Thinking about humans, ethics, religion, and lifestyle. Nomad stories on Patreon and IG: linktr.ee/joeomundson | Email: joe.omundson@gmail.com

Other than the whole “not believing in God” thing

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If you’ve spent enough time listening to religious apologists, you’ve probably heard one of them say “atheism is just another religion”.

As an atheist, it would be easy to pull up a few definitions of the word “religion” and make a case for why this claim isn’t true; or, I could use a quick rebuttal like “if atheism is a religion, bald is a hairstyle.”

However, I want to examine the logic behind this claim instead of dismissing it outright, because glossing over criticism is a sign of dogmatic thinking.

To gain a better sense of what this “atheism is a religion” logic is all about, I read some articles written by religious folks. Many of them, from websites such as Answers in Genesis and Conservapedia, were poorly organized and full of baseless assertions. I won’t spend time on these articles (even though they might be entertaining to tear apart) because I don’t think they represent the strongest version of the argument. …


Moving through life’s phases

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“Hey dude, where you headed?”

The scruffy man shouted at me from a bright red, graffiti-covered school bus bearing the name “The Scallywagon”. A skull-and-crossbones was painted on the hood.

“Portland!”

“Us too. Hop in.”

I was in Snowville, Utah, after a brutal day of hitchhiking — only 100 miles of progress in 13 hours. I had spent the previous night camped in the brush behind a Walgreens in Bountiful, a suburb of Salt Lake City; then, starting at 6am, I had waited 1–3 hours by the side of the road all day long for rides that only took me 10 minutes down the road. My skin broiled in the merciless sun. Thunderstorms sent me scrambling for the shelter of an overpass. …


It’s just not worth it to me

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One question that commonly arises in thru-hiking and vandwelling communities is: “should I bring a gun with me?”

The ensuing debate tends to split along conservative/liberal lines, as one might expect.

Some people would never leave home without a gun. It gives them peace of mind to know they always have the option to use a firearm in case some person, or animal, threatens their safety.

I can see the logic behind that. If that’s what helps you feel safe enough to travel, so be it. Maybe someday you’ll be really glad you had it. More power to you.

In my personal experience of nearly 7 years on the road and the trail, I’ve never remotely wished I had a gun. I do understand there is some white male privilege at play here: it’s easier for me to feel safe by default, especially when I’m hitchhiking or camping alone, because I’m less likely to be assaulted. However, I do know lots of women who live similar lifestyles without a gun. …


An ex-Christian atheist describes a Buddhist Vipassana retreat

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Years ago, if I had accidentally wandered into a Vipassana retreat, I would have assumed it was some sort of cult initiation.

Imagine: 80 participants forbidden from speaking, touching, or making eye contact for 10 days. Men and women kept separate. A 4:00am wake-up bell every morning. Meals prepared by invisible volunteers and eaten without a word. No books, media, internet, games, or group activities allowed: just 10 hours of meditation every day, sometimes directed by the disembodied voice of the esteemed master, S.N. Goenka.

And every evening, in a dark room, with entranced faces glowing in the light of two old TVs, a climactic break from the austere silence: a 75-minute video lecture from Goenka. A chance to gaze upon a friendly human face and to laugh at his humor. An invitation to reflect on what must surely be profound spiritual truths, gradually escalating in authority as the week progresses. …


Adjusting your communication to suit your audience

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We send each other signals all the time. Our speech, writing, and body language are pieces of data that originate from inside of us, travel through space and time, and get interpreted by other people.

It is tempting to think that as long as we present our thoughts accurately, the person we are communicating with should have no problem understanding us. “I said exactly what I meant, so if they misinterpreted me, that’s their fault!”

Indeed, when we’re talking to close friends with similar backgrounds and worldviews, it’s easier to communicate successfully. …


Sometimes it’s easiest to learn the hard way

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People are born into a wide variety of circumstances. Our families and communities are a unique combination of demographics — income level, nationality, religion, ethnicity, profession, and health factors, for example.

These factors work together to create our perception of what’s “normal”; our baseline calibration in life. This is largely where we get our ideas about acceptable standards of living, the meaning of life, our capabilities, our worth, and our place in the world.

Most of us never stray too far from the cultural standards we were raised with. It’s easy to believe that our way of life is “just the way life works” — a universal norm — but if we’d been born to another family in another location, we might have radically different expectations of what it means to live life as a human. …


Good, healthy, forbidden fun

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Some Christians have assumed I abandoned my faith because I wanted to enjoy a “sinful” lifestyle.

It might happen that way for some people. We all know the stereotype of the lukewarm Christian teen who goes to university and stops attending church simply because they want to drink and have sex without being shamed for it.

That wasn’t me, though. I was already married when I gave up on religion, so gaining access to sex was not a motivator. I wasn’t eager to try any drugs. I didn’t descend into depraved debauchery due to deconversion. …


Faith-based hypotheses we can actually test

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There is a popular idea that science and spirituality are two equally valid, but independently-operating, domains of knowledge.

Spirituality deals with the questions that science cannot begin to answer and vice versa.

Does our universe have a spiritual dimension? If it does, science has not been able to measure it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there; it just means we don’t have objective evidence for it at this point. Surely, there are a great many realities yet undiscovered by science.

Spirituality seeks to answer unsolvable mysteries. It deals with our personal relationship with existence. …


What God commands is always right

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Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

“It is wrong to kill people based on the belief that your ethnicity is superior and preferred by God.”

Most of us, I hope, would agree without hesitation. Racism and genocide are frowned upon for good reason.

There’s no such thing as “good genocide”. It’s a flaw in human reasoning to think another group of people deserves to die because of their culture, genetics, nationality, or religious traditions.

The example that typically comes to mind is the Holocaust of the Jews in Nazi Germany. …


Who wouldn’t want to feel like everything was perfect?

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Twice in my life I’ve had something called a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). Instead of jabbing a lube-smeared ultrasound transducer into your ribcage, doctors get a closer look at your heart by shoving a smaller transducer down your throat.

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