Wednesday, December 5, 2007

20 Weeks

I haven't had much to say about my gym life lately. I'm in the holiday mode, where I'm not paying that much attention to what I eat. I just make sure I eat every 3 hours or so. I plan to just get by until after New Years. The good news is I'm not gaining any weight from my sloppy diet.

The lifting part is still good. I feel like I'm gaining a little strength. I still have time to change my mind, but the plan is still to enter the Empire Classic in April. That would be 20 weeks away. If I'm brave enough I'll post some before pictures after the first of January.

Still Here

I return to my long dormant blog to post a link to Pharyngula. I just wanted to have this reference handy for my own use or to direct people to should I have need.

In a week and a half I'll be visiting my parents. I suppose we will have the atheist chat sometime over the weekend. I'll try to have a post about that after.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Make it Burn

Just for fun I wore Lori's heart rate monitor at the gym today. I put in a nice intense leg workout. I was surprised that in just under an hour I burned 680 Calories, had an average heart rate of 154 and a max of 194. I guess that explains why I have to eat some much food all the time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Label

I've noticed in my reading that most everyone who blogs on atheism or something related at some point gives some time to defining atheism. Since so many people feel the need to offer their idea, it must mean that there is no universally accepted meaning for the term. Atheist don't have their 28 fundamental beliefs. I've seen dozens of versions of an atheist Ten Commandments, but nothing central that you can point to and say 'you're an atheist so I know this about your beliefs. Certainly no label can adequately describe someone's world view. At any rate I got to thinking that it would be a beneficial exercise for me to take my turn at trying to express what being an atheist means to me.

There is a down side to this exercise though. I run the risk someone looking at this post and this is all they need to know about what I believe. However, my sincere desire is that a week from now I will have learned something or experienced something that will require me to refine my world view. I hope for my way of thinking to alway be flexible adapting to new information. If I'm ever static in my approach to interpreting the world I have failed. With that in mind I will try to describe what I believe. At least for today.

I call myself an atheist. I don't know if there is a god, but I don't think so. I suppose give some amount of evidence I could believe in a god. Given that I don't actively deny the existence of a god, sometimes I'm asked why I insist on labeling myself an atheist since the term is viewed so pejoratively (especially considering my background). I choose to use such an aggressive term because it does come the closest to what I believe. With the social circles that I run in, I don't want to misrepresent myself and have to deal with people trying to reconvert me. I'm past that. Proof of god's existences is not possible, but I have yet to come across any evidence that there might be a god. If there were evidence I would believe.

I am, however, definitely post-Christian. There is too much of the 'they just made it up' stuff associated with the Bible for me to ever go back to that. Not to mention all the dogma, institutionalism, bureaucracy and procedural garbage that is tied up with religion.

To sum up: I don't deny that god could exist, but I doubt it. Never-the-less, I will continue to refine my views to adapt to new learning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time to Think Again

I'm about to complete my second month as a blogger, and thanks to some advice from ERV and an unfortunate power outage I've improved my blogging technique. Here is a new post composed completely in gmail.

I'd been noticing over the last few weeks how my passion for analyzing the effects of godlessness and religion on my life was fading. Not that my desire to understand the world as it real is was diminished. I still value truth above most anything else. It was just that I'd made my peace with my world view, and most of the people who wanted to discuss my world view were either bored or convinced I was beyond hope. The action on my blog and Lori's MySpace blog had sort of died down. I even took a break from reading science to get caught up on some neglected fantasy novels. Of course I've had a huge back log on my reading list of science and logic stuff I need to understand, should I ever need to defend rational thinking from the many dogmatists in my life.

Now, it looks like it might be time to dust off those critical thinking skills again. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to uncover flaws in facts and logic. I mostly only get inspired to interact with people I know though. I don't have the energy or skills to lurk around blogs just for the sake of an argument.

Anyway, there have been two new developments in the last week.

The first was Lori got a nice long letter from my cousin who is a pastor. He covered a broad spectrum of topics from evolution vs. creation to the problem of evil. I thought his most compelling argument consisted of the Free Will Defense. Basically that an omnipotent, benevolent god is compatible with evil and suffering because god gives us the option to choose for good or bad ourselves. It is also why he is does not give evidence of his existence. Proof of god would defeat free will I had never taken the time to read up on this. Probably why I found it so compelling. There are many weaknesses to the free will defense, but the most concise came from Jim. Basically if Adam and Eve had free will (the ability to reject God) and proof of God's existence (face to face communication). There was more and maybe I'll be able to post some of it later. For right now it is private correspondences and I don't want to make it public without permission.

The second thing that happened was that Lori got a call from someone at church asking her to teach a children's class. I suppose a little background on that is in order. We still go to church on occasion because I'm on the A/V crew. I'd quit but the team is small and it would mean more work for some of my friends. We also have a strong social network going on there and some good friends we like to see. Church as a social club right. Okay, to get back on track, Lori got a call about teaching a class. Up to this point we hadn't really outed ourselves to anyone at church other than our closest friends. People talk so we didn't think it was a secret or anything, but if they are asking for a skeptic or an atheist to teach a children's class maybe not every one knew about us. So Lori ended up explaining her current stance to the church elder on the phone. I'm guessing it is only a matter of time before some people start calling to save our backsliding souls.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just to Share

I came across this article the other day. Others have blogged about it, and better than me, so I will keep it short. I always sensed that religion had a problem with sex, but I had no idea that "higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies."

I know that correlation is not the same a causation, but some of it makes sense if you think about it. The increased abortions and STD rates probably have a lot to do with religion actively restricting knowledge about the whole sexual process. The reason for the homicide and mortality rates aren't as obvious to me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blog Interrupted

I try to post at least something here semi-regularly just in case there are people that actually read what I write. This last week has been a struggle though. I had a my one free evening derailed by a power outage. I'll have to try to resurrect the post that got eaten by the blackout. I think I'll stop using the blogger window for composing my posts as well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reverted Has Content

Reverted has finally copied his Epic MySpace blog entries to something more user friendly. Check it out if you are one of my 3 readers that hasn't already seen the posts over at myspace.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Skewed Outlook

I have a body image problem. I've never been able to objectively judge how I look. To some extent I'm sure that is normal. My problem is that when I look in the mirror I still see myself the way I looked when I was in high school - scrawny. By looking at the scale I can tell that I've gained a substantial amount of weight since then, and happily most of that is quality muscle. Despite all that, the mirror still makes me feel awkwardly skinny. On the bright side that helps me with my drive to keep lifting consistently even when I don't feel like being there.

There is more. I have days where I feel fat or that my arms look like toothpicks. This can happen mere hours after I feel like I'm the most ripped guy in town. Usually it the body parts I've just lifted that I feel the best about. My arms look great after arms day and my legs look like trash. But on legs day the legs look fine and the arms seem a little flabby or shrunken.

It gets worse though. There is a certain amount of vanity that comes with the aspirations of being a bodybuilder. I find I'm checking out other guys where ever I go. If they are more built than I am, I get jealous of their superior genetics or feel the need to imagine they use steroids. If they are bit out of shape or stick skinny like I used to be, I find myself feeling superior and wondering how they can stand to be fat or have no muscle.

This all leaves me wondering if I'm mentally stable. I tell myself that I workout because I want to be healthy, because I enjoy how I feel after exercising and that being in shape is good for my confidence. All this other stuff that runs through my mind makes me wonder if going to the gym everyday is turning me into snob. Maybe it would be better to grab some ice cream get a movie, forget about the sore wrist and stiff back and work up a nice pot belly and maybe some heart disease. That isn't really my style though. I'll be taking my chance with snobbery. I'm not that worried though. Something tells me that my attempt at competitive bodybuilding will be plenty humbling.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Blog as Motivation

I'm finally back to sort of a normal routine. After two weeks of business travel, a few days of vacation and some visitors for the weekend, the month of September was not a month of progress. I ate poorly. I exercised infrequently. Now I'm looking to get my groove back.

The good news is I got in contact with the promoter for the Empire Classic. The date is 26 April 2008. There is no novice class, so I'll have to loose a few more pounds to compete with the open light weight men. I still think I'll give this show a shot. The major drawback is that weigh-in is in the morning about 2 hours before prejudging rather than the night before. Less time to carb up. I guess I won't know one way or the other though since this will be my first time.

So, now that I'm pretty certain about the date of the contest, it is time for me to get serious about my research. I have a fast metabolism. A curse when I'm trying to put on weight, but it should work in my favor for the diet. The Diet. I terrified of the diet. I generally eat quality food, but I am useless when it comes to counting calories or even figuring out how many calories I should be eating.

The other problem is I'm not much of a meat eater. I can tolerate chicken, but my experiment with tuna the other day didn't go too well. For now I do okay getting my protein from vegetable sources, eggs and whey supplements. But I'm afraid the rice and beans I usually eat will have too many carbs once I'm getting down to the 6 week mark.

I suppose it will take a time or two to figure out what will work for me. So no matter what, once the holidays are over it will be goodbye beer and ice cream and hello oatmeal, brown rice and egg whites.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Atheist Community

I was raised as a christian - a Seventh-Day Adventist to be exact. I went to SDA grade school, SDA boarding academy, and SDA college. My family is SDA, most of my friends are or were SDAs. Even now that I no longer hold the Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, I still consider myself an SDA.

This is not as bizarre as it sounds, and I will explain. First I have to give my friend Seth credit for making me realize this fact. I still consider myself a Seventh-Day Adventist because of my culture. For about 25 years I was deeply immersed in SDA culture. We were vegetarians, didn't drink coffee, alcohol was out of the question, and we went to church on Saturday. Friday nights and Saturdays after church were time for family and friends. That is part of my lifestyle. I even like it that way, even though I now know that there are other options.

Another part of the Seventh-Day Adventist culture is family feeling. SDA as a whole isn't a large group, and with the emphasis on education with in the system lots of connections are made. I could walk into nearly any church in the country and find some one who knew my aunt, or went to school with my grandpa, or were friends of people that attended the church where I grew up. I know it sounds sort of inbred, and in a way it is, but it is also kind of neat. There is something safe and comforting about knowing there are people you are connected to, and share a common background.

This is one of the reasons I still attend church occasionally. I think that church as a social club isn't too bad. If only that was all it was. I'm relatively new to the vocal atheist life, but I don't think there is sense of connection. It can be kind of scary and lonely to be an atheist.

What I'm trying to get at here, is that community is very important. I know it is important to me, and I suspect that it is important to nearly everyone. A recent post at Pharyngula addresses this somewhat. As discussed there in much more detail, one of the arguments against atheism is that religious people "in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people," according to some sureys. The claim is this is a direct result of being religious.
There is a better interpretation. Think PZ says it best "It is community that benefits people, not religion."

I feel a need for community. It is one of the reasons I started to blog. It is a search for fellow atheist to connect with. I will also continue to be involved with my friends from church. Fortunately (as I said earlier) my relationship with my best friends even the more religious ones is not based on religion.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jim Speaks

My dear and brilliant friend Jim has a nice humanism post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Road Warrior

I'm beginning to dislike traveling (for work). I love going places on my own schedule, but having to drop everything to fly across the country on someone else's time table is a drag. At home I was in a groove in the gym, I had my friends and mentors around helping me get started on the competition part and I had a good handle on my diet. Now I'm living out of a suitcase. I'm jet lagged. I have to find a new, strange gym. And I'm eating from my backpack or a restaurant.

To be fair I enjoy my routine lifestyle a little more than I should. I should just try to make this part of the challenge of training. The hotel fitness room will do in a pinch and there is a Bally's a mile down the street. I brought plenty of protein from home, so no excuses. I will sleep tonight and lift tomorrow. I'll workout about half as often as I would at home, and I'll when I'm done here I will be that much more excited to see my own gym again.

Blogging is Fun

I'm beginning to reconsider . . . maybe I do like blogging. I was wondering how long I would keep this up, but then I started getting comments and feed back from people I respect. My friends have been supportive, and I really like the formality and organization required to put my thoughts in to words. It has helped me become a lot more secure in what I stand for as well. Even better when the occasional blogger leaves you a comment. What a rush to have a stranger you know only by what they have written interact with you and what you have written.

I hope I don't become and attention whore. . . I suppose you do have to be a little narcissistic to want to be a bodybuilder though.

I need to try to get a few more people to visit my page. My last comment said to post comments over on some serious blogs. I think I'm still a little too shy to do that, but I'm working up to it. I think I need to add some more content a well. I had some ideas yesterday on the plane. If I can get over this jet lag, I might actually be able to write something.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Picking a Date

After talking with my friend Brad, who is an experienced competitor, at the gym this week, I'm getting close to picking my first show to enter. I don't want to put it off too long and let my motivation fade, and I'm nearing my target weight of 190lb. That means something on the spring circuit 2008. I want something close somewhat local and not too big. I think that leaves me with the Spokane or the Vancouver show next April. I haven't consulted with Lori yet. We'll see. I may be dieting starting right after the holidays.

Coming Out

Not being a scientist or a philosopher about all I have to share that is original is my experiences. At some point I may try to summarize the reasons I've come to my atheist conclusions but for now just my experiences.

After I came to accept the fact that I was an atheist, I had to figure out what to do about it. The core concept that lead me down this path in the first place was intellectual honesty, so just pretending that nothing was different wasn't going to cut it. The problem was I was terrified of actually telling anyone. Fortunately I have an amazing wife, who knows me very well. She probably knew where I was headed almost as soon as I did. She was raised in the same religion as I was, and wasn't too happy about my new understanding. Lucky for me she was open-minded enough to just let things play out. That took care of my biggest hurdle to being open about my godlessness.

At the same time, she wasn't going to let me off too easy. She wanted to see if I had the guts to tell our friends (for the most part all raised in the same religion) about my de-conversion. She would work the conversation around to where I'd either have to lie or be outed. The first time this happened it was scary, but after some spirited and enjoyable discussion nothing really changed. No relationships became awkward and I was not rejected. As active as we had been in church stuff, turns out that our personal relationships were based on something other than religion.

What comes next is the exciting part. For the first time in my life I know what I believe and why I believe it. I enjoy discussion and explaining what I know, and always learning new things to fill the gaps in my knowledge, and finding better ways to explain what I've learned. This has lead to my wife some of our closest friends opening up about their beliefs. The best part is my wife is now on her own journey of discovery. She is examining everything again in an intellectually honest way. She started blogging about her thoughts and encouraged me to do the same. Because of her openness I'm feeling much more secure about expressing my positions publicly. Now to tell my parents. . .

Sunday, September 2, 2007

First Post

I'm not completely convinced that blogging is my thing, but Lori thinks I should give it a try. I suppose it may be interesting to see what people think of the ramblings I usually keep in my head. That is assuming that anyone will read them.

There are only two things right now that get me worked up enough to actually write about them. The first is bodybuilding. I'm not that muscular and my genetics don't give me any advantages, but I've been training long enough that I want to make the jump to competition. Fortunately in this region, conditioning is rewarded, so if I can stick to a diet I shouldn't embarrass myself. Except for the part about standing on stage in my underwear.

The other area that I think I'll find worth writing about is skepticism/atheism. In the last year I finally gave up on religion. I was raised and educated as a fundamentalist christian, but as much as I tried to conform I was never able to be a "True Believer". After trying to play by the church's rules and having nothing happen, I tried just sitting back to see what would happen to my way of thinking. During that time I decided to educate myself on the theism vs. atheism debate. I have a fairly strong scientific bias. It is just the way I think either naturally or as a result of my engineering training, so I was looking for the evidence that either side could present. I'm a voracious reader so I dug into a stack of books: Francis Collins, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, C. S. Lewis, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer and Christopher Hitchens. I supplemented my reading with some science podcast like This Week in Science, The Inoculated Mind, and The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

I found the theistic arguments to vary between fallacious and dishonest to completely without substance and free of evidence. In the end utterly unconvincing. The scientific arguments on the other hand were descriptive, predictive and had actual evidence. Based on that, I could no longer pretend to believe that religion had any merit. This decision really hasn't changed much. I was already a non-theist in practice, so all that is different is what I call myself.

So, that is me - a godless gym rat. I guess we'll see where this goes.