I’m still alive

I just thought I’d post something to make sure everyone knows I’m not dead or anything. Things have been really good for me lately, so I haven’t felt much need to complain about stuff. I should post some positive things I guess. Maybe I’ll do that.

Cultural context does not excuse the condoning of rape

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 states:

28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Biblical apologists defend this passage by saying that back in those days, if a woman was not a virgin and not married, nobody can marry her according to Leviticus 21:13-15.

13 “‘The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, 15 so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the Lord, who makes him holy.’”

Furthermore, Deuteronomy 22:13-21 says that if a man marries a woman who claims to be a virgin and decides to accuse her of not being one, her parents have to get proof of their daughter’s virginity in the form of bloody sheets from the wedding night.

13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,

14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:

15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:

16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;

17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.

18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;

19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.

20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:

21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

So in ancient Jewish society, it was pretty darn important for girls to be virgins until they were married and to only ever have sex with their husbands.  The apologist position on forcing women to marry their rapists is that it ensures that the women will be taken care of and not abandoned by society, a society that created the corner that nonvirgin women were backed into in the first place.

So rapists were forced to marry their victims.  Let’s say the rapist decided he was tired of his wife, so he went out and raped someone else.  He was caught, and he was stoned to death.  (I’m assuming that if the man is already married, he gets murdered, unless the marry-your-rapist clause kicks in again and he ends up with a second wife.)  Now his first rape victim/wife is all alone, and nobody else can marry her because of Leviticus 21:13-15 despite the fact that she did absolutely nothing wrong.

13 “‘The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, 15 so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the Lord, who makes him holy.’”

Also note that nowhere is it stated that the crime that the man is punished for is rape.  The crime is causing a girl to no longer be a virgin or defiling another man’s wife.  Deuteronomy 22:22 says that in the case of a man raping a girl who is already married, then they both are to die.

22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

If a woman is merely engaged to be married and is still a virgin, then Deuteronomy 22:23-27 kicks in.

23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.

26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:

27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

It doesn’t say this directly, but according to Leviticus 21:13-15, the woman, who was oh so mercifully not murdered along with her rapist, is now unmarryable.  So any apologist that says that forcing a woman to marry her rapist is somehow a favor done for women in ancient Jewish society is completely off the mark and should read the bible at least once in his or her lifetime.

Michelle

I’ve been struggling for the past several months with a tendency that I have to be extremely insensitive and turn my anger at myself outward when I am feeling hurt.  I’m not sure I can control it, but I’m trying.  I don’t want to hurt the people closest to me any more, especially Michelle, who has refused to give up on me even though doing so would have probably been good for her.

I’ve been uncovering old writings of mine that, when I read them, seem to point a finger at me and convict me of crimes that I knew better than to commit at the time that I wrote them.  How did I forget how to treat people well?  How did I become such a hypocrite?  Apparently, behaving myself is something that will take some real effort on my part, and I am committed to that effort because I want to commit myself to Michelle.  I can only be happy with her, and I have a chance to rebuild what we had.  One day I hope to deserve it.

In order to remind myself of what’s really important, I want to write down just what Michelle means to me and how I feel about her so that in the future I have another arrow pointing me in the right direction if I get turned around again.

The happiest time in my life is when I referred to her as my Michelle, stealing from a Guns ‘N Roses song.  I loved hearing her call me her Josh.  She once told me that I was her world.  I want that back again.  I want to be the person she loved so much because that’s how much I love her.  I’m willing to give up my fruitless crusade against the government for the sake of living more harmoniously with her and with myself.  She is everything I’ve ever wanted out of life.  We all seek to do something with our lives that we’ll be remembered for, but I think a much greater aspiration is to find happiness and peace within one’s own mind and life.  Michelle is the key to that for me.  Making her happy is the best thing I can achieve in my life, and that is what I want to do for myself.  It’s the only way I can be happy.

I can do many things.  I can navigate the internet like it’s my own backyard.  I can create an image of the sky that takes even my breath away.  I can write books, one of which has been described as addictive, and create entire universes within them.  But none of that does any more than occupy my time and amuse me.  It’s all empty without Michelle in my life.  She does for me what the power of a god cannot.  She makes me happy, and the best thing I could ever do is make her happy in return.

Anger, Insults, and Hurt Feelings

I wrote this quite a while ago.  I think I should listen to myself.  I’ve strayed far from where I was back then.

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I often hear atheists and Christians insulting each other, either as a substitute for arguments or as a supplement. They find it satisfying to try and hurt their target’s feelings, and many members of their audience find vicariously satisfying. In their minds, the target of the insults deserves emotional pain because of something he or she did or said. They think it is just, but what they are really doing when they lash out in this way is revealing something about themselves.

I don’t mean that they are just immature.  That is certainly part of it, but there is more to it. We seek justice when we are hurt. When a person tries to hurt the feelings of another, it reveals that the one on the attack was hurt and is acting out of emotional pain.

Being hurt causes anger, as does seeing the innocent in pain. Anger is satisfied by causing more pain, so by its very nature, anger is hypocritical. It works in combination with pain to propagate itself like a virus. When someone insults you, it is an admission to having hurt feelings. Understanding this, the best response is patience. Unless you are the reason the attacker feels hurt, there is no reason to take anything negative they say personally. They don’t mean it.

To pass harsh judgment on a childlike mind that is incapable of channeling emotional desires is unfair. After all, a penguin can’t be faulted for being unable to fly. It doesn’t matter to them that their whole world isn’t the source of their pain. They only think about themselves. Emotionally, they are no different from young children, and the only thing that will satisfy them is to cause much suffering to others as they can.

Not everyone who casually insults others with little or no provocation is indiscriminate in this practice. In fact, I’d say few are. Only a sociopath would be. Typically, some kind of trigger is required for an individual to become the target of childish taunts by an emotionally damaged person. A difference of opinion on even a trivial issue can be enough. So can a personality traits; a racial, ethnic, or religious identity; a physical feature; or a lifestyle choice. It’s not the same thing as bigotry, but it’s not too different. Of course, the biggest trigger is an insult, whether it was intentional or unintentional. You have to be careful when dealing with emotionally damaged people. If you’ve inadvertently triggered one or more of them, it is very easy to feel the need to retaliate and cause them to feel justified in what they are doing.

To continue radiating unpleasantness, they will sometimes fiercely defend their ignorance by offering excuses like “I’m just a nasty person” or reiterating the trigger and declaring it to be justification for the mistreatment. It feels so good to spread emotional pain, it can be very hard to let go of even the pain. It is psychologically addictive, feeling relief from pain. In fact, relief feels even better than just feeling good.

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I never finished writing it for some reason, but it kinda resonates with what I’ve been going through lately.

An open letter to my parents

(Some names have been altered for the sake of their privacy.  I’ll mark them with funky characters.)

Hi, parents.  I’m writing this to you like this because I know you’ll never read it and that other people will.   I could write more stuff to preface all this, but I don’t want to right now, so I’ll just dive in.

You had too many kids.  I’m very happy to have three awesome sisters, but it was too much for you two.  You handled it very badly.  There were good moments, but there were also many times when we were neglected or abused.  You taught us that yelling is a way to communicate and that physical violence is justified when one is angry.  Worst of all, you know now that it was all wrong, but you’ve never apologized, and  you never will because whenever we bring anything up that you did wrong, you clam up or get defensive.  We can’t talk to you about this, so we can never really forgive you for it.  We all love you both, but we also kinda hate you.  Well, I can’t exactly say that for {{Monique, Estrella, or Sky}}, but it’s true for me.  I could have turned out so much better if you hadn’t used threats and beatings to gain our compliance.

Through your negligence, {{Monique}} and {{Sky}} became the victims of Henry Wolfe’s pedophilia.  They sought your protection, and you failed them.  Through your use of violence to punish us for your anger, you gave me a skewed view of authority, and I’m amazed that I didn’t turn out to be an abuser myself.  You nearly ruined my life, and it will be a struggle to get to a point where I can live a successful and independent life.

There are those who think that you, mom, desire to keep me in a state of perpetual childhood so that you can continue to take care of me and feed your pathological desire to be needed.  You have deep issues that I fear you will never face because you are just too old now and too set in the habits you’ve developed over your life.  You hate {{January}} because she has taken me away from you and is helping me to become an adult.

Dad, it’s easy to see how you got screwed up.  Ten kids in a poor catholic family, it’s a recipe for abuse.  {{Monique}} told me that she once beat your dad at a card game or something and he shoved her into a wall.  What a prick.  I don’t care that he’s dead now.  He was a monster, and he turned you into a monster too.  You still talk about child abuse like it’s a legitimate way to discipline a child.  It’s not.  Hitting a child is wrong.  Using a weapon to hit a child is wrong.

Maybe I’ll write some positive stuff later.  I just wanted to get some of this off my chest.

They ruined Sid’s life

I’m talking about Toy Story again.  In the first movie, Woody breaks what seems like the most important rule that toys have and talks to Andy’s sociopathic neighbor Sid about his mistreatment of toys.  Sid’s toys, desperate to end the abuse, were quick to agree to Woody’s plan.  Surely no one would believe Sid when he told them that toys are alive.

But what is learned cannot be unlearned.  Once Sid knew that all toys are actually alive and have feelings, his life could never be the same.  The audience is supposed to laugh triumphantly as the brat gets his comeuppance, but if you think about it, realizing that toys are alive is a huge thing.  Sid could not have possibly known that he was doing harm to sentient beings.  Sure he was a horrible child with deep emotional problems, but what Woody did to him must have tipped him over the edge.

Woody didn’t simply have a chat with Sid Phillips.  He got the other toys to surround him and put on the most frightening display they could come up with.  They didn’t just want to let him know he was hurting them.  They wanted to scare him.  They wanted to punish him.  They wanted to scar him for life by letting him in on a secret that nobody else knew and that nobody else could possibly believe.  They’d have been far kinder if they had simply killed him.

Striking a better balance

This is something I handwrote more than a year ago.  I read through it a few days ago thinking that it was probably some stupid thing that I don’t agree with any more, but it’s actually quite good.  Here it is.

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For a long time, I have thought of the purpose of my life as being to spread a message.  I thought this even before I really had any idea what that message could be, and I continued to think it when I thought my message was something that I now understand to be incorrect.  I’m not saying that I understand completely what my message is now or even that I think of my life in that same context any more.  What I do know for sure is that I’m ready to share a message, or at least to begin.

I don’t know how long it will take to convey this message, but I won’t rush it.  It’s too important to rush, and I have to figure out how to translate it into a form understandable by anyone.

To sum it up, my message is this: The only true understanding is a logical one.  To explain it, I have to first explain what I understand of emotions.

Emotions are a part of the brain, and all animals have them.  They are necessary for survival on both an individual level and a species level.  Happiness serves as positive reinforcement to cause us to continue behaviors  that help us to survive.  Sadness is negative reinforcement, getting us to discontinue behaviors that hurt our chances to survive.  Fear helps us to escape danger.  Anger helps us fight when we need to.  If we don’t listen to our emotions, we miss out on cues to take actions that are important to our survival.

As advanced and intelligent as we are, human societies are dominated by emotions.  All art is meant to stir or evoke feelings.  When we look at or talk to each other, we can’t help but share how we feel.  Everything we want is to fill an emotional need.  Even the desire to live is an emotional one.  Without feelings, there is no point in living.

To understand the reasons why people behave in manners that they do, one has only to understand the emotions that each behavior stimulates.  All behaviors can be assumed to be geared toward obtaining rewards, avoiding punishments, or both.  Survival itself can fall into either category, but most often it is seen as a reward because only while alive can future rewards be enjoyed.  A life full of nothing but punishments is a punishment in itself.  Anticipation of such a life is a major factor in the decision to commit suicide, though many people have done it in anticipation of rewards in a life beyond the current one, and  many people continue living lives full of punishments due to threats of greater punishments in a life beyond the current one.

In any case, the pattern of obtaining rewards of positive emotions and avoiding punishments of negative emotions can be found at the root of every human action, decision, intention, and reaction.  With this understanding, everything people do makes sense.  But within this explanation are further explanations that allow us to not only understand human behavior but also predict and control it.