I had a largely religious-free upbringing, and as a result, most of my beliefs require a basis in empirical data, whether by my own experience, or the experience of a trusted source. I tend to respect people who admit that they’re wrong sometimes and don’t try to form moral doctrine based on a limited body of research.

My skepticism extends well into my own set of beliefs, which are in a constant state of upheaval. It probably sounds exhausting for my views of right and wrong to change constantly, but I think of it less as being wrong all the time and more “learning from my mistakes.” How can you really believe something like the Golden Rule if you don’t use it in practice? When people treat you like crap, you feel crappy. Hell, Ghandi said we should be the change we want to see in the world, and he was a cool guy.

Not surprisingly, gaming had a huge impact on my understanding of morality. I remember downloading a bit of software for Fallout 2 that would let me set my character’s stats to whatever I wanted — you could call it cheating, but some would argue that it’s simply a “different” way of playing the game. Anyway, the designers must’ve expected people to do something like that, because whenever I went into combat against enemies with my twinked-out stats, they’d all run away instead of fighting me.

It got pretty god-awful boring pretty quickly, because there’s very little fun to be had in chasing down foes that refuse to face you in direct combat. I learned an important lesson about cheating in those days: it makes it less fun because other people don’t want to play with a cheater. If you want to play, don’t cheat. It would take a couple years for me to learn to apply this to real-life situations, but the basics were there.