Why I’m Here (Updated)

In my second post, I explained why I started my blog. I have decided to do an updated post because there are other things I’ve thought about that I would like visitors to this blog and to my Twitter homepage to know. However, I am going to keep the old post up, which you can view here, though most stuff there will be repeated in this post.

Why does this blog exist? First of all, the name: it comes from Jeremy Beahan of the Reasonable Doubts Podcast. “Before you identify yourself as a Republican or a Democrat; before you identify as a Christian or a Jew; before you identify as anything, identify yourself — think of your primary identity as a seeker oftruth.Put that first above anything else. Then whatever is worthy should follow that.” Previous to this quote in the podcast Beahan said it’s important that we have the courage to seek opposing viewpoints; to listen to the other side. Thus, I hope this blog won’t be a liberal, conservative, or libertarian blog; it won’t be a Christian blog; it will be a blog for all seekers of truth — black, white; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu; conservative, liberal, libertarian; cisgendered and straight as well as LGBTQIAP+. 

To share whatever I have that may help someone, that they may connect to. A little over a year ago I joined Twitter to connect with people beyond my bubble, to see alternative perspectives, to break the shell of provincialism.

People have called me smart for much of my life, but I really don’t know what I’m doing. However I think I need to share what I do have. The Quran says “Whoever is given knowledge is given indeed abundant wealth.”(Surah 2:269) and “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”(20:114). The Bible says “If you seek it[wisdom] as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”(Prov. 2:4-5, NIV)

Here are a few hadith(sayings of Muhammad): “Go back to your people and teach them.”(Bukhari 3:25); “Let him who is present impart knowledge to him who is absent.”(Bukhari 3:37); “Knowledge is only maintained through teaching.”(Bukhari 3:10). The idea of knowledge being wealth and the imperatives to share it reminds me of Psalms 72, in which Solomon prayed for wealth and power to be a voice to the voiceless. Like in the parable of the talents(Mt.25:14-30) I see a good mind as a gift, a trust. The two servants who used their talents were told “Well done thou good and faithful servant”(Mt. 25:21, 23); whereas the one who buried his talent was told “Thou wicked and slothful servant”(Mt. 25:26). 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each one of you should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its many forms.”

I mentioned above my reasons for getting a Twitter account. As I mentioned in other posts, I grew up in an insular Evangelical/Fundamentalist environment. Around age 18 I began to question my upbringing and wonder if there’s more than just my bubble. Plato’s Cave became a good friend, as it was the only way I could verbalize my sentiments. )That’s where my profile pic comes from.) In the Bible Jesus interacted with a variety of people, choosing for apostles a tax collector (basically a collaborator with the Roman occupation) and a Zealot (a group that wanted an armed revolt against Rome). The Epistle of Diognetus says, “Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.”

I also seek to build bridges of understanding between peoples and resist tribalism and provincialism. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”(Matthew 5:9) and “For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.”(Ephesians 2:14‭-‬16). Furthermore, it says, “Strive for peace and promote it!”(Psalms 34:14b). The Qur’an says, “O mankind! We made you from a male and a female into nations and tribes so that you may know each other.”(Surah 49:13) I’m here to help break down these walls and to help us to know each other. The us vs them mentalities are one of my pet peeves. There is so much more to the world than our little bubbles; it’s more beneficial for all that we transcend our provincialism and tribalism.

Due to having grown up in a controlling environment (and having wondered whether or not to label my experiences as abusive), I also want this to be a safe place for abuse victims/survivors; particularly for spiritual abuse, but also for all other abuse as well. I’ve learned a bit about this subject not talked about much in Evangelicalism and have found various online spaces helpful in sorting things out. I want this to be such a place (for people regardless of where they are on the political spectrum); it’s a way of expressing gratitude.

Since I have questioned my upbringing and had times of doubt, I also want this blog to be a safe place for doubters, a place where we can ask honest questions. In my Twitter bio I quote Michel de Montaigne, a 16th century French essayist: “Que sais-je?”, meaning “What do I know?” I say this as a rejection of dogmatism (like what I was raised with) and a willingness to learn from others. The 17th century Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yacoub urged people to submit their beliefs to a thorough examination. The Bible says, “But examine all things; hold fast to what is good.”(1 Thessalonians 5:21) and “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.”(1 Corinthians 13:9‭-‬10). It was through wrestling with God that Jacob becomes Israel, and after Job has honestly expressed his doubts and feelings, God tells Jon’s friends, who had said pious clichés, “You have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.(Job 42:7). In her book Allah, Liberty, and Love Irshad Manji writes, “Faith doesn’t forbid exploration. It’s dogma that does. Dogma, by definition, is threatened by questions, while Faith welcomes questions because it trusts that God, being magisterial, can handle them.”

BOTTOM LINE: I have an inquisitive personality, have many interests, and am an intellectual. For me learning new things is fun. I want to share that; my experiences, my journey, my story, my studying, reflections — maybe it will be of help to someone; I hope to make connections, to develop a community in which we can learn, grow, connect, etc. Also psychology shows that sharing what we learn helps us to learn.
For more please see my post Meet Me.


Trip to Cedar Point

Bobby had come a long way concerning amusement parks. As a kid, he rode mostly round rides in Kiddie Land. As a teen, his friends helped him overcome his fear of roller coasters. He was now at Cedar Point, on the 200′ Magnum with his friend Pat. The roller coaster slowly climbed the hill, and Bobby enjoyed the view before the drop. Bobby didn’t scream, as he felt that was cheesy. When the ride came to hills, Bobby let go of the restraints to get the full 0-G feeling.

Afterwards, Bobby and Pat said in unison, “Let’s ride again!”

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by J. Hardy Carroll.

Mayan Adventure

Robert Jones, an American EFL* teacher and archaeologist among the Maya in Guatemala, was exploring the ancient Mayan temple (dated to the Archaic Period**) with his colleagues Professors Maria and Delores Kan from the university, Fr. Pedro Tun, and Santiago Tupac, a shaman from the local village. They came upon a Long Count Calendar, and a discussion started about the Mayan calendar. 

As they spoke, a glow appeared near the calendar, and three women (dressed in ancient Mayan dresses) and three men (dressed in jaguar skins, two as warriors one as a priest) just materialized. The priest, in proto-Mayan, told how, through a secret ritual, they went to the beginning of the next Great Cycle. Santiago indicated his belief in the story, and Robert suggested that the time travellers accompany them to the university. 

On the way there, they stopped to get the time travelers modern clothes. As they were leaving the store, an inter-dimensional monster showed up. Nothing Santiago, Pedro, or the priest worked, but one of the female time travelers shrunk and jumped on the monster, crushing it beneath her new tassel loafers.

Maria simply commented, “A woman saves the day!”, to which Robert cheers with approval. 

This is a post for Sunday Photo Fiction by Al Forbes. 

*English as a Foreign Language

**Before 2000 BCE


Spying on the Lovebirds

I was sitting in the kitchen when the lovebirds, Marlene and Bob, returned to the WG* we share with two others. From what I hear, Bob is an American student here in Germany. The lovebirds talked, and were about to kiss when Marlene looked at me and shrieked, “A spider!”

Next thing I knew, I was on the floor at her feet. I gulped as she raised her foot to step on me. I squirmed under the sole of her penny loafer as she increased the weight until my body, unable to support the weight, collapsed with a loud crunch. 

*WG, Wohngemeinschaft (lit., living community), in Germany, is a living arrangement in which people live together to share expenses.

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Victor and Sarah Potter.


In Holland

Jake’s world tour was going phenomenally. He was just arriving in Amsterdam harbor on a boat from London. He grabbed his stuff and exited into the dusk. He found a bike shop, where he rented a bike and pedaled through the streets of Amsterdam. While doing so, he snapped pictures of the buildings, the canals, and the lights, and posted them on Twitter. He went to a café to finally meet Greta, whom he met on Twitter. After having snacks and drinks and talking, Jake headed to the hostel and fell asleep immediately.

The next morning he went to the rendezvous location, where Greta was standing outside a car. They got in and Greta drove off. “Now, off to Friesland and the Elfstedentocht*! I was practicing even in USA with both rollerblading and ice skating so I could participate in this 11-city race! I am so excited!”

Greta smiled, and said, “I’m glad you can participate, after all you went through back in the States!”

Jake smiled and enjoyed the scenery and Greta’s company. However, halfway to Friesland, the car made weird signs and stopped. Greta tried to rev it, but failed to start it. 

The Elfstedentocht is an 11-city ice-skating race that occurs in the Dutch province of Friesland when the weather freezes the canals.

This is a post for Sunday Photo Fiction by Al Forbes, who also provided the photo.


Roman Laws on Slavery

The following post is a paper I did for World Civilizations I:

Slavery was widespread in the Roman Empire. In this post, which, I discuss Roman slavery laws based on the Institutes of Gaius, an ancient Roman legal textbook, and the Code of Theodosius. I will talk about freedmen and slaves in the Roman Empire, the conditions under which slave owners were liable for killing their slaves, and reflect on whether or not the Romans had a fairly liberal view of slavery, and whether or not they treated their slaves well.

First of all, the Institutes of Gaius classifies human  as either slaves or free. The free were classified as either ingénue (born free) or libertine (freed slaves). The libertini were further subdivided as either Roman citizens, Latins, or deditici (subjects, the same category as conquered people).

Libertini were classified as deditici if they had been subject to chains, interrogation, and/or torture for a crime they had committed, or had been gladiators. Such freedmen were ineligible for both Roman citizenship and Latin status, and were barred from coming within 100 miles of Rome, on pain of being enslaved for life. They were deditici for life.

Libertini who neither fulfilled the requirements to become Roman citizens nor were deditici were classified as Latins. The conditions for citizenship were to be released after age thirty in front of a council for a just cause, to have served six years in the vigils (Roman police force), or, if a Latin, to be married either to a Latin of the same status or to a Roman citizen with seven adult Roman citizens as witnesses, then had a child, and next appeared before the local magistrate after the child’s first birthday to prove the process had been carried out in accordance with Roman law.

My mention of a just cause in reference to manumission brings up one of two types of slaves I would like to discuss. One condition that was considered “just cause” for manumission was to free the pedagogus, who was a slave who took care of children. The pedagogus would thus, if over thirty when freed (which is highly likely) and the master were at least twenty, become a Roman citizen, provided he had done nothing to earn the status of deditici. 

The vigils were the ancient Roman police force. Slaves who served in the vigils got the special privilege of obtaining Roman citizenship upon release after six years of service (later reduced to three years), even if they were under thirty. Other slaves had to be at least thirty upon manumission to be eligible for Roman citizenship. However, these benefits only applied to Latins; deditici received no special privileges from serving in the police force.

The Code of Theodosius provided circumstances under which a slave owner could be charged with homicide in the death of a slave. One condition in which an owner was NOT liable was if a slave died in custody after a beating. However, the owner was liable if a slave died during a beating. Owners were also liable for inflicting lethal wounds, hanging slaves, having them thrown from heights, using punishments reserved for the state, and torturing them to death.

Now, did Rome have a fairly liberal view of slavery? On the one hand, no, in that they practiced slavery in the first place. On the other hand, “yes”, if the key word is “fairly”, as is shown by contrasting it with 19th-century American slavery. Roman law specifically called slaves “human”, whereas American slaves were not considered himan. Freedmen could become citizens in Rome, whereas American slaves only became citizens after the abolition of slavery. (It is true that the deditici could never be citizens; but that was based om behavior. In American slavery, it was race that barred a person from citizenship.) Roman law offered slaves protection that American law did not, in that an owner in the American South could kill his slaves and not face prosecution. (On the other hand, that raises the question of whether or not the Romans enforced their laws.)

Did the Romans treat their slaves well? Ultimately, the answer is “no” because owning someone is, by default, not treating that person well. It can be said that, for their era, the Romans treated their slaves well, especially compared to American slavery. For example, freed slaves were eligible for citizenship and had legal protections from excessive brutality. However, they were not protected from beatings and could lose their eligibility for citizenship. The question is, how easy was it for them to be accused of crimes that would get them labeled deditici? Was it easy for owners to kill slaves and make it seem legal? I have to say that the Romans were paternalistic in their treatment of slaves.

To um up, Roman law classified people as slaves or free, with the free consisting of those who were born free and those who were freed slaves. The freedmen includee Roman citizens, Latins, and subjects, with various conditions determining status. Subjects (deditici) were in that category for life, but Latins could become citizens. Two categories of slaves, the pedagogus and the vigils had a good chance of becoming citizens. Roman law allowed for owners in some cases to be prosecuted for killing slaves. The Roman views of slavery were not liberal due to their acceptance of slavery, but they were less brutal in many ways than was American slavery centuries later.


Things Heat Up in a Swedish Ice Bar

Elena stomped out her cigarette before entering the Swedish ice bar and ordering a cosmopolitan. As she took her drink and began to sit down, she felt a slap to her rear. She knocks him over with a kick to the chest and steps on him. An American guy said to her, “Nice boots! Would you like to dance?”

Elena looks down and says, “Yes”. POW! The American is punched in the face, and a man calls him racial slurs. The American responds in Swedish, and as they begin to fight, security guards remove the Nazi from the premises.

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Roger Bultot.


Why I Want to be a Feminist Ally (Secular Version)

I would like to be a feminist ally. In this post, I will explain why I use that wording, what “feminism” and “intersectionality” mean, and explain why I support it. (This is the secular version of this post. I will be making a biblical case in a later post.)

When I say, “I want to be a feminist ally”, this means I am a male who supports feminism. I say “want to be” because there are a number of complaints from feminist bloggers about male “feminists”. One such complaint is of the Nice Guy Syndrome, in which guys will be feminists to either get praise (called “cookies”) or sex, and said guys turn hostile when it is not given. In addition, it is said that not intending to be sexist is not enough, for the harm is the same. (There is an old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.) I want to *actually* be of help, and not offer some benevolent sexist paternalism.

What is feminism? One definition is that feminism is the idea that men and women are equal and the movement to achieve this equality for women. However, there is a stereotype that feminism is about man-hating, which is false. (Here is my translation of Sarah Andres’s post addressing these stereotypes; the original French is here.) What I will note is that feminism is not a monolithic movement, and that there are differing approaches how to achieve equality. (See here for more.) For the purposes of this post, “feminism” means “the movement to dismantle patriarchy (systematic disadvantaging of women in favor of men) and to empower women”. And, to aid in explaining my position in this system (and address at least one objection), I will explain “intersectionality”.

When I referred to “patriarchy” as “disadvantaging women in favor of men”, I choose a longer expression rather than use the controversial term used to describe this phenomenon: male privilege. Some dudes will object to being called “privileged” because they are poorer and there are women that are more successful than they are. This is explained by the concept of intersectionality, that talks about how we are all on a spectrum of privilege and marginalization. “Marginalized” means you face disadvantages due to certain aspects of yourself (such as being female, POC, LGBT, etc) and “privileged” means you lack those disadvantages. So, “male privilege” means there are things women face due to being female that men don’t have to face. Here is a video in which Kimberlé Crenshaw, the founder of Intersectionality Theory, explains the theory: https://youtu.be/ROwquxC_Gxc

In my case, I am privileged in being a cisman (meaning that I am a biological male who identifies as male), straight, a native English-speaker, and a native-born citizen of a core nation (in my case, USA). I am marginalized in being relatively poor (though I do not face absolute poverty), not being college-educated (though I am in school now) at the time of writing, and having grown up in an insular, controlling church (that many consider to be a cult). Other areas of note are that I have some privilege in being fairer-skinned, though it is not full white privilege in that I am mixed race, and thus my racial identity varies by country. (In USA, for example, I am considered black.) This is called “passing privilege”. Also, in Western countries (such as USA), I have Christian privilege. Due to these factors, the are women who are better off than me, because they have some privilege in areas that I lack. However, male privilege means that, even with my disadvantages, it will be easier for me to move forward since I am male. Feminists want to change the system, not to make things harder for men, but easier for women. (More on this later.)

One popular objection to feminism is that it ignores how men and women “naturally” are: men are seen as “natural” leaders and as gravitating towards certain interests, and women as “natural” followers, gravitating towards other interests, and feminists are accused of messing with it! First of all, this objection commits the Naturalistic Fallacy, which says that if something is natural, it *must* be good or moral, and immoral or bad if unnatural. In his book The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill observes that feudalism and slavery were formerly considered “natural” and observes “unnatural generally means only uncustomary”. In addition, Mill observes that women are specifically trained to be submissive and to not seek their own desires (qte. in Encarta Reference Library Premium). Plato too addresses the nature objection in his Republic through a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon. In the dialogue, Socrates says “the only difference appears to be that the male begets and the female bringd forth” (qte. in Barry, p. 16; note: today the difference is seen differently in an attempt to be trans-inclusive, but that is outside the scope of this post), and thus generally irrelevant elsewhere. Socrates is depicted as making his point that it would be absurd to, once you acknowledge a difference in natures between bald and long-haired men, you were to forbid one from being shoemakers if the other engage in the trade (ibid). Instead, Socrates argues that sameness or difference is regarded in the presence or lack of natural talent (i.e., the ability to learn something easily and then to  to do it with little instruction), not gender (pp. 16-17).

We can see Socrates’ principle in action in our world. He specifically mentions that women get made fun of if a man is better at weaving and watching over saucepans and batches of cake, since those are seen as the strength of women (Barry, p. 17). In our world today, there is a stereotype that women aren’t good at math or science. However, this belief is contradicted by the existence of Hypatia and Marie Curie. One factor contributing to the existence of these stereotypes is confirmation bias, the tendency to only pay attention to ideas that confirm one’s preconceived notions. In addition, these ideas are taught to children at a young, highly impressionable age, so it is possible these norms can be implanted. (Studies of false memories show that memories can be implanted, and it is not much of a stretch to suggest that interests and desires can be implanted.) Furthermore, deviance from gender norms results in shaming: if a woman is too “uppity”, displays anger, or deviates from femininity norms, then she is called nasty names. If a man deviates from masculinity norms, he is compared to women. (It seems sexist to use terms related to women as an insult.) Sociologist Émile Durkheim observes that punishing deviance reinforces norms. So, all this means that talk of how men and women “naturally” are turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

A third point rebutting the claim about how men and women naturally are is cultural variability. Consider the village of Gapun in Papua New Guinea, where they have the custom of kros (which means “angry” in Tok Pisin). A kros is an angry rant about another’s behavior that generally includes strong language, and is generally delivered by women. In fact, men generally have their wives deliver a kros for them. For the villagers, such behavior is seen as in line with the nature of women (Cameron, pp. 32-34), whereas in the West such behavior is considered unbecoming to women and “masculine”. This supports the theory that most differences between the sexes are social, not biological.

Also, society tends to set up norms that disadvantage women. For starters, the traits and careers coded “masculine” tend to be more prestigious, and women in those fields tend to face a lot of sexism. In addition, social norms and conditioning make it more likely that a woman will take time off work for maternity reasons and thus have a gap in employment. (Note: there is a perception that feminism is hostile towards being a stay-at-home mom and having a more traditional lifestyle. It is not; feminism just argues that women should have the *choice* to be or not to be a SAHM. Feminists to pressuring women into being in the home.) Also, a lot of success comes from thinking outside the box and being creative. Thus, encouraging submission in women essentially functions to keep them down. For more, please check any feminist blog! 
Now, onto my reasons for supporting feminism. First of all, my support comes from the fact that women’s rights are human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (article 1) and article 2 indicates that the rights apply regardless of sex. Article 23 says, “Everyone has a right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work….to equal pay for equal work”. In addition, article 16 says, “Marriage should be entered into only with the full and free consent of the intending spouses”. Article 26 says that everyone has a right to an education and that “education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality…”.
This shows that human rights apply regardless of sex or gender identity, and thus apply to women. 

The first two articles indicate that, as human beings, women deserve the same rights as men. Articles 23 and 26 establish that women should be able to seek careers wherever they would like, and have the training to do so. (The line “favorable conditions of work” means an environment free of sexual harassment, among other things.) To say that women must be certain things because “nature” or “tradition” is a violation of human rights. 

The “full development of the human personality” brings up another aspect: the right to not just survive, but thrive. This is expressed in Maslow’s pyramid:  We need feminism so that women, too, can reach the top. This brings me back to what I said towards the beginning, about how feminists don’t want to pull men down, but to lift women up. Too many men have a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance one. They hear that women have a smaller piece of pie and jealously guard theirs, fearing they’ll lose their pie. However, a better model is an abundance one, that focuses on expanding the pie, knowing there is enough for everyone. In addition, since we are all interconnected, I cannot be all I can be unless you are all you can be, and you cannot be all you can be until I am all I can be. That means that if women are systematically disadvantaged, we all lose. We all win when everyone has the opportunity to thrive. 

In summary, I hope to be truly helpful in helping women to achieve equality (called feminism), rather than a burden. Intersectionality explains where we are on the axis of privilege and marginalization, and with my having male privilege, this means that, while there may be women better off than me (due to their having privilege where I lack it), a woman in my situation would face more hurdles in life. Feminism is not contrary to nature and is, in fact, in line with human rights and the best system to contribute to human flourishing. Women’s liberation will not hurt men; in fact, we all will win with feminism. This is why I want to be a feminist ally.


Barry, Vincent. Philosopy: A Text with Readings. 1980. Wadsworth, Inc.

Cameron, Deborah. The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages? 2007. Oxford University Press

Encarta Reference Library Premium. 2005. Microsoft