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Archive for the ‘meta’ Category

I’d Like Your Advice

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 17, 2010

Y’see, there’s a birthday coming up. Spritzophrenia will be ONE YEAR OLD on December 22nd. How about that? So I’m wondering how I might celebrate this, and hoping you have suggestions.

* Guest posts?

* Look back to an early post and see what I have and haven’t achieved?

* A subscription drive? I’d really like to get more regular readers.

* A Year Of Spritzophrenia: A Retrospective?

* Give away a prize? What could I give away? (Sorry, my virginity’s already been taken.)


I’m sure you can come up with other ideas, I’ve got a month to plan it which still feels way too short. Of course, this may all be much too hard and give me a nervous breakdown. I might just settle for getting drunk in the corner.

Tell Me

Any ideas? Rabbits Out of a Hat?
Please subscribe (top left) πŸ™‚

I couldn’t work out why this song has been on my brain this morning. Suddenly I clicked, “Why”. Duh.
Blink 182 What’s My Age Again? (Live)

Please share this:

Posted in agnostic, humor, humour, meta, Your Voice | Tagged: , , | 16 Comments »

Comment Changes – A Note for Regular Readers

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 10, 2010

Hello, Dear Readers

And you are, dear to me.

I’ve changed my comment settings to only allow 4 levels of “nested” or “threaded” comments. This is because they get really hard to read beyond that, as the boxes get so small.

If you want to continue a conversation, please do, you’ll just have to start a new thread below and say “Hey, Bob, re: what you said above…”. You can even link to the previous comment if you’re confident in how to do that.

Jonathan Elliot

This does mean some older conversations are partly hidden now. I’m not trying to suppress your point of view! It’s just what WordPress does – they are actually still there, we just can’t see them unless I change the settings.

Let me know what you think, and if you prefer, we can go back to the old way.

With great warmth and affection,


Posted in meta | 2 Comments »

100 Posts!

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 25, 2010

Welcome to my 100th post on Spritzophrenia! Not bad for a little over eight months, don’t you think? Perhaps I should wait for the 108th post, a Hindu mystic number? Or the 888th, a propitious Chinese number? Or the 69th, Hugh Hefner’s sacred number? Meh, let’s get on with it…

Numbers make me think of the ancient Hebrew story of the Babylonian King Belshazzar having a feast, and suddenly seeing a ghostly hand writing upon the wall of the banqueting chamber, the words:

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin

Number, number, weight, division.

Which means, “you’ve been weighed in the balance, and found wanting”. (And your kingdom will be divided among the Medes and Persians.)

100 posts!


I don’t know in whose balance I shall be weighed, but I appreciate you guys approving my “weight”. Today, I’ll simply point to some Spritzophrenia posts you might have missed:

* Mystical experience in a godless universe More of that atheist spirituality stuff.
* Satanic Panic Some thoughts on satanic hysteria.
* My Avatar spiritual experience Can a film be a spiritual gateway?
* Let there be light relief Cartoons via BiggerThanCheeses.
* There’s Probably No God? Atheist advertising.

I’ve quietly been adding more features. You may have also noticed the new Search box which will help you find topics of interest more easily. Also, because I’ve never had one before, I present my first poll so that you can dictate my future spiritual path

To conclude, I present not one, but TWO of my favourite tunes, if you wish to listen and enjoy. First, “Run” by Ecano (Oliver Lieb in one of his many incarnations). I DJed this song over a 120,000 Watt system to 13,000 people. Ahh, memories.

and Abyss by Wizzy Noise

Thanks for reading Spritzophrenia! Tell me something I didn’t expect to hear:


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Posted in agnostic, meta, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Crib Notes

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 29, 2010

FAQ: All the things you wanted to know about this site, and some you didn’t. Like my life and thinking, this page is a work in progress.

The most important bit is probably the

Comment Guidelines

I love comments from all perspectives, please don’t feel intimidated. You don’t have to be a super-intellectual or brilliant writer to contribute. I’m quite ok with “I don’t feel like this is true, but I’m not very good at explaining my reasons”. After all, that’s how I feel sometimes.

I hope Spritzophrenia can be a place where we leave our pride behind and sincerely listen to each other. I have to lead by example, of course, and I’m sure I’ll screw it up at times.

If something really pushes your buttons or makes you angry you might want to consider taking a few moments to breathe before commenting.

Play nice, children.


Glossary, Definitions and Suchlike

Most of the below deserve posts in their own right, but for now…

Offending Your Beliefs
I’m well aware that a non-adherent of a religion usually makes mistakes in emphasis, nuance and understanding when writing about it. My apologies for any factual errors I make. I feel uncomfortable criticising a spiritual path from the outside and I try to rely on those writing from the inside. I also acknowledge the large number of good, moral people in any worldview.

See also…

I’m far from an expert on everything. Nobody can be. I’ve done a lot of reading, and have a fair amount of personal experience of a very *few* religions. Please correct me and help me understand your worldview if I’ve got it wrong.

Sometimes I include atheism in the category of “religions”,”faiths” or “beliefs”. I don’t mean to insult anyone, it’s just simpler to write. Atheism is not a religion, and it pisses atheists off to hear that line. All I mean when I use the word in this context is “a perspective on life”, which can be grouped with other perspectives on life.

I call myself an “open agnostic”, a “friendly agnostic”, and a “woolly-headed intellectual lightweight without the balls to man up and be an atheist” πŸ˜‰ Many agnostics are at the atheist end of the scale. I tend to float up and down the scale a little. That means sometimes I take seriously the idea there could be a spiritual reality. Sorry ’bout dat.

You’ll notice that sometimes I talk about “g0d”. That’s a zero in the middle there. I suppose it looks similar to the way some Jewish believers write G-d but that’s not why I do it. “God” is a concept that has so much baggage for so many people, including me. I’m trying to distance myself a little from any particular religion’s God, particularly the grumpy old man in the sky. If g0d exists she’s a truly wonderful being. g0d to me means a theistic god, and that’s about it.

What does this word mean? Anything you want it to, really. I suppose seeing I coined it you want to know what I mean by it.

Anything else that should go on this page?

Posted in atheism, ethics, God, meta, writing | Tagged: , | 18 Comments »

Should I Rename Spritzophrenia? Win A Prize!

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 21, 2010

It’s my birthday next Tuesday, and I’m thinking of buying a real domain name for this blog. So it’s opportune to ask you, my devoted readers (all four of you) whether you think I should rename this site.

The options are:

1. Leave it called spritzophrenia. Advantage: Unique. Disadvantages: Hard to spell, and what the hell does it mean?

2. Change it to something else. Advantages: Maybe people would find my site more easily, and have some idea of what it’s about. Disadvantage: Would I be restricting myself if I suddenly want to write about something else, or convert to Astral Chickenism?

If you DO think it needs changing, what do you think I should name it? By now you have an idea of what I write about. I’m thinking something with agnostic in the name might be an idea, but am open to anything.


Agnostic Walrus
Paranoid Spiritual Geek
Pathetic Philosophy
Semi OK Writing
This Guy Is Deluding Himself

If it helps, I found a useful naming tool which is fun to try. “AgnosticBrite”, anyone? Ooh! “AgnosticArse”. We have a winner!

Please tell me if I should change, and if so make suggestions. The more the merrier, brainstorm away, you can comment many times. Your prize… um… an all-expenses-paid meditation retreat with me. We will be contemplating the inside of an empty wine bottle, and the expenses are paid by you. I can’t lose!

Please comment. πŸ™‚

Posted in humor, humour, meta, writing | 34 Comments »

What’s Cool? Read This

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 4, 2010

Welcome πŸ™‚ Here are a few popular posts you might enjoy:

What The World Needs Now. The answer to life’s big questions.
This Is Hard. Writing honestly about life.
If You See The Buddha On the Road, Kiss Him. A story lots of people liked.
Somewhere, Over the Rainbow Do I want God to exist?
My Pagan Experience. In which I attend a pagan festival.
Atheist Sprituality. Is there such a thing?
When Courage Takes Flight. Are you a writer? You’ll like this.

You can also click the categories at right under I write about to find topics of interest. If you enjoy, please subscribe to get updates (top left).

Your comments are welcome, opinions don’t have to be super-smart. “I don’t agree but I can’t explain why”, is fine. πŸ™‚

Posted in meta, writing | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Where To Next?

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 25, 2010

Announcing Music Week! Next week I’m going to blog every day.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re planning something else”. I don’t intend to update this blog daily, though it happens. Instead I’m loosely trying for three times per week. I’m behind on my follow-ups to The Meaning of Life, My Favourite Free Twitter Apps and Why Be Moral? They’re in the pipeline, along with some critical posts about religion that will make atheists happy. And some that won’t. For now, I need to write another piece and get on with living life.

As compensation, and to give me some breathing space, I’m going to blog a short piece every day from Monday next week. You’re going to hear some wonderful agnostic, atheist and spiritual music, and probably some you’ll hate. Do you have any music suggestions for me?

For now, here’s a taster: George Harrison’s Hinduism, inspired by a friendly chat with some Hare Krishna devotees before lunch. Thanks so much for your warm response to my last post. See you next week!

RIP, George

Posted in agnostic, Hinduism, meta, music | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Showing My Hand – The Meaning of Life

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 21, 2010

For twenty years, off and on, I’ve thought about writing a book on The Meaning of Life. Last year I decided to work more explicitly towards that goal, and this blog is part of my journey towards publishing. Here’s The Meaning of Life – Part One, for example. I really value your input and constructive criticism.

I had thought I’d call my book simply, “The Meaning of Life”. However, in my research I’ve just discovered a book in the library, published only a few years ago by a UK professor of English titled “The Meaning of Life”. Aargh! Robbed! Beaten to my goal! πŸ˜‰

Actually, I’m feeling quite content and rather phlegmatic. Let’s face it, it’s a big question and there’s room for all. I haven’t read his book yet, but I feel my hand somewhat forced. Before reading it, I want to note down my general ideas for structuring my book, lest I be accused of plagiarism.

42 Meaning of Life
42 – I know, I don’t get it either πŸ˜‰

Big caveats: This is the beginning of a work in progress, largely in note form, misses out a lot, and will no doubt change over the course of the project. This post is abandoned, rather than finished. (Hopefully the rest of my blog is more readable – eg my stuff on Atheist Spirituality). That said, here’s a preview:

Book structure.
I’m intending to make it personal as well as philosophical? How to pitch it? Academic versus popular is tricky. I want pictures! eg Engineers versus Physicists versus Philosophers

[Edit: I now think the structure will be more short vignettes, but the content will be similar, so will leave this here.]

Working Title:
42 Is Not Enough:
The Meaning of Life

“God is dead! And we have killed him!” – Nietzsche

“How can anyone discover what life means?
It is too deep for us, too hard to understand.
But I devoted myself to knowledge and study;
I was determined to find wisdom and the
answers to my questions”
– Ecclesiastes (The Bible)

“‘If life was devoid of realities there would be no meaning to life’, my father wrote in one of his forewords to his book, in Hindi” – Sri Bachchan, Indian actor.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.” – Joy J. Golliver

1. Welcome to Your Life

My intentions, biases and background. (Perhaps to be unpacked through the book.) I’m an open agnostic, or perhaps a theistic agnostic or a deist.
This book is only the story so far. I’d like to revisit it in 20 years and update or change it. After all, I have neglected major religions like Hinduism, and I can’t possibly fairly evaluate everything. Look at how big the religion and philosophy sections in public libraries are! The dangers of guru-ism?

Having said that, I do think there are less than a dozen major worldview alternatives, eg atheism, theism, polytheism, pantheism, monism… And few options within those are realistic, eg polytheism is just too unlikely imo. Within theism, Mormonism, for example, is just too unbelievable. US archaeology alone destroys it. Sorry Mormons 😦

Disclaimer: I’m well aware that a non-adherent of a religion usually makes mistakes in emphasis, nuance and understanding when writing about it. My apologies for any factual errors. I feel uncomfortable criticising a spiritual path from the outside so I’m relying on those writing from the inside. I also acknowledge the large number of good, moral people in any worldview.

Music! Supertramp | The Logical Song That song really affected me and made me think, from a young age.

Feel free to skip straight to my answer, although it will be more fully understood in the context of other things.

“If everybody contemplates the infinite instead of fixing the drains, many of us will die of cholera.” ~John Rich

2. There’s no Escape
(The “feel” of the meaning of life)

It’s a universal question, and arguably the motivator behind the spiritual search. Atheist spirituality.
“God is dead. We have killed him” – Nietzsche. But this is a tragedy that N spent his life trying to overcome, not the triumphalism of some atheists. See nihilism. My experiences / thinking as a youth.

Humour – Monty Python’s film, Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

“There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” – Douglas Adams

42 – note it’s called the big question of “life, the universe and everything”. Doesn’t mention the meaning of life, tho’ it’s implied?

Note 42 is the result of asking the wrong question. It’s worth considering is asking “what’s the meaning of life?” the wrong question too? (thanks Randy Murray for this).

The motivation for the search. Nihilism, atheism. Not all, or even most atheists end up nihilists, but it’s a strong pull for me.

To look in the eye of meaningless-ness is to feel the horror of being
“Cast out upon 40,000 fathoms of the deep” – Joseph Conrad??

3. Unpacking The Question
(What do we mean by ‘meaning’?)

What does “The Meaning of Life” (MoL) actually mean?
Distinguish between ‘meaning’, ‘purpose’ and ‘significance’. See my The Meaning of Life – Part One
Some people think that the question is a non-question, eg Marty at AtheistClimber. I respectfully disagree (as per my comments in his blog).

Animals and the meaning of life – dolphins, higher primates. Is intelligence alone the measure of value? No.

I think unpacking the question actually leads to a lot of insight into what the answer might be.

4. The Invisible Hand

Concentrating mainly on Christianity, as that’s my background but will also reference Islam and Judaism where I can. Judaism does consider the question to a degree. Victor Frankl was Jewish, although his conclusions in “Man’s Search for Meaning” do not require any spiritual point of view.

My previous conclusion that meaning is found “in God”, and later “in Jesus”. But what does that actually mean? Is it coherent? Probably not.

Conclusion: Surprisingly, even if God exists, it may not give an answer to the meaning of life. “God” cannot be a meaningful answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?”

Perhaps God needs a meaning of life too? Perhaps all “intelligent life” does?

5. If You See the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him
(Mysticism/The East)

So far, I don’t think the concept of the meaning of life is actually addressed by Buddhism. (Buddhist friends, please help?)
This leads to the interesting idea that MoL is a Western (theist influenced?) idea. My attempts at meditation. Ultimately, I don’t think Buddhism is intellectually helpful.

Mysticism? Christian Mystics? AW Tozer? (He now feels too hardline to me.) My few pagan / wiccan experiences? New Age worldview?

from http://offthemark.com

6. Both Beast and God
(Reason, Philosophy)

Am I a rationalist? Possibly, but there may be limits to reason (viz Bertrand Russell’s quote).

“To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both – a philosopher.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

J P Moreland moving the question to being about value (in Scaling the Secular City) He’s a good philosopher, but I don’t think this satisfies. Although losing a sense of value is a consequence of loss of meaning for me.

Kai Neilsen and other atheist philosophers. The “new atheists” – Dawkins, Hitchens, et al (if I must! πŸ˜‰ )

Philosophy is life’s dry-nurse, who can take care of us – but not suckle us. ~Soren Kierkegaard

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it. ~Bertrand Russell

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please – you can never have both. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains. ~Alfred North Whitehead

7. My Answer

I think the MoL is essentially found in living life. In life itself. (Not in biology, but in a human life lived.) Living, loving, enjoying sunsets, working to help others, playing a sport. Living itself has intrinsic meaning. (Or maybe not – that could be challenged.) Thus the specific meaning could be – in fact, must be – different for each person.

It’s the same conclusion Baggini came to, tho I came to it independently. But as he says, it’s not a great secret and you don’t have to be a great philosopher to figure it out. He is more eloquent than I am here:

“The only sense we can make of the idea that life has meaning is that there are some reasons to live rather than to die, and those reasons are to be found in the living of life itself. ”

Surprisingly, this is an answer that works for both theists and atheists.

(He also agrees with me that a religious worldview only makes a small difference to the outcome.)

“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” ~Andre Gide

8. How Then Shall We Live?

What life might be like, “living” the meaning of life.
This book is only the story so far. I may revisit it in 20 years and update or change it.

My working bibliography is here.


What do you think? Would you enjoy reading such a book? Please comment below. Ideas and helpful criticism are really welcome both on content and structure, or anything really.

Posted in agnostic, Meaning of Life, meta, writing | Tagged: , , , , | 31 Comments »

What I’m Reading

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 10, 2010

Bibliophiles might enjoy this post. It’s intended as a reference for myself and for the curious, and will help me with bibliographies for my writing. You can search the net for them yourself, I’m often too lazy to add a link. Started mid-June 2010, so is missing quite a bit! Suggestions for reading welcome. Can’t do this without your help πŸ™‚

Well, I haven’t been a good boy and updated this for a long time. Just a few for now.

Foucault, Michel. [1966]. (2002). The Order of Things. An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. London: Routledge.

Foucault, Michel. [1975]. (1995). Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books/Random House.

Foucault, Michel. [1976]. (1978). The History of Sexuality, Volume 1. Translation Robert Hurley, London: Penguin.

Foucault, Michel. [1980]. β€œAbout the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self.” in Carrette, J. (ed.) (1999). Religion and Culture. By Michel Foucault. New York: Routledge.

Foucault, Michel. [1982]. β€œThe Subject and Power.” in Dreyfus, Hubert L. and Rabinow, Paul. (1982). Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Brighton: The Harvester Press.

Foucault, Michel. [1983]. (2010). In The Government of Self and Others. Lectures at the Collège de France 1982-1983. (ed. Frederic Gros). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Foucault, Michel. (1998). Michel Foucault. Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology. ed. Faubion, James. New York: The New Press.

Can you tell I’ve been reading lots of Foucault this year? πŸ˜‰


Non Fiction
Vernon, Mark | After Atheism: Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life (agnostic theist)
Comte-Sponville, Andre | The Book of Atheist Spirituality (found it!)
Sallis, Zoe | Ten Eternal Questions (interviews people for their opinions)
Fukuyama, Francis | Our PostHuman Future (biotechnology and ethics. Some don’t like Fukuyama, but I thought it would lay the groundwork usefully.)
Lane Craig, William | No Easy Answers (Christian philosopher. doubt, failure etc)
Anne Lamott |Plan B
Elizabeth Gilbert | Eat, Pray, Love (populist hinduism for the west, soon to be a film. With Julia Roberts – blah. Very readable.)
Tomlinson, Dave | The Post Evangelical (seminal book)
Budd, Malcolm | Values of Art (philosophy of art)
Frankl, Victor | Man’s Search for Meaning (a classic work)
La Vey, Anton | The Satanic Bible (Dipped into. i Like it but tempted to put this under Fiction πŸ˜‰ )
Various authors | The (Christian) Bible (used to know it very well, now just dip into it.)
Eagleton, Terry | The Meaning of Life (he wrote my book! – see Showing My Hand.)
Chapman, Colin | Christianity On Trial (Lion, 1981) (Christian author outlines options very well. Great quotes.)
Lemmy (w Janiss Garza) | White Line Fever (autobiography)
Timothy Keller | The Reason For God (Dutton, 2008) (mainly for his brief but useful discussion of rationalism)
Romy Shiller | You Never Know(autobiography of a friend and amazing woman)
Anthony Flew | The Presumption of Atheism (Flew when he was an atheist)
Anthony Flew | There Is A God (The book he’s written about his reasons for now thinking God exists.)
Sue Hamilton, Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Uni Press, 2001) Great little book.

Niles, Chris | Vanished (thriller)
Stephenson, Neal | Snow Crash (classic cyberpunk, has great religion quotes which I didn’t know, it was just time-off reading)
The Historian (QUALITY vampire writing, which is rare)
Le Carre, John | The Mission Song (the master)
Di Filippo, Paul | Ribofunk (biologic sci fi. Good)
Ellis, Deodato (Marvel Comics) | Thunderbolts : Faith In Monsters . (Enjoyable amoralism)
Gail Simone, Eaglesham et al | Villains United (DC Comics, 2005) (evil heroes trying to become good? Blurs the lines.)
Eric ? | Savage Dragon
Richard Morgan | Thirteen (SF cybernoir action. One of my favourite authors. Also published as ‘Black Man’)

See also https://spritzophrenia.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/booklust/

And this. I’m not doing well at updating with all I’ve read @November 2010 πŸ˜‰

Want to Read
No doubt there will always be more in this list than I can actually manage.

Berry, R.J | Real Scientists, Real Faith: 17 Leading Scientists Reveal the Harmony Between Their Science and Their Faith scientists who are also theists
Adams, Douglas | The Meaning of Liff (and want to re-read his others for the ??th time)
Eric Reitan | Is God A Delusion: A Reply To Religion’s Cultured Despisers (liberal-ish christian? reply to the new atheists by a theist? philosopher)

Suggestions by Others
Shiller, Bryant | The 5th Option (proposed new options for origins of life. Thanks Romy.)
Aronson Living Without God (thanks Romansh.)
Mary O’Reilly | The Barn At The End of the World (The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd. Thanks Kimh)

Posted in meta, writing | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Google Does Not Find Everything

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 11, 2010

And neither does any other search engine. Interesting:

Focus group and survey research indicates that undergraduate students typically turn to popular Web search engines when they need to find information. These search engines index only the “surface Web,” where less than 7% of the information is appropriate for educational or scholarly purposes.

No single Web search engine indexes more than 16% of the surface Web, yet we have no evidence that students use more than one search engine when they look for information. According to BrightPlanet, the “deep Web” is 500 times larger and growing faster than the surface Web. The deep Web provides information in all disciplines, for all constituencies, that is 1,000-2,000 times better in quality than the surface Web.

Approximately 95% of deep Web content is publicly accessible without fees or subscriptions, but deep Web content, like scholarly commercial resources licensed by the library, is not indexed and therefore not accessible using popular Web search engines. The growing concern is that many undergraduate students may be searching only 0.03% of the Web to complete their assignments, ignoring entirely the books, journals, databases, full-text digital resources and other scholarly materials provided by the library. Because of easy access to the Web, undergraduates are using library collections and services less than in the past and, in the absence of quality information and tools on the surface, this may imperil the quality of student learning. For this reason, some faculty members do not allow their students to use Web resources in class projects.

From Troll, Denise A. “How and Why are Libraries Changing?” Digital Library Federation. Library Information Technology- Carnegie Melon, 9 Jan. 2001. Web. 29 Nov. 2009. http://www.diglib.org/use/whitepaper.htm

A commentator suggests the numbers may be slightly old and inflated, but nevertheless.

Also: Google Fails Evil Test

Posted in meta, Off Topic | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »