One Reason I’m an Atheist

A recent conversation with a family member about my lack of belief inspired me to think more about why I’m so different than others in our family.  I left behind religious belief years ago for countless reasons, and I am able to better understand those reasons the older I get and more time I have to reflect on my choices and experiences.

Although I have no interest in starting a debate, I’d like to share one simple reason why I cannot be intellectually honest and believe in a god (regardless of the religion that god might originate from).  Besides other countless reasons, I cannot bring myself to believe or even seriously entertain the thought of believing in a being that would create smaller, inferior beings to worship him/her.  This level of cosmic narcissism is revolting to me, and it astonishes me that more people don’t consider this.

Let’s step back and consider God as a being. He or She is an all-powerful, all-knowing, master-of-the-universe being. One day, for whatever reason, this being decides to create the universe, and with it, earth and all its various creatures. The details differ depending on who you ask, but the general story is similar across religions and cultures. This being could have created this world out of boredom, out of inspiration, out of desire for companionship–and these all seem possible, but at least in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, it seems that this omnipotent being creates humanity to worship him/her. If we imagine this being to be morally superior (this being created morality, after all), how can it’s modus operandi be something we generally find repulsive–the desire to be worshiped? We point out dictators and totalitarian rulers, and comment on how their need to be worshiped, to be revered in image and song, and we say how sad, how strange, how characteristic of a serious personality disorder that is…yet we fail to question that quality in a superior being.

If, of course, our gods were created by us and exhibit the qualities we might expect a superior being to have, it makes plenty of sense that that being would be jealous and self-serving and cruel to those who fail him/her. That, however, is not how the story goes generally.

I’m not interested in inciting hatred or starting a riot, but I am certainly interested in questioning our assumptions–especially those assumptions that lie deepest beneath or everyday thought, those things we take for granted without even realizing it. I remember once that the late Christopher Hitchens likened believing in Judeo-Christin-Muslim theism to choosing to live in a mental North Korea, and while that certainly is designed to incite a strong response, is he wrong? Might the fact that so many gods feel like dictators be evidence of their humble human origins, where the experience of peoples living under absolute power cannot help but color (or determine) the nature of their gods? Certainly some food for thought.

 

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The Kafkaesque and the Power of Mind

We so often hear that word–Kafkaesque–tossed around to describe all sorts of things, from scenes in film to our everyday encounters with the world, but it seems that many who use the word either haven’t read much Kafka, or haven’t thought very deeply about his stories. The video below does an excellent job of explaining what exactly “Kafkaesque” means, and what the real moral is behind most of Kafka’s impenetrable beauracracy: namely, the power of the individual to determine his or her own world. It seems that ultimately, Kafka is a kind of existentialist.

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Dvorak’s New World Symphony, 1st Mov’t – Dublin Philharmonic

This is a rather famous piece of music, and chances are you’ve heard it before if you enjoy classical music. I’ve always thought this performance by the Dublin Philharmonic is particularly good–so full and warm. Enjoy.

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Charles Wright: Poetry as Reason for Living

If you’ve made your way through contemporary American poetry, you’ve likely run across Charles Wright. If you haven’t, you should consider yourself lucky because you have hours of incredible reading in front of you.

Wright’s poetry has been an increasingly powerful influence on my own work. I’m entranced by the simplicity and complexity that exist simultaneously in his work, and the endless range and variety of images that appear in his verse. What I think is most striking, and most worth sharing, in this short video from PBS is that Wright admits poetry is his ‘reason for living.’ Not that I think poetry should be everyone’s reason for living–but I’m humbled to see someone so effectively tap into the greater aspects of human experience, that which is both more personal and more universal, and understand that that, whatever that is, is a reason for living.

If above does not work, see video HERE.

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New Book: ‘Pressed Against All That Nothing’

You’ll find very few references to my own work on this blog–partially because I don’t think my own work should be the focus, and also because I generally dislike self-promotion. At the gentle urging of my editor, and because I believe in the work in this book, I am sharing it here.

This is my first collection of poems: Pressed Against All That Nothing, from Yak Press (2015), and it’s now available for sale from the Yak Press website, and also from Amazon. It may also soon be making its way into ebook formats, which is exciting.

As I said before, I’m not a big self-promoter, which is probably to my detriment, but I do stand behind my little book. So if you’re interested in poetry, especially poetry that engages with landscape and family, consider picking up a copy. Also, if you or someone you know would be interested in reviewing the book for a magazine/journal, feel free to contact Yak Press for a copy.

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I could say more about the poems in this book, but these folks do a much better job:

Pressed Against All That Nothing navigates landscapes—both geographical and fraternal, physical and metaphysical. Set against an unmistakable California backdrop where the desert is spotted with Joshua Trees, tumbleweeds appear “like diodes across resistors,” and the Los Angeles Correctional Facility—the ever-present Twin Towers—looms as a door to an inescapable chthonic journey, these poems forage. He writes of how to reach a brother through all that darkness when ‘Your dark has teeth.’

Cody Deitz understands something about interiority—that ‘the subconscious is always a terrain’—and he fluidly moves between the psychic space of the shared dark and that brighter horizon where ‘the sun becomes the symbol it always wanted to be, / that slippery metaphor for god, shooting into the well’s eye.’ These are poems of addiction, recovery, fraternal love, and a Ginsberg-like faith that there is salvation in poetry. The genius of Cody Deitz is in his intimate, meditative act of witness, far-seeing yet detailed. He offers an undeniably unifying force of human spirit where we learn the pain and possibility of ‘unmaking. . .the terrible.’ Like the ‘steel refrigerator / with its cord buried in dirt,’ these poems, too, seem ‘plugged. . .into the world.’ ”     ~ Leilani Hall, author of Swimming the Witch

“Cody Deitz’s collection documents a brother’s disappearance into addiction, a black hole around which the family spins. After stints in prison, psych care, and rehab, he reemerges barely recognizable — a figure that, like Zeno’s paradox, the speaker can never fully reach, ‘the idea of progress // suddenly unfathomable.’ These events are embodied and presented in vivid, resonant details: Joshua trees, shoe prints in desert sand, the mouths of empty Marlboro packs, the crackle of a prison telephone. In his precise and yet discursive verse, Deitz’s poetic attention is ‘More than turning on a light—it’s becoming // the bulb and the switch and the finger. . .’ ”     ~ Heidi Czerwiec, author of Self-Portrait as Bettie Page and A is for A-ké, The Chinese Monster

“Cody Deitz’ work is a live wire snaking over the asphalt of lyrical poetry, though the hum of his words never rises above the electric din: instead, it is the reader who reverberates with recognition in the mechanical ghost Deitz creates out of his stark architecture. The invisible cord of his words will become a nightlight in a forever-darkening sky, will conduct electricity against this fleeting urban solitude. His poetry is a voice that both reassures from the hallway and echoes back to you in a strange rhythm, as you lay safe and pressed against all that nothing.”     ~ Gina Alexandra, MFA candidate, UCSD

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The Power of Politics & The Importance of Disinterestedness

It’s that time of year again: the latest election cycle is running through the air and wire and screen, etc., ad nauseum. Something has changed, though. Where you once debated this candidate v. that candidate over the kitchen table with family and perhaps with friends, much of that discussion seems now to happen over social media. And through the magic of Facebook or Twitter of whatever, you can engage with huge numbers of people at once. You find that you have a philosophical ally in that old friend from some odd thing or another, and also that you have a political enemy much closer than you thought. It’s all a giant echo chamber and people are more than happy to sound off.

This certainly has its pleasures. It’s stimulating to receive such varied feedback instantly, and it’s so easy to go back and forth with several folks, detailing the finer points of a particular policy or political figure. But this social media debate stage also has its drawbacks. Just like their in-person counterparts, these online debates can become heated. This comes as no surprise: where we stand politically has everything to do with who we are and what we believe at our cores–how we see the world at a fundamental level. And indeed, it is the most polarizing issues that draw people in, that get them engaged. It is in these issues that people feel they have something at stake. So naturally, the debates can become less than civil, and people can get pretty damn worked up; feelings get hurt, friendships (however real or digital they are to begin with) are warped, and no one really changes their mind about anything. No winners are declared. In the best case, the major parties feel they come away having said their piece and not feeling too hurt. In the worst case, people cut their ties with people they’d otherwise remain connected to for whatever benefits that connection might bring.

Well it’s no wonder these things can get out of hand, right? We’re breaking one of the cardinal rules of polite conversation: don’t broach religion or politics. Generally, I think these rules are silly and keep people from having real conversations, but clearly there’s something to that “polite” descriptor. Your grandmother must have been onto something with that rule–it keeps the peace. But if social media has changed the way we talk about these things, and we’ve hit critical mass with political conversation, we need to come up with some new rules, new ways to maintain our relationships while disagreeing openly and passionately. It’s imperative that we come up with something if we value our friends enough to have befriended them in the first place.

I propose we cultivate a level of metacognition; we need to think about our thinking, and understand that the kind of debate we engage in online rarely leads anywhere, and that it’s OK if someone disagrees with us. In fact, we should be most interested in those areas where we find disagreement, and rejoice when we encounter intelligent opposition. Those are the points where we learn the most about ourselves, where we see our positions defamiliarized and made strange-looking from the outside. And while our politics may be built from our core beliefs about the world, and be inextricably connected with who we are, I think we must challenge ourselves to see beyond our political differences and look towards what we aim to accomplish–what we think is important.

For example, in a recent debate concerning gun control (in reference to the tragedy in Orlando), I took it upon myself to engage with several colleagues in what became a rather heated discussion. I argued that it was philosophically problematic to disarm civilians, and that it made little sense to blame the rifle for the evil of the man, and several colleagues urged for stricter gun laws, arguing that more restrictions were required and that the average person should not be permitted to own a semi-automatic rifle. I saw them as reactionary and arguing for an increase in state power and control; they seemed to see me as insensitive and primitive in my views. While we certainly were not happy with the other, there was a settling down where we seemed able to separate the person from their views, and realize that we want the same thing: fewer tragedies, fewer deaths by gun violence–but that we disagreed fundamentally on how to go about doing that.

Even when debates become heated, it’s crucial to continually try to take that step back and remember that for the most part, we all want the same things. We want peace; we want people to live happy, fulfilling lives; we want everyone to get a fair shake. When we realize that we so often want the same things, the rest of the debate becomes pragmatic: what’s the best way to get there?

And even when we disagree vehemently, we should strive to treat each other like rational human beings, not caricatures of our political or philosophical opposition. With a little more respect leveled across the board, especially on social media where such civility is not required, we might actually hear one another better, and be able to keep our friends–and value more those who see the world differently.

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Great Poets In Their Own Words 4 of 4 (BBC)

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