27 October 2014

Why you will never win an argument with a Christian apologist

Somewhat randomly (by way of a Facebook conversation) I stumbled across an old post on Common Sense Atheism, the archives of which still make for great Sunday reading, in which Luke Muehlhauser took famed theologian (well... among people who know about theologians) William Lane Craig on his bizarre rationale for believing in Christianity: the "self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit".

I've always found it absurd, because simply believing that one can have a "self-authenticating" experience of the Holy Spirit requires that you already believe the propositions of Christianity to be true. Because obviously, if you are in the camp that believes the Holy Spirit to be imaginary, you can't well sincerely pray to and experience something that you don't think actually exists. This makes the foundation for Craig's faith the most atrocious example of circular reasoning since... well, since his rationale for believing in the Kalam, but that's a topic for another day.

In any case, I found this excerpt from Luke's post to be very much on the mark:

Christians do not believe in Jesus because of the ontological argument or the cosmological argument or the teleological argument. They believe in Jesus because they were raised that way, or because Christian faith filled a need in their life, or because they had a weird experience that they interpreted as God, or because they just felt God must be real. All these complicated philosophical arguments are just post hoc justification: Christians found their conclusion first, and then looked for justification, content to find whatever seemed to support their cherished personal beliefs. (This process is a nearly unavoidable fact of human psychology called confirmation bias, not exclusive to theists.)
Many theists defend certain arguments for God, but they do not pretend that these arguments are why they believe Christian doctrines. Nor do they pretend certain arguments are why they “know” Christian doctrines to be true.

That, to me, marks a stark and critical distinction between believers and skeptics. I am an atheist precisely because of the arguments. I've heard just about every apologetic argument out there, often in a variety of forms, and found them all equally obtuse and unpersuasive. Yet, as implausible as it might be, I'm at least in principle open to the idea that I could be persuaded that a god or gods exist, or even that one religion or other is true, given the right evidence or argument. That's the nice thing about an evidence-based worldview: what you believe is contingent on evidence.

But for Craig and many others like him, the arguments of theological academia exist only as a convoluted rationale for pre-existing assumptions, like an engineer writing a complex and technical essay espousing the rigidity of a house of cards. And that's the problem: you can't get from here to there. You can't go from the null hypothesis to "God exists" or "Christianity is true". Perhaps that's why believers seem more preoccupied with conjuring up rationales to defend their beliefs as rationally justifiable — Plantinga's sensus divinitus, Craig's self-authenticating Holy Spirit, Rauser's properly-basic testimony — instead of articulating why anyone should adopt the assumptions of theism, and Christianity, in the first place.

I'm reminded of another great (as in terrible) article from William Lane Craig in which he tried to deflect criticism of the Kalam as follows:
You could also do a thought experiment. Ask [atheists] why one timeless entity—say, a number—could not depend timelessly for its existence on another timeless entity. Why is that impossible? Why couldn't God timelessly sustain a number in existence? That would clearly be an asymmetric causal relation. Why is that impossible?
And
[If] simultaneous causation is possible, I see no reason to think timeless causation is impossible
Yeah! Why is this convoluted and ambiguous concept I believe in impossible? Do you atheists think you know everything? Can you provide defeaters for my preconceived assumptions?

Apparently lost on theists is the fact that defending an assumption that is already held is not that same as demonstrating that it is true. Sure, I doubt anyone could demonstrate that God could not possibly "timelessly sustain a number in existence" — not withstanding the conceptual ambiguity inherent to such a claim (what is "timeless sustaining"?) — or that "timeless causality" is impossible, again notwithstanding its inherent conceptual ambiguity. But so the hell what? An atheist or skeptic's job is not to demonstrate that a theist's propositions cannot possibly be true. We simply have to show that their arguments do not demonstrate them to be true.

It's like someone claiming that substance dualism cannot be proved false. They're right! Substance dualism cannot, under any circumstances, be shown to be false. That's because it rests upon foundational assumptions that are inherently unfalsifiable. Whatever a 'spiritual substance' is, it's not empirically detectable, and the theory of substance dualism cannot make any testable predictions about the behavior of the human mind. Instead, it's a bit of cute speculation that rides the coattails of scientific inquiry. Scientists have working models of consciousness and the brain that make no use of supernatural assumptions at all, and these have illuminated far more about the mind than dualism ever has (which is to say, nothing). Yet certain people (many of them theists who believe in an afterlife) cling to substance dualism by citing gaps in scientific knowledge (the old argument from ignorance) and proudly claiming that dualism hasn't been shown to be false.

Looking back on my countless debates with Christians, a consistent theme I come across is how quickly they shift the goalposts: first asserting that they can show, either logically or evidentially, that God exists; then, upon their propositions being exposed as dubious, retreat to the old You can't show it's false defense. They seem to miss the critical middle ground between True and False: Unsupported.

Someone like David Fitzgerald, who thinks Jesus was not a historical person, does not need to conclusively prove that Jesus did not or could not possibly have existed; he only need show that the evidence for a historical Jesus is weak enough to justify rational skepticism. If I'm debating an essentialist who claims that 'essence' is a real ontological property of things, I don't need to categorically prove it to be non-existent; I only need show that the concept of 'essence' rests on conceptual ambiguities and dubious philosophical assumptions, and therefore a skeptic has no rational obligation to take it seriously. 

And there's the rub: I once mentioned what I called the rational agnostic, and challenged Christians to place themselves in his or her shoes. Because that's where we all ought to start: from as blank a slate as we possibly can. Is the natural world all there is? I don't know, but I've never found a reason to take supernatural claims about the world seriously. Does a god or gods exist? Possibly, but I've yet to hear a concept of God that doesn't rest on semantic ambiguity, much less one which can demonstrate that God has interacted or does interact with the world. I am, like most atheists these days, agnostic about many things — including the existence of a god or gods. Unfortunately, this distinction seems almost immediately lost on theists, who quickly resort to claiming that their arguments can't be demonstrated to be false. I doubt that's going to change any time soon because, as Luke Muehlhauser so concisely articulated, the arguments aren't the reason believers believe in the first place.


Also, remember how I'm not blogging? Okay, so I had some downtime today after some clients cancelled, and this was on my mind because the whole Facebook convo that sparked it. But hey, I'm getting married on Saturday and then going on a totally kickass honeymoon for a week, so I'll probably be on the dl for a while. Thee ya!



18 October 2014

Does Santa Claus exist?

I remember once when I was in a fairly heated debate with a Christian apologist, and when I made some comment regarding evidence, he retorted that I needed justify my belief in "evidentialism". It was one of those moments where my first thought was "are you f**king kidding me", even though I knew my response needed to be somewhat more measured. You'd never walk into a courtroom and declare that evidence need not be taken seriously until the prosecution establishes the validity of evidentialism or some kind of verificationism. And, as someone once said, if you told a Christian their spouse was having an affair, they'd certainly expect you to present some evidence; but tell them that God became his own father through a virgin birth and sacrificed himself to himself to save humans from his own punishment, and they seem to require no evidence at all.

Looking back on my debates with various apologists, a persistent source of frustration was that any conversation about evidence inevitably went down the rabbit hole of convoluted and obscure epistemological frameworks and their justification, like whether "testimony" can be considered a "properly basic belief" (it can't). There's a vast gulf between the way academic theologians (and the wannabes) think about everyday concepts and the way they think about God.

There's a book that illustrates how deeply convoluted this kind of thinking can be, and it's called Does Santa Exist? by Eric Kaplan. Think it's an open and shut case? Well, it's not — at least not from a philosophical point of view. Answering the question in any manner requires us to have some assumptions about epistemology and ontology, and we quickly find that arriving at what might seem like an intuitive answer is more complicated than it may first appear.

Whenever an apologist type rattles off the obscure philosophical justifications for their beliefs, I like to remind them that a simple litmus test is to simply substitute any other arbitrary belief for their religious one, then attempt to justify it using the same framework. Think a complex, philosophically nuanced case for the existence of Santa cannot be constructed from virtually identical epistemological frameworks as those used to 'prove' the existence of God? It can, and Kaplan — though the book isn't about God — gives us some clues as to why.

Kaplan makes use of some pretty clever marketing, with a choose-your-own-adventure style series of YouTube videos. So what do you think? Does Santa exist?




p.s. — Remember my last post? This is me not blogging. 




12 October 2014

I'm blogging again, but...

My comrade in blog, Bud Uzoras, has closed the door on his fabulous blog Dead Logic. I highly recommended keeping it bookmarked and just perusing the archives from time to time.

Bud hits on a note that resonates with me, though, when he says,
I've reached the point in which Dead-Logic is no longer what it once was for me. Like I said, I haven't figured out everything or answered all the questions, but I've laid the foundation upon which I now stand. This blog was my means of building that foundation.
When I started The A-Unicornist, it was just a way for me to organize my thoughts and work through difficult issues. Writing has always helped me in that way. It's grown to have its own little audience, and after five years, over 1000 posts and close to a million hits, I'm proud of how far it's come. But it's just not as important to me as it once was.

I almost got the urge to write recently when I read a piece by William Lane Craig in which he claimed that without God and eternal life, our life here is meaningless. I mean, believers (well... the more intellectually engaged ones) eat that stuff up, and I'd have a field day tearing it several new buttholes. But I just couldn't bring myself to care enough to spend the time writing the post.

I've spent who-knows-how-many hours debating believers on this blog and others, and it's just an endless morass. And while I see the value in healthy debate, it wears out its welcome fairly quickly as egos flair. I just don't have the interest in engaging in these discussions anymore. I'm an atheist. I'm about to marry the love of my life. I have a great house, fabulous kids (that is, a cat and a puppy), an amazingly fun and rewarding job, and spare time to play on my gaming PC and practice guitar. I'm living a charmed life, and I just don't care enough about what other people believe to continually open well-trodden discussions.

I'm not closing down The A-Unicornist. I was talking about it with Vanessa, and she said it right: "You may need it again". And indeed I may. I actually really enjoy talking about religion and philosophy. But there are only so many times we can tread the same ground, and I'd just rather spend my leisure time doing things I think are more fun than arguing with religious people.

I've actually been working more on my PC gaming blog, PC Gaming Are Yes! (named such for no particular reason). I love gaming, I love building PCs, and I love laughing at the console minions with their feeble PS4s and XBox Ones with my overclocked, graphics-crushing uber-rig. Plus it's Fall, which means lots of new games are coming out. Years ago I wrote for a video game webzine called GameCritics.com, and I really do miss writing about games. PC Gaming Are Yes! may never have much of an audience, but I don't care. It's still fun to write.

But oh yeah, The A-Unicornist. It's going into hibernation. I mean, it's already been that way for a bit, but now it's like, f'real. I don't know when, or even if, I'll fire it back up. I'm sure in time, like Vanessa said, I'll need it again. But for now, even though I'm not closing the door, I'm walking through it and letting the blog rest for a while. Thanks for reading and especially for commenting, and until next time... enjoy the archives.

06 October 2014

Gay marriage expands to 30 states, conservative religious assholes react with indignant anger

This isn't a news blog, so I'll just celebrate the Supreme Court's dismissal of gay marriage bans and the first same-sex marriage license in my hometown of Tulsa, OK, with this beautiful ad from Cheerios:




And you know you've won a big victory when conservatives who masquerade their bigotry as religious piety make statements like this one, issued by Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin:
"The people of Oklahoma have the right to determine how marriage is defined.  In 2004, Oklahomans exercised that right, voting by a margin of 3-1 to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"The will of the people has now been overridden by unelected federal justices, accountable to no one.  That is both undemocratic and a violation of states' rights.  Rather than allowing states to make their own policies that reflect the values and views of their residents, federal judges have inserted themselves into a state issue to pursue their own agendas.

"Today's decision has been cast by the media as a victory for gay rights.  What has been ignored, however, is the right of Oklahomans and Americans in every state, to write their own laws and govern themselves as they see fit.  Those rights have once again been trampled by an arrogant, out-of-control federal government that wants to substitute Oklahoma values with Washington, D.C. values."


And of course, there's this old classic:

30 September 2014

Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments

A religious conservative acquaintance of mine actually used this line on me today. Here's the actual quote, from a Facebook post in which I mentioned the deconversion of Rev Rob Ripley, the pastor of the largest Protestant church in Canada:


This is standard religious conservative boilerplate, and it always warrants a facepalm. The following things are not actually illegal to do:

1. Worship gods other than Yahweh
2. Make/worship idols
3. Say "Jesus fucking Christ"
4. Totally forget about the Sabbath
5. Treat your parents like crap
6. Lie (unless you're in court)
7. Cheat on your spouse
8. Want things you don't have


Basically the only commandments that are actual modern laws are our provisions against stealing and killing, both of which are necessary for any human society to function. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, if the Israelites thought murder, theft and perjury were permissible, they wouldn't have lasted long enough to make it to Mt Sinai. 

Also, I have to laugh at the Lee Strobel reference. One of my favorite blog posts here at The A-Unicornist (unfortunately it can't go in the forthcoming anthology, for formatting reasons) is my three-part review of the movie based on his book, The Case for Christ:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

20 September 2014

My grandmother died today

I last saw my grandmother in 2012. She was quite frail, spending some 16 hours a day sleeping and generally unable to even sit upright for long periods of time. While I was there she remarked to my aunt, "I don't know why the Lord hasn't taken me yet". When I got home I wrote a post about dignity in dying, entitled I wish my grandmother could die. Soon after, she was admitted to a nursing home, where she died last night at the age of 93. While I'm saddened that she's gone, I'm really just relieved that she's no longer suffering. And while she will certainly be missed, she lived a very long and happy life, and that much at least is something worth celebrating.

I was thinking again about the issue of dignity in death, after having heard about what my grandmother was going through. She'd recently had surgery after a pair of nurses broke her femur while they were turning her, and that's on top of the staff having found broken vertebrae when she was admitted to the home. She had to use a bedpan, and could not even sit upright for long periods of time without great fatigue and pain.

If most of us could see our last days coming, I'm confident that the overwhelming majority of us would choose to die on our own terms rather than to become dependent and bedridden. It's one of many reasons why I support assisted suicide — because we deserve the choice to die with dignity, without having nurses wipe our backsides for us and lift us into wheelchairs so we can eat. I don't want to speculate as to whether my grandmother would have chosen that, but I wish she could have at least had the choice.

My grandmother was also at peace with her end. When you live to be 93, it's safe to say that you will outlive many, if not all, of your peers. She had been a widow for nearly 30 years and watched many of her neighbors and friends pass away. Not everyone reaches the end of their lives with such grace, but my grandmother, knowing her body was failing her, had for some time accepted that her end was approaching and seemed prepared. But it was not to be – she lived on for several years more, her body continually growing weaker.

I imagine it must be greatly frustrating to lose your independence, to have to be lifted, bathed, wiped, and even turned in bed. But I imagine there's also guilt, because no one wants to be a burden to their families. Caring for an elderly person can be very stressful, and can exacerbate divides between siblings or forge new ones — all while 24-hour care, medication, tests and surgeries pile up medical expenses. I know my grandmother would not have wanted that could she have chosen.

My mother drove to Wisconsin to see my grandmother in August, when she turned 93. Frankly, I was glad I wasn't able to go. My grandmother was a vibrant, witty, opinionated, charming and loving woman, and that's how I want to remember her. The real tragedy is that in our culture that has an almost paralyzing fear of death, she had to spend her last days as a shadow of the woman she truly was. I wish the end could have come sooner, and spared her the suffering and indignity. I wish she could have chosen when to say goodbye. And I hope that if I'm fortunate to live a similarly long and charmed life, our culture will have evolved enough to allow me to spare my loved ones the pain of watching me wither away.

It should go without saying on atheist blog, but I hold no hope of seeing her again in some charmed hereafter, and that causes me no discomfort. I'm grateful to have known her and to have so many fond memories. I only wish she could have met Vanessa, or at least seen our engagement photos. I know it would have made her happy to see her grandson so hopelessly in love.

17 September 2014

Introducing... yours truly

I haven't had much time to write lately, and probably won't be able to do so for a little while — I'm getting married in just over six weeks, work is busy, there's a new puppy in the house... yeah. And as I'm prone to become periodically, I'm just burned out a bit and lacking inspiration for the topics I generally explore on this blog, and have even thought about closing the curtain on it. I think that'd be hasty, though — I'm sure my head will be clearer when I get back from the honeymoon.

Anyway, I wanted to do something different. You all know me as 'Mike D' or 'that guy who blogs at The A-Unicornist'. But I'm a pretty regular guy with a pretty regular life, and I thought I'd give you a peek into who I really am.

First of all, in case you missed it in the contact info, my last name is Doolittle. I work as a personal trainer, which I've been doing for ten years. I love it. I'm my own boss, make my own hours (to an extent, of course), and I'm fortunate to train some really dedicated, hard-working clients — some of whom have really turned their lives around. It's a fun, rewarding career and I'm really lucky to be where I am professionally.

Also, as I mentioned of course, I'm getting married. I met my fiance Vanessa at my previous personal training job. She came in for a one-off session on biomechanics, as she'd been doing some group classes and having some back pain in some of the exercises. We had chemistry right away, but I didn't figure I'd ever see her again. Later, I started doing a "stretch class" for free on Fridays, which she made a habit of attending. I wanted to ask her out, but didn't want to make the leap because she was a paying client. So naturally, when she came in one session and said it was her last day, I was pretty happy. The classes had a mediocre reception, but I had kept doing them because it was a chance to see her. Once we started dating she revealed that she kept coming to the classes because she'd have a chance to see me.

So here we are, a couple of years later, and we're getting hitched! We did our engagement photos recently, but in the absence of those hi-res and professional photos, here's one of us wearing goofy hats:


We live in a quiet neighborhood in Tulsa, where we have two 'kids' — one is my cat Alexi (named after the guitarist Alexi Laiho)....



 .....(and yes, that's what he does most of the time)... And our new addition to the family, a puppy we rescued and named Zelda:


We think she's a mix of Australian Shepherd, Blue Heeler, and Great Pyrenees. Aside from minor puppy-related annoyances (peeing in the wrong spot, gnawing on everything, and being super hyper 99% of the time), she's fantastic. She's very smart and well-behaved, and she and Alexi are good buddies already.

When I'm not writing, I'm usually playing guitar or gaming on my totally swanky console-crushing gaming PC. I do love to write though, and not just about religion. I spent nearly a decade as a writer for the gaming webzine GameCritics, and I've toyed with reviving my game-related writing with a blog I started last year called PC Gaming Are Yes!, which is called that for no reason whatsoever.  I also have an old blog called Moon Waffles (a Simpsons reference) and one related to my music interests called Demonic Art. But while I love to write, I'm terrible about writing. I think I've just lucked out to have a small but engaged readership here at The A-Unicornist, because truthfully I'd probably dedicate more time to one of my other blogs were it not for the fact that I really do enjoy the debates and discussions here.

Musically, I'm a pretty die-hard metalhead. My current obsession is the new album Titan from Septicflesh, but in general I listen to stuff like Opeth, Children of Bodom, Behemoth, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Dimmu Borgir, Scar Symmetry, and lots of instrumental stuff — Animals As Leaders, Paul Wardingham, Jeff Loomis, Andy James... lots of guitar wizardry, toward which I aspire as a player (but have a ways to go!). Here's a track off the new Septicflesh album to give you an idea of how beautifully dark and abrasive I like my music:



I'm also a major sci-fi nerd. On Netflix and Amazon Prime I pretty much just hop from one sci-fi show to another, which are mainly background noise while I practice guitar. I've watched every episode of every Star Trek series, BSG, Warehouse 13, Eureka, and lots of others. I'm currently binge-watching Stargate SG-1.

Oh, and I love to cook. Vanessa and I are both foodies. We eat at trendy restaurants not because we're hipsters, but because we just love trying new food. We cook often, and often cook together. 

So, that's me. This blog is fun, but my atheism is a microscopic part of who I am. Most of the time, I'm too busy enjoying life to worry about people like this:


But then, every once in a while, I feel like this:






And that's why this blog will probably be around for a long time to come, even if life gets in the way now and then.

05 September 2014

Thoughts on fidelity

Taking a much needed break from conversations about metaphysics, there's another topic on my brain of late as my wedding fast approaches: fidelity. And before you ask, no, I've never been even remotely unfaithful to my fiance; she's truly the love of my life.

But marriage is not something I want to do more than once. It's a commitment I hope will last us both a lifetime. And let's get real — monogamy takes a lot of work. I can speak with some experience on the matter because while I've personally never cheated on a girlfriend, I have been the 'other man' in a relationship before. I have first-hand understanding of what makes a marriage break, and how infidelity happens.

If there's any great lesson I learned from that relationship (which lasted roughly a year), it's that the worst mistake we can possibly make is to say to ourselves "I would never cheat. I love my spouse/partner too much. Cheating is something only dishonest people do, and I'm a good person". The reality, not unlike the Stanford prison experiment showed, is that you will do things that may seem unthinkable given the right set of circumstances. One of my clients spent most of his career in law as a public defender for murderers facing the death penalty, and I asked him once how many of his clients were bona fide psychopaths. His answer? Almost none. The vast majority, he said, are people who would never imagine themselves being capable of murder but, through a complex web of extraordinary circumstances, did something they thought they could never do. Going into my marriage, I think it's extremely important for me to acknowledge this fact rather than draw sharp lines between "moral Mike" and "those people", those unsavory people who have affairs. We're all human beings, and all capable doing things that at one time may have seemed unthinkable.

During the course of the aforementioned relationship, I read an interview with the woman (I forget her name) with whom the politician John Edwards had his career-ending affair. (Side note: odd that Edwards faced the end of his career by cheating on his cancer-stricken wife, while Newt Gingrich did the exact same thing and campaigned on "family values" in 2012). I remember reading the comments online and being struck at how much she was vilified, as though Edwards wasn't equally complicit. But in any case, she made an interesting comment — when asked what it felt like having broken Edwards' marriage, she said that affairs don't break marriages; the break happens before the affair.

And from my experience, I think she is right. The woman with whom I had a relationship described her marriage as cold, distant, and chronically lacking intimacy. They had sex only a few times a year, what some psychologists see fit to classify as a "sexless marriage". He prioritized his friends over her, spending nearly every night of the week with his buddies while she sat at home by herself. (Side note: there's nothing to have prevented her from kicking up her own social engagement, but nonetheless when you're married, your spouse comes before your friends.)

It got worse. When they were together, they had difficulty with even basic connections. She once told me, a few months into our relationship, that she had asked him to just look her in the eyes and tell her he loved her; he couldn't do it without awkwardly laughing. She felt that she had tried, to her wits end, to work things out with him. Eventually, she said, she just felt defeated. She resigned herself to an unhappy marriage, which is a pretty awful place to be.

I don't mean to say that I think this makes her infidelity okay; in my view, she should have had the courage to be honest with him about how deeply unhappy she was, and end the marriage if necessary rather than stringing each other along in a cold and distant relationship. But from her perspective, it was more complicated; she was very close to his family, and was afraid of the social repercussions of leaving him. Making matters worse, she'd been unfaithful for some time (I wasn't the first, and probably won't be the last) but felt she could never tell him because of how deeply it would hurt him. The thought of seeing him broken terrified her. Again, this doesn't say the infidelity was okay; it says that these types of situations are not the black and white scenarios we would imagine them to be and, pushed to extremes, we will do things that we wouldn't ordinarily think ourselves capable of. The early days of her marriage were as lovestruck and idyllic as any.

It's in our genes to need emotional and physical intimacy; when we enter into a marriage or even just a committed monogamous relationship, we are accepting responsibility for fulfilling that need for our partner. When one partner does not do their job, the other partner is likely to find that intimacy elsewhere. It doesn't matter if you're religious or not, or how good or faithful a person you think you are; we're all capable of cheating.

So, what can we do? I learned from that relationship that like the affair itself, the disconnect in a marriage comes slowly, in small steps. It starts with a lack of daily intimacy, those little small reminders that your spouse is the most important person in your life. Every day, Vanessa and I make it a priority to have some time together and to tell each other "I love you". We regularly text each other and/or write notes to each just saying simple things like "I miss you" or "Thinking of you". We've done our best to make appreciation and intimacy behaviors, not just ideals. We set aside time for each other in which we can communicate openly such as taking walks in the evening, going on a date once a week, and just setting aside "us" time even if it's only for a 30 minutes in an otherwise overwhelmingly busy day. We have rules like "no cell phones at the dinner table" to make sure we're focused on each other. I view her wholly as my equal, and we always make important decisions together — as a 'team'.

My goal, then, isn't to avoid infidelity by being steadfastly committed to an ideal, but to do my best to ensure that neither Vanessa nor I ever find ourselves in the kinds of circumstances that would make infidelity tempting by prioritizing the intimacy of our own relationship. I can't say "I would never cheat", because I know that's not a realistic expectation of human behavior; instead I have to say, "I never want to cheat". I don't want to lose the trust, love, and friendship of this amazing woman. When people say that marriage is a lot of work, that's what I think they're most referring to — the small things, those daily gestures of love and appreciation that keep us close through thick and thin.