Transcript of Ben Schuldt's Platform Address: "Trans-Ethical Bens"

This morning, Ben Schuldt gave a Platform Address at the Ethical Society of St. Louis on the topic “Trans-Ethical Bens”. Ben Schuldt discussed the ethics of his journey from Missouri Synod Lutheranism, to Eastern Orthodoxy, and eventually to secular humanism. It is a tale of personal folly, righteous zeal, and mental illness.

A recording of his talk will be available as a podcast soon, but Ben has offered the text of his talk for us to share on this blog.

Introduction: Good morning!

My name is Ben Schuldt.  I’ve been a member of the Ethical Society for a few years now. Some of you may recall I ran the Responsible Public Debate forum for about a year and a half.

I appreciate the honor of being able to give a Platform address.  I’ve fantasized about it on occasion and today I get to talk about the ethical transitions I’ve made out of a version of Protestant Christianity.  There are many more problems with Christian religion and the Bible in general that I’m not going to get into today (that could take weeks). For the purposes of this Platform I’m only going to focus on the incidental ways I happened to historically take to the religion.  This is my personal ethical journey.

My background:  I was raised nominally Lutheran, of the Missouri Synod Lutheran variety.  I didn’t start taking Christianity and the Bible seriously until age 15 when I was unfortunately bamboozled by the conspiratorial theorizing of young earth creationists. Before that I’d had some very straight forward skeptical thoughts about the contrived virtue tales found in the Bible, but for some reason the idea that full fledged adults were actually trying to defend the whole fairy tale enchilada in depth beyond nice sounding sentiments convinced my young mind to take a second look.

Existential entitlement:  Through the lens of creationism, I felt that something like Christianity ought to be true.  Humans should have a special place in reality and Christianity provided that frame.  I’ve since come to the conclusion that humans are not entitled to anything.  Reality does not owe us anything and it seems to me that entitlement is the cardinal sin in philosophy that leads so many otherwise brilliant humans astray.  We might have a special place in the universe…and we might not.  What does the evidence actually indicate?  Wanting to have a special place in the universe was not evidence we actually had one.  It was just reason to perhaps investigate.  However I was wooed.  And that was the unethical cornerstone of my brand of Christian self deception.

Perverse romance:  I also thought the Christian story was a type of divine romance.  A god actually wanted to reconcile wayward humanity to himself. The metaphor often used in the Bible was that of the Bible god as a husband and his people Israel as his adulterous wife that needs to repent so they can be reunited. It can be a touching story if you don’t probe too deeply.

In Christian theology we have no choice but to be born sinners destined to hell and completely at the mercy of a god’s salvation plan.  Is that fair?  Adam and Eve didn’t have to have kids.  The Bible god wasn’t shy about closing wombs throughout the book of Genesis.  Just not when it would have been morally prudent since all the descendants of Adam and Eve would have been born without the same privileged circumstances in paradise.  Having kids could have been the reward for passing the forbidden fruit test and Adam and Eve could have merely suffered for their own sins while the Bible god created a new batch to test.  But that wouldn’t make a good just so story would it?

Most disturbingly the apostle Paul in the other end of the Bible recognizes the obvious entrapment of his theology and says (Romans 11:32), “God bound men to disobedience so he could have mercy on them.”  Unlike Paul at this point I do not immediately dovetail into praises for how amazing this god’s “brilliant” ideas are.  When Superman rescues Lois Lane we cheer.  But when we learn that Superman enabled Lois to be put in that situation to begin with so that he would be rewarded for saving her we start suspecting he’s under the mind control of someone like his arch nemesis Lex Luthor.

At the beginning of my Christian journey I was able to feel really good about being saved from whatever it is that we’re supposed to be saved from.  As a primary example of what was moving to me, the story of Noah’s flood was about a god purging the evil from a newly created world and saving a few faithful souls.  And we could be like those few good souls.  However, in hindsight, one wonders how you get such a nice message out of so perverse a means of romance as world wide genocide of women, men, genderqueers, children, and every other animal there is.

Young earth creationists posit that there would have been 10 million people at the time of the great flood.  Our all powerful, all knowing, all loving lord and savior apparently manages to reach out to just one single guy.  The other 7 that end up on the ark with him to implausibly tend their immense floating zoo are there purely because they are his family.  It seems to me maybe a reasonable god could have done a wee bit better in swaying more people over to the good side of the Force before falling back on the nuclear option.  I’m sure Tom Cruise has convinced more people to become Scientologists and one wonders where the Old Testament god’s people skills are.  And if you read through the rest of the Bible, it’s quite clear that he doesn’t have any.

Cultural bigotry:  I’ve since learned not to let the Bible or anyone else demonize entire populations, like the flood story so efficiently illustrates, just for the sake of what I would call its righteousness porn.  Righteousness porn in this case would be literature that is designed to exercise your emotional sense of righteousness often at the gross expense of intellectual moral realities.  What are the odds that literally everyone in an entire population of women, genderqueers, children, and men deserve complete annihilation?  Yet this motif happens over and over again in Biblical history.

It’s actually a bit embarrassing that even after my deconversion for many months I still held onto the idea that genocide was a morally prudent way to prevent  the unwanted influence of an entire people group.  I recall the extreme sense of righteousness I felt as a Christian teenager reading the stories of Joshua having the full moral privilege of righteously annihilating everyone in the land of Canaan.  Get out of the way moral nuance, I have some extreme feels to feel!  Now I realize the perversity of such an idea.  Genocide is never actually complete and contributes to endless cycles of war.  Rather than face the difficulties of complex peace negotiations and respecting or challenging the differences of other cultures as though you believe in the observable merits of your own ideas , it perpetuates gratuitous bloodshed and damages your own culture.  And genocide goes beyond unfortunate national conflicts of interest, skips any sense of the ethics of war, and drives hard into racism territory.

Religions of Murder:  I’m not sure I could have nailed down a specific theory of atonement (no pun intended) behind Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for humanity’s sins.  I recall being kind of weak on that count, but concluding basically that somehow Jesus’ actions were a concrete symbol of divine love for humanity.  I have lots of issues with this, now that my skeptical eyes have been opened and I’m allowed to actually process all the weird superstitious nonsense baked into the heart of Christianity, but what stands out the most is that Christianity is founded on murder.

And in fact, virtually all our modern monotheistic religions today are also founded on the willingness of one human to murder another human for the whim of a god.  It speaks so highly of us, doesn’t it?  This is the story of Abraham and his son Isaac.  As you may know Abraham is told by the Biblical god to sacrifice his son and is ultimately prevented from doing so by an angel sent from that god to tell him it was only a test of his loyalty.  However the only reason this god is taking humanity seriously for the rest of the Bible and the Koran is because of Abraham’s unquestioning intention to murder a son.

And the only serious disagreement here between these huge competing monotheisms alive in our world today with billions of adherents isn’t over the murderous intentions of our human faith representative, but it’s over the technicality of which son Abraham was going to slaughter.  This point is lost on so many religious people (despite Jesus himself harping on thought crimes), but if I convince you to do something evil (like punch a girl scout in the face when she delivers girl scout cookies), and you are well on your way to carrying out that action with delight, it seems hardly meaningful to point out someone stopped you.  Oh I was just kidding!  You’ve been Punk’d!  Don’t punch that girl scout!  “A” for effort though! We’ve still shown you are a bad person.  The correct response was to refuse to murder your own kid regardless of the consequences.  Abraham’s faith legacy is not one to be proud of.

Perverse justice:  Christianity has maintained that human sacrifice is an abomination and yet human sacrifice is at the very heart of the religion!  The Christian god didn’t do away with it…he said, “I think I can do that better!”  So instead of actually solving any of the real problems of the world, Christianity saddles us with the ancient convention of blood sacrifice as though there’s anything morally salient about spilling the blood of the innocent. Instead of just the original evil being committed we now have more evil as though 2 wrongs magically make a right.  Moral agents may freely forgive without the aide of the superstition and barbarism.  Jesus isn’t taking a bullet for humanity on the cross, it’s just that the Christian god has really perverse ideas about justice and apparently having an innocent person brutally murdered hits the spot.  Whereas feeding starving children all over the world every day, for example, apparently doesn’t.

Black and white thinking:  I used to believe that all sins were equal, because it says so in the Bible somewhere.  Later I discovered the ethics of nuance and miraculously became a much better person overnight.

Empowering a conscience to brutalize yourself over the smallest sins is a huge waste of mental resources that makes self improvement even more difficult than it already is.  Instead of patiently letting things grow and morally bloom over time, I was always attempting to ideologically force myself into what I thought was Biblical.  Every minor falling short of the mark could be portrayed as having literally infinite gravity.  I now realize one should start small, build yourself up overtime, and focus on one thing at a time because humans don’t have the brain power for more.  However Jesus says things like even a tiny amount of faith should be able to move mountains…and so via that kind of impotent magical thinking, I was continually emotionally exasperated as a result with only the motivation to avoid issues.

Moral desire management: Now I recognize how convoluted, narcissistic, and self sabotaging all that was.  I recognize that even the desire to be moral cannot be forced, and has to be worked with over time.  You can’t make yourself care about something you don’t actually care about.  I recognize that I don’t have to be perfect and that self improvement can be a progressive piecemeal process if it needs to be.  Just because you may not be able to fix everything doesn’t mean you should give up and not fix anything.   And it doesn’t mean you should feel despondent at every stage of relative progress with moral growth still lacking.  What good is a gas gauge that when one drop is missing it reads empty?  All Protestantism did was make my moral conscience obsessed with finding any tiny infraction against the will of god and it enjoying the ill gotten gain from this never ending scavenger hunt with feelings of shallow, impatient, and misguided righteousness.

Moral desires that serve:  I’ve now come to the conclusion that moral desires should not be ends in and of themselves and that human consciences can be morally corrupt.  The utility of moral desires should stop just after servicing and protecting other non-moral desires.  It’s kind of like the idea that traffic cops shouldn’t pull people over just to meet quotas or to pay their own salaries.  Another example would be filling up for profit prisons over petty laws.  The judicial system should be devoted to the public good and financially supported incidentally to that.  Otherwise righteousness itself becomes a moral evil when the whole point of it in the first place has been lost sight of.

Divine morality:  I was the type of Christian that believed the Christian god’s commands were designed to make us happy.  The laws in the Bible weren’t just a superficial laundry list of arbitrary dictates from the whims of an uncaring god.  I believed the human mind was designed to fit the commands of a compassionate and considerate deity who desired humanity to flourish within appropriate ethical boundaries even in this life.  And that was a nice idea in theory.  Not so much in actual application.

The Eastern Orthodox recall:  To be fair, my 2 year conversion to Eastern Orthodox Christianity got me started on the path back to re-humanization.  I was compelled by their claim to authority as the one true Church, if Christianity were true at all, and it was clear that from the Bible it was impossible to get a complete picture of how Christian life is supposed to go.  What they’d said with their authority clearly made more sense and was infinitely more humane, however there was a certain level of betrayal.  I’d spent a good number of formative years loading pure evil into my brain because I thought I was supposed to.  Then via divine providence I get sent a recall notice?  Yeah, I don’t think so. I would already have been a morally reasonable person had I not been at the mercy of my loyalty to the Bible and had had obviously official guidance in all things spiritual.  In hindsight I believe the Eastern Orthodox views I was exposed to do not seamlessly connect with the authors of the Bible and that many of their views implausibly override the original views.  But then again you can say that about pretty much all denominations ever in addition to being able to show that about the layers of contradictory scripture itself.

Unfortunately Eastern Orthodoxy didn’t cure me of my moral insanity, but it did get me thinking more clearly.  I had about a 30 second panic in 2005 over morality when I was first contemplating whether it was intellectually feasible to be a non-Christian.   But I quickly realized I had plenty of incentive to be moral in its own right.  You can’t just go around being a jerk to everyone and expect to live a pleasant life.  That much was obvious. You have to be fair to people.

Richard Carrier’s goal theory:  Later the writings of atheist philosopher Richard Carrier helped formalize my moral theory.  Carrier basically asks us what we would do if we were as rational as we could be and we knew enough about the human condition.  And Carrier argues logic would dictate that we are best served by being ethical.  One cannot just arbitrarily decide that a particular action will contribute to the well being of your own mental states or the well being of others.  I can’t punch someone in the face and decide via moral relativism that good is going to come of this.  I can’t arbitrarily decide what the most optimum life strategies are going to be that will statistically most contribute to long term, stable happiness for myself and those around me.  Everything is entirely dependent on the facts of reality.  The reality of human nature and the logistics of game theory in context of other sentient agents.

The only reason to obey the Christian god is if he can appeal to our desires in some way. Otherwise, why listen?  Does the Christian god even exist?  Do the rewards of heaven and the punishments of hell even exist?  What if when hell is described you actually want to go there?  What if heaven is a place you’d rather avoid?  Why listen to Jesus then?  So reality matters.  Carrier further argues that scientific studies show that being reasonable, honest, brave, and compassionate is the recipe for actual robust happiness.  And I agree.

Alonzo Fyfe’s desire utilitarianism:  And then after that, atheist moral philosopher Alonzo Fyfe’s desire utilitarianism further refined my moral theory.  Good desires are desires that tend to contribute to the satisfaction of other desires and evil desires are desires that tend to thwart the satisfaction of other desires.  So all desires are treated as equals unless they contribute or inhibit other desires.  Otherwise you aren’t really respecting desiring in principle as an unavoidably desiring being.

If I were programming a robot with a moral theory I would start with Fyfe’s moral theory as it is more articulate.  I still think Carrier’s “goal theory” has more intuitive value since it treats a moral agent as a corporate person.  It is easier to think in those terms, generally speaking.  I shift gears to use Fyfe’s desirism when I need to break that down into detail to evaluate a given moral issue.

Epistemic integrity:  Many of my ethical improvements since disowning Christianity have been along the lines of intellectual integrity and fair epistemic standards of evidence.  As a Christian I trained my brain to ad hoc, freely seeking out any improbable solution to any apparent difficulty with my worldview.  I’ve since realized I did not extend this same luxury to competing belief systems and what seems credible becomes vastly different when you do.  If one is going to be incredulous about the naturalistic origins of the universe, it’s only fair to be equally incredulous about the many obvious apparent issues with a Christian supernaturalistic origin of the universe.

Incredulity vs. incredulity:  I can understand why people may have incredulous intuitions about a universe springing out of nothing, about the origins of complicated self-replicating machines happening by accident, and about more complex forms of life self organizing via the process of evolution.  However, I also have to wonder about how exactly it is that a super-mind that is outside of time actually thinks thoughts if it can’t change from one state to another.  I’m also incredulous that it actually means anything for an “immaterial” god to exist without regard to a location, height, length, width, or depth.  One wonders why in the world does this super-being just get to exist as is for no reason whatsoever with all these arbitrary characteristics and inexplicable magic powers. Why would a morally perfect god allow for even a hint of evil to be possible in anything it creates or allows to exist?  If the Christian god doesn’t have to show up at a debate to demonstrate his magic powers then why do evolutionists have to show a dog coming from a cat to creationists like Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron?  Etc.

If we’re handing out get-out-of-jail free cards for worldviews, then I think it’s only fair to evenly distribute them and admit that maybe our human sensibilities aren’t innately cut out to judge the metaphysical origins of everything one way or another.  It’s just outside our general expertise as social information specialists who seem most optimized in general to gossip about each other and the stupid petty things we do.  The humble position of metaphysical agnosticism is completely available and probably the most intellectually honest position most people should take.

Being fair:  Merely being fair and consistent with what I already knew is what deconverted my intellectual sensibilities from Christianity.  I wish I would have recognized sooner that the inevitable natural result of having been such a Christian ad-hoc-a-tron, as I now call it, was a total lack of practical confidence in my worldview.

If I’d had a solid way to believe in Christianity, I surely would have taken it.  I knew how to think critically and all the faith talk of other Christians never resonated with me to any significant degree.

Justified beliefs:  It was practically a miracle that the instant I stopped privileging Christian beliefs, reality just started arguing for itself with mutually converging lines of probabilistic evidence that didn’t require me to accommodate it despite my other beliefs.  Things were just explained rather plainly and reliably and I moved on…with confidence!

Coincidences:  I was obsessed with coincidences when I was taking Christianity seriously because I was desperate for any kind of divine validation.  It was logically possible the Christian god was giving me messages in the patterns of reality my brain could arbitrarily construe together and I decided that it must be the case, because I wasn’t willing to face the possibility this god chose not to interact with me in any way, shape, or form.  I became quite skilled at pulling Christian metaphors out of random experiences.  At one point I couldn’t not see coincidences and I realized how ridiculous, desperate, and oppressive that was even as a Christian, long before I bailed.

My position now is that coincidences happen.  The Christian god would have to send his angels out to make sure they don’t happen on accident.  One is unwittingly playing perhaps thousands of lotteries all the time in all sorts of ways.  If you are habitually primed to look for them you are going to find them whether they were divinely instigated or not.  It’s also a poor way to communicate as I am unable to judge just what is and isn’t “too coincidental” for this to be helpful evidence for a supernatural worldview (or for guidance in a Christian view).

Moral extremism, John, the Baptist style: The moral ethos of Christianity was constantly attempting to force me into the role of someone like John, the Baptist. Jesus says many morally extreme things throughout the gospels.  Why shouldn’t someone sell all their stuff, not get married, and wander the desert in rags joyfully preaching the gospel and living one uncertain meal to the next at the whim of a faithful god?  It’s a bit difficult to get a more tame message out of Jesus despite how most Christians have decided to interpret his statements.  Like many of them I wanted to keep my stuff, get married, stay in air conditioned living quarters in decent clothes and purchase my meals from restaurants and grocery stores.

One such Christian who apparently had sold all his stuff (except for some simple clothes, a bike, and a bible) stuck it to my young Christian self while I was away at college.  He pointed out the verses where Jesus says all sorts of crazy things, and most all of my Protestant training had taught me not to resist whatever the Bible plainly said.  Why wasn’t I supposed to do this?  My conscience would not allow me to make excuses.  I was hugely conflicted about this for a long time and I never really got over it fully.

Fortunately there’s another verse I hadn’t known about where the character Zacchaeus in the gospels is praised by Jesus for only selling half his stuff.  So apparently that was enough for me to say well if there’s some leeway, I guess I don’t have to sell anything?  Mainly I was just ready to let the hell of it go and found some excuse to do so.  But did that address the issue?  Not really.  How does one tell what exact sacrifices that the Christian god expects individuals to make?  Yeah, I don’t know either.  But you better do it anyway, or he’ll be mad!

Ignorance and extremes:  I was perpetually stuck under the thumb of ambiguous extremes like that.  There was always something really really important being communicated to Christians in the Bible and you had better get your act together somehow.  But figuring out just what the practical specifics were supposed to be often turned out to be impossible.  I just couldn’t admit to myself how inherently abusive that was, since a loyal Christian is unable to accuse their god of anything.

Drop out of college?  Even though I finally felt like I didn’t have to be just like John, the Baptist, I still didn’t know if I was allowed to pursue a career in animation or if I had to go to seminary and become a pastor.  I had certain qualities that could cater to that. I just didn’t really want the burden or the boredom.  So my Christian future was still full of cognitive dissonance since perhaps my preferences conflicted with a stern god’s intentions for my life.  I would have loved to use my animation degree and to work on things like Batman, the Animated Series.  There wasn’t anything particularly Christian about that and I felt guilty for it.  But I was also willing to compromise and devote my animation career to working on Christianity related projects.  But how was I supposed to know whether or not the Biblical god was actually okay with that?  There was just no way to be sure.  Anything I chose I felt I was going to be dissatisfied with and Christianity really has nothing helpful to offer here in response to that.

As it turns out I have carpal tunnel so I can’t really do much with my animation skills apart from small freelance projects on occasion.  I’m still interested in doing social justice and moral education related projects someday in terms of secular humanism.  But now I also believe I am free to simply enjoy my talents and abilities and do whatever I want with them.  I don’t have the whole world’s salvation related problems on my shoulders anymore.

What day is the Sabbath?  As another example of an impossible bind I regularly experienced as a Christian, I struggled with what day the Sabbath was supposed to be honored.  Was it  God-killed-a-man-for-picking-up-sticks Saturday like Moses said in the 10 commandments or non-Biblical-early-Christianity-kinda-sorta-decided-it-was-cool-to-change-it Sunday like most of Christianity currently celebrates?  The Seventh Day Adventists have a very Biblical answer to that question and they are a ridiculous minority.

Also should I honor the Jewish sense of a day from evening to evening or were modern conceptions of midnight to midnight okay?  Was this an official “disputable matter” I could just decide for myself?  What if i just wasn’t confident about any of the options or any of the justifications for them?  For a supposedly sola-scriptura Christian this is an impossible bind for every week of the rest of your life.  Pick one, but did you pick right?  And do you have to be consistent or does that not matter either?  There’s just no answer to the questions.

Isolating cult think:  It was also very easy to be cut off from getting help as a Christian. Biblically speaking, entire religious populations were regularly disowned in favor of a remnant of a faithful few.  Why couldn’t that happen today?  And so it is impossible to know if your entire Christian religious community is way out of whack with the Christian god’s plan or if you are allowed to listen to their opinion when it comes to difficult and vexing issues that I was perpetually insecure about.  How exactly is a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor encultured in 21st century United States supposed to be inherently authoritative with a hundred other denominations down the street? Religious arguments already start out lacking primary evidence for their important claims and it is all diminishing returns from there on all the details since you can load in any arbitrary religious assumptions you want to justify literally anything.  The truth can’t set you free if you don’t know what it is.

Is it okay to masturbate?  How about another example?  Is it okay for a Christian to masturbate?  Is it okay to masturbate as long as you don’t lust after anyone?  It’s possible to do that.  Are heterosexual Christian couples aloud to masturbate even after they’re married and fantasize about each other?  The Bible is silent on the issue.  However it is also relentlessly sex negative, with Jesus himself equating lust with adultery, and if we allow a generally prudish 1st century Jewish culture to fill in any blanks the odds don’t seem good that Jesus is down with it.  But then again Paul says to not go beyond what is written, so who knows?  So you can live your whole life fearfully indulging or you can struggle your whole life worrying you are being unnecessarily hard on yourself and dreading every failure.  No matter where you fall on the issue as a horny Christian you’re in for endless psychological abuse.  Thank you, Jesus.

Before I move on, I would like to point out that this has just been a superficial sampling of impossible issues Christianity presents an intellectually honest person.  I have a 32 page essay enumerating the many practical epistemic problems with Christianity that I’m aware of and I’m sure there are many more.

Ethical sexual fantasy:  I just don’t worry about sexual fantasy now unless it’s causing some specific problem.  I now believe having a healthy sexual fantasy life has moral value.  It allows you to explore your own sexuality and get to know what you like. It’s also a lot of fun and that’s good for morale.  While there is merit to the trope, “ignorance is bliss,” I also believe that experience is better than incompetence with such an important, powerful aspect of your mental life.  I believe that it is better to work with your sexual desire than to attempt to fight it or displace it with never ending distractions that prove ultimately futile if you have a powerful enough sex drive.

Too many young, horny Christians are inevitably coerced into jumping into marriage for the wrong reasons because they simply have zero morally approved options of sexual expression available otherwise.  They can’t fantasize, they can’t masturbate, they can’t enjoy even a look at the sexy people they are attracted to for any significant length of time (and certainly not them naked or any sexually stimulating positions!), they can’t find out what sex is really like or even try it out with someone before making a lifelong commitment to them despite having no idea about any compatibility issues that may arise, and they may not even be able to talk about it without being incredibly superficial for fear of inducing their minds into sinful territory.  It’s pretty ridiculous.

Furthermore, most people are probably not competent enough to judge lifelong sustainable relationship qualities of each other under those constraints at an early adult age.  Most relationships last an average of 7 years.  Our divorce rates are 50%.  It seems obvious we need some morally approved more modest options on the table that sexual partners can expect upfront.

To conclude….

Inevitable life sabotage:  All of this should lead you to believe that I had a very zealous Christian conscience that was cruising for a bruising if I were ever stuck on any serious conflicts of interest between Christian moral extremism and a normal life.  Lo and behold normal life circumstances presented several such moral equations before I even got out of college that could not be solved with my Protestant black and white extremist feels.  I had massive guilt complexes as a Christian before that which came and eventually went away.  But in this case, I had three major ones and in subsequent years accumulated endless more because of the difficulty level in purging any one of them in context of all the others. It’s a big toilet that needs flushing.  Or a small toilet with a lot of crap in it.  Whichever.  I was sick of how evil all my mental states were on a constant basis and the evidence I had for Christianity being true just wasn’t impressive.

My Christianity as mental illness:  So unfortunately for me, directly combating this zealotry for the sake of a normal life turned it into a lifelong emotionally debilitating mental illness.  Even today I still have an evil Protestant voice in my head begging me to be a Christian and slandering virtually everything I do on a moment to moment basis.  Imagine the Westboro Baptists picketing all your mental experiences… with the exception they have no fear of legal repercussions from doing much more emotional damage than just holding pithy Bible signs in morally tasteless situations.  I’ve not had a moment of peace for almost 11 years as a result.

Emotional disorientation:  It has been very dehumanizing living with such a fractured ego. At some basic deeply intuitive sense you expect your emotions to generally follow along with your thoughts.  But they don’t have to.

My condition has been an ethical nightmare in trying to split the difference between emotional insanity and real life.  I also don’t ever get to feel like I’m doing the right thing even when I am.  I have to make educated guesses and attempt to simulate what I think a more or less normal moral person would do.  I can feel many negative emotions, but the positive ones are always stunted.  It has taken a very long, brutal, agonizing time to override all my completely understandable emotional hangups about how things are supposed to feel first in order to get a consistent ongoing life strategy in place.  And I appreciate that my spouse has been willing to work with me in context of me being a mentally ill person.

Outroduction:  So I’m crazy.  You probably wouldn’t be able to tell by interacting with me since I’m high functioning.  People don’t usually believe me when I tell them, but it’s true. I’ve known a great deal of suffering in my life over some really pointless things.

It’s been a real struggle finding my place in the world this last decade of emotional apocalypse.  Right now I regularly attend the Being Together mental health support group here at the Ethical Society and also I am co-leader of a Recovering from Religion group that also meets here at the Ethical Society.  I’m always on the lookout for safe and palatable empathic opportunities to get my mirror neurons tuned up properly.  The uniqueness of this Ethical Society provides much needed value infrastructure to my life.  I would like to thank you for that!