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It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Category: what’s the harm? (page 2 of 2)

No on 8

The interference of the LDS Church in California politics is deeply troubling. No, scratch that. It’s infuriating. It’s hateful. And it’s wrong. If I hadn’t already written my exit letter, I’d be tempted to rejoin the Mormons just so I can resign again in protest over this issue.

What’s the worst thing about the Mormon Church’s support of Prop. 8? Hmm…

  • The idea of parochial Mormons denying marriage to people they don’t even know, and thinking it’s the will of a supernatural being whose will they are uniquely qualified to know.
  • Quotes by sanctimonious old gits like these.

    “What we’re about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement,” apostle M. Russell Ballard said during the hour-long meeting, which was broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.

  • The duplicity of a church that claims to be politically neutral, only speaking out on ‘moral matters’ — and then redefining political issues as ‘moral’ when it pleases them
  • Enshrining bigotry and inequality in the California constitution
  • Millions of dollars in LDS money going to support all of this. From Sully:

    Californians Against Hate released figures Tuesday showing that $17.67 million was contributed by 59,000 Mormon families since August to groups like Yes on 8. Contributions in support of Prop. 8 total $22.88 million.

  • A tax-free religious group getting to act like a PAC. Once again the priest class is vying for political power, just like in the good old Dark Ages.

Well, there’s a lot that’s detestable about this. Mormons should be livid, even if by and large they’re not. For my part, I’m just hoping that this proposition goes down and goes down hard. I want this to be an embarrassment to the leadership of the Mormon Church. I want them to wonder why their Special Pal in the Sky didn’t come through. I want Mormons to see more and more pictures of happy gay couples at weddings with the rice and the bubbles and the cake, and after they’re through freaking out about living in the End of Days, I want them to notice how happy the newlyweds look, and I hope time will help them reconsider.

I don’t have much to spare these days, but I’m donating to No on 8 because I think this is a huge deal. I’m used to religions making lots of empty doctrinal pronouncements, but when they use their baseless theology against other people, I say it’s gone far enough.

Californians: please vote against this. Even if the news anchors call all the eastern states for Obama early, don’t let that stop you from getting to the polls.

Crackergate continues

PZ Myers has been getting death threats from (apparently) Catholic believers because of his stated intention of cracker cruelty. Seems it’s okay to abuse a person, but not a snack.

Let’s just remember this, shall we? when people tell us that Islam is dangerous but Christianity is comparatively moderate. In fact, religious believers of any stripe will do whatever their culture will allow them to get away with. You just have to hit that sensitive spot to get them into an instant frenzy.

Then there’s Catholic League president Bill Donohue, whose frenzy meter is stuck on ‘maximum’. He’s trying to get Myers fired by falsely implying that Myers’ blog is hosted on the University website.

He adds:

It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ. We look to those who have oversight responsibility to act quickly and decisively.”

I can think of five more vile things off the top of my head:

  1. A priest molesting a child
  2. A church organisation covering up the actions of that priest
  3. Eating and excreting part of a human body
  4. Teaching that babies are born sinful
  5. Teaching children they will go to hell for all eternity for disobedience

Seriously. Twenty-first fucking century and here we are. A cracker. You bet I’m angry.

The death of religion meets the rise of superstition

Could Christianity die out within a century? This article says:

Christianity ‘could die out within a century’

Research by the Orthodox Jewish organisation Aish found that just over a third of people thought religions like Christianity and Judaism would still be practiced in Britain in 100 years’ time.

Although four in 10 people said they would choose to be a member of the Christian religion, almost the same number said they would rather practice no religion at all.

Hmm. The Extinction of the Monotheisms sounds good until you start thinking about what’s going to replace them. The poor thinking that causes religion isn’t going to go away until humans get better brains, and how long is that going to take?

The new religions are probably going to take the form of Teh Secret or something. Some kind of feel-good new-agey proto faith that doesn’t require a lot of time or commitment, but that seems to give results to those who are magically minded.

And that includes a lot of smart people. I just got an email from a smart friend who I love dearly, but he attached a PDF that he thought was wonderful. It’s called “The Master Key” by Charles F. Haanel. Here’s a link to a PDF of the first two parts only. (Even so, it’s 1.2 meg of woo.) Maybe you’d rather read about the Master Key from this site.

It has been said that The Master Key System is the book that Bill Gates read just before leaving Harvard to start his own computer software business, which made him the wealthiest man in the world.

Any evidence for the Gates tie-in?

This book holds the secret of a powerful system of success, which was used by the author, Charles F. Haanel to amass his own mega-fortune through the starting of his own company, which he built into one of the largest conglomerates of his time.

And its name is…?

The Master Key System, which was originally published in 1912, sold over 200,000 copies before it was banned by the church in 1933 and was then lost to the public for some seventy years.

Anyone’s da Vinci Code alarm going off?

The Master Key System lays down the foundation of the principles of creative manifestation through the Law of Attraction, as Haanel understood them. You will learn how to develop and use the creative instrument of your mind—creating true abundance in your life and opening up to the limitless possibilities of the truly creative life.

Wait a minute. The Law of…

It’s Teh Proto-Secret! Well, damn. I am impressed. Haanel must have been a hundred years before his time. Of course, a hundred years early on bullshit’s still bullshit.

Now, that’s not fair. I haven’t even read the thing yet, and here I am being all closed-minded. Bad critical thinker! Bad!

That’s better. Let’s take a look. Here we are, page 7.

22. We are related to the world within by the subconscious mind. The solar plexus is the organ of this mind; the sympathetic system of nerves presides over all subjective sensations, such as joy, fear, love, emotion, respiration, imagination and all other subconscious phenomena. It is through the subconscious that we are connected with the Universal Mind and brought into relation with the Infinite constructive forces of the Universe.

Well, that all seems perfaaaaauuuuggggghhhhhhhhhh…….

Sorry, part of my pre-frontal lobe just turned to goo. I think I just lost algebra.

In one paragraph, we have specious claims about the mind/body connection, conflation of emotions with autonomic nervous processes (hey, kids, did you know that your solar plexus could do all that?), a construct called the Universal Mind but no evidence for it, and enough fluffy talk to put a horse to sleep. That’s some concentrated woo there. I think the jargon to evidence ratio just approached infinity, and when that happens, we run the risk of Universe Collapse.

I’ve written about Teh Secret before. People think the Master Key or The Secret works because of confirmation bias. Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don’t, but if you’re focusing on it, you’ll notice when you do, and forget when you don’t. And of course, you’re much more likely to get what you want if you’re working at it than if you’re not. Nothing mystical about it, and certainly nothing to do with your solar plexus.

So I’m in the car with the ropes and the duct tape, ready to tie up my friend and subject him to the Daniel Course for Critical Thinking (which I haven’t even written yet) when I think, “Hey, what does it matter? Is it going to hurt him if he believes some woo here and there? What harm is there in a false belief?”

Here are my answers. See what you think.

1. Magical thinking leaves you susceptible to scams. Buying into a really bad premise makes it possible to buy into more. Examples?

  • If you accept that supernatural beings exist, then it follows that you’d better try to find out what they want you to do. Next it’s joining and supporting a church or some other non-empirical system with your money and time. Bad idea.
  • If you accept that the universe has a Consciousness, then it’s not that preposterous to think that you can influence it to get what you want. Soon, you’re trying superstitious methods to get it (which don’t work). Superstition is a waste of time, and it leaves you helpless before its purveyors.
  • If gurus know the Secret of Life better than you do, then it follows that you should fork out cash to get their wisdom.

On and on. Critical thinking can save us from scammers.

2. Lack of critical thinking harms societies, not just people. A society full of delusional people is not healthy, and will have a harder time solving its problems. The more empirically-minded people we have, the more our collective knowledge grows, and the more likely we are to find working solutions to the problems that face us. I noticed this story about people who are trying to have lower petrol prices… through prayer. So far, somehow, not effective. What if everyone just prayed, instead of a) working to develop technologies for alternative energy, b) changing the way they live to conserve a bit more?

What I’m advocating is acceptance of critical thinking and rejection of superstition. Not replacement of one superstition with another. This is only going to get more important in the post-religion vacuum.

State powerless to protect children from abuse by sex cult operated by parents

Is how this headline should read.

Religion influenced, killed Bob Marley

Seventeen years ago this month, Bob Marley died. Everyone knows Bob Marley. A copy of “Legend” is now issued to every infant in the world at birth.

He died of cancer. His Wikipedia page says it started from a football injury in his big toe. Toe cancer. Usually treatable. You don’t want to lose a toe, but if it saves your life, you have the thing off.

But Marley refused to amputate because of the Rastafarian belief that the body must be “whole”. And so the cancer spread to his brain and the rest of his body, and killed him. A religious belief robbed the world of one of its great musical artists.

Maybe it’s not possible to separate Marley’s music from the religious ideas that fired it. I’m not sure, though. Aren’t the songs without the religious lyrics great too? Marijuana influenced Marley’s music, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a great thing.

Marley’s action would probably impress a lot of people. Wow, he really followed his religion, even though it cost him his life, etc. But I just think it’s really sad. If he’d had a different religion, he could have had it taken care of, and been around a lot longer. What ended his life was an idea that was almost certainly false, and that seems wrong.

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