Role playing games as a genre have a long running history which can be entertaining to follow. Anything which has been around for any meaningful length of time does really.
For people who follow the history of roleplaying games, Gary Gygax is one of the key players having basically invented and popularized the genre. He left the company of his own creation (TSR) in the mid 80s and while he did manage to make further contributions to the industry, his departure from TSR ended his direct work on Dungeons and Dragons.
Joseph Bloch, an active participant in the roleplaying community published a series of articles a few years back on what Gary Gygax's "next edition" of D&D would likely have looked like if he had been around to publish it. The articles themselves are an interesting read for those in the hobby and are based on a lot of notes and comentary by Mr. Gygax.
Sometime after that, work began on a roleplaying game called "Adventures Dark and Deep." The game was an attempt to flesh out the historical reconstruction into an actual functioning game people could play. The whole thing was honestly fascinating to me and I followed it with more than a passing interest.
However now that the project is coming towards completion, it unfortunately it looks like Adventures Dark and Deep serves less as an entertaining and fun histrocial reconstruction, and more of a reminder of what was (and to some extent still is) wrong with the industry.
My beef with the game comes largely from how the player selects what kind of fantasy race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfing, etc.) one is. The game requires the player's character to have physical attributes within certain set ranges in order for the player to "be" a sepcific race.
How this idea is implemented is a little archaic from modern gameplay design but it isn't unheard of. It comes from a line of thinking that goes something like this:
- Randomly determine your strength attribute from a dice roll.
- Dwarves are hardier than human beings so we really shouldn't have Dwarves with a strength below a certain value.
- If your dice roll is too low, you cant be a Dwarf.
Such a thing isn't my prefered way of doing things. However there is nothing wrong about it per se. However Adventures Dark and Deep does two things I hadn't encountered in person before.
The first was that it doesn't just set minimum values for races it also sets maximum values for things. For example, Dwarves in the game have an upper limit on charisma. The upshot of which is that it is actually possible for someone to be too attractive to be a dwarf according to the rules.
The second thing I had never encountered before is that these ranges are different for men and women.
For every kind of character you can build you get a chart explaining the ranges for each kind of physical attribute. These charts always without fail in this text have a column for men and women. The only difference in the ranges between the genders (for vritually every race in the book) is that women have their strength capped at one below the male's top score.
Chart after chart for each kind of Elf (Dark, Grey, High, Wild, Wood) and each kind of Dwarf (Grey, Hill Mountain), etc and etc has an extra collumn on it, with every bit of data identical to the male coutnerpart except the upper limit on strength has been lowered by one. Once one is aware of it, its kind of hard not to be struct by how much of the layout in the first 20-30 pages of the game is dedicated to it.
To add insult to injury these kinds of attributes also cap how far you are allowed to progress in your chosen class or career as an adventurer. This effectively means female characters are not allowed to ever progress as far as their male counterparts of the same race in strength based classes like fighter.
This is frankly unnaceptible to me. I wouldn't want to run this, nor would I want to play it.
To be fair to Joseph Bloch and others who have stitched together this game, it is a historical reconstruction of sorts. I actually have little knowledge of the edition of D&D which would be its immediate evolutionary predecesor (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons First Edition.) It could be out of some sort of sense of accuracy they preserved such historical throwbacks.
However, I will be hard pressed not to be cynical over why these elements to the game where preserved, while they took liberties with their design elsewhere.
One should note that to their credit the art contains numerous examples of women in active rolls outside of usualy fantasy archtypes. It even eschews the "leather goddess of phobos" tropes which so often haunt the genre.
Though it also is worth noting that Joseph Bloch has anounced he is entertaining using a cover with nudity for the next book in the series. A fact which gives me some pause.
Adventures Dark and Deep was honestly a game I wanted to love. I felt it had a lot of potential. The game I am left with sits in front of me as a great dissapointment.
Posted by Wes Frazier on Sun, 3 Mar 2013
Social networking has problems. Too many to enumerate. I really tried to enumerate some of them for this blag entry but I got too exhausted thinking about it. Lets just take it as read for a moment that most of the major social networks suck.
Quite a few people have been realizing this for the past few years. A lot of open source privacy centric services have attempted to provide viable alternatives but by and large they have been rudderless and plagued by problems. The problems break down into a couple of tired old trends:
The first problem is what I would call the XKCD standards problem for lack of a better term. With interoperable systems a common protocol is needed between each peer to facilitate communication. The problem is the everybody working in the space has come up with different standards. Even mild successes like the folks running status.net are in the process of creating new and better protocols and abadoning there old.
The second problem is what is a architecture and deployment problem. Most folks working in this space are focusing on big web applications which by and large emulate the style of twitter/facebook/google+ and host a couple hundred users on each server. These servers are said to federate with each other, but its not really peer to peer. Due to the heft of the servers its largely impractical for individuals and small groups to impliment there own server. Individuals and small groups can of course try to create accounts on someone elses server, but that in a lot of ways is simply moving ones data from one dictator to another (albeit benevolent) dictator. For small clusters of people there still isn't data ownership.
So like any good person looking to further the standards problem, I started mulling over how I would fix things. I used these design principles:
- Try to reuse an existing protocol.
- Make it as close to peer to peer as possible.
- Don't care about a big flashy web presence.
- Encrypt everything you can reasonably encrypt.
- Make it reasonably deployable for individuals.
The idea I resulted from is kind of interesting. I cam up with an outline for a social networking system, where client applications maintain RSS feeds for users, and use public private key encryption is used to control the visibility of specific posts/entries. In theory all the user has to do is install the client on a machine and give it the credentials to access some webspace owned by the user. User's would then trade URLs to see each other's profile and follow one another. No PHP, no databases or anything required.
I am a little curious if anyone likes the idea.
Technical notes on the idea:
Profiles consists of a single directory on a webserver containing:
- One unicode-8 text document called "version.txt"
- One Public GNUPG key called "pubkey.gpg"
- One PNG bitmap avatar called "avatar.large.png"
- One PNG bitmap avatar called "avatar.small.png"
- One SQL Lite database called "follow.db"
- One XML document called "profile.xml"
- One XML document called "feed.rss"
- One html document called "index.html"
This file simply holds the version of the spec the profile conforms to. However all subsequent versions of the spec should aim to be forwards compatible.
This file is the public GNUPG key which corresponds to the user in question. It may or may not be uploaded to a keyserver. However no formal key revocation is available in this draft of the standard. The author deems it as unnecisary.
This image should have a square aspect ratio. Its resolution should be 480x480. Its file size should be under 5mb.
This image should have a square aspect ratio. Its resolution should be 100x100. Its file size should be under 1mb.
This is a GNUPG encrypted sqlite database. It should be encrypted against the matching private key for the account's public key. It is a list of users whom the account follows, pairing usernames to the URL of their profiels.
This document contains multiple profile element blocks. profile blocks have a mandatory "security" attribute. The security attribute can either be "public" or "private." Values between XML elements inside private profiles should be GNUPG encrypted as if each element is a multi-recepient message, using the host user's private key and the target user(s) public key(s). Sub-elements of the profile element block TBD.
This is a RSS 2.0 compliant file, consisting of posts the user has made. Private posts will not use the item element block but instead use a "privateitem" block. Values between XML elements inside privateitem blocks should be GNUPG encrypted as if each element is a multi-recepient message, using the host user's private key and the target user(s) public key(s). RSS readers pointed to feed.xml should skip over the undefined element.
This should be an introductory page explaining to visitors that they have been linked to a Peerless Social profile. It should link them to the profile page again pointing at a URI beggining with "social://" which should be associated with a client application. The feed.xml file should be linked to for those who wish to follow the public posts via RSS reader.
Desktop client will need some method of access to the profile folder. SFTP seems like the likely default, however a plugin system should exist to provide alternative options. It should walk the user through initial public private key creation, and initial profile creation. It should also prompt the user to store the private key somewhere safe external to the machine, but where someone is unlikely to find it.
Reading through other user feeds should be relatively trivial. Subscribed profiles should be listed in follow.db. Their resspective feed.xml files should be easily parsable. Private posts of which they have access to should be easily decrypted.
Posts should be parsed by the client for the existence of @USERNAME text. These should be presented as hyperlinks to the corresponding profiles in feed.db. If no corresponding profile exists they should be treated as locationless hyperlinks with a balloon tip noting that this corresponds to a profile that the user does not currently follow.
By default specific mentiones of the user in the @USERNAME format should trigger a standard desktop notification event.
Clients will make new posts by logging directly into the webspace holding the profile and adding a new entry to the user's own feed.xml. Old entries will be deleted on a fifo basis.
The desktop client should support key management. Including but not limited to transfering the private key to mobile clients after authenticating (via QR code.)
Should not be expected to setup the profile or generate initial keys. The mobile client should direct users to setup their initial account with the desktop client. Reading and posting should be identical.
Mobile client should support uploading the private key to a desktop in the event the desktop private key is lost. Possibly through zerconf tyle discovery and a mozilla-bookmarks style pin typed from one client into the other.
Mobile client should support uploading the private key to another movile phone in the event the user is switching phones. Possibly through QR code.
- RSS backwards compatiability allows for interoperation with existing RSS technologies. OStatus users will be able to follow users of this system and vice versa. This system will also allow for the public posts of twitter users to be followed (although not vice versa.)
- Relying on the client to be active in managing/maintaining/posting/reading allows for little server overhead.
- No web app.
- No centralized directory of users. (Though this never was a problem for email.)
- Posting private posts targetting vast quantities of users (100+) could be slow, due to the time needed to fetch each key and encrypt.
- Client has high overhead. I cannot imagine a lot of alternate clients popping up quickly.
Posted by Wes Frazier on Tue, 5 Feb 2013
Christmas and I are estranged friends I think. There was a time, when I would say Christmas was my favorite holiday. However that day has long since past. I broke with Christianity a long time ago, my extended families Christmas traditions have been limping along for years after my Grandmother's passing and due to extremely private and non-holiday-spirit reasons I will not be participating in them this year. My own private rituals for the holidays remain, albeit some of them transmuted over the years. I will still celebrate Christmas with my immediate family and see and engage in celebratory things with friends over the holidays and I will be brining in food to the office holiday feast in a few days.
Though in the past year or two, I think I have been really groping for something to anchor or cohere the season for me. In a lot of ways something ethereal about the holiday's core has been lost for me and Ive been slowly trying to cobble together my own activities and traditions into a new set of rituals for myself.
I really like Christmas on paper. Not really the religious identity known as Christmas, but the whole Yuletide season appeals to me, along with a designated peaceful gift giving day smack in the middle of it. The idea that culturally we have designated a time of the year to try our asses off to be peaceful, nice and empathetic to our fellow man (with varying degrees of success) is an idea I whole heartedly endorse. On top of that having a day smack in the middle of it, where this good will climaxes into a party and we give each other presents is just freaking fantastic.
However, I am increasingly told that empathy, good will toward our fellow man and altruistic gift giving are not the reason for the season at all. In fact today as I stood in my local dollar store, trying to pick out some decorations that would align with my growing sense of what the season should feel like to me, I was somewhat startled by a tall, balding square like man whose body language seemed unhinged and angry. He loudly proclaimed that Jesus was the reason for the season, he also wanted to wish me a merry CHRISTmas, inquired as to know what Church I went to and then stuck out his hand for a handshake.
There was a lot of things about this I didn't like. Though a lot of it was tied up in the handshake.
I don't like the fact that there is NO culturally acceptable way of saying "No, I don't feel like shaking your hand." without offending someone. You can not opt out of the handshake without offending someone. I also project a pretty wide personal space, and I react pretty uneasily to anyone violating it suddenly. The idea of physically touching someone I don't know or like, is always startling and a little off putting to me, especially if its not part of a formal introduction.
I also don't like the whole internal male cultural attitude of reading things into the variables which go into a handshake. Id much rather wave at someone or (if I know them well) hug them and bypass all that claptrap.
On top of this the man was clearly engaging in what he perceived to be as some sort of deliberate crusade to protect his notion that Jesus should be foremost in people's minds during the season and not something else. Why he chose my local Dollar Tree is beyond me, though I surmised this might be a retail location less likely to kick him out of the store immediately compared to others.
Then there was the fact that he felt like carpet bombing this micro conversation with the Christian-normative idea that I was or ought to be a church goer.
I didn't have any desire to affirm his Merry Christmas, not because I don't use the term Christmas (I do use it) but because I felt like using that language would have been interpreted as some sort of ascent to his private crusade. Saying "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" almost certainly would have started a scene if I was reading this man's body language correctly and I do not think I could extradite myself from the conversation quickly if I answered the Church question honestly.
So, I shook his hand and said "Alright." and then turned and walked down the toy isle as if I was looking for something there.
It took me several minutes to even remember why I was in the store after that.
This brief skirmish over the December dilemma did however leave me a bit retrospective on the whole "Jesus is the reason for the season" thing.
I think for a lot of folks the crusade to keep the spirit of the season alive has caused it to be more a war of iconography than it is a war of meaning. Christianity marks Christmas day as the birthday of Christ, their savior. The imagery of that day is composed of the manger, Mary, Joseph the baby, the star and the wise men. The MEANING behind the imagery has always been the delivery of a gift to humanity, given out of love and compassion in and otherwise cruel world.
While I think it rightfully important to believers to think about Jesus during the season. I think moralizing it into just terms of "Jesus!" without focusing on the nature of universal empathy and compassion at center of the seasons misses the mark in a way almost more deceptive than current consumer driven commercial Christmas ventures could even venture.
I mean, am I wrong in saying compassion, empathy and good will are not the heart and soul within this time of the year for most traditions, Christianity included?
Can't we go back to making it about that?
Anyway, Just the opinion of someone trying to figure out what it means, for themselves.
Posted by Wes Frazier on Fri, 14 Dec 2012
I had a lot of other scribblings on religion when I wrote the "Why Taoism?" post that never really became coherent, but are interesting in and of themselves.
I do wonder where religion is heading to a certain degree. Or to be more specific my brain sometimes rolls around the notions of where it ought to be heading versus where it is in fact heading.
Organized churches in my corner of America no longer seem to be driven by a spiritual nature, or a drive to evoke spiritual experiences in their congregations. (Assuming of course they genuinely were at one time.)
Let me rephrase this in a different way.
Human being (with the prerequisite temporal lobe sensitivity) generally more or less have the capacity to trigger an event in their brain (or have it triggered) to feel a kind of spiritual moment or awareness. Whether this is entirely internal to the brain or not, is a matter for heated debate and outside the realm of what I am trying to get at.
Different religions provide a general set of tools for accessing this portion of your brain. Neurotheology more or less say that in general every religion's tools are generally equally effective.
However my suspicion is the average christian in the pew doesn't get most of that. Western religion during my life has never seemed focused on evoking actual spiritual thoughts. The focus has always been on beliefs.
These beliefs are entangled in the metaphysical, political and ethical realms. However they largely speak more to building an identity as a distinct group of people than they do tapping into the spiritual portions of the brain.
And when you stop and think about it isn't that a weird thing for a church or religion to be lacking?
I do not doubt that some Christians do indeed get this spiritual center tapped. Through prayer or other phenomena. However there seems to be a lack of focus by many churches on this essential bit. The sacraments themselves do not really require any mental introspection beyond confession. Salvation in Christianity is more or less predicated on believing the correct beliefs and self recognition of a sinful nature. None of which has any necessary overlap with spiritual insight.
One of the reasons I think this split between identity building and spirituality in religion is kind of a real phenomena is the language people use when they discuss their own churches. Especially disagreements they may have with the stance of their own church. Their reasons for staying with a church are inevitably focused on the social and identity aspects of the church itself, implying the spiritual qualities evoked by a particular church are not a primary concern.
This is not to say churches shouldn't be concerned with building identity and having a consistent body of beliefs. However it seems strange to have work so hard in one area while neglecting the other.
I think exclusivistic christianity is dumb, especially in context of the protestant reformation.
One of the big drives in protestant reformation which echo to this day is that people's relationship with the god of abraham is a personal one. You don't need any intermediary telling you what god thinks, you are free to deduce this yourself.
The overriding drive in exclusivistic religions like most forms of christianity is: We have a completely defined path of salvation that our particular church has agreed on. If you don't agree to it, your doing it wrong and are going to hell.
These are in tension, no?
Heaven never really appealed to me, but I wish I could make my brain believe in reincarnation sometimes. That however doesn't really stick well to my gray matter either. It is just more aesthetically pleasing.
I was once told Islam has the notion of a core or root sin and with Islam it is obsession. The idea is that obsession distances yourself from god. I really became fascinated with this idea of a root sin back when I was a believer. However obsession was not a good fit. I personally believed it to be xenophobia. Partially because I encountered all of this near the beginning of my love affair with Martin Buber. Ive chunked sin from my belief system a long time ago. However I held onto this idea that xenophobia is the root of almost all evil (in so far as evil is a thing).
Harvey Milk once said “I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let that world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine.”
Similarly I have often thought if each and every straight ally left their church in protest, formal religious opposition to homosexuality would end. Although religious straight allies are never fond of this idea. I have often thought it was more because of the aforementioned identity issue and less because of their spiritual health.
I have often thought the same thing about birth control and the catholic church.
And abortion with many protestant churches.
I am intensely tired of religion as being painted as something which is inherently destructive.
I am intensely tired of Christianity refusing to adapt to modernity or even simply civil society.
I really would like a new reformation or a new religious movement in the west. Not in the style of the great awakening (which seems so popular a model for imitation) but one based on inclusive religious thought. I am of the opinion that the logical way forward in most human endeavors when considering our future is to unite disparate groups of people, not to separate them.
However inclusive religion seems to require a tolerance of religious diversity, a willingness to embrace doubt and consider new ideas. These seem unpopular notions, even by people who claim to champion them. If inclusive religion is almost mandated by the post protestant reformation notion of a personal relationship with god, why then is it such a strange concept to so many Christians?
I still like and respect many (but not all) of the themes and teachings in the bible. I just don't think many of the events happened.
I don't understand why original sin isn't viewed as inherently depressing and a neurosis inducing thing to for children to internalize.
I sometimes wonder what goes through the heads of my church attending friends and acquaintances, when they regularly go to a church which denounces my existence but they seem fine with me in day to day life.
I think its weird that I walk around calling myself a Taoist and people seem to think that its not a religion. I don't think people have a clearly defined idea of what makes something a religion. Which is odd considering so many people proudly have one.
Posted by Wes Frazier on Sat, 18 Aug 2012
I have been thinking about religion lately, about its nature, its future, my religious identity and my childhood and how I ended up being a Taoist, so I thought I would pin some of the thoughts down.
When I think about my childhood, I kind of marvel at it. I was very obsessive. Emotionally I was very much stretched thin. My brain was wired for panic or depression much of the time. My self esteem was continually broken when I was a child, it probably deserves its own writeup to a much smaller audience. But it can be taken as read that I perceived myself as broken and worthless. I had been caught on more than one accasion purposely inflicting pain on myself because I decided I ought to be punished for making a mistake. I also carefully self audited my behavior based on studies of others to try and determine the exact right things to do to minimize any likely hood of angering others. Failing to do so would cause me to fall apart.
Original sin made so much sense to me, when I was young. I assumed I was somehow broken much of the time.
The words of the confessional which opened every service in our church are on permanent instant recall in my brain. The words were self evident and had power for me as a child.
Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.
However I understood the bargain entailed by original sin and forgiveness very well. Even before I was instructed in its details during catechism I knew one had to be truly repentant in order to receive forgiveness.
Was I? What if I didn't realize I was sinning? How could I be repentant then?
I had nightmares about it waking daydreams on the topic which my imagination painted so vividly I would spontaneously burst into tears.
I loved science and couldn't give it up. I knew about the big bang and evolution. But what if they were wrong? thinking they were right was not a good enough excuse not to be sorry of those sins.
It is also important to note that my whole religious experience when I was young wasn't painful. Parts of it were indeed life affirming. In fact there often were neurons firing giving me genuinely spiritual sensations when I was deep in prayer or focused on the candle light in church while holding a single thought in my brain over and over.
Fun fact: Around this time my sister, mother and I came up with a variation of the BINGO song based on Enoch (Noah's Great-Grandfather) It went something like this.
Their was a man who walked with God
And Enoch was his name-o
And Enoch was his name-o
Eventually I solved my problem of sin and worry by transmuting it. I studied. I read everything I could on religion on the bible, on evolution on sin and salvation. I wanted to, needed to study it. At first to understand the boundaries of my problem and to solve it. Eventually I grew to enjoy it. I loved the satisfying click in my brain as I could conceive the metaphysical cogs clicking into place. I also became quite good at it for my age. I impressed all my pastors as I glided through catechism. I engaged in fairly complex logical debate over the meaning of passages with my pastor and earned quite a good degree of respect from the adults in the Church. I was clever and an upstanding citizen and obviously a believer. Many people would stroke their birds and talk about sending me to Seminary and I thought of it as a good thing.
Of course around then I figured out I was gay.
Which quickly put me back in square one.
The mental gymnastics I went through were all over the map. They too deserve their own small writeup at some point. However the crux of the problem was sickeningly familiar. There was some animal portion of me which wasn't sorry for the urges I felt. I liked looking at men. Therefore I wasn't truly repentant.
There wasn't an easy way out for me. Not biblically really.
Lutheran Misouri Synod, the church in which I was raised believed in "Sola Scriptura." The short and sweet version of which is that for Lutherans everything in one's beliefs must derive directly from the bible or via direct deductive reasoning from premises in the bible. Nothing else counts. To prevent you from coming to any alternate conclusions they teach you how to interpret the text and arm you with a very complete very well recommended study bible, with translation notes which reinforce the exact same positions of my denomination. I would learn later that these translation notes and many of the ways I were taught to think about biblical text, were largely inaccurate.
However it did a remarkably good job at preventing me from righting my homosexuality with my lutheran faith.
Sometime before I graduated high school I read something which brought it all to a snapping point. It was an article on the Lutheran Missouri Synod church and how Synod had come together to discuss the topic of homosexuality. It however, failed to come to a decesion so the old interpretation of the text would continue to remain canonical until they met again in four to six years.
I didn't read this as a procedural dilemma, a political dispute or any such claptrap. In my depressed state I interpreted it as the church decreeing that the status of the immortal souls of it's gay followers were not worth deciding on, and that they should be left to anguish in some emotional purgatory because they didn't want to deal with the issue.
My faith cracked a bit. At some point after that I decided that science (biology/psychology) was right, homosexuality was natural and therefore no sin. The bible was wrong.
Its important to note I didn't think the bible was blatantly wrong about creation. I had constructed an elaborate series of rationals as to why the framers of the bible and the holy spirit chose to convey the creation myth in lieu of evolution and the big bang.
However when it came to sexuality I had concluded the bible was simply false. Like a dangling thread on a sweater I began to pull on it. There were lots of things about the bible I didn't like which I felt were in tension with the core teaching's of Christ.
Women shouldn't be pastors? Why would God be sexist? That doesn't seem to square with God's nature.
Good non-believers going to hell? That isn't really in line with Christ's love is it?
I learned about the tension between omnibenevolence and omnipotence, omniscience and free will. I began sorting out my own feelings on how they must logically cash out.
In a very real sense I started hammering out my own faith. It was still a Christian one at that time. Around then I cam across some pop=philosophy book on Taoism at a yard sale. I had picked it up on a whim, not knowing virtually anything about eastern religions at the time. The book introduced the essential concepts of Tao and Wu Wei. I had an incredible amount of respect for the ideas and the simplicity the book. I read it multiple times, picked up the usual Tao of Pooh sort of fair and then put it all away.
Because I was a theist. I was sure I was a theist.
Still I kept the book and read through it more than a few times, going back to it when the mood struck me. It was one of the handful of books I made sure to bring with me to college. However the book dissapeared my first week. Loaned away to a person who very quickly vanished.
I was very proud about my faith. Not in the sense that I desired to brandish it around all the time. However it felt like a trophy, my faith has survived many challenges and I had put much thought and work into it. I thought it and I were better for it, and I was right, in part.
I became a big fan of Shelby Spong's theology for a bit in college. I think I read "Christianity Must Change or Die" several times. I wrestled with the biblical text more and more. I started a life long fascination with attempts to reform or rewrite the Christian Bible, such as the Jefferson Bible. I became very certain that Christianity needed some sort of second reformation and that most believers simply were not inquisitive enough or able to self audit their beliefs well enough to really feel the need. So I continued pulling threads, altering my theology this way or that for better consistency. I found I broke with most Christians on most things. I started to feel a bit spiritually alone. I could exercise my theological muscles in religion classes, however I recognized I was set irreconcilably apart from virtually every Christian I knew.
Then one day, after I had pulled many threads and reworked much of my beliefs. I realized I wasn't a theist. I had reduced my concept of divinity down to a omnibenevolent clockmaker, and I was walking around the mall mulling deep thoughts in my head as I am ought to do. I remember at some point in the conversation with myself going "Oh, well god must not be self aware then." I stopped and looked around, almost ashamed the thought could be heard aloud. I repeated it to myself feeling it roll around my brain, the ring of truth emerging as if my skull were a singing bowl.
The cororalary thought came swiftly. I realized this thing I had been debating and refining my definition of simply disappeared under it's own weight. Nothing with the qualities I had defined fit anyone's notion of what god was. There was still a religious dimension and undertones to many of my thoughts and ideas but no room for a deity anymore. I still craved ritual and prayer my brain desired/needed a psychological outlet for those functions by virtue of itself, biology or childhood I do not know.
However I shopped. I shopped for a new religion. My requirements for a new religion were pretty straight forward:
- It should match my existing beliefs well, no deity, etc.
- It should not deny or seek to diminish the importance of the present physical world.
- No original sin or anything else like it.
- Idealy it should be compatible with my love of science and reason.
- A minimum of moralizing.
- It shouldn't condemn homosexuality.
During my religion shopping experience I came across a number of religions which very much fascinated me. Oomoto and Bahai both figured prominently in my memories of the time. Bahai's treatment of homosexuality and abrahamic-esque imagery were turn offs, as was Oomoto's bizarrely firm moralizing on stem cell research.
Then at some point I came back around to philisophical Taoism. It dropped neatly into the hole in my mind left behind by my former faith. Not only did it fit all of my requirements but it fit well.
I've considered myself a Taoist of some kind, ever since.
Posted by Wes Frazier on Tue, 24 Jul 2012