts pure. I can’t help but wonder, with all that pressure to remain pure, and with no privacy, how well either girl really knows her partner.

Of course, those aren’t my only concerns, but they are some of my biggest concerns. I’m also concerned with how the children are always surrounded by like-minded people. I get that the parents want their children to stay pure and be good Christians, but is it healthy to keep them away from other world views? In the book written by the oldest 4 girls, they say that they were encouraged to avoid unGodly people and to turn conversations with strangers into missionary work. So they were basically taught to only value people who are Christians, and particularly those who are their type of Christian. How will they handle the diversity in the world?  How will they deal with the fact that the entire world isn’t Christian, and never will be, and they will have to work with non-Christians?

The last big concern that I’d like to bring up pertains to the quiverfull lifestyle and the mother. She had 19 kids. The human body is not built well for child birth. What kind of damage has she done to her body to have so many children? How much damage has this lifestyle caused? What is the purpose of having so many children when it does so much damage? And what damage has this lifestyle done to her views of her self? Does she view herself solely through her children? These are all scary thoughts.

Personally, I don’t really care how many children a person has. It’s their choice. But I do worry about the effects that religion has on families. Everything from the shame focused on sexuality to the way religion encourages parents to raise their children effects society. So long as the children aren’t abused, then the family can parent however they like. But nobody should be ashamed of their sexuality. Nobody should be shut away from diversity in the name of religion. And nobody should feel that they are solely responsible for repopulating our already full world.

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