Monday, August 23, 2010

A Pint of Bloody Fiction

"A Pint of Bloody Fiction" - features a bloody good story by my wife Flo!

So, why not belly up to the bar and order a pint today?

Mention "Flo Stanton" when you order, and she will receive a special royalty!

Table of Contents:

“200 Words” Neil Leckman
“Pistol Whipped” Dave Rex
“The Blade Bites Deep” Stanley Riiks
“Insomnia” Pat Lewis-Bussard
“The Toy” Charlotte Emma Gledson
“Jilted” Brian Barnett
“I love my Job” Gary McKenzie
“Jars” Neil Leckman
“Crimson” Meagan Elizabeth Hightower
“The Worse Thing I Ever Did” Jason M. Tucker
“The Yearning” Sara Saint John
"A Woman of Taste” Angel Zapata
“The Idol” Terence Kuch
“Ladies Man” Pat Lewis-Bussard
“Library Of Souls” Neil Leckman
“Night Song” B.A. Sans
“Home Movies” Kevin L. Jones
“Salvation” Gary McKenzie
“Rorschach's Vampire” Jason M. Tucker
“The Door” Adam Francis Smith
“The Devil's Quest” S.E.COX
“Instruments of Torture” Flo Stanton
“Spiders” Neil Leckman
“The Lady or the Vampire” Ken L. Jones
“The Shoot” Brian Rosenberger
“Funeral at Louisiana Bayou” Theresa C. Newbill
“The Winner” Gayle Arrowood
“Water's Pity” Chris Keaton
“Little Nikita” S.E.COX
“Down a Hole” Gary McKenzie
“Gift Wrap” Neil Leckman
“In the Moment” Nandy Ekle
“The Good Husband” Christina Hugh
“Bellies Bucket” AJ Brown
“Faceless” Nate Burleigh
“Shard” Brandon L. Rucker
“Jack” Francis W. Alexander
“Three Degrees of Freedom” Theresa C. Newbill
“Lost Connection” Neil Leckman

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

God/no god

I’ve seen so many debates about religion online; even when I’m tempted to chime in with a comment or an observation, I don’t, because the structure is always the same: stylized flaming believer vs. stylized flaming non-believer.

I doubt!! exhorts the skeptic. I believe!! wails the faithful. Who cares.

How about a different premise? An idea to smack around for a few seconds:

“The issue of deity, pro or con, is profoundly non sequitur.”

Quick! Hit the pause button on emotions for a moment. Are you pissed off, or intrigued?

The above statement is qualitatively different from my or your belief in a god.

If I believe there is a god, or I believe that there is not a god, it is still a belief.

Let’s kick in one more qualifying premise: diatribes and categorical syllogisms aside, neither you nor I can actually prove the existence or non-existence of god.

Belief vs. Functional Conventionality

We need to agree on certain terms and standards if we are to get along. If you ask for a glass of water and I hand you a chunk of ice, you will probably think me an idiot, even if we both agree that the ice is composed of good old H2O. If we both obey the traffic laws, it is not an issue of social hierarchy, regardless of the respective blue book values of our vehicles, but a simple matter of physics: two separate cars cannot occupy the same space at the same time without serious legal and financial consequences.

(I live in the United States. To simplify the discussion, from now on I’ll use Christianity generically as religion, and atheism as its counterpoint.)

To a Christian, belief in god and all attendant doctrines may be a personal matter of great importance.

Conversely, an atheist chooses not to believe. That non-belief is in itself a belief: nature abhors a vacuum.

There are gradients between the two polar extremes, such as agnosticism, which in practice is more or less a “church of just in case.”

To differentiate from all three, I’ll label myself as a “nontheist.”

One more stipulation, to keep things civil: regardless of the stance any individual may take on the religious issue, let’s say we all agree to functional conventionality: within reason, we all obey the laws of man and physics, we love our families and friends, we all agree on both the similarities and differences between ice and water and steam. We all breathe, eat, sleep, crap, weep; we suffer, and we enjoy.

Beyond this “functional conventionality,” what does it matter what an individual needs to believe?

If you believe in god, if you truly believe that your due diligence has secured your place in eternity, then how can you possibly be intimidated and enraged, how can your deity possibly be insulted or diminished, by some lowly individual’s lack of faith?

If you truly believe that this is IT, that there is nothing beyond death but oblivion, then how could any opinion, in dissent or agreement, be of any value to you?

The potential—indeed, the proclivity—of tyranny and domination by both camps is precisely equal.

Allow me to believe—or disbelieve—as I need.

One of the tenets influencing my break with religion when I was a child, is its ubiquitous extortion—“believe what I believe or you will never see your loved one again.” Sorry, but no belief system owns the patent, copyright, trademark or service mark to the concept of survival; nor does an equal and opposite, adamant denial of that possibility carry any weight. If skepticism is an honest admission of “I don’t fucking know,” then sign me up. If atheism is a strident assertion of existential finality, then "to hell" with both the atheist and the true believer—both in that case being just bipolar mirrors of the same compulsive need to dominate via absolutism and adamancy; to conscript adherents, as if at some date, a final tally will be made and the issue will be decided once and for all.

I find myself in an untenable position, blackmailed by both sides. Believe what I’m told, and I’m entitled to all the benefits of membership. If I don’t join up, I’m slow-witted and pathetic, and probably amoral. It is something akin to being mugged by "metaphysical" gangbangers.

No matter how much else I share with the true believer and the skeptic, this membership issue usually becomes a deal-breaker to them.

Who can prove that groveling before a deity purchases grace, wisdom and immortality? Who can prove that a tacit denial of our own marvelous potentials and uncharted possibilities makes us practical, trustworthy and intelligent?

My son died some years ago. A beautiful child, a brilliant teenager. An accident at school, nothing dramatic; his death was just tragic and pointless, a waste.

Here, I have a problem, equally with belief and atheism. I refuse to believe that my boy is plucking a harp at the feet of some deity, and I equally reject the idea that he no longer exists. Physics asserts that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and quantum physics posits other versions of him exist in parallel dimensions. Mathematically alone, the possibilities number beyond that which we can imagine and catalog.

Now, exactly how or why or where or in what form he continues I cannot say, but it is something I personally need to believe. Whether or not it is “true” is irrelevant. In this case, your need for me to believe, or disbelieve, any particular doctrine, concept or notion, on either side of religion, is profoundly irrelevant.

The day we lost him, I felt as if I would never sleep again, but late that night I tried, because there was so much I had to do. I dozed off for only a minute or two, and in that time I dreamed we were walking together down a gravel road, on an unfamiliar landscape, lighted eerily. He was looking down at the ground, just ambling along, dejected. Suddenly, he kicked the gravel hard, and with a sheepish grin looked at me and said, “Aw, shit, Dad!”

The next day, a friend dropped by to visit, compassionate and supportive, until I told him my dream. I had just offered the dream as above, with no beliefs or doctrines appended. Instantly his countenance changed, and he told me “that can’t happen,” and went off defending his religious beliefs. What, I can’t have a dream? What exactly had I said to make him so insecure?

Beyond that which I think that I know, beyond the dictates of “functional conventionality,” I believe what I need to. And that is subject to review and change. By me, not you.

In both “I doubt!” and “I believe!” the operative word is the great “I.”

Legions of voting believers/disbelievers won’t make the world flat, raise the dead or obliterate the soul.

Beyond the conventions we need to function in a civilized manner, if you will permit me to believe—or disbelieve—what I need, then I will be sure to extend to you the same courtesy.