Friday, February 28, 2014

The Afterlife

Let me begin by stating that this post contains a lot of gospel speculation.  In other words, I'm not sure I believe what I'm writing, but it's as clear a picture as my limited view can seem to discern.

In our current culture, people often strongly include their passions and desires as a part of their identities.  Whether we have a passion for football, pride in our career, or desire to view fine art, we use these to define ourselves.  However, these things may not really be part of our eternal identities.  Similarly, some feel the need to define themselves via their sexual orientations.  While that may be an important part of how they view themselves, it may not be true in the eternities.

When Christ was confronted by the Sadducees, who didn't believe in an afterlife, they gave him a puzzle that they figured disproved the afterlife.  According to Hebrew law, if a man died, his brother had to wed the man's widow and raise seed to the deceased man (as opposed to raising seed to himself).  So if seven brothers all kept dying off, so they each had to successively marry the widow of their older brother, who got her as a wife in the afterlife?  Christ's response was interesting.  "When they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven." (1)  I think what he could be saying is that marriage and sexuality are primarily mortal traits, and in general do not continue in the afterlife.

Peter, of course, was given power that whatever he bound on Earth would be bound in heaven, so he could bind a marriage that would last in the afterlife with that authority, but our sexuality could very will be quite different that what we experience here.  And Peter's authority is the key.  That authority rests with the prophets and apostles.  They provide for such marriages in the temples.  Only marriage between a man and woman are allowed to be sealed in this way.  The Church does not want to support legal marriages which (according to our current understanding) cannot progress to be eternal.  I completely understand the stance of the Church.

However, earthly marriages can also be viewed as agreements of comfort and convenience for people today, even if they may not be relationships that will continue in the afterlife.  Is there a problem if laws are written that allow same gender marriages?  I understand that view as well.  Not all earthly marriages will continue after death.

So I give it as my opinion that due to changes in how we experience our sexuality, in the next life marriage will not need to even be a part of existence, except for those whose marriages were sealed by that authority given to Peter and subsequent apostles.  For those who bind up their identity too much with their sexual drives and preferences, the afterlife could be a much greater shock than for those who identify themselves primarily in other ways.  Again, this is a lot of speculation, and so is likely to be wrong.  But it seems to make sense to me at this time.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Believing is Seeing

I recall reading a book by Joseph Campbell that really changed the way I viewed philosophy.  He pointed out that the number 432000 shows up an awful lot in ancient cultures' mythologies, and concluded that there was something very important, cosmologically speaking, about that integer.  He mentioned Babylonian uses, Mayan uses, etc.  But being the nerd that I am, I quickly decided to write the number in base 60, since that's what the Babylonians used.  To the Babylonians, it's just 2000.  It's like a big round number that's roughly half a million.  It's just double the cube of 60.  What's the likelihood of rolling all ones on three rolled dice?  One in 216, exactly half of 432.  (Play creepy music).  But it's all just a made up construct.  There's nothing in the universe that says everything has to be made of powers of 6 and 10.  It's just that humans have developed our numerical language around these things.  It's like the Dilbert Comic:

Once my wife and I realized this, we tried it with another number.  We chose a somewhat interesting number (the product of 3 small primes) and started looking for it.  We saw it all over the place.  If we believed that there was something extremely significant to the number, we would have found a ton of evidence for this.  And there's the rub.  If we focus on some pet theory, as we look around at the world around us we will see a ton of supposed evidence for our idea.  I wondered how much of philosophy is based on this.  How much of science is based on preconceived notions that we are simply affirming rather than actually producing real supporting evidence?  It's an easy game to play.

I see people doing this with other things.  When people watch Disney's Frozen, for example, and see Elsa as a metaphor for coming out of the closet as a homosexual, I get where they are coming from.  I saw it, too.  After all, that interpretation has meaning to me, my orientation not being public.  Only I also realized that it could be seen as a metaphor for leaving your family and responsibilities in pursuit of personal pleasure.  In fact, whatever your situation, you could probably draw up a good parallel with the story somewhere.  We humans are very good at that.  We look at the clouds and see forms of, I don't know, a bunny riding a wheeled crocodile, or something like that.  I guarantee that the clouds have nothing to do with that, but we humans see the shapes.  We draw parallels.  We make metaphors where none were intended.  And they help us make sense of the world.  But please be aware that they are not necessarily an intrinsic part of reality.  Rather, they are a way in which our brains interpret and communicate the world around us.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Social Cost of Immorality

I hear a lot from members of the Church about the social cost of sexual immorality -- particularly the cost of homosexual immorality.  The arguments are usually made to refute the fight to legalize gay marriage.  But I worry about the blind spot they seem to exhibit toward heterosexual immorality.  It's not that they think heterosexual immorality is good.  The Church's stance is quite strong, and members usually agree in general.  It's just that they seem to think homosexual immorality is so very much worse than heterosexual immorality.  I think this attitude is usually ignorant bigotry.  People are just reacting to their feelings of distrust of those who they don't understand.  We all somewhat fear the unknown, the other.

When we really look at it, homosexual immorality has less of a social cost than heterosexual immorality.  If a heterosexual couple is irresponsible sexually, there are many possible consequences.  There is always a risk of sexually transmitted diseases.  Certain protection can drastically lower the risk, but can't completely eliminate it.  That is a personal risk that people take, and while there are societal costs, the main people affected are the participants.  But there is also the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.  This complication is not just personal.  There is now another human being involved.  The statistics are there -- the societal costs of children raised without fathers, particularly in neighborhoods full of fatherless families, are well documented.  Statistically speaking, involved fathers are about the largest factor in predicting the academic and societal success of children.

Still, people will quietly shake their heads at teen sex in high school, but lobby loudly against high schoolers who want to start an LGTB awareness club fearing that it will be detrimental to society.  They take their kids to movies that glorify irresponsible heterosexuality, but claim that the evils of those nasty gays will be the end of society as we know it.  It seems to me that irresponsible heterosexuality has far greater societal costs than irresponsible homosexuality.  And since homosexually oriented people form a much smaller percentage of the population, their effects are similarly smaller on society as a whole.

The focus should shift from fighting the homosexual movement to fighting irresponsible sexual behavior regardless of orientation.

(I should note that the official Church doctrine is already more or less written this better way, but many members -- including many leaders -- have it mixed up.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gay Football Player

I thought this was a very interesting reaction to a young man entering the NFL draft who came out publicly as gay.  Unfavorable responses from NFL officials prompted a fascinating reaction from a TV news personality.  Here's his report:

First, I absolutely loved his description of the hypocrisy in the NFL, how they are perfectly fine with young men who were involved with rape or even with murder, but coming out as gay would cross a line.  However, I felt he then went on to weaken his argument.  He started to complain about how people who wanted smaller government are also trying to get big government into our bedrooms.  This is terribly detrimental to his point.  It changes the focus from concern for the well being of a real person into a political rant aimed at a fairly unrelated vague political group -- those who promote small government.  It makes him seem like a political ideologue who is just using the young man's situation as a springboard to attack ideological opponents.  His concern for the football player now starts to seem insincere, and it weakens his position.

It's too bad, because his main point was originally done so well and powerfully.  In order to affect change, we have to speak honestly and powerfully.  Keep it focused and real.  Don't tell people what they should think or how the information must be applied.  Just make your point and let people decide for themselves how to interpret it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

No Beards

When I was a student at BYU, the honor code mandated that students could not wear beards (except in a few special circumstances).  I loved it.  I'm sorry to all you beard wearing fellows out there, but I think beards make you look unkempt and unattractive.  I realize that my personal opinions are just that -- personal.  But to my view, a clean shaven man is much better looking than one with facial hair.  I include mustaches and sideburns in this.  I will admit that there are a few guys who do look better with a well trimmed beard or mustache, but they are so few and far between, and I think it's due to familiarity rather than actual looks.

That being said, I hate shaving.  It's a pain and it causes all kinds of headaches.  If I could get away from shaving, that would be great.  But I hate how my face looks with even a little bit of scruff.  Luckily, I don't have sensitive skin.  I can shave dry with a fairly sharp blade, and I'm usually okay.  I often use an electric razor, though, because it's fast and easy.  It's still a bother, though.  One of the many dichotomies in my life.  I have to sacrifice in one aspect to benefit in another.  That seems to be a pattern throughout my experience.  What do you think?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Notice the Difference

I recall many years ago I attended a youth conference where the speaker talked about the proper ways to show affection.  He had ten steps, starting out with "notice the difference."  He claimed that his four-year-old could probably identify who was male and who was female with very few mistakes, but that was not what he was talking about.  Really notice.  Looking back, I didn't really get it.  I kind of knew, intellectually, but since I never was attracted to girls, it never really sank in that the way I felt toward boys was what he was talking about.  It was a bit of bazaar dissonance that I knew very clearly that I was attracted to boys, yet didn't connect the feelings I experienced with the feeling that the speaker was talking about.

I get that a lot through my life.  I was super interested in sciences like biology as a kid, but I was a little dense when it came to reproduction.  I knew the biological concept of gametes, but I knew literally nothing of sex.  When my father talked to me about the birds and bees (I think I was eleven) I was shocked.  How could I have not known something like that?  It really hasn't changed much for me.  I usually fail to notice romantic undertones, even overt ones.  I recall my father telling me when girls were flirting with me.  I really hadn't noticed.  I have gone out to movies with my wife, and she expressed her disappointment in the inferred sex in the film, and I was like "what sex?"  I really don't notice.

Maybe if there were male-male romances in films, I might notice.  But I'm not sure, even then.  The only guys I recognize in films as homosexual are such blatant gay stereotypes, I don't identify with them at all.  I think I'm just a bit obtuse when it comes to some of these romantic social games.

I guess I'm just not really good at noticing the difference.