Posts Tagged ‘John Scalzi’

Santa Claus in the 21st century

December 23, 2018

An interview with Santa’s lawyer by John Scalzi.   Hat tip to the Weekly Sift.

An agnostic teaches his daughter about religion

July 28, 2013

John Scalzi is a science fiction writer who has a web log.  Some time back he posted these wise reflections about what he teaches his daughter about religion.

The reason I encourage her to learn about religion, and Christian faiths in particular, is because the large majority of people on this planet follow a religion of some sort, and here in the United States, the large majority of those who are religious are Christians of one sort or another.

I’m an agnostic of the non-wishy-washy sort (i.e., I don’t believe in a god nor believe one is required to explain the universe, but I acknowledge I can’t prove one doesn’t or never did exist) and always have been for as long as I can remember thinking about these things.

John Scalzi

John Scalzi

I don’t see being an agnostic meaning one has to be willfully ignorant about religion, nor do I see my role as an agnostic parent being one where I shield my daughter from the reality that she lives in a religious society.

Where my daughter is on her own journey of discovery regarding faith is not for me to discuss publicly, but I can say that I believe more information is almost always better. 

So when she wants to know about a particular religion or explore some aspect of faith, I encourage her to do so; when she comes to me with questions about religion, I either answer her questions (being that I know a fair amount about most major religions) or help her find answers.

Athena is well aware that I am an agnostic, and what that means, and we’ve explored that aspect of faith (or lack thereof) as well.  I won’t tell you what questions she asks about religion, faith, agnosticism and all of that, but I will tell you that she asks good questions, and for my part I answer them as truthfully and as fairly as I can.

There are a number of people who have come to agnosticism or atheism because of conflicts with or disillusionment about religion, and in particular a religion they were born into and grew up in, and others who are agnostic or atheist who feel that religion and the religious impulse must be challenged wherever they find it.

For these reasons among others I think people assume those people who aren’t religious are naturally antagonistic, to a greater or lesser degree, to those who are.

But speaking personally, I don’t feel that sort of antagonism; I don’t look at those who believe as defective or damaged or somehow lacking. Faith can be a comfort and a place of strength and an impetus for justice in this world, and I’m not sure why in those cases I, as a person without faith, would need to piss all over that.


A self-made man looks at how he made it

August 30, 2012

John Scalzi

The  popular science fiction writer John Scalzi wrote a post on his web log some months back about how he owed his success as a writer not only to his own efforts, but to public services and to people who helped him along the way.  He spoke of his birth at an Air Force hospital, his gratitude for public schools and public libraries, how his divorced mother at times had to rely on welfare and food stamps, and his scholarships to an elite private school and then to the University of Chicago.  He named and thanked teachers who encouraged him and editors who gave him opportunities as a writer.

None of this would have availed him anything if he had not had the talent and the determination to become a good writer.  But it would have been a lot harder, and maybe impossible, to develop as a writer and to find a public without the help of others.  It is not an either/or proposition.

Scalzi concluded as follows.

I have helped others too. I am financially successful now; I pay a lot of taxes.  I don’t mind because I know how taxes helped me to get to the fortunate position I am in today.  I hope the taxes I pay will help some military wife give birth, a mother who needs help feed her child, help another child learn and fall in love with the written word, and help still another get through college.  Likewise, I am in a socially advantageous position now, where I can help promote the work of others here and in other places.  I do it because I can, because I think I should and because I remember those who helped me.  It honors them and it sets the example for those I help to help those who follow them.

I know what I have been given and what I have taken.  I know to whom I owe.  I know that what work I have done and what I have achieved doesn’t exist in a vacuum or outside of a larger context, or without the work and investment of other people, both within the immediate scope of my life and outside of it.  I like the idea that I pay it forward, both with the people I can help personally and with those who will never know that some small portion of their own hopefully good fortune is made possible by me.

So much of how their lives will be depends on them, of course, just as so much of how my life is has depended on my own actions.  We all have to be the primary actors in our own lives.  But so much of their lives will depend on others, too, people near and far.  We all have to ask ourselves what role we play in the lives of others — in the lives of loved ones, in the lives of our community, in the life of our nation and in the life of our world.  I know my own answer for this.  It echoes the answer of those before me, who helped to get me where I am.

via Whatever.

My professional achievements are less than John Scalzi’s, but my sentiments are the same.

Through my life, many people helped me along the way.  In my old age, I enjoy helping others in my turn, not in a self-sacrificial way but as a source of pleasure and satisfaction.  I benefited and still benefit from public services, from education in public schools and a state university to the benefits of Social Security and Medicare.  I feel shame that the next generation is not going to be able to have what I have.

There is more to life than (1) accumulating stuff and (2) resisting pressure to share my stuff.


New links: LBJ, Higgs boson, philosophy, etc.

July 14, 2012

If you like my web log, I think you’ll like the articles and blogs in my links menu.  Here are the latest additions to this menu.


Lyndon Johnson and the passage of powerRobert Caro’s biography of Robert Moses and his on-going multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson are the best books I’ve read about power political power operates in the United States.  The link is to an excellent review and summary in the London Review of Books of Caro’s fourth and latest Lyndon Johnson volume.  Hat tip to Jack Clontz.

The Higgs boson made simpleReading this article on MSNBC’s Cosmic Log and the accompanying links helped me understand why confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson was an important discovery.  Hat tip to John Lenz.

Article of lasting interest

Bertrand Russell: The Value of Philosophy.   Although Bertrand Russell was hostile to organized religion, the study of philosophy was, for him, a kind of spiritual practice.  The value of philosophy was not in offering specific answers to questions, but in focusing the mind away from personal desires, frustrations and resentments and toward the cosmic scheme of things.

John Scalzi: Straight White Male—the Lowest Default Setting There IsSF writer John Scalzi gave a good explanation why we straight white males should keep in mind how much better off we are than gays, people of color and women, without confusing the issue by dragging in “white privilege” or “white guilt.”  Hat tip to Making Light.


GlaxoSmithKline fraud case: Does crime pay?  This is an informative broadcast by Al Jazzera’s Inside Story Americas about a $3 billion fine imposed on the big British drug corporation GlaxoSmithKline for marketing dangerous drugs and suppressing information about their risks.

John Scalzi on poverty and privilege

October 24, 2010

John Scalzi is a science-fiction writer who wrote an on-line essay, “Being Poor,” that has been widely copied.

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get  free lunch” when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Click on Being Poor to read the whole thing.

Recently he wrote a new essay, “Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today,” which I think will also be widely copied.

Today I don’t have to think about those who hear “terrorist” when I speak my faith.

Today I don’t have to think about men who don’t believe no means no.

Today I don’t have to think about how the world is made for people who move differently than I do.

Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m married, depending on what state I’m in.

Today I don’t have to think about how I’m going to hail a cab past midnight.

Today I don’t have to think about whether store security is tailing me.

Today I don’t have to think about the look on the face of the person about to sit next to me on a plane.

Today I don’t have to think about eyes going to my chest first.

Click on Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today to read the whole thing.

Click on Whatever for Scalzi’s home page.