The Importance of Conversational Critisism and the Illusory Truth Effect

The "illusory truth effect" is one of the major reasons why people continue to believe lies as truth, even after the lie has been proven to be false. This effect is where the human mind is more likely to believe familiar statements than unfamiliar ones, even when the familiar statement is a provable lie.

Take the whopper of a lie told by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998 where he falsified data and tried to link certain diseases to the MMR vaccine; since the day this lie was published in the 'The Lancet' it was known to be false, and has since been definitively proven to be an "elaborate fraud", resulting in Wakefield's medical license being revoked. This massive lie has spread globally and resulted in the needless suffering and deaths of thousands of innocent children, all due to the continued belief in this lie by a small percentage of individuals.

The "illusory truth effect", originally studied in 1977, is one of the major factors as to why these easily proved lies still resonant in our society. Educating ourselves and others on how the human mind makes these types of cognitive errors, is one of the best ways to help end the spread of this horrible and deadly lie.

Elitist scientists that sat back and chose not to speak up, as they felt they were "above dealing with such lowly issues" as challenging clear and blatant falsehoods, are to blame for much of the spread of this lie. By allowing the continued and unchallenged spread of this lie, it became familiar and accepted as truth by some percentage of our population.

The "illusory truth effect" is one of the reasons why it is so important that we must adopt a policy of "conversational criticism" and continuously and immediately challenge known lies.

The Moral Dilemma

Written By: Rob Earley

Then moral dilemma over the origin and influence of morality is, oddly enough, still a hot topic of debate amongst the religious, non-religious and the somewhat spiritual communities. Despite human intelligence having led to a number of impalpable achievements such as mapping the human genome and creating a telescope that can see the birth of the universe, a large cluster of humanoids are still more or less convinced that all moral coding is and always will be subject to religious values.

Like many others, I hold religion personally responsible for some of the most immoral, unscrupulous behaviors and traditions mankind has ever seen but unfortunately not even an endless list of blatant holy contradictions is enough to combat generations of religious indoctrination.

Ritual human sacrifice, slavery, racism, homophobia, rape, murder, sexism and a general intolerance of the unknown are just the tip of the immoral iceberg when it comes to religion - So why is it so essential in today's construct and what makes it so child friendly?

I genuinely believe that sitting your children in front of The Simpsons is a far better way to open their minds to tolerance, humor, love, family values and politics than taking them to Sunday school,iIt’s ludicrous to think that people are still uncertain - in the absence of religion - whether or not others will understand that it's inherently wrong to rob an elderly woman on the street or to suffocate a child. Unless you're a drug fueled manic depressive or mentally unstable for other various psychopathic reasons, is there really any other human motif that would inspire such acts of remorseless criminality? If we eradicated all evidence of the bible would future generations really embark on a string of never-ending murderous rape-riot.  The bible is littered with stories based around an ancient societies grasp on culture, government, science and discovery. Much like how social instability, disease and war still plague us in the 21st century, self-induced&amp morality has been progressively developing in our species since the Bronze Age and will continue to do so into the space age. What I mean is; if we started a new religion today and were to write a book on how to live by what we currently know about the universe and each other, the likelihood is that it would once again be completely irrelevant for conducting a society 2000 years from now. Is this not how we should view all holy books today? A historical account of how people used to live?

Everyone is entitled to believe what they wish and unfortunately everybody is also entitled to raising a child with the same beliefs. Despite refuting all attempts at reasoning, keen followers of religious traditions still genuinely believe that passing religion onto their children is helping them. Yes, helping them about as much as a syringe of HIV in the jugular.

One of the most common questions I get asked by people of faith is "my religion is harmless and only promotes love, why are you bashing it?". On one hand the ‘love’ argument is fairly valid when comparing a somewhat morally evolved religion like Christianity to a violent unchanged group like Islam, but you have to treat religion in general as an identity with the same foundations of non-thinking. When there are very obvious threats posed by a religion that at its core encourages followers to rejoice at the death of non-believers in an age where atomic weaponry could quite easily be accessed by an extremist middle-eastern Hitler, real-life mass destruction isn't too farfetched.

Sadly, whether you're of Islam or Christianity you share a common mythological ancestor and Christianity, despite proclaiming love to all (we'll sweep the racism, homophobia, rape, murder and sexism under the rug for now) it is still equally as damaging by default. Teaching a child to fear God and to put so much trust in such a twisted book is structuring a child's mind to process their approach to facts and truth finding in a nonsensical manor.

It may not encourage them to be bad people (bar modern homophobia) in the same way that Grand Theft Auto doesn’t encourage people to murder prostitutes - but - religion continues to breed generations of non-thinkers. I’m not saying that religious followers are witless; in fact many that I know of personally are well educated, passionate and resourceful people but isn’t the meaning of being part of this highly attuned species to contribute in some way towards evidence-based, non-mythical thinking and to encourage others to do the same in order to avoid the origin of morals argument in the first place?

I often wonder why intelligent people can be the holders of such twisted spiritual logic but it seems as though habitual worship over a considerable length of time is capable of permanently clouding one’s mind whilst leaving ones intellectual integrity completely intact. Similar to how losing one eye doesn't deny the other of 20/20 vision but to get a clear picture with scientific depth-perception you really do need both.

With a universe of information now available - wirelessly in our pockets - there's no excuse to not be well informed on basic matters of both scientific and moral importance. We have the privilege of having virtually uncompromised access to the life works of brilliant scientists sprawled endlessly across the internet. With this privilege comes the ability to read peer-reviewed conclusions without having to have done any ground work ourselves yet most of us are still either uninformed, misinformed or just plain ignorant to humanities highest regarded evidence based facts.

In a busy and intellectually intimidating world, the simplest explanation for why we are here - of which was reached thousands of years ago - is God. Equally, people that are on the fence with spirituality or choose to go no way near it whatsoever are either institutionalized by a media-controlled, narcissistic lifestyle, avoid searching for the truth in fear of emotional and scientific confusion, or both, but they needn't be put off.

Religion was mankind’s original science in a similar respect to how astrology was our original astronomy but now that we’re generally familiar with the process of evolution and other science facts, to understand how it truly works requires a further level of self-motivated learning. It's a shame to encourage a child to think for themselves in every aspect of life other than the origin of their own existence - But hey, if I were God, I probably wouldn't want people to know I didn't exist either.

Many would argue that if you've thoroughly studied science and logic and yet still have your faith then that’s fair do's - but is that really a fair do's? If you had testicular cancer would you trust modern medicine for the best chance of survival or would you prefer to go back in time and have a witch-doctor rub a holy-nettle on your testicles? The same logic applies to taking morality and instruction from any ancient source.

If you feel the need to use something as corrupt as holy scripture as your morality, in my life then you must be very lost indeed. I will very graciously avoid leaving my child's mental development in the pages of a text that can only be described as a 'dairy of a perverted sociopath'.

One aspect of religion I am undecided on is the respective placebo effect that comes with it. In short; When ill, the placebo effect can help reassure you that you’re on the mend and thus make you feel better. Similarly the placebo effect can contribute to your sense of negative well-being in order to make you feel worse when worrying about a perceived illness - both of which can completely alter your self-perceived negativity. With regard to religion, if allowing or avoiding something can truly influence a negative or positive biological response on a beneficial or risky outcome, can superstition scientifically help or hinder you if indoctrinated? This is why I still subconsciously avoid walking over triple-drains at the age of 26 (a UK superstition as far as I'm aware) as I was told by my sisters as a child that it was bad luck - and why people argue in favor of religion regardless of the truth. Despite this theory, ultimately the negatives of religion and superstition still outweigh the positives brought forward by psychological comfort.

"But Rob, you can't paint extremists and non-extremists with the same brush". To fear an indistinguishable presence in order to do good is in itself morally unjust. To quote Weinberg; "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil, that takes religion". This has been a very relevant and powerful quote for me in explaining the blind evil that religion has cast upon its followers for millennium.

People that don't need logic and evidence to believe something is more of a danger to the human condition than a modern epidemic. Unfortunately, as a mere individual, little 'Margret the nun' kissing her cross and helping the poor doesn't seem so dangerous at a glance but statistically the influence of a group is measured by the swarm and not by an individual that has created their own pick-and-choose brand of a particular faith that just so happens to exclude the bad aspects (which theoretically excludes you from being a true member of the religion all together). As a race we owe it to future generations to promote logic and compassion in order to avoid war and suffering. Comfort can be found in logic and science. 

Mother Teresa thought she was doing the Lord's work by housing the sick and leaving their recovery to God, but what she really did was prolong the suffering and increase the death count of thousands of people, despite truly believing she was doing good. I'll add a quick reference to her disapproval of condoms to help reduce the spread of AIDS here too..

Take the black plague for example: When millions were dying at the hands of a deadly virus the most widespread conclusion to the madness was that God was punishing mankind for his sins. Apparently the most obvious sin in the eyes of 12th century Britain was to not follow the word of God from a Christian perspective. This theory resulted in the burning and mutilation of millions of Jewish citizens in an attempt to make God happy and thus cure the disease. Still want to take all of your reasoning and logic from the past? Go ahead, but I'd rather not allow a divine creator that is supposed to exist above all petty human emotions to 'guilt' me into submission like a jock on a shy cheerleader at a frat party.

Please, whenever possible, teach children to question. Teach them to question everything they possibly can. Encourage the 'Why?' phase with enthusiasm and treat it with respect. Be privileged that as a human being you have the chance to build the foundations of another life that will one day teach others. We're all born scientists and the only difference between an Islamic extremist group and the world's leading scientific humanists is the influence they receive in adolescence. Encourage a healthy desire to believe via evidence and to love without prejudice.

Rob Earley

http://www.robearley.com/

The Delusional Statements of the New Age Movement

“A delusion is a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence.” - Wikipedia

A few days ago I wrote an article entitled “What Does it Mean When Someone Thanks God?”  This article is a critique of the delusional statements made on a daily basis by the religious.   I had listed a few of the religious comments I found that day on my Facebook News Feed and discussed the importance of challenging such statements.  Now to be perfectly fair, the religious are not the only ones proudly posting delusional statements up on their Facebook pages.  Being from California, I see more than my fair share of New Age rhetoric being brandied about and many of these statements are certainly a part of our society’s delusional equation.  This morning, one of my friends listed the following quote as being their single all-time favorite statement: 

“I Can Always Enter My Vibrational Vortex of Creation... The key to getting inside your Vibrational Vortex of Creation; of experiencing the absolute absence of resistance; of achieving complete alignment with all that you have become and all that you desire, and of bringing to your physical experience everything that you desire — is being in the state of appreciation — and there is no more important object of attention to which you must flow your appreciation than that of self.” --- Abraham

I can happily and honestly say that I have no idea what the above statement means, nor do I ever care to know.  Please don’t get me wrong, I am not being simply closed-minded to the possibilities of contemplative processes.  I feel quite strongly that meditation, visualizations, introspection and other mental disciplines can be quite beneficial, even necessary, for human development.  It’s just that statements like those found above are not only delusional; they are actually counterproductive to honest and positive contemplative experiences. 

Having never heard of “Abraham”, the author of the above quote, I decided to do a little research.  The name “Abraham” is actually a pseudonym for a semi-anonymous group of authors out of the company known as Abraham-Hicks Publications.  This company is run by Esther Hicks, a former Mormon who is best known for being the narrator and star of the original version of the film “The Secret”.    Esther Hicks book “The Law of Attraction” was one of the central sources for the “The Secret” book and movie scam. 

“The Secret” promised that you can get everything you want or need simply through the power of optimistic thinking (money, power, sex, a job, a new car, etc.).  That’s right, if you think about something, it will come.  As many critics noted, there was nothing secret about the “The Secret”; it’s just one of the oldest scams in the world presented in slick new packaging.  And its message is extremely harmful. 

There are people I know that literally refuse to wear seatbelts because they feel that the “power of optimistic thinking” will protect them from ever having an accident.  One friend of mine believes that our soldiers overseas should have the bullets taken out of their guns and should be denied the use of bullet proof vests, because “optimistic thinking” will save them from injury and stop our enemies. 

The people I speak of are not uneducated; they have advanced degrees from prestigious universities and were born and raised right here in America.  The problem is that these folks have adopted a belief system that tells them that there are real and actual forces in the universe, currently unknown to science, which can be controlled by the mind. 

I am not saying that people who think this way are irrational.  If a person really believes that there are hidden powers in the universe that can be accessed through the correct attention of the mind, then believing that you can stop a bullet with these powers, may in fact be perfectly rational.  The question is whether or not these folks are holding on to a false belief despite superior evidence; that would make them delusional. 

Over the millennia, mankind has learned how to control many of the forces of nature.  Early in our history we learned how to generate heat by using friction, flint, or other materials to start fires.  We invented the tools and knowledge needed to domesticate animals (corals, harness, tackle, etc.) so that we could travel greater distances, move heavier objects, and have a more reliable food supply.  Through the sail and windmill we captured the power of the wind to do our bidding.  Eventually we developed both the mechanical and electric motor, thus capturing the power of chemical combustion and electromotive force.  And of course, if we choose to build a fission reactor, we now can capture the power of the atom, to both good and bad consequences.  In the near future we may be able to construct atomic colliders capable of producing fusion power, and the promise of clean, limitless and cheap energy for the world may one day come true. 

One thing is clear, as mankind learns how to control the forces of nature (to its benefit or detriment) the technology required to do so become more and more complicated.  What are the odds that one day scientists will discover that a new and powerful force exists in the universe that can do almost anything and requires absolutely no technology to manipulate? 

Neither the religious nor the followers of the New Age movement ignore the ultimate conclusions of science.  In fact, both groups are merely holding out, hoping beyond hope, that science will someday come around to see their side of things.  If a panel of prestigious scientists were to announce that they had discovered an ossuary in Jerusalem from the 1st century CE containing the bones of a 30+ year old male with odd DNA that could only have occurred through Parthenogenesis (virgin birth), do you think Christians wouldn’t rally behind the science?  The same is true for New Ager’s; they are simply hoping that someday scientists will announce the discovery of the hidden powers they claim to be able to access with their minds. 

Perhaps one day science will show the New Age movement to be right; but for now these types of religious and New Age beliefs are not only unproven and unsupported by science, but they fly contradictory to what we know to be true about the way the universe works.  As such, to hold these New Age beliefs is pathologically delusional. 

The basic promise that much of the New Age Movement subscribes to, is that through ethical living and some form of contemplative process, you will have a good life.  This is a perfectly valid proposition which has no need for supernatural forces to augment its basic premise.  Meditation, visualization, introspection, a few forms of prayer, and various other techniques that aid in self-discovery can be used to help anyone contemplate the important aspects of their character and too discover new principles to live their life by. 

How could you possibly be discovering any truths about yourself, when you can’t even discover the truth about the universe you live in?  Pretending that your mind has the power to alter the physical world or mentally coerce people to do your bidding, when you simply can’t, is the definition of being delusional. 

If you find anything in the statement from “Abraham” above to be informative or even comprehensible, then this should be your sign that you have delved to deeply into the metaphysics of the New Age movement. 

Just like with the delusional statements of the religious, we all need to challenge these delusional New Age statements for the same reasons.  Currently, our country is politically divided by conservative Republicans who seem enthralled by religious delusions, and liberal Democrats who too often try to appeal to the delusions of the New Age movement to curry the favor of voters.  If we really want a government that is motivated by evidence and rational debate, we must start by conversationally criticizing statements stemming from delusional belief systems. 

Whether it is at the level of nations, or at an individual level, deluding oneself about any subject is contrary to honest self-discovery and development.  In particular, thinking that any mental discipline can change the laws of physics is NOT a higher form of self awareness, but one of the highest forms of self-delusion. 

 

 

September 22, 2011

 

 

Christianity as Taught in School Books in the 22nd Century

Have you ever wondered what your great-great-grandchildren might be taught about religion in school 100 years from now?  Here is what they just might learn from an e-text book:

Christianity

Christianity was a European religion practiced from the 2nd to the 21st Century CE.  Christianity was the body of myths from the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, as they were used or transformed by cultural reception throughout its practice.  Along with philosophy and political thought, Christianity was the second to last of the major survivals of ancient iron-age myth, after Islam, to be practiced as factual on the planet. 

Christianity was a religion based on human sacrifice, specifically the ritualistic murder of the entity known as Jesus.  Jesus is the Christian name for the Jewish divine hero Lesous (Greek: Ἰησοῦς), who was the half-deity son of Yahweh (King James Bible equivalent Jehovah) and the mortal Mary.  The physical existence of Jesus as a real historical person is still highly debated even though there is no substantial evidence for actual life.  Richard Dawkins wrote that while Jesus probably existed, it is "possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all".

Christianity glorified and epitomized the human sacrifice of Jesus to his own father Yahweh as the single most important event in human history.  Human sacrifice has been practiced in various cultures throughout history, Christianity being the last of the human sacrifice religions to be widely accepted.  According to Christian tradition and texts, Jesus was ritually murdered via crucifixion, a manner that was supposed to please his father Yahweh, in order to ensure that Christian adherents could continue to serve their master Yahweh in the supposed afterlife. 

Adherents of Christianity typically displayed the ritualistic murder device, a cross used for crucifixion; in their homes, as symbols for their churches, and would wear it as jewelry on their bodies. Throughout Christianity's existence, both real and simulated ritualistic cannibalism practices, closely related to the practices found in some tribal societies, were conducted wherein adherents would simulate the cannibalistic consumption of the flesh and blood of Jesus, called the Eucharist /ˈjuːkərɪst/, also called Communion, or the Sacrament. 

Christianity was the first of the two major monotheisms to have a significant level of influence on the planet, Islam being the second.  Judaism is occasionally counted as a third major monotheism, however its overall historical influence in comparison with the other two is negligible.  Additionally, Judaism was henotheist at the time of the formation of Christianity and only became monotheistic later due to Christian influence. 

Despite the claims of adherents to monotheisms, polytheisms were far superior to the well-being of societies.  Polytheism had been the prominent belief by nearly every culture prior to Christianity.  Polytheists not only respect and believe in the gods of others, but would offer gifts to the gods of their enemies.  Alexander the Great being one of the most famous cases of a conqueror offering gifts to the deities of his fallen enemies.  The Greek legend of Achilles is a tale of what happens when one disrespects the gods of one's enemies.  Prior to monotheism, there are very few cases of religious wars, and virtually none that were fought to spread religious belief and to make converts.  Christianity is a religion that was spread nearly exclusively by the sword.

Monotheisms were also very hostile to science and education.  Both Christianity and Islam held education outside of religious texts and doctrine in contempt, and at various points in their histories, murderously so.  Not until the Age of Enlightenment beginning in the late 17th and 18th century CE and the removal of Christianity from direct political control in Europe did Western societies begin to prosper, and would scientific knowledge again reach the levels found under the Roman Empire. 

Christianity began in the later Roman Empire during the 2nd Century CE and came to prominence in the 4th and 5th Century's CE.  Christian scriptures were written by differing and competing Greek Christian religious leaders at various intervals during this same time frame.  Virtually all of the scriptures found in the New Testament have been shown to be forgeries that falsely claimed to have been written by influential early followers of Jesus.  The Christian scriptures, called The New Testament, changed dramatically over time, but was primarily comprised of four differing 'gospels', a number of letters written by various groups vying for influence within the religion, and an account of a dream about an apocalypse, called Revelations. 

The New Testament was rife with contradictory theology, factual errors, both moral and immoral instructions, and false predictions.  These scriptures condoned slavery, the subjugation of women and children, along with numerous other concepts that were considered immoral even at the time it was written.  Christian doctrines from these scriptures were the primary reason for the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the loss of knowledge that started the dark-ages, and the 500 year mass murder known as the Inquisition.  Scholars generally agree that monotheism, specifically Christianity and Islam, held back the global progress of humanity by at least 1,500 years. 

Medieval Europe was a continent divided by religion; Christian monotheism in the southern part around Italy, polytheism in the Scandinavian area, and Islam in Spain.  Not until 15th Century CE did Christianity finally become the primary religion in Europe.  This was due in part to the fall of the Vikings in Scandinavia in the 13th Century CE, the successful 15th Century CE Reconquista in Spain that removed the nearly 800 year rule of Islam from the Iberian Peninsula, and was solidified across Europe by the brutal mass murder of non-believers during the Inquisition. 

The global Christian cultural prominence started in the 16th and 17th Century's CE with the European Colonization of the New World, the fall of the Qing Dynasty in China in the 19th Century CE, and the Industrial Revolution enabling global movement and communication. 

For nearly 200 years from around 1840 when the Qing Dynasty lost its influence, to around 2025 when the United States of America, the last Christian Industrialized Nation, became primarily non-religious, Christian myths and doctrines dictated much of the global political agendas.  In the 20th and 21st Century's CE, Christian issues such as forcing women to have unwanted children, preventing scientific education, preventing reproductive education, the rampant destruction of the ecosystem, and stopping marriage equality; dominated global politics and were considered more important than dealing with the spread of disease, human rights, and nuclear proliferation.  These Christian myths and beliefs were the primary cause of nearly ending all human life on the planet due to nuclear war, disease, and global warming during the 20th and 21st Century CE.  

Around the year 2025 the United States of America became primarily secular and started taxing religions as business, and enabled individual citizens to challenge the claims of religions in court rooms.  These changes caused Christianity to finally lose its hold on the global culture and fall eventually into obscurity by the end of the 21st Century CE.  The end of Christianity marks the moment when humanity stopped believing that ancient myths were factual, and the global politics of the world shifted.  Reason and evidence became the standard for debate, which enabled societies and countries to start to address global issues in a realistic manner, ending the very real 21st Century CE threat of global annihilation due to nuclear proliferation, pandemic, and catastrophic climate change.

 

  

 

 

Is Christianity the Worlds Largest Religion?

We constantly hear that Christianity is the world's largest religion with 2 to 2.2 billion adherents.  But did you know that in order to get those numbers, you have to lump Catholics with Protestants, and even Mormons into the equation?   Why is it that predominately western statisticians feel free to lump all of the western religions into one grand number, but not do the same for eastern religions?

Many religious experts point out that Hinduism and Buddhism are both Indian religions, and could be compared to Catholics and Protestants.  Like Catholicism,  Hindu's are full of iconography and worship multiple religious heroes and deities, while both Protestants and Buddhists tend to keep things a bit more simple and concentrate on only the top level figures in their belief system. 

So why is it that when compiling numbers for Western religions, statisticians feel it is fine to lump all Western religions into one grand number, but not for Eastern religions? Could it simply be Western bias, as they don’t want to acknowledge the real numbers?

Let's take a look at the four biggest world religions in the way the numbers are currently presented by Western biased statisticians:

  • Christianity                 2.2 Billion        
  • Islam                             1.6 Billion        
  • Hinduism                     1.1 Billion        
  • Buddhism                    1.5 Billion        

What numbers do we see if we treat Hinduism and Buddhism (the Indian religions) in the same manner that Christianity (Catholic and Protestant) is treated?

  • Indian Religions          2.6 Billion
  • Christianity                  2.2 Billion        
  • Islam                              1.6 Billion        

Now, let's do the opposite and split Christianity and Islam apart in the same way they have split the Indian religions apart.  When we do this, you get the following:

  • Buddhism                    1.5 Billion
  • Sunni                            1.2 Billion
  • Catholic                        1.2 Billion
  • Hinduism                     1.1 Billion        
  • Protestantism              0.48 Billion
  • Shia                                0.40 Billion
  • Eastern Orthodox       0.30 Billion

So, what is the answer to our question?  Is Christianity the world's largest religion?  The answer is that it is only the biggest if you unfairly lump all of the Western religions into one pile and compare them against the Eastern religions in separate piles.  If you are going to lump all of the western religions into one big pile then you need to do the same with the eastern religions.  It is simply inaccurate to pile all of the western religions in to one grand number, and then compare it against the eastern regions broken apart in to separate numbers.

In short, the idea that Christianity is the world's largest religion is a Western biased view.

 

Note1: There are currently more than 33,000 known variants within the "Protestant" belief system, including the American religions (Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses). 

Note2: Jewish adherents total between 0.009 to 0.014 Billion based on varying sources.  Coincidentally, the three American religions combined have similar numbers.

   

 

 

Science and Religion

Written By: Stella Frangleton

(Note: The following critique does not apply to one organization alone, I am simply using an example from personal experience.)

Recently, I have been talking to a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses in an attempt get a basic knowledge of the Bible and, more importantly, understand how people reach and maintain beliefs so different from my own (atheist and skeptic). They have been patient and informative and we have disagreed; but what's wrong with that? In my experience, social disagreement has been taken as a negative in almost every instance I have seen it arise, but I don't see why it need be so reprehensible. In academia, disagreement is treated more like motivation - spurring on further and more in depth study in order to resolve the issue. I don't see why this use of disagreement cannot be applied outside of the classroom.

 

While I do not share their beliefs, I have been interested to see where in the Bible their ideas come from and consider how much influence interpretation has on their faith. However, there has been one aspect of our talks which I have found consistently troubling and it is, of course, that most provocative of combinations: Science in Religion. My frustration surrounding this subject did not go un-noticed and I was kindly lent one of their personal books, The Bible: God's Word or Man's, which they had said really helped clarify this hotly debated issue for them. The chapter they directed me to was entitled "Science: Has it Proved the Bible Wrong" (chapter 8 if anyone cares to look it up). The title was alarmingly promising but I am sorry to say the optimism did not last long (though possibly not for the reasons you might imagine).

 

The Bible quotations I was ready for - I knew I wouldn't find them compelling but I was interested to read them all the same - but it was quotations that were purportedly from experts and scientists that really caught my attention. My initial impression was that they may have been taken out of context or were heavily biased but even I was surprised by what I discovered after running a quick name check (emphasis on the "quick", this really is not difficult information to find). The first person quoted was Francis Hitching who is described as "an authority" - keep that in mind - and he stated that "living cells duplicate themselves with near total fidelity". Now, this set my GCSE Biology alarm bells ringing as I recalled studying genetic mutation and meiosis (a process wherein cells reproduce with a different genetic combination than the parent cells). Despite my conflict I thought I'd research him further as he, presumably, was much better qualified than me to speak on the subject. Wrong. Hitching is a television scriptwriter/producer and author. The book from which creationists so often quote him, "The Neck of the Giraffe", stated that Hitching was a member of the Royal Archaeological Institute; needless to say he is not. Hitching also claimed to have had help from palaeontologist Stephen Gould and that the book was endorsed by Richard Dawkins. Not only did both of these people deny Hitching's claims and any knowledge of Hitching, but Dawkins also gave the fairly damning statement "his book … is one of the silliest and most ignorant I have read for years". During my research I was sad to discover that Hitching has been cited as an evolutionary scientist in other Jehovah's Witnesses publications. To add insult to injury Hitching's other books focus on dowsing and psychic phenomena, these being the only subjects on which he may be called "an authority". Sciency.

 

I was shocked at the flagrant flimsiness of this so called evidence, but I continued none the less. The other key source of non-Biblical quotations came from Michael Denton who I was interested to learn actually does have scientific qualifications (Phd in Biochemistry). Almost immediately I discovered he does NOT support creationism. He believes in natural selection and common descent however he does advocate intelligent design. On further inspection it would seem that it is the passages concerning intelligent design which, out of context, lend themselves to a creationist interpretation. Despite this, I still found quotations from his book, "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis", shaky evidence at best; for example "evolution deals with unique events, the origin of life … unique events are unrepeatable and cannot be subjected to any sort of experimental investigation". This is true, but, circumstances can be replicated and irrespective of that, this statement doesn't really prove or disprove anything. Moreover, I discovered that Michael Denton's views since writing that book have shifted somewhat and in his most recent publication he defends evolution more strongly. And by the way, by "recent" publication I mean 1998. His original book was published in 1985. Hitching's quotations came from his 1982 book and the book in which they are quoted was published in 1989. Science teachers wouldn't dare use textbooks that were over twenty years old to teach students - I've even read an article wherein a high school teacher bemoaned newly issued textbooks for having taken four years to be written, deeming them not adequately relevant enough to teach from. Even if the quotations had been scientifically viable at the time, they would still need to have been updated. I was shocked at the thorough misrepresentation I had encountered.

 

What made me most unhappy about the whole revelation was the thought of believers who read this book, and others like it, in good faith. It is cleverly written (ish) and contains apparently positive reinforcement for beliefs that those reading it will already have. We have all, at one time or another, needed some form of evidence or reassurance for an aspect of our lives - when we find that much needed assurance who can honestly say their first thought would be to subjectively pick it apart and potentially destroy the comfort we had just found; not many of us. Those being deceived are not stupid and they are not to be laughed at. I in no way hold the people who gave me this book responsible for any of its content. Do I think they should have applied more criticism to its content when they read it: yes, but people cannot be expected to pull a desire for critical thinking out of thin air. I believe them to be good people; they spend their personal time trying to enlighten people about what they believe to be the truth, on the scale of nice, is pretty damn nice. Just because I do not believe it to be the truth does not devalue the intention of the act and I cannot hold them culpable for the fact that the tools they have been sent out to do it with are faulty. It is my belief that people will continue to write misleading material, such as this, in relative safety because they know that the mentality people are in while reading them is not one of skepticism. It does not matter that their sources can be debunked from - quite literally - the first Google entry about them; they are banking on the readers not checking and sadly it would seem this tactic has paid off. Will my discoveries have any effect on the owners of this book? I don't know, however I sincerely believe that if you cannot prove your point through honest and reliable means, it is better to leave it disproven than undermine it with a poor imitation of truth.

 

But don't take my word for it.

By Stella Frangleton

Mississippi Whyyy: Five Questions

Written By: M.K. Talarovich

If I were the gay version of Pat Robertson, you bet your ass I’d be calling the tornado that ripped through Covington County, Mississippi on Monday God’s punishment for the abominable religious freedom bill that was signed into law last week. But, as it stands, I’m not an eighty-four-year-old wackadoo with a head full of crazy and a television show.

Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act will take effect on July 1 of this year. The bill is just another formally written piece of mumbo jumbo (constructed with valuable time that could’ve been spent on fixing our nation’s actual problems) that will give Christians even more power to spread that divinely inspired hate, and allow them to refuse service to gays – you know, based on their religious views. “Oh, you’re a homo? Well I believe in the Bible and our great state of Mississippi says I don’t have to serve you. Good luck finding someone morally bankrupt enough to serve you a cheeseburger.” [Never mind the fact that we gays would be going for organic vegetable wraps instead, and we’d be happily served by eco-friendly people with brains… but I don’t know if those are real things in Mississippi.] Guess I missed that verse somewhere along the lines: “Thou shalt treat your gay neighbors like shit.”

Okay, Mississippi. Since you’re really doing this, I have just a few teensy questions…

  1. So you’re protecting your freedom of religion, protecting the freedoms of specific individuals, by taking a giant shit on the freedoms of other Americans? In what world does that make sense? Oh, right. In this one – where Christians are superior. Where you get to wake up one morning, decide you believe in God, and gain free admittance into the clubhouse of holier-than-thous who LOVE Jesus but act in manners 100% contradictory to what the Savior actually said. Welcome to America, my friends. It’s THAT easy.
  2. Based on my own personal religious views, I can discriminate against Christians, right? It’s a “religious freedom” rule. Does that mean Muslims get to exercise their religious freedom? Didn’t think of that one, did ya? My religion forbids me from associating with bigots, hypocrites and bible-toting douchebags. YOUR bill allows me to refuse service to YOU.
  3. What’s next? Sure, now you’re just refusing to bake cakes for us. But what’s next? Are we going to be sitting at the back of the bus soon? Drinking out of separate water fountains? And does your religious mania start and end with the LGBT community? Will you soon begin denying people with brown eyes? Mentally handicapped? Jews?
  4. Don’t you have bigger fish to fry than making extra sure the God-fearing citizens of the south receive super special treatment? Like, oh, doing something about the fact that your state is second highest in teen pregnancy rates? Or taking a stab at the fact that you’re now number one in obesity – in the nation? Maybe you should spend a little more time focusing on sex and health education, and a little less time deluding yourselves with your childish, self-serving interpretations of scripture.
  5. Do you really think God’s going to save you a seat after this? Oh man, I can see it now.

BELIEVER (as in, anyone who supports these moronic bills, politician or not) dies and gets to the pearly gates.

God: Ah, I’ve been waiting for you.

Believer: Is this it!!? Am I really here?!! I’ve been waiting forever!

God: What is with you people looking so forward to kicking the bucket?

Believer: To spend eternity here with you!

God: You couldn’t have just made the most of it while you were on earth?

Believer: Oh I did, Lord. But that was nothing compared to what this is going to be! I lived according to your word. I upheld the Ten Commandments. I –

God: Reaaallllly?

Believer: Absolutely!

God: You have “Guilty of #9” written all over your face.

Believer: Well sure, I had to bend the truth a little at times…

God: And what about all that stuff I sent my son down there to teach you all?

Believer: Oh I LOVE Jesus!

God: But not your neighbor – like he told you to.

Believer: I loved ALL people!

God: The gays?

Believer: Well sure I loved them! I just didn’t approve of their lifestyle. The Bible says –

God: I know what the Bible says. I wrote it, you twit. It also instructed you to make animal sacrifices. When’s the last time you offered me a toasty goat?

Believer: Well, that’s Old Testament. That’s –

God: Less legitimate a command than others? The Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament!

Believer: … You’re Old Testament!

God: That is absolutely accurate. I’m also GOD. I gave you your entire life to figure this out, to love me and to serve others, exactly as you were commanded to do. And you spent the whole time splitting hairs over “what the Bible means to say.” And you used it as an excuse to put others down. You used ME to flaunt your make-believe superiority. You used my #1 bestseller as an excuse to be a dick to anyone and everyone that wasn’t like you. You have failed, sir.

Believer: But I went to church every Sunday! And I gave to charity! And I –

God: I said good day!

Get your shit together, Mississippi. Get your shit together, anyone who believes your religious views make you better than someone else. If your god does exist, he’s not going to be impressed with your slimy, hateful behavior. Maybe start putting a little more emphasis on your personal relationship with him, and a little (or a lot) less on gay sex.

You’re phonies. We know it, and God knows it.

M.K. Talarovich

https://melikatala.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/m-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-whyyy-five-questions/

 

The Feeling of Presence

One of my best friends, who is a devoted evangelical, invited me to attend his churches Christmas Festival. Now my friend knows I’m an atheist, but his invitation was sincere as he honestly felt I would enjoy the music and all the activities, which would indeed be enjoyable to me. But, mixed in with the invitation, was a half-hearted joke about how even an atheist like me might get to feel the presence of the lord during the activities. Of course, I’m not one to let that one slip by me…

I quickly stated to my friend that I get the feeling of presence, awe, joy, glory, or whatever other term you want to call it, all the time. I wasn’t exactly surprised when he replied in a squealing voice with “Really?” I said, “Yes. I often get this feeling of overpowering warmth that radiates through my entire body”. He said with even more vigor, “Really?” I said, “Yes, of course. I feel it often when I think of my daughters and how proud I am of them, or when I see the pure joy my disabled son brings to those around him. I felt it up on top of the mountain in the Austrian Alps this summer, when I looked up and saw the heavens like I had never seen them before. And, I feel it when that perfect song comes on and I get a great dance with my partner. I just don’t think the feeling comes from the supernatural.” He said… “Oh.”

Of course atheists get these feelings, perhaps more often than the religious, because atheists tend to be far more open minded about the sources that bring joy and happiness into their lives. Atheists simply don’t tend to make supernatural claims about where these feelings come from. Of course, understanding that these feeling are not being generated by supernatural creatures, isn’t an atheist thing at all, it’s a rational thing.
It is so odd to me, that for so many of the religious, these feelings are the “evidence” they have for the existence of God, yet they seem blind to the fact that everyone seems to have the feelings; Muslims, Christian, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons, Scientologists, and atheists. But even more stunning is that these same people would consider a ‘feeling’ poor evidence for anything else in their lives. Could you imagine your friend telling you that you should buy that stock because he had a ‘feeling’ about it?

I let the conversation drop with my friend; his “Oh” was enough for me to know that I had scored my point, even though I knew his mind was quickly working out a way to rationalize away these truths that proved his beliefs to be in error. This is the way the human mind works; it is far easier to rationalize away erroneous beliefs, than it is to change your belief system. It’s actually not very rational, is it?

Unfortunately, I had another engagement during the time of the Christmas festivities at his church, so I won’t be able to attend. Perhaps I’ll get to go next year.

 

 

What Does it Mean When Someone Thanks God?

This morning when I checked my Facebook account, I saw that several of my friends were thanking God for some reason or the other.  By looking through only about half of the first page of this morning news feed, I have several friends that are “blessed by God”, another friend is thanking the lord for one more day of living, at least two people are passing a message that God is going to do great things for you tonight if you just forward the message on to 10 more people, and one is “overwhelmed by God’s goodness!!”  As an active Atheist, you can imagine that many of my friends are also non-believers, and as such my news feed should be clearly skewed away from religious sentiment, and yet this is still what I see on a typical day.  I can’t imagine what the Facebook feed looks like for a Southern Christian.

When I see a statement like “I’m overwhelmed by God’s goodness”, I really do wonder what that person is talking about.  What string of supernatural events could possibly be occurring in a person’s life that is so profound, that one could be “overwhelmed”?   In fact, what supernatural event could be occurring at all?  What “goodness” in your life could only come to you through the aid of the supernatural?  Maybe it’s just me, but statements like this really do make me scratch my head and ponder the mental condition of a person who thinks this way.

In Richard Dawkins famous book “The God Delusion”, he makes an excellent argument that the religious, particularly the highly religious, are suffering from the true mental disorder called delusion.  The Wikipedia definition is “A delusion is a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence.”  Most references follow up the above definition of delusion by excluding religious beliefs from its scope.  Richard Dawkins makes the argument that religious belief should not get special treatment as it clearly fits within the parameters of a delusion.  For the complete argument as to why religious belief falls squarely in the pathology of delusion, please read the opening chapter of the “God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.

So, if statements like “Thank the Lord for another day”, or “I’m overwhelmed by God’s goodness”, stem from delusional states of the mind, is there anything we can derive about the people making these statements?  What is the mindset of person who praises God for saving their little girl, when in fact it was a hundred plus years of medical science and a decade of studying by medical personnel? 

I have often thought that when a person gives the supernatural credit for something, it is almost always a statement of their own ignorance.  The person doesn’t understand (or can’t understand) the medical science that went into saving their child, so they give the credit to something they can understand; the fantasy of the supernatural.  When someone can’t understand the social mechanisms, coincidences, and the roll of chance behind the incredible string of good fortune they are currently experiencing, they explain it to themselves by giving credit to the supernatural.  And when someone has a near-death experience that would have typically taken life, but in their case did not, the staggering odds that the cosmic forces of nature would align in so fortunate a way, seems almost inexplicable without a supernatural explanation. 

The reason no one blames God for lightning anymore (think of Zeus) is because the basic scientific principles of electricity are widely understood by people today.  When someone falls to the floor in a spasm, we no longer call a priest for an exorcism; we call an ambulance because we think the person is having a seizure.  While I do think that knowledge, reason, conversational criticism, and open honest debate is the best solution for ending dogmatic beliefs, I’m not completely convinced that religious delusion can be rooted out solely with reason and evidence; it may require some serious psychology. 

My friend Joe at Truth-Saves.com says that the religious practice a policy of “self-imposed ignorance”.  Like a person trying to squeeze one more hour of sleep by covering their eyes to shade them from the morning sun, could the pathology of delusion include a component of voluntary ignorance?  Like the old-saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.  For people suffering from delusion, both the religious kind and the non-religious kind, their disease may prevent them from accepting knowledge and reason that contradicts their delusion.

This is why Bill O’Reilly can’t explain the tides, but the average 5th grader can.  Clearly Bill O’Reilly won’t be winning any game shows on Fox television anytime soon.  But is Bill O’Reilly practicing a self-imposed ignorance of grade-school science because of the pathology of delusion?  I think so.

Many of us may inadvertently be suffering from false-beliefs right now.  For example, one day mankind may find out that peanuts are in fact NOT an allergen, and that the reported reactions were actually due to mass-psychosis.  If this were true, would it make us all clinically delusional?  I think not, as long as we are willing to acknowledge the new evidence.  Now, if an individual were unwilling to accept overwhelming and valid scientific evidence that proves peanuts are not an allergen, and continue to suffer psychosis induced reactions to peanuts, then that is indeed a sign that they are clinically delusional. 

This morning, the US Military’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has finally come to an end.  When this policy was first put into place, it was considered ground-breaking and moral.  Back in 1993, it was OK to tell a gay joke in open conversation, to expect homosexuals to stay quiet and hidden, and that gays and lesbians deserved to lose their careers if they chose to be open and honest about whom they were.  Today, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” seems an atrociously discriminatory policy.   American culture has truly progressed in the last 18 years. 

The next big cultural battle now lies in front of us; the battle for reason and free inquiry.  This battle is in many ways the opposite of what the gay rights movement went through.  For homosexuals, they needed to change American culture so that it was no longer acceptable to poke fun at the gay life style.  In the battle for reason and free inquiry, we need to change American culture so that it becomes acceptable to poke fun at the delusional. 

I am not advocating some extra-harsh treatment of religion.  Quite to the contrary, I only want religious beliefs placed under the exact same scrutiny our society places on all other belief systems.  If you feel free to ridicule someone for actually following the advice from a psychic, you should be equally free in our society to ridicule the false-certainties of religion. 

There will always be a portion of our population that will believe in the supernatural.  If we look at the demographics of religious belief in America today, we see that 83% of Americans say they are religious, of that 40% claim to go to church on a weekly basis, but only 9% say that religion is the most important thing in their lives.  This means that 43% of American say they are religious, but don’t go to church.  The battle for reason and free inquiry should not be aimed at the extreme 9%, nor at the moderate 40%, but at the 43% of non-church going religious Americans. 

The 43% of Americans that claim to be religious but don’t attend church are for the most part, only claiming this because it is currently the most socially acceptable thing to say.  If the culture of America is changed so that it becomes acceptable to conversationally criticize the delusional and those that practice self-imposed ignorance, those 43% will feel free to say that religion has big social problems; and they will no longer claim to be religious.  Once this happens, it will not take long for it will become clear to the average American that attendance in church does not make their children better moral citizens, but is in fact detrimental.  When that realization finally occurs, the other 40% will stop going to church as well.  This will leave us with just the extreme 9% of religious Americans, which is much more manageable. 

The key to this tipping point starts by changing our culture so that it is acceptable to conversationally criticize statements like “I’m overwhelmed by God’s goodness!!”  All of us need to challenge these statements and point out their delusional nature if we are to ever see the day when reason, facts, and evidence dominate the discussions of our political parties.  We will always have to deal with that delusional 9%, but we can claim a victory for mankind when the last super-power on earth finally eliminates religious delusions from its public debates.

 

September 20, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States

The Delusional Statements of the New Age Movement

“A delusion is a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence.” - Wikipedia

A few days ago I wrote an article entitled “What Does it Mean When Someone Thanks God?”  This article is a critique of the delusional statements made on a daily basis by the religious.   I had listed a few of the religious comments I found that day on my Facebook News Feed and discussed the importance of challenging such statements.  Now to be perfectly fair, the religious are not the only ones proudly posting delusional statements up on their Facebook pages.  Being from California, I see more than my fair share of New Age rhetoric being brandied about and many of these statements are certainly a part of our society’s delusional equation.  This morning, one of my friends listed the following quote as being their single all-time favorite statement: 

“I Can Always Enter My Vibrational Vortex of Creation... The key to getting inside your Vibrational Vortex of Creation; of experiencing the absolute absence of resistance; of achieving complete alignment with all that you have become and all that you desire, and of bringing to your physical experience everything that you desire — is being in the state of appreciation — and there is no more important object of attention to which you must flow your appreciation than that of self.” --- Abraham

I can happily and honestly say that I have no idea what the above statement means, nor do I ever care to know.  Please don’t get me wrong, I am not being simply closed-minded to the possibilities of contemplative processes.  I feel quite strongly that meditation, visualizations, introspection and other mental disciplines can be quite beneficial, even necessary, for human development.  It’s just that statements like those found above are not only delusional; they are actually counterproductive to honest and positive contemplative experiences. 

Having never heard of “Abraham”, the author of the above quote, I decided to do a little research.  The name “Abraham” is actually a pseudonym for a semi-anonymous group of authors out of the company known as Abraham-Hicks Publications.  This company is run by Esther Hicks, a former Mormon who is best known for being the narrator and star of the original version of the film “The Secret”.    Esther Hicks book “The Law of Attraction” was one of the central sources for the “The Secret” book and movie scam. 

“The Secret” promised that you can get everything you want or need simply through the power of optimistic thinking (money, power, sex, a job, a new car, etc.).  That’s right, if you think about something, it will come.  As many critics noted, there was nothing secret about the “The Secret”; it’s just one of the oldest scams in the world presented in slick new packaging.  And its message is extremely harmful. 

There are people I know that literally refuse to wear seatbelts because they feel that the “power of optimistic thinking” will protect them from ever having an accident.  One friend of mine believes that our soldiers overseas should have the bullets taken out of their guns and should be denied the use of bullet proof vests, because “optimistic thinking” will save them from injury and stop our enemies. 

The people I speak of are not uneducated; they have advanced degrees from prestigious universities and were born and raised right here in America.  The problem is that these folks have adopted a belief system that tells them that there are real and actual forces in the universe, currently unknown to science, which can be controlled by the mind. 

I am not saying that people who think this way are irrational.  If a person really believes that there are hidden powers in the universe that can be accessed through the correct attention of the mind, then believing that you can stop a bullet with these powers, may in fact be perfectly rational.  The question is whether or not these folks are holding on to a false belief despite superior evidence; that would make them delusional. 

Over the millennia, mankind has learned how to control many of the forces of nature.  Early in our history we learned how to generate heat by using friction, flint, or other materials to start fires.  We invented the tools and knowledge needed to domesticate animals (corals, harness, tackle, etc.) so that we could travel greater distances, move heavier objects, and have a more reliable food supply.  Through the sail and windmill we captured the power of the wind to do our bidding.  Eventually we developed both the mechanical and electric motor, thus capturing the power of chemical combustion and electromotive force.  And of course, if we choose to build a fission reactor, we now can capture the power of the atom, to both good and bad consequences.  In the near future we may be able to construct atomic colliders capable of producing fusion power, and the promise of clean, limitless and cheap energy for the world may one day come true. 

One thing is clear, as mankind learns how to control the forces of nature (to its benefit or detriment) the technology required to do so become more and more complicated.  What are the odds that one day scientists will discover that a new and powerful force exists in the universe that can do almost anything and requires absolutely no technology to manipulate? 

Neither the religious nor the followers of the New Age movement ignore the ultimate conclusions of science.  In fact, both groups are merely holding out, hoping beyond hope, that science will someday come around to see their side of things.  If a panel of prestigious scientists were to announce that they had discovered an ossuary in Jerusalem from the 1st century CE containing the bones of a 30+ year old male with odd DNA that could only have occurred through Parthenogenesis (virgin birth), do you think Christians wouldn’t rally behind the science?  The same is true for New Ager’s; they are simply hoping that someday scientists will announce the discovery of the hidden powers they claim to be able to access with their minds. 

Perhaps one day science will show the New Age movement to be right; but for now these types of religious and New Age beliefs are not only unproven and unsupported by science, but they fly contradictory to what we know to be true about the way the universe works.  As such, to hold these New Age beliefs is pathologically delusional. 

The basic promise that much of the New Age Movement subscribes to, is that through ethical living and some form of contemplative process, you will have a good life.  This is a perfectly valid proposition which has no need for supernatural forces to augment its basic premise.  Meditation, visualization, introspection, a few forms of prayer, and various other techniques that aid in self-discovery can be used to help anyone contemplate the important aspects of their character and too discover new principles to live their life by. 

How could you possibly be discovering any truths about yourself, when you can’t even discover the truth about the universe you live in?  Pretending that your mind has the power to alter the physical world or mentally coerce people to do your bidding, when you simply can’t, is the definition of being delusional. 

If you find anything in the statement from “Abraham” above to be informative or even comprehensible, then this should be your sign that you have delved to deeply into the metaphysics of the New Age movement. 

Just like with the delusional statements of the religious, we all need to challenge these delusional New Age statements for the same reasons.  Currently, our country is politically divided by conservative Republicans who seem enthralled by religious delusions, and liberal Democrats who too often try to appeal to the delusions of the New Age movement to curry the favor of voters.  If we really want a government that is motivated by evidence and rational debate, we must start by conversationally criticizing statements stemming from delusional belief systems. 

Whether it is at the level of nations, or at an individual level, deluding oneself about any subject is contrary to honest self-discovery and development.  In particular, thinking that any mental discipline can change the laws of physics is NOT a higher form of self awareness, but one of the highest forms of self-delusion. 

 

 

September 22, 2011

 

 

What Made Me an Atheist

Joe (truth-saves.com administrator) recently posted a blog featuring Adam Corolla talking about his atheism, and it got me to listening to some of his other comments on the subject. On one of his radio shows, Adam stated that he is often asked “What made you an atheist?” I have also been asked this question many times over the years, and Adam’s response really got me thinking.

As America is the most religious industrialized nation in the world, it seems that most Atheists in this country have a “story” regarding how they transitioned from religiosity, or at least the tacit support of religion, to deciding to declare their rationality. Every time I told my “story” to a person who believed in the supernatural, they would declare triumphantly how I had a “bad experience with religion” and that it was those events that made me an atheist. I have never been comfortable with that analysis of my experience, as it minimized the role of critical thinking and reason, and emphasized a specific event that occurred. Yes, events occurred that got me to thinking, but that does not mean that those events caused me to be vengeful against religion. When the apple fell and hit Isaac Newton on the head, did the blow cause him to start thinking critically about physics? Or did the pain cause him to go on a tree killing rampage? Clearly it is possible for one to suffer through a traumatic experience and become a better person because of it.

First of all, nothing makes someone an atheist, and I mean literally nothing. Simply NOT having religious dogma forced upon you as a child, is all it takes. Christopher Hitchens often points out that every child in Sunday school can see right through the preposterous claims of the religious, as is evident by the astonished looks on their faces, and they only succumb to these irrational beliefs after being threatened and intimidated by their elders. Every child is born an atheist; they become religious when their parents teach dogma as fact. If you want atheist children, all it takes is to simply protect children from people who pretend to know about the existence of supernatural creatures and the divine authorship of certain books.

Some people become atheists after being religious. This takes a high degree of critical thinking, rationality, and understanding the difference between right/wrong and true/false (note that this is the definition of Morality). The ability to work through the various dogmatic teachings one has been raised with and to identify the errors, really does take a lot of introspection and self-reflection. Anyone who claims that changing your life-long beliefs is easy has never done so. While it is certainly possible that folks have become atheists due to a willful blind choice against religion, many of us are simply taking responsibility for our beliefs. This is something that the religious do not do, the responsibility for their beliefs, right or wrong, lies with their imagined supernatural creature.

I am an atheist, not because of an experience or event in my life; I am an atheist because I strive to know the difference between right and wrong, true and false, accurate and inaccurate. I am an atheist because I can think critically about new information, ideas and concepts, and am willing to go through the difficult process of changing my beliefs when they are proven in error or incomplete. I am an atheist, because there is no more evidence to support the biblical Hebrew gods, than there is to support Zeus and Thor. I am an atheist, because I do not believe in the supernatural. I am an atheist because I was born one, just like everyone else.