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Archive for the ‘psychiatry’ Category

Sam Harris on the Importance of Breaking Religion’s Spell

Posted by honestpoet on November 18, 2008

Here’s an excellent bit from the question and answer period after a debate with Rabbi Wolpe. I’ve been watching a lot of Mr. Harris on YouTube, and I have to say that I like him even more than Richard Dawkins. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dawkins, but, as an American, Harris is more aware of the need to speak with the religious politely and without snarkiness. Dawkins can come off a bit smug, which is a mistake when dealing with the American religious, who already feel beset and belittled, and whose defense mechanisms thereby fly up as soon as the subject is broached with any sort of superior attitude.

Here’s another bit: Sam Harris at the TruthDig conference, talking about how beliefs have consequences, and why the taboo on not examining religious beliefs needs to be lifted.

Here he is talking about the relative morality of various books of the Bible and what would happen if as a society we actually followed it.

And one more, at the Idea Festival in Aspen, where he disputes a lot of common misconceptions about atheism:

If you’d like to hear more of what he has to say, here’s the link to his website, which includes links to a number of articles and videos (including the full debate with Rabbi Wolpe). His thinking is even more in line with my own than Richard Dawkins’s. Dawkins and the rest of the recent crop of atheistic authors turn their backs on mystical experience, whereas Sam Harris, while approaching it as a skeptic, acknowledges that there’s something there to examine that could prove worthwhile, perhaps yielding up that which religions seek but never truly find, tied up as they are in their supernatural superstitions and dogmatism. He’s experienced contemplative states and acknowledges that they can lead to an increase in the ability to experience empathy and compassion, which are clearly in short supply these days.

A neurobiologist, he was motivated to start writing by the events of 9/11, and his focus is on the affect of beliefs on behaviors. Some people have painted him as some sort of warmonger Islamophobe, but that’s hardly the case when you read the suspect passages in context. Does he say that people holding the beliefs indoctrinated by Islam can be led therewith to bad behavior? Absolutely, but that’s hardly the same thing.

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Posted in atheism, Building a Better World, catholicism, Christianity, Christianofascism, climate change, economic crisis, evolution, feminism, freedom, fundamentalism, gay rights, genocide, global warming, hegemony, history, homophobia, Iraq, Islam, Jesus, Jews, Koran, language, literature, marriage, mental illness, misogyny, monoculture, morality, Muslims, peace, psychiatry, religion, religion and science, Richard Dawkins, ridiculous beliefs, science, secular humanism, secularism, skepticism, terrorism, the Bible | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Does President Bush have Brain Damage?

Posted by honestpoet on February 4, 2008

Seriously, I think maybe his years of drug and alcohol abuse, combined with the stress of the job, have left him with some serious impairments. We watched some videos of him speaking and interacting recently, and his inability to keep his train of thought, his inappropriate use of humor, and his sheer lack of attention, really make him seem so. Majutsu tells me there are some people who believe he is, in fact, mentally impaired, if not mentally ill.

I remember watching Reagan all those years ago and thinking the same thing, that the man was not all there. And it did turn out that he was suffering the beginnings of Alzheimer’s syndrome.

I would love to hear from people in the medical field on this one. Doesn’t Pres. Bush seem like he’s a bit off in the head? It’s embarrassing to have this man represent the country.

Posted in impeachment, mental illness, politics, psychiatry | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Barack Obama Illuminati?

Posted by honestpoet on January 4, 2008

You know, ever since I made a funny little post, during the dead-Jesus broo-ha-ha, about the next step being to introduce Barack Obama as Christ’s heir, every day at least one person finds my blog by searching for some combination of words including “illuminati” and some form of the man’s name.

Well, since he won the Iowa primary, my readership has spiked. And most of the new visitors are here to read that little post.

Come on, folks, the illuminati were an old secret society founded by a nutbar, that never did anything and that fell apart a long time ago. The only group of folks pulling the strings from behind the scenes are multi-national corporations, not men in dark suits intent on bringing the world into contact with aliens or into secular humanism or some new enlightenment or whatever it is you fear they’re doing. The strings that get pulled are pulled for financial reasons. Even seemingly religious wars really have more to do with real estate and mineral rights. The little man, the one who goes to church and goes to work and tries to pay his bills, is just a cog in the wheels of money-making for the small number of families who actually own everything. You are expendable. And it doesn’t have anything to do with liberal agendas. It has to do with money. To the rich, you are less than human. That’s just the way it is.

If there were an illuminati, a group of people who saw the bigger picture, who saw what humanity suffers and had some good ideas about how to drag it out of this dark age, I’d join up in a minute. But no one has come knocking. Because it’s just a conspiracy theory, folks. Quit watching so much TV, do some real reading, learn your history, and pull yourself up out of the scum left over from a 3,000-year-old land-grab.

And btw, Obama is too pedestrian to belong to any such enlightened group. He’s just another politician eager to suck on the corporate tit, who happens to have dark skin, which sets off your sublimated racism. You’d rather imagine him part of some weird conspiracy than admit that you hate him because he’s black.

Posted in Barack Obama, conspiracy theory, fundamentalism, illuminati, politics, psychiatry, ridiculous beliefs | Tagged: , , , , | 27 Comments »

Sheepish Pope says “Sorry ‘Bout All That”

Posted by honestpoet on March 1, 2007

HA! As if. No, I think the Catholics are going to have the hardest time with this whole dead-Jesus thing. I said that creed over and over as a kid. It doesn’t hem and haw about the resurrection.

But it seems the protestants, or at least some of them, are being pretty flexible. My husband just came home from work, and guess what? He spoke with about ten Christians from a variety of sects and it seems that at their Wed. night sermons they were all told by their respective preachers about the discovery, and that it’s okay, that they never really believed in a physical resurrection, and they actually used the word “metaphor” (and while they were talking about things, they never said that evolution couldn’t be the process God used to make us), and they were suddenly curious about the difference between “agnostic” and “atheist,” and just what did he believe, anyway? (Just yesterday, in the course of patient management, he discovered from one of the counselors that he and I are known at the national level among televangelists to be “notorious atheists.”) He had really frank discussions, open-hearted, open-minded, and it seems a new day is dawning, at least in this town.

Of course I’m not saying he’s open-minded about theism. At some point you have to make up your mind, and we have. No, just open-minded about their ability to change and the possibility of the existence of a historical Jesus.

And I have to say that I’m really glad to suspect that he did exist (not that I think the events of the gospel are real…those are clearly ripped off from earlier myths…poetic license and all that).

When I was a girl I was in love with the man. My first holy communion was like a wedding. I was going to be a nun (until my hormones kicked in, that is). I wanted to be a saint. I’m not kidding.

And it wasn’t to get to heaven.

And it wasn’t about his alleged sacrifice (which is now being interpreted metaphorically as God having taken on the suffering of a human life, which, if you think about it, is much more painful than a quick crucifixion).

No. It was what he taught.

See, I was one of those kids who rescued bugs out of spider webs (I’m sure none of the spiders starved…I lived in Florida), painstakingly picking off the sticky bits of thread ’til the little thing could fly away. I hated suffering, other peoples’ even more than my own. I really hated injustice (still not fond of either). And I just couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t be nice to each other.

So the words of Jesus made me love him. (I’m lucky enough to have found a man just that kind.) I’m totally open to (and happy about) the possibility of once again honoring his name.

But I still do not believe that mind came before matter. One of his co-workers, when asked why she believes, even now, that there is a god, that mind was the source of matter and not vice-versa, responded that she just doesn’t WANT matter to have come first. But we know what I say about that sort of thing: wanting something does not make it so.

See, here’s the crux of the whole god/no-god thing. If you keep the god concept then you allow for magical thinking (it would be pretty magical for a non-corporeal mind to exist, outside of time, and create matter out of nothing, don’t you think?), like this thing in Jacksonville. Instead of working to erase the underlying problems that lead to crime, the city held a prayer rally.

And this sort of inaction goes on every day, everywhere, but nowhere so much and so often as here in America.

Worse, the god-concept poses the concept of god’s will, and the delusion that one could possibly know what that is. We are so easily misled by the ego or what’s even less conscious than that, our animal urges. How many people have died now at the hand of someone who imagined he was doing the will of god or allah? My husband himself saw a patient (unfortunately she didn’t accept treatment) who thought she was being tested by God (a real Abraham complex) and shot and killed her two grand-daughters.

When I say religion can be toxic, folks, I’m not kidding.

It’s also been very good medicine for some people, especially addicts.

But I don’t take my neighbor’s insulin, and I wouldn’t expect you to take my medicine.

Matter, for all we know, has always been here, expanding and contracting in an endless series of bangs and crunches. For all we know, each time consciousness arises given sufficient complexity. Or maybe this is the first time. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we are here, we are free, and we are all suffering humans struggling to survive and cope and maybe even achieve some small measure of joy.

I know love helps a lot. Jesus taught me that. I forgot it for a while, and then my husband reminded me. (I’m pretty thrilled now that they might be friends again.)

I don’t know how long it’s going to take the rest of the world to achieve the sort of amiable acceptance my husband found at work today. I’m pretty sure most of my town at least will be following suit (they do seem to toe the line, so if this is the official story, well, cool). I’m pretty sure our lives might, in a sense, be getting better. I’ve felt somewhat like a hostage in my own home with the prevailing intolerance.

But my husband’s practice is going to be pretty busy, I think. He’s been trolling the blogosphere, taking the pulse, as it were. There are clearly a large number of fundamentalists who just can’t accept this. The level of hardheadedness and idiocy they’re displaying isn’t very heartening. Maybe they should go to church and hear what their pastors have to say about it.

Of course if they’re Pentecostal, they’ll insist the Devil planted those bones. He’s sure got a big collection, what with the dinosaurs and all.

Posted in anti-establishment clause, atheism, Christianity, Christianofascism, evolution, fundamentalism, history, Jesus, mental illness, neuroscience, politics, power of love, prayer, psychiatry, Romans, science, secular humanism, separation of church and state, skepticism | 7 Comments »

No More Preaching, Thanks

Posted by honestpoet on January 28, 2007

I recently disengaged myself from a discussion when it became clear that at least one of the participants viewed the interaction as a debate (I’ll leave a discussion of the other for later…suffice to say it’s rather pointless to continue, for different reasons). And I’d recently done the same thing over at bloggernista’s blog with this homophobic nut-job who’s like a plague there, after it became clear that he was interested in the same thing.

The problem with debate is that the participants aren’t listening to their opponents’ points; they’re too busy trying to refute them.

As I said at the recently abandoned thread, I’m not blogging to get into debates. I’m blogging to vent my frustrations with the status quo, and in hopes of effecting some change on it by raising awareness of some things. The toxicity of religion is just one of them, but it’s certainly the one that gets the most opposition. I think we should look at why.

Religion is at the core of most people’s identity. When children ask each other about religion, they don’t say, “What religion do you observe?” or “What’s your spiritual practice?” They say, “What are you?” (What’s really horrible is that around here ADULTS will ask the same question of someone of mixed race.) And when people have the core of their identity challenged, they usually have a strong emotional response.

Having a conversation with someone in this condition usually doesn’t serve much point. They will make their arguments using all sorts of borrowed rhetoric, often citing bits of a book that I don’t consider any sort of authority, and then absolutely refuse to understand that they’re arguing with a diseased organ. Because religion IS a disease. It colors every aspect of one’s perception. And it’s pathological. It causes one to see oneself as incomplete without it. Preachers are no better than plastic surgeons who advertise in women’s magazines with air-brushed pictures of 18-year-old asses. It’s unethical to create your own market. People who actually offer something of value SEE a need and then fill it; they don’t create the need. Preachers convince you you need saving, just like those Egyptian priests with their stories of horrible monsters and demons in the afterlife that their costly Books of the Dead could save you from, then offer salvation with their hands outstretched for a donation.

And these preachers are crazy. Not only do a large number of them have substance-abuse issues, but sexual ones, as well. (Catholic priests aren’t the only ones, they just get more press cuz it’s a deeper pocket to sue.) And they spout their craziness to the sheeple in the pews. Right now there’s a big to-do about the seven-headed anti-Christ. Turns out Obama is the seventh head. (Hilary has been known to be one of the heads for a long time.) Sexist, racist, homophobes giving spiritual advice all across the nation. Egads. And the superstitious gullible fractured Christians lapping it up. Is it any wonder Bush was elected?

And that guy. Sheesh. A man clearly too stupid to hold the office he does who got there only on name recognition and because Americans fear intelligence. We really are on our way to hell in a hand-basket.

So here’s the deal. I don’t want to hear from anyone anymore who believes in an invisible being who created or runs the universe [about why I should entertain such a ridiculous belief]. In Buddhism they have an axiom, that there’s nothing to be gained from concourse with fools. Life’s too short, and I have a lot of work to do. If you make a post trying to argue the case for your imaginary friend, it will be deleted.

Posted in atheism, Christianity, Egyptians, fundamentalism, homophobia, mental illness, politics, psychiatry, skepticism | 9 Comments »

Seriously, though…

Posted by honestpoet on January 11, 2007

At my husband’s encouragement, I’ve begun reading Paul Churchland’s book, The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul. We’ve been discussing the ideas he deals with for a while, the current understanding of neurobiology and cognitive processes, but I’ve never actually read the work. But I’ve recently read another book thick with science, Christopher Williams’ Terminus Brain: The Environmental Threats to Human Intelligence (which I highly recommend and may discuss in a separate post), so I thought I ought to quit being put off and go for it.

I’m still in the introduction, but these paragraphs felt worth sharing here (I have a feeling I’ll be sharing a good bit of this book, for educational purposes, ya know):

If we can be so evidently and so wildly wrong about the structure of the universe, about the significance of disease, about the age of the Earth, and about the origin of humans, we should in all modesty be prepared to contemplate the possibility that we remain deeply misled or confused about the nature of human cognition and consciousness. One need not look far for potential examples of deep confusion. A hypothesis that still enjoys broad acceptance throughout the world is the idea that human cognition resides in an immaterial substance: a soul or mind. This proposed nonphysical substance is held to be uniquely capable of consciousness and of rational and moral judgment. And it is commonly held to survive the death of the body, thence to receive some form of reward or punishment for its Earthly behavior. It will be evident from the rest of this book that this familiar hypothesis is difficult to square with the emerging theory of cognitive processes and with the experimental results from the several neurosciences. The doctrine of an immaterial soul looks, to put it frankly, like just another myth, false not just at the edges, but to the core.

This is unfortunate, since that hypothesis is still embedded, to some depth or other, in the social and moral consciousness of billions of people across widely diverse cultures. If that hypothesis is false, then sooner or later they are going to have to deal with the problem of how best to understand the ground of the moral relations that bind us together. Such adjustments, to judge from the past, are often painful. The good side is that they just as often set us free, and allow us to achieve a still higher level of moral insight and mutual care. In exploring the lessons of cognitive neurobiology, I will proceed at all times on this hopeful assumption.

Exactly. That’s my hope as well. That’s my intent, and my goal. I know I can come off brash, even (gasp!) bitchy at times. But my deepest purpose is to help steer world culture in a better direction than the hell we’re headed for. Let’s face it: these days, we need to be thinking about world culture. I don’t mean a monoculture, some homogeneous melting pot. I certainly don’t mean an empire, like with the Romans, goin’ around “civilizing” (meaning romanizing and then collecting taxes) everyone they could conquer. No, I mean a richly diverse planet, where everyone celebrates and nurtures their own traditions, and honors those of their neighbors, but where all have accepted the truth of our mutual humanity, and what that humanity means: that we are one evolved species among many, that our survival depends on remaining adaptable and learning how to live harmoniously with the rest of the world, of which we are an intrinsic part. I sincerely believe that such a future won’t come about unless and until the erroneous hypothesis elucidated above is let go.

Speaking of neurons, I can feel mine getting stronger. I got a simple-system flute for xmas, an inexpensive (and hardy) one made of bamboo, with which to learn Irish folk music. (I’ll be getting an intermediate flute, I hope, in a year or so, when I’ve learned enough.) I’ve been listening to the flute gods tape, and I fell in love with a song, which, now that I’m more intimate with it, I realize is performed a number of times on the tape, by various artists — mostly unknown — each with an individual style so varied that you wouldn’t guess it’s the same unless you knew the song well. I’m working on the first four bars. It’s coming along, and with this practice (which is a lot more fun, and therefore more educative, than the scales I’d been practicing, which, while necessary, were a bit of a bore) I can practically feel the synapses rearranging themselves. (This is partly why I’m doing it — use it or lose it, you know.) Two days ago I was barely aware of my throat, and couldn’t imagine some day being able to use it to articulate the notes in the Roscommon style (my grandmother’s family came from Co. Roscommon, so I figure I ought to learn that one…and it suits me, too…slower, more expressive), which doesn’t use tonguing, just fingering and this sort of glottal thing.

But tonight, practicing those four bars and wanting badly enough to play like the flute gods that I put real effort into it, I became aware that the difference between the low D and the first overblow is largely in the throat, only slightly in the embouchure. Before, I had almost no awareness of my throat at all. It’s like gaining a new sense.

And that’s what I’m hoping will happen for humanity. With science, we can gain a new set of eyes with which to see ourselves, and the world, and our place in it. And one day our descendants will have trouble understanding what it was like for us, before we learned who, and what, we are.

Posted in atheism, ecology, evolution, history, Irish flute, Paul Churchland, psychiatry | 1 Comment »

Mentally Ill in the Military

Posted by honestpoet on January 10, 2007

My husband brought this man to my attention. “Personality Disorder”? I think more like a sociopath. This is terrible, for the victims especially, but also for our soldiers still there. And now we’re sending more, whom some generals say will basically just be bomb fodder.

Here’s the article that hubby had really found disturbing. The military’s mishandling of this man is tragic.

The military has got to start taking mental illness seriously. They’re also having a real hard time treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder properly, and it’s taking a serious toll in suicides.

Posted in mental illness, military, politics, psychiatry, terrorism, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Road to Hell (starts in UCLA?)

Posted by honestpoet on January 9, 2007

My christmas tree is still up and decorated, despite my meaning to take it down for the past two days. Yoga and flute practice have gotten in the way, and research on the ‘puter. I’ve checked out some other blogs. (My daddy always said that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. So should I get rid of the good intentions?…oh, I should do more of what I intend. Well, sure, but that’s a lot easier said than done.)

One of the things that caught my eye was that business about the tazering at UCLA. That’s not exactly a clear cut case, I’ll tell you what. The student clearly had a chip on his shoulder and should simply have shown his ID. The whole thing could have been avoided. But can I blame an Iranian-American for having a chip on his shoulder? I can only imagine what he’s been through.

And the cops. Well. I’ve known a few good cops (my dad, for one, for about 11 years), but on the whole I’d say most of them are power-mad head cases, though some do have good hearts. Still power-mad, but with no desire to be evil.

Some are just plain evil.

Most are a mix, a confused, ego-dystonic mix. Dealing with criminals, and even maybe-criminals, is pretty stressful. My dad discharged his gun only once on duty,(he was a cop a long time ago, in a beachfront town), and he told me that he nearly shot his foot off, then fired the rest of the shots into the floor as he raised his sights to the robber he was trying to stop. He’d been terrified.

You know, I’ve known about how messed-up-evil people can be for a while, having read a lot of my dad’s library, or at least leafed through, in that teen-aged way, enough books to leave a pretty big impression. He was a criminologist, having returned to school after some time as a homicide detective; he ended up running the police academy for a long time. So I used to read about serial killers, and the pathology behind things like the Jonestown massacre (this was pre-Waco), and all that sort of thing. But still, as a kid, I was totally against the death penalty. I’m still not crazy about the idea of state-sanctioned murder. Seems like revenge, though from a pragmatic point of view, some people really do sort of sign away their human rights by behaving like monsters. If you’re gonna rape a little kid in the ass, for example, you don’t really deserve to live, the way I see it. We as a species can’t afford to keep that sort around. Hubby said to me the other day, on this subject, that he used to be against the death penalty, until he sat in a room interviewing a patient who’d raped and killed little kids. “You talk to someone who skinned kids and wore’em as socks, and you kinda figure some people just aren’t meant to be alive.”

What a huge responsibility, though, dispensing justice. I can see why so many have wanted to have a god to do that for them.

You wouldn’t want to kill the wrong person, eh? And it’s been done. Too many times. Once would be too many. But it’s been way more. And who knows how many’ve died without their innocence coming to light.

Maybe now with DNA evidence they’ll be able to really demand things be “beyond a shadow of a doubt.” I mean, a SHADOW of a doubt? If believers were held up to a standard that stringent, I don’t think many from the past few hundred years, at least, would stand a chance through the pearly gates. (No wonder the Catholics invented purgatory. ‘Course, all that money for indulgences was probably pretty heavy in the scales, too.) But cops have been known to plant evidence. (If I were a man, I’d sure think twice about selling sperm.)

But back to the death penalty and its unjust practice. Up to now, it’s been disproportionately dispensed. Guess who gets it the most often? Black folk hurtin’ white folk. You betcha.

I’m betting we’ll watch the numbers rise for Muslim-Americans. I wonder what it feels like to watch your group slide into the status of a minority that goes beyond being hated into being persecuted.

I mean, I’m part of a hated, traditionally persecuted minority…three of them, even: witches, atheists, and pot-smokers. I’m a pot-smokin’ atheist witch. How you like them apples? But all those groups I’ve joined by choice (well, the witch part is debatable. I grew up hearing stories about my great-great-grandmother, whose birthday I share, who was as witchy a woman as my town had seen, I reckon. So I may come by that naturally…), and I can choose to keep quiet about them all, too.

But to be born to a group, your face and your name, that catches that much flack. And to watch it go from bad to worse. I’ve thought about what that must be like, for decent Muslims in America who really don’t want to hurt anyone, just want to be left alone to do their jobs and raise their families. I’m not saying they’re all wonderful. I know some don’t treat their women and/or children right…but I could say that about any group. And yeah, they believe in a wacky religion that’s right now rife with extremists. (Anyone just tuning in: I think all religions are wacky, so don’t think I’m bigoted or anything. I just think the best way to deal with reality is, well, by accepting it, thanks.)

But back to that kid at UCLA. If I were a peace-loving Muslim in America, I’d be raising my voice, that’s for dang sure. But I wouldn’t be swearing at cops. I’d be arguing with my imam.

Posted in atheism, Christianity, fundamentalism, history, Muslims, psychiatry, skepticism, terrorism, war on drugs, witchcraft | Leave a Comment »

Quantum Witchcraft

Posted by honestpoet on January 2, 2007

Keats, in his letters, wrote about something he called “negative capability.” It’s what makes some poets, some people, able to intuit some things that otherwise remain opaque to those whose certainty blinds them to reality. Negative capability is that awareness that one doesn’t know, that ability to admit that one doesn’t have the complete picture.

A lot of atheists lack this ability, so they can’t admit that life might have an aspect to it that can’t be reduced to simple, quantifiable matter. These are the atheists who deny the reality of free will, insist that it’s some sort of useful illusion. And most theists lack negative capability as well; these are those who are so certain that scripture covers it all that they can’t admit to the truth of evolution and the lack of a daddy-in-the-sky.

Myself, I’ve done my best to nurture my negative capability, and with it I’ve embraced a mystical atheism. Seems contradictory, and it should. I’m pretty sure that any deeper truth will carry with it some sort of contradiction; that our dualistic minds can’t understand the mixed-up nature of reality without embracing paradox. (In a discussion with any theist, pretty much all you have to do to get them to blow a gasket is bring up the fact that the existence of evil, ultimately, has to be laid at God’s door.)

Here’s some background. I’m an artsy-fartsy type, as you might have gathered. I’m a poet (and a published one, with awards under my belt); I majored in art before switching to creative writing. I garden. The beauty of the world holds me in thrall. I’ve long loved the work of Joseph Campbell. But I’m married to a scientist of the mind. He’s not only a biologically oriented psychiatrist, but a math whiz (and I mean really…the year he took his MCAT, he also took the test that math students take to get into grad school, just to see how he’d do, at the request of the math prof he used to hang out with to solve problems for fun, and he got the 3rd highest score in the nation.) He’s been explaining physics to me since we were engaged, back in college. And he’s continued to do so, as new things have been discovered. He’s also explained the work of Churchland and Dennett. (He’s an excellent teacher, able to grasp the pedagogy and explain it succinctly.) So our pillow talk often involves concepts that, well, most couples don’t get into. It’s been a real privilege. And it’s not one sided. I’ve taught him a lot about creativity, and about embracing mystery, and finding beauty all around.

So. A mystical materialism? Sure. A materialism that admits that there’s more here than what we can see. Modern physics bears this out. M-theory, which posits the existence of 11 dimensions to the multi-verse, holds that the universe is actually a single membrane, and that the 11th dimension is confluent with it in its entirety, i.e., that right next to every atom, embracing every particle, is this 11th dimension. And it’s this, in my mind, that allows for the existence of what, for lack of a better word, could be called magic. What if there’s stuff in the 11th dimension? It seems to me more than possible that something, not necessarily what we would recognize as a biological neural net, but something that, like a super-computer, could act like one, might unify the whole shebang. And as our universe has evolved, so has this entity that co-exists with us. Its nature is of course mysterious. But it could be intellegent. The universe, or the multi-verse, rather, could have some single intelligence.

If the universe is truly one, then every bit of it can communicate with every other bit, like cells in a single body. A well cast spell, then, would act like a neurological signal from your brain, say, to your hand. Quantum witchcraft.

But the idea that this great mysterious entity, this multi-verse, would have a human personality, jealous like Jehovah, wanting to be worshipped, is, for lack of a better word, silly. Mythologies are just stories. All of them. Some of them aren’t even good stories. But reality, now that’s pretty fantastic.

Posted in atheism, fundamentalism, psychiatry, science, witchcraft | 59 Comments »

The Toxicity of Religion

Posted by honestpoet on December 12, 2006

I’ve decided to start using this blog. This’ll be the first of many posts, maybe not daily, but frequent. I had been blogging elsewhere, at a new-agey forum that had purported to be a site for cultural activists but which turned out to be yet another place for irrational people to get together and air their imbecilic beliefs and insist that you can’t disagree because everything is a matter of perspective. And while I’m all for acknowledging the perspective of the Other (which I think is the basis of ethics and morality), that doesn’t mean that there isn’t such a thing as right and wrong, or good and evil. Reality and wishful thinking.

I agree with Richard Dawkins when he says, well, just about anything, because we’re on the same reality-based wave-length. But what I started to say with that sentence was that I agree that it’s time for atheists, or, to cast us in a less negative light, skeptics, to come out of the closet and voice our doubts, ask our questions, and risk offending.

As Irshad Manji says in her excellent book, The Trouble with Islam, people need to be willing to risk “ruining the moment.” (Though she’s referring to Westerners desiring to engage Muslims in discussing the problems they’re having with violent extremists.) It’s okay to hurt people’s feelings if it’s necessary to arrive at a rational solution to the problems facing humanity. Feelings pass. No blood’s lost when your beliefs are challenged.

And let’s face it. Humanity is royally f*&ck%d. And religion is the primary cause of our sorry state. It’s toxic to mental health. How could it be otherwise, when “faith” requires such mental gymnastics? A psychiatrist in my close acquaintance tells me there’s a clear demographic difference between the general population and the occupants of the ward. Pentecostals are the largest number. Southern Baptists next. Sometimes a Catholic or Jew. Once a Wiccan, though I’m sure in cities where they’re more common, they’re filling a few beds. But never, not once in his decade of practice, an atheist. Now, the incidence of purely biological pathologies like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are more or less the same across the religious/non-religious spectrum, but the kind of things that stem from drug abuse, abuse or other trauma — post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder — overwhelmingly afflict the religious. The more fundamental, literalist, extreme the strain, the more toxic. Now, some of these folks are in fact the victims of an incestuous or violent (or both) relative (most often the father). But others have simply had an irrational mindset forced upon them, and can’t free themselves without pathological guilt, which manifests in one or more of the above. For this reason I also agree with Richard Dawkins when he says that raising a child with religion is tantamount to child abuse.

How much more positive, how much more sane, to raise a child to experience the world without the distorting filter of religion. To teach science, not only what is known, but how it’s known, so that s/he may grow up with an inherent understanding that s/he can add to that knowledge, can explore the world and her/his place in it, unfettered by guilt or a disdain for the beauty that abounds here, which is unavoidable when raised to believe that the world is an illusion, a temptation.

And just as importantly, if not more so, with an awareness that every other human on the planet is in a very real way kin. Though experiencing the travesty that is modern culture in America sometimes leads me to cynicism, I try to hang on to hope that humanity will do better than this. That one day (in the not-too-distant future, if I have my way), we’ll have learned the lesson that we’re dying for: that we now have a Creation Story that we can all share. It’s called Evolution, and it’s ongoing. Not a one-time creation, but cosmogenesis. How incredible, to be a part of a living, constantly created universe. As humans, we have a chance to have a hand in that creation. We’ve spent enough time destroying it already.

Posted in atheism, evolution, psychiatry, Richard Dawkins, science, secular humanism, skepticism | 2 Comments »