November 28, 2014

A Place For Order AND Chaos

Posted in psychology at 2:31 am by Jerry


Every time I hear Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will” I think of whatever chaotic, repressed thoughts in the heart of who we are singing to the orderly part of us that polices our views, controls our perspectives.

I don’t think the orderly/policing part of us was meant to be our enemy, but instead, meant to help us function among other people, to be practical for the group. But when that pursuit of practicality buries the chaotic part of us that feels different than the norm, that questions the status quo, that challenges the established culture, that disturbs the manufactured peace…

…it can’t be healthy. Not for long, anyway.

It’s so easy for me to say this, but I think the chaotic part of us should be heard despite the consequences. It may take a lot of work to resurrect, understand and appreciate this part of us, but it is the raw nature of who we are! It is unpolished authenticity at it’s finest, don’t you think?


April 17, 2014

Empathy, and the Long Reach of Reason

Posted in critical thinking, culture, film, history, humanism, justice, literature, philosophy, politics, psychology at 4:17 pm by Jerry

January 7, 2014

Wish Fulfillment

Posted in atheism, humanism, psychology at 10:30 am by Jerry


When I saw this meme, I contemplated what might be the best responses I would hear from a believer. The first one that came to mind was, “Atheists’ standards for proof are too high.” And then my atheist response to that was, “Does anyone need proof of the existence of earth? Why can’t God be as recognizable to every human being as the earth we stand on?”

And then I thought of another believer response to the meme…

“It’s not that God can’t prove his existence, it’s that he chooses not to. From my experience, God wanted my natural need of him to seek him out.” 

I have to admit, I felt a sense of accomplishment when I came up with this one. It asks the atheist to think of a personal need for God, and according to the believer, whatever pops in the atheist’s mind would be personal evidence of God reaching out to the atheist!

But then, what kind of God would an atheist need? I don’t think any atheist like myself would need any biblical version of a God. So then “God” really isn’t any particular supreme being. “God” represents the cliche “wish fulfillment”.

Sure. I “wish” there were a lot of things different in this world of ours. But then I have to think realistically about my desires. What kind of change is worth hoping for? And it’s this question that becomes less of a cosmic pursuit for me, and more of a social, humanist pursuit. For me, “God” doesn’t fit into this practical pursuit.

December 22, 2013

Homophobia and Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in bible, church, culture, love, psychology at 6:35 pm by Jerry


For those christians who are incapable of recognizing homosexuality as anything more than a “lifestyle,” a “belief,” a “behaviour” or a stumbling block needing to be removed, they will never understand why others accuse them of fearing and/or hating the LGBT community.

Do I believe that these christians are without any compassion or love for the LGBT community? No, I suspect all of them having some form of  love and compassion for all of humanity. To me, this isn’t an either/or situation here. It’s a matter of cognitive dissonance. People are quite capable of having both love and fear for the same person (or deity).

October 27, 2013

Demons In An Atheist’s Closet

Posted in psychology, theology at 9:19 am by Jerry

personal demonsAccording to christian theology: God expected humanity to consistently please him, obeying him all the time; and any actions of ours that don’t please him, that disobey his will, are called “sin”; and it is for the existence of “sin” in our lives that we need to accept God’s forgiveness.

Looking back, it’s incredible that I had at one time thought this belief to be realistic. How can anyone please or obey anyone else all the time? It can’t be done. It is highly unrealistic to even consider the possibility.

There was never a time when humanity wasn’t trying to learn how to improve their lives, trying things out, observing what does and doesn’t work. There was never a time when anybody consistently walked the proverbial “narrow path”. We are always off balance to some degree, weak, vulnerable to the unknown that lies ahead of us. Sure we try to center ourselves, walk whatever balance beam we’ve created for ourselves. But to expect us to never fall over one side or the other is not reasonable.

And yet, to become a member of the christian church, it is expected of you to accept God’s forgiveness for the existence of sin in this world through his human sacrifice 2000 years ago.

Of course, christians are free to believe what they want to believe, but I don’t see how it’s necessary to accept God’s forgiveness for the existence of sin in this world. And believing in a God that sanctions a human being to be tortured and hung on a cross until death to represent this forgiveness is horrifying.


A reasonable God would not deem the mere existence of sin worthy of being considered an offense. And a moral God would not expect a human sacrifice to overcome this offense, to represent forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness from someone is done after realizing we have hurt them. We didn’t kill Jesus. Nor should we consider the existence of our sin to have killed Jesus. And it’s not necessary to believe that God’s feelings are hurt by our inability to please or obey him all the time! No all wise and knowing God would stoop to such pettiness.

But I did. I believed it whole-heartedly. I lived it, breathed it, taught it, preached it. My past is a closet filled with all sorts of theological beliefs that are now my personal demons. And today I live with the embarrassment and shame, knowing that these ugly, superstitious views were once mine. Of course, I shouldn’t let it get to me. What’s in the past is the past, right? I need to forgive myself for painting the world over with a wide biblical brush, for categorizing or boxing in myself and my fellow human beings in iron age views that judged us for not measuring up to the standards of an imaginary supreme being.

But I didn’t just dabble in it now and then. I wasn’t a “Sunday christian”. My theological daydreaming consisted in believing in all sorts of crazy, egotistical things. There was a time in my past when I believed that I could sense the presence of angels. I once hallucinated that northern lights formed into a picture of a man kneeling outside of a fish’s mouth (read: the book of Jonah). I contemplated the destination of people who had died in my lifetime. I had opinions about what I thought was the “will of God” in certain situations.

For 30 years I believed these kinds of things. It’s not easy for me to get over this. In fact, I’m bitter. I’m bitter that the majority of my life consisted of this kind of behaviour, these kinds of beliefs. And even though I may have a special appreciation for secular humanism coming from an evangelical background, I envy “cradle atheists”. I know we are all guilty of all sorts of foolishness in our lives, atheist and believer, but the kind of foolishness which is my religious past weighs heavily on me.

February 20, 2011

Debating: weak without rhetoric

Posted in art, atheism, culture, psychology, religion, science at 8:18 pm by Jerry

People can google the info if evidence is their highest priority. (These people don’t need a debater.)

However, if peoples’ highest priority is wanting to believe in something they think is more worthy than believing in it’s competing beliefs, good debaters are needed.

Good debaters realize they have more to address than the part of the mind that collects and compares information. “Pathos” and “Ethos” are just as important as “Logos” when communicating/relating with others (a lesson I’ve been learning from my favorite rhetorician). And good debaters make good use of rhetoric to counter-act whatever misuses of rhetoric the opposition employs…

February 15, 2011

“My Love is Truer and Greater than Yours!”

Posted in art, atheism, fatherhood, holidays, love, psychology, religion at 10:19 am by Jerry

I’m not sure how I should respond to this pro-atheism picture.

Numerous times, I’ve heard Christians (mostly leaders in churches and bible schools) directly or indirectly quote to me 1 John 4:7-8, pompously communicating to me that God has a monopoly on love, and whoever knows God knows what true love is like.

Of course, my internal response is, “How dare you presume such elitist, exclusionary and condescending position!” Well, to be honest, that’s not exactly how I articulated it in my mind. I meant those words, but my mind used a different dialect. My thoughts actually sounded more like: “FUCK YOU!!”

And then there’s this pro-atheist picture I stumbled upon today, the day after Valentine’s Day.

My immediate response was remembering the moment I saw my little girl for the first time. It’s sappy (and subjective), but my eyes tear up every time I think about it. Much to my surprise, my first Daddy experience felt as if more room for love was made instead of sharing the love I already had for her mother. It was such a new experience for me. Various overwhelmingly emotional feelings seemed to appear in my mind out of thin air and I was a different person, a person that took some time getting use to.

So, when I think about this pro-atheist picture and the pro-Christian views of love, I can’t help but think, “No, it’s not about challenging how ‘true’ another’s experience of love is, nor about challenging how much greater another’s experience of love is. Instead of claiming anothers’ experiences of love to be a shadow of our own, maybe we should just consider the possibility that no two people share the same journey of experiencing different kinds of love… ..whether it be for ideas, people or God.”

And, it just might be a healthy exercise for all of us to question ourselves: is the person or God we love, in some way (or every way), just an idea of some kind of person or God we want to love?

December 1, 2009

My Doubts Sing Beautiful Songs To Me

Posted in atheism, film, philosophy, poetry, psychology, psychology of religion, science, songs at 3:41 pm by Jerry

Within the religious world I was brought up in it was not entirely rare to hear someone (including myself) say, “I felt called”. This often happens after a whole lot of deep, sincere prayer. And what was meant by this calling, this answer to prayer, was that we were called by “God”.

Some were bold enough to outwardly say it was God who called them, but others would only allude to it. I suspect, for the latter, it was not knowing for sure if it was in fact God calling them. They have been wrong about God’s will for their lives in the past and would hate to make anymore false assumptions, because, as the cliche goes – to assume makes an ass out of.. well, you know the rest.

As for those who keep claiming a direct line of communication from God despite being wrong in the past, well, I suppose they feel faith is always a greater virtue than doubt. Which is odd, when you really think about it. If we were to ask religious people how many times a doubt about their personal understanding of God’s will in scripture or otherwise has led to greater understanding, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were to say, “Oh, yes, there have been countless times when God has corrected my limited understanding of Him.” In other words, either God or you have welcomed DOUBT into your spiritual life to make room for greater understanding.

For the more humble-minded religious person who seeks to save faith-face by not claiming “God” to have called them, a psychological perspective can be taken (putting off claims of a direct communication of God’s will for hindsight-prophecy). These believers are freed to accept the possibility that the “calling” might just be a part of us, deep inside, that knows what we really want or really need – to be closer to the truth. And if we’ve repressed this “calling”, ignored it or simply over-looked it in the past only to later find ourselves giving it a voice, it is in those moments we do hear voices, voices that care deeply for us…  voices that are the expressions of our own doubts.

October 25, 2009


Posted in philosophy, psychology, soup at 6:58 am by Jerry

Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn’t seem to be working.


How do you take “one step at a time” when the more you’re involved in, the smaller the steps become?

Edit: I’ve got it! Learn to rock climb. (Dammit! I hate it when i find the solution and it isn’t an easy one!)

July 7, 2009

Breath Without Breathing

Posted in culture, literature, martial arts, mythology, poetry, psychology, soup at 4:48 am by Jerry

It is said that when you breathe out you contact the Root of Heaven and experience a sense of openness, and when you breathe in you contact the Root of Earth and experience a sense of solidity. Breathing out is associated with the fluidity of a dragon, breathing in is associated with the strength of the tiger. As you go on breathing in this frame of mind, with these associations, alternating between movement and stillness, it is important that the focus of your mind does not shift.

Let the true breath come and go, a subtle continuum on the brink of existence. Tune the breathing until you get breath without breathing; become one with it…

– Zhang San Feng (widely accepted as creator of “Taijiquan”)

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