Opposing Christianity

An Accidental Book

So I’m accidentally writing a book about Christianity. Here’s how it happened.

Back in 2015, I started to immerse myself in atheist culture and literature, mostly through audiobooks, which are fantastic to listen to when slogging through RPGs and grinding levels, which as it happens is one of my favorite activities. First I read God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, which quickly became my all time favorite book. Next I read the Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which quickly become ANOTHER of my all time favorite books. After that I began a marathon of atheist literature: I listened to audiobooks of Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, The Greatest Show On Earth, The Ancestor’s Tale, The Magic of Reality, An Appetite For Wonder, Brief Candle in The Dark, and then of course listened to the God Delusion several more times, realized that I actually had been listening to an ABRIDGED version, and then listened to the complete unabridged version. I’m currently on my second listen of the unabridged version right now.

I listened many times to Julia Sweeney’s brilliant one-woman show Letting Go Of God, then Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation. Currently I’m working my way through David Silverman’s book Fighting God. I started to watch episode of an Austin-based public broadcast television show called The Atheist Experience, worked through almost their entire catalogue of podcast The Non-Prophets, then I listened to hundreds of episodes of the podcasts Cognitive Dissonance, The Scathing Atheist, God Awful Movies, The Skepticrat, Ardent Atheist, Citation Needed, Be Reasonable, and Skeptics With A K. I watched dozens of debates, interviews, and lectures involving Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, and others.

Naturally, being steeped in all this atheism has given me a lot of time to think about my feelings on religion, on God, and most of all on my experiences with Christianity. When I’ve felt the need to go on a diatribe about religion, I’ve grabbed my phone, iPod, or whatever device is near me and started frantically taking notes. Without realizing it, a few years had passed, and I had amassed enough notes to realize that I wasn’t just writing disjointed blog posts, but writing a book, my own contribution to the work of the New Atheists and others.

The funny thing is, I still don’t know if I’m an atheist. What I do feel confident in is that I’m an anti-Christian. I think Christianity is an entirely corrupt and harmful enterprise that should be left in the past where it belongs. Listening over and over to books like The God Delusion and God Is Not Great has helped me to learn, and also to understand exactly what it is about Christianity that appalls and angers me so much.

There’s so much to write about. So much to say. So much of my own story to tell. I’ve written a few religiously-themed blog posts here, but most of what I’ve written has been in notepad documents, collated later in emails to myself for safekeeping or in documents of fractured ideas. Some of my notes are paragraphs of harsh criticism, some are single lines for me to expound upon later.

I want to share some of this with you, whoever you may be reading this. I’m not going to post everything I have, but I want to share some of what I’m working on. Remember that these are notes, not a final product, not even really a first draft, just thoughts that have been written down. Some of them need editing, many of them are repetitious or sometimes miss larger points, but I’m proud of what I’ve written so far, and I’m excited to share it with you.

I currently have the majority of what I’ve written collated together in a document, seperated by subheadings which can be later expounded upon, condensed, or cleaned up into proper chapters. There’s still a long way to go, and honestly I can’t say what the end result will be.

I don’t think any of the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris would approve, because I don’t think I’m really setting out to fight religion. I’m setting out to shine a ray of light on Christianity, to talk about the harm it’s done to me and to everyone else. As for myself, I still don’t know that I can say I’m an atheist. I still love aspects of Paganism, I enjoy tarot and some kinds of mysticism, I enjoy hearing Tori Amos wax philosophical about the goddess energy and celestial consciousness, I find those kinds of things to be beautiful poetry. I don’t know that I actually believe any of them, it would be difficult for me to condemn Christian belief on the one hand and then turn around and say I believe in Neo Paganism, which as religions go is a pretty spastic cobbling together of whatever an individual happens to agree with. I still take comfort in some spiritual practices, and for that reason, I can’t find myself denouncing belief in the same way that Dawkins does. I would be lying to myself if I tried to.

There may be atheism at the end of this journey, or there may be some other kind of spirituality I haven’t discovered yet. There may be an agnosticism with a leaning toward the mystical. All I really know is that I just HAVE to get my feelings about Christianity down on paper. I have to say what I feel. That’s what this blog has always been about. So, with that explanation out of the way, I’m going to begin sharing some of the raw material that I’ve been cobbling together. I hope that if nothing else, it makes you think about things in a different way.


The Most Harmful Enterprise

It is my belief that Christianity is the single most harmful Enterprise in all of human history. More deadly than the Huns, Alexander, the Nazis, or even nuclear bombs. Christianity is a system of subjugation and bigotry which spreads like a virus from parent to child, or if not then from adult to child (but make no mistake, it is always children who are targeted, because Christianity’s claims are not generally strong enough to hold up to the scrutiny of a full developed and educated adult), and either perverts or destroys everything it touches. Christianity warps our ideas of truth, goodness, compassion, and where to appropriately place our outrage. Christianity abuses and victimizes us, teaches us to abuse others, and then claim that we ate the one being abused. Christianity teaches us never to be satisfied with decency or morality or kindness or love, but to be ever self-flagellating sycophants, braying at the feet of God for the forgiveness of our petty thought crimes against the almighty. Christianity teaches us to harass and degrade other people, to control them as we were controlled ourselves, and to remain endlessly vigilant in the persecution of every race, Creed, belief, and orientation. Christianity is a disease of the mind spread memetically that erodes decency and compassion, and sows the desire for murder and destruction in every person it touches.

Christianity impedes the progress of medicine, health, mental stability, fulfillment, relationships, families, sexual wellness, and resorts constantly to underhanded dirty trucks, lying to the vulnerable and trying to substitute medicine for prayer, dedication to God, and incidentally money for the church. Christianity preys on the most vulnerable people. Children, the sick, the infirm, the starving. American missionaries travel to countries ravaged by poverty and hunger and they give the people food, but only at the cost of making them sit through lectures about their God, and giving them Bibles and telling them to believe in their God. Is it not obvious how utterly despicable this is? Missionaries prey on the most vulnerable people in the world. If I saw a child alone, huddled, shivering and dying of starvation, I would help them out of the kindness and compassion of my own heart, not because I saw  the opportunity to indoctrinate a potential Christian.

It is wicked enough to subjugate and persecute innocent people, to spread hatred and discord and encourage violence against people you dislike. But I takes a special kind of evil to perpetrate murder and abandonment and mutilation onto the whole world, and then claim you are the one who is being oppressed, claim that you have been the victim of the people you victimized. This is what Christianity does.

Name me one group who fought for their civil rights against prejudice and hatred, who was not oppressed by hated by Christians. Name me one group who has suffered violence in hate crimes for whom the perpetrators of at least some of those hate crimes were not Christians, or motivated by Christianity. Name me one societal injustice that has been overcome where Christianity did not stand on the wrong side of history.

Christianity would drag us kicking and screaming back into the dark ages if it could. Let us not forget how Christians acted when they thought they could get away with it. When Galileo postulated that the earth revolves around the sun, there was no scramble from Christians to teach the controversy, they sought to kill him for apostasy.

Today’s Christianity often speaks in softer terms than the one from antiquity, but that’s only because it’s been forced to soften up in order to stay relevant. As we make social progress, Christians pretend that God was progressive all along. Eventually there will come a day when there is no more widespread homophobia or bigotry against LGBT people, and if Christianity still exists, it’s believers will say that Jesus was the first real trans activist or the first proponent of gay rights, or some other nonsense, by picking and choosing from vagueries in the Bible and pretending that they had it right all along. Indeed, Christians are already doing this now in regards to slavery, saying that the Americans who fought against the Confederacy to end slavery were doing the proper Christian thing, while Confederates held up the Bible as their justification for slavery, because it very explicitly encourages slavery, not just throughout the old testament but in the new testament as well.

As our morals evolve, Christians pretend that God had it right all along, and that we’re just evolving to suit his moral standards, when really it’s the other way around, Christians are changing the character of God, or re-interpreting it as needed, to conform to our standards of morality, in order for Christianity to remain relevant. But man created God, and not the other way around, and Christianity betrays it’s man-made roots in the fact that though it claims to be unchanging, it is forced to change in order to keep it’s congregants pouring in, and to retain control over the minds, bodies, and presumably souls of it’s followers.

But even still, Christianity still relies the same old dogma of self destruction, self loathing and absolution are exactly the same. The words may change but the dogma doesn’t. After all, the Bible does say God is “the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.”


The Bible

Christianity’s doctrines and edicts come from it’s holy book, the Bible. The Bible is a horrific tome, filled with examples of all the worst aspects of the human experience, as well as injunctions to commit all manner of evil against other creatures.

Try as hard as you can to imagine the most vile, despicable, horrific acts of which any human being is capable, and you’re very likely to find it in the Bible, most often being done by the supposed heroes of the stories. God himself is often the perpetrator of these evils, but his faithful servants and revered Biblical heroes are often the ones who commit these atrocities.

Think of every abominable action you can: rape, murder, molestation of children, the abuse of innocents, kidnapping, murder of babies, indiscriminate slaughter, genocide, incest, degradation, imprisonment, cannibalism, betrayal, burning alive, drowning, torturing humans, torturing animals, ritualistic blood sacrifices, eating entrails, drinking blood, the continued injunctions to (and proscriptions for) slavery, the treatment of slaves, the taking of slaves, the rape of slaves, the selling of slaves, taking advantage of the needy, the sick, and the insane, self-mutilation, castration, torture, the Bible is an orgiastic feast of all the most abominable actions to which human kind is capable of. And the vast majority of these atrocities are committed by God himself, when not being committed by his servants who are commanded directly to do it in his name.


God, The Abusive Husband

Christianity is a system of cyclical emotional abuse that inculcates and indoctrinates new members (almost always as emotionally vulnerable and mentally impressionable children) to believe that they fundamentally disordered in such a way that they are evil and worthy of eternal torment from the moment they are born. Not only this, but they are taught to believe that they CANNOT be anything other than evil and worthy of the most horrific kind of torture and punishment, because the only way to be truly good, moral, and decent, is to allow Christ to take on your own sin (whether you’ve committed any sin or not), and Christianity takes care to institute such rigorous regulations that most normal, healthy, biologically necessary actions are considered sinful, and thought crime is preached by the central deity, so that absolutely any moment of anything other than complete lobotomized silence is viewed as sinful and in need of correction or forgiveness.

To be naked is a sin, to experience physical arousal is a sin, to desire to be close and to express love is a sin, to even think about exercising a completely healthy biological function like masturbation is a sin, even unavoidable biological functions like menstruation are sinful and “unclean,” in short: everything that any normal human being might do is considered a sin, so that no matter how hard you try, you cannot escape God’s righteous indignation.

This tactic is sometimes employed by the military, during basic training, in which a drill Sergeant will emotionally abuse his pupils by setting such absurd regulations on behavior that it becomes literally impossible for the rules to be followed, and so the entire unit is punished when one pupil slips up. The drill Sergeant will also give conflicting orders and punish a cadet no matter their actions, regardless of if they obeyed or not, simply to torture them. The reason for this barbaric method of training is to purposely bring the unit together in their utter contempt of the drill Sergeant, and yet also to fear and obey him, regardless of his orders, because it is the only way to avoid punishment, even if avoiding it is futile. Soldiers are placed under such extreme mental and emotional stress in an attempt to completely break their spirit, and then rebuild their demolished psyche into that of a ruthless killing machine whose only goal and joy comes from following orders and serving the military.

This kind of barbaric treatment is contemptible, but when it’s done in the military, people recognize it for what it is. Even those who justify this cruelty say that it’s done for a purpose. No one pretends that this medieval method of training is done out of love and compassion. I personally don’t think there is an excuse for this kind of treatment, but at least the people who do it will admit that they are being cruel, as means to an end.

But when God does the same things, and worse, people will make any excuse to justify his contemptible behavior, and most sickeningly of all: that God abuses and tortures his creations because he LOVES us. God is the ultimate abusive boyfriend. Countless times throughout the Bible he presses into service those same excuses we know abusers use: “You brought this on yourself,” “Look what you made me do,” “I’m only doing this because I love you.” If any man were on trial for doing a fraction of the things god does to his children, he would most certainly be sentenced to prison or worse. Yet his actions are excused and justified by his victims, who trip over themselves to believe that two plus two equals five if God says it does.

God is the abusive husband who torments his way day and night, haranguing her with threats and blows, keeping her so frightened that she doesn’t know whether she’s done anything wrong, where she is tortured in the knowledge that regardless of what she does or does not do, the angry man will still come home and beat her, rape her, abuse her in every way. And when her friends see her black and swollen eyes, her bruised legs and arms, they will try and persuade her to leave him, but she will argue on his behalf, as the abused do of their abusers, that he is a good man, that he loves and cares for his family, that he is justified in his cruelty, that her friends don’t understand, that they must forgive what seems to them an injustice, because assuredly he has his reasons.

But we know the truth of this, don’t we? We know that the abusive husband is a sadist and a monster, who must be stopped and thrown into prison where he can at most change his ways and understand the suffering he caused, or at the very least ensure everyone’s safety by his removal from society. God is that man, the abusive husband, and Christians are the tired and manipulated wife, searching desperately for an answer amidst the torture and grief, trying to make excuses for God. Except that God is one step worse, because he doesn’t even exist. God is a thought process implanted into the vulnerable, most often children, teaching people to hate themselves and to subjugate and torture themselves, and to feel remorse and shame if they think for a moment to stop this self-induced torture. Christians are victims as much as the Witches who burned at the stakes or the Muslims who fell to the inquisitors sword.

Ironically, when people of good and decent moral character stand up to Christian prejudice, Christians love nothing more than to proclaim that they are being “persecuted.” Christianity has the largest following around the world, the vast majority of modern human history has been controlled and decided by Christianity and it’s countless armies, yet Christians see any attempt to usurp the blatant immorality of Christian doctrine as persecution, and love nothing more than to play the victim. Indeed, the entire philosophy of Christ is to play the victim, as he did in his crucifixion, in which God sacrificed himself to himself so that he could forgive a man he created for doing exactly what he created him for and knew he would do. The whole episode has more the air of a comical farce than an uplifting morality tale. But the point is that Christians confuse moral evolution for persecution. And why shouldn’t they? The God they worship is an immoral monster.


A Monopoly On Ideas

Remember that when Christians had their way and could do what they wanted, they just stomped all over everyone and their views weren’t nearly as seemingly nuanced as they are now. Before evolution was taught in schools, there were no Christians rushing into science classrooms and demanding that we “teach the controversy,” because they don’t actually care about that, they care about getting their way. As for abortion, Christians viewpoints have strangely reversed. It used to be that any time a young woman became pregnant out of wedlock she would be “sent to stay with an aunt,” which was their code for her getting an abortion, because they viewed babies born out of wedlock as sinful. There was never any attempt to “save the lives of innocent babies” then. All of Christianity’s viewpoints today are clearly contradicted by the way Christians behaved when they knew they could get away with it, when they knew no one would oppose them.

At the end of the day the reason Christians oppose things is because of plain old prejudice. They say they oppose gay marriage because it defiles the institution, but they’re doing nothing to fight against outlawing divorce. They claim that the constitution was shaped by Christians under Christian doctrine, and yet the vast majority of the founders (particularly the most important figures) were non-Christian deists who openly denounced Christianity. They want to stop abortions and claim to be pro life, but they give no thought to the autonomy or free will of the woman in question, and in a move the betrays the deep Christian misogyny, don’t seem to mind women being bodily raped by a child they didn’t ask for.

Remember that one of Christianity’s central figures, Mary the mother of Jesus, was a virgin girl who was bodily raped by God during sleep and forced to carry his child without her consent. This betrays the deep misogyny inherent in Christianity: Mary, the revered mother of Jesus, was a woman who was simply commanded by God to carry and give birth to his child, and on top of this, she had to have her sexuality completely excised from her, hence the radical obsession with her being a virgin upon Jesus’ conception. And even if you argue that God didn’t actually have sex with Mary to impregnate her (again, there is the obsession with sexual deprivation and masochism present throughout Christianity), she was still forced to carry a child without her consent. Of course it doesn’t really matter that these events never actually happened, and maybe the character of Mary did find herself overjoyed at her own bodily autonomy being stolen from her for the privilege of delivering God’s son, but that doesn’t change the fact that the entire religion is built on the rape of a virgin girl. Not a woman, by the way; the character of Mary was probably around twelve years old in the story.

The most obvious way in which Christianity is imbued with the prejudices of it’s creators and it’s leaders are in Christian attitudes about homosexuality. Christians treat homosexuality in a very obtuse way that borders on protesting too much. They seem to have this notion that people can be “turned gay,” whenever a young gay person comes out to their family the first thing they will hear is that they’ve been “influenced by gay people” and that they “became gay,” or even that they “made the choice.” Christians imply that being gay is a choice, when even gay people say it isn’t. This means that for gay people, they’re gay just because that’s who they are. But the Christians who say that being gay is a choice are openly admitting that they as Christians COULD make the choice to be gay, which is tacitly admitting to bisexuality. They’re saying that if they wanted, they could choose to be attracted to the same gender. Well since that isn’t possible, it shows that they already ate attracted.


They also act as though being around gay people can turn you gay, as though their own heterosexuality is so fragile that the mere presence of a gay person will cause THEM to want to be with another person of the same gender? It seems to be protesting too much: they’re essentially saying “If I’m around gay people I’ll be so tempted and allured by them that I’ll become gay myself!” Well that isn’t how sexuality works, so obviously you have homosexual tendencies that you aren’t dealing with, and you’re projecting your own fear and self loathing onto everyone else. Of course, it’s not surprise that most homophobes are secretly gay. Christopher Hitchens quoted Shakespeare when discussing the topic of Christian sexual abuses, and I’ll do it again here: “The policeman who lashes the whore has a hot need to use her for the very offense for which he plies the lash.”

If God is indeed a celestial being so petty that in addition to creating nebulas, black holes, and galaxies, he can concern himself with the inconsequential minutia of who touches who else’s genitals, then he’s not worth worshiping in the first place.

But the problem isn’t just Christianity’s homophobia, or the fact that nearly all the homophobia in the entire world can be attributed to religion. It’s time we acknowledge the role Christianity plays hate crimes and murders, like the Pulse Massacre, or the murder of Matthew Shepherd. Because of preachers and faith leaders referring to us as “the homosexuals, the sodomites,” blaming hurricanes and natural disasters on us and talking about God’s judgement, Christians dehumanize us and normalize the idea of our deaths. We become less than people. We’re not humans who think and feel, we don’t watch television and read books and make dinner with our mothers on Thanksgiving, we’re just sodomites. We’re just a target, a threat to God’s people and his kingdom. Killing us isn’t the same as killing a real person.

And really, this is just scratching the surface on what makes Christianity so dangerous. And of course it’s not just Christianity that is the real problem, but religion itself. Religion has always been dangerous, but it was conceived in a time when it’s tools and weapons were significantly less powerful. In the days when religion dominated every aspect of culture and life, the most terrible possible attack from one group to another consisted of ransacking cities, murdering soldiers and civilians alike, raping innocent people, burning house and toppling castles with trebuchets. Even such horrors as these pale in the face of modern nuclear weapons, drones, bombs and machine guns.

Religion was conceived in a time when the worst of it’s followers could be convinced to take up a sword or a bow against an innocent, but the worst of today’s followers could be convinced to quite literally destroy the entire world with the right nuclear arsenal. This is why religion must not simply be abandoned, it must be combated, and future generations need to understand why that is, what makes it so dangerous, and why it should not be allowed to prosper, and to control the minds of otherwise decent people who fall prey to it.


Hiding In The Shadows

“What is impressive about Catholic mythology is partly it’s tasteless kitsch, but mostly the airy nonchalance with which these people make up the details as they go along. It is just shamelessly invented.” – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

The simplest proof against Christianity, and religion in general, is the way it betrays itself, the way it shows it’s motives. When Christians were in charge, God was the all knowing creator of the universe. When we discovered evolution, God took a step back and became evolution’s guiding hand. When we discovered that the universe was created during the big bang, God became no more than the one giving the order for creation to begin. As we gain scientific understanding of the world and the cosmos that surrounds us, Christians have to try harder and harder to squeeze God into the gaps of our knowledge. Christians will claim that we don’t need evidence to believe in God, because God must be discovered through faith, but we all know that if there were any real evidence for God’s existence (apart from philosophical exercises of trying to define God into existance) Christians would be all over it. Christians say that science is incompatible with religion only because it’s convenient to say that, if science DID produce any evidence for God’s existence, Christians would be shouting it from the rooftops.

But there is no evidence. As time goes on, the role God plays in the universe is shrinking. God was once the almighty and omniscient creator, and now he is an imp who hides in the shadows cast by Darwin and Hawking, and as we shed more and more light onto our own existence, he has fewer and fewer places to hide. Surely if God were the omniscient father of all things, it would be no difficulty at all to stand up to scrutiny, there would be abundant evidence. And yet the universe behaves in exactly the way it would if there were no God at all, making God, at best, utterly useless.

Christians count the hits and ignore the misses when it comes to prayer and divine intervention. When something a Christian prays for comes true, they regard it as an answered prayer and divine intervention, when their prayer is not answered they decree that their prayer was still answered anyway, only God in his infinite wisdom said “no.” No matter whether he succeeds or fails, God is given the credit for his action or his inaction. And this is considered to be decent evidence by many people.

If God exists, he behaves in such a way that his action is indistinguishable  from his inaction. Many sudden recoveries and coincidences are attributed to him, but curiously, he only ever heals someone in such a way that it can’t be demonstrated to have been some other means. He seemingly spends a lot of time healing people of cancerous growths or relieving pain, but not once in history has he ever regrown a lost limb, or healed third degree burns, and surely there were devout Christians at the time who prayed as fervently for those injuries to be healed. God is supposedly so powerful that he can create universes and destroy millions with floods, but the only miracles he seems capable of performing now that we have reliable methods of recording such things are trivial miracles that can’t be distinguished from chance. He only seems capable of passively doing things that might otherwise have been done without his interference. If God’s existence is indistinguishable from his nonexistence, then he’s so useless he might as well not exist anyway.


If He Existed

If the God described in the Bible did exist, the megalomaniacal, tyrannical celestial dictator who is more concerned about a nonexistent man eating a magical fruit than he is about poverty or disease, a being so prideful and contentious that he shows moral character worse than that of a petulant child, a fascist dictator willing to commit genocide on a whim, then I would oppose him. If the day of judgement the Christians talk about come, and God descends from the heavens in the form of Christ on a white horse, and I must stand before the throne of judgement, and God asks me to prostrate myself, I would be under a moral obligation to oppose him, to call out his bigotry, his insolence, his indefensible abuse of his creations.

Any moral personal who believes that God is worth worshiping is deluding themselves. Replace the names “God” and “Jesus” with “Zeus” and “Heracles,” and then read the Bible and tell me if you believe that the deities in question have any moral character. God is a tyrant, a ruthless petulant fascist, and if he DID exist, I would be the first to stand up to him, even if I were powerless. I would rather burn in hell for eternity knowing that I did the right and just thing, than to live in Heaven for eternity because I was willing to bend my knee at the threat of violence. At the end of the day the character of God is a malevolent villain, and we should all be exceedingly happy that he doesn’t exist, because any universe created and governed by such a monster would be a hopeless universe indeed.

Luckily, we have the ability to break the chains of ignorance, to cast away the shackles of God and his Bible, to be set free from Christianity, and from it’s family of religions, it’s mother religion, Judaism, and it’s daughter religion, Islam. We live in a time and place where it is possible not only to oppose God’s tyrannical rule, but to understand that we have no God to fear, only one another to fear, and it is in this knowledge that we can work toward a world not ruled by fear, but by compassion and understanding.

Humans have gotten a lot of things wrong. But we’ve seen the power of human empathy, and we’ve seen what God can do to stifle it. It’s time to send this fictitious monster back where he belongs, in the darkness of human history, and keep shining the light of knowledge on the shadows of ignorance, so that he has nowhere left to hide.


I Tried To Read The 5th Wave And Failed

I just can’t with this book.

I first saw the Fifth Wave in the bookstore a few years ago when it was brand new, and it seemed pretty interesting. It has a very good premise. It’s a dystopian YA novel (strange how that’s not only a genre now, but an oversaturated and cliche genre. What a weird time to be alive) about a girl surviving on her own in the ruins of Earth after aliens show up and destroy the place.

The alien assault comes in the form of “waves.” The first wave is an EMP blast that disabled all electronic devices and cuts off communication. The second wave is a series of bombs dropped into fault lines that trigger tsunamis which wipe out all human life near coastlines. The third wave is a virus, transmitted by birds, that not only causes people to die a painful and bloody death, but also lose their mind to the point that one victim is shown to have been chained to her bed while she ripped her own fingernails out.

The book begins after the fourth wave has begun. It has a pretty strong opening chapter, and I was hooked very quickly. The narrator, Cassie, switches back and forth between recounting the events of her life before and the way humanity dealt with the attack from “the Others,” and her current mission to travel to a nearby airbase where she believes she might find her younger brother, trekking along desolate highway while being followed by a sniper.

At first, Cassie’s tendency to wax philosophical is charming. I mean, if you can’t contemplate the futility of existence in an apocalypse that somehow manages to combine an alien invasion, a superflu, a zombie virus,, a worldwide flood, a super bomb, and the mass murder of all survivors, you really can’t ever find a time to contemplate anything. But as time goes on, it feels like author Rick Yancey was more interested in using the lens of an uber apocalypse to discuss human society than actually telling a compelling story.

And things only get more ham-fisted from here. Every point is driven home without a hint of subtlety, and simple messages that shouldn’t be difficult to grasp are slammed in with a sledgehammer. The most egregious example of this is a moment that made me roll my eyes almost out of my head. I had to put the book down and Google to see other people’s reactions because I was so incredibly annoyed.

At one point, Cassie is reciting her experience in a camp of survivors. They’re all struggling to survive and trying to figure out what the hell is going on, unsure if anyone is ever going to come and help them. Cassie herself makes a brief reference to religion before this scene, simply saying that when it comes to God, she feels like there’s some kind of a broken promise there. But leaving it at that would be subtle and understated, two things that this book is not. We’re briefly introduced to two characters surviving in the refugee camp: a religious fanatic nicknamed Mother Theresa by the others, and “the sole atheist in our camp, some college professor named Dawkins.”

Yeah, that’s a LITTLE on the nose, Rick Yancey. Let me talk about WHY I hate this so much. The point Yancey is trying (read: failing) to make here is that all fundamentalism is bad, both religious fundamentalism and… non-religious fundamentalism? I mean there’s a problem with trying to explain how someone could be a fundamentalist ahtiest when atheism is simply the rejection of a religious claim, but I get what he’s trying to say here. He’s saying that we should be level-headed in our approach to life, and not get lost moving too far to one side or the other to keep a clear view of the situation.

But this is an actual apocalypse story. The other survivors jeer at the atheist, telling him he’s going to hell, to which he reasonably responds, “How would I know the difference?”

What bothers me so much about this is not just that Yancey went with the most obvious and on-the-nose name choice possible for an atheist character by naming him after Richard Dawkins, though that annoys me too. And I won’t dwell on it for much longer, but I have now found two different interviews in which someone asked him about naming his character Dawkins, and in both of those interviews he chuckled and said “You caught that, did you?” Yeah, Rick. We ALL CAUGHT IT. It was not subtle, or clever, it was ham-fisted and graceless. Anyhow, that’s not what bothers me so much. What bothers me is the idea that in a world where all of the conceivable apocalypses have happened one on top of another, that an atheist would STILL be regarded with disgust. I mean, if you need any more proof that there is no God looking out for you, trying looking around at the nightmarish dystopian hellscape you live in. I get that people would probably turn to their faith for comfort, but like Cassie mentioned earlier in the book before this scene, it’s clear that if there was some sort of promise from God to keep people safe, he didn’t live up to it, and may as well not exist anyway. The idea that this ONE character is the SOLE atheist is ridiculous, particularly when Cassie more or less admitted to being an atheist only a few pages ago.

I did manage to get a bit of revenge when, later on when groups of soldiers arrive to take all young children away to safe houses, Mother Theresa demands that she be allowed to leave too, because “women and children should be taken first, that’s just how things are done,” seeming to go out of her way to throw everyone else under the bus. I might have enjoyed this jab at religiosity more if it hadn’t been countered by an incredibly flawed atheist strawman. Not that his Mother Theresa character wasn’t a straw man too, but at the very least, anyone could sympathize with the atheist character.

At any rate, just when I began to feel really interested in what was happening to Cassie, the story switches perspectives rather abruptly to another character called Zombie, previously Cassie’s high school crush, and his experiences becoming infected with the plague virus, and subsequent recovery. He’s hooked into a computer program called Wonderland that “maps” his experiences, basically downloading his entire personality, memories, feelings and thoughts into a computer, and then he’s sent to boot camp to train in becoming a soldier. Calling the computer program Wonderland is one of several cringe-worthy literary references that might have been clever if they weren’t so cliche. It reminds me of the villain in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series being named Valentine, or the way the Looking Glass Wars tried to turn the Mad Hatter and Chershire Cat into anime-style martial arts badasses. It just feels so… silly. There’s kind of a trend in this series of giving silly names like Wonderland, Zombie, Nugget, Razor, Poundcake, and Dumbo. Sometimes they feel like they’re supposed to be references to other works, sometimes they just feel like unfortunate nicknames.

The story switches back to Cassie and manages to get very interesting for a few chapters, because the sniper who had been following her is an alien. Up to this point, no one has seen the aliens, but it is known that there are aliens masquerading as humans and killing people, which is called the Fourth Wave. The Fifth Wave, by the way, is never explained or even mentioned in this book, and won’t be addressed until the final book in the trilogy, but I digress. So the aliens have basically attached themselves to people’s brains and possessed their human hosts, but they aren’t a conciousness which replaces the old one (a la Stephanie Meyer’s the Host), they are still the same person they always were, only they’ve been “awakened” to who they truly are. The alien, Evan, is having trouble deciding on what to do because during the time he was hunting and stalking Cassie, he became attracted to her and began to become obsessed with her, unable to bring himself to kill her, instead nursing her back to health.

Evan is a pretty interesting character. He’s conflicted and you can see that his humanity is ultimately overpowering the alien part of himself. It does however worry me that since he is set up as Cassie’s romantic interest, this book continues the disturbing trend in YA fiction of having a female protagonist fall in love with an abusive or obsessive male partner who gives off some distinctly rape-y vibes. Still, because I’m me, I was just happy to finally have a cute boy involved in the story who I could be vicariously attracted to, because what is young adult fiction without sexual tension?

This, unfortunately, is when the book grinds to a complete halt. Evan and Cassie end up sharing a kiss and he climbs in bed with her, at which point the camera fades to black and we switch to Cassie’s younger brother, a terrified seven year old named Sam, who is brought into the safe houses after being separated from a girl he meets on the bus, and the narrative returns to Zombie, who is now in boot camp. And the book goes Full Metal Jacket on us. And you know, I really tried with this part. Firstly, I find military stories entirely boring, particularly when they involve boot camp, because I tend to view boot camp as a very strange form of physical and mental torture that we as a society have sanctioned as perfectly alright, and this book continues to espouse the supposed virtue of emotionally and mentally destroying a person through weeks and months of torture before “molding them” into a soldier, which even in real life seems to have little effect but destroying a person’s natural empathy and replacing their personality with that of a cold and ruthless machine designed to serve it’s masters, sacrificing any humanity.

But again, I digress.

I have difficulty with boot camp stories because of the above mentioned reasons, but also because it’s really not what this book has been about up to this point. And exactly halfway through the book is a very strange time to take on such a drastic change in tone. I mean, yeah, it’s still the same hopeless dystopia as the first half, but at a certain point the utter hopelessness of the story becomes unbearable. I mean, there IS no victory for these characters. At this point, most of humanity is dead. Even if they somehow defeated the aliens, there’s nothing that can be done, humanity will not survive beyond this point, any attempt to survive is pointless. And Yancey has said that the point of this story is not about victory but about endurance, but still, how compelling is a story of endurance? I mean, at the end of Gary Paulson’s book Hatchet, the main character does eventually get to go back to society. His endurance pays off. Where is the pay off here?

The thing that really pushed me over the line is that the book goes into gruesome detail describing the fate of the people who died, particularly through the lens of Casssie’s younger brother. Not only does the narrative go through the horrific details of his mother’s death and the way he lost everything he ever loved, but it does so while retaining his point of view, so that characters are still called “mommy” and “daddy” and we can see his innocence shattering. It all becomes so incredibly depressing that it’s almost too difficult to bear. This whole book is just steeped in hopelessness, and that’s the problem with it. Once you’ve breathed a sigh of relief, things can only get worse. There is never going to be any payoff for these characters.

The little boy is thrown into boot camp, a ludicrous idea even for a dystopian novel, and the drill sergeant taunts him about the death of his mother, which is probably more monstrous and unforgivable than anything that’s happened up to this point. Now granted, this drill sergeant is an antagonist, but the scene is framed in such a way that it suggests boot camp is a GOOD thing, so what is the message being sent here? I don’t know, but honestly this is the point where the book became too much for me and I had to put it down. I skimmed summaries for the rest of the book and then the rest of the series to sate my curiosity about what happened next, and I’m going to talk about it now, so consider yourself spoiler warned.

This boot camp section carries on for a while, and the narrative doesn’t return to Cassie for a long time, which as I said, grinds the story to a halt, because even though Zombie has been introduced, the central story was still mostly about Cassie. Halfway through the book is a bad time to give this novel a deuteragonist. We’d already followed Cassie, Evan and Sam, and Zombie’s section had been brief enough that it didn’t detract from the overall narrative. Frankly, I just don’t have the patience for this kind of storytelling. I know it may be important to switch focus, but I had to keep willing myself to read on beforehand, through all the gloomy atmosphere, because the story was essentially pretty good and was rolling along. I don’t have it in me to put with a boot camp section, not now. The military aspects of the book seem to be glorifying the military and even though that’s another discussion for another time, it was just too harsh of a tonal shift for me.

So, I was genuinely curious about what the hell the Fifth Wave actually was, and apparently it isn’t even explained until the third and final book in the trilogy. The big secret is that the aliens were never on earth, they were always acting remotely, and the mothership doesn’t actually house the aliens so much as it houses their equipment and their weapons. They controlled people by mapping themselves through Wonderland and then uploading themselves into people’s brains. This is meant to pull the rug out from under you, but Yancey actually did a very weird thing in the way he told the story in the first novel. You see, we learn from Cassie that the military are actually alien-controlled humans, but we switch to Zombie and Sam being cared for by the military and being given explanations about what the aliens are, even though we as readers KNOW they are the aliens. But, the information they’re giving the protagonists seem to be true, so it’s kind of a triple-bluff. I wish that the author had picked a better method of explaining the central story than several info-dumps from the point of view of side-characters, given by unreliable characters. Worse, the villains mostly seem to be pretty good people, except for the two military drill instructor types.

The general theme for this book seems to be that we as the reader are shown something, and then the characters are put into a situation where we know what’s happening and they don’t. That’s a good storytelling method in and of itself, but unfortunately, things get wonky from there. Right when I as a reader think I know what’s going on, the “bad guys” are acting good, and we’re left to wonder who exactly is the villain here. And this isn’t done in an interesting, morally ambiguous way, like a political tale in which every player has their own ends and the lines between good and evil become blurred, it’s just clunky and indistinct, leaving me as a reader not sure if the antagonists are lying or telling the truth, and not sure if the narrative itself is lying to me or telling the truth. There are lies hidden within truths hidden within lies, but it’s spun in a very ineffective way, and just left me scratching my head and unwilling to keep slogging on once the focus of the book shifted halfway through.

In case you’re curious, the ultimate ending of the series apparently keeps piling cliche upon cliche, because the sole fault in the Wonderland program is that the aliens didn’t anticipate that LOVE would become involved, and basically, love can break the spell that the program has on people, as it did with Evan and his (creepy?) romantic obsession with Cassie. Yes, that’s right, it’s the old “love trumps everything” trope, but wait, it gets better.

The reason that the aliens sent their ship there was to destroy human civilization, because humans were destroying the environment and wiping out other species, and apparently the Others go from planet to planet, wiping out civilizations that pose too much of a threat to their environments in order to keep life going. But if that’s the case, what about the Others themselves? If they have this kind of sophisticated technology, then surely they must have developed and incredibly advanced civilization that DIDN’T harm the life around themselves, in which case they could use their technology to travel to planets and help other races to take care of their home worlds, share their own technology with them, or hell, even take over the planet and become benevolent dictators. It seems like the Others went through a HELL of a lot of trouble to wipe out the majority of the human race when inevitably another race will eventually evolve to take it’s place and create it’s own civilization. And from what I can tell from plot summaries of the rest of the series, the real origins of the Others are never explained and they’re never even communicated with directly. What a let down.

The Fifth Wave, by the way, is a series of child soldiers trained by the aliens, who go and destroy what’s left of humanity, by tricking them into thinking they’re killing alien-infested people. Even though the people training them to do this are actually alien-infested, but actually not because of the whole Wonderland thing and ugh, my head hurts.

Even worse, the ultimate end for Cassie is that she downloads the memories and personalities of thousands of long-dead humans into her own mind, basically becoming Super Cassie and going on an army-of-one rampage against the antagonists, ultimately beaming herself onto the mothership with a bomb in hand, blowing herself up and destroying the mothership in the process. I don’t know if this actually defeats the Others, because clearly if they’ve done this with other planets before, they must have more ships. Did this really accomplish anything? So we have a combination of the “love conquers all” trope, the “humans will destroy the planet” trope, and the “sacrifice yourself to save Earth” trope. It’s kind of sad to me that a story with such lofty goals ends with such cliche set pieces.

And then finally, the epilogue of the series involves Zombie and Sam wandering through the ruins of the old world, basically just continuing to survive, and having some philosophical discussion about what a realm is. And that’s it. Like I said, there is no victory. No matter how long Zombie, Sam, and the other survivors make it, no matter how many generations of their children survive, humanity is still dead, all of human history is still destroyed, all of the art and music and literature and memories of past generations is gone. And the world isn’t rebooted in an Eden awash with possibilities, it’s on a planet in which much of the life has been destroyed and what land remains is littered with waste. The end.

How incredibly unsatisfying.

And that’s the Fifth Wave. I couldn’t bring myself to finish it, and honestly I’m kind of glad I didn’t. It set out with some lofty ambition, but ultimately feels pretty pointless. The point of a dystopian story is to try and overcome the dystopia, to begin rebuilding, to create a new and better world, but this? This is just sad, and hopeless from the very beginning. Pain stacked upon pain, often in horrifically morose detail. It’s strange to me that in the world of YA fiction, you can’t directly talk about penises or breasts and you can’t do any more than imply that sex happens, but you can spend chapters describing blood leaking from the eyes of children and infants dying in their cradles and bands of marauders murdering (and raping?) children. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs in general that we are so much more comfortable describing horrific violence in gory detail than talking frankly about something as natural and harmless as consensual sex. Not that that’s Rick Yancey’s fault, it’s just an observation, and it’s certainly not a new one.

And now, I can finally go read Mercedes Lackey.

8 Podcasts You Should Listen To

I first discovered the existence of podcasts back in about 2011. The first podcast I ever listened to was called Downstage Center from the American Theatre Wing, where they interviewed just about every important theater acter from Broadway to Shakespeare. After that I started just searching iTunes for interviews with people I liked, like Imogen Heap, Tori Amos or Gregory Maguire.

More recently I’ve discovered podcasts again, and wow has the landscape changed since 2011. There are some really fantastic podcasts out there, and the best thing is that no matter what you’re interested in, there is probably at least one great-quality podcast out there. On top of that, because podcasts are almost always free, it’s a great medium to create in. I experimented with doing my own podcast and would like to come back to it at some point, though probably with a more focused idea of what I was doing. All that being said, I’m going to share with you some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to, and what I think of them.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
Hosted by David Barr Kirtley and John Joseph Adams

If I had to pick a “favorite podcast,” this would probably be it. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is a podcast primarily centered around science fiction and fantasy, but honestly they touch on just about every element of geek culture. The podcast is hosted by Wired.com, so there is oftentimes an element of technology. Host David Barr Kirtley is really unique among podcast hosts, because he’s very good at asking questions that allow the guest to give a complete, uninteruppted answer. He is very skilled at leading the guest toward a topic they want to expand on, and he only pops in to offer commentary or ask further questions when it serves the guests narrative, he doesn’t monopolize the interviews by interjecting much with his own experience. This style of letting the guest have center stage has led some critics to think David is uninterested in the subject matter, but as you can see from the panel episodes, this is certainly not the case. The earlier episodes of Geek’s Guide usually included an interview as well as a panel discussion with fellow host John Joseph Adams and various other geeks (usually writers), however in recent years they’ve split the two formats into different episodes, which I personally like because it keeps the episodes from getting overloaded.

Pretty much every important “geek luminary” you can imagine has been interviewed on this podcast. Just some of their guests include: Philip Pullman, Richard Dawkins, George R.R. Martin, John Cleese, Patrick Rothfuss, R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novak, Andy Weir, Ernest Cline, Ken Liu, Amanda Palmer, Diana Gabaldon, Christopher Moore, Dan Simmons, Margaret Atwood, Felicia Day, Lev & Austin Grossman, Gregory Maguire, and this is just scratching the surface. Short of Neil Gaiman and the Star Trek captains, there are very few icons of geek culture who have not appeared on the show.

I definitely recommend listening to Geek’s Guide, and you can start anywhere. Just scroll through the episode list and find some people and topics you want to hear about. They also have a Patreon, which is a great way to support the show.

Hosted by Dan Cummins

This is a new one for me. I’ve listened to Dan Cummins’ comedy for a long time on Pandora, and recently he started running ads after his comedy clips for the podcast, so I went to check it out. Basically Dan explores topics that go down the rabbit hole, no matter what the subject, as long as there is a plethora of information about it. Some of those topics include flat earth conspiracy theories, belief in Sasquatch and the Loch Ness monster, the history of alien sightings, an examination on Walmart, conspiracy theories about lizard illimunati, and historical overviews of Hitler’s rise to power, Lyndon Johnson and his fascination with his own penis, and a variety of serial killers including Charles Manson, H.H. Holmes, and Ted Bundy.

Dan is one of the few people I’ve heard successfully carry an entire podcast by himself, he has only had a guest on the show one time so far (though it was hilarious and fun), and manages to keep me interested. He also intersperses some great comedy among his examinations, including my personal favorite bit about sucking the nipples of Irish kings (true story, by the way) during The Dead Do Tell Tales, and a hilarious anecdote about his occasionally obstinate daughter Monroe and a plastic dog during Robert the Cursed Doll.

Though I only just started listening to this series a few weeks ago, I highly recommend it.

Hosted by Chris Hardwick

I am probably one of the few people in the world who really didn’t know about Nerdist until somewhat recently. Last year I had a brief obsession with Maria Bamford after listening to her comedy and watching her Netflix series Lady Dynamite (which if you haven’t seen it is basically a very weird and meta dissection of the comedy genre), and found her interview on the show. Nerdist is just shy of a thousand episodes so there is a LOT of material, and as is the case with Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, if you just search for the name of any geek icon you’re likely to find an interview. My personal favorites are the interviews with Patrick Stewart, who has a fantastic sense of humour and seems to genuinely enjoy his time with Chris and the Nerdist crew. Not much else to say, just a really great place to find interviews with nerd icons.

Ardent Atheist
Hosted by Emery Emery

2013 was my year of atheism. It began with God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, then Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and from there I went into an infinite spiral of atheist culture. One of my personal favorites was the Austin, Texas based Atheist Experience, a public access call-in show where a small panel of atheists basically listen to a bunch of hillbillies give weak explanations for the existance of God while the panel responds with some quiet and sane logic. At any rate, during this time I searched for some atheist podcasts and very briefly listened to part of an episode of Ardent Atheist, but I think at the time I got distracted and forgot to come back.

Recently I tried listening again and found that this show is pretty fantastic. Emery is fiery and hilarious, prone to outbursts and often flying into a screaming rage, but always about important injustices in the world that should be addressed, and even so, he still listens to opposing views. The panel is almost always made of atheists, so there isn’t exactly a lot of theological debate so much as there is a collective examination of the theological ideas of others, and a lot of time spent calling out religious nut-jobs who do real damage in the world. If you’re looking for a good show based in atheism, this is a great one.

Hosted by Sarah Koenig

I remember hearing a lot of buzz about Serial a few years ago when it first came out. I never listened to it, and I briefly had it confused with Thrilling Adventure Hour, so when I downloaded the first episode I fully expected a comedy podcast, having no idea what I was walking into. What I found was the incredibly compelling story of the murder of Hae Min Lee, supposedly at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. Sarah Koenig is a journalist who examines the many flaws in the handling of the case, and really attempts to get to the bottom of who exactly killed Hae Min Lee, and most importantly, if Adnan was convicted when he is really innocent.

For his part, Adnan maintains his innocence, and every claim he makes about the circumstances surrounding the murder turn out to be true, while his representation at the hands of an attourney whose health was failing was very questionable. An alibi who never appeared during the trial ends up involved, and Sarah and her producer go through every aspect of the case, from a mysterious stranger in the park the day Hae’s body was found, to the incredibly weird Jay, a friend of Adnan’s who claims to have helped Adnan bury the body of Hae and then became the state’s star witness by testifying against Adnan.

I can warn you that there isn’t really a clear ending to this story. As of this writing, Adnan is still in prison, although Sarah’s work with Serial was responsible for getting Adnan another trial, and details are still sparse. There is a second season of Serial about the defection of U.S. soldier Bo Bergdahl, which admittedly I didn’t find quite as interesting and which I haven’t finished, but the first season is incredibly gripping, although be prepared for some disturbing details. I actually listened to the entirety of the first season in one night, beginning at around 8pm and ending the next morning, absolutely exhausted and barely awake but unable to stop listening.

And for what it’s worth, I think Jay did it.

Welcome to Night Vale
Hosted by Cecil Palmer (played by Cecil Baldwin)
Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Welcome to Night Vale is the first podcast on this list to be completely fictional. It is somewhat like a radio play, except that the majority of episodes are narrated by a single character, Cecil Palmer, the host of a public radio station in the desert town of Night Vale. Night Vale is basically an incredibly creepy little town where Lovecraftian horrors are commonplace and where the ordinary is treated as unusual and the macabre as ordinary. From the first episode it’s clear that the central protagonist Cecil is gay, and in love with a newcomer in town, a scientist named Carlos. As times goes on, Night Vale’s popularity has grown and they’ve done several live episodes which include a full cast of actors portraying their characters in the style of a radio play. Night Vale’s popularity has led to the publication of a novel based in the town, and a second novel to be released soon.

The series begins a little slowly, and honestly I’m not quite as interested in the horror aspects of the show, simply because there isn’t one concrete narrative. The story is not really a story so much as a free form exploration of the town, with several recurring characters and running gags. Some episodes are better than others, but the writing has gotten consistently better as time goes on. Every episode also features a “weather” segment, which is a musical break, always featuring music from independent artists. You’re likely to find some cool new artists to follow through the weather segments.

By Spoke Media

Terms is another fictional podcast, very much done in the style of a radio play. Terms is more or less an examination of Donald Trump’s rise to becoming the president of the United States. But in Terms, things play out very differently. The central character is the outgoing president of the United States, Oliver Pierce, a Republican who managed to gain incredible popularity and revitalized his party, popular among both Republicans and Democrats. On election night it becomes clear that Republican candidate Charles Dunwalke, a malicious, maniacal anarchist who wants to provoke war around the world and disrupt the foundation of American principles (and who is, VERY clearly, a fictional representation of Donald Trump), is going to become the next preisdent, and Pierce begins to play a dangerous political game to ensure that Dunwalke doesn’t take office.

The writing of this story is very cliche, and I found myself rolling my times at least once during every episode, because the dialogue is very similar to the corny dialogue of crime procedurals, and the acting varies from pretty good to absolutely bad. Still, the story is interesting and the episodes aren’t incredibly long, so it’s very easy to get sucked in. The music, while a bit cliche, is also pretty good, and a little bit scary. But that might just be because I’ve primarily listened to the show while driving around at night.

Myths and Legends
Hosted by Jason Weiser

I’m really glad that this podcast exists. It’s one of those shows that is both entertaining and educational. Think of any famous legend, from mythology, literature or history, and it’s likely that it’s been touched on in this show, or will be at some point. Jason will choose a topic, and then combine several versions of the mythology surrounding it into one clear narrative, telling it in the form of a story, while adding in his own commentary. There’s some great ambient music underscoring the stories as well. He’s touched on topic from Greek and Arthurian legends to the history of The Little Mermaid, and my personal favorite, a two-part episode surrounding the events of the life of Pocahontas, told from the perspective of the settlers as well as the natives. Jason seems to make it a point to make sure that even during episodes with intense subject matter involving sex and death, he tries to keep the show fairly family friendly, which means that often sexuality is alluded to rather than spoken about explicitly, which admittedly I find a little annoying, because explicit sexuality and gore are an important part of these legends. He doesn’t do the legends any disservice, however, it’s just one element of the show that bothers me a little. Still, all in all this is a great podcast, and like Timesuck with Dan Cummins, it’s not only entertaining but really informative. There’s nothing better than learning while being entertained.


I’m Still Trying


I’ve wanted to write again for over a month. That seems to always be the pattern: I want to write, then I don’t, then I’m mad because I missed all these observations and thoughts I could have chronicled, and then when I do write I’m apologizing to myself for not writing. But I’m going to keep trying, even if it’s hard. I want to get what it’s my head down.

I started a journal once before online (actually many times before online, but this is one in particular), on LiveJournal. I wanted to try something new, but I ended up only writing six entries. Since this numbered series is supposed to be similar to that, and I’ve already cross-posted my LiveJournal entries over to this blog, I considered making the previous entry number seven and this one number eight.Maybe I will do that. I don’t know.

I realize that’s a boring thing to start this off with. I have a thing about numbers, and organization. I have literally spent most of my free time in the past six years organizing and maintaining my iTunes library: keeping the B-Sides and Demos in proper order with uniform cover art, keeping everything numbered properly, having things in correct chronological order, organizing and re-organizing and re-organizing bonus tracks and B-Sides. It’s labor intensive but it gives my mind something to focus on.

I honestly want to go back to the beginning of this entry and just erase everything I’ve just written because even I think it’s boring.

But that is not the point!

The point is to get it out of my head and into here. The point is to have a living record (what does that actually mean, anyway? I’m totally bullshitting on using that term properly) of my life and my thoughts.

So here’s what I did today.

It’s Saturday. Blessed, sweet Saturday. The Thursday two days previous marked three months that I began working a full-time job, at a desk, in front of a computer, for eight hours a day with an hour lunch break. When I first started, I was deliriously satisfied at having landed full-time work, much less in my dream environment of an OFFICE. I couldn’t believe it.

But as time went on, it slowly starting dawning on me that this wasn’t an office. This was a retailer I worked for, and I was in their office space, and yes there were desks and computers and cushy chairs, and a coffee machine and conference rooms, but there were also things MISSING. Windows, for instance. Our office is actually just two huge warehouses that are somewhat insulated and the walls are strewn with huge ceiling to floor curtains. There are no windows, there is no sunlight, there is something that almost passes for a skylight above but really doesn’t because it’s just one dirty covered window that lets in some small amount of light. Two weeks ago the power went out for a while and we were on various backup lighting systems and it was like it was the dead of night in there. It gets incredibly hot when it’s hot outside, and freezes when it’s cold outside.

It seems to be devoid not just of light, but of hope. I’m reminded of the lyrics to that one Radiohead song that I’ve never heard the original of before, just the Regina Spektor and Amanda Palmer covers: “A job that slowly kills you, bruises that won’t heal.”

After my life was saved by two friends who allowed me to move away from the Carolinas and from my dysfunctional family and incredibly abusive mother, I spent the first month or so having crying breakdowns every night. I was like a dog that had just been adopted from the pound, and I was still so scarred by my past that I couldn’t accept that I might have a home, or safety, or love. But over time that fear went away and this became my new home.

I lasted about a month at the new job before I started to realize that I not only hated the job itself, but the whole concept of full time work. I always thought working full time with weekends off would give my life some kind of structure, but it turns out it just fills my life with forty-five hours a week spent in a muggy dark building away from the sun, and away from my actual LIFE. I hate being hidden away like that. I get two days off but I feel like I need much more than that. I honestly am beginning to doubt whether or not I can work AT ALL.

What would a happy work-week look like for me? I have no idea. Unless I were doing something that I love, and I don’t really know if I can paid to play piano, write books, and play video games. I want to go to college but how? I’m twenty-five now, I don’t have as many resources available to me as would have been when I was eighteen and just graduating. Even if I go to school I need to work a full-time job at the same time and how do I do that? What would I even go to school for? I say English, music, or literature, but what would I do with that? Would I teach? Could I handle the stress of teaching? I’ve been warned against teaching by everyone and I’ve never been particularly interested in it. If I were a teacher I’d have to hide who I am too.

I’d like to live in a hippy commune, rolling around naked in the flowers every afternoon, fucking boys and maybe sometimes girls throughout the day, reading at night, and falling asleep in the arms of friends. I’d like to wake up to the smell of nature and the wet dew and the rising sun, and yet I don’t want to live out in the woods. Maybe a cabin somewhere? I mean I’m genuinely trying to picture what my perfect life might look like. I guess in my dreams for the future I’m always rich and successful, and I’m either at home writing novels or out on the road touring as a musician, playing piano and singing to adoring friends every night.

Will I ever get the chance to do these things? When I was twenty-one it seemed like there was still all the time in the world to figure these things out. Now I’m twenty-five, almost twenty-six, and it seems like while there may still be time, there doesn’t seem to be any MEANS to make these things happen. And what do I need to do, keep on slogging through work full time, having unfulfilling Grindr hookups that leave me grossed out and ashamed when I have a few moments of free time, spending the weekend sitting still and trying to recuperate as I recover from the withdrawals symptoms of leaving one antidepressant behind to start myself on another?

It seems like I’ve gained so much of what I thought I wanted: a safe home where I live with friends, a stable job, good income, the ability to get food when I need it, a place to put my books and my music. And I do still want all those things, but I didn’t know I would still be suicidal once I got them. I didn’t know I would still struggle against the debilitating tears, fear, and loneliness, pushing down on my chest every day. I didn’t know I would still reach over to the other side of the bed at night and wish Nathan was there to hold.

It’s been over a year now and he’s still on my mind all the time. I feel lost without him. I think of things that I want to say to him, I see things around me and I want to show him, but he isn’t here, he’s back home, in Georgia, and he just isn’t going to be a part of my life no matter how much I miss him. And it isn’t that I want him to be in my life, or that I want to get back together, but I do miss him. Even though I don’t regret my decision to step out of our relationship, I still spend a lot of time thinking about him, missing him

I want to find a new person, but last year I was with a new person for three months and I genuinely forget that he ever existed in my life. I had a new relationship with not one but TWO guys, in a polyamorous relationship, they were both Pagan, and I even ended up homeless and they gave me a place to stay. Then there was upset, an actual physical fight, lots of screaming and wailing and at one point I even tried to cut myself (unsuccesfully, as I grabbed a butter knife), then ended up being made to leave. And I forget about those things ever having happened all the time, I forget that I had a relationship with those two guys, I talk about Nathan and say he was my last boyfriend but I forget that there were two in-between then and now. Why do I forget them so easily? I had thought I was happy. It turns out I was just as unfulfilled as before.

But doesn’t having a rebound relationship mean it helps you to get over the old one? Well, yes and no. It was nice, but still unfulfilling.

And I spent so much time last year being an atheist, and now I feel like I’m going back down the path to being Pagan. Which is great, I like it, but I always feel insincere. I’m not brave enough to be an atheist, and I don’t have enough faith to truly believe in the Divine. I want real life witchcraft and magic to influence the magic in my book, but where is my book going? It’s changed so much in my head. Characters that used to be the most important have left entirely, and I don’t know what’s happening anymore. I finally started over in first person and I love it so far but I haven’t written anything more after the first chapter, which I need to revise.

I’m feeling so lost. Why, after gaining so much, do I still find myself faced with the same problems?

Today I walked dogs at the animal shelter. Zack drove us there, I was going to go by myself but I’m glad he came. First I walked a pitbull named Caesar who pee’d on everything and then kept trying once he ran out, and cuddled with him a bit before we swapped him out for another pitbull named Gunnar, who was a bit more distant but really interested in walking around and exploring. I got a lot of good exercise from it, even though I was literally so exhausted from walking down to a culdesac and back twice that I ended up taking a three-hour nap when I got home. How can I ever start working out regularly or running / walking / jogging, if I can’t even handle taking a dog for a walk?

I don’t mean to be negative, if I am being negative. I spent a lot of time when I first started this blog trying as hard as I could to be positive because I needed positive energy in my life. Now I’m not even sure what a word like “positive energy” means. I don’t like faith in God, and I don’t really care enough about science to truly seek the answers. Maybe I don’t like what I know I’ll find: that the universe is vast and my existence in it has little meaning either way. That’s what atheism has brought to me, a feeling of knowledge and even of boastful, arrogant pride that I’m now trying to unlearn, and also a fear of oblivion. I don’t want to stop existing. Can it be so easy to just stop existing? Can it be so easy to believe in an alternative?

I’m filled with questions. I’m tired. I’m always tired nowadays.

I have to get away from this job before it kills me. I have to keep trying. I have to keep doing good things in my life.

I ordered two books on Wicca. I jogged last week and walked today. I’ve stopped drinking soda from the machine at work and almost entirely switched to drinking Powerade when I’m working. I bought tea and chai. I’m trying.

I need to stop staring at my phone all day. I need to get online for a good purpose, to write or to do something productive. I have to stop wasting so much time.

I want my body to be better. I want my heart to be better. I want my life to be better.

I’m trying.