Archive for thoughts

New Year

What value are thoughts spewed into this digital cloud? Because it is a spew that I feel like I’m doing whenever I write here. An unbridled vomiting of non-coherence for the sake of what? To feel paid attention to? Because I feel like what I say matters? Because my voice from the far side of a small town matters? Who knows if any of what anyone writes into this network of interfaces is paid attention to.

Sure, there’s an idle attention paid to it. A kind of dutiful reading of the text by a blog’s adherents, but after that is there any impact? Does it matter? There was a time when I believed very deeply that writing in this space, or any space by anyone, mattered very much. That the increased volume of words created a coordinated volume of ideas that at some point would need to be heeded by somebody. Today I can say that I want to believe that it matters, but I’m not sure it does. That said, certainly nothing like the worth of words can be measured in any kind of satisfactory, quantifiable way. Nor do I believe that it should be weighed in that way. So in a way, my belief is all I have that words matter. So in that spirit, I have posted to this site over the years.

I’ve weighed in on silliness, on things I feel are important, on news that mattered to me at the time, and on personal struggles and tragedy. In short, this blog of mine has had no theme or reason for its existence. That is, nothing other than its purpose to hold thoughts I felt like sharing. To call it a mish-mash is to diminish it in my mind, and yet to call it a journal is to make it out to be more serious than it is.

I’ve always separated the kinds of writing I do. The “serious” writing of research, essays, etc. and then “casual” writing that is this blog, or the occasional fiction or poem that shows up these days. I wonder at this segregation of things. I don’t know that it’s the right thing to do, anymore. The primary reason for me doing so was to ensure that those ideas that I take more seriously as my own stay out of the public record until a proper copyright could be achieved (e.g., they are published “properly”), but then I think that as soon as this text hits the ether, copyright has been achieved. Secondarily, I used to feel that my more serious work deserved a wider audience than this blog reaches. While I still think it does, I also don’t do anything to make the blog any more visible than it is. And so it goes.

So what the hell is my point in all this? I guess it’s a self-reconciliation with this site and my use of it. I have a lot of shit on my mind. Some of it is worth mulling over and taking my time with while the bulk of it is spew-able, as it were. I think all of it might be of interest to somebody, but I don’t really care if it is or not. I write for myself for the most part. If someone out there feels a desire to read what I put down, gets something out of it, then that makes me feel good. If not, then at least this stuff is floating around in my head any more.

See you next time.

Posted in publishing, thoughts, writing | Leave a comment

Social forces game version 1.1

Over the summer, I participated in a class as part of my Masters Program at Johnson State College (JSC) called “Critical Theory.” One of the requirements of the class was for myself and two other students to learn about and then present to the class ideas on Social Forces. As part of the presentation, I created a game that helps people understand the interaction that social forces can have on each other.

I’ve linked the game here: Social Forces Game.

The game is based on research that myself and the two other students performed as part of our presentation. The game is card-based and is currently for between 5 and 13 players. Included in the linked package are two things:

  1. Rules packet that fully describes how to play
  2. Printable cards with descriptions and pictures of 13 social forces

I’m releasing the game under a standard copyright license at this point. I have plans to develop it further. If you do end up downloading it and trying it out, feel free to send any feedback on your experience.

Lastly, this game would never have happened without the class itself, the students who participated in its first presentation, and of course my partners in the presentation*. A huge thanks to all of them.

 

* I won’t publish their names here in public without their permission, but I hope they know who they are.

Posted in education, masters, philosophy, politics, thoughts | Leave a comment

Religion

How do you know if you’re part of a cult, part of a religion, or just out on your own seeking some kind of spiritual knowledge? From my perspective, the answer is easy: if you’re part of a religion, you’re in a cult, and you’re not going to be able to find spiritual truth for yourself. Additionally, I will show how adherence to a cult or religion impairs one’s ability to be a free-thinker.

According to the Encarta dictionary, Cult is defined as the following:

  1. religion: a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader
  2. religious group: a group of people who share religious or spiritual beliefs, especially beliefs regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false

Religion from the same source is defined as the following:

  1. beliefs and worship: people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life
  2. system: an institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine
  3. personal beliefs or values: a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by

Looking at these definitions, then, a cult is an “informal and transient” religious system “regarded by others as misguided … or false” while a religion is an “institutionalized or personal” system of beliefs. A cult is defined from the vantage point of an established religion. They both involve belief systems, personal opinions and divinity (the cult definition references “religious” which implies divinity). So what’s the actual difference between the two?

Or more specifically, in the realm of the Abrahamic god is Judaism, Christianity, or Islam the cult? Or are they all cults and religions? How about with Hindu and Buddhism: same roots, different systems. Which is the cult? Christianity and Mormonism: is that a religion:sect or religion:cult relationship? Logic would say that we would look at which came first, but that would mean that some of the most popular religions on the planet (Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity) are just cults. And even though I’m personally okay with that, it only works for outside observers: adherents to one will see adherents to the other as cultish and vice-versa.

To solve this subjective dichotomy, I propose two things. The first is that we stop seeing a difference between religions and cults since there really isn’t one (today’s cult is tomorrow’s religion). Secondly (though this may have already been done) I give you an objective test to determine whether a personal belief system is — in reality — a cult- or religion-based belief.

  1. Is there a set of rules designed to unite a group of people into a shared system of ritual, belief, and behavior?
  2. Is there a doctrine or official text?
  3. Is there some kind of structure that maintains control over the interpretation and distribution of the doctrine?
  4. Do adherents worship a god or gods according to the doctrine as delivered by the structure?
  5. Are appropriate thoughts, deeds, and speech of the adherents dictated by the doctrine?
  6. Does making choices outside of the delivered doctrine hold consequences — metaphysical or actual — for the adherent?

The above list is organized in a quasi-consequential sense. That is, they each seem to precede the other. A set of rules leads to doctrine leads to structure on to restriction of choices for adherents. I’m sure there’s more research that has been done or could be done on the course religion takes through history, but my sense is that it goes in that order.

Aside from that, I’m confident that if the above points are answered in the positive, a cult/religion is involved. Conversely, if they’re answered in the negative, there is no cult/religion involved. Using the above test, I’ve put together sample lists of belief systems that are religions, and some examples of those that are not.

Religions:

  • Christianity
  • Scientology
  • Asatru
  • Judaism
  • Mormonism
  • Islam
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Wicca

Not Religions:

  • Atheism
  • Nihilism
  • Heathenism
  • any secular philosophical point of view
  • Paganism
  • Deism
  • Witchcraft

The most immediate result of being objective about this is to help us make more plain the division between cult/religion and philosophy. While a cult/religion has structure and a doctrine and a system of punishments, a philosophy does not. The only thing they share is the idea that adherents hold a particular world-view. The adherent to a philosophy, however, is not limited in her freedom to explore other world-views, or to vet her ideas against others with reason and inquiry.

I think there are other results that can be achieved through this objective filter with some more thought. One could construct a rigid argument that the support for religions is restrictive to the development of free-thought. Also, a standardized argument for the removal of religion from state decisions can be made on objective and reasonable grounds.

Whatever happens, it is important to the progression of human thought, metaphysics, and philosophy that we not hamper ourselves with restrictive rules or expectations. If that means establishing all religions as cults or all cults as religions, then so be it. The goal is to free the mind and explore what it means — what it really means — to be human.

Posted in atheism, atheist, heathenism, liberty, philosophy, religion, thoughts | Leave a comment

Ek em heiðinn

After a 20-year journey, I declare myself today a Heathen. It’s time. The tide of religious superiority must change, and those beliefs left trampled and broken by the Christian onslaught must rise from the ashes and reclaim what is theirs. I’ve sworn my oath. Stained the runes. This is a short piece about why.

The forced subjugation of the Northern European Heathen societies — and all pagan societies around the world — by the Christian church has done near irreparable harm to the earth and humanity. In Europe alone, centuries of artistic, societal, and cultural discoveries were destroyed along with the people who made them.

Jaweh — proclaimed a god of “love” by his adherents — has inspired more mass destruction, murder, rape, and pillaging than any other god ever worshiped. He is a god of subjugation, torture, and sorrow. Though claimed to be omniscient and omnipotent, he allows murder in his name. He allows corruption at the highest levels of his church. Misogyny, pedophilia, pestilence and disease. Either he’s not there or doesn’t care.

He is a dictator and his rules are anathema to humanity. His adherents must satisfy themselves with the life they’re given — no matter how humiliating — and wait for death to be redeemed. They are promised heaven; to be with everyone they once loved. His real plan as dictated by scripture is for them to eternally labor in the fields in sight of his palace, but never allowed to enter. All of this in the name of “love”.

The Heathen gods in contrast serve as moral and ethical examples of human behavior.  They ask nothing more of their followers than what is common human courtesy: friendship for those who earn it; hospitality for the weary; defense of the helpless; honor, respect, love for the family; to celebrate when appropriate and mourn when necessary. Negotiation or trade before war. They ask us to live well.

They inspire through their own actions, not with threats or promises of an invisible future. Their own quests for wisdom and lore are guidelines for human existence. They show us to look for life in the face of death. To continually seek knowledge and to share what we find. They teach the perseverance of courage in the face of fear. Their occasional punishments are just and fitting for the transgression.

In the end, what the Heathen gods ask of us is nothing more than to be human. To accept what that means and to discover the rest for ourselves.

Posted in heathenism, humanity, philosophy, runes, thoughts | Leave a comment

Viking helmets

This is a Viking helmet from the 10th century. Please notice that there aren’t any horns. As a heathen of some intelligence and education, I’m required to point that out. The Horns-on-the-Viking-Helmet stories are as un-true as the White Christ dying on a cross to save the world from sins. That is to say: they are a myth. I want to write a little about contemporary backlash because of this myth. For the record, I’m okay with modern, fun- and sport-based representations of horned-Viking helmets. I’ll get to the reasons in a bit.

The northern culture was creative, artistic, scientific. They were adventurous, brave. They had solid family units, lawful proceedings based on community ethics, and they didn’t try to destroy other cultures for no reason. The problem is that all of these positive qualities have been almost entirely wiped out by christian propaganda. The image of the horned helmet has become a symbol of that propaganda because it has persisted for so long.

See, christians don’t tend to like non-christians. This hasn’t changed since the first cultists started carrying around crosses. In order to ensure that their cult took over the world, early christian writers would portray other cultures as barbaric and animalistic as possible: wearing naught but firs and horned helmets, for instance. Such is the case with the norsemen. While there’s no denying that these bearded cats from the north could carry on a hell of a battle, and it’s certainly true that they had no love of the southern christians. And as far as we can tell, the feeling was mutual.

Contemporary heathens — like me — work very hard to change the stereotypical image of norsemen. The horned helmet is one of the easiest targets with which to start, and some heathens get really enthusiastic about eradicating the horns. So enthusiastic, in fact, that they spew angry and violent epithets at NFL fans, Disney World Tourists, and opera singers. This is unfortunate for two reasons. The first is that it makes the rest of us heathens look bad. The second is that this anger-based approach ignores a very important quality pre-christian norsemen had: a grand sense of humor.

Jokes and pranks, baudy stories, games of juvenile skill, riddles, verbal tricks, mental and physical contests all make their way into the sagas. If actual Vikings were to attend a Minnesota Vikings game and witness the fine home fans brandishing their horned hats, swilling their ale, and eating sausages on a cold day, it’s almost a certain fact that they would have laughed heartily and enjoyed themselves. Horned helmets or not.

Secondly, the plastic horned helmet is really popular. Heathens should be taking advantage of that. Use the fascination our society has with the Vikings to ensure that historical truths are discovered. Think of the horns as gateway accouterments. Perhaps later will follow the seax, shield, and Danish axe!

Heathens should offer help to these fun-seeking helmet-wearers. They should ensure that historical truth becomes more readily available and accepted while the christian myths get eradicated. But they should do this with our spiritual ancestors’ sense of humor. There’s no point in getting angry at people having a good time. It’s a waste of energy, and frankly disrespects the culture we’re working so hard to share. And remember: if there’s a celebration where ale is involved, people are having fun, and nobody’s angry, it’s the kind of place the norsemen would have enjoyed ending up. Let’s do their memory a solid and not spoil it.

Posted in heathenism, thoughts, vikings | Leave a comment

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