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Archive for the ‘skepticism’ 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.

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 »

Matt Damon on Sarah Palin Having the Nuclear Codes

Posted by honestpoet on September 11, 2008

I liked Matt Damon as Loki in Dogma, which is one of my favorite movies (like that was a tough guess). Now I really love him. Here he is on YouTube, expressing how absurd it is that Sarah Palin is as close to becoming President as she is. He compares it to a bad Disney movie, which I think nails it. (Kudos to Kate for finding this one.)

Posted in atheism, Christianity, Christianofascism, fundamentalism, John McCain, politics, religion, religion and science, ridiculous beliefs, science, separation of church and state, skepticism, the Bible | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I Don’t Like David Icke

Posted by honestpoet on January 13, 2008

I think we should pronounce his last name to rhyme with icky, instead.

How dumb and crazy and lame do you have to be to respond to the unconscious symbolism we encounter in the mind with paranoid delusions of reptilian overlords that mimic a science-fiction miniseries you saw on TV as a kid? You’ve got to read the wikipedia article on this dude. I finally checked him out after I saw his name in my search terms list (along with, you guessed it, “Obama”). And btw, Obama’s eyes are WAY too far apart to be a reptilian hybrid like Bush and Chris Christopherson.

PS — Conspiracy theories, I’ve decided, are for people who BELIEVE they’re too smart for religion, but are not.

Posted in Barack Obama, conspiracy theory, ridiculous beliefs, skepticism | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

God is Not Great: Excellent Excerpt at Slate

Posted by honestpoet on April 27, 2007

Here’s one of three excerpts from Christopher Hitchens’s book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I haven’t read the other two yet, but this was so good I had to post it here.

A little bit to whet your appetite:

While some religious apology is magnificent in its limited way—one might cite Pascal—and some of it is dreary and absurd—here one cannot avoid naming C. S. Lewis—both styles have something in common, namely the appalling load of strain that they have to bear. How much effort it takes to affirm the incredible! The Aztecs had to tear open a human chest cavity every day just to make sure that the sun would rise. Monotheists are supposed to pester their deity more times than that, perhaps, lest he be deaf. How much vanity must be concealed—not too effectively at that—in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan? How much self-respect must be sacrificed in order that one may squirm continually in an awareness of one’s own sin? How many needless assumptions must be made, and how much contortion is required, to receive every new insight of science and manipulate it so as to “fit” with the revealed words of ancient man-made deities? How many saints and miracles and councils and conclaves are required in order first to be able to establish a dogma and then—after infinite pain and loss and absurdity and cruelty—to be forced to rescind one of those dogmas? God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.

Posted in anti-establishment clause, atheism, Christianity, Christianofascism, fundamentalism, Islam, Jesus, Jews, misogyny, Muslims, politics, prayer, religion, Richard Dawkins, ridiculous beliefs, secular humanism, separation of church and state, skepticism, terrorism, witchcraft | 18 Comments »

Now This is More Like It! Secular Islam

Posted by honestpoet on March 26, 2007

Here’s a group of really sane folk. Thank goodness.

We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

We call on the governments of the world to

reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights;

eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women;

protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence;

reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims;

and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.

We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid strictures of orthodoxy.

We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.

We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine;

to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens;

and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.

Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.

I hope this turns out to be contagious.

Posted in anti-establishment clause, atheism, fundamentalism, history, Islam, misogyny, Muslims, politics, prayer, privacy, religion, secular humanism, separation of church and state, sexism, skepticism, terrorism | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Excellent Thoughts on the Dead-Jesus Broohaha

Posted by honestpoet on February 28, 2007

Here’s a post hubby found while researching about that alleged discovery of the holy family. I’m adding this site to my blogroll. I do enjoy the musings of a sound mind.

Posted in atheism, Christianity, Jesus, ridiculous beliefs, science, skepticism | 4 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 »

Look, Folks! Another Federal Abuse of Power

Posted by honestpoet on January 21, 2007

To anyone who’s been checking, hoping for new entries, my apologies for being away so long, unannounced. I’ve been using my neurons doing gardening things, and parenting things, and wifely things, as well as making progress with my flute. But I had to come in here and bitch a little about the feds’ absolutely out-of-hand breach of states’ rights recently in their crackdown on medical marijuana clinics in California, Oregon, and Utah. Here’s what the jackass in charge had to say about it:

“Today’s enforcement operations show that these establishments are nothing more than drug-trafficking organizations bringing criminal activities to our neighborhoods and drugs near our children and schools,” said Ralph W. Partridge, head of the DEA in Los Angeles.

This guy’s obviously able to completely disconnect himself from reality.

Here’s the story.

Outrageous. Yeah, this is what we need to be doing, harassing doctors, nurses, and patients. We’re going bankrupt as a nation, fighting terrorism, which, let’s face it, IS a very bad thing (why we ignored our neighbors’ struggle with it, and even fostered it in some places, is another question I’ll leave for now); we simply can’t afford to keep fighting this ludicrous “war” on drugs. Which is actually a war against drug users. And which is totally outside the scope of government.

Some of the statements in the news story and in the discussions online about this make clear that some citizens feel the government HAS to enforce the drug laws BECAUSE they’re the law (clearly people who got stuck at phase 4 in Nielsen’s theory of moral development…you know, that we-can’t-break-the-law-or-the-universe-will-unravel thing). Well, we can change the law. Duh.

I’m not going to argue here about how harmless marijuana is relative to the two legal intoxicants, tobacco & alcohol. There’ve been plenty of excellent arguments made by folks with better scientific credentials than mine for why marijuana should be relegalized. I want to talk about the historical view, which almost always gives a better picture. It’s like stepping away from a painting, or looking down at a city from a tall building. You’d think the guys in charge might try it sometime. But that would involve reading. Oh, I’d forgotten.

I do not understand the disconnect from reality that our government seems to experience. Like Lewis Black says in a bit, it’s like these guys take a big dump on the floor right in front of us and then turn around and insist it’s fertilizer.

Here’s my analysis, after having read and cogitated on this problem for the past 15 years: it’s time to reverse the mistake made last century, when the intoxicant favored by blacks and Mexicans was made illegal in order to give the officers who’d been fighting (again, mistakenly) to keep Americans from drinking alcohol during Prohibition something to do. All that’s happened is the creation of a monstrous and vicious black market, just like the Prohibition did with the mafia. If it hadn’t been for the leg-up organized crime got with that, our country would be a lot more peaceful and less corrupt than it is now. And now the black market in heroin, which is killing so many of us, is funneling money to the Taliban. And all those potential tax dollars are going down the drain, along with the money spent on enforcing this corrupt and inane law.

And that brings us to one of the issues that needs to be dealt with in any discussion about the relegalization of weed. A very large reason why the law hasn’t been changed is that there are too many people making a living off the status quo. Not only the drug dealers and the DEA agents, and myriad police precincts, and privatized prisons, but there’s even an entire industry surrounding drug testing, both the manufacturers of and the lab techs doing the tests, and the folks who make stuff to help users pass them. And then there are the pharmaceutical companies who make a killing selling us toxic medications that treat poorly what marijuana treats well, and gently. It’s an outrageous amount of money we’re talking about. But that’s too bad. Folks had a lot of money invested in the status quo surrounding slavery, too, but that didn’t make it right, and when it was time to change, change came, no matter how much some didn’t want it. These guys can adapt and do something useful or they can be burned off like the parasites they are.

I just hope that we don’t end up at war with each other, like over another states’-rights issue. I do know that there are plenty who are going to continue to oppose the government over this. I’m one of them. And I also know that the government can ill afford to continue to blow our money on something so stupid when we’re fighting a real enemy, at home and abroad.

The citizens of California, Utah and Oregon had the sense and the compassion to pass laws allowing those in need to use marijuana. The feds have no business going against the people’s will on this.

Another thing: America is supposed to be a beacon of freedom. How can they spout that rhetoric and then jail so many of our citizens for non-violent drug offenses? Hardly the land of the free, as far as I can see. It seems like we ought to be doing our best to distinguish ourselves from tyrannical dictatorships. Instead we seem to be moving further and further in the direction of fascism.

Posted in cancer, chemotherapy, history, impeachment, military, Muslims, neuroscience, politics, privacy, ridiculous beliefs, science, skepticism, states' rights, terrorism, war on drugs | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

This is why we need to up the reality dose

Posted by honestpoet on January 10, 2007

Hubby just came across this book review at amazon that I had to share.  It’s for a book on the computer graphics system for linux called gnome.   You’re not gonna believe this:

0 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Sheesh. I thought this was about Gnomes., November 12, 2006

Reviewer: Windy12 (Bern) – See all my reviews

Oh, silly me. I got this one when I first started to get into Gnomes. I thought it was going to teach me how to experience them. Imagine my dismay when I got it. Oh My. Well, I gave it to my nephew to work with, he’s into those computers. I finally found “If You Could Only See .. A Gnome’s Story” by Christopher Valentine, MBA and Christian von Lahr, PhD which was the right book for me. That is to say, learning that Gnomes and nature people are real. Very convincing book. Lots of how to. Thanks for the official Gnome 2 Guide, but the title really threw me. I hope this message helps others who may be looking for the REAL DEAL on seeing and experienceing gnomes for yourself. Good luck you computer types out there, for you, you may find this book a playful addition to your technical references. And, at least that, is something suitable to gnomes.

If you don’t believe me, find it here.

Posted in atheism, ridiculous beliefs, science, skepticism | 4 Comments »