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Before I go on please let me introduce this is a theoretical concept to which some of it is based on the truth, while other facts are just media excitement about Haggard to which they might not have any truth about them, I don’t want to be sued. He was the spiritual and religious leader to many being the head of a form of evangelical Christianity in America and by creating energy he turned faith into a business where millions of dollars came in. In a lot of European countries churches, especially more traditional versions of religion, are finding it difficult to get funding to stop the walls falling down however, the new life church had an ‘campus’, so ignoring the personal investment for the moment there was a lot of money going into these places. Haggard himself attacked evolution and in Dawkins’ documentary told him to get out, after saying that Dawkins was arrogant, a word which would very closely reflect my opinion of Haggard. So let us turn to what this man of God has to say about people who are gay, don’t worry this is not the normal attack of me calling him a hypocrite that would be easy to do, he said that the bible is the word of God we don’t need to discuss what we believe since it is already written and therefore, it is not necessary to discuss ‘gay people’ because we all know what our position is. The bible says that it is a sin and those that are gay should be put to death, of course this is not word for word still it is the overall feeling of both Haggard and the bible. A couple of years ago the New Life Church had this to say about Haggard “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.” (1) In other words he took drugs and had sex with a man which, let me check, yes is a sin in the eyes of religion (all not just the version Haggart promoted). The focus is very much on the gay act rather than the drug taking. This is very sad and I mean that!

These are some of the words Haggard uses in a letter to the New Life Church which is reported in the Gazette of Colorado Springs on 5th November 2006 about his demise as the religious leader of about 30 million people: betrayal, horrible example, embarrassment, guilty of sexual immorality, problem, I am a deceiver and a liar, dirt, repulsive and many other terms which are all basically the same as going I did something really bad all of which are directed at the gay sex thing not the drugs (2). So let me be the judge, I find Haggard Not Guilty on the following accounts; taking drugs, having sex with a man and telling lies. Of course drugs and lying are very bad things still I don’t hold him accountable to his mistakes if he intends to work on them and change. He had every right to do those things if that is what he chooses to do, as long as it does not end up hurting anyone else in the process. There is no guilt with being gay and it is not immoral on any account, so I will reject the notion that Haggard as a free man should not do that sort of thing if he wants. Haggard is not guilty of being human! He is Guilty of promoting fear and hate being the former head of the New Life Church, it is an assumption if he did not believe and promote those things then he would be openly gay and perhaps remove the drug taking and lies which could be considered evidence of internal difficulties after the denial of himself. He is a prick don’t get me wrong and hypocrite along with arrogant; still he would be more of a man if he admitted the Church was wrong and his feelings are justified. Of course he will be forgiven has long as he keeps on denying himself after all there is only one ‘sin’ that could not be forgiven being that of denying the holy ghost. I think that it is very sad that he just cannot be who he is and the only reason I can tell stopping him from doing this is a dishonest, unjust, unclear book filled with lies and made up stories.

The route of Ted Haggard demise is inbuilt into the evangelical church, if not all religion, since it offers denial at all levels. Children are infected within this church to believe that gay people are at the subject of disgust and fear. The church also teach that abortion is wrong, Good things come from Jesus, bad things come from evil, that Global warming is not happening, that nonbelievers are subhuman, ghost or magical stories are disrespectful (apart from the magic that happens in the bible), that science is wrong and anyone not like they are should be punished. If children do things naughty they are accused of walking away from Jesus and will be punished at the highest level. They call this the Jesus Army and if you preach such things then of course children will grow up to deny themselves and hating others. There version of Jesus is not love, compassion and forgiveness! Whatever comfort or community that is created by the church is at a price that is too high. Where will it end? Artax13 points to the most disturbing result but conceivably the clearest perspective I have heard from in a while, responding to Haggard’s views about gay people, commenting that anti-Gay is just the same notion the Nazi’s had about Jewish people (3). That is where this will end; the parallel between anti-Jewish feelings promoted in Europe for a long time that caused the final solution among other acts and the views on every single person outside the evangelical church being directed towards children within the church is very much alike. That scares me and it shows we have not learnt what we should have. It also makes me sad that children are filled with foolish nonsense they did not ask for and do not need.

Sources:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Haggard
2. http://www2.gazette.com/display.php?id=1326184
3. http://youtube.com/watch?v=3XsCcKiCL2c

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MMR image from retiredrambler.typepad.com The MMR vaccine, an all-round method for protecting children against measles, mumps and rubella, was first used right at the end of the 1960’s it was clear to see it was an ever effective method of disease control. This vaccine was the result of scientific methods and the empowerment of people to see something that required effort & attention in so dealing with it; this has saved around an estimated 1.8 million people. As well as stopping these diseases from causing death it also had the effect of removing some of the other common results of the illness such as mental defects. So when the level of measles starts to rise and the first child died from it in 2006 in the UK after 14 years of no measles related deaths, we have to really start to understand why. Most of the answer was due to Dr Andrew Wakefield who was guilty of bad science in his report suggesting that there was a link between MMR and autism. Is it right for me to blame just one person for the increasing measles cases or do we all need to bare some of the responsibility? Wakefield’s report argued that there was an inherent risk from the MMR vaccine and suggested that single vaccines would reduce the risk to the child. The conclusions were based on the observation of 12 children all of who were determined to have shown symptoms of autism type behaviour 8 of which were reported within two weeks of the MMR vaccination. This is bad science in two main ways; the first is no control group which is the base of children that have received the vaccine without showing any symptoms of autism without this group it is impossible to determine whether the MMR vaccine did cause autism. The second problem is that if you are only dealing with 12 children all of which are showing symptoms, of course this will alter anyone’s perception of what is going on, since we tend to see patterns naturally even if they are not there.

The Man – the threat was simply based on a theory, he suggested that the combined vaccine overloaded the immune system of the child which in turn caused a bowel disorder and later a form of autism. Wakefield views were dismissed time and time again by experts in the field, as he never proved clear evidence to link the vaccine to autism, even though there was an increase in the reported levels of autism. In most studies cited by Wakefield there were children who had autism which also received MMR although a smaller number had also received the single vaccines. Although it could be suggested that the measles vaccine could trigger the onset of autism this would also indicate the single vaccine could also possibly be a trigger. Wakefield used bad science since he only ever looked at small numbers which violates the conditions of the scientific method of reliability and validation. Wakefield faced professional misconduct charges for performing unnecessary procedures on children and he was also questioned about his position in research in this area and his role as an expert in MMR litigation. The parents of the 12 children used by Wakefield in his initial investigation were seeking to sue the producers of the vaccine. The GMC described him as dishonest and brought a number of charges of wrongful conduct.

The Media – the media ran with the story and like any good business they used it to sell the media they were producing. They helped to present a confusing picture for parents by introducing doctors that backed the withdrawal of the MMR vaccine without ever considering the level to which they should be placed in context. In a sense those doctors who back each side were given equal weight and offered a personal dilemma that parents had to face, despite the fact the official position as always been there is no link between the vaccine and autism. The focus was on autism and not the potential harmful disease that the vaccine would protect against. The Parents – often people react more to the thing which is less likely to happen but offers more worrying and unknown consequences. The threat of something that is unknown is much more powerful as a fear than that to which we think that we know more about. As the result of the fear of MMR fewer children were protected from the known diseases, the disease increased and children suffered as a result. Of course, the single jabs were always available still these left gaps between when the first vaccine was given and the last one, this was sometimes the only opportunity required for illness. Countries like the UK also refused to pay for the single vaccinations since there was no evidence MMR was linked to autism and the extra cost could not be justified within a limited budget. This left many children without any protection!

The truth – A couple of months after Wakefield suggested a bowel disorder could cause autism a 14 year long study found that around 0.001% of the children given the MMR vaccine suffered any bowel problems, all of which never showed any signs of autism. Even if we take that number, 0.001% as having the possibility of developing autism and let’s assume that they do, this is still less likely than the other two major results of measles. There is a 0.033% chance the measles will result in mental retardation and there is a 0.01% chance that someone will die from measles (this is an estimate; this is reduced to a degree with modern medications although those children unprotected from measles often end up in hospital). There is a higher chance of dying from measles than from the assumption that every bowel disorder will cause autism. Reported cases of autism numbers are on the increase this might be due to many factors, only a small percentage of the cases have strong genetic links. In a Japanese city were the vaccine was withdrawn the numbers of reported autism cases still showed an increase. If the MMR vaccine was to blame then the trend should have started to go down rather than up, as it did. There is a real issue of genetic predispositions and environmental factors which is still unclear, to say that is more acceptable than spreading fear and concern for something that might not be the real cause, MMR has shown to not be the real cause. The truth is the more parents that don’t have their children vaccinated then it puts everyone else at risk, only one person needs to bring the disease into a community to infect all the unvaccinated children. While medical resources are used to treat the outbreak it is not being spent on other things, so if there is a known cure being that of the MMR vaccine can anyone be justified at putting other people at risk by diverting money away from treating other conditions? There is perhaps a more worrying end to all of this, while antibiotics are losing the battle with disease why should we risk using them to treat diseases like measles when that could result in them being less effective for other illnesses that we currently have no proactive defence for. It is clear that the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risk!

This is a prime example of risk taking behaviour by large parts of our own societies, the risk from measles, mumps and rubella has always been greater than that of autism. So why did we act in such a strange way? This is not just about awareness of the issues that are at play it is about how we perceive information, it was the fault of Wakefield, even though he acted against what doctors are meant to uphold, he was perhaps stupid and dishonest. It was not the fault of the media after all they represent things in such a way that allows them to get people’s attention. It has to do with us and how we use critical thinking in order to understand things. It might be argued that we cannot all understand such medical terms and its language; we can use our brains and go find the information though. We could go and look at logical fallacies for ourselves. At the heart of it, it is about how we come to understand risk we see ourselves in and for the most part inaction appears like the most sensible course of action, still this is not! If you can understand why a loving and caring parent would make such an error in judgment then perhaps you can also see the reflection when it comes to Reiki or homeopathic medicine, or even maybe the relationship we might have with horoscopes. Things might appear to hold less risk than they actually do while others are more dangerous than they are given credit for.

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There is an old Irish saying, religion is the superstition of fools and I cannot help but think that should be religion is the religion of fools! I will give religion one point though, not that I’m actually keeping a record of points awarded or anything, at least for the most part it is perhaps a clearer distinction to where certain thoughts or behaviour come from, this is certainly not as clear when you consider luck for example. That is to say if you hate gay people then it comes completely justifiable once the understanding of a religious belief becomes apparent, even though such a position is easy rejected under the broad label of a modern society. If you believe some things are lucky and others are not, then it’s a little more difficult to see the thought process that has gone on in order for that to be justifiable to anyone especially to those that believe it. I think that I will start off with Superstitions since under my own broad definition this includes Luck, horoscopes, homeopathic medicine, anyone that argues they can speak to the dead, faith healers, Reiki, card reading and anything that can come up along those lines. I want to argue that these things have never been proven to work, at all, from what I hear people argue it works as there is a kind of feeling that it does. Rather than simply putting my focus in to that, I want to answer the question of what harm these things can do and the investment which is placed within these superstitions. In general I am not celebrating despair, rather extreme levels of hope which can be achieved by removing these things from people’s minds. If anyone points the finger at me saying that I am trying to remove their hope I wish to comment that this is not the case, there are real benefits to abandonment and also real empowerment to be taken back from both superstitions & religion.
www.blacksunjournal.com

I like this analogy; if you go and get health care treatment in America and increasingly in Western European countries as well, once your condition is found out the burden of deciding on treatment is pushed back to the person who is ill, this is not the issue of consent which should always happen unless it is agree that you no longer can give it, it is a list of treatments that you can pick. This comes from the fear that doctors or hospitals might be sued if they get things wrong and you suffer in this event. This might sound really good, still consider who is more likely to make mistakes a doctor with at least 7 years of training who is at heart a professional or a sick person who knows next to nothing about medicine? It might seem an empowering notion to go through after all what is bad about choice, nothing and it does give the ill person a sense that they are in control of the situation. Even so you can see why this is illogical and perhaps wrong; a doctor who might make a mistake is always in a better position to make decisions than a sick person who is more than likely completely unaware of what is involved in the medical treatments offered. It is these supernatural things that create their own inbuilt despair as the same thing is happening, things like Reiki, faith healers and homeopathy give people who are ill or suffering the feeling of control over their own lives, still do we ever consider the possibility that an ill person is no good at deciding what one of these treatments will be best for them? Who is to say that Reiki will work and faith healing will not. This might seem like an overlaboured point to make but it is not as empowerment and control is so important to us. This leads me to the next objection; the level of hope that is given to people by these superstitious treatments often falls short of expectation, so they create despair often. Richard Dawkins puts this best by saying that people in India are choosing scientific medical treatment over useless superstitious treatments in overwhelming numbers, mean while in the west we are stuck in the reverse!

There is no evidence to suggest luck, horoscopes, homeopathy, Reiki or the other things ever work or are real reflections of the world. If these things are not based on truth, then it is perfectly possible to reduce them down to personal feelings and ‘I thinks’, this is a move towards the metaphysical. There is no evidence to suggest that someone’s metaphysical feelings are real, you might have really strong personal feelings that black people should not share the same space as you, that is just racist and if we end up deciding what is true based on our personal feelings then to me that is just a judgement call and ultimately dangerous to us all. The human brain is an amazing inability to decide what is true or not. Let’s take the case of 9/11 where almost 3000 Americans died, this is sad and deserves our action in every way. Only three days later, exactly to the minute after these attacks 3,300 Americans had died as a direct result of cigarettes, a further 1,100 would die every single day for the rest of the year (Chris Jordan). Since these terrorist attacks the American budget for health care has been reduced in real terms and homeland security has been increased by a significant amount, even though if a small percent of the homeland security budget was direct at healthcare prevention it could save more people. Of course we must stop terrorists, I am not suggesting we don’t, still is an example of how sometimes we can worry more about the things that are not really all that much of a threat to us. We think that smoking cigarettes is a choice, it might be in the start but often turns out to be an addiction, still we assume that it is controllable thus making it a safe known rather than perhaps an unsafe unknown. We have an error in our understanding when it comes to threats to safety of ourselves and the people we care about. In order to remove judgement from within our personal feelings we must check science and in order to remove errors in our understanding, even at national level, we must come to understand what logic is showing us – these create true things unlike personal feelings!

I use the word investment when we are talking about superstitions; this describes the situation the best since I don’t think that you walk into these superstitions not giving up things, this could be time, energy, money or your mental ability to cope in a rational way. Please keep in mind the idea of truth when I talk about these things here. When I talk about luck, I assume that most people do things that they hope will result in good things happening to them still when they don’t do these things it can often result in changes in thoughts, behaviour and a great deal of anxiety. The loss we make is great, we change our thoughts with the end result being irrational thinking, we change our behaviour as a result making us do things that are not justifiable and if we put our hope into something that is not true how can it be anything other than despair. Let’s go to Reiki for example, the process where someone puts their hands over your body and it heals you magically, people put time and often money, our hopes and often ill people go there in order to receive treatment. I think it is dishonest to say that you can treat someone when there is no evidence that you can, it scares me that someone can do Reiki who could possibly not be going through proven treatment or spending the time & money into going for a nice massage that would make their life better without the false hope. Of course both luck and Reiki can provide us with something but at what cost to ourselves. All these things chip away at the thing we call science and that will harm everyone in the end, you move the mind set away from the logic and towards the irrational. If you think that computers, vaccines, antibiotics, Cognitive behavioural treatments, MIR scans, X-ray scanners either at airports that keep you safe or at hospitals, possible fusion energy in the future, gene therapy, disease, chemical & infection control and much more are not only useful but saving people’s lives every single day, then how can you reject what all these things that are based on rational and reasoned thinking. To accept superstitious rubbish is the full face rejection of science, there is one proven thing that has improved & saved the lives of millions of people – science. There is nothing that as caused more suffering and death than superstition, and this brings me to the biggest one of all time, Religion!

www.issr.org.ukReligion is not based on the hope that there is a supernatural being rather extreme fear that there is not, with the wish that belief is not wasted. Religious people see the same evidence that God is not real as the rest of us; still it suits their needs to promote the irrational idea, it is indeed a real problem and why should anyone settle for this? Either you make the decision to give your life, mind or often death over to someone else or you do not. The debate should never be about morality or the evidence that a certain religion is either right or wrong, the evidence is clear for all to see. Focus should be on the implications of belief, we should not be scared into religion since it is our only hope in explaining things, I even reject this idea, it ends up explaining very little. If the result of belief is anything negative then it must answer for this, many people claim to be good Christians unless you are homophobic, racist and don’t agree with the idea of women’s rights then you are not a good Christian at all, this is God’s word and you cannot pick what you want from the bible. Religion can make people do the upmost stupid things, there justifications comes from faith even though morality tells us that these things are wrong and I am not talking about extremists that blow themselves up, I am talking about the everyday believers here. Bringing up your child in just one religion is child abuse, you have no evidence that you are picking the right religion so how can you justify placing rules & guide lines for a child without knowing whether it is right or not! Mutilation of children’s genitals is wrong no matter how many metaphysical feelings you, as a parent, might have. I object to religion on so many grounds, you can read some of it on my blog or go look on the internet for yourself. Now let us turn to science.

A lot of crap science is out there and this is not the result of science at all, rather people claiming that something is science when it is not. So I will give you a little rule to remember; if you come across something that is claiming to be science in order for you to check whether it is or not, ask yourself under what conditions could this be completely wrong! If you can’t work out how it could be wrong then it is not science, for example a new drug that helps people with depression this can be proven false if it is found not to work correctly. The creationist’s argument that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark umm… dinosaurs lived before humans and around 64 million years ago? Ok you know that or you think the earth is only 4000 years old. I think you get the picture there is no condition in the creationists approach that allows me to say that would be false thus it is not science. If you go up to anyone that claims to be a true scientist and ask them the most important factors are the fact it can be wrong is the most significant, followed by peer review, reason and reliability of both method & result. You might not understand it at all but if you wanted to then you could go out and repeat the experiments of science. The method is always published within the peer review in order so others are able to find the same findings. Other than that it is a rational & reasoned response, not always but the things that go to create general laws or known facts are checked and the feedback loop checks them well so you can take from it that they are true things. To me the wonders of science far surpass that of anything else, the beauty of the surface of Mars or viewing atoms through powerful electron microscopes, how can anything else challenge these things? The hope that science brings is also amazing, around the time of the Enlightenment was a period were humans took control of the world they found themselves in, no one should ever want to lose that power, it is so important to us. I have gone on about how useful it is, I will end with this; it is thanks to science that I am still alive and that most of us are, we don’t owe science anything but we do owe the method of thinking that allow humans to think, imagine and create the things that saved so many people and that will save many more in the future. You should feel optimistic about the future; with science and its reasoned thinking we can do almost anything we can dream.

I have written about science and religion so far, I hope to write more about the things I consider as Superstitions soon. I decided to write this post now since I felt ready and confident about these issues. I have really enjoyed the journey that has being going on with me in the last six months, I hope it will continue. It is a little sad though that my posts offering insults about religion seem to get more views than anything else, so if you are reading this and have not done so already, please go read a science post. Thank you for reading my blog!

A little more on this matter….


Michael Shermer – Why we should think before we believe things. I like this man, he also thinks that intelligent design is the end of the conversation and science is an attitude rather than anything else. He discusses UFO and other things along that nature. Humans tend to see patterns and use their cognitive abilities to make sense of unclear data, this does not, as he suggests, be the end of investigation or be used as evidence. Our brains change the things we perceive into a workable pattern and this is what is happening, the more difficult it is to hear or see something clearly the more likely it is we will start to see with our brains and not our eyes.

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Something I have always wondered about is why believe in God? Part of the story I thought was that fear held religion together, creating something of an understanding in people’s life which in turn made the unexplained events into an explainable thing. Still this is not the case; people are just not pushed into religion because they cannot understand death or illness even if they are very scared. Fear directing belief is not true of course, if it were I would be happy because at least it is a logical reason and something science can remove slowly. More than that, this reason alone helps me feel less scared about the world I live in. Perhaps there is some truth about it which exist in religion, well at least be honest with me here the Christian religion, the one I know most about, has a bible full of evil things. If you disagree than you are a fool, those without religion have a morality that exceeds that of the bible or religious people. Hell is an evil construct and something an atheist would not teach with such force to make Children do what they want them too.

The truth is scary, at least this why I think religion exists, part of it is the family were people grow up in and the rest is in what society we happen to live. As children we are exposed to a certain religion, it is then we take in the information and then as we grow older, to start to believe that its true and right with all the others being so wrong. This is why when we watch a scary movie as a child that we should have not, the fears it presented us lives long into adulthood, clowns for some reason do this with my generation. If you never saw a clown until you were an adult then you would simply wonder what all the fuss was about. This is a lot but not enough, for religion does something else it creates a community in which it can survive. Catholics don’t just believe they also demonstrate that they believe and it’s not just going to church on a Sunday that can do this. People tend to live, know and be friends with people that tend to share their own believes, even in multi-cultural societies faith schools and the role of parents help children to grow up mostly knowing their own. Their own is a succinct way of saying this, there is no real difference between us.

It’s these two reasons why belief in God is so real, none of this is about true or rational understanding. It does not show how some people can turn towards a religion that they did not grow up with it, still most people I know would fit this explanation and this should never be the cause of belief.

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