Saturday, December 29, 2007

What Is Happiness?

Over the last few months I've been thinking a lot about happiness. What is happiness? Am I happy? Might I be happy but not know it? Might it be that I am not happy; rather I just think I am? This is one of the things I've been thinking about recently which I thought I would blog about. This issue seems to come to me in two parts:

First, this is something that I've been prompted to think about on and off all of my life up until now, simply because I am an atheist. Let me explain; over the years (yet recently, much more often), I've encountered people who, upon learning that I am a non-believer, feel sorry for me. Usually these are not moderate believers but very dedicated Christians. They must get a tremendous amount of happiness out of their faith (...or do they?), because they seem to think that because I have no faith, I must be sad; the atheist doesn't see the world in colour, only shades of gray (apparently).

To me this is very telling about how misunderstood atheism (and happiness) is.
I do not see a dull, gray world. I see a cosmos so huge and so fascinating, that when I go outside and look up at the stars at night, I feel content just to drop to the ground and stare up in wondrous contemplation over the fact that I am a part of this mystery, most grand.

Maybe this is simply a matter of personal incredulity, or maybe I really do understand the Christian worldview; I could not imagine being happy as a Christian, or as a member of any other religion for that matter (I simply use Christianity because that's what I'm most familiar with). How is it possible? How can someone really claim to be happy to believe in something that they not only don't understand, but categorically cannot understand? How can someone be happy by believing in a God who made a blood sacrifice of his own son; who lets his flock stray from the true path so easily (out of about six billion humans, only around one sixth of them are Christians...and how many of them are actually practicing Christians who've been 'born again'?); who allows war, poverty and disease to run rampant on his own creation (actually, those things are his own creation too!); and who, being God and all, could simply appear and put the whole issue to rest, yet does not?

I accept that there are things that I cannot understand and never will understand. But the happiness I receive comes not from having faith in something that is categorically impossible to understand, but in trying to understand that which is not immediately apparent; that which is difficult to understand yet can still be discovered, if not by me or humans today then by humans in the future. Figuring things out is satisfying and thus makes me happy. But a religious person lives with the belief that the are not only things which aren't figured out, but that there are things which will never be figured out. How unsatisfying!

Things brings me to the second part of the happiness question. What if I'm wrong about what it means to be happy? Being an atheist leaves me satisfied and full of wonder and content. Does this constitute happiness? A few months ago I would have said yes, but now I'm not sure. Let me explain what I think happiness is.

If you asked me a few months ago what happiness for me is, I might have mentioned playing guitar, being with my friends or my family, etc. Sure, these are things that make me happy, but what about happiness itself? What is it? This is where the Christian and I seem at first glance to be in the same boat; we can both name things that make us happy (faith/wonder, reading the Bible/reading a Carl Sagan book), but do we know what happiness itself is?

I've been thinking about this particular part of the happiness question only recently, after I listened to the philosopher Robert C. Solomon being interviewed on Philosophy Talk Radio. You can listen to the show here.
Although I am still not quite certain, I am starting to come to a new and concise definition of happiness. In fact, this is the only real definition of happiness I've ever had, since as I wrote before, I've only ever been able to describe what makes me happy, not happiness itself.

Going beyond the neurological aspect of happiness, beyond the chemicals in my brain that tell me when I'm happy, I now have a metaphysical sense of happiness (or at least, I'm starting to get one). I now think that happiness comes from fulfillment; happiness, you might say, is fulfillment. I set myself a task or a goal, it could be anything really, and when I have satisfied myself in completing it I am fulfilled, and thus happy.

So, perhaps the Christian and I are not in the same boat after all. I am happy because, as I just wrote, "I feel content just to drop to the ground and stare up in wondrous contemplation" at the cosmos; thus, I am happy. If happiness amounts to satisfaction and fulfillment, could a Christian ever be happy in the sense that I'm describing? This, I think, would be an interesting topic to bring up the next time a Christian makes the mistake of assuming that I'm unhappy simply because I'm an atheist.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I Think I'm In Love/My Musicality

The title says it all.

I want to run away with Leslie Feist and make her my Indie-Rock princess [Ms. Feist, if you are reading this, don't worry. I'm not a stalker or anything.]

All joking aside, it's refreshing to find an artist such as Feist, who is talented and fun to listen to. I don't know if it's my natural aversion towards CD stores (I seem to be buying all my music online since I bought an iPod), or the music industry itself, but I seem to have a heck of a time trying to find good musicians who not only make me want to tap my feet along with their catchy tunes, but who also inspire me to go pick up my guitar and play a little ditty of my own.

You see, I used to practice the guitar quite often. I began playing when I was about eight years old, but I did not stay in lessons for long. I was impatient with myself, and my guitar teacher had the most awful looking fingernails. He told me that, "If you play the guitar, you're fingers will look like this as well."
That was enough to scare me away from the guitar for about six years.

Then, when I was about thirteen or fourteen, I began to play again, this time with instruction from a most excellent teacher who had very well kept fingernails. I soon began to participate in the Evolutionary Rock Band, and during my time with them, I was practicing for around four hours a day for about three years. I like to think that I played reasonably at this point in my life.

However when high school came to an end, and work, then college, then finally university began, I lost the drive to keep playing. I barely practiced; I was lucky if I played four hours a month, let alone four hours a day. And so it has been since then...except for when I listen to artists like Feist. They just have that certain something that makes me want to pick up my guitar and play something for hours on end. Without them I wouldn't still be playing at all.

Besides Feist, I also enjoy the following artists; Aerosmith, Audioslave, Colin James, Dream Theater, Erik Mongrain, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Satriani, John Coltrane, John Mayer, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Niccolo Paganini, Peter Gabriel, REM, Rush, Sloan, Steve Vai, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Dave Matthews Band, The Darkness, The Tea Party, The Tragically Hip...among others.

Monday, December 17, 2007

YouTube Daze

It is refreshing to be able to talk about something different on YouTube every now and then. Sometimes, after watching something immature or listening to a couple of trolls have it out, I contemplate leaving. But sometimes the chance to talk about something meaningful comes along, and it makes me want to stay again.

Today I had a chance to talk about Lucid Dreaming, which is something that I've been doing since I was 14 but don't really talk about much. My vlogging adventures today got me thinking that, perhaps, it would be worth talking about a bit more often:

Lucid dreaming is something which I tend to find lumped together with all sorts of new age woo-hoo. Why? I don't really know...but that's a reason I should talk about it more isn't it? After all, I don't need to believe in woo-hoo to enjoy the fascination of consciousness during sleep. With that in mind, I shall devote a little space on my YouTube channel to this interesting and exciting state of consciousness.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Where do shooting stars come from?

Think of this the next time you see a beautiful shooting star streaking across a clear night sky.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More Shit-Headery from Kent Hovind's Minions

The Rational Response Squad has had it's youtube account suspended. This is likely over what was said in this video (re-uploaded onto my own channel):

It's important not to try to speculate too much.
In the mean time you can catch them on Revver, or, on their homepage. Let's lend them the support they deserve!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Shit-Headery of Kent Hovind's Minions

Interesting developments concerning some of my favorite YouTubers.

A number or prominent secular vloggers have had false DMCA claims filed against them because of their use of Christian Science Evangelism's video material. For those who aren't in the know, CSE is the creationist business formerly run by Kent Hovind, who is currently serving jail time for evading over $800,000 in taxes, and who thinks man and dinosaur lived harmoniously on the Ark (because in those days, T-Rex wasn't really extinct...and he was vegetarian).

People upload material which is under copyright to youtube all the time, and it isn't a problem until the organization/individual who owns the material in question notices, in which case youtube simply removes the material. But what if that organization/individual's material isn't under copyright? What if said organization/individual actively encourages the spread of their un-copyrighted material? Anybody should be able to use that material for whatever purposes they choose, right?

Well, not according to CSE and the Hovind Family - in case you didn't know, Kent Hovind actively encourages the spread of his un-copyrighted material (which pretty much amounts to all of his creationist propaganda works; books, videos, pamphlets, etc). They have been selectively filing DMCA claims whenever they find their material being used by a critic of creationism (be they atheists or Christians). Many of my fellow secular youtubers have had videos pulled, and one prominent member even had his account closed:

I, along with these guys, encourage reasonable people not to take this deplorable tactic lying down. I also encourage everyone who cares, even just a little bit, to follow this situation closely. This sort of thing is not uncommon, which disappoints me; people who claim to have a higher standard of morality than the rest of us infidels are often found dispensing low blows like this. Claiming a copyright violation if an atheist uses their material even though the material isn't copyrighted, but allowing young earth creationists to use all the material they want, is just one of the many examples of this type of things which saddens me...these people claim to be enlightened, after all.

Let's all keep an eye on this situation, shall we?

Monday, September 10, 2007


One of my new professors (my history professor to be specific) recommended that students keep a journal or logbook or their thoughts regarding the material we cover in class. What better use for this blog?

I'll still blog about naturalism, but now I'll have a plethora of other things to talk about as well...once I really get into the meat & potatoes of my new courses that is.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I have this blog but I don't use it

Ugh, it's hard to write any decent blog entries during the summertime. Luckily I will be starting University soon (as a Philosophy and History major...yep...two majors), so I'm sure I will have lots to write about.

I was just watching this guy's videos. You should do so as well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Finally a Title

I think I've decided on a title. Simply, "Beyond Belief."
It's short, simple, and conveys what I want it to.

Now that that's out of the way I can get started on the real meat and potatoes!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Uncertainty Principle

Here is a new name for my blog, "The Uncertainty Principle."

I'm not sure that I'll stick with this name but I'll keep it for now, if only because I am uncertain as to whether or not to keep it, and the very title itself seems to reflect that.

Those of you who know me will know that although I can get a bit passionate when it comes to debating my ideas, I will still admit when I'm uncertain or unknowledgeable (or even wrong!) about something. I think that my new title reflects this also, as does one of my favorite quotes from Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain), which I will share with all of you;

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said, 'I don't know.'"

So now that I have decided on a title (for now), I will work on getting some real content up and online. I have a few ideas, so I will try to get them out of my head and onto the web sometime soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

This Blog Needs a Better Name

I need a name for my new blog, something catchy and smart-sounding. Something that carries the connotation I mean to convey within my content.

Actually, I like the sound of "Josh's Blog," and I think it would make a nice title if this were intended as a journal or a diary, but the point of this blog is to write about the same sorts of things I wrote about in my previous blog, except to write them better. For those who aren't 'in the know,' my previous blog was mostly dedicated to my skeptical worldview. I dealt with creationism, religion, and conspiracy theories mostly, so I would like to pick a name which reflects that sort of thing...It also has to sound cool.

I'll probably wait until the right name comes to me rather than trying to force inspiration, but if there is anyone out there with a suggestion, I welcome your input.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Rather New Blog

Alas, all good things (and some bad things) must come to an end. It is in this spirit that I am ending the operations of my former blog (because I feel it was somewhat terrible rather than good), and beginning this new one.

So, a hardy welcome goes out to anyone who happens to stumble upon my these new efforts of mine at blogging. I hope to provide more thoughtful, more grammatically correct and most importantly, more interesting things to read this time around.