© Arun Nm
“Doctor, how is my brother?”
“He is not at all doing well. Now it’s up to prayers and God.”
When dealing with near and dear ones of critically ill people, I have heard many health care professionals saying this. Even some doctors/nurses who do not believe in prayers or a personal God (the one who interferes for us hearing prayers) practice it. For doing such things they have an explanation.
“Why should we extinguish all their hopes?”
Is it ethical to tell some one that prayer, which is proven to be ineffective, or a mythical concept called God can possibly help them? Does such an approach help?
It’s true that some patients recover miraculously even though chances of recovery was considered almost nil. They recover because some factor that helped them was over looked or is unknown to science. Science and its practitioners very well know this fact, and that is why we never say there is no chance of recovery. We always convey that chance of recovery is very slim; so we never extinguish all hopes.
But by saying only prayers/God can help is like giving false hopes. There is zero proof that prayers are useful. Same stands for God. So by saying prayers/God can help, you are misleading them.
Continue reading “Prayers and God’s Will”
Bad Faith is the condition we’re in whenever we “lie to ourselves.” It involves a schizoid partitioning of our consciousness. In the process, we become both subject and object: the liar and the lied-to. What makes this state a dangerous one is that while we’re in it, it’s possible to dismiss evidence that (for instance) our behavior is self-destructive: not because we have better evidence to the contrary, but because such evidence is “inconvenient.” Those who grow up in religious households are taught to lie to themselves from a very young age.
I couched the preceding paragraph in the first-person plural because it applies to all of us individually and also collectively, as societies. For the individual crack addict, the evidence for his self-destruction is inconvenient and he therefore finds ways to ignore it. Should it rise unbidden into his conscious awareness and begin to nag him and make him uncomfortable, he will beat it down by every means available – including another visit to the crack pipe. If a whole society is addicted to cheap oil, the evidence for that society’s self-destruction is no less inconvenient, and denial becomes a growth industry. Industry shills masquerading as “scientists” assure us that we have nothing to worry about. Politics becomes an exercise in ad hominem and the messenger sometimes takes a volley in the career.
Can there be any doubt that we’re in collective denial about things like Peak Oil, aquifer depletion, topsoil loss, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, overpopulation and anthropogenic climate change? The truth – whose consequences will shortly involve societal upheaval and starvation on a scale we’ve never before witnessed – is almost too horrendous to contemplate, so most of us can be counted on to look the other way while catastrophe closes in. (After all, there’s plenty of corporate-funded “science” to assure us that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax and that Peak Oil won’t happen for another two centuries. Maybe California will get a wet El Nino and Sao Paulo… well…. And anyway, why not just go on believing whatever makes us feel a little better since there’s not a damn thing we can do about either of those inconvenient truths?)
Continue reading “The Truth Shall Set You Free. But First It, Shall Piss You Off.”
“We all know that any emotional bias — irrespective of truth or falsity — can be implanted by suggestion in the emotions of the young, hence the inherited traditions of an orthodox community are absolutely without evidential value…. If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences. With such an honest and inflexible openness to evidence, they could not fail to receive any real truth which might be manifesting itself around them. The fact that religionists do not follow this honourable course, but cheat at their game by invoking juvenile quasi-hypnosis, is enough to destroy their pretensions in my eyes even if their absurdity were not manifest in every other direction.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, Against Religion: The Atheist Writings of H.P. Lovecraft
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Ockham’s Razor is a simple concept. Essentially, it says that when two explanations have equal amount of explaining power, it is best to take the simpler explanation over the more complex one. I have discussed it in passing within previous articles, but I really believe that this concept deserves a post of its own. This is because Ockham’s Razor is an extremely valuable concept in debating theists, who like to rationalize away the problems with their belief system, and really tip a debate with two seemingly viable explanations for an event in favor of the atheist. When used properly, this logical tool literally cuts through the bull that I often see Christian apologists and other theists try to peddle.
I recently had a conversation with someone over the problem of evil, and why bad things happen in our world. My explanation is simple: Bad things happen because God is not in control of the universe. There is no evidence this being exists, and the state of the universe seems incompatible with this being’s core characteristics. An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being cannot exist because such a deity could have made the universe without evil; it would know that this universe would lead to evil, and an omnibenevolent being would seek to minimize evil. Since evil exists, this model of God cannot exist.
Continue reading “The Power of Ockham’s Razor”
It occurs to me that I might be able to shed a bit of light on some of the dark and impenetrable mysteries that occasionally issue from the febrile minds of Christian fundamentalists. The reason I’m in a position to do so is that I was once just like them: a Bible-totin,’ Scripture-quotin’ True Believer™.
I had the grotesque misfortune of being spawned by impoverished, uneducated teenage parents whose families had always “belonged to” the Missionary Baptist Church. That church was their default position both socially and intellectually, and they inflicted it on their children. (Actually, they would scold me for misrepresenting them; Missionary Baptists harbor the novel idea that there is no “Church” – there are only “churches.” I won’t bother to try to explain the significance of that abstruse theological notion here.) That’s as bedrock fundamentalist as it gets. Missionary Baptists pride themselves on an absolutely unalloyed, never-to-be-examined-or-questioned embrace of the Blessed Old Leather-Bound Bible, our operator’s manual for life, every word of which is absolutely, unfailingly true from cover to cover.
My embrace of the Bible was as ardent as anyone’s: I was as convinced as any fundamentalist you’ve ever met on Facebook or on Main Street that the Holy Bible – preferably the King James Version – is the very Word of the Almighty. I therefore saw atheists as just as dangerous and hellbound – and homosexuals as just as disgusting and abominable – as they do: children necessarily adopt the attitudes of the authority figures in their lives. If they’re lucky – as I was – they later outgrow those attitudes. For those cursed with a modicum of native curiosity, such a belief eventually becomes a powerful incentive to actually read the damn thing, and that’s where some people get into trouble and end up losing their faith. Most either don’t read it, or read it with a special kind of selectivity backed by a scheme of interpretation that I want to talk about here. (NonStampCollector’s excellent “Context!!!!!!” barely scratches the surface: what follows is what lies beneath.)
Continue reading “Dispensationalism: The Answer that doesn’t Answer All your Nagging Questions”
I’ve been seeing the expression “Biblical truth” bandied about on several fundamentalist Christian Facebook groups recently, and I want to address that weird and rather disturbing notion.
There’s a point every semester when I broach the subject of truth in my classes: it happens when we start our survey of African-American music, a unit that begins with a consideration of the Blues. The author of the textbook we use launches into a rather incoherent and saccharine discussion of the Blues as a vehicle for truth-telling. I think he mostly gets it wrong; nevertheless, it is a useful point of departure so we do read the section and discuss it. I always begin by telling my students that, just as the infinitives to hear and to listen don’t mean the same thing, so the nouns “fact” and “truth” are not by any means exact synonyms, although there is clearly a relationship between them (as there is between hearing and listening).
To help them understand my meaning, I have them do this thought experiment: go to the neonatal unit of the local hospital and choose your newborn. Become an omnipresent observer: follow that person all his life; record in your notebooks everything that person ever experiences, says or does. Omit no detail. At the end of that person’s life, you’ll have a mountain of notebooks – and a mountain of facts. Will you have in those notebooks the truth of that person’s life?
Of course not. There’s only one way to discover the truth of that person’s life: ask the person who lived the life. Truth is the synthesis we make of the facts. Facts are objective; truth is subjective.
Continue reading “Do You Swear to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing like the “Biblical Truth””