I've had a couple of challenges to my belief system this week, and I think some of it deserves a bit of clarification. Those faithful readers here have no-doubt seen that I have a rather long list of non-somethings (said as "something-free") that some people are reading as pretentious and exclusionary. That is definitely not my intent at all, for the most part, but when it comes to describing who I am and the kind of lifestyle I wish to lead, these "nons" are quite important. I think when people see the prefix "non" they think I wear it as some kind of badge of honor. This is also a misconception. They describe my principles and because they are often contrary to popular belief, socially it becomes a very difficult path to take. The thing I most want to emphasize here is that they are not arbitrary.
There are two of my non-somethings that get the most attention, and those are being non-theist (atheist, or freethinking) and non-drinking (not consuming alcoholic beverages).
Atheists get a really bad rep in this country despite the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion (or in this case, freedom from religion). Atheists are seen as anarchists, who have no principles, who defy the word of God, and who contribute to the downfall of society as we know it. All of these things are wrong and are horrible misconceptions. My principles are stronger than many people who are religious. Atheists are people who see the world from a humanist point-of-view and who's laws, principles, and belief systems are based in doing what's best for the world we live in as a whole. I will repeat for emphasis - we do what's best for the world as a whole. For most Americans who are atheists, our guiding principles are based strongly in the Judeo-Christian value system as most of us grew up in or were ancestors of people of those beliefs. We've thrown away, to a large extent, the judgement of individuals based on their sexual orientation or how people serve God. Being free from belief in a god is liberating experience. It allows one to view our accomplishents and our problems as being of our own doing, and taking the credit and responsibility for these things, rather than being a victim. It is this mindset that makes being atheist actually less likely to contribute to the downfall of society, particularly given the societal turmoil that has occured throughout history as a result of some kind of religious unrest. As I have said before, I am willing to accept whatever will happen to me when I die if I'm wrong, but I think any god that is all-loving will understand that my beliefs were to maintain their creation in the best possible way I knew how. Only a selfish, conceited god would hold a lack of worship and direct service against me on judgement day (and if that's the case, strike me down and send me straight to hell!).
My other controversial belief is how I feel about alcohol. There are two things I have a problem with on alcohol -- one is an issue of inconsistency, and the other is a problem with the lifestyle and responsibility surrounding alcohol.
The consistency thing is that I hear people tell me how bad drugs are and will make comments about people who are "drug addicts," and at the same time will excuse and even glamorize people who use and/or abuse alcohol. I don't see any difference. It seems rather hypocriticial for people to aribtrarily decide for the rest of society what their recreational drug of choice should be. Most people who know me know that I oppose anti-drug legislation and feel that the "war on drugs" is a scam and should be stopped. That doesn't mean that I feel that using this stuff is a good idea, and personally I won't do it, legal or not. Those are my own feelings and they're my principles. What people do in the privacy of their own home or appropriate place is their business, as long as it doesn't adversely affect me.
Then there's lifestyle and responsibility, which is the one that usually comes-up in conjunction with discussions about my girlfriends (or lack thereof) or social situations. I don't want to be in a lifestyle where alcohol (and/or drugs) are prominent. I will admit that perhaps I took things a bit too far in my younger days (I was very anti-alcohol), but it wasn't without a good reason. In my opinion, when you're drunk or stoned it doesn't excuse what you do. People get into car wrecks, destroy property, hurt people, and order "pay" movies on someone else's cable service without permission, when they're drunk, then they use being drunk as an excuse for their actions. They do things, make comments (funny or not), and act in a way that's entirely out of their character. I don't want to be any part of a lifestyle where this is someone's definition of "fun." I don't want to be the sober person to taxi around all the people who are into this as a fun activity. I definitely don't want to spend the rest of my life with someone who is into or advocates this kind of behavior in real life (as opposed to fiction, like in the movies). It conflicts with my principles. The friends I keep are, generally-speaking, of this mindset, and those who are not are generally considerate of my feelings as I am of their's (we agree to disagree).
It's not a coincidence that much of what you'll see in my writing falls under a libertarian mindset. While I feel strongly about many things, I try to let people live as they wish provided they don't (as I said above) adversely affect me. I don't consider myself primarily libertarian (or, maybe better said, libertarian in the extreme) because there comes a point in a society where some actions are just plain wrong, and it is necessary to make these actions illegal. For example, cruelty to animals doesn't directly affect me, but the act is so heinous that it needs to be illegal in a civilized society. Respecting animals is part of doing what is best for the world. There needs to be reasonable environmental regulations, so that greedy, selfish people don't ruin the world for future generations. There's the redneck "wild west" kind of libertarian who advocates letting people do whatever in heck they want, which is closer to anarchy where I come from. Then there's the "gentler" kind of libertarian who feels that government should play a role only where it is necessary to provide for the defense of the nation, or to set down basic laws to maintain a civilized society, which is closer to where I am. In reality, I consider my political beliefs a healthy mix of liberal, conservative, and libertarian ideologies. Yes, Rush, they really can co-exist. Argh.
Even though I advocate people living as they wish as much as possible, I do have a set of beliefs and principles and typically stand firm to them, while still remaining open-minded and willing to listen and adapt them when I find what I believe to be wrong. I have definite opinions (as you have no doubt seen) on the world and how I feel it should be. I continue to be amazed about how thoughtless and short-sighted people, in general, can be. While my view of the world is not perfect, I do feel that these views through my own actions help make the world a better place. I hope that by sharing how I feel that someone says to themself, "Hey, that's not a bad idea!" and maybe one more person can carry the message and spread it around. In the end, this is the best all of us can do, and (particularly if you don't have kids) it's the best way to leave a legacy when you've passed-on.