Category Archives: Religion & Philosophy

Atticus and Holden discuss religion and philosophy from a skeptics point of view growing up in the bible belt of America.

Jesus and Socrates

During and after the period of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion I imagine it was pretty dangerous to be a Christian. There were a lot of political and religious leaders that wanted to maintain power. The ideas of Christianity didn’t fit the established power’s agenda.

I’ve always considered Jesus Christ as a revolutionary. Anyone who dies for the cause of humanity is of note in my book. The risks early Christians were willing to take to practice their faith is pretty amazing.

Christian apologists often point to Jesus and the Apostle’s willingness to die for their faith as evidence of Jesus’s divinity and the legitimacy of Christianity. I don’t buy into that idea.

For me, Jesus and his follower’s sacrifices doesn’t prove the legitimacy of Christianity, but proves that disrupting established power structure can be deadly. This has been true at every point in history.

Take the the Greek Philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  Aristotle was was forced to flee his home and Socrates was tried and eventually put to death.

I’m not sure how Christian apologists ignore that parallel.

I feel like trying to make Jesus’s life supernatural in nature is a disservice. What we know about Jesus Christ is interesting and impressive enough. Why do we need the supernatural?

Chronically (un)Happy

Someone tweeted an article written by a psychiatrist about how bad people are feeling these days: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/12/24/how-bad-are-things/

The article is worth a read a provides some interesting analysis into the amount of people who walk around unhappy all the time. Probably somewhere well above 50% of the population, by the author’s count.

His analysis is pretty compelling too.

For me, all things being equal, I think the tendency to over-complicate life and accumulate stuff is generally the reason many people are unhappy. At least that’s the case for me.

For example, my wife and I have at least fifteen coffee cups and over twenty wine glasses. I see all that accumulated glassware in my cabinets collecting dust and I wonder what the hell it’s doing there.

We received the wine glasses as a wedding gift. One year at a new-years-eve party one of the wine glasses was broken. My wife cried. I can’t remember using any at a party since. Why do we have them?

That’s just one tiny example, but when you multiply that little-bit of anxiety across the thousands mundane and seemingly insignificant elements of life – suddenly half the people on the planet are depressed. We become slaves to our own shit.

Throw in a little braggadocio via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and…

Foreign

Most of the people in my life are struggling. My brother-in-law is a post-college-graduate without full time work. He does delivery for a fast food chain.

My in-laws have one-hundred-thousand dollars in student loan debt. At age forty, they attended a local, but well respected private college – after both of their children had already graduated college – hoping to improve their lot in life. The college diploma is excellent wall art, but they’re still in the same jobs they’ve been in for two decades now.

My cousins are smart young men, without a trade. Both seems lost, but don’t know where to turn. One get’s high and the other lives with in a basement with his aunt and uncle.

My Mother and Father are in situations too depressing to write about here. My Grandmother owns a small business constantly fighting foreclosure.

Who knows what everyone else is doing…

It’s hard to say whose fault it is. The result of a broken education or political system? Poor decision making on the part of various individuals? Or something else all-together? Probably all of these and none of these.

For me, I wonder if we’ve forgotten what human beings require. Kind of like a domesticated tiger in a zoo. Our stripes are dull. Our skin sags and muscles underdeveloped. We see the world through a glazed plexi-glass window stained with the fingerprints of some distant observer.

Maybe we’ve built up this whole idea of satisfaction that’s an illusion. An idea of happiness built largely on false premises. Maybe it’s deeper. We’ve than happiness. Not a single emotion. We’ve built our whole universe on a figment. On a falsity. On haze.

Most of us don’t talk anymore. Not deeply, anyway. We are fake. We post pictures that are the best three seconds of our day and pretend like it’s our whole life. Leaving everyone feeling like this is what’s normal. When we’re all struggling. Disconnected. We don’t share that thing we used to. What was that thing? What am I missing? I know it’s there!

Sometimes I wonder if there’s some other way to live. I feel like I have to invent it – or reinvent it – or may just revive it. Is that even possible?

How is it that being human can feel so foreign?

 

 

The identity of Atticus C.

I think about work too much. I’m never content when things are going perfectly well. I’m restless. I’m always looking for the next thing. I can’t stop taking on projects. I don’t enjoy the little things enough, but I try to remind myself to do so.

Sometimes my personality is too strong. Sometimes I’m a dick and an egomaniac. I try not to be, but it comes off that way anyway. I’m hard on people I love. I’m not sensitive enough, on average. I try to remember to say thank you. I try to show appreciation. I have to remind myself to do these things.

I’m too cynical. I can’t accept anything for face value. I can’t accept religion. I have trouble with spirituality even though I think it’s healthy. I like philosophy, but it always seems to turn into an argument. I’m attracted to spirituality, but I can’t accept it. I want it, but don’t know where to look. Organized religion feels like a scam, but I want the community.

It turns out family is more important to me than I ever expected. Also, friendship. I enjoy my few, but very close relationships. I should try to have a relationship with my parents. Maybe I shouldn’t. They are poisonous. I should try to have a deeper relationship with my parents-in-law. They are good people.

Speaking of friendship. I would like to spend more time in an intimate/cerebral way with friends. Maybe combine spirituality and learning. I have smart friends who can challenge me. I would like to combine the two components of my life.

I want adventure. I want to relax. Sometimes I want to visit old towns in Central America or Europe. Other times I just want to be isolated in the mountains of North Georgia. Either way I’m pretty happy at a cafe with good coffee. I like to write – especially when the location is nice.

I want challenge and prestige, but stability. I want to know that I can take care of my family, but I want the excitement of new things and constant learning. I want the flexibility to work to live or live to work. I want my career to be a big part of my identity, but not my identity exclusively.

I want to be happy, but sometimes I don’t know what that is. Sometimes I think happiness is something you can define on paper, other times I think it’s just a state of mind. Maybe both. I’m a planner, but I’ve been told to take things one day at a time. Maybe both are right. Maybe neither.

Thoughts on Ego and Self Improvement

I haven’t written anything here for a while. Mostly because I have been trying to take a more introspective approach to “journaling” by keeping a hand written notepad in my office.

Writing for yourself as opposed to an “audience” is quite different and in many ways, for me at least, more sentimental and casual. Physically writing things down seems more permanent – forces me to take my time – slow my mind.

Still – writing things down in any form is valuable. For example, flipping through the pages of my journal there are a few topics that come up again and again. Call it self-data-analytics.

1. Self improvement
2. Ego

For me these two topics are closely related in that they directly affect one’s ability to find and maintain happiness.

Take self improvement for example – Most of my entries on self improvement involve developing a greater understanding of fulfillment and “enjoying the mundane”. I try to focus on optimizing simple tasks like enjoying a cup of coffee, a long walk, or cooking dinner. Things I would have (and still do, most times) rushed though given my natural personality.

The entries about ego discuss how too much ego can lead to suffering. For myself, I’ve come to realize how my selfish ambition has the tendency to result in long working hours and stress. The consequences, left unchecked, cause more harm that help.

Sometimes I consider sharing these thoughts on this blog instead of my little diary, but it almost feels like a perversion of the points I’m trying to make. How can an amateur talk about ego on a public blog like people are expected to read and consider the writing with any level of seriousness? Seems egotistical and simultaneously oxymoronic (is that a word?).

I don’t want the undeveloped ideas I’m working through to come across as something other people should implement in their own lives – or even consider at all –  I don’t know that they should. On the other hand – maybe others are working through these same things and can offer valuable insight?

For now most of my thoughts will be relegated to the pages of my personal journal.

Empathy Versus Excuse Making

I want to share an email exchange between Holden and myself that I believe is valuable:

Holden’s Message:

Dear Atticus,

Is it weak to empathize with my wife and the man she cheated with?

The anger books and in fact, practice of medication itself from a Buddhist tradition at least, focus a lot on gaining empathy for other people and learning to understand other’s suffering. The Bible teaches the same thing. Jesus’ philosophy was to pray for your enemy and turn the other cheek.

I keep being brought back to the same shitty thoughts. Because of the insane detail I was able to get off my Wife’s phone, I know exactly when she was with him. I can literally go back and remember my entire days, all the things I did those days, the things she and I talked about.

I keep getting hung up on it. I take a few steps forward, then another back. To deal with the anger, pain, suffering, sadness, etc, I have used a combo of Buddhist and Christian ideas. From the Buddhist perspective, I work on meditating on the pain points until I gain comfort then I work to put myself in my Wife’s and John’s (they man she cheated with) shoes. I work to ease not only my suffering but my Wife’s and work to not cause John any additional suffering in his life by interfering with him (basically just letting it drop and leaving him be).

I work to understand what they must have felt, how my Wife must have felt, why she did what she did. From the Christian standpoint, I work to forgive and let it go. I work to empathize. But then I seriously question if I’m just making excuses for both of them. Wrong is wrong.

Is empathizing in this particular scenario the correct path?

Anyway, just a thought. Not meaning to whine or rip off scabs on wounds that have begun to heal. It was more just a question I keep returning to that I wanted to share. I figured you might actually find it intriguing.

-Holden

My Response to Holden:

My Friend Holden,

I believe the portions of Christianity and Buddhism that you are referencing are the appropriate ones and perhaps the strongest assets both philosophies have to offer.

Forgiveness and meditation are tools that help you mentally adjust, not for your Wife’s and John’s benefit, but for your own healing. Ultimately you cannot heal and move forward without letting go of the past. You cannot let go of the past until you have forgiven. You cannot forgive until you utilize logic an reason to empathize and understand their situation.

This is the process – to gain understanding of all facets of the situation and become a master of it. Once you have mastered the situation, you can control it, let go of it, and move on. These are the reasons that forgiveness, meditation, and empathy are cornerstones of a healthy mind and spirit.

You shouldn’t make excuses for you Wife, but it is okay to empathize with her plight (for the reasons mentioned above). Excuses imply that you apply blame to yourself or on others and do not hold your Wife accountable while empathy implies that you hold her accountable for her actions, but apply higher game to truly understand the situation – thus have the capacity to move on.

Excuse making implies that you set yourself up to become a victim. Empathy implies a mindset of forgiveness, compassion, and maturity. Distinguish the two inside yourself during meditation.

– Atticus

Pillars of Self Improvement

As I alluded to in the previous post I am undergoing a personal transformation. Moving forward I have identified three pillars in which I want to focus my efforts. The Physical, the Mental, and the Emotional & Spiritual.

In my personal journal I broke it down like this:

Pillars of Consciousness

I know that each of these elements are tied together – meaning that you cannot be successful, say mentally and emotionally, if you are not also making an effort physically. For example, one thing I am trying to do is bring mindfulness to my diet. Not just by eating healthy, but by taking a methodical approach to choosing and preparing my food.

For example:

This evening I prepared Salmon with my wife.

We searched for the perfect fillet. We settled on one with a great silver skin and beautiful deep red flesh. We chose peppers and spices for our sauce. Smelling each ingredient and holding it directly to my nose. I could almost see what the sauce was going to look like. Red and creamy with small flakes of chili’s – delicious. (I normally run through this process without thought.)

Then while preparing the meal I took time to appreciate each component. We spent over an hour dressing the meat, preparing the vegetables, and cooking. Coating every inch of the salmon in an even coating of sauce before carefully separating the collard from their stem. Each time I took time to appreciate the direction and speed I separated the vegetables – in clean symmetrical lines running perpendicular to the leaf’s veins. The stems in one pile and the leaves in another.

The Result:

Taking time to be mindful of meal preparation meant I spent more time with the family, enjoyed the food a lot more (it was the best salmon I’ve ever prepared), and ate something very nutritious. In this way I combined physical (diet), mental (researching meal preparation), and spiritual/emotional (zen – enjoying the moment).

I hope to share these efforts a little more often going forward.