The Inquisitor

I wish to tell you about The Inquisitor.

I fear I am going to insult your intelligence. I do not wish umbrage on any of my fellow humans, and especially not on you. I only wish an audience with those who embrace foolish notions about goodness, so you can stop reading here and I will address the other fellow.

Christians frequently ask me a question: wishing to challenge not what I believe, but what I don’t believe. I will call my sample Christian “The Inquisitor.”

Here is the question:

“If you do not believe in an afterlife, then why try to be good?” The implication is that if there is no reward or punishment, then there is no legitimate moral motivation.

I think the question is designed to expose a flaw in the character of a non-believer. While its intention fails, it does suggest a serious hole in the righteous fabric that is The Inquisitor. It means that The Inquisitor cannot fathom why anyone would behave morally or seek out goodness except under duress or the threat of eternal punishment. By asking the question, The Inquisitor admits that he does not feel like a good person from within, but only acts “right’ out of fear. He therefore reveals two vices. 1. He is not intrinsically good, or if he is, he is unaware of the fact 2. He is too cowardly to “be himself.”

A better question, which I have never been asked, by the way, would be: “If you do not believe in God, how can you be good? What definition of the term are you using and where did you get it?” I can confront that question also, but only with the expenditure of lots of mental energy, and not as capably as I can handle the absurd substitute question your boilerplate Christian asks.

Psychologists have virtually disproved pure behaviorism (reward and punishment as motivation) in humans. The theory is universally dismissed in favor of a cognitive psychological / behaviorist blend. One of the consequences of this is the idea that decent people live decent lives purely out of fear of blatant punishment, is unscientific, which makes The Inquisitor’s question even less sensible.

A person will always behave properly if he has a gun to his head, or if the threat of Hellfire is chasing him. This does not mean that he is good. Here is what it means: he has a gun to his head or the threat of Hellfire is chasing him!

The things you have the opportunity to do, do not define you as a human. It is the things you are willing to do that matter. It is natural for people to focus more on specific actions and less on internal integrity because actions are something you can measure, and one’s level of goodness is very difficult to determine. In other words, you can watch what a man does, but you cannot watch what he would do if sufficiently motivated.

One person is not better than another because he has fewer opportunities to commit sin, or less motivation. Additionally, one man is not better than another, because we do not have the option to observe how good he is.

A man who attempts murder is no better than a man who commits murder.

Other than the fact that the second man is more capable, there is no culpable difference between the two crimes. We reward the first man with a lighter sentence because he bungled the job. The second man possesses one vice that we see: he attempts to commit murder. The first man possesses two vices: 1. He attempts to commit murder. 2. He is a failure. That is all we know. We treat the more virtuous man far more harshly. Why? “In the name of justice!” proclaims The Inquisitor, who often perceives himself as one of God’s earthly ambassadors.

A man who would commit murder, but refrains because the potential consequences are horrific is not better than the other two men. A man who shuns evil only because he is afraid, is still evil. His fear is not a virtue. It extenuates nothing.

Unlike the Inquisitor, I am not implying, nor do I believe, that all Christians who behave well, do so out of cowardice. I am merely pointing out that all of those who ask me that question cannot understand why a Christian would be good unless he is a coward.


  1. Sometimes the question says more than the answer. Very interesting post, John.

  2. I would say that the Inquisitor is performing an hypnotic act from a sense of evangelistic duty, which does not tell you anything about his real self, except that he is acting out of a delusion. He has been brainwashed. Brainwashing is possible if there is a flaw in your character, but won't give you a clue as to the character of the flaw.

    I write with certainty only because I too was brainwashed, forty years ago, and most earnestly tried to save people's souls. It wasn't Christianity, but some guru cult I'd fallen into--because of my character flaws!

    When I wasn't haranguing people I would commit outright deceit upon them, knocking on doors to sell a copy of our weekly rag, called the "Divine Times" for fund-raising. I would say it was "for charity, only 20 pence" and they would pay up. I know that I knew it was an atrocious rag, for I made sure never to knock on the same door twice, or wait on the doorstep for them to take a look at it.

    So I have been worse than your Inquisitor, who may be a sweet person who really cares. And I will urge you not to judge him, but to say "There but for the grace of God ..."

  3. So what I am saying is, don't believe that Christians really believe what they believe. Example: when I was into that guru cult, my sister became a born-again Christian, into one of those strict sects, some kind of Brethren, let's say, who rather despise regular church-goers. They consider themselves a little purer, and meet in one another's houses for worship, to be closer to Jesus thereby. (She has moved on, needless to say.) I remember her saying that since I was following a false god, I would go to hell forever. But then a few minutes later, when she realised this was not a nice thing to say to her own brother, she said that she could not imagine God as anything but compassionate, and that I would be all right. She didn't see the contradiction, wasn't in the least troubled by it. For she had compartmentalised her beliefs.

    And that's a skill we learn early. Those who learn it well become lawyers, salesmen, politicians, soldiers--or evangelists. I never learned it well, but still managed to behave badly for a period of my life.

  4. Vincent,

    I would say that the Inquisitor is performing an hypnotic act from a sense of evangelistic duty, which does not tell you anything about his real self

    While I tend to agree with you, that is the least possible amusing way to tell this story.

    Funny thing is, “There but for the grace of God” is one of my all-time favorite quotes. Very wise.

    So what I am saying is, don't believe that Christians really believe what they believe. I could not have said it better myself.

    I am actually not that hard on the Inquisitor. The question was fun to challenge, but it is almost intelligent. It is a rather obvious question: “Why should one be good?” He has a reason presented for him in advance, even when he doesn’t articulate it well: “Because God, the definer of what it means to be good and the ruler of everything tells us we must.” Without God’s instruction, the two obvious questions are, “what is good?” and “Why should I choose good over other alternatives?”

    There are answers, of course, but the questions must precede them.

    The Inquisitor is really just asking those questions without thinking carefully in advance. I don’t really fault him. However, an article about that just doesn’t amuse me, so I chose this one instead.

  5. A very timely post, John.

    Robert Jeffress, introducing Perry at the Values Voter Summit, asked an interesting "Inquisitor question",

    "Do we want a candidate who is a good moral person, or one who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?"

  6. Jerry,

    Huge false dichotomy!!!!

    And embarrassingly narrow-minded.

    Jeffress is a baptist, no?

    The guy who inspired Gateway to Heaven is also a baptist.

    No offense to Baptists, but they are really good at providing me with topics for satirical writing.

  7. So John, though it requires hard mental effort, you have set yourself up for it: "Why should one be good?"

    If you asked me the same question I would say "hold on, there are two other questions to be answered first. (1) 'What is good?' (2) 'Do I feel that this definition imposes an obligation upon me to conform to it?'"

    But I wouldn't be terribly enthusiastic about spending my time answering any of the three questions.

    I'd simply say, "People do what they do. I do what I do, which includes my own code of honour, which seems built into me. I just hope there continue to be laws and coercive powers which deal with behaviours which cause pain to others. The rest is a bit of a yawn."

  8. Vincent,

    I think you missed my last comment, which was very similar to yours. I said this:

    “Because God, the definer of what it means to be good and the ruler of everything tells us we must.” Without God’s instruction, the two obvious questions are, “what is good?” and “Why should I choose good over other alternatives?”

    I had hoped to avoid answering the question of why one should be good, as it is a larger topic. Both religious people and non-religious people alike often have an intangible allegiance to “good,” whatever that is, the Moral Sense. Religious people define it as a commitment to God’s law. I define it as sense of equality and fairness, but I only do as out of compulsion. I embraced Good long before I questioned what it is.

    I believe that without exception an allegiance to the Moral Sense precedes any question about what it actually we are worshipping, much as is the case for a Christian and his God. Our commitment to good is a process of discovery. It is the question that comes to us after the fact. “What happened?” Not: “What should happen?” Those of us who seek good often seek it before we have a concept of what it is we are seeking, and we often continue to seek it long after we have abandoned former ideas, such as the notion that God is the good we seek (or that nature is).

    We embrace Good, then try to figure out what this thing is that we have wrapped our arms around so lovingly. Most people will not define it this way, as to do so indicates that we are less thinking, and more susceptible to the environment around us than we care to admit, and that’s just not Good!

  9. I'm very grateful to you for this, John. You have hit the spot!

  10. A lot of them take the idea even further, and claim that morality can't exist if there was no God. To this I counter that even if there is a God that dictates our morality, then he still has to base those rules on some standard of goodness and what is good for us that exist independently of him. Otherwise, how could we truly say that God is good, unless he measures up to a standard? The idea that good is simply just what God says it is and nothing more, or even worse what someone says that's what God says it is, means that they've formatted their mental hard drive and willingly handed it over for the kind of brainwashing Vincent mentions.

  11. Bryan,

    I visited a site recently, after I wrote this post, that I was going to point you to. The author was, coincidentally, discussing the idea that without God, morality is an illogical construct, a dynamic thing based on majority opinion.

    As you may imagine, I posted a long response. Thus far, I have not received an email, so it is moderated away, which I doubt because I think the author seeks dissenting opinions, or it just has not surfaced yet.

    Anyway, to paraphrase, perhaps unjustly, his opinion, he believed that morality is a list of moral imperatives, or else there is no such thing, and that when we to try to discover morality, we are inventing it. We have to defer to a higher power, and there is no other way to look at it.

    I will not go so far as insisting he is wrong. Perhaps morality is simply a term we made up to understand our embracing of a Moral Sense, an intangible thing that really doesn't exist, like a circle, for example, or a point on a graph, or the number two.

  12. I don't see anything wrong with morality being dynamic.

  13. I had a conversation with this Inquisitor just last week. He couldn't understand why, when I became an atheist, I didn't immediately run out and murder random children.

  14. Ah, but the circle and the 2 do exist (outside of human invention. I assume that's what you mean. Obviously they exist as human ideas.) It's true that we made up the word "circle" and the number 2, but certainly you're not suggesting that these concepts don't refer to actual things in the world? You're not denying that the sun is a circle (well, a sphere), are you? I mean, we call our concept and understanding of the sun's shape a "sphere", but it really is that shape, and it was so long before we had a name for it.

  15. Bryan,

    A circle exists in its adjectival form. There is such thing as “a circular thing.” There is no such thing as "being a circle." A circular attribute is the shape of a thing’s appearance to humans. It is not a thing unto itself.

    "What is a circle made of?" Circular things can be made of many things. They are not made of circle ingredients. There is no such thing as the ingredients that when assembled, define a circle.

    We use the term circular to label a shape was see. It is not something of real substance, much in the same way that perhaps morality is not something of real substance. "Moral" could be simply an adjective we use to label things to give us a better sense of things. As a noun, reality may not have inherent substance. I am not suggesting this is true or false, but merely proposing it as an alternative perspective on the “Accepting Abundance” argument.

  16. Ah, I see. "Circle" is a quality, not a physical thing, or rather abstract in its pure sense. I get what you're saying. I thought you were going for some kind of extreme empiricism where our ideas have no relevance to reality. I see that you point was much more subtle for that. And I agree.

    As for morality, I don't necessarily think of it as something carved in stone somewhere. I think of it as part the dynamics of our relationships with each other, and contingent on the value we place on our existence and life in general.

    I got into a discussion about this over on my blog about a month ago. In the comments I used the example of the "Save the Planet" idea. People throw this sentiment around as though it were something higher and nobler than petty human concerns, but yet when we say "Save the Planet" we're really talking about saving it's ability to support life. If pollution led to runaway greenhouse effect and the temperature shot up to 900 degrees, the "Planet" would be fine; we would be screwed. In fact, when you remove life from the equation altogether, it really doesn't matter what happens to the planet. If it was pulverized into dust or absorbed into the sun, it would just be matter existing in a different form. Value is only relevant to living beings for something to be valuable to. And so I believe that once you propose this value of life, morality is the conclusions we draw for what best supports and enhances this value.

  17. The vast majority in the Christian community have been led to believe that our Heavenly Father has nothing to do with those who do not want to have anything to do with Him while still believing that no one can be good without His guidance. Some contradiction--huh? (I'll wait to tell the rest of the story after your response.)

  18. Fish,

    The vast majority in the Christian community have been led to believe that our Heavenly Father has nothing to do with those who do not want to have anything to do with Him while still believing that no one can be good without His guidance. Some contradiction--huh? (I'll wait to tell the rest of the story after your response.)

    God loves us all, Fish, as you know. His love just doesn't work the same way yours or mine would. He does not ignore definitely. He punishes.

    Who was it that said: The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small?

  19. “If you do not believe in an afterlife, then why try to be good?”

    Because open and honest cooperation between groups and individuals increases survival and benefits everyone. In a way I believe that to be the roots of civilization.

    The question I have in return is how can individuals or groups claim to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ but become enraged when anyone mentions feeding the hungry or taking care of the poor?

  20. Beach,

    They don't say that we should not help them. They say this, more often: "The government should not redistribute wealth (earnings) and we already give to charities and the problem of the poor is best left to charities.

    The fact that the government always takes funds an individual would have used for one purpose and re-purposes for another, by the very definition of taxation, is ignored.

    The fact that the poor are still poor after government assistance, and the rich are still rich, meaning no wealth was redistributed, is ignored.

    The fact that charities cannot and do not solve the problem is ignored.

    The fact that if we give the rich an annual trillion dollar tax cut and kill our entitlements programs, the rich will not then donate that trillion dollars to charities so the poor can be helped with it, is ignored.

    The fact that Jesus wanted those in need to be helped and the fact that He thought if they were hungry and you did not feed them, you would be judged in the last days, is irrelevant.

    All these facts are included in the irrelevant bucket. Why are all these things irrelevant? Simple. Jesus did not have the false idol known as Fox News counseling Him on right and wrong. The New Testament is now little more than a symbolic text. It gets thumbed, but not followed. Beck and Hannity are the new Jesus's and Jesus is just a despicable hippie.

    Don’t misunderstand me, the left has its own follies, but I am loath to mention them at this time.

  21. I recall being in a metaphysics class in college. At the time I was sort of the village agnostic, habitually questioning everything. Regarding the question of why a person would be good, regardless of consequences, I mentioned the idea that obsession with otherworldly ideas, the idea of "pie in the sky when you die" might actually make people less inclined to take the necessary action to make the world as we now have it a better place. A young woman whom I regarded at the time as none too intelligent replied, "That's like saying people will study hard when there's no test to pass." The rest of the class laughed, pretty much at me. I don't recall being given much of a chance to respond.

    The young woman in question was merely arguing the honest response of a person whose motives are purely selfish, an avoidance of pain and the seeking of eternal favors.

    My argument was incomplete at the time, but was essentially this -- if "this" is indeed all there is, doesn't it make sense to try to improve the worldly situation with good actions, rather than to sully it all the worse with bad?

    Most people cannot, and do not, think that way. They respond generally to avoidance of pain and toward the seeking of favors. It's a sad minority of people who can understand what my thesis was.

    I have changed a great deal since I was 21, and have had a epiphany or two that have convinced me that there is more happening in the universe than just what we can grasp empirically. But, at the risk of sounding elitist, I have seen about 80% of humanity, at the very least, responding to the basic pain/pleasure motivation that the young woman was essentially describing. One is supposed to be cosmically rewarded for good behavior, and punished for bad.

    Obviously we don't know this to be true. But it comes around to Immanuel Kant's "argument" for the existence of God, which is basically that if He doesn't exist, well, damn it, he sure as hell ought to. Who else will sort this shithole out, ethically speaking?

    I have lived to see many clearly evil people prosper, and many clearly good ones suffer. I eventually came to the conclusion that, while the young woman's argument may have been the product of a simple mind, it may not be without merit. It's definitely a comfort to some of us that all will one day face The Big Inquisitor. I can think of scores of people with whom I would be loath to trade places.

  22. Manifesto,

    "That's like saying people will study hard when there's no test to pass."

    Wow! I actually thing this argument is very impressive. It is the largely discredited behaviorist argument, but behaviorism is an obvious answer until refuted, and we know that people are partially motivated by reward and punishment, so the argument is partially accurate.

    But, at the risk of sounding elitist, I have seen about 80% of humanity, at the very least, responding to the basic pain/pleasure motivation that the young woman was essentially describing.

    I think this is true, but not at a spiritual level unless someone is desperate and reaching for the spiritual realm for help. I wish I had more time to point to research about this, but since I don’t, I will simply state my opinion as gospel: people become more motivated over cognitive attributes and less over behavioral attributes, the better their lives are. A Sudanese woman struggling for survival on a daily basis has a behaviorist worldview. An elite American is motivated more by cognitive factors.

    For the majority of Americans, our future spiritual existence (or lack of it), is not a pressing matter. When considering it, we tend toward the cognitive behavior if left to our own devices. This means that those who are good, look for an excuse to justify their good behavior. They are embracing good first, trying to justify it after. Those who are “not good,” look for excuses to justify that. In both cases we are seeking to validate ourselves as reasonable, intelligent, ultimately right, and we are doing it without realizing it.

    The Sudanese woman is not so concerned with self-validation at this level. She has bigger fish to fry: survival.

    I eventually came to the conclusion that, while the young woman's argument may have been the product of a simple mind, it may not be without merit.

    You must exhaust all of the possibilities before your perspective is circumspect. I actually think her argument, though ultimately partially wrong in America, is very good, and expressed in a powerful way. It is not only good, but quotably good, and just as you did, I will quote again.

  23. Well, also, there is one aspect of all this that is quite empathetic and unselfish.

    When one behaves badly toward others, one often inflicts suffering on the other being. This becomes especially noticeable if it's people or animals that you live with or close to.

    It may not harm me, in a direct, selfish, pain/pleasure sort of way, to inflict harm on another being. But it would make me feel awful if I did it. I have a dog who loves me quite unconditionally and is like my shadow, and I would feel terrible if I hurt him. And, I feel terrible now and then anyway remembering some situations in which I haven't been as kind as I should have been to our domestic-partner animals, who love and trust us without options.

    So, there's that aspect of it, too. Sometimes people are good because they have empathy for others and do not want to behave in hurtful ways.

    Unfortunately, if you look at the euthanasia statistics at the various animal shelters in the U.S., not nearly enough people feel that way. They look "the other way."

  24. Also, I have looked up "cognitive" theory as opposed to behaviorism. I suppose this speaks about how old my academic training is -- I minored in English for 6 years, and later someone had to explain to me what literary "deconstruction" is. People weren't doing that when I was in school.

    I am similarly unfamiliar with how "cognitive" theory has presumably displaced behaviorism in psychology. If you could provide a short explanation, it would be welcome. As you have no doubt gathered, I still think that most people are rather beastlike and conform quite predictably to the behaviorist model. Not all do, as I have described -- but I would conservatively estimate that 80% do, indeed. Your turn.

  25. "understand yourself" -from there all things grow

  26. Manifesto,

    Without researching to answer things I spout off from memory, I will tell you that psychologists replace the theory of behaviorism with a blend, as I stated in the post.

    The work of Festinger is generally accepted in one flavor or another now, much in the same way the scientific community embraces the Theory of Evolution.

  27. Davoh,

    "understand yourself" -from there all things grow

    The thing that you ask me to understand is a convoluted mess. I cannot understand that.

  28. "A man who would commit murder, but refrains because the potential consequences are horrific is not better than the other two men."

    If fear of consequences is need to control these critters, then I am for it. He is not a better person but a safer one -- at least for a while.

  29. Sabio,

    The utilitarian benefit of Christianity is not in dispute, at least no here and not now.

    There are two sides to the Christian coin, so I avoided trying to discuss if Christianity should teach "goodness." It is an interesting question. Hmm.

  30. Some people think being Christian defines goodness. I think goodness is a behavior, not a belief.

  31. Jerry,

    I agree that goodness is a behavior, but it is also something people seek. They want to be good, whatever that is, and they want to live in a good world, whatever that is.

    Most people not only want to be good, but want to be able to tell you why they are good, or should be. In reality, they don't know, or most of them do not. They seek good first, then try to explain this peculiar action. Christians say they do it because God tells them to, not realizing that if this is the only reason, then they are not actually good in the first place. The saving grace for Christians is that this is not the real reason. They seek God because they think He is good. They are seeking goodness. Like everyone else, they simply are not sure why.

  32. "They seek God because they think He is good. They are seeking goodness."

    Hmmmmmm. Maybe partly, but I think they are also seeking purpose, and forever life.

  33. Thanks, John, I'm getting this!

    Although I long ago came to the conclusion that MOST humans are not more complex than this (behaviorism), I can see that many, a significant minority, are. That includes me. Their responses are not entirely that which can be explained in such a way. I wouldn't say that it's a majority, but in a situation in which most people don't have to worry much about where their next meals are coming from, it does make a difference.

    More later -- mj

  34. Like everyone else, they simply are not sure why.
    -John Myste

    Well said!

  35. Isn't it obvious? Atheists actually commit less crime than religious people, and it's probably due to the Inquisitive Question:

    "If you can be forgiven for anything you do, what stops you from doing whatever you want?"

  36. @Jerry,

    "They seek God because they think He is good. They are seeking goodness."

    Hmmmmmm. Maybe partly, but I think they are also seeking purpose, and forever life.

    Touché Jerry. You are correct. They are seeking purpose also (and eternal life). Those goals are probably often more powerful than a dedication to good. When I made my statement, it was I seeking the good in them.

    I will now amend my statement: Those who use God as an excuse for being good are doing the same thing as those who find secular excuses. We are all seeking to justify our love of good


    "If you can be forgiven for anything you do, what stops you from doing whatever you want?"

    That is a large question that caused me to gush out soliloquies I haven’t the time to share. My dog heard them. I will share them with a greater audience, in the form of two more posts, one on determinism and one on the Christian concept of forgiveness, but I haven’ t the time right now, so I will just say, “good question.”

  37. If we examine ourselves personally and see where we individually discovered our idea of the good, I suggest we may find that it was via religion.

    Can one imagine a society without good and evil?

    When the great Tao is forgotten
    Goodness and piety appear.
    Throw away holiness and wisdom,
    and people will be a hundred times happier.
    Throw away morality and justice,
    and people will do the right thing.
    Throw away industry and profit,
    and there won't be any thieves.

    (from Tao Te Ching, Chapters 18 & 19 tr. Stephen Mitchell)

  38. @ Vincent:
    Was that a typo? Did you mean to write:
    I suggest we may find that it was NOT via religion.

    For that would seem to match your quoted Taoist aphorism.
    Aphorisms can be slippery, as is your terse comment.

  39. No, it wasn't a typo.

    It is not for me to say whether a particular person learned about the idea of good via religion or not. To me the concept was inexorably bound up with religion from the age of 5 at least. But then my first school was run by nuns, and my second was an English boys' boarding school, where the Church of England's teachings were intrinsic.

    The two quotations seem to be opposed to the teaching of goodness for the purposes of controlling behaviour, on the basis that the best kind of behaviour will arise naturally and unforced.

    Sorry if my comment was too terse and slippery. What I meant to question was the idea of throwing out the idea of God whilst keeping the idea of goodness. This seems to be a timid kind of idea. Why not throw out both?

  40. @ Vincent
    Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining.
    Though many folks get religious indoctrinations from youth, many don't. Yet they may act very similar. The indoctrinated may explain their behavior religiously, but they are largely fooled because we act because of the complex interaction of temperament, environment and imitation. For what reason would the non-religious person have to support their actions -- I contend that they need none.

    But I am not a believer that "the best kind of behavior will arise naturally and unforced." If you are raise by abusive parents and taught nothing of morality, what will arise "naturally" in that child will not usually be good behavior.

    As for throwing out the idea of God -- I support that, if appropriate in that person's development. As for throwing out "goodness", I guess, like "God", it all depends on how the person uses the word, eh?

    Maybe you agree with all this -- I am not sure.

  41. I agree with my understanding of the Tao Te Ching. I agree with much of what I understand of what you are saying. Some of it I would want to discuss with you further, so as to be more sure.

    To be raised by abusive parents is one thing. To be taught nothing of morality is quite a different issue.

    The abuse may or may not create what we call bad behaviour. It will certainly cause distress. It may not damage the sense of how to behave properly, but it will leave wounds, and a lack, and a burden which may take a long while to relinquish.

    I have never taught morality to my children (four, all grown-up). But they learned what they needed to learn and I admire them. In my view the two eldest have suffered by having been brought up by me and my first wife to follow a meditation guru. They still have loyalties to this though I have long abandoned it myself. This is a matter of regret to me--a sort of unwitting child abuse--but there is nothing I can do about it now!

  42. @Vincent and Sabio,

    It is an age-old question, how much to "mold" our children into our concept of good under the guise of teaching them "right from wrong," as if we owned that answer.

    To mold is to brainwash. Some brainwashing is good. It is good to brainwash someone to seek happiness and to always to try excel, and to treat others fairly and equally as much as possible and to have consideration for all things.

    However, none of us own the truth about goodness. It is a lofty goal we have to reach this intangible thing humanity made up. There is no need to brainwash a child much further than the aforementioned basics, which will make him succeed better in life and hopefully try to do it without trampling the rights of others. To brainwash him to believe his success does not require the failure of others is good for him and for humanity. That is probably as far as we should go.

    Trying to indoctrinate children with our personal ownership of truth just makes them idiots. It is a conditioning they must shed before they can grow intellectually. Telling anyone to abandon reason in favor of truths we feed them will always result in idiocy if they listen to us. We are asking them to forgo the use of their rational minds in favor of faith in our philosophy. We are telling them to adopt the truths of the family they happen to be born into and accept that faith as gospel. We are literally requiring them to shut their intellects off. Our truth is no more likely the right answer than anyone else’s. We should not want to seek to “mold” someone else. It is a form of intellectual rape and could be construed as legal child abuse.

  43. "It is good to brainwash someone to seek happiness and to always to try excel". Matter of opinion, I'll just leave it at that.

    The only sort of thing I would want to brainwash a child into, if I judged it necessary, would be matters of personal safety, like crossing the road. And that only if I judged it necessary.

    I am deeply suspicious of this "try to excel" business. Such stuff, even if it is desirable, even if it means anything worthwhile at all, can be learned (for good or bad) from example. As for "to seek happiness" ... isn't this tautological? Surely happiness is by definition what all men seek? If my child takes no interest in excelling at anything, appears not to seek happiness or excellence in anything I (as parent or teacher) have to offer, then I prepare myself to be surprised at what colour this rare flower will turn out to be, when the bud starts to open.

    What is "excel"? I consult the online Oxford English Dictionary:

    To be superior or preëminent in the possession of some quality, or in the performance of some action, usually in a good sense; to surpass others.

    So what is all that about?

    PS: I said "I'll just leave it at that." Sorry, I failed to listen to my own resolution.

  44. Vincent,

    I am deeply suspicious of this "try to excel" business. Such stuff, even if it is desirable, even if it means anything worthwhile at all, can be learned (for good or bad) from example. As for "to seek happiness" ... isn't this tautological? Surely happiness is by definition what all men seek?

    Vincent, most readers here do not have the back story of your perspective. They would have to be a regular visitor of your site to truly appreciate the direction you are going.

    I believe you have a philosophy that suggests active pursuit of success curtails allowing happiness to happen. You believe we create our own stress, that we deny ourselves happiness by pursuing it instead of accepting it. We pre-destine ourselves down a path we don’t enjoy traveling while forsaking the one that beckons to our natural desire. You think that giving ourselves a list of things to do in order to excel causes us to worry about the list instead of enjoying life. It is someone akin to slavery, where we are both the master and the slave.

    I think you further would contend that happiness is a not a study in its own right, but evolves naturally and that anything akin to teaching self-help is moving in a bad direction.

    I disagree with a much of this. I do think that providing an approach to happiness, whether it is building a career of forcing ourselves to study biology when our interest is in philosophy, does detract from life’s joy, somewhat. I also am totally convinced that there is a science to happiness and that this science can be learned from those who mastered it in a very secular way. Some people are happy when washing dishes and also when working assignments of their own choosing. Those people either know naturally, or learned, something that the rest of us do not know.

    I do not intend to address this now, however. The topic is very large and is fodder for a future discussion.

  45. I accept in general terms your judgement, o unmystical Myste.

    But why brainwash a child to excel--to surpass others? I'm really not against stress or worry, so long as they are not imposed on us by others for the sake of excelling. Stress and worry are the way I get awakened from a stupor to perform necessary action.

    But if you want to know what I privately think, it is this: that needing to surpass others, in any endeavour whatsoever, is the symptom of not enjoying life for its own sake. It is in that sense a confession of unhappiness. And in my experience, the joy of surpassing someone else is a poor thing, very far from the best joy that is to be had. As for celebrity and riches, I can hardly speak of them, I have not scaled those heights. But I think that the joys they yield are poor things too, and often lead on to disappointment which has to be assuaged with quantities of drink, drugs, sex addiction etc: or suicide.

    Sorry to bring up things which you do not intend to address now. My own writing (i mean on my blog) has come to a standstill, so I am reduced to lobbing irrelevancies into yours.

  46. Hey Mr. Myste,
    It would be very cool if you could make an "About" page so a new reader like myself could come and quickly learn about your and about your positions and the point of the blog. Reading individual posts to try and figure that out can take too long. See my about tab for examples of how to tell the reader a lot in little time so that they can land running upon happening into your blog. Just a suggestion.

  47. @Vincent,

    But if you want to know what I privately think, it is this: that needing to surpass others, in any endeavour whatsoever, is the symptom of not enjoying life for its own sake. It is in that sense a confession of unhappiness.

    It is hard to differentiate the need to excel from the need to surpass others; moreover, it is probably irrelevant to your point, which I think I understand. It is a big topic. I am happy to hear it, as it is utterly profound and highly interesting, but am not prepared to to try to unfold it at this time.

  48. @Sabio,

    If I can remember to do it, I will make an about page as time permits. Just to give you a taste:

    I don't have any chimpanzees. I love the smell of pizza. I don't mean spoiled pizza, but freshly cooked.

    I am especially moved by legal systems that control modern thought, such as the U.S. Supreme Court, Religious systems, and the philosophies of Vincent and Bryan White.

    I care deeply for the plight of the impoverished.

    I never learned to fence or to roll cigars, or to cut hair. It makes me feel a bit inferior, but I deal with it. I once tried to cut a dogs hair and I made a mess of it. She was not embarrassed, as you may expect, but I was.

    I love philosophy, psychology, and the concept of divinity, Zeus included, and satirical expression. I write tons of satire and rarely post it.

    I don't know who Amy Holland is, but I know there is such a person.

    I am a novelist, only I don’t publish anything, so I am a manuscriptist.

    I juggle.

    I have another blog, John Myste Responds. It is political, except when I post an essay about love, which I recently did. My essay about love was really just like the comments I mentioned here about what good is, since I kind of determined that they are really of the same material and really the same thing.

    I also involuntarily post at Fair and Unbalanced, but I don’t mind.

    I am married to a wonderful woman who has not read my essay about love, and I will remain so until she does.

    I am a vegetarian, a liberal, and a retired chess player.

    I love sitting outside at different locations and reading. I especially like classics and so I intend to one day read them.

    I have studied multiple languages and I speak one of them, English. I love foreign language and foreign things.

    I think raccoons are interesting looking creatures.

    I sympathize with the flytrap.

    This blog is about all of those things.

  49. Good start. Sorting through the, cute, "what-I-don't-do-, know-or-can-do" is very laborious for me, I must say. So I sum those various sentences up to mean, "He is playful and a little self-involved". So after subtracting that, I learn you are a liberal, married, vegetarian, and like lots of things.

    Good luck with an about page. I'd suggest not making it too much like prose and laborious to read. For if a person wants to go back and re-check your positions, they may not just to avoid the cute laborious read.

  50. I like the satire best. When you disagree with me, I can assume you are be satirical.

  51. @Sabio,

    You seemed to really get at the crux of the biscuit. As I have little baking experience myself, another fact, would you be so kind as to write this about page for me?


    I am satirical when I disagree with you. When I agree with you, I generally say nothing. For example, that comic strip you posted: I agreed that it was a comic strip and I was utterly silent.

    @Sabio, can you please add to my about page that when I agree with Jerry Critter I usually don't say anything? At your discretion, of course. If that is not relevant you can exclude it. I defer to your judgment in this matter.

  52. You powers of observation are amazing!

  53. I am honored to know you, John. Your power of observation is a gift everyone needs to give to themselves. Thank you.

  54. Linda! Welcome back. Your blog seemed to be offline for a while.

  55. Hi John! Yes, every time someone thinks I am about to drop dead, they try to remove me from online. I have changed my passwords so no one will high-jack my blog again. ;). I have missed reading you and old Davo, he looks like a 'rich' man sitting astride that massive horse.

    I read your "The Minds of the Dead" and was most impressed and inspired by your "raw" observations. Even left a comment. Indeed I have had some of the same thoughts. You never ceases to amaze me, and I am not trying to boost your ego --- however it's the truth as I see it. I followed the inspiration back to Vincent and Bryan, and it took me a while to read it all, some of it will most probably soak in after the second read, me being such a simple soul.

  56. I would point out to the "Inquisitor" that obedience and self-interest are the patently lowest forms of moral development, and that human beings are significantly better when they focus more on social order, the social contract, etc..

  57. After I get him sufficiently inebriated, of course.

  58. You left a comment on my blog but no way to contact you other than coming to YOUR blog and leaving a comment Of course I read this post and some of the comments. Very interesting!

    I took that sunrise picture at around 6:00am and it's not changed in any way. I also thought it was totally cool. And yes more than 4100 jumps but winding down these days...

  59. DJan,

    If you just respond to comments on your blog, most people will get an email notifying them of your response.

    I think most people "subscribe" to comments as they post. I know I do.

    Try it. Post the same response at your blog, and I will know.

  60. thanks for coming to my blog and making fun of the death of my dog
    What a low life fuck head you are
    You take after Sue and Leslie the two cunts who send hate mail out to those who criticize the President
    That's tolerance from ass holes like you.

  61. Tom,

    Thanks for stopping by. I can always use another fan.

    I have not visited your blog in quite some time, but I have been there, so I guess anything is possible.

    As for making fun of the death of your dog, I am unaware of that, but if I did it, I assure you it was accidental. I would never intentionally do such a thing. I love dogs and hate death.

    As for Sue and Leslie, while I am sure you are a man of integrity and would never make anything up, I have criticized the president and received hate mail from neither of them. I am highly annoyed by this and will request by share of hate mail the first opportunity I get.

    One more thing: it would seem you failed to compliment me on the excellence of my post. I will consider this an oversight, and think for you intentions.

  62. Tom,

    P.S. I was unaware that you had a dog, or that your dog had passed. You have my sincere condolences.

  63. Bull Shit liar
    I will post the hate filled comment you sent

  64. Tom,

    I do not hate you, so I must assume no hate-filled comment was uttered.

    Please post the comment here and also post a hyperlink to it back to your site for review.

    If I inadvertently did such a thing, I will gladly apologize.

    I do not remember ever saying a single unkind word to you. What I do remember doing is gently satirizing what I perceived to be completely unreasonably aggression and false claims against other bloggers. Even then, I never insulted you in any way so far as I know.

    In fact, I have never even been angry at you. I don’t really get angry at bloggers, even ones who despise me.

    I await your link to the aggression. If I unwitting became Mr. Hyde, I will certainly redress the wrong, poste haste.

  65. Extremely interesting comment from Tom. I saw NO post about the death of his dog and no comment from you either John...Hmmmmmm, Octopus is right!

  66. You support cunts who attack blogs with hate that makes you just as bad
    I posted the hate mail they sent me yet you denied they sent them FU you are just an idiot
    I don't like your sarcastic tone especially when you deny the truth and proof of their actions FU

  67. I'm not playing you stupid fucking games ass hole
    Last left, you were going to prove to me these cunts did not send me hate mail
    Where's that proof bastard
    Play your sick games somewhere else
    If you open your vomit mouth and claim I'm lying you should expect to be shot down
    So it's left where it was before
    Why do these two cunts delete and erase the proof of what happened
    What are they hiding
    shove it up your ass you fucking idiot
    Make fun of a dead dog
    What a piece of shit
    those who wish to know what happened can read my blog and the multiple post about these two cunts and read their hate mail
    Jack asses like you can be duped by their lies which only shows how fucking stupid you are since the proof is there
    Now you and your bitch friends can get back to spewing hate about Republicans
    That alone shows the hate these two cunts say about anyone who disagrees with them
    Something that happened months ago and you still spreading their lies about it what a dumb fuck

  68. Tom (and everyone else reading):

    I cannot apologize for aggression that never happened. You promised to post the links proving your allegations. I agreed to apologize if Mr. Hyde has been at it again. You did no such thing. Instead, you repeated your allegations, more loudly this time, as if vehemence were evidence.

    The only thing I ever did was to satirize your aggression toward Sue and Leslie, and even then, I never said an unkind word to you as I did it.

    So in case other readers buy into this, I will tell you what I told him. I told Tom that I would investigate the issue and get back to him. He said he looked forward to it. I returned to him and said that I have spoken with Sue and Leslie about this and it turns out they are not guilty of sending the hate mail he attributed to them. I do believe Tom received hate mail. It is even possible that I am wrong, and they did send it; after all, they were in a feud of sorts. However, I think they probably would have admitted it to me. I could be wrong.

    He became very angry at my research technique. I never insulted him and I don't even know his dog.

    I have seen the horrible vulgar things he posts about Sue and Leslie on other sites. It impinges on my natural tendency to sympathize. Sue can be a very aggressive debater (and so can Leslie at times). I can see how someone debating them may get upset if they are not thick-skinned. My advice would be not to debate aggressive debaters if you don’t want a passionate response. I don’t mind such responses, so I can dissent with impunity. However, if anger is going to be the result, you should avoid it. All sources of anger should be avoided when possible.

    Tom accused “the cunts,” as he calls them, of taking it to the next level, of sending him emails with contents like the comment he just left for me. I have no knowledge of them doing that. I even asked them outright. It turns out that they have no knowledge of them doing that either. You would think they would know.

    So, I clearly see he is guilty of the charges he makes, and I do not see theirs. I am quite certain that they have got into shouting matches with mutual exchanges of insults somewhere. Though I don't know where, I am almost certain of it. I know both women and I cannot imagine either of them rolling over in the face of aggression akin to what he just posted here. They are both strong intelligent people and they are not afraid of a fight.

    Tom, I bear you no ill will. If I owe you any apology at all, it would be for satirizing anger, which could be considered antagonistic, as you do not choose to be angry and are a victim of said anger as much as anyone else is.

    I do feel a small amount of compunction for that and something in me wants to apologize, but I am conflicted. If I read what I wrote a few lines above, it would seem that I am still doing it. Anger is your weakness; satirizing anger is mine.

    Since I am not cured of my side of the problem, I can tell you this: I do sincerely apologize for having the problem.

    P. S.

    I refuse to stop liking Sue and Leslie because you do not like them. I refuse to stop reading their blogs. I would be very happy with this: we all step back, shake hands, agree to disagree, and everyone respects everyone else from this point forward. The blogosphere is not real life and if it is causing discomfort in real life, then it is counter to its purpose. I am sure in person, with the checks and balances disapproving or hurt glances can give, we would all get along famously.

  69. very nice John, But I have to disagree with the term aggressive that you use to describe me. Way back when I first started my blog and let the trolls take over a thread, to the point where I lost my cool, yes then you could say I was aggressive in trying to get the trolls to leave me alone. But this year would you not agree I am so much more reserved? Could be cuz I have moderation on...Plus I'm older, more tired, and just don't think clearly with all the drama going on in my life. Tom has added to that too, thanks Tom, Now go away...

    BTW, you are correct, I NEVER ever would send a person a hate email full of vulgarity as Tom claims. When I get his messages I cringe and open them with one eye closed. I really am a nice person, really I am. I'm a Gam Gam for Petes sake ;)

  70. Sue, I only discovered you about a year ago. You are aggressive by my standards and passive by Tom's. There is nothing wrong with being aggressive, by the way.

    I do think that on political blogs people will become aggressive at times, all of us, and we have to be able to shake hands at the end of the day.

    I have my hand outstretched to every one of you and I am at Starbucks working, so just stop by and shake it. You too, Tom.

  71. The internet allows one to say things to others that they would never say face-to-face...unfortunately...usually...except when it is me saying those things. :)

  72. "I do think that on political blogs people will become aggressive at times, all of us, and we have to be able to shake hands at the end of the day."

    "At times" is one thing. A daily dose of vicious, insulting comments and a campaign to assassinate a person's character all over the blogosphere for months on end is an entirely different matter. This is called abuse, and like so many laws, the abuser is protected while the victim has no protection whatsoever.

    This is very different, say, from the fact that members of the far-left are unhappy with me and I with them. At the end of the day I hope we can shake hands.

    But it'll be a cold day in hell before I'll ever shake hands with someone who engages in the kind of behavior to which I've been subjected. There are no two sides to this - or riding the fence, if you will; it is a matter of right and wrong, period. Should a woman who is abused by her spouse be expected to shake hands at the end of the day? I don't think so.

  73. I never asked you to stop linking anyone. Starting another lie now?
    You promised to investigate. I have the addresses and proof. You never asked me for that information, nor have you read the hate mail, which I posted. At least that is what you said last time you commented at my blog. You simply said Sue and Leslie did not write the hate mail, BUT YOU WOULD HAVE NO EVIDENCE TO BACK THAT UP SINCE YOU NEVER ASKED ME FOR INFORMATION
    I never promised to do shit for you
    I would never promise to do anything for a liar
    Cunt mouth makes it sound devious that I commented to you on a post of yours that was very old
    This post was the top post when I commented.Not my fault you post so little. Not surprised, people are not interested in reading a liar, or reading a blog that supports such hate
    See how they are, they turn the truth into a supposed devious thing.
    I asked before if you had seen the original comment by me on Leslie's blog that started her hate campaign against me, you said no.
    So how in the hell do you even know what we are arguing about. Leslie deleted that MILD comment so no one could see that her reaction was out of line. That same day the hate mail started
    You are a fool and a liar
    I don't promise to do anything for liars

  74. Sue,
    You are a fucking liar
    You sent some of those emails

  75. Leslie,

    You made very good points. I have no rebuttal.

    Tom, thanks for stopping by.

  76. This comment has been removed by the author.

  77. An excellent post, John. Thank you for stimulating my brain cells. Heaven knows they need it from time to time. 8-)

  78. That's right as a liar you have nothing else to say

  79. Tom has my IP and I asked him to post it with the hate mail, but he won't. Proof of his lies and the sickness that is permeating his whole being.

    BTW, Tom even has my email address. I've only been on the computer for 6 yrs, so I do not know how to send an email using an anonymous address, or to comment on a blog with another IP...:)

  80. Tom, why do I have to keep reminding you that "Glengarry Glen Ross" was just a movie, and that Mitch and Murray were simply characters in that movie?

  81. I did post it BITCH
    Which is proof that John is full of shit
    Neither of you read it
    You just continue the lies
    Idiot cunts

  82. (Alright, I'll play along), "You stupid fucking cunt. You idiot. You fucking child. Who told you you could work with men? You ferry, you company man. Yeah, that's right Tom, I'm talking to you, shithead. I'm gonna have your job. I'm gonna talk to Mitch and Murray! I'm gonna go downtown!"......Alright, now your turn.

  83. John, I was reviewing the comments for a different reason, but came across this one on 10/13:

    "The fact that the poor are still poor after government assistance, and the rich are still rich, meaning no wealth was redistributed, is ignored."

    Your explanation is that no wealth was, in fact, redistributed. Let me offer an alternative explanation: wealth redistribution occurred yet failed to accomplish the goal.

    If redistribution worked, the poor would no longer be poor. They are still poor, so redistribution doesn't work.

  84. Heathen,

    If redistribution worked, the poor would no longer be poor. They are still poor, so redistribution doesn't work.

    Redistribution was not tried and is not tried. No one is trying to make the poor wealthy. They are trying to create a minimum poverty level in America, and though it does not work 100% of the time, it does go a long way. Prior to the New Deal, people could die in the streets. After, they usually do not have to, though there all exceptions.

    So, yes, the poor or still poor, but no, they do not die of hunger and the majority of them are not homeless.

    If redistribution were en force and if its goal was to take the wealth of the wealthy and make the poor equally wealthy, then I would agree, it would be a failure. However, no liberal has this goal or idea. It is a fiction made up by conservatives in order to give them a fake legitimate point to debate. The problem is, it is their fiction, so debating it with a liberal is unimpressive. Liberals have no interest in debating conservative fantasies.

    If you wish to address what liberals actually believe, I would be happy to support that argument, but I have no intention is trying to prove conservative straw men.

  85. I simply offered an alternative explanation. I see that you are sticking to yours.

  86. Don't I always reject alternative interpretations of truth? Have I not locked down my commitment long ago? I can't go changing my mind now. The motion of such things creates nausea.

  87. The poor are still poor but, unlike in the previous era (which I will grant, was far from perfect), their families are broken, too.