Thursday, January 31, 2008

Humans vs. Death: La Peste (The Plague) by Camus

Remember back when I joked that a realistic Mormon novel made me glad I'd left the church? Well, that book has nothing on The Plague. The Plague represents a whole different order of magnitude in terms of every page making me hope this never happens to me.

The Plague is not an entertaining book. I know I struggled with whether to call Persepolis entertaining (since it deals with serious subjects), but now I see clearly that Persepolis is quite entertaining (both the book and the film). It's a cartoon after all. Naturally, The Plague leads me to start questioning my assumptions about literature. Does a novel need to be entertaining? My gut-level reaction is that of course it does -- otherwise who the hell is going to read it when they could be reading, say, the Internet? I mean, besides the nonbelieving literati and millions of French children who have to read it for school?

Even if I can't call The Plague entertaining, though, I will call it fascinating. It's a remarkable study in human nature as we see what happens to a population trapped by quarantine in a city ravaged by the bubonic plague. I don't think I could guess how people would react in such circumstances, yet chapter after chapter, I was struck by the author's insight on the subject.

Additionally, I think this may be the best portrait of Humanism I've ever read. The doctor, who is an atheist, works to combat the plague every single day because that's what needs to be done. The idealist/philosopher sees how human society rests thoughtlessly on the suffering and death of unseen individuals. As he organizes volunteers to fight the plague, he wages a futile fight against his own feelings of guilt. The preacher starts by attributing the disaster to God's (well-earned) wrath. Then, when he joins the volunteers in the human struggle against the plague, he sees a child die horribly despite his fervent prayers. He is permanently shaken by this, and -- while it doesn't cause him to lose his faith -- his faith is transformed. Other characters attempt to flee from the plague, profit from it, or simply deal with how it disrupts their lives.

I think The Plague succeeds at delivering its message: We're all in this together. In the struggle against death, death always wins in the end. But we can't (and shouldn't) give up the struggle. Because we're human.

Monday, January 28, 2008

BYU begins February 12!!!

Yes, it's true -- another exciting segment of Exmormon will be starting in just a few weeks!!!

This next segment, Brigham Young University, is an extra fun one, and not just because you'll get some idea of what attending BYU is like (or respectively get to take a trip down memory lane, for those of you who have lived it). This is also the turning point where the story shifts from just being about Mormonism and starts including some ex-Mormonism as well.

Then, as an added bonus, I'll be following this section with the even-more-eagerly-awaited gratuitous love scene!!!

Remember that -- as usual -- you don't have to read the earlier segments (Young Women's, Youth Conference, and Saturday's Warrior) to follow this story, but it doesn't hurt.

Also keep in mind that this is a one woman show. That means that in addition to doing all of the illustrations, I'm doing all of the publicity. With no budget for it.

I'm not asking for money since this is very much a labor of love, but I would really appreciate a little bit of linky love coming my way. You know what that means!! I can see from my stats that hundreds of people are reading this, so if you're one of them -- and if you're looking forward to the next segment -- posting an announcement about it on your blog or favorite forum would really help me out in a big way!!! Thanks!!! :D

Sunday, January 27, 2008


The 14th Humanist Symposium has just been posted on Countries Beginning with I!!!

Also note that the next Carnival of the Godless will be hosted by your friends and mine over at Mind on Fire!!! Don't forget to write a really good godless post this week so you can submit it here!!! :D

Friday, January 25, 2008

Top 10 erotic books of all time...

Okay, I hope people will indulge me and I won't lose all of my links from respectable blogs by posting about sex twice in two weeks, but Holly recently posted an interesting question over on her blog, and I'm tempted to ask for people's responses:

What do you think are the top 10 sexiest novels of all time?

Holly used the same trick I used in my earlier sex stories post (a trick used by preachers for centuries): you can get away with talking about kinky stuff all you want as long as you're condemning it. ;^)

So instead of posting a positive list, Holly posted about two books that should not be on the list: Lolita and The Story of O. I agree with her on these choices. As for Lolita, it's true I haven't read it, but the thing is that one can only read so many books in a lifetime. For me, Lolita falls into the same category as Ender's Game: I constantly hear people say it's fantastic, but every time I hear any specific details about it, I'm left with less and less desire ever to bother to read it myself. As for The Story of O, I've read that one -- and I didn't find it objectionable -- but it left me going "meh." It was the about the same for me as the "Sleeping Beauty" series: that whole dominance/submission thing is just not my kink.

The really sad part, though, is that when I set out to write a positive list of my own, I couldn't think of anything!!!

Well, almost nothing. Trying to think of books that turned me on, practically the only ones I came up with were books I read as a young teen. There's a certain logic to this, really: once I was old enough to start creating my own sexual reality, I had far less need and desire to get ideas from other people's sexual fantasies.

So here's my mini-list of what fantasies I liked way back when:

* Anything by Piers Anthony. I recognized that this stuff was repetitive and not great literature, but that really wasn't the point. I'm the opposite of Greta Christina here since she said she has no interest in sci-fi/fantasy sex. In my case, that's practically the only thing I like in the whole sci-fi/fantasy genre: bizarre erotic scenarios that follow different social rules and physical laws than what you encounter in real life. It's also one of the main reasons I liked Star Trek, even though that one has very little that's explicitly sexual -- you have to imagine your own fan-fic. ;^)

And on that note:

* Elfquest. I haven't picked it up in years so I don't know what I'd think of it today. But looking back, I can't think of any series that provided me with more pleasant hours of fantasies back when I was in Junior High than that one. Particularly (but not limited to) that scene where all the elves have an orgy before going off to fight the trolls. If you're restricting to grown-up books that one probably wouldn't make the cut, but when it comes to erotica for kids, Elfquest has got to win some sort of award...

Then there was my other Jr. High favorite:

* Forever, by Judy Blume. I won't waste more time on it here since I have discussed it at length here and here.

As for grown-up stuff, the only one I could come up with was this:

* Thérèse Philosophe. This was a forbidden book from eighteenth century France in which the author intersperses sex scenes with extended philosophical dialogs arguing for Deism over Christianity. I know that probably doesn't sound hot at all, yet somehow I found I could really relate to it. Plus it has some surprisingly good scenes. :D

Other ideas?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Calling all of Outer Blogness

I hope you don't mind if I make a few community-related requests... ;^)

1. I'd like my Outer Blogness list to be as complete (and hence helpful) as possible, so if you know of any ex-Mormon, post-Mormon, or DAMU blogs that aren't on my list, please email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com. Additionally, I understand that you Wordpress users cant post Javascript in your sidebars. So in case you're interested in using all or part of my list, I've posted an easy-to-import opml version of it here.

2. I've posted a fun story-collecting thread over at Main Street Plaza: From baptism to resignation or excommunication, and I hope you'll contribute!

3. Sideon was "thinkin' a collaborative Book of Exmormon would be nifty - we could pilfer the best and brightest ideas, concepts, images and create one serialized book that celebrates diversity, sexuality, the various isms or ologies, with a nice hat tip towards adult erotica (visual or textual)." Keep an eye on his blog for further updates and details on this exciting project!!! :D

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Outer Blogness: the complete list

The complete "Outer Blogness" blogroll is currently hosted on our hub/community blog Main Street Plaza (as of October 2010).

For your blog to qualify as part of this Outer Blogness list, you must meet the following two criteria:

1. You have been Mormon (or at the very least you've had a strong personal connection with Mormonism in your life),
2. You do not currently believe the truth claims of Mormonism.

That's it. You don't actually have to talk about Mormonism on your blog at all. If you qualify and I don't have you on the list, please email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com. Ditto for if there's an error in your link or title or if you're on the list and would like to be removed.

We used to have a handy sidebar widget you could use to show the most-recently-updated Outer Blogness blogs -- and maybe one day we will again! But for now (Fall 2010), if you're a part of Outer Blogness, we'd like to ask you to display a link to Main Street Plaza on your blog. You can even use one of these handy buttons (courtesy of Chino Blanco)!

Either save the image and link it to MSP on your own, or copy this code into your blog template:

<a href=""><img src="" /></a>

Thanks, and I hope to see you soon in Outer Blogness!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Exciting new research on the Book of Mormon!!!

Yes, I've just completed some original research on the writing system used on the golden plates. My conclusion? It really is (in a sense) "Reformed Egyptian" just as Joseph Smith claimed. See the story on Main Street Plaza here: Why Reformed Egyptian?

And this fortnight's Carnival of the Godless is (coincidentally enough) the "Peer Reviewed Journal" edition!!! :D

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bad public sex stories...

Now, the last thing I want to do is discourage people from taking the train. But since I told you about my earlier train trip, now I'd like to tell you what happened this last time I took the train to come here. You can decide which is worse...

I was on the train from Bordeaux to Lille, getting off in the suburbs of Paris to visit friends before continuing on to Zurich. At one of the stations, a guy who looked to be in his mid-twenties -- neither exceptionally attractive nor unattractive -- got on and took the seat just across the aisle from where I was sitting. (Note that the seat numbers are assigned on the tickets, so he didn't specifically choose to sit by me.) He got out a portable computer and began watching a movie on it. I had an aisle seat, and since there was a guy in the window seat next to me (coincidentally also watching a film on a P.C.), I couldn't just stare out the window as I normally do when I'm riding the train thinking of silly things to write on my blog. So I kind of had to stare up the aisle instead.

While I was sitting there chuckling to myself about all of hilarious things I might write, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Is that guy resting his hand on his crotch? My conscious mind was saying Don't turn and look, don't turn and look, whatever you do, don't turn and look! But my unconscious reflex won out, so I turned for a split-second micro-glance. I confirmed my initial impression, and immediately after the glance, the guy nonchalantly moved his hand away.

A few minutes later, the same guy (sitting across the aisle from me) shifted to a more comfortable, reclined position in his chair. Then he put his hand in his pocket, and it was quite clear that his hand was moving. And I don't mean a simple adjustment or rearrangement.

The film the guy was apparently watching wasn't something erotic as far as I could tell, and he didn't give the impression of creepily leering. He seemed more uncomfortable than anything else. (And, yes, I really did take in all of this information with my peripheral vision alone and didn't look again after that one micro-glance -- well-trained peripheral vision is an important skill for any serious primatologist.)

I could almost sympathize. After all, due to some unfortunate scheduling problems, my husband had to go to Switzerland with the kids (for their school and his job) a week earlier than I did, so I'd spent the week alone (packing and supervising the movers). On that trip, I was on my way to see my sweetie after not having seen him for more than a week, and those of you who have been in a similar situation know what that's like. Of course -- for the few hours on the train, at least -- I was able to keep all of these thoughts confined to the interior of my head and not allow my hands to wander to the nether regions, out of courtesy to the other passengers who don't want to see that.

(Some of you are probably thinking "Actually, Chanson, there's a decent chance that guy did want to see that..." Right. I'm not talking about him. I'm talking about the other other passengers.)

To me, masturbating while riding the train is a little like drinking and driving: neither activity is a problem by itself, but they don't go together. This particular incident didn't bother me -- just more free data for my inner anthropologist, as usual -- but many other people might find it upsetting and even threating. It essentially amounts to a non-consensual sex act. The other people on the train just want to get where they're going, and they certainly didn't ask to share this intimate moment with you.

I think even Dan Savage would agree with me. I don't have the exact reference, but once some guy wrote about how he and his wife like to have sex in public, and was complaining about all the prudes that didn't appreciate the show. And Dan told him that having a kink that involves random bystanders is not fair to the random bystanders, which makes sense. Now you're probably thinking this is incredibly hypocritical of me, considering my claim to fame **cough** BYU library **cough** (and to a lesser degree my tales from topless and nude beaches). As far as the nude beaches are concerned, the people who go there know what they're in for, and as for the BYU library? Well, like I said, it was a case where there was one door to lock the entire room, not just a stall (where there might potentially be random people in the room just outside the stall). I guess it's tricky to decide precisely where to draw the line for what constitutes common decency. Feel free to debate me in the comments. ;^)

Having sex in a public place naturally has its risks. I remember back when I was attending Rutgers, the Mathematics building (the Hill Center) was never completely locked. So there were students in there all the time (24/7, on holidays, weekends, whenever). It was quite convenient for grad students working on their thesis research at odd hours. One time a friend and fellow grad student recounted to me the following story:

She was in her office working on her research during the weekend, and she sent something to the printer to be printed. The way the building was arranged, the shortest path from her office to the printer room was through one of the classrooms. (These classrooms were normally locked, but many of the grad students had keys to them.) So she opened the door and turned on the light, and she found a pair of undergrads having sex right there in the classroom. Then the really surprising part of the story was what happened next. The guy said "Close the door," but my friend refused to close the door, she insisted that they disengage immediately, get dressed, and get the hell out of there. And that's what they did.

My friend told me this story as though that were a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Maybe it was. After all, random undergrads weren't supposed to be in that classroom on weekends at all, much less having sex. But if it were me, after one glance I would have turned the light back off, closed the door, and taken another path to the printer room.

Then I would have immediately gone and written all about it on my blog. ;^)

Is that weird of me? Does any of this make sense?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Starbucks is everywhere!!!

(Or is it "Starbucks are everywhere"? Starbuckses?)

Zurich is overrun with them, which means that my husband and I will probably be taking up a new Starbucks habit. We didn't before since (for some unknown reason) there were none in Bordeaux. There we had "Columbus Cafe" and "The French Coffee Shop" (pictured here) instead. Even these American-style coffee shops are a recent arrival -- neither was there when we moved to Bordeaux at the end of 2000. And back visiting the family in Minnesota, we used to go to "Caribou Coffee" and "Java Jack's" (just in case you're curious, don't worry, I'm not getting paid for product placement or anything... ;^) ).

For the moment I'm still playing the "ugly American": the first question out of my mouth wherever I go is "Do you speak English?" Actually, as I told people when I was living in France, it's not that big a deal to try to get by on just English -- that's what Europeans themselves typically do when they travel. No one can be expected to learn all of the local languages, so it's easier just to have everyone learn the same second language, that way nobody has to learn more than one. Of course that was easy for me to say when I was beatifically looking down from my superior position as someone who understood what the people around me were saying. If I was smiling smugly to myself then, now the joke's on me. ;^)

At the moment, my system is to try to read all of the signs and guess what they say. Plus, my husband got me an MP3 player and put some recordings on it for learning German. That will be my next project right after I finish my assignment for nonbelieving literati: La Peste (The Plague) by Camus.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Now live from Switzerland!!!

Hey folks!!! I've arrived in my new apartment in Switzerland!!!

As you know, I absolutely loved Bordeaux, and I was very sad to leave. On the other hand, now that I'm getting settled in Zurich, I'm very happy to be here!!!

I feel like the age my kids are at (4 and 6) is really the perfect time to start fresh on a new lifestyle. Having little babies and toddlers dramatically changes the types of things you can do, especially in our case since we had no relatives nearby who could take the kids for an evening or help us with them occasionally. So we hardly ever socialized with people, and everything we did as a couple had to be something where it was okay to have babies or toddlers in tow. And remember we didn't have a car (and still don't). Fortunately Bordeaux is a beautiful city, and compact enough to conveniently go everywhere on foot or by tramway even with little kids. But as you might imagine, we got into a habit where if something wasn't in downtown Bordeaux (or at least conveniently accessible by train or tramway), then we didn't go there at all. Here in Zurich more things out of town are accessible by public transportation (including trips to go hiking in the mountains), and we have some new friends who are giving us ideas on the fun stuff to do around here with kids.

Actually, I'd gotten into quite a comfortable little rut in general, and I'm glad to be obligated to break free of it. For one thing, after seven years of living in France, I'd gotten to the point where I totally identified with being French. Not that there's something wrong with being French -- the problem is that I'm not looking for a final destination. I don't want to say "Yes, I'm satisfied here, I'm done." I want to keep having new adventures and stay open to new things. So in my travels to other countries (and even back to the U.S.), it was bad that I'd gotten to the point where I would look around and say "Hmph, this isn't the way we do things in France." France is funny that way -- there's a huge assimilationist mindset, so if you go there wanting to fit in, it doesn't take long before you get absorbed and start thinking like a French person. I feel like it's good for me to be thrust into a situation where everything is weird again. ;^)

Then there's the language situation. Right after I learned to speak French (while I was in grad school), I got the idea that learning foreign languages is fun! So I made some decent progress on learning to speak Italian, some non-trivial progress on learning to speak, read, and write in Hindi, and some very feeble beginnings on learning Dutch and Spanish. Then baby #1 came along, and I went back to working full-time while he was still little, and something had to give. That hobby was the one that got the axe. All the language books and tapes went up on the shelf, and I decided that, well, I speak English and French, and let's just leave it at that. Now that my kids are bigger I could take it up again, but now my Internet addiction is occupying the free time that I once used for other projects. So again I'm glad to have some external motivation to break out of my bad habits. I felt like a fool yesterday when I couldn't even understand when the cashier at the grocery store was asking me if I want a bag or not. (I didn't want one, but I got one due to my cluelessness.) Now everything that surrounds me is in German (or Swiss-German), and I'm full of curiosity to understand it all. And as a bonus, one of our new friends is Italian, and I found that I could understand some of the things she was saying to her kids, and even exchange a few sentences with her in Italian. What an encouraging way to get off on the right foot for my new adventure!! Zurich is around the same size as Bordeaux, but far more cosmopolitan and international.

As far as Switzerland vs. France in general, I'm a little ambivalent. Some stuff that's special about Switzerland seems kind of questionable to me. On the other hand, it may just be that I'm looking at it with a French bias, and it might be useful to see the Swiss side of the story. From the French I learned that the reason the Swiss won't go on the Euro like everybody else is because they don't want to share all the prosperity they get from their lucrative-yet-questionable banking industry. If you have a huge amount of loot and need banking services where you don't have to worry about being asked any uncomfortable questions about where the money came from, the Swiss are there for you. And everybody from the Nazis to Al Quaeda to the mafia are happy to take them up on it. But maybe that's just a misimpression, and now that I'm in Switzerland, I'll see what things look like from their perspective. Plus, it's not as though France is perfect. Back in Bordeaux, I used to always comment on what a beautiful city it is, and more than once the response (from a French person) would be that one shouldn't be proud of how beautiful Bordeaux is -- the gorgeous white-stone buildings and decorative plazas all over town were built on the economic prosperity that came from being a major port in the slave trade.

On the other hand, that was then and this is now. Apparently the Zurich suburbs are the home of one of the most overtly racist political parties in all of Europe. I haven't seen the posters, but I heard there was a picture of a Swiss flag with a white sheep kicking a black sheep off and a slogan saying it was for greater security. Also I hear this party did a commercial with a black hand holding a Swiss passport, and asked the question "Do you want this?" (The assumed answer being "no.") Yikes!!!

So I'm torn: Am I potentially helping the cause of enlightenment and anti-racist values by being here where bad problems exist, and hopefully helping influence things in a good direction? Or is that just an excuse, and am I actually supporting something bad? Or both?

On my previous trip to Zurich (when we were preparing our move), I saw something of a bad omen. When we were on the train from France to Switzerland, there was exactly one non-white person in the car we were riding in. He looked like he was from India or thereabouts. As soon as we left the last station in France, a whole team of customs agents came by to interrogate him. They didn't ask anything of anyone else. They came by twice just to talk to him, and they actually made him stand up so they could frisk him. Then on the third visit, when they checked everyone's passport, they barely glanced at our passports and waved us through with a smile. (I think the Indian guy was eventually cleared through as well.) All I can say is that I certainly hope they had some sort of legitimate reason to suspect that guy in particular, and it wasn't just some sort of horrible racial profiling. One should never watch something like that and think "Well, my family and I have nothing to worry about -- we're white." We're minorities here ourselves, being foreigners and atheists. But even if you live in a place where you're in the majority, to many people in the world you're a foreigner and of the wrong race and/or religion.

So, what am I in for? An amazing adventure? Here goes nothing!!! :D

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Religious Right vs. Young People

Recently some new studies came out showing that today's young people (in the U.S.) have a strong negative opinion of Christianity, dramatically more so than ten years ago. The only surprise to me is that anyone was surprised at this news. One main reason is quite obvious, and it's not an intrinsic problem with Christianity. It's that the political movement known as the "religious right" encourages people to think their movement's political positions are one and the same with Christian beliefs and theology. And the religious right's political positions practically amount to generational warfare, the old vs. the young. Frankly, it's a formula for driving the next generation away from Christianity.

Look at the religious right's set of pet issues:

The study discovered that young people are concerned about the environment. Can we say "No duh"? If it looks like we have maybe thirty or forty years left where we can continue consuming oil at the current rates, and we'll probably be able to keep up our current lifestyle's waste-and-pollution rate for the next few decades, then it's pretty convenient to tell yourself that Jesus will be coming to burn and/or fix everything eventually. If you're sixty, that is. If you're fifteen or twenty -- whether you believe in the rapture or not -- you're likely to have concerns about what Earth will look like in 2050. Really, who do you think is going to be paying for our little joy-ride on this planet? I'll give you a hint: they're currently wearing diapers, and I don't mean adult depends.

Going to war for what's left of the oil rather than putting the priority on diminishing our dependence on fossil fuel? That's quite a task to be placing on the shoulders of our young.

Science education? It would be nice for our kids to have some, wouldn't it? They'd love to have the skills to compete in the global marketplace. But, gosh, implementing a serious math-and-science curriculum, and attracting qualified people to teach it? That's pretty darn expensive. (And giving it to kids for nothing? Isn't that communism?) Teaching them straight from the Bible is a whole lot simpler, and cheaper.

Then there's "abstinence education" and reproductive rights, i.e. sex. Nothing but nothing says "old people vs. young people" like wanting to see maximum punishments enforced for sex. 'Nuff said.

As a subset of the sex question, there's discrimination directly focused on gay people. What a dog of an issue! This one really highlights the short-sightedness of the religious right's strategy, focused on energizing their base today without a thought for tomorrow. Young people have grown up alongside gay people as ordinary people. The opinion divide on whether homosexuality is a choice isn't along liberal vs. conservative lines nearly as much as it's along the fault line of old vs. young. So when a group stands up and says their number one issue is keeping marriage contracts away from (gay) people who want to get married, all the young see is pure bigotry.

All of these ideas are embodied in our illustrious president, Dubya. The corruption, the illegally spying on his own people, the torture: all excused because at least he's not afraid to be outspoken about his relationship with Jesus. He thinks God told him to invade Iraq, and he's apparently incapable of even considering the possibility that that might have been an error since God can't be wrong. It would be one thing if it looked like Christians were booing him off the stage clamoring that that's not Christianity. But when Christians excuse his crimes and incompetence because they're impressed by his grand declarations of piety? How do you imagine that affects people's view of Christianity?

Apparently polls show that not only is Christianity significantly down but atheism is on the rise in the rising generation. I'd like to give the "new atheists" all the credit, but I honestly think the main recruiters have been the religious right and Dubya himself.

Good Christians: Don't look at the religious right and think "Well they're Christian, so at least their heart is in the right place." If they're on the wrong side of the issues above, then their heart is not in the right place. Their heart is in the place of maintaining their current consumption level and putting it on their grandchildren's tab. I know, I know, it's just that they grew up in an era when people didn't have to worry about our footprint on the planet, and now they're too set in their ways to change. So maybe it's not really their fault. But in that case, maybe it's time to take away the keys.

Now I know many people will read the above and think "Chanson, you big meanie, you don't want granny to have her medication?" Au contraire. I want granny to have her medication. The United States of America is a rich enough country to be able to afford correct health care for everyone if correcting the health care system were a priority. But the religious right waving these generation-warfare issues in granny's face is ultimately a tactic to scare her into voting against her own interests as well as her grandchildren's.

I'd like to see good Christians loudly proclaiming that the short-sighted theocrats of the religious right don't represent them. That xenophobia and hating gay people aren't what Christianity is all about. I don't want to be too hard on liberal/progressive Christians for not shouting loudly enough because, frankly, the theocrats are so loud that it's difficult for anyone to be heard over them. But what I'm saying is for the benefit of the faithful as well as the skeptic. We need a candidate who -- when questioned about his/her faith, regardless of his/her beliefs -- will look the camera in the eye and say "I'm running for president, not for first pastor."

Now I'd like to address the young people (teens and twenty-somethings) reading this if I may.

If I can give one piece of advice to young people today, it is this: Aspire to something more important than equal or greater material comfort than what your parents enjoyed. Aspire to pass a livable planet on to the next generation.

Now some of you are probably asking: "Why should we be the responsible ones? Why should we be the ones to think of future generations before thinking of ourselves, if our parents and grandparents didn't?" Well, somebody has to think of the future, and if your parents and grandparents aren't doing it, then it will fall on you. Remember you'll be living farther into the future than they will. Being young today means advantages and especially challenges that no previous generation has faced.

Right now you're probably more worried about your friends, and having fun, and finding your talents and your place in the world -- as well you should be. But if you're also thinking a little bit about what kind of planet you'll be leaving for your (future?) kids, then prepare to be a leader. Your country, your species, and your planet will need your leadership skills, whether you end up influencing five people or five million. Start walking in the right direction and others will follow you. And if you think I might possibly be talking to you, then I'm talking to you!!! :D

What you'll face won't be easy, but I believe in you. For all of our sake, I hope you'll rise to the occasion.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Blogroll Meme

A few weeks ago, I got tagged for the seven weird things meme. I tried. I racked my brain on that one, but for the life of me, I couldn't come up with seven weird things about myself. It was weird. Unfortunately, that only makes one weird thing, so it wasn't enough to complete the meme.

Fortunately Greta Christina has tagged me with a meme that's a little less challenging:

Pick three blogs from your blogroll that you think encapsulate the unique nature of your blog.

Here's how I'd like to interpret this: I'm going to pick three blogs that are very different from one another but which illustrate different goals I have for my own blog.

1. Thoughts by Sister Mary Lisa

From the start of my blogging days, one of my goals has been to build up and nurture a community of former Mormons online. SML -- despite being a relative upstart compared to my several years of blogging -- has done an excellent job of this. She has a warm personality and a talent for reaching out and drawing people into the discussion.

You can see this from her recent series on fear in which she invited guest posters to explore what they'd do if they were free of all fear (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), and inspired a number of people on her blogroll to write their fear-free fantasies as well (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) and posted her own here.

I'm glad I got to meet her in real life.

2. feminist Mormon housewives

I hesitate to highlight these ladies because, well, in faithful Mormon circles it can sometimes be seen as a bad thing when the apostates like you and approve of what you're doing. SnarkerNackle has already claimed that half the readership of fMh is "DAMU".

But fMh has done an excellent job of demonstrating that that being religious doesn't mean taking marching orders from the religious right nor does it mean being closed-minded and afraid to hear the perspective of those who are different. To me, it shows strength of conviction to be willing to host some of the discussions they've hosted. Also, as a mom, I can relate to some of their topics (though not so much the ones about the temple or why women don't have the priesthood -- I'll let them worry about those topics amongst themselves).

I like to encourage atheists to do the same in the other direction: to be willing to befriend and have civil discussions with believers. By that I don't mean constantly rehashing the "Does God exist?" debate, but rather be willing to move past that question and talk about shared political goals such as building a sustainable society for our children. As I said in my passionate secularism, I don't favor a strategy of saying "We can't discuss politics until after I've talked you out of your irrational faith." Some issues just can't wait that long.

Some other bloggers who are working in this same direction are Hemant the friendly atheist and Mike the emerging Christian.

3. No More Hornets

The exterminator's blog illustrates a couple of additional goals I'm shooting for in my blogging: (1) talk about books and literature, and (2) keep the discussion light and fun.

Actually, he was kind enough to post his New Year's Resolutions, some of which match my own:

  • Don’t publish philosophical space-fillers on No More Hornets. Most philosoblogging, even that with which I agree, is mental masturbation masquerading as deep thinking.

  • I'm halfway with him on this one. I hope to ask interesting questions and encourage people to see things from new perspectives and think about new ideas. But all of that without taking myself too seriously... ;)

  • Challenge other atheists whenever they make statements not supported by evidence. Also, challenge other atheists whenever they say stupid things. Expect to be challenged myself.

  • Absolutely!! For an atheist, evidence and sound reasoning should be the bottom line, and I don't hesitate hold atheists to that standard.

  • Always be honest, because tact is overrated.

  • Weirdly, I feel like I don't have a problem being honest and direct and tactful. The two don't really seem to conflict for me. So I've found a second weird thing about myself -- I'm on my way to finishing that other meme!!! :D

  • Don’t waste time reading modern screeds about atheism, by atheists, for atheists. Older books and essays are great for their literary value and historical interest, but no atheist writing being done today can make a difference in my own god-free life. I don’t need to have my atheism bolstered. Anyone who does need his or her atheism bolstered is a closet theist.

  • I completely agree with this one. I haven't bothered with the "new atheist" bestsellers because I've been an atheist for like fifteen years. So I've already spent plenty of time contemplating the subject, and really it's not that complicated to begin with.

  • Remember what David Hume said: Truth springs from argument amongst friends. So I'll never shirk my duty to disagree with a pal. It’s intellectually dishonest to “play nice” all the time.

  • So true. I'd rather be constantly challenged to see things from new angles rather than get stuck in a group-think feedback loop. As far as "play nice" is concerned, it depends on your definition. For me, criticism and disagreement can be expressed in a civil and constructive manner without necessarily watering down your point. In my comments (both on atheist blogs and believers' blogs), I'm not shy about expressing disagreement. Yet (I hope) my comments are generally fairly nice.

  • Find some way to earn a living through my atheist writing.

  • That would be cool, but I feel like (for me at least) it's a totally unrealistic goal. Since I'm pretty sure this hobby will never bring me fortune, I'm willing to settle for fame instead.

  • Remind myself often that blogging is fun. Despite what I’d like to believe when I’m in Grandiosity Mode, I’m not going to change the world through my rants on No More Hornets. I might get a handful of people to laugh once in a while, or to think about something in a slightly new way. That’s great. But I’m not posting because I have any compelling atheistic mission. So if the writing process isn’t enjoyable, why do it?

  • That's my blog to a T. My only point of disagreement is the part about "remind myself" that blogging is fun. I don't need any reminder. There's pretty much nothing on the planet I'd rather be doing. Instead I have to remind myself to step away from the computer occasionally so I'll have some experiences to write about. ;)

So that's it for today's blogroll meme!!!

Everyone I've linked to above (not just the three numbered choices): consider yourself tagged!!!

(Except Exterminator, who perversely enough selected me for this same meme after I'd already planned he would be one of my choices. That's what I get for letting myself get behind on blogging....)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bear with me...

Sorry I've been uncharacteristically missing from blog space for a few days (even from commenting). It's not entirely because of the move (and haven't left for Switzerland yet). The problem is that I have this weirdly obsessive-focus personality, and sometimes get immersed in a project to the point where I can't think of anything else day and night. As I said, I thought of some ideas of how to continue the story threads of the novella I wrote at the end of November. I have the entire thing mapped out scene by scene, and have most of the remaining scenes essentially written in my head. It's currently a little over 33,000 words, and I have three-and-a-half chapters to go. It'll probably be around 40,000 words when its done. I can't write anything else until I get this out so I can clear the mental registers. ;^)

I'll probably be done by Monday, then I'll be back among the living. After that hopefully I'll go another three or four years or so before this happens again. ;^)