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Tag Archives: Religion

I haven’t posted in some time. It hasn’t been because I haven’t anything to say, but because I have starte actually saying it. My brother B and I had been wanting to start up a podcast for some time, but with the arrival of my niece and nephew things got put on the back burner. I didn’t want to start things up on my own, but when a new homeopathy store opened up and started advertising on Facebook, I could no longer wait.

It was at this time that I put out a cattle all to my Center for Inquiry friends and was pleasantly surprised to receive numerous requests to be involved. We made our first recording a little after Xmas and we’re getting set to record our eighth episode tomorrow evening.

So what’s the podcast about? Well, the vision I have is quite broad. Essentially, it involves discussing topics anywhere that evidence-based thinking can be applied. This can involve public policy, woo woo, religion, science, education, etc. There are many great podcasts out there about atheism (The Non-Prophets, for example) or applied skepticism which exclude religious claims (e.g., The Skeptics Guide to the Universe), but almost none that make no distinction where critical thinking gets applied. (The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Skeptics with a K.)

As I like to say, I am an atheist for the same reason that I am a-reiki, a-homeopathic, a-yeti, or a-quantum healing. I see no difference in any of these claims or the requirements they need to meet before acceptance is justified. However, religion is a big component of the podcast for the simple reason that it pervades so much of society. I wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn about it except for one thing: Beliefs inform actions and believing in things without the requisite evidence often lead to harm, not to mention that it is an impoverished way of living. The universe is amazing enough without diminishing it by making up far less interesting stuff about it.

A case in point (which I would like to make into a podcast topic): a recent crime bill passed here in Canada increases prison time and takes funding away from programs which may help make inmates productive members of society when released. There is not one shred of evidence that increasing prison time makes society any safer or better off. Quite the opposite, in fact. But such thinking arises from and panders to an electorate with a religious conservative point of view that is demonstrably false. This is not how public policy should be created and does real harm to society.

The topics we discuss are as relevant to the Canadian prairies as possible (or at least nationally). There are already podcasts out there which ably cover the tribulations south of the 49th parallel. But topics which are of interst to everyone are covered as well, though we give them a decidedly local flavor.

In the first seven episodes we have talked about Xerion Homoeopathie (a Calgary purveyor of magic sugar pills) and their dissemination of anti-vaccination nonsense, the effectiveness so-called ‘liberation’ therapy as a proposed treatment of multiple sclerosis (which has a very high incidence in the prairie provinces), the absence of secular education in the town of Morinville (just north of Edmonton), and in the episode we are recording tomorrow we have an interview with rock star cosmologist Lawrence Krauss about science education and why the non-religious are labeled “strident” (or worse) just for daring to question religious claims. His new book A Universe From Nothing (which I guiltlessly plug here) is a great companion to the viral YouTube video of the same name.

Come visit us at the Legion of Reason and give us a listen, or you can find us on iTunes.

On the weekend of September 9, I and a fellow member of the Center for Inquiry attended a creationism “conference” (I’d have called it a lecture series, but hey, whatever). My overall impression is that if this is all that creationists have, evolutionary theory is not at all in jeopardy. Of course, I never thought it was. I just wanted to experience what people who believe the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs co-existed with humans had to say. The whole thing could only be accepted by those who have drunk the Kool Aid. There was nothing convincing in anything I saw, and some stretched my credulity well past the breaking point. Read More »

ABSTRACT. A continuation of my last post dealing with not the second half of Ravi Zacharias’s The End of Reason, but the second half of what my stomach could stand. Here, the Argument from Morality, the stereotypical “evil atheist” argument, among other bric-a-brac and detritus, are discussed.

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Poe’s Law: Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.

I knew about it before it appeared on Pharyngula, but someone has been posing as an atheist muttering some decidedly unatheist remarks. You know the ones, where we atheists supposedly have no morals and do whatever we want because we aren’t held to account. As Penn Jillett would say, “What a motherfucker.” 

No atheist would say such nonsense as the following –

What’s wrong with killing babies? I see no problem with it. I have enough mouths to feed. I don’t get the argument and I am an atheist. Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything characterized as good, bad / right, wrong. So, what’s the big deal? 

Or this – 

If a man wants to make a women his b****, so be it? So what if you don’t like it, what if I do?

If I want to do something, and my conscience is cool with it, then I can do it. If it’s feed a homeless person, so be it. If it’s kill my neighbor, so be it. I am not bound to any morals.

These comments have all the hallmarks of coming from someone who thought that’s what an atheist thinks. Indeed, it was such cartoonish remarks which initiated an excellent bit of detective work by Unreasonable Faith in finding out who the culprit was: Chris Fox, pastor of Kendall’s Baptist Church in North Carolina. Shame on him!

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The other day I wrote a blog on the nurse who was suspended without pay last December for asking an elderly patient (who apparently did not solicit the invitation) . Caroline Petrie is now free to go back to work as a bank nurse (a nurse who is called in as needed on an hourly basis). There was a great deal of public pressure brought to bear on the hospital for the suspension, mainly out of a misunderstanding about what was going on. Some bloggers feel that this is a Christian being thrown to the lions, a martyr in the making.

Baloney. This was never about Petrie, but rather it was about patient care and upholding ethical standards. Simply put, Petrie violated a code of conduct to which she is professionally obligated to follow. If she has a problem with not abiding by a pretty standard section of medical ethics, she’s free to choose another career path.

It’s a bit easier to see the problem when the context is changed a bit, particularly for those who share Petrie’s religion of choice. For instance, if she had been a practitioner of voodoo and offered to sacrifice a chicken to Baron Samedi, I’m sure a very different brouhaha would have resulted. As Richard Sloan points out in his book Blind Faith: The unholy alliance of religion and medicine, there are just some boundaries a health care worker should not cross (and presents a few scary real-world examples of such outrageously unethical behavior by health care workers – I highly recommend the book).

Professionals are available to deal with a patient’s spiritual needs and if – and only if! – the patient requests such services, she could refer the patient to one of them. This is the professional way to handle such things. But Petrie (and many people who have no knowledge of medical ethics) think that acting in such an unprofessional manner is okay. Being Christian is not an excuse to violate codes of ethics.

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Many people might think this is okay –

Community nurse Caroline Petrie, 45, says she asked an elderly woman patient during a home visit if she wanted her to say a prayer for her.

I don’t. Nor would most health care professionals, religious or not. And unlike others who have blogged on this, I have the guts to leave my comments open.

A health care practitioner works in a hospital to provide one thing – health care. This can range from medical therapy to a good bedside manner. But offering religious services is outside any health care provider’s purview. Prayer is not a part any standard of care that I am aware of (and I have worked in a hospital setting). Such intercessory prayer has been extensively studied, with the largest (the STEP1 and MANTRA2,3 studies) showing almost no effect whatsoever. I say ‘almost’ because the STEP paradigm was of a clever design and was able tell show that people who knew they were being prayed for actually had worse outcome.

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Some time ago, Ray Comfort (one of the clowns from “The Way of the Master”) wrote an incredibly stupid blog (rather superfluous where Comfort or Cameron are concerned, I know) about Einstein. In it he had a picture of himself morph into a picture of the great genius. Apparently, humility is not a trait embraced by this silly man. If that isn’t disrespectful, I don’t know what is. Ray Comfort has nothing in common with Einstein, least of all intelligence.

Many of us are aware of Einstein’s famous quote making plain his view on god:

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

~ Albert Einstein, letter to an atheist (1954), quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman

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Last night CBC television aired a documentary on the Doc Zone entitled The Pagan Christ, based on Canadian Tom Harpur’s bestseller. Not exactly something I expect to see aired on US television any time soon. Too many Americans are far too insecure in their beliefs for allow dissenting opinion (I’ve always found that the insecurity of the belief holder increases as the square of the vehemence with which he/she protests). Harpur, a former Anglican minister and professor of Greek and New Testament at the University of Toronto, questions the existence of Jesus after realizing that there is simply no evidence for his existence. The description of the program contains the following passage:

So, what if it could be proven that Jesus never existed? What if there was evidence that every word of the New Testament – the cornerstone of Christianity – is based on myth and metaphor?

Indeed, so what if it could be proven that Jesus never existed? I suppose it might dispel the illusion that anything in the gospels actually happened, but one has to have total and complete blind faith already to believe the contradictory accounts anyway.

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“It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our law and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge.” ~ Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, Nov. 14, 20031

Hypothesis: The Ten Commandments are the basis for our modern western legal system.

2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
3 Do not have any other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

~ Exodus 20:2-17

Many Christians believe that our western legal system is an extension of the Ten Commandments. This sounds to me like rather like ‘Guilt by Association’, a form of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Just because modern laws have some overlap, or even completely overlap each other, does not at all establish cause (God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses) and effect (civil law).

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There are a number of scientists who I greatly admire not only for the work in their fields but because they also apply their intellect to humanity. Some, like Nikolai Vavilov and Robert Oppenheimer, were persecuted by their own governments for their anti-establishment views.

Vavilov, a prominent Russian evolutionary biologist, lost his life opposing Trofim Lysenko, whose Lamarckism-based agrarian policies killed millions of Soviet citizens from famine after disastrous crop failures. Vavilov saw the need for protecting the future of humanity by collecting seeds of all crop species of plant and protecting their gene lines. We owe him far more than we realize as the genetic lines of almost all of our current grain crops can be traced to the repository Vavilov set up with his foresight. For openly opposing Lysenko he was starved to death in an internment camp in Stalin’s Russia. 

Oppenheimer spoke out vehemently against proliferation of the very weapon he helped to create as head of the Manhattan Project. In thanks, the very politicians which brought us all to the brink of nuclear holocaust numerous times stripped Oppenheimer of his security clearance in a very public kangaroo court during the big Red Hunt of the 50’s.

Nobel laureate Physicist Stephen Weinberg is another of those applying his intellect to what I call ‘the Big Questions’ of life, the universe and everything. The following is a cut-and-paste entry retrieved from Physlink.com. Enjoy!

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