More things I no longer believe

I did this a few years ago, and wow, there have Been Some Changes!


Why is the most important thing to continue mentioning when we want to refer to someone in the simplest manner, their gender?

We get along fine with extremely confusingly imprecise pronouns in English, you that could be plural or not, we that could be ‘we but not them’ or ‘we but not you’ or ‘we: I, them, and you’. they that could be a collection of individuals, or a group acting as one, and so on. but heaven forbid we not be precise with the ‘she’s and ‘he’s and ‘him’s and ‘her’s and etc.

Hypothetical People

These are the illustrative drops of imaginary human who are called into action at a moment’s notice then dismissed without any name, race, age, background, hopes, dreams, even hair colour, but because of a quirk of grammar, they have a GENDER.

Because of this, and because there’s often no other specifiers, you will end up making a commentary or meta commentary or counter commentary or something whether you wanted to or not, drawing attention to gendered stereotypes and expectations and relative populations whether you follow them or counter them, all of which will distract from the point you were trying to make using this ethereal person.

I noticed this so many times in an otherwise very engaging book “Thinking fast and slow”. It is filled with these hypothetical people. The seemingly arbitrary yet accidentally meaningful ‘he’s and ‘she’s became increasingly noticeable and distracting, but led to this post so maybe it’s not all bad.

Potential People

Unfilled roles, future children, partners, and other not-yet-specific but-one-day specific people. why. why do we need to gender these. even when it’s probably illegal in things like job descriptions, it still creeps in. Why.

Trans People, Non binary people

Not everyone has a clear answer for ‘what is your gender’, or even ‘what pronouns do you prefer in every case’ because not everyone is consistent. Just chill everyone.


Whether or not a deity is a multitude or singular, it still manages to end up with gendered pronouns - even the giant spaghetti monster has his noodly appendage praised. (Sidenote: surely it is correct to refer to a triune God as ‘they’? majestic? multiple persons (“it” though genderless, is also personless), and avoids having some folks complaining that using a feminine pronoun for a God who transcends gender will gender God more than using the *cough* default *cough* masculine pronoun. Maybe monotheists prefer explicitly singular pronouns, but prayers addressed to ‘God, you…’ are not questioned.) (Sidenote, the second: I tried for a while to avoid gendered pronouns for God, but it was never unconscious (and is almost entirely impossible while singing worship songs written by others).

Anthropomorphised things

Robots, cars, post-it-note-piles, glass cups, form fields, and pretty much everything is made more awesome when imagining personality, but for these objects to have a personality they can’t be referred to with the impersonal pronoun ‘it’, and we so quickly reach for ‘he’ or ‘she’ (somehow either choice manages to be sexist… how do you do it patriarchy?). BB-8 is not a he. BB-8 is a genderless ball, but BB-8 is full of personality, and the only way I can continue to refer to BB-8 as a person it to use BB-8’s name. Were I to refer to them as they, BB-8 would feel significantly less full of life, and if I call him a he, then he has personality again. How, language? How do you work?

Programmers and copy writers.

Now the self-serving part, If I’m trying to construct a string of text about how this person that you know did a thing, I could use their user name over and over again. ‘catfriend77 wanted you to visit catfriend77’s page of catfriend77’s cat photos’. We could ask catfriend77 their gender so we can construct the sentence simpler in english, but we have no business knowing that, we just host their cat photos. and maybe ‘catfriend77’ is a brand anyway, so our insistence on gender pronouns is frustrated.

Use ‘they’’ more, and embrace the awkwardness of repeating a name 100,000 times, it’s fun.


I don’t want to write this post, but I want to get it out of the way so I can write about anything else.

I have lost my faith. My previous drafts of this post were mostly attempting to explain why or how, and they read like trying to convince you of my new position or, even more unhelpfully, invite argument. I want neither, so deleted the paragraphs on paragraphs of explainyness. You don’t need them anyway.

Losing my faith was an extremely emotionally stressful activity. I don’t recommend it. Christianity was a foundational part of my identity. God and being part of the Church was for me the source of purpose, belonging, direction, worth, value, ethic, coping mechanisms, confidence, kindness, hope, joy, beauty, creativity, and so many other good things.

As my faith tore away from me (which took a long time) I closed up. I stopped writing openly. I closed away friendships, many of whom I had absolutely zero cause to hide from. And I regressed so much, falling back into depression, back into a level of social discomfort that I hadn’t seen in myself since before high school.

I feel ashamed at this regression, I feel ashamed of how I hid, I feel ashamed at giving up instead of continuing to try to resolve my various issue with God and the Church and the Bible from within. And I feel ashamed of how I’ve felt ashamed about all this. And now I have no-one to go to with all this shame.

What is ahead? I don’t know. These days I’m trying to build hope and love and boldness and purpose on that which I have always seen as meaningless and worthless1 and sometimes it even works?

(Even writing the various drafts of this post has been a roller coaster of emotions and not something I could’ve done even 6 months ago. So that’s something.)

  1. Even my brief stint at atheism however many years ago never escaped a kind of disconnected nihilism. 


I’m a vegetarian again.

As I see it, there are a variety of overlapping reasons people are vegetarians, it’s not just because animals are cute. Here are some.

Environmental Sustainability

It’s inefficient and hard on the environment to use animals for food in our industrial scale. Plants are easier to grow and store and prepare and ship.

People sustainability

There’s enough food production on the planet to feed everyone already, not just that everyone is fed, but that everyone is fed to healthy and strong. However, a lot of that food goes to livestock, so rich people can regularly eat meat and poor people can regularly eat nothing. Yes, worldwide distribution isn’t this simple, but nothing is this simple, so it’s a start.

Treating animals humanely

It’s arguably barbaric that we take creatures that have complex brains and raise them in order to slaughter and eat them. We’re basically the hyper-intelligent villains in some alien invasion movie, asserting its dinner is more important than a human’s life. This is not a convincing argument for me but it’s an added bonus.

Other people

This is a motive in both directions, if the people you regularly eat with are vegetarians then it’s easy, if they eat meat, it’s hard. In my case I have no people I eat with regularly, however this was a significant part of my vegetarianism last time.


Astonishingly, Dae Hee, some people don’t like the taste of meat. I personally consider chicken and pork the same as tofu: a white protein that, even when the best quality stuff is cooked in the best possible way, is still to be eaten only as sauce/spice/flavouring vehicle, and when cooked poorly it just ruins everything. I can also clearly remember the taste of the first lamb I had after being a vegetarian for over a year. It tasted like blood and farms. I kept eating meat because it’s easier and the shock of that faded, but it’s still really weird.


My interpretation of why unscientific fad diets work for some people is that if you go from not paying attention to what you eat to paying attention to what you eat, you’ll probably eat better. The same for switching to a vegetarian diet, with the added advantage that you have to be purposeful about protein and iron and such.


Restaurant menus become so much simpler. I’ll have the one vegetarian option that doesn’t have tofu, please.


In the first version of this post I totally missed one of the more common reasons people are vegetarian. This doesn’t feature in my list of reasons at all except perhaps as an instigator for consistency-of-ethics.

My own reasons are mostly the consistency of ethics in environment sustainability and global poverty, with side benefits of taste and health. This is something that I’ve been increasingly leaning toward and now I’m in control of my own meals again I can be freely vegetarian.

I’m not going to be strict or even necessarily consistent. I have leather shoes and bags and wristbands. I’m probably not going to worry about vegetarian cheese or gelatin, or shrimp-based curry paste, I’ve been vegetarianing for not even three weeks and I’ve eaten meat five times (partly because travelling, and partly because refusing meat cooked for me when I’d been a vegetarian for 48 hours seemed pretty rude).

Dude, that’s kinda [__]ist

“Accusations of racism and sexism are just as bad as racism and sexism.”1

I keep coming across this. I just…. ugh. Let’s drop in other offences.

Accusations of murder are just as bad as murder. Accusations of kicking puppies are just as bad as kicking puppies. Accusations of harassment are just as bad as harassment. Oops. That’s said too.

We live in a sexist, racist, classist, ageist, ableist, homophobic2, cissexist, etc society. We’re excellent at prejudice, at tribalism, at discomfort with people different than us on any axis. To think we’re unaffected by that is arrogant and/or naïve.

Everyone is all of these things to varying degrees (yes. Even you). So we are free to a) not be so skittish and defensive when called out for problematic behaviour, and b) not be so haughtily self-righteous and pitchfork-wielding burn-them-to-the-ground when someone else is.3

Sure, when I’m accused of something like that it doesn’t feel good. It is jarring and uncomfortable to learn I’ve unintentionally denigrated someone. I (with most) like to think I’m one of the Good Guys, It hurts to realise I may have been the villain. Crucially though, that hurt is my fault, it is not the fault of the person who brought this to attention.

And yes, sometimes it was legitimately a misunderstanding, a mishearing, a lack of context, whatever. But. More often these are the excuses we tell ourselves to keep being the hero rather than take the time to examine the implications of our (unconscious) behaviour.

When someone says “Dude, that joke/​comment/​act/​word/​behaviour is not ok.” I have two choices: I can apologize and learn, or I can follow the instinct to double down. To justify. To defend. To make sure everyone knows I’m the good guy here. It was all just a hilarious misunderstanding, see. My prejudice is perfectly reasonable according to this graph from the internet. And your criticism is invalid because of this [_____]ist thing you did that one time, perhaps even as part of this very criticism.

But all that defence is not even necessary. They’re (probably) not saying “Dude, you’re a horrible person”. They’re saying “Dude, that’s not ok, it’s [_____]ist and because you’re apparently unaware of it I’m pointing this out, I’m hoping that by letting you know this is a problem you’ll change your behaviour to not be un/intentionally hurtful because I actually don’t think you’re a horrible person”.

Though, even when they are saying “You’re a horrible person”, even if they subsequently write me off entirely, I can learn, apologize, and do better next time.

P.S. I will continue to mess up, to say or do things that I know are hurtful when I’m tired or angry or stressed (or it’s a Tuesday), or to suddenly learn things I’ve been saying or doing for years are hurtful to a group of people I’ve never even thought about. But that is not really the test of character. What we do next is.

  1. Not quoting anyone specifically because 1) It’s too common, and 2) specifically calling someone out who’s said this feels kinda counter-productive. 

  2. I tried and failed to come up with an -ist synonym for homophobia. sexualityist? heteronormativist? Nope. Sadness. 

  3. A case can be made for the problem of insincere accusations for the purpose of defamation. Sometimes calling stuff out is irrelevant/​defamation/​libel/​slander, but frequently this is overused to dismiss sincere accusations. 

Sorry (not sorry)

I’ve read a critical mass of ‘apologies’ on the internet in the last few days. Provoking headdesks, facepalms, and now this list.

An apology is:

  1. Unqualified

    No “But you must admit’s”, no “I was just’s”, no “To be fair’s”.

  2. Owned

    There is a subtle but essential distinction between “I’m sorry I hurt you” and “I’m sorry you were hurt”.

  3. Explicit

    There should be some indication that that the issue and its gravity is understood, and space for responses like: “actually that wasn’t the (only) issue, X was (also) the issue.”

  4. Just the start

    “But I apologised” is not a magic phrase. Apologies, regardless of their sincerity, don’t automatically grant forgiveness or absolution or an audience.

Apologies are not for avoiding embarrassment or guilty feelings, or for making yourself look good, they’re not resolution, and their acceptance isn’t automatic or required.

I have fallen short of many of these. If you too have apologised incompletely, don’t fret! It doesn’t mean you didn’t genuinely feel apologetic. However, it does mean you expressed it poorly if you truly meant well, and (like me) can do better next time.

Do you believe…?

Belief is complex and slippery idea, but also an useful everyday word. I enjoy categorising things. Thus.

This scale is about how strongly you hold a belief, not how true, popular, reasonable, explicable or false, unpopular, unreasonable, inexplicable such a belief is.

  1. Knowledge.

    Unquestioned beliefs. You’re still aware that you can think your way out of this belief, but so many things would change that abandoning this idea is not useful. (for example: ‘other people exist’).

  2. Belief.

    Strong beliefs. You can, at a stretch, put yourself in the mind of someone who doesn’t believe this thing to see where they’re coming from, but they’re definitely wrong, mistaken, deluded, deceived.

  3. Opinion.

    Weak beliefs. Your belief of this affects your life and the way you think, yet you can easily put yourself in the mind of someone who disagrees, and either you think it possible you could be wrong or see it as merely preference.

  4. Assent.

    Forced beliefs. If asked, you’d say you believe, but it doesn’t affect your life. It either follows logically from what you do believe or is something you believe due to social pressure, but you possibly wouldn’t believe this in isolation.

  5. Apathy.

    Disinterested ignorance. You might have an answer if pressed, but it’s a coin toss which way you’d answer. There’s nothing you do believe that requires you to believe about this thing any particular way, so you don’t. You also feel no pressure to learn or have an definite position.

  6. Dissent.

    Weak disbelief. Your disbelief of this affects your life and the way you think, yet you easily can put yourself in the mind of someone who believes, and either you think it possible you could be wrong or see it as merely preference.

  7. Disbelief.

    Strong disbelief. You can, at a stretch, put yourself in the mind of someone who does believe this thing to see where they’re coming from, but they’re definitely wrong, mistaken, deluded, deceived.

  8. Incredulity.

    What you see as absolutely ridiculous to believe. Things that are impossible for you to imagine actually believing. Thought experiments can take there, but surely no-one actually, sincerely believes this.


It is super difficult to think of examples that have even a whiff of universality. Even finding things that don’t interact with identity in rage-inducing ways is tricky.

These (hopefully politically inert) maths examples might help you get the idea.

  1. 1 + 1 = 2
    Knowledge: Arithmetic requires this or the entire mathematical enterprise falls apart. (assuming a base greater than 2, pedant)

  2. 0.999… = 1
    Belief: I can see why this is not as immediately obvious as 1 + 1 = 2, but it’s just as true.

  3. Imaginary numbers are as arbitrary as negative numbers.
    Opinion: Counting numbers work with the analogy of how many apples you have. Everything else doesn’t. I can see why imaginary numbers seem more made up: you learn them much later and the name certainly doesn’t help, but they’re not in different categories of arbitrariness.

  4. 0! = 1
    Assent: I watched the video. Sure, whatever.

  5. 1 is/n’t a prime number
    Apathy: 1 is an exception either way.

  6. 1+2+3… = -1/12
    Dissent: I’m pretty sure this has broken a rule somewhere and done something with infinity or equals that it shouldn’t have.

  7. numbers exist
    Disbelief: I see mathematics and numbers as internally consistent fictions/human inventions useful for modelling the physical world. I know the majority of people disagree, but any other position seems ridiculous to me.

  8. 1 + 1 = 3
    Incredulity: Arithmetic requires this to be false or the entire mathematical enterprise falls apart.

Cheap grace?

I don’t understand the concept of cheap grace.

As near as I can tell it is invalidity of grace shown to someone who doesn’t respond “appropriately”. Or something like that.

But by definition, grace is unearned and undeserved. How can it be cheap?

Cheap grace seems often an excuse for unforgiveness or judgement or an expression of incredulity about Christianity. It is there in our struggle with truly believing ourselves forgiven. In that case the problem is not cheap grace, rather, the problem is grace grace and how maddeningly unfair God’s grace is.

Perhaps a better formulation is cheapened grace. Our response to grace given doesn’t determine its value in abstract, instead it reveals how much worth we see in it. And our attempts to earn God’s grace by our limited good behaviour cheapens it just as much as squandering it.

Grace is always an unaffordable, undeserved gift.

Finally, lest you think I’m saying something I’m not:

“Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” Romans 6:15 (NIV)

The Will/s of the Trinity

This was sparked by thinking about the concept of Trinity while revising Tertullian and the Nicene creed and so on for my church history exam. During the revision process I realised I don’t like church history (though it may be that I actually don’t like exams. That’s more likely.) I like writing blog posts though, so lets do that instead.

I’m going to ignore all this proceeds from stuff. Don’t care. I’m also going to ignore who’s subordinate to whom1 because… because.

We’ll start at human persons. That’s easy. A body. I am a person, you’re a person. We’re different persons in different physical person-spaces. Done.

But wait a minute, what about conjoined twins? To some extent they share a body. So we need something else.

How about distinct wills? That works. Except for Christianity. The will of the members of the Trinity is the same, so how are they still to be seen as distinct persons?

Back to our conjoined twins. They walk somewhere. They are, together, walking. Each of them is walking, they are both walking, the walking they are each doing is the same walking, but they are still distinct persons, with distinct wills, doing the same walking distinctly. Walking.

There’s not an appreciable difference between the unity of action and the unity of wills in this example. They have to both intend walking for the walking that they are both doing to happen, and for them to each both be walking they have to both want to be walking. They can’t walk independently, but that doesn’t make them the same person.

An aside on unembodiedness

Let’s consider people without bodies, whether they be unembodied because of some kind of nirvana-like daniel-from-stargate ascension, or because they are an AI named Jane that exists in a galaxy-wide computer network, or they’re a Peretti-esque angel, or a Pratchett-ish god, or whatever.

I’d like to group persons by their ability to act on the physical.

  • Normal embodied things - Humans, goats. These affect the world in the area they inhabit.
  • Very powerful embodied things - Superman, the Doctor2, Galactus. They can affect the world, around them in ways no-one else can, but they too are constrained to the limited area they inhabit, so basically they follow the same rules, this is merely a difference of degree, not of kind.
  • Abstract things - ‘2’ness_ or ‘the concept of a trinity’. These can’t affect the physical world. Or the non-physical. They’re completely and entirely impotent except when wielded by the mind of any of the potent beings in this list.3
  • The incarnationally potent4 - the ships of Ancillary Justice, demonic possession. These unembodied beings can affect the physical world, but to do so in the manner they do they must become embodied, and thus also have the restrictions of a physical body (or bodies. You should definitely read Ancillary Justice).
  • The universally potent - able to affect the physical world in any location simultaneously (or at any time, if your model of time allows).

If you’ve followed me this far we can see that unity of distinct wills is still required when we go up a level from conjoined humans walking to universally potent beings doing anything. As they could affect any part of the universe, they could do everything and also counter everything done by any other similarly powerful person, everything they do do must be done in unity, their wills must be aligned5.

In Christian understanding, this is not just a pragmatic unity and it’s not a grudging political bargaining of goals in some kind of cosmic minority government. Instead, the perfect love exemplified in the Trinity is behind this unity of wills, and is the reason our shadowy made-in-the-image-of-God reflection of this unity is our loving relationships.

Now that I’ve written some words about the nature of the Trinity I’m probably 6 kinds of heretic, but this was fun6.

  1. though I hope I got the who/whom thing right. 

  2. Time-travel to be everywhere at a single moment is cheating, and would probably be one of them universe implodey paradoxes (not that that’s stopped him before). 

  3. I apparently lack the imagination to believe that there is a real existence of abstract objects. Some philosophers and occasionally whacky sci-fi authors like it, but for me: Does Not Compute. Abstract is abstract, and there is a very real and not imagined distinction between the real and the imagined. To move from abstract to real requires creation (whether that’s the Creation of Life, the Universe, and Everything, or any given painter painting a painting). 

  4. I am unreasonably proud of this phrase. 

  5. This doesn’t require the universe to be the body of the being/s. If you prefer, think of the physical as the path being walked on. 

  6. Though people have been burned for less. Yay Church history.