About Me

Short Description of Myself

Howie is my real name and I am a happily married man with 2 wonderful children.  I am an electrical engineer by trade.  My family and I prefer to limit the amount of personal information I share on the internet.  If you are a friend of mine that I have invited to my blog please respect this if you comment.

My Religious / Spiritual Background

I was raised in a Jewish family and converted to Christianity when I was 19.  I was an evangelical Christian for 5 years.  I was very convinced of Christianity the first year of that period, but struggled with doubts throughout the next 4 years until I came to the realization that I could no longer honestly call myself a Christian.  I’ve been a secular humanist, implicit atheist (aka negative atheist), agnostic, and possibilian for the past 18 years of my life.  I describe my journey here.

Some of My Thoughts on Spirituality and Religion

The following posts have descriptions of some of my current views:

I’m annoyingly agnostic about a whole lot of things, but I still have opinions and can usually express which way I lean.  I took only 2 courses in philosophy in college so I can’t express my beliefs in philosophical terms.  Here’s some of my answers to some common questions:

  1. What branch of Judaism did you grow up in? I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home.  My father had been raised Orthodox and my mom had been raised Conservative.
  2. Which Christian denomination were you in? I attended non-denominational churches and Messianic Jewish congregations.  Doctrines were very similar to but not exactly like US Northern Baptist doctrine (and the differences most people would consider minor).  I called myself a “born-again” Christian.
  3. How certain are you that God(s) do not exist? Not with an extreme level of certainty.  I sometimes wonder if “inscrutable” is the right word for it.
  4. Do you hate all religions? Absolutely not!  I believe extremism is the source of most of the pain in the world, and unfortunately religious extremism is a real threat to all of us.  But some extremists have not even been religious.  I believe that if everyone in the world was atheist the world would be a very boring place and if everyone on earth agreed with each other we’d all be assured to be wrong! 😉
  5. Are you trying to convert people to atheism? I don’t feel there’s too much of a selling point to my atheism.  On my blog I like to help people get closer to truth.  Read this comment to get a feel for my approach.
  6. Would you be offended if I prayed for you? Absolutely not.  Thank you very much if you are praying for good things for me.
  7. Is morality objective? I don’t know, but wish it was.  This post (in the middle of my series on morality) describes my views best.  I have several other morality posts you can find by clicking on the morality category.
  8. If you are atheist why do you talk about gods? The answer to this seems obvious to me.  I get the feeling that the people who ask this are suggesting that the fact that atheists talk about gods proves their existence.  Seriously?
  9. Are you a naturalist? Not sure.  Seems like the answer to this may be out of human reach at this point.
  10. Are you a determinist? Surprise, surprise: agnostic about it.

21 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Cool, so we can relate! I know I’ve annoyed people online several times because I guess they feel like they’re not sure how to discuss things with someone who doesn’t take too many firm stances. It’s also a bit of a balancing act for me to try and remain humble about my beliefs and realize that I’m human and can be wrong, but on the flip side try and maintain some strong beliefs every once in a while (and I do have some things I feel strongly about).

  2. Yes, I have the same problem – how to be humble about everything knowing everything I think I know could be wrong, yet standing by things I do have have a stance on.
    I’m annoying because no matter what anyone says, I could think of a counter-argument – even for anything I say/believe. It’s why I’d be the worst debater – I’d agree with everything on the other side as well as my side.

  3. Hey PC! Glad to see you again. I can’t call you PC anymore because then people would be like “who’s that guy talking to?” and that would be weird. Can I call you Dance? Not sure I’ll have much input on your bibleinteractions blog but I’ll likely read along because I like trying to understand different ways of viewing things.

  4. Haha, I don’t mind if you call me PC still – I know who you’re talking to and that’s all that matters. But sure, call me Dance if you want. It’s the same thing really – dancing with different ideas/collecting them.
    No worries at all – I’m so with you on understanding different views and just glad I can follow your blog! Love your attitude.

  5. From the link you posted:

    “I call myself a Possibilian: I’m open to…ideas that we don’t have any way of testing right now.” In a subsequent interview with the New York Times, Eagleman expanded on the definition:

    “Our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion. A third position, agnosticism, is often an uninteresting stance in which a person simply questions whether his traditional religious story (say, a man with a beard on a cloud) is true or not true. But with Possibilianism I’m hoping to define a new position — one that emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story.”

    Well, I have learned a new word, and this is brilliant. I really resonate with this, Howie. I would have to say, this is me. So if anyone asks me where I stand, I will say I’m a Humanist Possibilian. 😀 I have read a lot of research by Eagleman. Did you ever watch his YouTube video, The Brain and the Law? http://youtu.be/EREriwV71mA I was excited to see it as I had been posting information about the very people he discussed at the beginning of that video for a couple of years before I found this video — mostly on religious blogs that want to point how how “evil” — “depraved” and hopeless humans are. I pointed out how clueless their god was about “his” own creation, and that there should have been a commandment “Protect Thy Brain”. 😉

    Howie, I stopped by to thank you for adding a link to my blog. You rock!

  6. Hi Victoria!

    Thanks for stopping by, and you are very welcome! Your blog has so much intelligent and helpful stuff so I’m glad I added it to my page. I’ve mentioned this before – I believe what you write on there will help a lot of people, and I think that’s awesome. By the way, I was able to copy and paste your blog name so that the very cool looking characters showed up (N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ). Did you notice that?

    I had the exact same reaction when I first saw the word possibilian as well! That’s also funny that you highlighted the “exploration” part of Eagleman’s quotes – that was exactly what I did when I tried to define the term in this post.

    I’m watching that video right now. It reminds me of a radio lab interview with Eagleman that I listened to a while back: http://www.radiolab.org/story/317421-blame/

    Yes, “Protect Thy Brain” – love it! 😀 Maybe there could be 10 like that: would “Nurture Thy Hippocampus” work too? 😉

  7. “D Maybe there could be 10 like that: would “Nurture Thy Hippocampus” work too? ”

    Hahah — exactly. 😀 And I do appreciate you copying my brand name. I think it’s cool looking, too. All the symbols have significance. The sun represents solar/geomagnetic activity. The umbrella is representative of a nick name my best friend from Denmark gave me “Victoria with the umbrella”. I’m a weather junkie, both earth and space weather. The flower above the “s” is representative of me being an advocate for the environment. The peace sign — well — that needs no explanation.

    That’s awesome that you watched the video. Hope you didn’t get motion sickness while watching, lol. He loves to move around a lot during his lectures. I just got back from being in the mountains all day with my daughter and nephew. We live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, so it’s a short drive. We went to one of my favorite places — the Mineral and Lapidary Museum. The weather was gorgeous. It was a spectacular day. Hope yours was too. 🙂

  8. I didn’t know all those symbols had meaning, and I didn’t realize that was a flower above the “s”. Cool!

    That must be really awesome living near the Blue Ridge mountains! Natural scenic views have always been something that relaxes me. My wife and I took a trip to Asheville many years ago, but the weather was so bad that they had shut off some of the roads to the mountains. It was ok though, Asheville was a great town to hang around in.

    Glad you all had a great day. Weather out here has been very nice as well. Unfortunately my wife has had a fever for a couple of days though. 😦 Gladly she seems to be feeling a little better tonight.

    Oh, and I realized I didn’t put a link to Eagleman’s TED talk on possibilianism in this about page. Here it is:

    It’s a cool talk. By the way, I bought his book “Sum”, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It was more artistic than anything else. It wasn’t awful but I kind of had higher expectations when I bought it.

  9. Howie, that was a fantastic video. It has inspired me to do a post. Even though I have several still in draft, this one I need to do, I think, to get me moving on the other posts. Thank you so much for the inspiration. I really resonated with this TED Talk.

    I’m geeking out — celebrating the possibilities and praising the uncertainties. 😉

    I hope your wife is feeling better.

  10. You’re welcome Victoria. I’ve watched that video several times. When I first saw it, not only did it inspire me to write a blog post, it inspired me to finally start a blog of my own (which I had thought about doing for many years!)

    I’m looking forward to reading your blog post on this TED talk. When I put up my pre-announcement post for the afterlife debate several bloggers encouraged me to write a review of the debate. At first I didn’t want to because I’ve been in writer’s block mode (and writing is not my forte, which makes it even tougher), but once I completed it I felt very good about it. So now is my chance to encourage you. 🙂

    celebrating the possibilities and praising the uncertainties

    Awesome! I like that.

    Gladly my wife has recovered and even went to work today.

  11. “I took only 2 courses in philosophy in college so I can’t express my beliefs in philosophical terms.”

    So grateful for this. Philosophical terms confuse the matter. If philosophers could only write in plain English, the world would be a better place.

  12. Howie, just wanted to say thanks for the Dr David Eagleman video. He has a refreshing perspective on issues.

  13. Hey Peter,

    I’m glad you liked the video. The first time I saw it was when I finally decided I could start a blog. My blog is a little different than other Christian de-convert blogs. Less about the bible because it doesn’t really interest me much anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never write about it, because for so many it is still a source of confusion and/or importance.

    I’m glad you stopped by. I’ve been enjoying reading all of your comments on many of the blogs I peruse. You’ve got a calm and well reasoned approach which I like.

  14. Hi Howie
    Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate coming across your wise words on various blogs i have been following. In some of these matters of faith it is very hard to to be certain either way on many issues. But what we can do is be prepared to seriously consider alternative perspectives. At times a question can be more profound than an answer.

    Because of my background I am well informed in regard to Christianity, however we knowledge of other faiths is essentially restricted to Christian critiques of them. Yet I have been prepared to reject them as false, is that logical?

    At present I seem to have more questions than answers. I have been disappointed that when I have sought to engage with Christians the answers I have been offered really don’t answer my questions.

  15. Because of my background I am well informed in regard to Christianity, however we knowledge of other faiths is essentially restricted to Christian critiques of them. Yet I have been prepared to reject them as false, is that logical?

    Peter, I think that is one of the most common things I write about on the internet. I’m not as well informed as you are but my knowledge of Christianity is still orders of magnitude above my knowledge of other religions and I’ve never given those other religions even 5% of the chance that I’ve given Christianity. But it seems so much easier to reject those other religions and still feel like Christianity should be given more chances. Surely this is an unfair bias and I do believe a lot of other people share in that bias.

    I’ve learned (slowly and not completely) to be content with the fact that there are more questions than answers when it comes to the deep questions about life. Instead I’ve learned to focus more on learning about the practical things in life – and there is much of that to learn. Uncertainty is a part of life that I believe is healthy to embrace.

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