Monthly ArchiveDecember 2009
Christianity Thomas on 31 Dec 2009
Among Latinos the prosperity gospel has been spreading rapidly. In a recent Pew survey, 73 percent of all religious Latinos in the United States agreed with the statement: “God will grant financial success to all believers who have enough faith.” For a generation of poor and striving Latino immigrants, the gospel seems to offer a road map to affluence and modern living. Garay’s church is comprised mostly of first-generation immigrants. More than others I’ve visited, it echoes back a highly distilled, unself-conscious version of the current thinking on what it means to live the American dream.
73 percent. 73% of all religious Latinos believe nonsense.
His name is Jase Haber:
Jase, your life has the meaning you give it. Read this, it may help:
Once you wrap your head around that, it gives your life more meaning, not less.
Rationals Thomas on 30 Dec 2009
Russell Glasser discusses tactics for atheist outreach. Topics covered will include when and why to speak up, knowing your audience, general principles for dealing with theistic arguments, and how to get attention.
Russell Glasser received an MS degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Texas. He is a lifelong atheist, and has been a member of the Atheist Community of Austin since 1999.
During that time, Russell has been producer, host, and co-host on “The Atheist Experience,” a founding member of “The Non-Prophets,” and a co-creator of the IronChariots.org wiki site with Matt Dillahunty.
Russell is also a prolific contributor to the online atheist community. He has been blogging on religious and political topics since 2005 on both his personal blog, “Kazim’s Korner” and the Atheist Experience blog.
“Nobel Prize-winning philosopher/mathematician, Bertrand Russell, explains why he does not believe in God.”
Interviewer: Why are you not a Christian?
Russell: Because I see no evidence whatever for any of the Christian dogmas. I have examined all of the stock arguments in favor of the existence of God and none of them seem to me to be logically valid.
Interviewer: Do you think there is a practical reason for having a religious belief for many people?
Russell: Well there can’t be a practical reason to believing what isn’t true. I rule it out as impossible. Either a thing is true or it isn’t. If it is true you should believe it and if it isn’t you shouldn’t. And if you cannot find out if it is true or isn’t you should suspend judgement. It seems to me a fundamental dishonesty and a fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it is useful and not because you think it is true.
What is Noetic Science? It will soon have millions of followers, so it pays to have it on your radar. The Institute of Noetic Sciences defines it this way:
The word “noetic” comes from the ancient Greek nous, for which there is no exact equivalent in English. It refers to “inner knowing,” a kind of intuitive consciousness—direct and immediate access to knowledge beyond what is available to our normal senses and the power of reason.
What are ‘Noetic Sciences’?
Noetic sciences are explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing—including intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses. Noetic sciences explore the “inner cosmos” of the mind (consciousness, soul, spirit) and how it relates to the “outer cosmos” of the physical world.
If that is too wordy, here is a “typical person” trying to describe it:
So I came across ‘noetic science’ for the first time in the new Dan Brown novel and thought to expand my knowledge of this obscure branch of science by googling it…. Apparently, noetic science is a branch of science in which “scientists are trying to measure things we’ve long regarded as immeasurable, like prayer, intuition, or maybe even life after death, with the help of evidence-based research and peer review”. Now tell me, how do you measure prayer and/or its efficacy thereof? Really!!
A quick answer to the question: “Now tell me, how do you measure prayer and/or its efficacy thereof?” You measure it by asking, “Why won’t God heal amputees?” As soon as you pray to heal an amputation you can plainly see that prayer has no effect. This page explains why. Or you can perform scientific experiments – there have been dozens.
Or you can understand what is actually happening when people pray, as demonstrated in these two videos:
As you can see, prayer is a superstition, nothing more. We can perform more and more experiments to prove that over and over again, but it is not going to change anything. Prayer is a superstition just like “black cats cause bad luck” is a superstition. We could perform experiments on black cats for decades but nothing will change – the experiments will all demonstrate that black cats have no effect on the outcome of future events. At some point this obvious fact becomes conclusive to intelligent people, and there is no need for further study.
The following video offers an introduction to Noetic Science from the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Yes, Deepak Choprah appears, as you would expect, right after the introduction:
The Institude describes its activities in this way:
The institute explores consciousness from three perspectives:
(1) First-person perspective — Supporting individuals exploring and developing their own subjective consciousness (e.g., meditation and other spiritual practices). Emphasis on inner knowing and personal transformation.
(2) Second-person perspective — Exploring and supporting transformative relationships and intersubjective consciousness (e.g., compassionate dialogue, community building, a global wisdom society). Emphasis on transformative learning and collective wisdom.
(3) Third-person perspective — Gathering data about objective physiological correlates of consciousness (e.g., research using rigorous scientific protocols, including experiments in psi, mind-body healing, and subtle energies). Emphasis on scientific understanding.
If that sounds like “New Age” repackaged, you would be correct. This is the new New Age, and it will probably garner millions of supporters like New Age did. The fact that things like psi, mind-body healing, and subtle energies are easily debunked does not matter.
You can see the New Age/Spirituality/Religion angle in this article:
There’s an Institute of Noetic Science (IONS) near San Francisco, and it happens to be the subject of a chapter in a book I read last week, NPR religion reporter Barbara Bradley Haggerty’s excellent Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality. Haggerty investigates the scientific underpinnings of psychic phenomena. One of her themes is this idea of entanglement — that the universe is somehow knitted together in ways that materialist science currently can’t explain and maybe never will. On a certain view, a religious one, the unifying factor is God. We’re unified with each other through Him, which is why minds can affect each other across vast distances. That’s the case for the elementary reason that, as in the Jewish prayer Shema, “the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). That doesn’t mean just that there’s one God instead of two or three. Rather, God really is One. Somehow, there’s a unity to God that extends to the rest of creation. If we could see to the heart of reality, we would perceive that everything that seems to enjoy a separate existence from God is really nullified before Him.
Our minds are mostly shut to evidence of this unity — it would be overwhelming otherwise, infinitely so — but occasionally, with more sensitive people or sometimes under the influence of events, spiritual practices, or certain substances, intimations will make themselves felt.
Haggerty’s book just came out in May so obviously it’s not Brown’s source on this. Still, readers of The Lost Symbol will be interested to read Haggerty’s journalistic take on the subject. She visits IONS and interviews researchers who have documented the way, for example, married couples can produce measurable physiological effects in their partners by directing loving thoughts to them even if the two are in separate, totally sealed rooms. Somehow their minds, one might venture to say their souls, are entangled. One woman, a subject in the research, turns out to be psychically sensitive to an unusual degree.
Let’s say this were true – either the part about married couples or the part about a woman who is “psychically sensitive to an unusual degree”. Then it would be possible to win a million dollars by demonstrating the effect to James Randi:
It is a very simple and friendly process to win $1 million:
At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the “applicant” becomes a “claimant.”
Here James Randi explains how the challenge got started and how people can claim the prize:
Anyone with real ability could easily claim the money.
The million dollars will not be claimed by these people because Noetic Science is nonsense.
A brilliant message about atheists: “Imagine if many Christians got their wish, and all atheists left America…”
Rationals Thomas on 28 Dec 2009
A thread on Reddit on how one atheist approached believers (his parents)and “witnessed” to them:
I share this with you because I think we, as atheists, are developing a reputation for our derisive attitude and commentary – as people who mock and assail ideas formed in faith. We see the weakness in faith-based logic and scripture – how satisfying it would feel to break it!
Think of those who we most “idolize” – men such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Brilliant men who have climbed great mountains of thought and reason, only to fish in the mud for those who might take the bait. They spend more time and energy whooping the choir (/r/atheism) into a polarizing frenzy than they do impressing their knowledge and ideas upon those who would benefit from it the most.
Another Reddit thread: How to talk to hardcore, evangelical Christians
Islam Thomas on 27 Dec 2009
Extremist Muslims who force vulnerable teenage girls to convert to Islam are being targeted by police, Met chief Sir Ian Blair has revealed.
Police are working with universities to clamp down on “aggressive conversions” during which girls are beaten up and forced to abandon university courses.
This is not in Saudi Arabia. This is in London.
Richard Dawkins takes a look at Deepak Chopra’s nonsense:
Quantum theory accounts for the anomolous behavior of light and atoms. It is astonishingly accurate but notoriously difficult to grasp. But Deepak Chopra, who once qualified as a doctor, has seized upon quantum jargon and applied it to healing. He claims that disease can be caused and cured by shifting consciousness… Chopra has managed to become a one man alternative health industry. He’s worth up to $75,000 per lecture and in this era of self absorbtion, he claims Michael Jackso, Modonna and Hilary Clinton as followers.
Two news items:
- Furor Erupts Over Atheist Display At State Capitol
A conservative activist and Illinois comptroller candidate was escorted from the Illinois State Capitol building Wednesday when he tried to remove a sign put up by an atheist group.
The sign says: “At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
- Christmas Angel Removed After Atheist Complaint
There’s no place for angels atop Christmas trees, according to one California man who successfully lobbied for the removal of religious symbols at county buildings after spotting a yuletide decoration last week.
Some of the comments on this page are unbelievable.
Christianity Thomas on 23 Dec 2009
This article appeared on the front page of a major metro newspaper on Monday:
Many Christians believe in the power of healing prayer, even if they’ve never witnessed it.
At The River Church on Holt School Road, members not only believe in healing prayer, they say it took place in front of their eyes. It happened Dec. 13 when a young mother brought her severely disabled 8-month-old baby to church.
The girl had been shaken by a babysitter in the summer and was largely unresponsive after emerging from a medically induced coma.
Kristie Hammonds of Raleigh brought her daughter forward to be prayed over by Pastor Sheryl Brady.
As captured on video and posted on YouTube, the girl, named Christiana, was lying in her mother’s arms with her eyes shut as Brady began praying. Soon a packed house began speaking in tongues, waving hands, shouting and pleading with God for the girl’s recovery.
Here is the video of the “healing”:
Question for Sheryl Brady: Why won’t God heal amputees? Will you heal an amputee?
Christianity Thomas on 23 Dec 2009
“Over 20 million Americans believe that we are living in the end times.” It’s the “Waiting For Armageddon” Trailer:
In Theaters: January 8, 2010
Americas 50-million strong Evangelical community is convinced that the worlds future is foretold in Biblical prophecy – from the Rapture to the Battle of Armageddon. This astonishing documentary explores their world – in their homes, at conferences, and on a wide-ranging tour of Israel. By interweaving Christian, Zionist, Jewish and critical perspectives along with telling archival materials, the filmmakers probe the politically powerful – and potentially explosive – alliance between Evangelical Christians and Israelan alliance that may set the stage for what one prominent Evangelical leader calls World War III.
Are you feeling economically desperate and vulnerable? Shoplifting is an option to consider according to one priest:
Father Jones told the congregation: ‘My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift. I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.
‘I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.
This is a perfect example of how the religious can project anything they like onto their God:
The married father-of-two insisted his unusual advice did not break the Bible commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal’ – because God’s love for the poor outweighs his love for the rich.
See The “will of God” is whatever a believer wants it to be for more information
Note also that he offers no advice for what people should do once they get arrested for shoplifting. Strangely, society will offer no exemptions to the law, even though “God’s love for the poor outweighs his love for the rich.”
If God is so loving, why doesn’t he actually do something to help the poor?
Rationals Thomas on 22 Dec 2009
Atheist ads in Las Vegas, and the reaction:
There is nothing dogmatic about the Winter Solstice. It is reality. It is the shortest and darkest day of the year.
Common atheist argument: “No one could enjoy heaven knowing that billions are tortured in hell.” It is an invalid argument. The reason- it happens on earth every day and no one cares.
You may have heard this common argument that atheists use when talking about Christians in heaven:
“No Christian could enjoy heaven knowing that billions of people are being tortured in hell.”
Here is a typical example of the argument’s use:
The point is this. How can anyone enjoy Heaven, knowing that while you have eternal bliss there are people experiencing eternal suffering? Unless you belong to an insular religious community or a cult, it’s almost certain that you know someone – a friend, a relative, a loved one, an idol who inspires you – whose religion of choice is different than yours, or who has no religion at all. How will you be able to enjoy Heaven in the certain knowledge that that person is, at the same moment, suffering the torments of the damned? What if it’s a spouse, a parent, a best friend, a child? (Some theists claim that watching the damned suffer is one of the rewards allotted to those who reach Heaven. About this no more will be said.) How can Heaven be any sort of reward at all if it means eternal separation from the people you care about, all the more so if those people must suffer without release while you are powerless to help them? And will you, a saved soul in Paradise, be content to kneel and worship the same god who, elsewhere at that same moment, is pouring out the flames of his wrath upon your lost loved ones?
That paragraph is reinforced here.
Another example: Why The Christian God Does Not Exist – “you and your child go to Heaven, but your spouse does not. They are burning in Hell, being tormented by demons and constantly reminded of their loved ones being in Heaven and they can never see them again. How terrible! Are you going to be able to enjoy eternal paradise, while the love of your life is being tormented in Hell fire for eternity? Of course not, unless your sick and demented!”
The atheist wonders how a Christian could live knowing that such suffering exists.
This is an invalid argument. The reason it is invalid is because every American – Christian, Jew, Muslim and Atheist alike – happily lives with these conditions each day without any problem. Across planet earth, approximately half of the population are living on less that $2 per day. Approximately one billion people are living on $1 per day. They live, obviously, in wretched, miserable poverty. Tens of thousands of children die each day of starvation. This video summarizes the contrast:
The fact is that Americans can happily live their lives while billions of people live in rudimentary shacks, starving, without any medical care. These impoverished people are experiencing hell on earth, while those living in America, by comparison, are experiencing heaven on earth. Even the poorest poor in America, living on welfare, food stamps and Medicaid, are a hundred times better off than someone living on $1 per day.
You would never hear anyone say, “It would be impossible to live happily in America knowing that billions of other people are tortured by starvation and disease every day.” That is silly. American’s are quite happy with their opulence.
How can Americans happily live in their opulence while billions suffer through hell on earth? It’s easy. It’s called “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”