Bodily Integrity

“My Body, My Choice.” has become a catch phrase of both liberals and conservatives recently. Far from an indication of some new unity of purpose or compromise, it is an ironic sign of how polarized politics have become.

On one side, you have the political left claiming that people, specifically women, have the right to decide what to do with the reproductive systems of their own bodies and therefore it is not within the government’s charter to limit abortion. Conversely, they also support new mandates for vaccines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other side, you have the political right claiming that the new vaccine mandates violate people’s right to bodily integrity and therefore it is not within the government’s charter to enforce them. Conversely, they support abortion laws as necessary to protect the ‘rights of the unborn’, which they clearly feel trump a mother’s rights to bodily autonomy.

Is this pure hypocrisy? How can the same right mean completely opposite things to different people? In situations like these, it is useful to take a step back and look at a wider view.

Bodily integrity is not inviolate. Governments regularly infringe on personal rights of bodily integrity for a variety of reasons. Each of these reasons generally boils down to the benefit and/or protection of the populace as a whole or other individuals.

Forced blood draws and strip searches regularly violate bodily integrity when the state determines that the individual has likely committed a crime and evidence of that crime is needed. Laws against euthanasia and requiring seat belts and helmets also violate the right of bodily integrity.

Is this okay? It can be argued that all of these are wrongful interference by government and that bodily integrity should trump such needs of society. What about mask mandates? Is it acceptable for an infected person to go about infecting others and risking their lives at will?

A compromise is required. The inviolability of any right must be tempered by how much impact the excercise of that right will have on others and the society as a whole. Viewed through this lens, what to make of the partisan arguments above?

Abortion. Even if you assume that the unborn are indeed people at some point in their development, the rights of one person do not trump the rights of another. You cannot force a mother to carry their baby in an effort to save that baby for the same reason you cannot force a person to donate bone marrow to save another. When opposing rights are equal, the state has no responsibility or authority. This issue is very complex and such nuance should not be glossed over. However, the argument serves well as a basis for comparison to the argument for bodily integrity as it relates to vaccines.

Vaccines. There is a clear public threat and safe and effective mitigation methods. The state has an obvious responsibility and authority. The same logic applies to mask mandates.

A wider perspective shows the claims are far from equivalent. From afar, one is a clear mandate to governmental action and the other is narrow victory for proponents of government inaction.

Liberty itself is the real issue. One person’s choices often impact others. It is inevitable that personal rights will come into conflict any time more than one person is involved. It also doesn’t take much looking to find other areas where personal rights come into conflict. The higher a population’s density, the more often such conflicts will arise. Viewing these issues with an even wider lens may again be useful.

A global perspective. It is an uncomfortable fact that each new life brought into an already overtaxed and collapsing global ecosystem is a burden rather than a blessing. If the common good is the real goal, responsible governments should be encouraging abortions and providing free birth control to everyone on the planet. If vaccines and masks save lives, then by the same logic they should be banned. From the widest view, both partisan arguments are wrong

But that’s immoral! Of course it is. We cannot coldly argue that deaths are necessary and aborting foetuses is for the common good. We also cannot ignore the titanic wave of death and misery that will befall our entire race if we continue to do nothing about the death spiral of our ecosystem.

Bodily integrity is a noble goal and should be protected to the extent possible. However, the extent possible grows less and less each year as our population expands and our planet’s delicate balances are destroyed. It is and must be a secondary issue.


Corruption is humanity’s greatest problem. It is the reason for more unnecessary misery than anything else. It destroys fairness, eliminates justice, engenders graft, creates abuse and kills trust. Corrupt societies cannot cooperate effectively and must depend on coersion instead. This handicaps the society and productivity falls. With all these negative impacts, why does corruption exist at all?

The root of corruption is in human nature. People tend to take advantage whenever they see one. This isn’t an evil in itself. We always use whatever influence we have every day to make our lives better.

Competition between advantages is inevitable. Some acts will benefit one’s self at the expense of others. This too is not an evil in itself. Life is often competitive, but only a child makes a fuss about someone else getting the last doughnut. Humans enjoy and celebrate competition. Look at the popularity of professional sports. Many of the games we play have a zero sum. Humans generally recognize that mutual benefit is often preferable, yet our minds are still captured by those who risk their lives and fortunes in competition with others.

We could define corruption as the acts of individuals who show a consistent pattern of taking advantage at the expense of others. It sounds reasonable, but this is an oversimplification and rarely seen in reality. Other people quickly recognize such individuals and they eventually become ostracized and their influence curtailed. Effective corruption requires more than just one person to participate in it.

Another necessary element that enables corruption is the human tendency to form groups. The superficial reason we self-organize into groups are varied and complex. However, it can be assumed that advantage is the root motivator. This is both normal and generally healthy behavior. However, the participants in any group tend to behave differently toward those within the group than to those outside it. This is tribalism – an us versus them attitude that naturally arises in human groupings. Corruption’s first act is to exclude outsiders.

Can we suppress our tribalistic instincts? Perhaps not. At best, we seem to be capable of mentally expanding our tribal group to include the whole of humanity. Even then, we are susceptible to pulling in the fences around our nation, our family, or whatever group we identify with whenever we are under stress or threat.

Human groups tend to have structure and power becomes concentrated in few leaders by multiple followers. Such power structures are all around us, from the basic family unit, to corporations, to massive treaty organizations between nations. Again, we build these structures based on perceived advantages.

Concentration of power allows small groups to wield influence over large ones that would be otherwise unattainable. It is inevitable that some decisions that those in power make will benefit some over others and will be made based on the preferences and advantage of the powerful. Corruption is thus born.

Influence is advantage is power is corruption. We all posess power in exactly the proportion we have advantage and influence over others. We are all corrupt in the same proportion.

Money is power. It’s become a cliché because it is perfectly true. More than simply a medium of trade, it allows one to trade nothing – an idea, a piece of paper or more often than not a number in an account – for a real thing or action. Now, getting something for nothing would certainly be a form of power, but that isn’t quite what’s happening. 

Money is not real. But it is a concrete idea that exists in multiple minds – a shared delusion. This delusion allows even complete strangers to perform the most powerful human act: cooperation. Collaborative effort is the productive force behind all of our greatest accomplisments.

Money is advantage. Sufficient quantities of money can buy almost anything. Food, sex, property, justice, even loyalty can be bought. The more money you have, the more influence and advantage you have. The concentration of money is the concentration of power.

Force is power. Nothing is more effective in getting what you want than threatening to take away everything someone has with a gun, a bomb, a stealth fighter or a nuclear weapon. Force has been the deciding factor in more of history than any other type of power.

Advantage is power is money is force is corruption. They are equal. When you are talking about humans, they are the same thing in different orders of magnitude and different faces. Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely. Absolute power is absolute corruption. The only way to minimize corruption in power is to avoid concentrating it in the first place. 

How corrupt are we? For this we can look to another cliché. Follow the money. What you will find is that a handful of individuals now control the vast majority of all money and in the world and thus the corporations that produce almost everything we need, desire and use. These corporate puppets now have so much influence that they can write their own legislation and expect it to be passed with hardly a finger raised in protest. When you can get anything you desire for sufficient quantities of an idea (i.e. money) you have absolute power.

Our judicial and political systems are fully corrupt too. For example, when an average person goes to court without a lawyer, they almost invariably lose. The rules of litigation have become so arcane that only those within the legal profession understand them. This is advantage and power. Lawyers become judges and politicians and thus become the ones who then make the rules for courts to enforce. This is a self-reinforcing feedback loop that keeps those with power in power.  

What do we do? Can we organize our society in such a way that power remains with individuals? Democracy and communism actually share this goal and both miss it by differing degrees. The problem, again, is that concentration of power is the mother of corruption. The collapse of communism was inevitable because it had no mechanism to correct its own corruption. Democracy is little better. The longer a democracy exists, the more corrupt it becomes as various groups figure out ways to make it work for themselves to the detriment of everyone else. 

Anarchy then? Every man for themselves? No. All concepts can be taken to an illogical extreme. The only solution to corruption is to prevent and to dismantle all concentration of power, but we still need to be able to cooperate. My experience has been that all organizations begin to lose effectiveness when they expand beyond a particular size or do not share common goals. That may be a useful guidepost.

Money is the root of all evil. The final cliché. Though it isn’t the root – it is equivalent. Money is power is corruption is evil.

Money plus power plus influence equals corruption. It’s a simple mathematical equation. To avoid the evil of corruption, it is the concentration of all forms of power that we must resist.

We need a new idea. Nothing we have tried works and keeps working. No power structure can avoid concentration of power, so it seems that power structures themselves should be avoided. We need a voluntary charter. A shared set of ideas that allows us to cooperate with each other without requiring yeilding our influence to powerful authorities. I’m afraid I don’t have the answer and it’s possible there is no answer. It’s worth trying though.


It’s not for everyone. Specifically, sexual monogamy is not normal.

Clearly, serial sexual monogamy is the socially accepted norm in western society, but that norm has been gradually weakening for decades. In a 2016 poll, only 56% of Americans claimed to want a completely monogamous relationship. Why?

Some statistics: About 62% of marriages end in divorce. Also 60% of men and 50% of women admit to having extra-marital affairs. Despite the fact that actual sexual monogamy is present (on average) in about half of marriages, only about one in four marriages end due to marital infidelity. This suggest that non-monogamy also goes unnoticed, is tolerated or is consensual in the about 40% of all other marriages.2

How is that possible? How can the demands of western cultural norms be so far from the reality that exists behind closed doors? It turns out that western culture is indeed the exception rather than the rule, but it’s our views on monogamy that are out of the ordinary, not our tendency to live outside it.

Humans are naturally non-monogamous. Researchers have found that sexual monogamy is practiced by only a few dozen out of four thousand mammal species and in human cultures only 43 out of 238 societies practice monogamy.1 According to genetic studies, monogamy only became prevalent in human populations 10,000 years ago. Human beings are clearly evolved for multiple simultaneous sexual relationships.

The Americans abandoning monogamy in full view of the public do so not as a deviation from their nature, but as a return toward it. I suspect it is also, at least in part, a laudable rejection of the inherent dishonesty necessary to maintain secret affairs.

Some will disagree. Particularly, those in the religious right will (and do) vilify and castigate anyone who dares step out of the sanctified (or just sanctimonious) one-man-one-woman atomic family model. But the evidence we have is not at all on their side of the argument.


1 Barker, Meg and Langdridge, Darren (2010). Whatever happened to non-monogamies? Critical reflections on recent research and theory. Sexualities, 13(6) pp. 748–772.

2 One quarter of the 62% of marriages that fail is about 15%. Subtracting that from the average of men and women admitting affairs (55%) yields an infidelity figure of approximately 40% in the remaining (successful and non-successful) marriages.

A 9/11 Perspective

20 years ago today, like pretty much everyone else, I watched the events of September 11th 2001 in shock and disbelief followed by horrifying realization, sadness and anger. In the days that followed I cried with the families and loved ones looking for answers and clinging to hope. I looked desperately for answers on the TV and the internet. I cheered at the many stories of heroism and at each person rescued from the rubble.

Like many, I bear the emotional scars of the attacks and feel them most keenly today. Also, like many, I was greatly comforted by the incredible outpouring of unity and kindness that swept over the nation. For a brief time, we put aside our differences and worked together.

As anyone who pays attention to history might expect, we screwed that up pretty horribly. We overreacted in every possible way. Under the banner of increasing our security we began widespread surveillance of our own populace, built a whole new governmental department, enacted pointless travel inspection procedures and sent our armed forces to invade Afghanistan in hopes of capturing or killing the one man we determined was the mastermind.

Still hurting from 9/11 we allowed ourselves to become convinced that WMDs in Iraq were a threat and allowed our government to launch another invasion there. How embarrassing to find no WMDs there after all. It’s hard to imagine how we could make such a mistake. It’s almost like there was an ulterior motive.

Not content to stop at two terrible mistakes, we allowed our military to occupy both countries with no plan to withdraw for years and years spending trillions of dollars and killing and wounding thousands of our own citizens.

Perspective is a wonderful thing and a terrible one. Looking back on the events of 9/11, it is hard to conclude anything other than the simple fact that they weren’t that bad. Yes, they were terrible beyond imagining at the time, but what followed was far worse.

Just counting dead bodies reveals the harsh truth. 9/11 claimed 2,977 American lives. Afghanistan claimed 4,096. Iraq has claimed 4,431 so far.

As a nation we’ve sacrificed our privacy, our economic might, our integrity, the lives and health of our armed forces and our our ability to reason for the false promise of safety.

Madness. How many of us can claim to be as deeply scarred by the 930,000 excess American deaths over the past 17 months? That’s a 9/11 death toll every day and a half for over 500 days. Can we explain that fact away with the lack of fiery explosions on TV? Is it because the enemy is us?

We have clearly lost our perspective and the faith that many had in America has been slowly ground into dust. When waving flags, repeating lies and screeching about freedom while undermining the rule of law and our basic institutions is what now passes for patriotism, you have to admit something has gone terribly wrong with the American experiment.

The Elephant In The Room

Clearly, there is a partisan divide between those who take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and those who wish to minimize it. Social media is flooded with memes frantically exchanged from every direction. Desperate people mourning the dying or dead. Tired caregivers pleading for relief. Skeptical homebodies ready to storm the capitol (again). Blatant liars offering questionable solutions. Demands to recognize the rights of individuals as more important than the collective good.

It’s time to give all sides what they want. It is time to not just allow a ‘back to normal’ for America’s right wing, but to encourage it. Let them gather together without any limits – give the unvaccinated all the personal freedom they could want.

Meanwhile, everyone else does the now unthinkable. They go into full lockdown. 21 days. That’s all it will take. End 99.9% of transmission in the vaccinated subset of the population. It will take planning and forethought and probably massive public and or private funding, but zero contact for three weeks is absolutely doable. All that is really needed is a well communicated plan. The motivation is already there. We are all tired of this and looking for a way out. This is a way out.

In the interim, the medical community gives priority care to the vaccinated (and unable to vaccinate) refuses it to all others. (This is a sticky point, but absolutely necessary.)

Subsequently, all COVID medical care is then limited to vaccinated individuals and no-fault cases as determined by a review board who’s only duty is to ensure those who have willingly endangered others receive no covid related care.

The vaccinated populace must also refuse all contact with unvaccinated individuals, enforced by a simple, 100% voluntary database and easy to use smartphone app. Violators will be placed in the ‘no covid care/avoid contact’ category in the database.

Unvaccinated individuals will be encouraged to meet and celebrate their social victory at big, nationalistic super-spreader ‘patriot parties’, as part of the public/private funding noted above. Country music stars mixed with a few less flamboyant pop acts will be the headliners.

The pandemic will burn itself out in a few months as those left out scream about the injustice of it all.

Hint: Justice was the issue from day one and the pseudo-conservative right has clearly failed the most important civics test of our time.


Lindsey Graham – S.C.
John Barrasso – Wyo.
Marsha Blackburn – Tenn.
Roy Blunt – Mo.
John Boozman – Ark.
Mike Braun – Ind.
John Cornyn – Texas
Tom Cotton – Ark.
Kevin Cramer – N.D.
Michael D. Crapo – Idaho
Ted Cruz – Texas
Steve Daines – Mont.
Joni Ernst – Iowa
Deb Fischer – Neb.
Charles E. Grassley – Iowa
Bill Hagerty – Tenn.
Josh Hawley – Mo.
John Hoeven – N.D.
Cindy Hyde-Smith – Miss.
James M. Inhofe – Okla.
Ron Johnson – Wis.
John Kennedy – La.
James Lankford – Okla.
Mike Lee – Utah
Cynthia Lummis – Wyo.
Roger Marshall – Kan.
Mitch McConnell – Ky.
Shelley Moore Capito – W.Va.
Jerry Moran – Kan.
Rand Paul – Ky.
Rob Portman – Ohio
Jim Risch – Idaho
Mike Rounds – S.D.
Marco Rubio – Fla.
Rick Scott – Fla.
Tim Scott – S.C.
Richard C. Shelby – Ala.
Dan Sullivan – Alaska
John Thune – S.D.
Thom Tillis – N.C.
Tommy Tuberville – Ala.
Roger Wicker -Miss.
Todd Young – Ind.

A Return to Idolatry

Idolatry is the worship of an idol or cult image, being a physical image, such as a statue, or a person in place of God.”

Everyone knows a true Trump sycophant – a MAGA hat wearing, coronavirus denying, misinformation spreading type, unable to see any wrong in the man. With very few exceptions, these are also members of one Christian faith or another.

It seems to me that Christians have to abandon their values in order to embrace Donald Trump. Don’t take my word for it, though. Google ‘Christian Values List’ and you get THIS as the top result.

The #1 item on the list is ‘Worship Only God’. Let’s leave that for now and come back to it. How does Trump fare with the rest?

#2 Be Kind to All People Um…no.

#3 Be Humble No again.

#4 Be Honest Not even close.

#5 Live a Moral Life No.

#6 Be Generous with Time and Money You can give him some points here for donating his salary as president to charity. It does seem a bit hollow when he has taken in several times that in profits just by taking the presidential entourage to his own properties. Not to mention his tax plan benefitting himself enourmously. I think it’s fair to call him a camel in the eye of the needle on this one.

#7 Practice what you Preach; Don’t be a Hypocrite Trump claims to be anti-abortion, but when push came to shove, he took a medicine derived from cells of an aborted fetus to save his own life. He sucks up to evangelicals in public and mocks them in private. He couldn’t shut up about Clinton’s emails jeopardizing national security then discussed national security issues at Mar-a-Lago surrounded by club members. He criticized Obama about golfing and golfs more than he did. He complained about the cost of Obama’s presidential vacations and his frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago cost $3.6 million each. Examples go on and on. No.

#8 Don’t be Self-righteous Here I could be taken to task for this entire post. Judge not lest ye be judged, right? I would argue that it is our duty in the selection of whom we give responsibility to judge. On one hand, we all fall short of perfection and on the other we shouldn’t hire Charles Manson to run a preschool. Self-righteousness is bigger than just the sin-shaming definition from christianity. It’s the odious attitude that your personal beliefs and convictions are completely unassailable. Trump and his followers are just one side of this coin with virtue-signaling democrats and rabid statue-murders on the other. Self-righteousness is practically oxygen in Washington. That’s a big no.

#9 Don’t Retaliate Yeah. No.

#10 Forgive Others This one is kind of funny. Trump never forgives but often forgets. Do anthing against him and suddenly you’re a loser he barely knows. Just ask his departed staff. His supporters are certainly quick to forgive all of Trump’s faults while damning anyone who dares speak against him for all their faults, real and imagined.

So back to #1 Worship Only God I don’t think we have to examine Trump himself here, but his followers. Most claim to adhere to the above values, yet support someone who clearly does not. They back him to the point of absurdity and attack anyone who dares disagree.

Thus their idolatry – Trump has become their golden calf. As the authors of this list put it: “…anything that takes the place of our devotion to God becomes an idol or false god.”

Not all Trump supporters are so idolatrous. Some recognize his faults and rationalize their choice as a necessary evil. That’s a defensible position so long as on the balance, his opponent and/or their platform embody the opposite of their values. Some close examination may be in order, though.

COVID-19 Deaths are Under-Counted

This is math lesson for those who think our Coronavirus response has been adequate and that it compares well with seasonal flu (numbers are per million residents)

The US is currently #10 in deaths at 672 and #12 in cases at 24,801 out of 214 countries.

In order to just be average, we would need to have had 21% of our current deaths (142) and 20% of our cases (5,040)

I don’t know about you, but I would think a first world country could do better than 5 times the world average cases and deaths so far. It’s abysmal.

India, for comparison – with roughly a third of our land area and four times our population – is right there at the world average with 5,335 cases and lower than average with only 81 deaths. You would think an airborne disease would be much harder to contain with a population density that high, but the scoreboard says they are five times better at it than the US so far.

If we were doing as well as India, we would have only 26,730 deaths so far. (330 million pop x 81 per million) Even just being average we would have only 46,860 COVID-19 deaths so far.

Being AVERAGE could have saved over (222,836 – 46,860) 176,976 lives to date.

Don’t tell me deaths are over-counted. That is simply political propaganda. I’m sure if we had a different party in office, their rabid supporters would be doing the same stupid thing. You can PROVE COVID-19 deaths are UNDER-counted simply by counting dead bodies.

US deaths follow a predictable curve that typically peaks with the flu season in winter. We had a bad flu season in winter 2017-2018. Winter 2018-2019 was pretty good and so was 2019-2020. Then in April Corona hits and we shoot up to 38% above the normal number of deaths.
(Note: The chart is continuously updated as death data comes in. Today is the 16th but the week ending the 20th is already there and growing. I’m using data from 8 weeks and older because nearly all entities will have reported.)

The 20 weeks from April 4th through August 15th average 21% excess deaths totaling 231,608 above the seasonal average. However, only 173,193 COVID-19 deaths were reported as of August 15th (including any later adjustments). That’s UNDER-counted by 34%.

Sure, some of those could be deaths by other causes, but keep in mind that lockdowns also suppress vehicle and workplace accidents which account for a significant portion of deaths too. The exact number isn’t important, what’s important is the numbers clearly show the over-count narrative holds no water.

Seasonal flu/pneumonia deaths are about 56,000 or 170 per million US residents annually. We’ve had four times the typical annual flu deaths in only 20 weeks. Annually adjusted, these 20 weeks are equivalent to 579,374 annual deaths (222,836 / 20 * 52), putting COVID-19 right below our #2 cause of death, cancer at 599,108.

So no. It’s not ‘just the flu’. From April through August it was basically another cancer on top of the normal cancer.

Yes, it has and will probably get better with time. No, it probably won’t come down below #3 (accidents at 169,936 annual deaths) until we get our shit together or we get a decent vaccine.

(Data from, the CDC death totals chart and Wikipedia)

Update 11/19/2020: Four weeks later, cases are spiking with over 165,000 new positive tests per day. We’ve had roughly three million new infections in under a month. Deaths remain at 121% in excess of normal (269,676) and ten times the level of another flu-like disease (25,846).From April 4 through September 12, reported COVID-19 deaths were 198,634 making the gap between excess deaths and reported pandemic deaths grow slightly to 35%. Extrapolated annual excess deaths are slightly lower (largely due to better outcomes with proper care) at 526,131 per year. However, many areas are at the limit of their health care capacity, so we can probably expect this number to rise again in the coming weeks as hospital staff is overwhelmed by the case load.

Anecdotally, my co-worker who wears their mask and social distances the least got infected just over a week ago. (Big surprise.) I spend a day with them in the same office while they were infectious but dodged this bullet with my KN95 mask on much of the day and strict distancing. It sucks but it works.

The Paradox of Atheism (Rebuttal)

I ran across a blog post by Inverted Logic yesterday and I started to respond to the points they made. It grew and grew and became longer than the original post. I feel it really deserves a post of its own at this point, so I’m putting my response in my own blog for the author to review, respond, ignore or mock at their leisure. My intent is to address my (gentle) rebuttal directly to the author and the use of ‘you’ and ‘your’ below reflects this.

First, my compliments. Your ideas are expressed clearly and concisely while avoiding the invective, spin and distortions common to both sides of the god/no god debate. I admire a skillfully expressed argument even when I disagree with the conclusions. Thank you for sharing!

My primary concern is that your arguments seem to paint atheists with an overly broad brush. Making generalities about any group is often deliberate spin and at best a mistake. Current examples include descriptions of protesters as looters and rioter, cops as heartless murderers and Republicans and Democrats as fascists and communists respectively. You have certainly avoided such extremes in this piece, (which I would praise you for) but your statements are perhaps still more broad than are really applicable. In any case, we agree on the venomous repercussions of in-group conformity.

To your main points, (collective association, a tendency to proselytize, and fixed views on belief) these certainly apply to some atheists, but probably not more than they apply to any other group of people. I can certainly see how the kind of people we encounter while arguing on the internet could lead to a somewhat distorted view of the non-religious. I would counter that people are just people, no matter what views they hold on gods. Some will seek the company of like-minded groups to associate with while others will avoid such groups. Some will seek to enlighten others with their philosophy, while others are content to move on to other studies, subjects and pursuits. Some have rigid views while others – perhaps even a majority – simply find the claims regarding gods to be highly unlikely without making the claim that there are none, or they cannot exist.

Even a claim that ‘no gods exist’ is not always an unbending commitment to a set of beliefs. People’s views, particularly the science-logic-reason minded, tend to change and waver between options as new information is presented. A person may at one time feel confident in a ‘hard atheistic’ position and later drift to a more pragmatic or less certain ‘soft atheistic’ stance.  However, a God putting on a public appearance or other such convincing evidence would change the same person’s mind pretty quickly no matter which view they currently espouse.  

The rejection of a belief system is not equivalent to the acceptance of an alternate belief system. Atheism is not a religious belief, it’s the opposite of a religious belief.

It is perfectly rational to state, “I don’t believe your god exists” (i.e. the evidence and arguments for your claim are unconvincing) without having to claim “Your god does not exist” (i.e. I can disprove your claim). This is not just splitting hairs. Belief is far more of a spectrum than a dichotomy. If positive certainty is on the right end of a horseshoe, zero belief is in the center and negative certainty is on the left end. Atheism occupies the entire left side including the center point. Atheism is not a leap of faith, it’s the zero-belief default state. (Incidentally, I think extending the Horseshoe Theory of Politics to other belief systems is astute and likely correct, strengthening your arguments for the most extreme adherents.)

The sense of community provided by a religious congregation is one of the things I miss the most about the religion of my youth. However, this has not led me to seek out a community of like-minded people to try and replace the one I lost. I could. I’ve considered it, but it obviously hasn’t been a priority for me. I don’t think that this community-joining impulse is any more or less inherent to nonbelievers than it is for believers. Plenty of folks on the religious side don’t attend services and I imagine it’s for similar reasons to mine.

As I noted in my blog post on leaving the LDS church, I’ve at various times in my life promoted my ideas about gods’ existence, actively avoided the subject and everywhere in between – and I’m just one person. There’s no reason to assume that a nonbeliever necessarily proselytizes or does so unceasingly.

A final observation: The odds of god(s) existing is not a coin-flip. Something that can only be true or false does not necessarily make the odds of each 50%. Will the sun come up tomorrow? Maybe not, but the odds are a long way from 50:50.

If you waded through this excessively verbose response, I congratulate you again. Thanks for taking the time. You have my sincere respect.


What is your ideal society? The perfect place you wish you could live? What would it look like and how would it work? I was asked this recently and I had to admit to myself that I hadn’t really considered it because I don’t believe it can exist.

Humans can screw up anything. The very first thing that people would do upon finding utopia would be to wreck it. There are no apparent limits to what we will do to take advantage of our circumstances, and thus any utopian system is quickly overburdened, subverted and destroyed. Perhaps elves or Vulcans or some other mythical race can have a perfect society, but the best humans can hope to live in is a society that doesn’t suck too badly.

Democracy is the worst form of government. Except for all the other types of government we’ve tried. Tyranny of the majority is a real threat. When most of us want to do some foolish, hateful or stupid thing, all of us have to live with the consequences. A nation with enumerated rights for citizens and powers balanced and checked can go a long way to addressing the vagaries of popular opinion and tribalism, but the majority always subjugates and abuses the minority to the extent that they can. It’s just human nature.

From each according to their ability and to each according to their need. Possibly the most awful utopian idea ever. Communism fails because idealism makes for a poor motivator in the long term. When you get nothing in return for making more effort, people will only make the bare minimum effort. The system turns quickly into an oligarchy and corruption tears it apart.

The best government is one that governs least. Ha! We wish. Everyone loves liberty, but letting people do whatever they want is the quickest way for everyone to get a bunch of things they absolutely don’t want like poisoned water, corruption and organized crime. Liberty, like every other idea, can be taken to the illogical extreme.

What to do then? Society can never be perfect, but it can always be better. Good governance is not an endpoint – it’s a process. We may (and should) disagree on how to govern, but focusing on principles will always point us in the right direction.

First and foremost is integrity. The truth is literally what sets us free. A society is a relationship based on trust. Destroying that trust destroys the society. Putting up with people on any side of an argument who promote lies and distort the truth injures everyone. The best government always puts the truth first, not just when it is convenient, but particularly when no one wants to hear it.

Science is key. The most reliable way we have for finding the truth is through science. When sufficient evidence exists that a specific public policy is failing to address the issue or creating other issues, the government should react to adjust the policy without taking an opinion poll first. That doesn’t mean we do anything science tells us, but any morally acceptable solution should at least be considered. A branch of government dedicated to striking down laws and policies that are clearly shown by research to be harmful would be pretty useful. Laws starting in a research lab rather than in a corporate office would also be a good change.

Kindness is key. Any action by government should be weighed against the default action of doing nothing. If it does not make sense to take away (by force if necessary) the fruits of the labor of one person to use for the public good, then it is likely not a good enough reason to act. As an example, some members of our society haven’t the mental or physical capacity to care for themselves. Acting to assist these people is a kindness and keeping the burden manageable for everyone else is also a kindness. Governments should carefully weigh the options and use kindness as a guidepost. Laws that serve dogmatic viewpoints or pander to a majority are oppression to the minority and should generally be rejected. Fairness, equality and justice are essential and are rooted in kindness.

Accountability is key. Power is the root of all evil. This is an axiom. Money is power, influence is power, power corrupts and concentration of power concentrates evil. The only thing that drives out this darkness is the light of transparency and the only thing that stops power from accumulating more power is constant vigilance and action by a concerned and educated citizenry. People often see the inefficiency of our federal government and (rightly) complain that government doesn’t work. They aren’t wrong. The bigger any organization gets, the less responsive, effective and efficient it becomes. Our government has arguably become too big and its citizens’ power concentrated in the hands of too few. One of the government’s biggest problems is that lawyers run two of the branches and sometimes all three. Laws have become thousand-page documents full of impenetrable jargon that no normal citizen can understand and they certainly could not read all the laws and get anything else done. Laws are deliberately unfathomable and there is an awful lot of incentive for those involved in the system to avoid fixing it. Excessive concentration of power is by far America’s biggest problem. Accountable government requires governance to be kept as small, as local, as simple and as open as it can be.

Utopia is not possible. But, working toward a better society based on truth, kindness and accountability is absolutely possible and is my continual hope for our nation.