Forgotten Realms: Modern

One of these days, I intend to run a Forgotten Realms: Modern campaign, which is set in 2010s DR, more than five hundred years after all the events of the setting we’ve seen thus far.

Nations like Cormyr, Thay, Luruar, and the Sword Coast States exist in a constant detente–a delicate balance of power, much like our own world and the FR we all know and love.

Magic mostly exists these days as fuel for transit and basic life support (heating homes, growing food, etc., like how we use oil in our modern world). There are plenty of people who claim to be wizards, but most “magic” wielded by people comes in the form of limited use items or sleight of hand. Most adventurers are martial types, though there are still monastic traditions.

The gods are by-and-large absent, outside of some odd cults that believe in ancient stories. There are several world religions, which all worship a female divine figure who has various names, but she tends to be pretty similar in the various religions.

The folk have, by and large, forgotten the realms of wonder . . . until a young woman with raven hair manifests silver-white fire from her hands, and magic returns to the Realms.

You in?

Rise to This – Jan 2017

So we’re less than 12 hours from the inauguration of the worst president in American history, and here’s the thing.

It’s not about him. I don’t hate Trump. I pity him. Same for those who support him–and particularly those he will pay back with pain and suffering. Yes, all 60 million of you. But don’t take my word for it. You’ll see soon enough.
And the only people in government who will be fighting to help you? The democrats–assuming they get their act together.

A lot of people out there saying “you’re just whining because we won, liberals!” But the fact of the matter is, there is no “we.” Trump won by suckering you, and if you aren’t one of his cronies or a millionaire, you lost. And again, you’ll see what I mean.

(You voted against your own children. That, I’ll never understand. Sigh.)

I’m neither whining nor liberal. This is the man our screwed up electoral system picked. Despite his many cries of it being rigged against him, the system elected him. It shouldn’t have, but it is what it is.

It’s not about Trump. 

It’s about us.

Now is the time to rise up and protect ourselves and those less fortunate than ourselves. Trump is coming for our rights, our economy, our non-white, non-male, non-rich, non-straight, disabled, and/or minority neighbors. If we can protect them, we have the responsibility to do so. Not just the ability or privilege, but the responsibility.

Because with power comes responsibility.

We have a duty to rise to this.

The world sucks sometimes, and that’s when we need to rise to the challenge. 

And for those who listen but don’t hear me–because you think it’s ok, or Trump will help you, or that you won something–well, you’ll see soon enough. And when you’re ready to join us in resisting this tyrant con man and his posse of thieves and rapists, then you will be welcome.

And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’ll all work out for the best and my fears are entirely unfounded, despite everything Trump has said and done throughout his life. And really, I hope I am. But until I’m proved wrong, I will stand vigilant and I will protect my rights and those of my neighbors. Because I’m an American and that’s what Americans do.

To all, stand up, keep moving, protect yourself and your rights. Don’t give up.

Rise to this.

Existential Morality: No God Required

A little bit of religious philosophy for your Monday.

Often, I come across the argument, advanced by theists (i.e. people who believe in one or more divine beings, usually in an American context we’re talking about Christians), that morality is somehow contingent upon the existence of God. Basically, if God doesn’t exist, then there’s no reason to be good–in fact, “good” and “evil” aren’t even real things!

Let’s give this some simple examination.

Theistic Moral Argument:

“God has to exist, because if God doesn’t exist, then we have no standard for morality! It’s all down to individual preference, and what’s to stop people from indulging their base impulses? If someone’s attracted to a child, why wouldn’t they act on those urges? What’s to stop people from murdering each other?”

The logical response:

So let me get this straight: are you saying that if you ever determined that God doesn’t exist, you would become a murdering, raping psychopath?

Because I wouldn’t.

And while that might not be what you’re saying, that’s what the above theistic moral argument entails: that without God, there is no standard of morality.

And that’s just not true.

It’s a logical fallacy called “begging the question” (i.e. assumes as a premise what it’s trying to prove). It assumes that God is the only source of morality in human experience.

And that’s a pretty empty way to look at the universe.

My morality doesn’t require the existence of a divine being to hand it down to me.

So where does non-religious morality come from?

Logic and reason are more than enough to figure out morality, and my morality starts with this:

Do no harm. Ask for consent. Respect others’ autonomy and basic humanity. Do good.

I think we can all agree that these are pretty standard moral principles. Does one really need them printed in a holy book?

How did the Greeks, for instance, establish morality? They’d never heard of the Christian God (predated its very conception, in fact), and their own concept of divinity was hardly morally perfect. They believed in deities that were great and powerful but also venal and fallible.

And yet they had concepts of justice and goodness vs. cowardice and evil.
And how are there good people in the world who don’t believe in God? Or people in the world who DO believe in God but still do evil things?

Thinking that a divine being must be the source of morality–or worse, a *particular* divine being–is a foolishly reductive argument. It’s also dangerous, because if you build no solid moral system for yourself, then when you have a crisis of faith (and we all do), then you will have no guiding principles.

Tying morality to religious doctrine is a recipe for societal ruin.

My Personal Context

And to clarify: I was raised in the United Methodist church and currently identify as a Christian agnostic.

Not because I’m not sure whether God exists, but because it’s ultimately not relevant.

One should live a good life, being good to others and doing right by humanity, whether God exists or not.

One shouldn’t do good things out of the hope of a reward (that’s a hollow, selfish reason to do good) or avoid doing evil things out of fear of punishment (that’s a hollow, selfish reason to avoid doing evil).

One should do good things and avoid doing evil things because it’s the right thing to do, because the world becomes a better place for all when we do good and avoid evil.

What if I’m wrong?

So what if I’m wrong, and there is indeed a god who disapproves of the way I live my life, and I end up condemned to some eternal torment?

Note that this god 1) refused to clarify exactly how to live in accordance with divine will, so as to avoid eternal torment (seriously, there are thousands of options out there—a loving god couldn’t have pointed out the right one, if it was that big a deal?), 2) continued to allow humans to live in constant fear and anxiety about existence, 3) throws people into hell because they didn’t do what they didn’t know to do.

I don’t know about you, but I’d define that god as an evil god—which is pretty far from any reasonable conception I might have—or at least as a vapid, ineffectual deity at best. A bad, alcoholic parent, who inflicts a radically elevated punishment for comparatively small slights you didn’t even realize were bad. Hardly a deity worthy of worship.

And, here’s the thing. I still lived a good life, doing good to people and to the world. If a god is going to condemn me for that—especially after not telling me the right way to do things—then there was no realistic way I could have avoided my fate. If I’m doomed anyway, then at least I did something good and useful with my life.


Further reading:

Rise to This: 2017

Last year was an awful year.

This? This is a new year.

It’s yours. Make the most of it.

Create. Absorb. Learn. Adapt.

Strive. Struggle. Achieve. Fail.

Examine your faults and your perceptions and your preconceived notions.

Fix your shit.

Get knocked down. Feel the earth beneath you. Then get back up.

Seize this year by its horns and refuse to go quietly.

Rise to this challenge.

Be safe and stay the true course.

Do what is right.

Rise to this.