1. Atheism 2.0 and The Common Community

    Christianity, and other collective mythologies founded on faith in a mystical deity are flawed. (<- Early contender for the most obvious sentence of 2012 award) The highest form of faith is believing in something that can ultimately be disproved. The more impossible the belief, the stronger the required faith. This is irrational and certainly not a virtue. For the purposes of this screed Faith = faith in a god. 

    Faith is not a virtue - simply having it doesn’t make one a better person. For many, their morality is steered by faith and religious doctrine, but in no way is faith a prerequisite to moral living. Faith, however, does make one more hopeful. Faith spurs a hope that something bigger and smarter and better is in control or has the power to change our present or future reality. Faith may lead to hope that we’ll all somehow get what we deserve after death. In that hope, people find comfort, but it is not truth. Faith enables hope (good) but it also requires us to believe that which may or may not be true (bad). The Apostle Paul affirms this in Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

    Hope can be a positive life force when we strive towards the improbable (e.g. beating illness, trying hard at anything worthwhile, etc…), and it can show itself in many forms, but it is certainly not exclusive to faith (in god) or spiritualism.  

    For the past several years, I’ve been struggling with this question of why I still attend church and participate in my religious community despite my apostasy. I don’t believe in the Christian teaching of God or soteriology. And while I’m open to the possibility of anything and everything existing in the unseen realms of energy and death, I certainly don’t have much belief in a heaven or a hell or reincarnation or all of us returning to planet Melmac. Upon death, we may become worm food or wormholes, I really have no idea.

    But the church is what I know and what I love. It’s where I’ve met some of the best people in the world (and some of the worst). It’s where I’m comfortable and accepted. It’s a place that makes me feel needed and useful. It’s somewhere I can ponder bigger things in life and establish deep, meaningful relationships with others. These are the reasons that keep me coming back, despite hearing things about “relationships with Jesus” and how “God is in control” that make me want to claw my eyes out. 

    So, imagine if churches, in their current structure, were to acknowledge that faith was flawed and our own mythologies were no more “truthful” than anything else. How do things change? What does a church look like without the doctrines of our collective mythology? What if we kept all the undeniably positive aspects of religion and threw out the mysticism? Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community like that? 

    The 5 C’s: Things I love about the church now.

    Constancy: knowing who will be there, the routine and order of service, steady location, consistency of environment and atmosphere, knowing what I’m getting into
    Comfort: comfortable surroundings, old friends, welcoming, non-judgmental environment where I can be and express myself, a place to be away from burdens of the workweek - a place to unplug
    Connection: seeing familiar friends, meeting new ones, a perfect level of interaction for “acquaintances,” eating together, familial support, collective joy/grief, a place where it’s not weird (rather encouraged) to make a “deeper” connection with people - generally unavailable in the workplace, a safe place to bring children and meet like-minded parents, sharing/venting concerns and helping find solutions for them, having the sense of a shared, collective purpose/cause 
    Creativity: opportunity to hear and play live music, learning through lectures/talks/stories/sermons, hearing new ideas and reaffirming old ones, high-tech showmanship (sound systems, computers, projectors, etc…), artistic expression/interpretation of shared values/beliefs, challenging intellectual discourse, 
    Collaboration: working on projects as a group to tackle a problem or organize an event for the common good, having an elected, hierarchical leadership structure that leverages individual talents/passions, sports/games/activities bonding through conflict/adversity

    If we were to build a formal community that cultivated the 5 C’s I’d be all in. I already am, we just have that whole “Jesus is God” thing that irritates me. A community like this would not be immune to all the negative characteristics of any group: discrimination, gossip, conflict, etc…, but with the right alchemy and leadership it could evolve into a community that seeks the common good. I wouldn’t call it a church either, I’d call it the Common Community. Imagine attending a TED conference every Saturday. TED is the first thing that comes to mind when visualizing the Common Community. Someone like Chris Anderson would be the “Pastor.” The cultivator and leader. The facilitator. The Pastor is integral to the success of the community, but he is not the sole source of knowledge. He curates more than he creates. A true communal learning experience. Ok, I’m getting excited now. 

    Elements of the Common Community:

    1. No more sola scriptura: Eliminate reliance on the Bible or any other religious doctrine as the sole source of truth. Lectures/talks can reference anything that holds observable truth or otherwise presents itself as theory. 
    2. Love Rules: Exploration of love and compassion as the highest principles and virtues - not faith
    3. Observation, not explanation: Exploration of science and the beauty and mystery of our world through observation - not mysticism
    4. Speak Well: Compelling speakers, experts in various fields speaking with authority
    5. Get Real: Discussion of real societal problems and how our community can help
    6. No Such Thing as Blasphemy: Irreverence for dogma, reverence for our community and shared values
    7. The 5 C’s: cultivate all the great things about religion, without requiring faith


    Update (1/17/12): So I wrote all of that ^ while suffering a bout of insomnia last week. Today, TED (speak of the devil), released a brilliant talk by Alain de Botton who is making way more sense than I am. Atheism 2.0. So brilliant. 


  2. Steve Jobs’ Final ‘One More Thing’

    56. Steve fit a century’s worth of innovation and vision into 56 years. A compact, elegantly designed life.

    It’s tempting to mythologize a person once they’ve gone and this is especially true with Steve. Tonight, Steve becomes a simple and beautifully executed idea with lasting impact, not unlike his products. He’s changed the world no fewer than three unique and lasting ways (pc/music/phone) and his closest competitors have only ever managed to copy or chase him. There’s not a sliver of hyperbole in that sentence. 

    People love to say Rest In Peace, but maybe it serves us well to think different on this one: I hope Steve is restless and relentless in his next life. I hope he continues to piss excellence and inspire us to do the same.

    Even in death, I’d like to think Steve has a final "one more thing" left in him; reminding us that 56 years can be transformed into eternity if we work hard enough. In 56 years anything can happen and the world can be changed, singlehandedly. 56 years is scary and unfairly short only if you let it be; so, be fearless instead. That’s the reminder I need every day, and it’s a helluva “one more thing.”

    Don’t rest too long, Steve. 


  3. This is Raquel Rodriguez. She’s a phenomenal talent and a very sweet, humble gal in person. Show her some love.


  4. I wish every ad was this.


  5. Bonnie makes me want to get older. Soul is never precocious. (start at 0:55)


  6. "You can’t fix it. You can’t make it go away.
    I don’t know what you’re going to do about it,
    But I know what I’m going to do about it. I’m just
    going to walk away from it. Maybe
    A small part of it will die if I’m not around
    feeding it anymore."
    — by Lew Welch - Chicago Poem

  7. A Face Among the Crowd by Jackie Greene

    Seems like it was only yesterday
    I was just a boy yearning to run
    You always seemed so tall, uniform and all
    Funny how some things they never change

    Now that I’m a man and I’m fully grown
    I stand and face the world all by myself
    If what they say is true: I’m a lot like you
    Then I know we’re sharing more than just a name

    Every time I look into the mirror I see you standing there
    Everyday I realize you’re more a part of me
    I am but a face among the crowd
    I hope i’ve made you proud
    Hope I’m half the man you thought I’d be.

    I’ve been working hard most every night
    Singing all my songs under the spotlight
    Sometimes it gets so rough
    I feel I’ve had enough
    But I recall the words you said to me

    If you can keep your head and carry on
    You can share your strength with those in need
    You can watch it all cave in
    Get up and build again
    Why then you’ll be a man I do believe

    I remember standing next to you
    To see how tall I grew
    I remember falling down and scraping up my knee
    I am but a face among the crowd
    Hope I’ve made you proud
    I hope I’m half the man you taught me to be


  8. This is not a commentary on politics, but I have a deep trust and admiration for our president. The man is measured, tactful and articulate. The full 60 minutes interview shows a leader, speaking from heart and head without an obvious script or political agenda. There’s plenty to be cynical about in politics, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for Obama as a man and I’m immensely proud to call him my president. I say without a hint of irony that if more people like him ran for office on both sides of the aisle, our country would be so much better for it.  


  9. YES YES AND YES! Written by Mr. Y:

    It is time for America to re-focus our national interests and principles through a long lens on the global environment of tomorrow.  It is time to move beyond a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability); from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence; from a defensive posture of exclusion, to a proactive posture of engagement.  We must recognize that security means more than defense, and sustaining security requires adaptation and evolution, the leverage of converging interests and interdependencies.  To grow we must accept that competitors are not necessarily adversaries, and that a winner does not demand a loser.  We must regain our credibility as a leader among peers, a beacon of hope, rather than an island fortress.  It is only by balancing our interests with our principles that we can truly hope to sustain our growth as a nation and to restore our credibility as a world leader…  

    Inherent in our children is the innovation, drive, and imagination that have made, and will continue to make, this country great.  By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans – the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow – we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future.  Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable  infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth. 

    Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation’s sustainable security – on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them.   As has been stated already, Americans view security in the broader context of freedom and peace of mind.  Rather than focusing primarily on defense, the security we seek can only be sustained through a whole of nation approach to our domestic and foreign policies.  This requires a different approach to problem solving than we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distribution of our national treasure.  For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry writ large, focusing intensely on defense and protectionism rather than on development and diplomacy.   This has been true in our approach to domestic and foreign trade, agriculture and energy, science and technology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture.  Security touches each of these and must be addressed by leveraging all the strengths of our nation, not simply those intended to keep perceived threat a safe arm’s length away.

    Mr. Y is a pseudonym for CAPT Wayne Porter, USN and Col Mark “Puck” Mykleby


  10. you know that generation who started listening to music in the boy band craze and picked up a guitar because of john mayer? this is what happens when they apply talent to that history.

    tim koda. i can say i knew him when. universe, give this guy whatever he wants. 


  11. Best Ali vid i’ve ever seen. must watch. 




  13. Bret Easton Ellis on Charlie Sheen

    It’s thrilling watching someone call out the solemnity of the celebrity interview, and Charlie Sheen is loudly calling it out as the sham it is. He’s raw now, and lucid and intense and the most fascinating person wandering through the culture. (No, it’s not Colin Firth or David Fincher or Bruno Mars or super-Empire Tiger Woods, guys.) We’re not used to these kinds of interviews. It’s coming off almost as performance art and we’ve never seen anything like it—because he’s not apologizing for anything. It’s an irresistible spectacle, but it’s also telling because we are watching someone profoundly bored and contemptuous of the media engaging with the media and using the media to admit things about themselves and their desires that seem “shocking” because of society’s old-ass Empire guidelines. No one has ever seen a celebrity more nakedly revealing—even in Sheen’s evasions there’s a truthful playfulness that makes Tiger’s mea culpa press conference look like something manufactured by Nicholas Sparks.

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