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This is a rewritten version of an earlier post –

These three phenomena cover a wide array of activities and beliefs but share the same broad sense that they break away from what could be considered to be ‘natural’ and move towards trying to produce or support events that cannot be explained unless there is an unsupported theory behind the curtain. They use a selection of common defences in order to make sure of their own continuation, these are claims that are often made outside of the sorts of other logic and reasoning that perhaps every other part of our lives are subjected to. If I were to claim that I was in fact the best stock broker in the world (I know that in these times of financial melt down that most likely is not a difficult claim to make) then you would expect me too to back it up with at least something. If however, I were to claim to have the ability to speak to a family member of yours who has died, if I were really good at reading you and had been through some sort of education which might include Barnum statements & showmanship, I could actually make you believe that I was doing it. Based not on my actual ability but because you are vulnerable (primed even) and you were brought up in a society where even the slight possibility of these things being real means something to you! These three things which I will refer to as general superstitions rely on at least these five common defences that have to be in place or they will simply fail. There are two wider questions; are such superstitions true (the answer is no) and why do they even exist at all, of course these have very complex answers. Part of the reason behind this post was a promotional video for the Centre of Inquiry which describes superstition as ‘uneducated answers’ and how science makes it possible to have educated ones. Still I think it should go further; superstitions are failures in reasoning, as René Descartes promoted – reason & rationality are the sources of truth and the guarantors of progress.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/superstition/the-common-defences-used-by-superstitions-religion-and-sometimes-conspiracy-theories-rational-thinking-pushed-aside/

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To really understand this documentary slash movie you have to first understand how Intelligent design came about, after all it should at least in theory be different from the theological understanding of why we are here since such a theological argument would never be considered to be science. The whole point of intelligent design is so it could be included within science, mostly the aim is to get it taught in schools as the counter point to evolution, in other words to lift the creationists into the remit of science along the way acquiring the objective weight of true knowledge. At some point I was happy to concede that perhaps Intelligent Design is pushed out to easily, this was the first point made by Ben Stein, no one should be afraid of discourse on any subject. Freely expressed opinions and views are exactly the things that have allowed secular societies to become better for everyone. Now to be honest, after some thought, I want to claim that Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence allowed is simply a dishonest representation of the truth and I will explain why that should be the conclusion. Please do watch the documentary otherwise this won’t make sense even though the first issue is understood if you already know a little about the dispute. Sadly Ben Stein does not appear, at least from his documentary, to understand the argument at all.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/religion/%e2%80%98expelled-no-intelligence-allowed%e2%80%99-is-completely-correct-there-is-no-intelligence-in-it/

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I don’t really understand why I am even having to write this post, still the subject keeps coming up in debates that religious people have with Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens to name a few, the disbelief is that some people consider this an argument against atheists when it clearly is not. The thing that really gets me is people also use the notion that Hitler had about the idea of “survival of the fittest” as demonstrating that science without religion can only lead to completely negative things. This is not true and please don’t for any moment consider what I am saying as support for the crimes the Nazi’s committed against all of us. Let’s first decide that the term atheist does not mean much at all, read my earlier post [https://therationalunderstanding.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/there-is-no-church-of-atheism-%e2%80%93-what-does-atheism-mean-with-the-help-of-sam-harris/], in short everyone is an atheist about something and Harris puts it right when he rejects this term. Just because you apply the term atheist to describe yourself it does not mean you belong to some sort of group, on the other hand if you are a catholic and you do certain things which are mostly justifiable because of that faith then you do belong to a group and the group should be held accountable. Ignoring the technical definition of atheist let’s just use the idea that it just means you don’t belong to a group as a working hypothesis, the only thing that atheists agree upon is the rejection of religion. I like to also consider what “science” means, for a start it is not an alternative belief system and there is no church of science. Although science can provide a reason to why religion is wrong, it does not aim to replace it as it deals with a completely different set of constructs. Although the rejection of the ideas of science and atheism in certain terms makes the point, what I want to argue is that rational understanding is the best way, something which includes the rejection of magic (religion) and unfounded ideas but includes in part accepting the tools of science as long as it is rational.

 

Did religion play any part in the final solution? It would be wrong to assume that just because Hitler rejected the Catholic Church as something very distasteful that it had nothing to do with it, after all he wanted to be the God so there was no need for any others, the centuries of discrimination towards Jewish people was a feature of religion. There are many reasons to why the regime came about but it must have not been helped by this, it actually becomes a justification in one of Hitler’s speeches about why the Jewish people are the cause of all known problems it ended in ‘… as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people’, he also cited Christian Love and the need to fight the Jews in the same speech (Cited in Letter to a Christian nation, Harris). It was yet another reason to why the politics of Germany could be helped by religion, has religion ever been outside politics? Well no this time, the Catholic Church agreed to make Hitler a saint upon his death and also ordered that on his birthday all churches in Germany to offer prayers for him. Why would the church care about the final solution since it achieved more in a few years than they had gotten done in centuries, it’s clear that between 40 & 50% of the SS, the ones that were responsible for the most killing and the final solution, were practicing Catholics none of them got kicked out of the church because of their part in such crimes. It is important to remember that Hitler was just one man and the SS were about 6 million strong, so the reason to why the Jewish people were considered subhuman thus making them not treatable as humans is in part due to the Church. The dogma helped to create the regime and their inaction against such a thing speaks towards what would have been the moral thing to do.

 

image.guardian.co.uk

image.guardian.co.uk

 

Were Hitler and the Nazis rational? The German archaeologists of the first part of the 20th century fronted the way offering new methods and massive advancements, still during the time when the Nazis were in power none of these scientists would dare speak out against the notion of the Arian race. Nazi racial theory believed that the Arian race were descendants of the lost city of Atlantis, the blonde blue eyed survivors were the pure race, Atlantis was destroyed when the earth went through its last cycle and the moon crashed into the earth. When it comes to science the evidence must support the theory, it did not and this moves the theory away from rational belief and towards dogma. There is also another side to the wrongful claim of science and that is the notion of “survival of the fittest” which is also claimed that Hitler in particular was thought to believe in strongly and which also went towards the racial theory. This is an assumption based on the idea that we are still subject to that rule, which we are not in most part. Humans have been outside of this natural law for a long time; we take care of our grandparents for example, even past the point where they don’t provide a use. Altruism is common enough and is also outside of this simple survival of the fittest model of explanation. From this we can conclude that racial theory is not rational at all, it’s based on assumptions and fear which is never a real reflection of things. Science is often seen as rational and powerful, still science means knowledge and this is useful when trying to understand other regimes. For example Hitchens argues that the people of North Korea are kept away from knowledge as this is dangerous to the leadership. The knowledge that the Nazis did not want people to know is that there are no genetic differences between groups of people. Neither true science nor rational thought played much of a part in the Nazis creation of racial theory.

The new atheist movement is not just about pointing out that religion is wrong it is also about inquiry, Sam Harris in a debate with David Wolpe said something which was very powerful; the sorts of regimes that cause endless suffering and death are not the result of vast inquiry rather none at all. So to point the finger at atheists blaming them for such regimes is wrong since it is not what the discussion is about, the atheist discussion is examination. Religion is closest to the regimes than it is to the inquiry provided by the new atheist movement, most religious people feel more comfortable about just accepting and using speculation rather than trying to find the real answers. There are lots of examples of this; one is that of Stem Cell research, people that argue that it is wrong are often concern for a small number of cells than about human suffering because they have not been through the inquiry that strongly suggests stem cells are just cells and don’t have a soul. Religion helped create the final solution, it certainly did not help to stop it and of course rational understanding is not promoted within religion. These are the reasons to why not only atheism cannot be criticised for such regimes and more guilt, although admittedly not all, can be placed upon religion. Last of all Dawkins puts it like this, such regimes are not performed in the name of atheism, and in fact they are done in the name of unchallenged belief. So it is up to us all to challenge the non-rational and that includes religion.

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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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Oh dear - www.goma.demon.co.ukI will take five of the ten ideas that were presented by Dave Jones in one of his YouTube videos, link is at the bottom, and I would like to do something different with them. The video is about how not to attack atheists so you can enter into a discussion rather than leaving it at that, it works much better into why no one should ever respect the religious arguments that are so often pushed towards us. Sticking with Christians and Muslims is useful as they are the two main groups to which we often find objection with, plus they are guilty of pretty much the same sorts of errors. Let’s assume that extremists often those that would also be called fundamentalists are unable to think for themselves through political coercion, brainwashing or simple craziness. It is the moderates that have the ability to think for themselves. Although this is comfortable it is not really true, I would rather just focus on moderate religious people and although this whole topic is part of a much larger discussion Dave Jones made me react and consider a slightly different approach. After getting some feedback on the things I have written, it does start to frustrate me after a while since I have to keep returning to the same points over and over again, as being religious appears to just mean that you have no ability to understand anyone else that does not think the same way as you do. I was also going to describe my feelings as hate although I want to make it clear that I don’t hate people, I do hate their beliefs which is completely different. Someone might be a kind, intelligent person who cares for their family and friends; I can accept this although it does not really come from religion at all. You might think it does but it does not. Ok, why don’t I like moderate religious people?

The Holy Book – the use of such books are taken to mean so much, in the critics of evolution they are often used as points of reference to which something is meant to suddenly click and the whole thing makes sense. It does not stop at what Jones argues being that nonbelievers don’t accept the holy books as God’s word, it goes further if we all make the assumption that it is then the implications are very clear. Either we have to stop learning more about the place in which we live or we have to do things that are immoral. I do go on about dinosaurs a lot; I am not really a fan still if the word reptile is meant to also include dinosaurs and this is the only mention of it in the bible, what we can take from that devalues what we already know, in the process ignoring it. Put this another way if you think that the post hoc explanation of reptiles on Noah’s Ark explains anything then you are just denying the right to access knowledge that does not agree with this, you will learn less just from one word than a body of research & theory. This is where the frustration is; partly as so much is ignored and secondly as so much is easily dismissed without consideration. The immoral refers to possible justifiable acts that holy books allow for and that is no account for the lack of intellectual honesty when using references, there are parts of all the holy books that mention depraved actions towards other humans if you never address them that makes you dishonest on all things.

Faith – it seems to be the less something has the evidence to back it up then the more faith that is required and therefore, the greater the weight belief becomes. It is like saying the less I know something for sure the more important the role of personal feelings have to become. This is just a ridiculous stand point to argue from, there is no reason to why your personal feelings should be given any weight at all, no one can check them and it is as equally possible first you had some basic understanding of religion and later personal feelings to back it up. Likewise the perspective that you must have faith in order to understand just creates a circular argument that never gets anywhere; no one should just believe stuff. The situation is often the other way around there is a lot of evidence that just does not agree with religion so why does anyone believe it; it is clear that religion does not work and is not true. The example of Stenger is useful; God is seen as transcendent, meaning he is outside of space and time still God is also omnipresent meaning that he exists everywhere – there is no way in which these two things can be true. The conclusion is that just because someone claims faith all that means is they have a personal feeling and feelings should never be something which are acted upon without anything else being there to back up those feelings, especially when the consequences are so serious. Having faith means you have accepted something because you have been told to; this is a major fault of character.

Evil concepts – all religions see certain groups as sub-human and not like the rest of us, for example Islam thinks that women should be treated like animals with their only goal to do things for men. A lot of Muslim people have commented that they respect ‘their women’, it is clear that your respect and disrespect are very much alike. Let us mention other people; it is clear in Islam that one difference is the only determining factor on how we treat them never mind what is the right thing to do or not. This I suggest is an evil concept, so is Hell I mean after all the guilt that catholic’s use over the death of Jesus they still have to blackmail with the threat of going to hell. If there was anyone that I would describe as evil it is mother Teresa, ignoring her inaction on treating the ill with medical care, she went around the world telling women that they had no choice. Surely if any woman wanted to have an abortion or use birth control it should always be up to them and it should never settle on others opinions. People promote the idea that religion is good when it is clearly never good at all; this is the most frustrating thing I have come across since it serves to simply create a distraction of the real issues that religious people support by their inaction to challenge.

The attack of atheists – the situation in America is very disturbing. It does not stop there though after all there are decisions that are being made based on religious grounds. If religion is never proven to be correct how can such directed decisions offer the right choice. This often leads to agenda based seeing; there everything is put into context of religious perspective removing the necessary debate about important issues. Often atheists are forced to defend their position once they put real issues forward, this creates noise and distraction. There is also the implication that somehow an atheist is someone that should not be trusted, at least we explain our position and will listen to a constructed argument against the things we believe in. This leads to the next issue…

Threats and insults – religious people often demand respect for their belief, even if they don’t show it back, they just don’t understand the objections are real. Too often I have seen threats mostly from Muslims, not exclusively; this just creates a reinforcement of things that are already known. The Danish cartoonists were simply demonstrating their opinions and how do people react, they beat them down and create violence, is there any wonder about the western view of Islam as just a group of violent people? Then others have to suffer in silence with their opinion as it might cause offense, Islam causes me offense in the first place! Christians that present intelligent design wonder why others see them as stupid; it is because they reject their own intelligence. They are insulting all of us when they expect us to believe something which they made up and then demand respect for. If you want to threaten or insult then go and do that somewhere on your own, if you want to create meaningful discourse then please go ahead. There appears to be an enemy of the week sometimes, there is an outcry for people just expressing what they think which is dealt with by violence, threats and insults. Are Muslims so scared of others that don’t think like them they need to resort to this? Those that do these things are more often than not scared and trying to convince themselves of what they say is right.

I want to keep coming back to this point; religious belief has serious consequences so if religion has anything other than the divine to do about it, then we must closely look at religion. If religious people are just left with metaphysical feelings then, it is religious people that need to be worried about faith and they should never interfere with the rest of us. Rather than stating there is no ‘truth’ behind religion, it tries to promote itself as truth and that is dangerous as well as a lie. Just because a religious person believes something is true, even if it is a strong feeling they do demand others should just accept this, why should anyone accept religion as true? I cannot remember who said this; religion is a prime example of a thing above evolution in action, it has won and keeps on winning even if it no longer works. Moderate religious people are the ones that are keeping it alive even though it is something that we should let die. What use, what point does religion serve anyone anymore? I am not taking away people’s hope here, if you are an adult then you are big enough to know the truth and I don’t understand what you are hoping to gain. Does it really matter if gay people become priests, are they not just people? Should ‘gay’ be before a person, I don’t think so. We have gone too far just to allow religion to simply rip us up again and anyone who is scared of a religion free society, then they should never fear, they are safer and better places. Religion has had its time and it failed! Now let us move to something that really does work…

Dave Jones YouTube Video – http://youtube.com/watch?v=oRGziCZSV_Q

Related post – https://therationalunderstanding.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/do-we-need-to-read-understand-the-bible-the-koran-or-the-torah-in-order-to-understand-religion-or-have-an-opinion-on-it/

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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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