Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Atheists Are NOT Wasting Their Time

By Thomas Keane from  doubtingthomas

***NOTE: This article was originally published by the people at www.PathofReason.com and is reprinted here with their permission.

One of the most common criticisms Atheists are confronted with is the question of why we waste so much time discussing religion, god worship, the bible, etc.? Why do we focus so much time on something we don’t believe in? Don’t we have anything better to do with our time? The reason why these questions are always so frustrating has less to do with how often we are confronted with them and more to do with how obvious the answers should be. When your child tells you they believe there is a monster in their closet or under their bed, do you ignore them or tell them the truth? If she told you that the reason she believed there was a monster under her bed was because she had read a story that told her about these monsters, wouldn’t you be curious to read this story in order to better understand how your child came to her erroneous conclusion? Now what if your daughter is 21 and has a 3 year old daughter of her own. Her boyfriend, the father of her child, is involved with a group that believes their founder (Avalon) is the second coming of Christ and is in direct communication with God. If you discovered that your daughter had also become a follower of Avalon and was teaching/raising your 3yo granddaughter to believe in the same things, would you be wasting your time if you decided to speak up and express your belief that Avalon was a fraud and even offer proof to support your opinion?

What if your daughter refused to listen and instead ran away with her boyfriend, your granddaughter and Avalon to an isolated compound somewhere and you didn’t see them again for another fifteen years? What do you think the likelihood is, that once you are finally allowed to see your, now 18yo, granddaughter, that anything you say will convince her that what she has been raised to believe isn’t true? The odds are that your words would fall on deaf ears; however, that doesn’t make your efforts meaningless. Nor does it mean you should give up. The more you learn about this cult that swallowed up your daughter and granddaughter the greater your ability will be to address the issues you have with it. After all, even the strongest barrier of misinformation can’t withstand a constant barrage of truth.

There is a reason why the majority of god worshipers are devoted to the same god that the people who raised them worshiped. It isn’t because their god is any more legitimate than any of the other 2,000+ gods mankind has invented over the years. It is simply because once myth has been established as fact in a child’s innocent, naïve mind, it is very difficult, even as an adult, for that person to shake that belief. Faith is not a synonym for fact, it is a synonym for hope and it is the definition of foolishness to devote one’s every life decision around thehope that a thing is true.

Once upon a time, people believed that the earth was the center of the universe and everything (including the sun) revolved around it. Once upon a time people believed that tossing a virgin into a volcano or carving out their still beating hearts was the only way to appease their god(s). Once upon a time people believed Zeus’ wrath resulted in thunder and lightning and Poseidon’s resulted in tidal waves. Once upon a time people believed that you could take ‘it’ with you and as a result they built elaborate tombs and filled them with treasures and even servants so that in the afterlife they would continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which they were accustomed. Once upon a time people believed in a great many things that we now know to be erroneous.

If we discovered that there were people in the world who still believed in established myth, would we be wasting our time to confront them with evidence that reveals the fallacy of their beliefs? And when a Christian or Mormon missionary travels deep into the Amazonian jungles to tell the native people there that the gods they worship are false and that they should instead believe in this or that god, aren’t they doing the same thing that an Atheist does when they contradict Christian beliefs? The only difference here seems to be that an Atheist supports his beliefs with evidence while a believer relies only on hope, AKA – faith.

What could possibly be more admirable than knowing the truth of something and, when encountering someone who only knows the lie, taking the time to share with them what you have learned. How could this ever be considered a waste of time? How many people ‘wasted their time’ trying to talk reason with a follower of Jim Jones (900 dead, 300 of whom were children). How many people ‘wasted their time’ pleading with family and/or friends who were members of the Heaven’s Gate cult? How many of the 80+ followers of David Koresh, 21 of whom were children, who died in the Waco, Texas catastrophe might have been spared if more people had ‘wasted their time’? If an Atheist had encountered a member of any of these groups you can bet that they would have spoken up. Are we to believe that a Christian would have tucked their bible away and bit their tongue?

It is in all of our best interests that we resist the tendency to dismiss the opinion of another simply because it differs from our own. If someone is willing to take the time to challenge something you believe in, the least you can do is take the time to listen and consider. Christians like to act all mystified as to why Atheists spend so much time discussing something they don’t believe in but the fact that they never protest when an Atheist wastes his or her time playing Guitar Hero or watching an American Idol marathon reveals that what they are really expressing is anxiety, not confusion. No one likes to be confronted with the prospect that what they accept as truth could possibly be a lie. But such a revelation can only benefit us, individually and as a society.

If anything it is the religious who are wasting their time. Just consider how much further along we would be as a society, not to mention as a species, if it weren’t for religion. The endless struggle for religious supremacy has led to innumerable wars and countless lost lives. Consider the incomprehensible amount of literature that was hunted down, confiscated and/or destroyed by the church. How much knowledge have we lost because of the fears of the religious? How many of our greatest minds were persecuted and imprisoned because they dared to disagree with someone’s concept of one god or another? How many dreams, ideas and inventions were snuffed out by worshipers of gods? How many more men like Aristotle, Galileo, Voltaire and Socrates would we have if not for religion? Consider all the trials, the imprisonments, the banishments, the riots, the persecutions, the genocides, the repression, the bigotry, the sexism, the mutilation and the division, so much division. Has anything in history ever divided one man from another more than religion? But it’s the Atheist who is wasting his time? Could anything be more laughable? Just imagine where we would be now as a people if we had focused on peace, coexisting, civilization, progress and philosophy instead of saving souls and deciding whose god was better than another’s. No one has wasted more of their own time, and worse, humanity’s time than the religious.

If the human race has any hope for a bright future it certainly doesn’t rest with the religious or whatever god they may worship. Their god will not create peace on earth. Your god will not protect our children from the evils of the world. His god will not reward us with eternal life. Her god will not assure our armies of success in battle. We can only rely on ourselves and on each other. There simply is no one else. And it’s not a waste of time to say so.

Thomas Keane (DoubtingThomas)

Please visit my main page (http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/) to gain a better understanding of where I am coming from. There you will find all my observations regarding religion and the bible categorized on the Right hand side of the page. Please feel free to read through them and leave a comment or two if you like.

My Top 25 Substantive Posts in 2011

Here they are:

25) I Stand in the Gap

24) The Top Ten Misconceptions About Atheists

23) The Ten Marks of a Deluded Person

22) Once Again, Atheism is Not a Belief Nor a Religion

21) In Defense of Debates

20) Ten Ways How To Resist Preaching to the Choir

19) Science Based Explanations vs. Faith Based Explanations

18) Christians demand that I must show their faith is impossible before they will see that it is improbable

17) The Danger of Belief is Thinking You Believe What God Does

16) The Problem of Miracles

15) Answering Once and For All The Christian Complaint That Skeptics Would Refuse to Believe No Matter What God Did

14) Who Answers Prayers?

13) An Omniscient God Solves All Problems and Makes Faith Unfalsifiable

12) How Christian Apologists Work

11) When Christians Criticize Each Other I Think They're All Right

10) A New and Better Pascal's Wager: If God Asked You to Wager Before Being Born What Would You Choose?

9) The Deuteronomist and King Josiah

8) The Outsider Test is Not Hard to Understand

7) Responding to Thomas Talbott: On Why I Think There is a Material World

6) Assessing The Minimal Facts Approach of Habermas, Licona, and Craig

5) Does a Religious Context Increase the Odds of a Miracle?

4) Michael Licona's Book is Delusional on a Grand Scale

3) William Lane Craig On Whether the Witness of the Spirit is Question-Begging

2) In Defense of William Lane Craig 

1) Let's Recap Why William Lane Craig Refuses to Debate Me

Monday, January 30, 2012

What makes scientists tick?

 from the NewScientist.com

Psychologist Greg Feist is trying to find out what drives scientific curiosity, from ways of thinking to personality types

You are championing a new discipline: the psychology of science. What exactly is this?
It's the study of the thought and behaviour of scientists, but it also includes the implicit science done by non-scientists - so, for instance, children and infants who are thinking scientifically, trying to figure out the world and developing cognitive conceptual models of how the world works.
What areas interest you and what discoveries have you made in this field?
My area is personality. I look at the personality characteristics and qualities that distinguish scientists from non-scientists.
The personality characteristic that really stands out for predicting scientific interest is openness to experience: how willing and interested someone is to try new things, to explore, to break out of their habits. Open people get bored with routine. Another thing I've found is that social scientists tend to be higher in extroversion whereas physical scientists tend to be a bit more introverted.
I understand that certain people - Jewish people, for example - are more likely than average to become scientists. Why?
I was brought up Catholic and I married a Jewish woman. I spoke to my wife's rabbi and asked him this question. He said that in Judaism there is no hierarchy. No one person who has more access to the "truth" than anyone else. And there is a healthy tradition of debate. That way of critical thinking and debate is more congruent with the scientific attitude than Catholicism, say, which is based on dogma and hierarchy.
In the US, only 2 per cent of the population is Jewish, yet about 30 per cent of the members of the National Academy of Science and 30 per cent of the Nobel prize recipients are from a Jewish background. That's no coincidence.
What other areas of the psychology of science are ripe for research?
A couple of graduate students and I have started investigating if there is evidence that any kind of mental disorder is associated with scientific thought and behaviour. The general answer is no. In fact, most disorders seem to be screened out to a greater extent in the sciences than in the arts.
Have psychologists looked into the issue of how objective the scientific process really is?
Scientists are human. They're not perfectly objective and rational, but the scientific method tries to limit that as much as possible by having repeatable, observable, empirical methods to minimise the subjective element. The more we understand about the psychology of scientists the more we can mitigate the effect of cognitive bias.
How will this new discipline benefit science?
One of the things it will do is shed light on how and when people become interested in science. And why do some kids, who started out with an interest in science, then leave it? In the US it's a pretty big deal to discover what is lacking in our training and development of young scientists.


Greg Feist is at San Jose State University, California. He is president of the International Society for the Psychology of Science and Technology, and author of The Psychology of Science and the Origins of the Scientific Mind (Yale University Press, 2006)

Friday, January 27, 2012

inFact: Conspiracy Theories

Are conspiracy theorists really as crazy as they sound?

Answering 13 Questions About 2012 by Kyle Hill

Via Psychology Today, arm yourself against the pseudoscience of 2012 apocalypse with answers to 13 questions about the supposed end of the world.
[spoiler alert: the whole theory is bogus]

The Mayan Apocalypse is Nonsense

Here are the questions you will find answers to, with a short summary of the answers (read the full article linked to above for the complete explanations):
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
Is the “Jesus of History” any more real than the “Jesus of Faith”?

(From the upcoming book,Jesus: Mything in Action, by David Fitzgerald)

Psych 101: Controlling This Tendency Will Make You Happier and More Productive

Psych 101: Controlling This Tendency Will Make You Happier and More Productive

Screen Shot 2012-01-18 at 8.40.26 AM
Your coworker is late. You’re angry. “He’s always late!” you say to yourself. Instead of thinking of the myriad of external sources that could potentially explain his tardiness, you default to the fact that he is always late. Does this sound familiar?
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Climate Change, Disbelief, and the Collision between Human and Geologic Time by Peter H. Gleick

Climate Change, Disbelief, and the Collision between Human and Geologic Time

Geologic time scales are long – too long for the human mind to really comprehend. Over millions, and tens of millions, and hundreds of millions of years, the Earth has changed from something unrecognizable to the planet we see on maps, plastic globes, and photos from space. The Atlantic Ocean didn’t exist eons ago and it will literally disappear in the future as the continental plates continue to move inch by inch. A visitor from outer space millions of years ago would have looked down upon land masses and land forms unrecognizable today. As John McPhee notes in his book, Assembling California, “For an extremely large percentage of the history of the world, there was no California.” Or North America, China, Australia, Hawai’i, Mt. Everest, Grand Canyon, or any of the other landforms and natural symbols we think of as immutable.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

John Edward: Hustling the Bereaved

Investigative Files
Joe Nickell
Volume 25.6, November / December 2001

Superstar “psychic medium” John Edward is a stand-up guy. Unlike the spiritualists of yore, who typically plied their trade in dark-room séances, Edward and his ilk often perform before live audiences and even under the glare of TV lights. Indeed, Edward (a pseudonym: he was born John MaGee Jr.) has his own popular show on the SciFi channel called Crossing Over, which has gone into national syndication (Barrett 2001; Mui 2001). I was asked by television newsmagazine Dateline NBC to study Edward’s act: was he really talking to the dead?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

How To Debunk Christianity by John W. Loftus

Click on the image to see it full size.
As you can see from this chart of denominations the Church of Christ is represented as the true church. I have not tried to verify the facts, but it’s roughly accurate I suppose in representing when they started and such. Notice that every denomination is part of “Babylon the Great Whore” depicted in the book of Revelation except those in the “Restoration Movement” “non-denominational” conservative middle branch of the Christian Church/Churches of Christ, of which I was once a part. In the lower right hand corner there is a strict warning that people in these other denominations will probably be doomed. A lot of other Christians in various denominations think the same way about the Church of Christ and condemn them as heretical.
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