Christian Era and Before Christian Era – Wait, is that right?

The great thing about taking a break from a blog series is that I get to rant about all the things that have caught my attention during the publication of the blog series in question.

In this case, when I heard that Australian school textbooks are to drop BC and AD from the curriculum, in favour of BCE and CE (Before Common Era and Common Era), I surprised myself by taking a few days to mull it over before making up my mind on the issue (Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t surprise myself, I’m just that great).

Needless to say, my facebook feed was awash with the news that day, with my Christian friends expressing everything from mild concern to plain outrage, and some of my more militant atheist friends expressing their glee at such a social victory.

That such polarisation has occurred over this issue is a telling point. There is more at stake here than what is the most efficient way of classifying our dating system.

Before we go much further, let me make something very clear. If there’s a more efficient way of dating our calendars, I want to know about it.

But the way in which this news has been received seems to indicate that two very simple words are in play: ‘Knee’ and ‘Jerk’.

Rather than try and offend both sides of the field just right now (and let’s face it, is there any other way to properly offend?), I’d like to have a look at just what is being proposed here and what reasons have been given.

Rabbi James KennardMount Scopus Memorial College had this to say on the matter:

“But since Australia is proud to be a multicultural and secular country, it is quite wrong for students across the country to be expected to use AD, anno domini [or] the year of our lord, or BC, before Christ, when it might be very far removed from their own belief system,”

Wait, what? While I’m aware that my own belief system is probably a little biased, I’m pretty sure that most of my atheist friends believe that 1AD is the best approximation of when Jesus (Who was later called ‘Lord’ or ‘The Christ’) was born.

Of course, they don’t actually believe he was Christ (Or in God in general, for that matter), but they still believe that’s when he was born. So which people believe that Jesus wasn’t born around 1AD? Are we making sure we don’t offend the fringe historical scholarship now? Since when was that a priority? I’m fairly certain that one of the important points of being in scholarship is accepting that there’s always going to be a few people out there who think you’re wrong.

So perhaps we should put that notion to rest.

But are there any other reasons for the change?

The second reason I cam across (and would you believe, I cannot find the quote anymore on any news site?) was that this new system was simpler than the current one.

My question is, simpler how? What is the defining point that marks the start of the common era? And what exactly about first century palestine (say, 1 to 99AD) was common? Perhaps the middle ages were more ‘common’?

But... but how did they know?

No matter what label you put on it, our entire dating system is based around the estimated birth of this guy named Jesus who pretty much upset the entire course of human history with his ideas about how people should treat each other (there’s that little business about him being God, too, but hey, let’s keep this good for all sides of the debate, yeah?). To put another set of labels on top of that actually seems to be complicating the issue, not making it simpler.

The more I hear Archbishop Peter Jensens words of this move as “An intellectually absurd attempt to write Christ out of human history”, the less it makes me vomit in my mouth a little. Over the top, sure, but the dude has a point.

So far all the reasons given for this changeover has proven to be a little vacuous. Don’t get me wrong, if there are any more reasons for the change, let’s hear them, but otherwise, if it ain’t broke…

But enough of my grousing. I, for one, welcome our new textbook overlords.

It’s the Hard Knock Life

I thought I might finish up the ‘Atheist Bugbears’ series, and do a few random thoughts to clear my head before getting into the next series, which will likely be a crash course in apologetics.

At the time of writing, I’m sitting in the technicians loft of Campbelltown Theatre, a lighting desk to my left, a follow spot to my right, and a bunch of screaming kids beneath me, in orphan rags, servants gear, and a few outfits from the roaring twenties.

It’s “Annie” the musical, and I’ve been lucky enough to be asked along to help with the lighting. It’s a fairly simple enough task (zero manual labour, and the chance to hang with Paul/Harry (the other lighting guy)), but it’s going to take me months to get all these songs out of my head.

But one song keeps appearing on my lips more than others, a jaunty little tune called “It’s the Hard Knock Life”.

I love this tune. It’s quick, happy, jaunty, and then when you pause and ponder the lyrics, it’s entirely horrifying.

“Stead of treated, we get tricked / ‘stead of kisses, we get kicked!” or how about “No one cares for you a smidge / when you’re in an orphanage!”?

The more I think about these lyrics, the more I feel for the characters that sing them. And yet, when I sing them in my head, I can’t help but lift my head a little, and bounce along with the tune.

But that’s rather the point of Annie, I guess. Annie is an orphan who, in the face of overwhelming oppression, always manages to keep a brave face, and encourage those around her to keep an eye on ‘tomorrow’, when things might not be so bad.

Never work with kids or animals, huh?

I think this is probably why this story is still packing theaters all over the world (even school plays like this one). It’s a great reminder in times like these that, while we may not be able to control the cards that life deals us, it’s entirely in our control what face we put on to the world to play the hand we’re dealt, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that we do what we can to offer a smile to those in a worse place than our own.

The character of Annie is infectious and, if you haven’t seen the story, I recommend giving it a look see, even if it’s only once.

The 1982 movie also stars Tim Curry as the villain (an archetype he seems especially suited for), which is just all the more icing for the cake.

But enough of the advertising, what is an old movie or play that you feel is a great reminder of dealing with the trials and tribulations of life?

Atheist Bugbears Part IV: Prove that God exists (Just don’t mention him)

Hey everyone, and welcome back!

There were a lot of issues with getting the site set up on the new server, and a big shout out to Stuart for being the man of the hour! Beyond that, there’s been plenty happening in the world of Theality, including some cool updates regarding my health (there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the light is not an oncoming freight train!), getting the house in order for summer, and planning the next Bropostles weekend (doubly excited for this).

Previously, on Rantality:

As I recall, we left off the atheist bugbears series with some thoughts on what I like to call ‘Future science of the gaps’ where phenomena that, after repeat testing and examination, continues to defy our current understanding of science, is not taken as possible evidence, but shelved as a mystery for the scientists of the future to uncover.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at one of the common objections handed out in tandem with the ‘future science of the gaps’, being that ‘God doesn’t explain anything’.

Quite often I’ve been asked to defend my belief in God, and my assertions that my faith is based in reason and logic. In these cases, I have tried to take the person asking on a slow and methodical journey, from simple dichotomies to a final conclusion that the God commonly defined by classic theism most likely exists.

However, often when I arrive at the conclusion of God, the objection often arises that ‘this is an arbitrary explanation, that does not offer any explanation for a mystery of nature’ (Not necessarily verbatim, needless to say’.

The problem underlying this objection, as I see it, is a couple of premises flying in under the radar:

‘God’ cannot serve as a satisfactory explanation:

This first premise sounds reasonable, at a naturalistic level, because God is held to be supernatural. Problem is, that theistic discussions about the possibility of G(g)od(s) are, by default, not naturalistic. If you can explain God in terms of biology, ecology, diet, feathers and migratory patterns, chances are it’s not God. It’s a duck. This leads quite naturally onto the second undercover premise:

Natural phenomena only, please:

The point here is that if we are to ‘keep an open mind’ about the possibility of God, but deny any reference to the supernatural, then we might as well use algebra to prove the value of ‘x’, but insist on making no reference whatsoever to that letter that follows on from ‘w’, but precedes ‘y’. It’s self defeating.

My mind is so open, my brains fell out:

I love debating theology with people who think differently from me, it’s invigorating. But I think it’s so important to stop and think about what premises you’re taking into your debates with you.

If you are claiming to keep an open mind about the possibility of God, in order to discuss theology with a (surprise surprise) theist, then it is critical you do away with any premises that forgo any possibility that said theist might be right. If you do not wish to have an open mind on the topic, then that’s not so bad either. It just helps to be up front about the matter in advance.

So many Bugbears, so little variety:

In the last installment, I mentioned a particular circular argument regarding why we should believe there is no God, and why we should doubt any evidence that suggests God.

Awesome Tshirt design by dragosdnb

If you go back over the earlier installments of this series, you can see how this circular argument could reasonably be applied to all of them. This begs the question, are these objections all the same? One could be forgiven for thinking so.

Realistically, I believe that all of these objections are strikingly similar, but are sufficiently unique enough to warrant a separate discussion. The problem for the aspiring theologian is that they are often delivered in rapid succession, and often in the same breath. It can be very difficult to separate one objection from the other. And like any good multi-pronged attack, if you only defend against one point, the other two or three are seen to have hit home.

I will speak more on debating in another blog series, because there’s a lot of subtle tactics and strategies that, when misused, can turn a winning argument into a bumbling mess, and when properly applied…. well, actually, if you polish a turd, it’s still a turd. Bad news there.

Aaaaaanyhoo…

I think that is enough to be going on with for this little ranter. So I will be seeing you all on Friday, with a few fun links to tide you over for the weekend.

Have a great one!

Atheist Bugbears Part III: Science of the Gaps

The problem with taking on too much in one go is that everything suffers a little bit. Throw in some motivation issues, and you get a blog post go up two hours before deadline. Eh, welcome back to ‘Atheist Bugbears!’

I thought we’d move on from the “It’s okay not to know” objection to move onto another common pitfall, being something that I like to call ‘(Future) Science of the gaps’.

Wait, what?

I can hear the alarm bells going off already, aren’t we supposed to be plugging our gaps with scientific knowledge? Isn’t a good thing to assume that, just because we don’t know the answer to a problem now, we might still discover it in the future?

Well, yes. It’s a damn good thing, and our whole philosophy of science is based on this idea. So what’s the problem?

An example from the other forum. A fellow decided to start a debate on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Well and good, one of my favourite topics. However, he said something along the lines of the following…

Even if we allow the three facts that Dr William Lane Craig appeals to in his argument for Jesus (The death by crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the post mortem appearences), that’s still no reason to assert “Goddidit”. Sure, we still don’t know what might have caused Jesus to come back to life, but that’s no reason to assert that it wasn’t some still unknown freak biological occurence that we may one day discover! Saying “Goddidit” isn’t an explanation at all. It’s God of the gaps.

Hrmmm….  On the whole, this sounds almost reasonable. But let’s look at it a bit deeper.

For a start, society has been looking for a way to cheat deathpretty much since that first guy decided to try his hand at wrestling that big furry thing with the sharp white things poking out either side of its mouth. If there’s one thing we all have some kind of base interest in, it’s staving off the general deceasing process. So if after two thousand years, we still have roughly de nada, is it really that bad a thing to be suggesting some alternative theories?

Well, that still sounds a bit to me like escapism. We tried, we tried some more, we kept trying, and eventually we gave up and became Christians. Nah, I don’t buy it.

But let’s go peel back another layer….

What if there is a God?

But whose side are they on?

Let us suppose, just for a minute, that there is a God (at least, let all the atheists reading this suppose…). Let us also suppose that this God does occasionally interact with the world in supernatural ways (Like, hrm… creating the universe ex nihilo).

 

At what point in the scientific process do we conclude that, here in this one particular instance, this is something that God had a hand in? If we set out with an open mind to decide if God does or does not exist, but then put off any scientific arguments that suggestevidence of the divine in lieu of future scientific endeavours, then it’s like we’re setting out to run across the country, but then using a treadmill to do so. The goal is sound, but the methodology precludes any chance of fairly reaching the goal.

 

The argument as I’ve seen it tends to go like this:

  • God (most likely) does not exist because there is no good evidence to think so.
  • Any good evidence that suggest God does exist should be relegated to future sciences, because God does not exist.

Obviously this line of thinking is more prone to people who might have a predisposition towards atheism. I’ve not seen agnostics, for example, adopt this form of reasoning.

Of course, this is a two edged sword. You follow a train of thought to see where it leads you. But if you want to get anywhere, you have to get off the train at some point, or you’ll just keep going around in circles eventually. But here’s the quandry: Get off the train too early, you’ve arrived at “God of the Gaps”. Never get off the train, and you eventually upgrade your ticket to join the “God of future sciences” club.

The God hypothesis is someplace in the middle. Either way, I hope you’ll see you can’t stay on the train forever.

Your turn: What are some things that you feel should be relegated to future sciences? Are there good philosophical cases that we can safely assert now?

Atheist Bugbears Part II: To know or not to know

Welcome back to the “Atheist Bugbears” series”

We decided to mix things up a bit with the blogs, and run this series back to back, thanks to the interest it’s sparked, and to let you all know that I will be appearing on the “Goodness over God” podcast, to be recorded tomorrow morning!

Ben Wallis and Michael Long have been very gracious in setting up the recording session, and I’m really looking forward to chatting about my most recent blog post with them. I’ll keep you posted when the final recording goes live.

But onto more angry topics…

I once participated in an informal debate on the reasonable faith forum. It was a decent affair, lasting a good fifteen pages or more, where I was discussing with an atheist about the pros and cons of my causational argument (which I should probably post at some point). People were chiming in occasionally, encouraging us to continue the dialogue. We talked about everything, the nature of time, the plausibility of a mind or machine outside of time and space, there was even a quick mention of the nature of quantum physics.

Then somewhere around page twenty,  after I’d defended my argument, and had a decent crack at the objections placed against it, my opponent brought out this corker of a line:

“Sometimes it’s okay not to know…”

Borrowed from "Gone with the Blastwave". An awesome webcomic that should update more often.

Waaaaaaiiidaminute. Seriously? It sounds grand, I’ll admit. But why did it take so long for this realisation to kick in? There was an awful lot of knowing going on, when this dude was laying objection after objection into my argument. But when all the objections are satisfied, and evidence points in an uncomfortable direction, suddenly ignorance is vogue?

Now this isn’t to say that this line is an all out cop out. If this dude had opened with this line, then promptly shut up, I’d not be wanting to rage out with all the fire and fury of a vegetarian PETA activist at Meatfest 2012 (And if this doesn’t exist, it damn well should!). The problem was that he made assertion after assertion, suggested a list of alternatives longer than my… arm, and then suddenly jumped back to suggest that maybe ignorance isn’t so bad.

This becomes a problem when we use this argument to avoid a conclusion that we don’t like. If you are following evidence, to see where it leads you, then stopping midway through the investigation because you don’t like where it’s taking you is an act of intellectual hypocrisy.

Some time ago, some Christians tried plugging the gaps in scientific knowledge with the ever popular phrase “God did it”. It was like they were saying “It’s okay if we can’t explain this phenomenon, God made it happen, and that’s okay. We have a general explanation, and sometimes it’s okay not to know the specifics.”

They were called out by a fellow Christian, and rightly so. This sort of thinking impedes scientific process (And yes, “God of the Gaps” came from a Christian, in case that needs to be made any clearer). But sometimes I fail to see any difference between “God did it, so stop looking” and “It’s okay not to know, so stop looking”.

Of course, there are exceptions, but for now, I’ll hand this over to you.

What do you think about the limits of our thinking? Is it ever okay not to know? When might you stop looking, or thinking, about a particular problem or question?

Atheist Bugbears Part I: Know thyself

Welcome to the first proper instalment of the “Atheist Bugbears” series! I was originally going to start this off with a look at when and why it’s okay not to know, but I thought perhaps we should begin with a more fundamental issue. What, exactly, is an atheist? Do atheists have any obligations, intellectually speaking? Hrmmm….

Well, atheism is the other half of a dichotomy involving belief in God. ‘Theism’, as you may know, means ‘God belief’. ‘Atheism’, on the other hand, means ‘Without God belief’. Simple so far, right?

What this means is, that atheism is any worldview where there is an absence of belief in God. This can include agnosticism, materialism, naturalism, humanism, etc. What this means is, at its simplest form, atheism makes no claims or assertions. Yup, you heard it here first ladies and gents, a theist is acknowledging that atheism makes no claims or assertions!

The interesting factor here is that this means there is essentially no burden of proof on plain ol’ vanilla atheism. This may come as a rude shock to many of the more apologetic theists following ThealityBites, but read on, dear reader, read on.

I’m sure you’ve heard it said on apologetic forums, or in atheist books, or even of good ol’ Facebook debates, “I’m an atheist. I’ve no more need to defend my lack of belief in God than my lack of belief in the tooth fairy, or defend the fact that I don’t collect stamps.” Such lines are usually being proffered by the more vocal atheists in your life, your social circle, or your forum. Or, in the case of books, possibly one of the four horseman (In which case, congratulations on reading material from the other side. I hope you’ll be less disappointed than I was when I read TGD).

Never drop the ball for RAG's team. Never.

Lines like this make Rational Atheist Guy rage.

On the surface, I have to admit that it /seems/ like a decent enough line of thinking. But ultimately, I believe it fails. Let’s talk about why.

Here’s the thing. You’re an atheist, you have a lack of belief in God, fair enough. You also do not believe in the tooth fairy, nor do you collect stamps in your spare time. Also fair enough. I am with you on two out of three of those statements, and according to the mighty Meatloaf, that ain’t bad.

But when I log onto Facebook and check your profile, I don’t see ‘atoothfairy’ under your religious beliefs, and you make no comment about it in your ‘about me’ section. I don’t see anywhere in your profile that you do not collect stamps. Yet many of you have ‘atheist’ under religious beliefs. Hrm. Strange.

Let’s go a step further.

The last three people to tell me that they have no more need to defend atheism than they’re lack of stamp collecting, signed up to an apologetics forum to tell me this fact. Wow, there’s some serious dedication to their lack of belief right there. If only Microsoft could show the same level of dedication to their operating systems before they released them. A fellow I used to debate with on Facebook dedicated two paragraphs on his profile to explaining why he has no respect for people who are religious (except himself, apparently, dude was more religious in his atheism and I am in my theism). Nowhere did he tell me about why stamp collecting is a waste of time, or children who believe in the tooth fairy are deluded. Yet the same dude told me that to him, these three ‘nons’ are on the same level.

So what does all this mean? If you feel the need to sing up to ‘events’ where you put ‘no religion’ on the census, if you sign up to forums and discussion pages to talk about why you don’t believe in God, if you devote time on your online profiles to talk about why you’ve no time for theists, then you’re not just an atheist. You are an atheist of course, but you’re so much more. You’re making some claims about the validity of theism, the intelligence of the theists in the world (many of whom can be stupid, I’m aware), and you’re pretty damn loud and proud about your atheism.

So it’s time to stand tall, and accept your own self identity. You’re not just an atheist, you’re an anti-theist.

PS. Oh, now you have a burden of proof. Better get to thinking…

Series Intro – Atheist Bugbears

As you may have read last week, Paul is beginning a topical blog series. I’ve also had one in the works for a little while, so now seems like a great time to get started.

This series, entitled “Atheist Bugbears” may challenge many of you, and could possibly offend plenty more. Rather than let loose with a month or two of lecturing, only to wonder where all the torches and pitchforks came from (or the champagne and strawberries, depending on which side of the debate you’re sitting on), I figured I might kick off the series with a short intro, to go over a few points that I think you all should keep in mind. So without further ado, let’s run through said points in some semblance of order.

1. This is not a jab at atheism or atheists in particular.

Seriously, if you haven’t worked out yet that I’m not harping on atheism in general, I’d like to welcome you to the site. My crusade is against religious knee jerk reactions, and poor philosophy. And when it comes to pointing out idiots, I like to think of myself as an equal opportunist. If I haven’t made people from all walks of life feel a bit silly at least once a month, I start walking funny. True story!

So don’t be taking this as an atheist bashing. I’m not bashing atheists, just the stupid ones. (what about the stupid Christians? Read on!)

2. Christians do stupid things too, I’m aware of it, it’s just not the subject of this blog series.

Jumping into the comments section, posturing about all the ridiculous things theists say and do will not counter the assertions I’m going to make about atheists. If you really want to say something about theism, or see it posted here on TB, either start your own blog and ask to guest post, or send SlyLizard an email asking him to cover some topics of your own. (Mind you, Sly will probably be under some conditions for putting your ideas into a blog series. What conditions? Read on!)

3. Every specific bugbear I post will already have been submitted for atheist approval and feedback.

Damn straight. I’m not just putting these out here and hoping for the best. All of these beauties have already been quality approved by our very own resident atheist, Mr SlyLizard himself! What does this mean for you the reader? Well, you might want to think twice about jumping in and saying that “No atheist would do that, this is a strawman attack!”. Cos I’ve already had it verified. Personally, I think it’s very important to reconise the pitfalls and problems available to a given worldview, so that you don’t have to fall in them to learn about them.

(But what if you don’t agree with SlyLizard? Read on!)

4. I’m not God, and my word is not law.

While I’m pretty sure Sly has some grandiose ideas about /his/ opinions and commands, I’m pretty happy to see people chiming in on the comments section, and helping to provide context on why I might be wrong. In fact I’d even suggest that, if you feel strongly enough about something, you start a thread about it over on the forum.

The only condition is that you be polite. ThealityBites is about creating a space for reasonable and productive discussion from both sides of the debate.

5. I’m enjoying putting in subheadings, so here’s the conclusion.

Time to be off! See you next time with the first bugbear, as we discuss why it’s not okay not to know, if you wanted to know in the first place (or something like that).

Evangelising in Dungeons and Dragons

I don't know who to give credit to for this image. But whoever you are, I salute you!

Well, I had a crack at Duke Nukem a few days ago, so let’s keep the ball rolling with some good ol’ fashioned Dungeons and Dragons talk! Cos’ nothing gets the liberals and the conservatives of the church talking like a grand night playing D&D.

As you may have read in our Contributors page, I help to run an online D&D gaming project, called Glantri (Website being rebuilt). It’s something I’ve caught a lot of flack for in the years gone past, as there are many in the church who believe that D&D is firmly in enemy territory, and should not be touched by any honest Christian. It seems that when rolling a D20, all results send you to hell.

So today, I thought we might have a bit of a chat about why this game attracts so much heat, and if those accusations stand to reason.

D&D has a strong occult theme

That’s probably the strongest accusation I’ve heard against the game, and the most long standing. But what does ‘occult’ mean? The online Oxford dictionaries give the following:

noun – (the occult) supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena:a secret society to study alchemy and the occult

Hrm. That’s a fairly broad category, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to throw Narnia in there too, along with Middle Earth (Viggo! Nooooo!). Supernatural? That’s God to me. Maybe we’d best stay away from hi….. waaaaaiiittt… I see what I did there.

Okay, that’s a bit of a red herring. So what’s the real issue? Wizards casting spells? Druids and clerics? Possibly, though that means that the Jury is still out on poor old Gandalf.

Of course, Narnia and Middle Earth are allegorical tales, and so they’re usually flown in under the radar. Clearly, it seems that it’s not the magic that’s the problem, it’s how it’s used.

Let’s try something else.

D&D encourages people to be evil

Yeah, no. This is an interesting discussion point, and one of the reasons that I truly love the D&D system. Let me try to give this the extra emphasis it deserves: In a post modern society, D&D holds to an objective morality system. Think about that for a minute. Here is a system where people can sit and talk about the morality of an action or choice, not based on the perspective of the character in question, but from an omniscient third person perspective.

Certainly it is possible to play an evil character, although the question becomes, if thinking out the motives of an evil character is wrong, should Christians be allowed to write novels? Was Lewis flirting with danger when he was speaking through the mouth of Jadis, or what about Screwtape?

Again, it seems to be the application, not the material, that is causing concern.

D&D is a framework for storytelling

Okay, that that last one wasn’t an accusation. It’s time to wrap this baby up, is all.

The Dungeons and Dragons rulebook is similar in purpose to the NCSA01 (National Competency Standards in Architecture). It’s there to bring people together of a similar passion, and get them all playing by the same rules.

Now a builder can pour money into an architect, and that architect can build them a hospital or a brothel. But that doesn’t mean architecture is immoral. Similarly, Dungeons and Dragons is a framework for telling fantasy (usually) stories, where everybody knows what the expectations are. You can tell a story about going from town to town, sacking the treasury, drinking the inns dry, and carrying off all the woman. Similarly, you can tell a story about a group of people forced far from home, working together to stay alive, and putting themselves in harms way again and again to protect the people they care about (That’s Glantri, by the way).

Glantri, if anyone cares, is an old school D&D setting which is staunchly anti theistic in nature. Want to know what the world would look like if Richard Dawkins was Prime Minister, and Sam Harris was President? Stay tuned to find out.

Have you ever played D&D? What have your experiences been? What genuine dangers do you think there are?

Why Indeed? (aka – Motivations, and disagreeing with Jon Acuff)

This is Jon Acuff, this is not me.

For those of you following online Christianity who have not heard of the name “Jon Acuff”, I’d like to welcome you to the internet outside of your own church intranet.

I’m man enough to admit it. Jon Acuff is one of my heroes. He shares a row of pedestals alongside Wes Molebash, Bryan Allain and Tyler Stanton. The mind behind Stuff Christians Like, and Quitter (A book which I devoured in a single sitting. I’ll probably read it again next week too).

So when, this week, when he posted something I saw fit to disagree with, I had to jump at the chance. Why? I’m sure there’s probably a sound medical diagnosis for the mental reasoning, but for me it’s just nice to know that I’m not tacking the fifth Gospel of Jon onto the other four.

Jon wrote a post called “3 letters that will radically improve every blog and tweet you ever write.” this week, and I found myself sitting at my PC thinking quietly when I was done.  Usually, I’m nodding along sagely, thinking something along the lines of “Oh good show, Jon old boy, I’d have put that in my own blog, but I just knew it would be something you’d say eloquently, so I simply /had/ to leave it for you!

(*ahem* yeah, that’s totally what I’d think)

I’m sure we’ve all had moments where we went to do something that seemed nice and altruistic, but ultimately was self serving. Possibly, we’ve stopped long enough to consider our ulterior motives, and thought better of the action. Possibly we blundered along anyway.

Anyhoo. I’m not doubting for a minute Jon’s own ability to self analyse. If he said that his tweet was an ego tweet, then it probably was. But I found myself thinking about when I have the same doubts.

Often, I can see something I can do that will benefit another person. I like to consider myself a fairly giving person, and I love to jump right in when helping others. But every now and then, a little voice creeps into my mind, asking that nasty little question: “Why are you really doing this?

Here’s the flip side to Jon’s caution. When you’re over cautious, you can wind up not doing things that will help other people, on the off chance that your motives are wrong. Let’s face it, any kind or charitable act can ultimately benefit you, even if it’s only to improve your image, or your standing.  But it can still be a kind or charitable act.

So what’s the gee-oh?

Me, I find it helps to separate one motive from the other. Things are a lot less threatening when they’re held out into the cold hard light of day. If you have an ulterior motive for what you want to do, strap that sucker down like an informant in a sixties cop show, and shine a three thousand watt halogen light in its eyes.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Usually the ulterior motive becomes so laughable when it’s looked at directly, it just fades away (Will Jon /really/ be so impressed that I called him on this, that he’ll plug my site on SCL all day long, and I’ll finally be able to retire from the workforce and blog professionally?). It can also squeal (to keep the cop show theme running), and you’ll realise that you really are doing this great thing for your own benefit.

Of course, sometimes it’s hard to tell just what the real motive is. But I don’t think that fear that you’re being selfish should paralyse you. Maybe it’s my incurable optimism (a curious bedfellow for my uncontrollable cynicism, I know), but I really to feel that most people are capable of being honest enough to stuff their selfish motives into a little box somewhere, and just focus on lifting up another person.

See you all on Friday!

(On the flipside. let me give you an example of getting it wrong. Since the launch of Bryan Allains BlogRocket, MotorCop and I have been running neck and neck on the forum for the highest post tally. Being in a different time zone, I get to log on every morning and play catch up. As happens, I get to the end of the new posts list, and find my tally a few posts short. So I go looking for more threads to post in. Then I catch myself. Then I go have breakfast instead. MotorCop is a great contributor (and a killer Words with Friends player), so I’m not going to try adding content to the forum, specifically to get that top poster position again)

Why it’s better to be simple than easy (aka – “Keep it simple stupid!”)

I admit it, I’m simple.

I don’t actually see this as a problem by the way, simple suits me.

Charles Mignus is a genious, apparently

Borrowed from Julietteeeee

Perhaps I should explain some. How often have you been sitting with a friend, listening to them talk out a problem of theirs. You empathise with them, you share their pain.

Then, like the crinkly green muppet-like picture-of-awesomeness Broda you are, you cut straight to the heart of the issue, and offer wise and insightful advice.

Your friend looks at you, slightly puzzled, and offers the following retort:

“It isn’t that simple.”

Now, if you have more self control than I do, you probably don’t then fantasise about ripping said friends arms off and then beating them about the head and stumpy shoulders with the soggy ends. But if you, like me, are a picture of down to earth simplicity (and modesty, I should add), perhaps you’ll empathise with this particular rant.

As a Christian, people have often told me that I’ve taken the easy way. That I’m letting someone else dictate my actions, and so on and so forth. Somehow the simplicity of Christianity seems to scare some people, and they assume that it’s “the easy way”. Allow me a moment to clarify this point.

Christianity is the hardest bloody thing I’ve ever done.

It’s actually the simplicity of the world view that makes it so difficult. There’s very little room for interpretation with things like “love your enemy as yourself” and “if your enemy strikes you on the cheek, present him with the other one in case he feels like giving you matching bruises” (not quite verbatim from the trusty ol’ King James version, but you get the drift).

This is probably the underlying motivation behind the old favourite “it’s just not that simple”. Truth of that matter is, it probably /is/ that simple, but it’s also damned difficult. But let’s be realistic here, what would you rather admit to? A solution being unrealistic, or just too hard to want to attempt?

Enter that most vilified of the dichotomies, ‘Black and white’.

I don’t have an issue admitting I’m a black and white person (although you’ve probably already worked that out by now). Although I certainly admit that this funny thing called ‘grey’ exists. But what is grey?

If we turn back to our kindergarten art lessons, we know that if we combine black and white, the particles of the two paints smoosh next each other to create this thing called grey.

So what, then, is grey? Well, its lots of little bits of black mixed in with lots of little bits of white.

Thankfully, when life presents us with a ‘grey’ patch, separating the two does not require a chemical solvent, a reagent or two, and possibly one of those cool machines that take a combination of liquids, and shakes it like wet dog that just got tricked into jumping into the pool.

What it usually requires is some good hard thinking, some thoughtful boundaries, and some decisive action. Each of these can be difficult by themselves, let alone in quick succession, but it’s certainly doable.

But it’s not complicated.

So the next time you start to think that the answer you’re looking at is probably not that simple, think again honestly. It probably is.

What is something you’d like to simplify in your life? How do you try to complicate it in your mind?