William Lane Craig’s blather about Ryan Bell

So I was thinking about what William Lane Craig (I know, I know) had to say about Ryan Bell and the his “year without God”. Spoiler alert: Ryan Bell now identifies as an atheist and we’re quite happy to have him. Shortly after Bell originally announced his experiment about a year ago, Craig had this drivel:

Oh, I think it is disastrous spiritually. But I wonder how he is going to live? A couple weeks ago we did a podcast on exploring the real consequences of an atheistic worldview and that, on atheism, things like civility, politeness, moral values, treating others honorable, marital fidelity are all illusions of human consciousness fogged onto us by the evolutionary process and social conditioning. I wonder what is Bell going to do? Is he going to also during this year quit working for peace and justice? Is he going to now no longer be concerned about the treatment of women – those issues that got him into trouble with his church? Just what does he think the consequences of atheism really are? Which ones is he going to try on? If he really comes to accept the view that atheism leads to the kind of moral nihilism that our other friend did, Bell is going to really have a disastrous year.

But let’s unpack this.

Oh, I think it is disastrous spiritually.

Oh of course! Honest and open inquiry is just no good at all. I’m confused though. We keep hearing about how obvious it is that a god exists, and that Christianity is obviously true. So why should this sort of thing be a problem? Why are the concepts of god and Christianity so frail as to fall apart given simple and honest questioning?

A couple weeks ago we did a podcast on exploring the real consequences of an atheistic worldview and that, on atheism, things like civility, politeness, moral values, treating others honorable, marital fidelity are all illusions of human consciousness fogged onto us by the evolutionary process and social conditioning.

I’m constantly amazed that apologists and their kind seem so intent on telling atheists what we should believe. Not only is it insulting, it’s just plain wrong, and it makes him look incredibly ignorant.

I wonder what is Bell going to do? Is he going to also during this year quit working for peace and justice? Is he going to now no longer be concerned about the treatment of women – those issues that got him into trouble with his church?

Now here’s where the mega-eye-roll starts, and this is sort of my main point. Among former believers who are now atheists, I know of no one who fits what Craig is saying. I know of no one who decided to care less about social justice after deconverting. Most former believers I’ve talked to care far more about those issues now (myself included). Realizing that we’re on our own, and have a responsibility for each other, and that there’s no sky daddy watching out for us, is a big realization.

Many atheists actually have a far better sense of social justice that includes, oh you know, LGBT rights and equality.

And is he actually serious about the treatment of women? That seems like a very poor choice for an example, given what the Bible has to say about treatment of women. I think we’ll stick with our non-biblical treatment of women as equal human beings, not property. I’d go into it but wow would this be a long article. But let’s see… here’s a short version and a long version.

Just what does he think the consequences of atheism really are? Which ones is he going to try on? If he really comes to accept the view that atheism leads to the kind of moral nihilism that our other friend did, Bell is going to really have a disastrous year.

And we come full circle, back to the appeal to consequence. This is such a ridiculous and fallacious argument. Even if it were true that atheism leads to moral nihilism and utter despair and kicking puppies, that doesn’t mean a god exists. Why Craig constantly insists on this argument is just baffling. It’s literally logic 101.

Now, a couple things. Yes, I realize that there are atheists who are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people. I don’t personally know any, but yes, they exist. There are people who think that atheism means they can do whatever they want and that nothing matters. Again though, that doesn’t mean a god exists. Those people are wrong, and if they harm others, we can correctly take action against them.

I also realize my tone toward Craig may be a little aggressive in this article, but wilful ignorance just really bothers me. I know some other atheists will disagree with me here, but William Lane Craig is a very intelligent man. I know it’s popular to talk about what a blithering idiot he is, but it’s simply not true. He’s very intelligent and accomplished, but that makes it all the more frustrating that he uses such obviously wrong arguments, and that he continues to use them after being told why they are wrong, based on facts and/or logic.

All in all, I think Ryan Bell had a pretty good year. I saw no disaster.

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“Erotic Liberty vs Religious Liberty”

“Erotic liberty vs religious liberty” is the new buzzphrase for bigots who want to attack LGBT people and deny equal rights to others, all based on religious beliefs.

The implication of “erotic liberty” is that those damn dirty gay people just want to get off at the expense of the “religious liberty” of devout Christians trying to stand up for Jesus. Christians who, bafflingly, seem intent on fighting tooth and nail to deny equal rights to a group of people over something that doesn’t even effect them. That’s called bigotry.

It’s hard to conceive of a more ignorant and bigoted phrase. It should hardly need to be said, but the fight for LGBT equality is not about eroticism. It’s about marriage. It’s about equal rights and equal treatment and protections under the law. It’s about all kinds of things, but eroticism isn’t really one of them. That’s what opponents of equal rights don’t understand. That’s what they refuse to understand.

But if they insist on the term “erotic liberty”, then the fact is that LGBT people want the same “erotic liberty” as everyone else. That’s where this new buzzphrase really fails. It doesn’t even say anything new. It’s still Christians trying to deny LGBT people the same rights that everyone else has. So we’re back to square one, and that square is equality. If they want to deny equal rights to a group of people, that’s still called bigotry.

The phrase appears to have originated with Albert Mohler, who is no stranger to saying ridiculous things. I’ve been told Mohler is one of the “brightest mind[s] in evangelical Christianity”, and that “leading secularists would have to recognize Dr. Mohler has one of the brightest minds in our country”. Oh boy, I don’t think so. From everything I have read from him in regards to LGBT people, contraception, atheists, and even yoga (among plenty of other issues) that he thinks are a problem for Christians, his arguments are painfully bad. I’m no expert. I don’t have a doctorate in anything. I’m a very amateur philosopher, and I found it comically simple to pick his arguments apart on just about any issue.

People like Mohler want to force LGBT people back into the closet. They want to turn back the clock to when LGBT people were treated like freaks and weirdos and second-class citizens. They want LGBT people to think of themselves as broken and sinful. Nevermind the depression. Nevermind the suicide. Nevermind the bullying when people think LGBT people are sick. Nevermind the cognitive dissonance of LGBT people trying to reconcile their natural orientation with what they’re told they should be. They don’t care about any of that. I know Christians don’t like this label, but too bad. Yet again, that’s called bigotry.

The upside to all of this is that the tide is against those who would use such rhetoric to push their bigoted views. Love is winning over hate. More and more people are coming to realize that everyone deserves equal rights. Marriage equality is advancing state by state. It’s not fast enough, but it’s happening.

But the really good news is that, despite all their stamping of their feet and hysterical shrieks of persecution, we don’t have to care what religious people think of all this. The separation of church and state, clearly defined in the US Constitution, says that we don’t make laws based on any religion. Unfortunately not everyone gets this, but that’s too bad for them. As with other civil rights movements, we shall overcome.

10 Questions For Every Atheist

Well here we go again.  Another Christian website has come out with an oh-so-scary list of 10 Question For Every Atheist.  The list is actually ripped off from an atheist blogger, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that he DID answer them in his article.  They didn’t mention that, but only linked his original article at the bottom of their post.  I almost didn’t see it.

Ironically, the list as presented on todaychristian.net is preceded by “Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…”  The key word here is “honestly”.  Unfortunately they have demonstrated that they have little interest in honesty.

But off we go with their questions.

1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?

Finally understood the burden of proof, and realized no religion has any proof.

2.       What happens when we die?

We go back to what we were before we were alive: nothing.

3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

Oh look, Pascal’s Wager. Never heard this one before.

I’m guessing I probably won’t have much say at that point. Due the question being asked by Christians, I’m guessing they are assuming their version of the afterlife according to the Bible is the right one. In that case it seems that I’ll be unfairly judged as to whether or not I was gullible enough to buy into nonsense that has no evidence.

A question in return though: what if you die and it turns out out the Muslims were right, or the Jews, or the Hindus, or another of the thousands upon thousands of religions?

There are numerous other reasons why Pascal’s Wager fails, but I think that’s enough for now.

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?

The same place we all get it from: the evolution of our species into a social group that is better adapted to survival by cooperation, based on an understanding of the nature of reality, that our actions effect others, and a sense of empathy. All of this is a result of evolution.

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

No, and if you need a god to tell you that, you’re broken. See explanation in #4. You’re less likely to want to cooperate with somebody if you think they’re likely to kill or rape you, which means they’re less well adapted to survive and pass on their genes.

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

It has whatever meaning I choose to give it, which is far better than an arbitrarily assigned meaning.

7.       Where did the universe come from?

Big Bang.

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

What miracles? Name one that can be objectively verified. How do you even define a miracle?

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

Great people with great ideas, from whom I’ve learned a lot. I agree with most of their ideas but not 100%.

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

While most societies do have some sort of religion, not all do or have. Religions seem to originate in order to explain things we don’t understand or cope with things that are scary.

Now, the questions that they’ve ripped off from an atheist blogger have been answered YET AGAIN, and are being answered by atheists all over Facebook now.  I get that they don’t LIKE the answers, but the questions have been answered ad nauseam, despite the claim that they can’t be.  I wonder if they’ll stop using the questions now?

Heretics go to church: Riverpark Bible Church

So today we went to church.  It’s been a while, for obvious reasons (we’re atheists).  We’ve decided to start going from time to time, for a number of reasons.  First, we’re interested in what people believe and why, and we want to keep up with the current state of religion.  One of the best ways to do this is to go to church.  It’s partly just for entertainment, and it’s also harder for Christians to criticize us for being closed mined if we’re going to church.  And who knows, we may learn something new.

Our basic rules for ourselves are that we will dress appropriately and be respectful.  We aren’t trying to be disruptive or stand out.  We’re going to their house.  We will blend in as best we can, shake hands, etc, but if asked questions regarding our beliefs we will be honest.  We will sit in the service, stand when appropriate, and be respectful for prayer or whatever else.  We won’t participate in prayer; that would be dishonest of us.

So for our first church service since deconverting a little over a year and a half ago, we chose Riverpark Bible Church, a member of the Conservative Baptist Association of America.  No special reason; the church is near our house, it’s a good time in the morning, and Baptist is kind of middle of the road for Christianity.

We attended service at 10:30 am, Sunday the 29th of June, 2014.  We’ve driven by this church a million times, but hadn’t realized how big it was.  It’s a nice modern facility.  We went in and did the usual awkward hand shaking that visitors do, got our bulletins, and found a seat in the back.  Interestingly, nobody really tried to engage us.  I suppose it’s because it’s a large-ish church and nobody really knows who the visitors are.

The music was good.  They had a small orchestra and a choir, lead by a director.  The choir robes were maybe a little outdated, but it’s church, so what do you expect?  I would have killed for a setup like that when I was involved in church.  The usual song service went on, interspersed with offering and announcements.  The presentation was well planned and slick.

One of the announcements was about a “matter of church discipline” to be part of the evening service tonight.  That concept always seemed bizarre to me in today’s world, and I’m tempted to go see what that’s all about, but one church service is enough today.


 

Sermon summary

The sermon was titled “Fireproofing”, based on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (KJV):

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

1 Corinthians was written by Paul as a letter to the church at Corinth, which he had founded, and was going astray.  The particular verse is a metaphor talking about how Jesus is the foundation of the church.  The pastor made a point that many churches are departing from Jesus as the foundation, in favor of a fluffier message for today’s society.

I always find it curious when Christians pick on each other.  They essentially all say “we have it right and if you’re not doing it our way you’re wrong”.  The point was that as long as Jesus is the foundation, then whatever else is built on that is okay, but then he still went on to say that others were doing it wrong.  Other churches are church in name only, but we’re going it right.

The metaphor continues with the selection of building materials.  Among the selections are “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble [or straw in the NIV]”.  Then the day will come when the building will be tested by fire.

Despite the impracticality of building an actual building with gold, silver, and/or precious stones, and the contrast of using obscenely expensive materials with the poverty message elsewhere in the Bible, the point stands.  Quality materials will survive and inferior ones will not.  Okay, so now what?

The inferior building materials were compared to “education, grades, a good job, and the American dream”.  The point wasn’t that those things are bad, but that the emphasis should be on following Jesus.  As an atheist I obviously think it insane to put priority on the feelings of an imaginary being that can’t be proven, over quality of life (for ourselves and others) for the one life we do know we have, but if you buy into Christianity I suppose this is valid.  So build with the superior materials of glorying Jesus above all.

Okay, so far so good with regard to Christianity and the message of the Bible.  Then it took a truly bizarre turn.

There are a number of verses in the Bible referring to the judgement seat of Christ.  Without going too much into it (because this is already more of a Bible study than I meant to do), there seems to be consensus that the judgement seat is for Christians only.  I guess the rest of us will be dead already (the modern concept of hell is not from the Bible).  So now Christians will be judged.

The assertion in the sermon was that everyone who has made it that far is already saved and will spend an eternity in heaven.  So what’s the judgement?  It’s not how bad you were, but how good you weren’t.  Yes, I’m confused too.  Apparently those who did really really good things (and the right kind of really really good things) will get great rewards.  Those who weren’t as good will get the cheap seats, or as the pastor put it (and he did say this was just his opinion) they will suffer embarrassment.

The problem is that there isn’t supposed to be suffering in heaven.  If some get better rewards, then those who don’t would be in a lower position.  What is the point of better rewards?  To elevate those who receive them.  If some are elevated, others are lowered by comparison.  Those who are lowered will suffer to some degree by being in a lower position.  If there is no meaningful difference between different positions, then there is no point.

Verse 15 says the builder will suffer loss but still be saved.  But there cannot be suffering in heaven.  Revelation 21:4 (KJV):

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

If there can be no sorrow or crying or pain, then there can be no “suffering loss”.

So for those who have asked why we are going to church, this is one of the major reasons.  Our first time out and we discovered a major contradiction that we weren’t aware of before.

But it was a good experience.  We learned something new, had a great discussion after, and just had fun.  Hit the “follow” button to get updates on our adventures, and other articles.

Bulletin - Riverpark Bible Church

Criticizing science

It seems like a lot of Christians love to criticize any science that conflicts with their interpretation of the Bible.  There’s a problem with that though.

Most of us are not equipped to have a proper in-depth understanding of scientific concepts.  When it comes to subjects such as nuclear physics, neuroscience, evolution, or cosmology, we can have an understanding of the basic concepts, but when it comes to a comprehensive understanding, the professional opinions of those who are qualified to hold them are what actually matter.  The rest of us can have discussions on the findings and opinions of qualified professionals, and even bring up questions or objections, but again, we should defer to those who are qualified.

Creationists try to circumvent this by attacking the scientists and their “worldview”, their “bias”, or their “presuppositions”.  They attack rather than simply proving their god assertion and they don’t listen when told why these attacks are wrong.  If they could prove any of their claims then they simply would.  If they had evidence then they could just show it to everyone and we’d all believe, except we wouldn’t call it belief, we’d call it knowledge.

Most are just intellectual vandals, chucking rocks at hard won scientific knowledge.  They don’t contribute anything; they just yell “nuh-uh” and run away with their fingers in their ears so they don’t hear why their criticisms are wrong.  Some try to argue or debate, but when their arguments don’t work, they either keep yelling “nuh-uh” endlessly, or move on to their next canned argument that’s already been disproven, unfazed that their trail of previous arguments didn’t work.  Some try to play at science, but find themselves at odds with the vast majority in their field.

When it comes to evolution or the Big Bang, the “scientific dissenters” are not the rebels who will turn out to be right.  Creationists had their time.  Human beings have believed in gods and the supernatural since we began to be able to form ideas.  I think we could say that almost everyone who has ever lived used to believe in creation in some form or another.  Now we know better.  Science has shown all those myths to be incorrect.

We could just point and laugh but the problem is that they influence other people who are ill equipped to understand why the good Christian scientists telling them what they want to hear are wrong.  Confirmation bias meets persecution complex, so naturally the revolutionary ideas are being suppressed.  More than just ill equipped, most don’t WANT to hear why they might be wrong.  Most think it’s preferable if their god exists so it must be true and they’ll listen to whoever agrees.

So if you have an objection to science, go find some evidence for your objection or come up with an alternate hypothesis and then prove it.  You can participate in the process, but you better know what you are talking about if you want to be taken seriously.  Hell, one of Stephen Hawking’s theories was proven wrong by Leonard Susskind, originally a plumber from New York. But Susskind did actual scientific work.

Albert Mohler on the Bill Nye vs Ken Ham “debate”

I’m unfortunate enough to be related (by marriage, lol) to somebody who is just in love with Albert Mohler.  Well, by “in love” I certainly don’t mean in a gay way, because he’s all kind of against anything LGBTQ, but… well you get me.  Supposedly Mohler is one of the brightest minds in the US and even leading secularists respect and admire him.  Um… I haven’t been able to find anything to support that assertion, and his articles certainly don’t support it.

Mohler felt the need to weigh in on last night’s “debate” between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Well, let’s be honest here: it was really a fund raiser and a desperate attempt to resurrect (ha) the failing Creation “Museum”, which will probably succeed, at least in the short term. Anyway, here’s a link to Mohler’s article, followed by my response:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/02/05/bill-nyes-reasonable-man-the-central-worldview-clash-of-the-ham-nye-debate/

Ken Ham’s creationism is indeed a very narrow and literal interpretation of the Biblical account, and is rejected by all but the most fundamentalist Christians.

Ken Ham basically stood and preached for the entire debate, while Bill brought the fact train. One example was how we measure the distance to different stars. The method is actually very simple and uses basic geometry. Ken’s response was essentially “nuh-uh”. We know that there are stars that we can see that are further away than 6000 light years (including many that are millions and billions). We have no reason to think that the fundamental laws of the universe have changed, so unless we ever find such evidence, the idea that the universe is 6000 years old is done. Game over.

We don’t need to “defend” wild assertions that have no basis in fact. I think, as it appears Bill also thinks, stating facts that can be backed up by evidence is sufficient.

As Bill pointed out, creationists use the term “historical science” in a way that no other scientists do, and they do it to muddy the waters because their claims have been shown to be wrong, so they resort to word games and redefining terms.

But again, when cornered, creationists resort to attacking reality itself. Suddenly we can’t know anything at all, and have no “intellectual authority” without a god.

Bill did indeed answer honestly when there were questions to which we don’t have solid answers. This is what intellectually honest people do. We don’t just assert things as fact that are (to borrow from AronRa) either not evidently true, or evidently NOT true. Even if you believe the Bible, you should probably go find evidence to support it. As I’ve said many times before, and as Bill Nye said, we would be happy to change our thinking given evidence.

But Ken Ham’s answers were indeed telling. He repeatedly rejects reality where it conflicts with his interpretation of the Bible. This is mind-boggling and intellectually dishonest.

Near the end of the article: “Nye seems to believe that he is genuinely open to any and all new information, but it is clear that his ultimate intellectual authority is the prevailing scientific consensus”.

This is just plain wrong. It’s not “the prevailing scientific consensus”. It’s evidence. Now yes, given evidence then scientific consensus will follow, but that is because of the evidence, not because everybody else thinks some particular thing. We do have great confidence in science and reason and evidence because they have been shown to work.

Then Mohler missed the point of Bill’s illustration of billions believing in something other that Ken Ham’s hyper-literal interpretation of the Biblical creation story. The point was that people like Ham want everybody to believe that it is impossible to believe in a god while accepting evolution. That’s not correct. Many, many, many people manage to understand and accept evolution, and still believe in a god. That was the point.

Then we come to more attacks on reality and reason itself. Suddenly we can’t be reasonable without a god. Apparently we can’t count on evidence. I would ask how, then, we would be able to reasonably conclude that the Bible is true if we can’t use reason? Seems self-defeating to me.

The central issue last night was exactly about facts like the age of the Earth and sediment layers and and fossils, but creationists WANT it to be about something else, because then they can act like it’s just a “clash of worldviews” so we’re on equal footing. Well, I suppose when your worldview involves denying reality that can be demonstrated with evidence, then maybe Mohler does have a point.

As a funny side note, Ken Ham is too crazy even for Pat Robertson.  When you’re too crazy for Pat Robertson, you got problems:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01AWJ4BWxME

Wanting to believe more than wanting to know

When talking with religious folk, I’ve come to realize there is one important question to ask at the outset.

“Is there anything that anyone could show you that would make you not believe in god?” I realize we’re not out to DISPROVE god, though there are convincing arguments for that, but that’s not the point. However, if the answer is no, then we’re done. There is no point in continuing. You want to believe more than you want to know. Science has shown, to everyone except those who bury their heads in the sand, how we very likely got from the nothing before the universe began to where we are now with just natural processes, no god required. If you refuse to see that, well too bad for you, but the theories and the data are all there for anyone to look at.

Some people would rather deny any science that conflicts with their beliefs than entertain even the possibility that they could be wrong about what they believe.

This vast conspiracy of science to destroy god is laughable… or it would be if there weren’t people who actually believe it and tell others to believe it. Scientists work through a process called peer review. They submit research to journals for their peers (other scientists in the same field) to review. And by review I mean attack it ferociously, trying to tearing it apart and show where it is wrong. If the peers fail to do this, then the research is considered to be valid and is one step closer to becoming a theory, or is reinforced as a theory, or whatever. This is how we come to knowledge.

Does religion do this? Hardly. Religion does the opposite. Religion tells us there are things we can’t question. Religion tells us to be satisfied with half answers, or non answers, or to take it on faith. Faith? There is literally no worse way to arrive at any kind of reliable understanding of reality than faith.

Hebrews 11:1 in the King James Bible says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (though in the Bible, the word ‘evidence’ clearly has a much looser meaning).

God is not a theory. God is not even a hypothesis. A hypothesis needs to be falsifiable. But there is no test for god, and no evidence either. Most of the time when people talk about god, it is so poorly defined that it is not even a coherent statement.

If some god exists, and if it is the god of the Bible, with all the qualities and attributes ascribed to god (though that makes him not a good god, but we’ll skip that for now and pretend, for the sake of argument, that Bible god is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent), and this god wants people to know he exists so we can all worship him and go to heaven, then he’s done a piss-poor job so far of providing evidence for rational people to be able to believe he exists. At this point in time I think it is unlikely in the extreme that Bible god would suddenly provide absolute objective evidence that he exists after going so long not providing it, given the claim that god loves us all and wants us to go to heaven.

I can’t think of what would convince me that some god exists, but here’s the difference between me and “unshakable faith” Christians. I acknowledge that I could be wrong.  I acknowledge that if Bible god exists, and if he wants me to know that he exists (as Christians claim), he would know what would convince me. So far I’ve seen nothing, which indicates either that that god does not exist, or that he doesn’t want me to know that he exists. And if he does indeed exist, why has he gone all this time in complete silence, letting rational, open-minded, freethinking people live and die without providing evidence which we would accept if presented with? We’re not out to deny things that are supported by evidence, we don’t see any.

And no, subjective evidence is not evidence. Actual evidence is objective. It can be shown to anyone who has a rational mind, and that person would then weigh the evidence and perhaps alter their views. To claim that god has shown you subjective evidence (but apparently not me) is not only the height of narcissism, arrogance, and grandiosity, but it would also mean that your god is not a very good god since it has given you the evidence, but not me, and not countless others who have died without it. If there is actual evidence, then show that evidence.

But again, some people want to believe more than they want to know.  Some people value their fantasy more than knowing things.