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Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Making of an Atheist – How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, James S. Spiegel

The title says it all, doesn’t it? How often have we atheists seen the strawman that we are nonbelievers because we do not want to be held accountable to a higher power for our actions? Sorry, but I hold myself accountable to myself, and I am one harsh critic.

It gets worse than the title, though. From the author’s website:

Sigmund Freud famously dismissed belief in God as a psychological projection caused by wishful thinking. Today many of the “new atheists”—including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens—make a similar claim, insisting that believers are delusional. Faith is a kind of cognitive disease, according to them. And they are doing all they can to rid the world of all religious belief and practice.

Christian apologists, from Dinesh D’Souza to Ravi Zacharias, have been quick to respond to the new atheists, revealing holes in their arguments and showing why theistic belief, and the Christian worldview in particular, is reasonable. In fact, the evidence for God is overwhelming, confirming the Apostle Paul’s point in Romans 1 that the reality of God is “clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV).

So if the evidence for God is so plain to see, then why are there atheists? That is the question that prompted The Making of an Atheist. The answer I propose turns the tables on the new atheists, as I show that unbelief is a psychological projection, a cognitive disorder arising from willful resistance to the evidence for God. In short, it is atheists who are the delusional ones.

Unlike Dawkins and his ilk, I give an account as to how the delusion occurs, showing that atheistic rejection of God is precipitated by immoral indulgences, usually combined with some deep psychological disturbances, such as a broken relationship with one’s father. I also show how atheists suffer from what I call “paradigm-induced blindness,” as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God manifest in creation. These and other factors I discuss are among the various dimensions of sin’s corrupting influence on the mind.

I’ve been told that The Making of an Atheist is a provocative book, but I didn’t write it to provoke anyone. I simply wanted to tell the truth about this issue. Anyway, since the new atheists are bold enough to trumpet their claim that theists are delusional, it seems appropriate that someone should be willing to propose that the opposite is true. As they say, turnabout is fair play. [Emphasis mine.]

While it is true about what Freud said about belief, Harris, Dawkins, et al do not make the claim that belief in god is a psychological disorder. When they use the word ‘delusion’ it is taken to mean ‘erroneous belief’ and not ‘mental illness’ as Spiegel thinks. And Freud’s views in general (including this one) have largely been discredited. His importance is in kick-starting psychoanalysis, but his views have been supplanted by evidence-based ones.

According to the author (a professor of philsophy at a little-known university in Indiana with no expertise in psychiatry and doesn’t even rate an entry in Wikipedia…), we are nonbelievers because we have “daddy issues”. The evidence for god is plain to see, according to Spiegel. One can only hope he actually presents said evidence in the book (I certainly am not aware of any evidence which I would consider slam-dunk for the existence of god(s), or even equivocal evidence, for that matter…), but I have my doubts it will be more than the bare assertion given above.

And this “turnabout is fair play” thing – what is this, a playground? What an infantile comment to make. It’s like PeeWee Herman, an adult, saying “I know you are, but what am I?” The difference is PeeWee is supposed to sound infantile and absurd. That’s the joke.

Am I prejudging the book? Indeed. From what I read, Spiegel is one of those “But they know, really know, in their hearts that god is real” kind of people. However, I can not possibly see how this is knowledge, but belief. And belief, even if it is believed so much that it seems like knowledge, isn’t knowledge. We can only attach confidence to what we call knowledge as being knowledge when it is independently verified. Till then, you can call it anything you want, but it ain’t knowledge.

I can also tell you what I expect Spiegel to give us in order for me to agree with him. Spiegel is not an expert in psychiatry (far from it), and expertise does count for something so long as one does not go so far as to fall into the Argument from Authority fallacy. But it is correct to take what a lay person has to say on a subject for which they have no expertise with a big grain of salt (okay, a big bag of salt) as compared to someone who has spent their whole lives studying the subject. I expect to see controlled studies (and more than one) not only showing an association between psychological trauma and atheism over believers, but a causal effect. Without any of this, my predisposition will be totally justified and the book will be nothing more than Spiegel’s baseless opinion, an opinion specifically designed to shore up his own biases.

One argument that theists like to pull is that Dawkins isn’t knowledgeable enough on ‘sophisticated’ theology (as if there were such a thing) to be able to pronounce judgements on them. But that is just so much bullshit. Dawkins does what theologists should be doing – testing their own hypotheses! Besides, Dawkins says it right in the book they love to attach this criticism to – he is going after the typical sky-daddy view of god that the vast majority of people have. It would be a verbose book indeed if he went after every version of god, including the so-called ‘sophisticated’ ones. (For Terry Eagleton, it’s apparently so sophisticated that he doesn’t seem able to answer what to me would be a simple yes-or-no question: does he pray? Eagleton seems to have outwitted himself with his own ‘sophistication’…), and I’m sure he firmly believed he sounded so erudite and witty when he was nothing of the sort. Dawkins (and others, like Physicist Victor Stenger) are far more qualified to perform hypothesis testing than these perveyors of sophistry.

It wasn’t so long ago that the Soviets declared rejection of communism a psychological disorder and institutionalized people on this basis. I see little difference. Neither has evidence going for it that I can tell.

I do plan on getting a copy just for the entertainment value, but I have little in the way of expectations.

Berfore I really got down and dirty with the history of the New Testament books, I knew that the situation was bad for believing in its veracity. But I was never prepared for just how bad the situation really is, all the while people taking the New Testament as – well, gospel. This is a transcript of part of episode 8.18 of the Non-Prophets podcast (aired in December) in which Matt Dillahunty responds to a letter from a listener who has a friend claiming that the evidence for miracle claims in the bible is irrefutable. I have to say I always enjoy listening to Matt on subjects biblical.

The facts are these – there are no contemporary extrabiblical accounts of any events specific to the life of Jesus. That means no independent sources from any eyewitnesses with regard to his birth, life, miracles, ministry, death or proposed resurrection. The gospels are anonymous; we have no original manuscripts; they do not agree on details; they do not agree with recorded history; and the consensus of New Testament scholarship is that none of them were written by eyewitnesses. The bible has stories about eyewitnesses, but we don’t have a single comment from anyone claiming to be an eyewitness.

The process of canonization included books that doctrinally agreed with those in power, and eliminated and attempted to destroy books that were considered heretical by those in power. Yet those same books were considered inspired by other sects. Books like Revelations barely made it into the bible as many considered them uninspired. Books like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Apocolypse of Peter which have traditionally been considered divinely inspired were excluded. Paul’s epistles, some of which are of questionable authorship, were the first books of the New Testament to be written, and that was decades after the purported life of Jesus. The gospels were written many years later – perhaps even decades later – by unknown authors. Historians from the late first and second century do mention Christians and some refer to Jesus, but none of these were eyewitnesses, and most of them couldn’t even have spoken to someone who claimed to be an eyewitness.

So we have the bible, a collection of stories by largely unknown authors who were unlikely to be eyewitnesses and we don’t have originals of their work. We have copies of copies of copies of translations of copies of copies of anonymous books reporting an oral tradition passed down for decades or centuries after the purported events in a time when myths, superstitions and god-men claims were plentiful; during a time when fact-checking and literacy were rare; and when doctrinal wars prompted forged documents (Paul even mentions this in the bible) in order to prop up competing theologies as orthodox or heretical. And for my money, that means none of it is believable.

Contrast this with, for example, claims of alien abductions. You can – if you like – actually speak to people who claim to have actually been abducted by aliens. If you look around, you’ll find groups of people who tell consistent stories, and might even claim to have been abducted together. There are countless reports of UFO sightings, often by groups of people or, in rare cases, dozens or even hundreds of people in a particular town or area. These reports have been ongoing for decades, reported by countless news sources in addition to specialized periodicals. Many of these people sincerely believe their story. Do you? Does you’re friend?

I don’t, because there isn’t sufficient evidence. Yet the quantity and quality of evidence for these claims is vastly superior to any miracle claims reported in the bible. We have more evidence, and we’re not 2000 years removed from events, and we still don’t believe, and find the most fervent believers to be a little crazy. Yet somehow, millions of largely ignorant, well-meaning, nice people sincerely believe third-hand reports of miracles from thousands of years ago. And they don’t just believe – they strongly believe. They not only consider it not only absurd to disbelieve, but also their sacred duty to convince others – at a minimum – and legislate their beliefs on others – or worse. And yet we do not somehow don’t consider these people a little crazy.

Here endeth the lesson. Amen.

The man who called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who concurred with scumbag Jerry Falwell that 9/11 was his monstrous god’s retribution for the actions of the ACLU, feminists, pagans, gays and lesbians, abortionists and secularists, who gave credit to Ariel Sharon’s stroke to his monstrous despot of a god, who consorted with former presidents Charles Taylor of Liberia and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (both internationally denounced for human rights violations), who lied about sending relief aid to Liberia (for which he was given mining rights by Taylor) but instead was smuggling diamond mining equipment in Operation Blessings aircraft, is at it again.

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ABSTRACT. Facilitated communication was regailed as a major breakthrough in 1990 in communicating with people who have autism. The claim was that 90% of children suffering from nonverbal autism could communicate with the aid of a keyboard and a facilitator guiding their hands to make the keystrokes. Scientific examination of the claims made by facilitated communication proponents showed a different story. When facilitated communication was performed under controlled conditions, the majority of studies showed no effect. Those few controlled studies which did show benefit suffered from severe methodological problems. It has been found that the authorship can not be attributed to the autistic subject. Rather, it is the facilitator unconsciously doing the typing via the ideomotor effect. The illusion of subject authorship is very strong, as is made clear by the belief in its efficacy by both its practitioners and parents of autistic children making use of facilitated communication. Coupling this with a parent’s desire to interact with their autistic child makes it even more so. But facilitators have on many occasions accused a parent of sexual abuse through their subject, and at times a child’s testimony via facilitated communication has been accepted as evidence despite its failure to pass the Frye test. Facilitated communication has been discredited in the scientific community, yet it continues to be applied. The harm it causes is clear. It has destroyed lives with false allegations of sexual abuse and may prevent the special needs of autistic and sufferers of similar nonverbal disorders from being met on the basis of what a facilitator says via the subject.

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