On Discussing Religion

Reposting of my comment on a friend’s blog:


I think my main problem with this, and I admit it’s halfway to being nitpicking, is that the term “Religion” is used as though the millions-or-tens-of-millions of religious doctrines and beliefs were all the same. Absolutely wrong — the only thing which they have in common is that, as far as I know, none of them can prove the existence of their god(s)/spirits/what-have-you. The behaviors (and?) morality which individual religions prescribe vary almost as greatly as the number of villages and neighborhoods in the world.

I think it’s possible to evaluate small-body religions on the behaviors which their practitioners exhibit. Do they treat their neighbors well? Strangers? The poor, the sick, the young, the old? Do they encourage their believers to engage with the world, to learn, to think clearly? What do they consider to be sinful/destructive/unacceptable/wrong behavior and what consequences do they prescribe for religious misbehavior? Civil/secular misbehavior? Do they believe in conversion by the sword, by the word, by good example, not at all (e.g. Shaking Quakers aka “Shakers”)?

However, when you’re trying to evaluate larger groups in terms of their religious practice, it gets a lot harder — for one thing, you automatically fold a lot more diversity into a single group, sometimes including intolerant and/or murderous extremists who claim that religion justifies their will to murder/harm/dominate others.

The whole issue of diverse groups (e.g. Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Druze, and whatever groups Indonesia has, and call them all “Muslim”) becomes whether there is, in fact, a single normative behavior set, or whether it’s all multi-modal and controlled by factors other than whatever the common written doctrine is (assuming there is one).

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Note on politics and priorities

I won’t be publishing much on politics on this blog, after all, if indeed anything. I’ve discovered that I have more urgent things to do with my life – personal financial stuff, caregiving for my family, studing technical manuals for things which I want to do (like programming WordPress), cleaning the house, getting fit, re-earning the Martial Arts Black Belt which I earned twelve years ago but for which I did not maintain the skills.

A bit of a further note on that: My Sensei and the Cheezic Tang Soo Do Federation have been kind enough to let me wear the belt while working out, as is their custom… but I, and everyone around me, know just how far I am from knowing the required forms and being able to spar with my colleagues who haven’t spent the last ten years not working out. My best guess is that I’m a year to a year and a half away from being able to do all of the forms and techniques which a Cheezic black belt is expected to know.

Comments to a fellow older exerciser

An incomplete and abandoned post to a fellow SparkPeople member. Stored here so that I don’t lose it. Feel free to comment, but don’t feel compelled. Also, this isn’t orders or valid for anyone but me, unless you want it to be.


Vore, I’m 57 — MWM, as they say on the “personals” boards. My motivation is fear for my life.

I have several risk factors for heart attack and stroke — overweight, sedentary job, high cholesterol (treated with statins, and that’s working), borderline high blood pressure, and diabetes.

For me, I looked at my lifestyle (see above) a few months ago and said, “If you don’t get fit and stay fit and beat some of these things, particularly the weight and the blood sugar, you won’t be around to HAVE an old age, let alone enjoy it.”

That got me started. I’d worked out at several times in the past, but had always dropped out, sometimes after an injury, sometimes because I failed to make time… there was always something. I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen this time… but I know that if I let it happen, I’ll be one step closer to that bad outcome. So there’s that.

Also, I’ve frequently had trouble getting a good night’s sleep over the past several years. One thing I’ve discovered, just in the past month or two, is that after a really good workout at the gym, my muscles are all a bit sore and a lot tired, and my mental (psychic?) stress levels are a _lot_ lower. If I work out in the evening after getting home from the office, I can take a shower and fall into bed and go to sleep right way… and I don’t wake up nearly as often in the night (0-1 times instead of 3-4 times). So that positive motivator exists.

What I’d recommend for motivation, and I don’t know you so I don’t know if this is going to speak to you at all, is that you

1) Focus on wanting to look and feel better because of exercise, or focus on the weight loss, or whatever your goal is, and not lose track of your goal when it doesn’t happen as fast as you wanted or is harder than you thought. (It’s always harder and it almost never comes as fast as you want it to.)

2) Set a long term goal as well as a short term one. Remember, fitness and health are not just destinations; they are journeys, and if you’re lucky, a very long one.

3) Remember, no matter how often you fall or don’t meet your own expectations, that you will only fail if you give up. If you’re injured, if you’re sick, if you don’t have time for a week… all you have to do is show up at the gym or track or your downstairs room or whatever, drop the weights and reps a bit, and start doing it again. If you come back, you’re winning again.

4) Spend some time figuring out how to exercise using correct form (i.e. where to put your hands, how fast to do a lift, what the right motions are if you’re using free weights, and things like that). Running and swimming and most other sports/fitness disciplines also have technical secrets which maximize your benefit and minimize risk of injury. If you don’t know about this stuff, find a trainer who can show you, maybe more than once. Or a website with good video, if that works for you.

5) Be very diligent about avoiding injury — don’t push the weights beyond a mild ache, know when your muscles are getting exhausted, have good shoes for anything involving standing/running/walking. Know your physical limits. Within those limits, work hard enough that you’re tired afterward, and maybe a little sore the next day, but _not_ a _lot_ sore. When things start getting easy, increase the repetitions or weights (resistance), or the time (aerobic). Do it a little bit at a time.

What it’s All About, Alfie

  1. The title is a reference to a 1960’s pop song, for those who are too young to know.
  2. So. New Blog. Using WordPress, the free account at first (they want $99/year, billed annually, for their non-free account, so that’ll have to wait a bit). It’s been recommended to me as a feature-rich blog with good support, so we’ll see.
  3. If anyone has a link to a user’s guide to features (like backup and security and how to use them), I’d appreciate a comment here.
  4. Topics. Will mostly be political, but I’ve got at least one which I know won’t be — Ori Pomerantz linked to a video about how to get a metal ring off your finger when the finger is badly swollen, and that method absolutely didn’t work for me last time I had to get a ring off of a swollen finger (due to a nasty phenomenon called “Angioedema”). I’ll be posting about a method which _did_ work for me.
  5. Why a blog and not Facebook?
    1. Because I like outline structure for complex discussions (hold over from my high school Debate career), and Facebook doesn’t do that particularly well
    2. I can control the comments better, here
    3. I don’t always want debate from the other side; sometimes I want to invite friends from my side only to post. I can control that more easily here. (I guess this is kind of the same as (b)).
  6. As my friend Willie Favero signs his posts: “That’s all for now”