Friday Firesmith – The Sins of Mike Firesmith

The reason Internet Trolls exist was brought into focus very sharply for me back in 1997 when I became one. This was back when there wasn’t an overwhelming number of internet sites that allowed interaction between people who didn’t know one another and there was little or no way to track down a person when they appeared. That was back in the days when I was a militant Atheist, and I would appear on some Christian message board and tell the people there they were going to go to Hell for spending so much time on their computers and so little time out in the real world saving souls. I discovered that almost any passage from the Bible I quoted would work, because there are always going to be those people who can figure out a way that it makes sense, no matter what’s going on at the time.

Here’s how it breaks down: You have a small group of people who react favorably. These people will believe the Troll is real and the message the Troll brings, and they will defend it. There will be a minority of people who realize the Troll is a Troll and attack the Troll. The people defending the message have to defend the messenger. A flame war breaks out and each side gets more polarized with each message sent.
There are a majority of people who are alienated and leave. The Troll wins by destroying the site totally.

Needless to say, I am no longer a Troll or a Militant Atheist. Mostly, I’m a writer with an opinion and with a friend who will let me write in public.

Now, here’s the tricky part; I do know a lot about three things, even if you do not agree with me, you have to admit I know the subject matter; American Politics, World History, and Dogs. I see American Politics as a function of the process of history. No president has ever operated outside of the system and none ever will. The same factors that act upon the Great will also act upon the Less Than Average. The same goes for both houses of Congress, and the nation as a whole.

When I write about Dogs, or Snakes, or things that happened in my past, or things I have witnessed in my life, I can count on getting maybe ten hits on the article. Five on them will be mine.

When I write about American Politics, no matter how badly people claim they hate it when I do, the numbers climb upwards around fifty, and about ten of them are mine. Commenting to tell me you hate me is the same as commenting to tell me you love me, in that it’s two pages hits that feeds Gus and Trixie.

As long as Friday Firesmith keeps getting more hits than any other funny photo or interesting video on the site, I’m more than willing to bet Jon isn’t going to boot me, no matter how loud the howls may get, and I’m also willing to bet those who like me outnumber those who hate me, because I’ve met some of these people in real life, and they love my dogs. As an aside, I don’t give a damn who you vote for as long as you treat your spouse, your children, and your dogs well. I can like you and maybe even drink with you if you treat other people well.

I’ve been paying attention to American Politics since Nixon. I was eleven when he resigned and even at that young age I thought he was the most evil person to ever hold the office and I still do. The war in Viet Name ended when I was fifteen, and even at that young age, I had no desire to go over and fight that war. I still have no desire to go to war, and lacking the impetus for war, I also lack the hypocrisy to wish it on others.

So, until the masses start showing more love for dog essays and my reflections on a red-haired girl I was in love with in High School, I’m going to keep doing what works for Gus and Trixie. To prove my point, I’ll post something on her next week and see what happens.

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
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81 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – The Sins of Mike Firesmith

  1. you are a great writer and have a lot of talent but I come here to get away from politics we have that all around us ,I would love to see more posts about other topics just my opinion

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  2. Come on Mike, did you just tell us you’re “no longer a Troll”, then told us How and Why you still are one?

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    • Ted, troll are just looking to destroy sites or start arguments. There’s plenty of people where with whom I disagree with and still manage to be friends with them. I don’t think John Wilson and I see eye to eye on politics but I have a great deal of respect for him. Infidel and I don’t agree on politics mostly but he’s one of my oldest friends here.

      I have no desire to create trouble for anyone here. But there are topics that get more hits than others. I’m “paid” to get hits.

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        • Infidel, I consider you to be an American patriot, a good person, and a friend. The fact that we disagree only means that we see things differently. It doesn’t have any effect on my views on you as a person, and in fact, because you are a good person, I look at how you see things as not flawed or wrong, but just different.

          I can disagree with someone and still think very highly of that person. And I do.

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  3. Don’t always agree, don’t always disagree, but I never miss reading Friday Firesmith. Always thought provoking.

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  4. Mike,

    You are a great writer, and definitely not a troll! While I may not always agree with your views, quite often I don’t disagree with them either! Keep on keeping on. You do good work that often makes me re-think some of my preconceived notions. And when someone can make me think — well, that’s quite a feat.

    John

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    • John, I do not always agree with you but I do respect your opinion and your ability to keep things civil. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the way you think even when we do disagree.

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  5. You are a lobbyist for the union of Evil Serpents of the Devil, his slithery, bitey, attack monsters, lurking in the shadows to snuff out children and other living things.

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  6. Anyone can use gasoline and a match to start a fire. Your posts stack the kindling nicely, but you are forced to use an accelerant such as politics to get it going. You are a talented writer. I challenge you to find topics that elicit strong participation, without having to use the easy way out.

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  7. You should totally write about dogs taking over the government and eliminating the menace of canadian geese and squirrels.

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  8. You’ve had a lot of people recently come out of the woodwork, so to speak, that have expressed their disappointment with the subjects that you choose but they obviously do read all of them. My point being, except for the fact that the political posts ‘seem’ to garner more attention, you’re already getting pretty much the same attention regardless of what you post. I will restate, for the record, what others have stated in that it’s your soapbox and whoever doesn’t want to read isn’t being forced to.
    You have a rather decent audience here albeit, I don’t believe that you have any idea of the size of it. There are a good number of people who will read but never comment or even click on one of those little stars that used to be here for rating posts (yes, I apologize, Jonco, as I am partly to blame for their demise).
    Some come here for the political posts, others for the doggies or whatever but they do all come back every week. Were you to limit your posts to just the doggies or just the political posts, you would certainly lose a part of your audience. What it comes down to is a matter of balance but again, that’s your choice. So far, what you’re doing seems to be working.
    So in summary, IMHO, the bulk of your audience won’t change regardless of what you post as long as it’s intelligent, interesting and well written. You have a knack for that. Congratulations.
    When gauging the political posts though, you need to keep in mind that a lot of the ‘hits’ are revisits and many of them are in response to the troll that you occasionally feed with your posts here and the people replying to whatever he’s posted to piss them off. He has a knack for that. Congratulations to him too.
    Personally, I read all of the Friday Firesmith posts. While I disagree with you on most of your political ideas, I find it quite entertaining to read and at times participate in getting things fired up. I’m inclined to think that you do too. More entertaining still is when the troll gets trolled.
    Keep the cards and letters coming and write about whatever floats your boat. We’ll all still be coming back (including the ones that say they won’t).

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    • John, you are one of the few people here who I know what they do for a living. It’s stressful and dangerous work that you do, and it’s one of those things no one ever thinks about anyone having to do or having to be done. But I have seen it and I can tell you one thing for a fact: There are no stupid people doing what you do for a living.

      If someone who does what you do can say good things about my writing that’s pretty damn good in my book.

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      • Come on, Mike …. you can’t do that to us! What …. what …. what does John A Wilson do for a living?
        Mike? John? Someone tell us! The tension is too much!

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          • … as in one of those people who work hundreds of feet in the air constructing buildings?
            Definitely have to have a ton more guts than I have!!

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            • Worse than that he assembles those giant cranes that lift things that high. I’ve seen that sort of work done. One mistake and people could die and thousands and thousands of dollars fall down and go boom.

              It’s serious as hell. I know people who have been killed doing it.

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              • Well, I don’t do nearly as much of the dangerous stuff that I used to. Age & ‘religion’ has crept up on me. More of my time now is taken up with engineering, training and safety when it comes to the bigger cranes. The younger whippersnappers can do the bulk of the climbing.
                That ‘religion’ comment was meant for Dave. When I was a young catholic boy, I was somewhat religious but had no ‘religion’. I’d hang off the side of an 18 story building by one hand on nothing more than a dare. Climbing to the top of a microwave tower was a thrill. I think back on some of the other things I did in my younger days and I cringe. As I got older, I was less religious but now had ‘religion’. ‘Religion’ is what goes through your mind when you think of all the little things that ‘could’ go wrong with disastrous consequences, ‘if’ you were to purposely put yourself in a dangerous situation. A couple of close calls can make ones ‘religion’ very strong. Mine is soo strong now that when I walk up to a solid protective railing or barrier anywhere above maybe 20 feet or so, I can feel my ‘religion’ swelling up inside my head.
                Going up in the other direction to yours and Pauls’ convo, reddit has quite a number of subreddits devoted to redheads, gingers, firecrotches, etc. just to name a few. Maybe she’s in there? Could be worth a look (if you have a few hours (maybe days) to kill)? Charlie Brown never got to meet the Little Redheaded Girl either so you’re in good company.
                As long as the subject of religion has been broached, I have a question for Mike. I’m not sure what religion you were brought up with but I’m assuming you had one at one time or another. Regardless, you’ve surely read enough about them to understand where I’m coming from with this. If you were ever in a situation where there were literally minutes left before you knew you were going to die and a Catholic priest hovered over you and asked if you would like him to administer last rights, what would you say to him?

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              • John, I would tell him to go to hell, and see if he got there before me.

                Seriously, I never had a belief in “God” even as a child. It just never took. The whole idea of the Bible seemed incredibly silly. Worse, and this is much worse, people have no idea what’s in the Bible, only what they have been told.

                It’s like the box you’ve checked to download software. Every says they’ve read it but no one really has.

                I have.

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  9. I read every Friday Firesmith. Don’t always agree with what has been written but I respect others opinions. You can’t learn anything unless you listen to others opinions. Like Jonco said, because of your views, I have also had re-thinks. I never judge a person on their political beliefs (if I did, I would hate my old man). Love history (when I was a kid, I used to go to the library and check out all the books I could on the Lincoln and JFK assassinations…this worried my folks). More people have let me down in my life than dogs have so I’ma gonna have to side with dogs. You could be the biggest dick on this planet but I only know you through what you write and I like what I read. Good on ya Mike!

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  10. I appreciate your writing – but I do avoid most political articles (on any/every site) – you should keep on truckin’ with whatever you like to write about though as long as you have a platform to do so!

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  11. Mike, the way this post is going, you’re going to get more responses here than for the political ones 😛
    As I’m sure you’ve noticed, most of the posters agree that we love your writing, that you make us think and that we enjoy debating whatever subject you choose.
    I noticed your article on Elizabeth Rodrigues triggered many comments too. I guess things like politics or that have to do with human nature will provoke a variety of views. People like to jump in to add their ‘two cents’ to analyze (criticize) someone else’s decisions. As long as what you write involves your excellent descriptions, your unique opinion, plus people and the choices they did or didn’t make, we’ll continue to produce a myriad of reactions, as long as this forum allows. [Even dog stories usually involve people and most of us do love animals.]
    Thanks for making us expand our minds!

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    • Dianne, I would really like it if this thing went over the top for comments but I rather have people just say what they mean.

      Elizabeth stuck a chord with me because she comes across as someone who was looking for a quick buck but wound up leaving someone to die. She’s 21 and very likely isn’t going to see daylight for a very long time. I hate to see that happen to anyone but she deserves it. It bothers me that she does, but she does.

      And most people do love dogs. More dogs stuff coming up very soon.

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  12. I always read. I love the dog stories. The politics, well, I read it too but seldom comment. I also think you are a talented writer and enjoy the Friday Firesmith. For all those who say to take it down, I say nay.

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    • Chick,

      It’s easier to comment back to you now that we’re friends, but I think that dogs stories are going to be a topci I hit very soon. People seem to want more dog, and I have more dog than most.

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  13. Don’t worry about the people who hate you. A person with reason on their side is always going to be a majority. Trump lovers will always hate it when people poke fun of their choices in life. They deserve it. And it’s funny to watch them go down in flames because they can’t cut their losses early. The only problem with that is that we go down in flames with them, because of their choices.

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  14. “I don’t give a damn who you vote for as long as you treat your spouse, your children, and your dogs well.”

    As good a philosophy as any I’ve heard. Reinforces my opinion that if I found myself stuck on a airplane next to you, we would probably have a good conversation.

    More hits on political topics? Perhaps that’s why CNN went from 24 hour news reporting to occasional news reporting and mostly political commentary shows. And maybe that’s why I don’t watch the “news” shows.

    I don’t get to read everything you write, Mike, but that’s because of my schedule, not your writing or your opinions. Here’s to many, many more essays.

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    • Mathman, politics come and they go, each president or candidate will pass into history and in the end will will only remember how other people made us feel.

      It’s important to remember that how you make someone feel matters.

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  15. I always read your essays. I generally agree with you politically, and I adore dogs. Please write about anything you feel like writing about–your posts are always interesting and well written.

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  16. Hi Mike! I come here daily for all that you post. Wouldn’t miss a day. One question: since you ‘identify’ as an atheist, what’s with the title? I mean, The Sins Of Mike Firesmith? How can that be for an atheist? Just curious…

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    • Dave, I’m only an atheist in as much as I reject the version of what’s holy that is held by religion. I have a three hundred year old Oak tree that I consider Holy. I feel some sense of communion when I am in the woods. I believe in a connection with the Universe at large and with people than transcends what we know.

      “The Sins of …” Series started out as a way of introducing a topic with the idea that in some way that person or group of people had done something that I disagreed with strongly, or in some case, was deliberately misleading.

      Don’t take what I write too literally. Or too seriously.

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      • I don’t believe religion is an accurate word to use when pondering spiritual matters. After all, one can religiously adhere to most anything without it having anything to do with God. I view it more as a relationship. Also: I often wonder whenever seeing old oak trees what they would have to say if they were able to speak. Not just in the ‘growth’ rings. But in observation to changing life around them. Same with the redwoods. I imagine they would have a lot to say about ‘civilization’ so-called. And, no. I try not to take what you write too literally or too seriously, although I must admit I get ‘pulled in’ from time to time. I figure someone who can post some of the things you post must have a well rounded view of the world, and I have shared many of those posts to my Facebook page. Great stuff.

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  17. Mike and John – this is such an interesting conversation. I’m sure an expanded discussion on this subject would definitely get a ton of hits!
    I agree with you, John, that if put in a situation (which I hope no one is!) of having minutes left, with a preacher nearby, most people would take the blessing. It would be a matter of ‘hedging your bets’, as hypocritical as that is.
    And Mike, you are not the first one I’ve heard from who, having read the Bible, decided that it did not convey a very logical, positive or tenable view of the world or of life. I think it reflects the thinking at the time, which was based more on fear than on encouragement, but then I have only read snippets of the text.
    We have a journalist here in our city who used to be a minister, but became so disillusioned with religion that he left the church and now writes a newspaper column on ethics. While he and other former pastors still believed in such basic tenets as the need for people to treat one another with respect, he came to feel that religion is a man-made concept and that the Bible is simply a ‘book’ written by men, many years after the events.
    It would be very interesting to hear what, more specifically, in the Bible you found absurd and so why.

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    • Dianne – The Bible. A translation of a translation of multiple languages that now has to be interpreted so that someone can tell you what they think the words mean (much like the Quran).
      Mike has probably read more of it than I, even though I was supposed to as part of my schooling (12 years of Catholic School).
      For anyone that has read it, there are quite a number of passages in there that will have you scratching your head in wonder as to the extent of the absurdity.
      It could make for an interesting Friday Firesmith topic one day but that’s up to Mike.
      I believe one reason that Mike chose this particular topic was to point out the disparity of involvement on his political posts vs just about any other topic that he might write about. Keep in mind though that there are two major topics that should never be discussed in public. Politics is one. Religion is the other.

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      • John, I agree with you on all levels. While it would make an interesting Friday topic, I would be worried about where it may lead. We can discuss politics because eventually it will change (new admin, possibly), but religion is much more slow to evolve and some people’s thoughts are too deeply entrenched to be open to new ideas. So, for sure, possibly dogs, silly people, poorly managed corporations …. and the occasional political post should do us well – LOL 🙂

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    • The snake (serpent) is symbolic for temptation (the devil).
      If there is a God, where did the angels come from? I guess he created them? So Satan is the head of all of the fallen angels. Who elected him to be their leader? If everything is so absolutely perfect in Heaven and they’re existing (if you could call it that) in eternal bliss, why would Satan want to rock the boat?
      And then there’s the concept of Hell along with God being all merciful. Hmmm?? All-merciful? So if I’ve lived a good life but blasphemed God just before I died I’m destined to suffer eternal damnation and torture in Hell? What happened to that merciful part?
      For the dog lovers…the Rainbow Bridge…every dog I ever loved will be there waiting for me when I die. I hope they all get along? I did love some more than others. Will they know who they are? What if they loved my wife more than I and they want to be with her instead of me? It’s impossible to be sad about that because of that eternal bliss thingy. True happiness would be being able to communicate with them. I might not like what they have to say to me? Oops. No more bliss.
      The above are just some musings. I have no desire to either explain or defend what I just wrote
      .

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  18. Mike, that would first be predicated on me believing in Creationism, which I don’t, haven’t and never will believe. I am much more science based. Therefore, to me, most things written in the Bible are simply representative of beliefs of the time, or metaphors for how the leaders felt people should behave, somewhat similar to European tales told to children much later on. With that thinking, to me Adam and Eve were tossed out because they succumbed to their base instincts as represented by the serpent. This is a good analogy for someone today who may be easily talked into shoplifting. A ‘friend’ may say, “Ah come on, it’s a big store, they’ll never miss a few chocolate bars.” However, soon after, when caught, the person who fell victim to that flawed reasoning was then deprived of his/her freedom and nice, comfortable life, just as Adam and Eve were turfed out of the garden.
    To me, the subject of interpreting the Bible is immense and can lead to the most fascinating of discussions. However, I do not want to offend those who believe deeply. I have my own theories, and just as I would not want someone trying to convince me otherwise, I would not want to try to persuade others. Debates, though, are always great exercise for the mind 🙂
    (By the way – 58 comments – getting close!)

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    • Creationism – again, 12 years of Catholic schooling behind me.
      One thing that bothers me with the teachings now is there doesn’t seem to be any room for interpretation. I hear things from people now where if you’re not Catholic you’ll never get to heaven and of course, there’s the debate between creationism vs evolution. I was taught much differently.
      I was taught that you could believe in evolution as long as you believed that at some point, God came down and instilled a soul into a male and female of the human species that was evolving. Far fetched? Yes. But I could live with that at the time.
      I was also taught that while Catholicism was the only true religion, if you were brought up as a Jew, Protestant, Muslim or whatever and you truly believed that your religion was the true religion and practiced it faithfully, you could also get to heaven. I could live with that too.
      Taking that just a little bit further, if one is an atheist and truly believes that there is no God but lives a good life, there’s a place in heaven for them too.

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    • Dianne, it was a trap, as you could well imagine. Science will not fail to provide answers that we need, but it will fail to supply us with what we need, if that makes sense.

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      • Mike, what a philosophical statement – and I love philosophy.
        My interpretation of your statement:
        Science can determine if another planet is suitable for human habitation, but it cannot save the planet we are on.
        Science tells us how to build weapons of war, but does not help us create peace.
        Science explains what chemicals and synapses are involved in human emotion, but cannot provide Love.
        The common denominator is the human variable. Only humans can make the choices necessary to prevent further damage to Earth; only humans can use resources at their disposal to advocate for peace; and only a human can truly experience both giving and receiving love.
        But the key here is, as you said, do humans even know what we want or need?
        Now please tell us, have we distracted you so much with these discussions that you had no time to write the next Friday Firesmith? Hope all is okay!

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  19. “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” – Mark Twain. What do you suppose he meant by that?

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      • Mike, even though it is impossible to ask Mr. Clemens, I think you are right. And, I guarantee you this: if there is an afterlife, he knows for sure now. Aside from that, the one thing that offers me encouragement from reading the entire Bible is how it ‘evolved’ from a book of judgment and punishment to a book of grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. That is why we recognize the celebrations known as Christmas and Easter. Even so, I think it interesting that we as human beings are always looking for ways to make it into heaven even when many who do so don’t believe in the existence of God. I wonder why that is. We refer to the departed as now being in a better place, etc. No one I know of truly wants to go to hell, even if they don’t believe in its existence. At its core, all religions except true Christianity embrace the scales of justice theory: hoping my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds kind of thinking so, if there is a heaven and a hell, I will have made it into heaven and avoided hell. This includes those who hold to no religion at all. That to me is their religion. For me, I subscribe to the following: I would much rather believe in Jesus Christ and find myself in heaven due to what He did for me, than to not believe and find myself in hell because I chose the path of good works versus bad works. Bottom line: no matter what anyone says or does, our free will to choose is entirely left up to the individual. And I for one would never want to have it any other way.

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  20. My theory, Dave and it’s nothing more than that. Just a theory.
    Heaven and Hell exist only in our minds while we exist.
    The key is defining what eternity is. If there is no beginning and no end, there’s no way to gauge how long you’ve existed in it.
    Think of it as the most pleasant feeling that you’ve had in your entire life. Let it last an entire day, a month, a year, 100,000 years and so on. For how long do you think you can truly enjoy it? If there is no measure of time, how can you tell how long you have been enjoying it or how much longer you will have to enjoy it?
    Eternity is nothing more than a split second of time. It’s over just as quickly as it starts.
    When you die, if you have the chance to reflect on your life for only a minute and you’ve been good? Visions of all the good things you’ve done pass through your mind. The light shines at the end of the tunnel, you feel a warmth inside and then it’s over. That was heaven. I hope you enjoyed it.
    On the other hand, if you haven’t been a model human being, you may not get that warm fuzzy reflection and may feel a sense of remorse or impending doom. That was Hell but don’t worry. It’s over too.

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    • John – Your theory is an interesting one to say the least. Your example of ‘experiencing’ heaven whereas “the light shines at the end of the tunnel, you feel a warmth inside and then it’s over” versus hell comprised of “you haven’t been a model human being, you may not get that warm fuzzy reflection and may feel a sense of remorse or impending doom” but “don’t worry. It’s over too.” provokes me to ask: For most of those who pass through this world, indulging in things that might not be construed as being good would appear to be far more desirable than to live life as a goody two shoes if all there is at the end is “nothing more than a split second of time.” With this approach, what incentive is there to do good? To obey laws? To attain a measure of civility and respect for your fellow human being? Whether there is a God or not, a heaven or hell, shouldn’t the thought that there just might be a hell that actually isn’t over in “a split second of time” provoke us to try and be good? I really look forward to your thoughts on this.

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      • I don’t think to obey laws or “doing good” or being a ‘goody two-shoes’ is a detriment or to be frowned upon because it might only last ‘a few seconds’. I and I’m sure most others, derive pleasure from doing good things, respecting and helping out or fellow man and animals. I don’t do it, nor would I want to do good things only out of fear of some punishment in the future. I think people are better than that. Like Mike, I’m not a religious person in the biblical sense but I do believe in treating people the way I’d like to be treated. It really has nothing to do with religion.

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        • Jonco – I agree with everything you said. However, since we all came into this world crying, insisting that those around us pay attention to our every need, where did any of us get the desire to do good? And it’s not fair to say “from those around us” because I would then need to ask: where did they get their desire to do good? What I’m getting at here is: tell me in your own words the definition of the origin of wanting to do good. Appreciate the conversation. Good stuff here on this web site!

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          • I don’t know the origin of why people want to do good just as I don’t know the origin of why bacon is so darn addictive. That doesn’t mean that both don’t affect me deeply.

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            • Ha ha! Especially the bacon part!! Yum!!! Aside from that truth: there must be an origin of doing good. Otherwise, how would anyone truly know the difference between good and evil? For me, the answer is found with the very first people written about in the Bible who chose to eat from *drum roll* the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I would suspect that, for some, they would say that that is nothing more than man’s way of explaining that particular origin, and God had nothing to do with it. However, it works for me in a very practical way and explains oh so much.

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              • That’s the important thing, find something that works for you and inspires you…. whether in how you treat people or in what you choose to do with your life.

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    • John – I gave it a try and made it through most of the article. It sounded so much like the stuff I used to believe before coming to the realization that, as the writer of the article danced all around, there will always be the need for a god, even if that god is me. Thing is, when left to ourselves, we will always fall short of even our own lofty goals. Including ‘doing unto others as we would have others do unto us’. That’s because we ultimately set the bar too high for even ourselves to clear. This is why we attempt to convince ourselves (and, by default those around us), that there is no afterlife. To think otherwise (especially for those who were exposed to the Catholic church growing up) is just too terrible to imagine. We come to the conclusion that that kind of God is just too angry and hateful to believe in. But that kind of God’s ultimate love overrules anyone from going to hell because He has offered His Son as the ultimate sacrifice and way to not only escape hell but enter Heaven for all who will but freely receive. As I have already stated, I would rather place my eternal state in the Hands of Jesus Christ and be wrong than to place my eternal state in the hands of man and be sorely disappointed. In the end, we will all find out, won’t we? No matter what, I have thoroughly enjoyed the civility that exists with you, Jonco, Dianne and Mike (as well as others who are willing to lay down the name calling). This is probably the longest running conversation I have had on this web site. Must be because the subject is so important to me? It would be fun to get together some day and see how it went. Ciao!

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  21. Dave and John – such thought-provoking ideas.
    John – after the moment of eternity, does the reflection help you to contemplate your actions in your next life? I have no idea, of course, if there is a next life, but so far I have liked your thoughts, so figured I’d ask about that, too :-p
    Dave – It’s interesting that you feel that the default emotion for humans is to be negative. When I observe babies, I see a willingness to please. There are a few reasons for that to me. One is that, being pleasing results in the same in response, which feels good. Another is that in order to be mean or negative, there has to be a well of anger somewhere, which I’ve rarely seen in a little one. And third, unless someone has treated the child negatively, there are no models for that kind of behavior.
    When babies cry and insist on others meeting their needs, that is a response to an innate requirement for the necessities of life. You’ll notice animal young do the same. The model of kindness in meeting those needs is the first experience babies have of compassion. If a 10 yr. old acted in the same way, we would not necessarily respond as charitably, and so over time, children learn how to act in order to reach the ‘feel good’ response that they desire, whether that good feeling is from satiation or emotional rewards.
    If your idea of people being good was only a result of fear of negative retribution, then how do you explain all the goodness coming from people who have no fear of Hell? I am a firm believer that there is no such place, since I consider God to be an understanding deity. If He created all beings, how could he possibly punish some for behaving in the way that He created them? or in response to the situation that He allowed them to live?
    If you examine the lives of most people, you’ll see that everyone acts in a way that they feel is justified or right. People rarely, if ever, decide to do something that they think is the wrong choice. ‘A thief breaks into a store to steal merchandise because he/she has been shafted in life, not like others, and deserves to have money the same as those around him/her. A bully threatens others because of sense of failure. His/Her only choice is to reduce others to that level in order to not feel so bad. A jealous husband/wife thinks that he/she is right in killing the spouse because of certainty that he/she deserves the revenge.’ Even other decisions that are personal at the time, are made with firm resolve in their legitimacy [goodness]. Your affinity is with Donald Trump, while my support is with a more Democratic candidate. Why? Because you felt that Trump would be the best for the country. Mine because I felt the very same way. Neither vote would be as a result of fear of eternal damnation.
    We [except for psychopaths] were all created with a need to feel rewarded, to appreciate uplifting feelings. Anger, hatred, pain simply do not give us positive sensations. Therefore, we are more motivated to act in ways that bring about positives. Many of us do not even think of a fear of what may or may not happen after death.

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    • Dianne – Great stuff! I can see you put a ton of thought into what you wrote. I have to say: it is apparent that you have some very strong opinions regarding the existence of God, heaven, hell, etc. And I am quite sure you didn’t arrive at those positions lightly. I have to agree: there are millions of people who have lived and do live good lives without the presence of God in their lives. For that I am thankful. Maybe that is by design? I don’t know. Why is it easier for some to be good and not others? Mystery. It might have something to do with culture or upbringing, or environment. Regardless, whichever side anyone comes down on when it comes to the existence of God, heaven, hell, good, evil, etc., it ultimately ends up being an individual decision. No one can decide for someone else. I can live with that. I am glad you can too. Ciao!

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  22. Dianne – There is no next life, in my opinion. You die. It’s done. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Period.
    And when you die, if you’ve been good, you smell bacon. If not? You smell rotten eggs but then it’s over.
    As for the how/why people without religion can be good people with empathy for others, please read that essay that I linked above. Very informative and very well written.
    Something you wrote in your last comment: “If He created all beings, how could he possibly punish some for behaving in the way that He created them? or in response to the situation that He allowed them to live?” opens up another door for discussion.
    That almost sounds like “predestination” which the church teaches is false but if God is all knowing, then he must know beforehand how and when we’re going to die and whether or not we’ll end up in heaven or hell. And if He does, why ‘does’ he let it happen?
    Something else that bothers me is when I see a meme of something like “911” showing the building burning and the Lord above with his arms reaching out to gather up all of the souls of the people that died. Hmmm?? Maybe it would have been easier for him to make the planes miss their targets? Just sayin’.
    The above are just opinions of mine that I can neither defend or prove but they are all a small part of how I became a non-believer. To each his/her own though and I have no problem with anyone who believes whatever they do for whatever reason they do.
    Looking back, we’ve almost surpassed the Friday Firesmith 2nd place most comments essay. It was titled “The Election” so obviously political. The all-time winner though was titled “Enough” and it was about gun control. That one should probably be added to the other two subjects (politics & religion) that are supposed to be avoided in a public discussion (which is why they get a lot of action). I look forward to all of them regardless of the subject.

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  23. John A Wilson, Dave in Battleground, Mike and Jonco – Thank you so much for the engaging, thought-provoking and absorbing discussion. I look forward to the next ones 🙂

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