Tag Archives | Beliefs

The Politics of Belief

Aboriginal War Veterans Monument

Photo: Padraic Ryan (CC)

A tribal shaman was once interviewed by a skeptical anthropologist and asked whether or not he actually believed in the truths behind the spiritual medicine he practiced. The shaman’s reply was surprisingly candid, for he admitted that his technique was completely fraudulent, and yet he still defended it for the simple reason that it often seemed to heal the patients.  This brief exchange cuts to the core of the issue of why some people are religious and others are not. It all boils down to two simple questions – “Is it true?” and “Is it good?”

An atheist is someone who answers “no” to the first question, and usually (but not always), “no” to the second question as well. As such, there are a variety of tactics that atheists will employ in promoting arguments against religion. Charles Darwin, for example, was supposed to have been nudged permanently over the cusp into disbelief after having studied the behavior of a certain species of parasitic wasp.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

A World of Religion

In honour of the recent "world's largest" gathering of atheists in Washington D.C, a reminder of their place in the great scheme of things — there are less than 150 million of them at last global count: Religion Still beats the Wiccans, Bahai'i and Yazidis combined. On the other hand, secularism (separation of church and state) counts as 1.1 billion. Reference: 'Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion', National Post, 23 March 2012
Continue Reading

How Our Terror Of Death Forms Our Beliefs

stoppingVia New Humanist, Steve Cave on how an obsession with immortality shapes everything we do, believe, and create:

A group of American psychologists have discovered a simple way of turning ordinary people into fundamentalists and ideologues. It can be done anywhere and in a matter of minutes. It is just this: the researchers remind these ordinary folks that they will one day die.

The researchers behind this work were testing the hypothesis that most of what we do we do in order to protect us from the terror of death; what they call “Terror Management Theory”. Our sophisticated worldviews, they believe, exist primarily to convince us that we can defeat the Reaper.

Atheists and agnostics should not think that they are free from such comforting illusions of eternity. The psychologists, psychiatrists and anthropologists who developed Terror Management Theory have shown that almost all ideologies, from patriotism to communism to celebrity culture, function similarly in shielding us from death’s approach.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Some Atheist Scientists With Children Embrace Religious Traditions

Flying Spaghetti MonsterVia ScienceDaily:

Some atheist scientists with children embrace religious traditions for social and personal reasons, according to research from Rice University and the University at Buffalo — The State University of New York (SUNY).

The study also found that some atheist scientists want their children to know about different religions so their children can make informed decisions about their own religious preferences.

“Our research shows just how tightly linked religion and family are in U.S. society — so much so that even some of society’s least religious people find religion to be important in their private lives,” said Rice sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, the study’s principal investigator and co-author of a paper in the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The researchers found that 17 percent of atheists with children attended a religious service more than once in the past year. The research was conducted through interviews with a scientifically selected sample of 275 participants pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured and tenure-track faculty in the natural and social sciences at 21 elite U.S.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Cleaning up the Religion Debate

Lately there have been a few articles on Disinfo that eventually, either immediately or after a few days, spurred an argument that rears its head fairly often here. The debate between atheism and religion is one in which I usually enjoy taking part, and I like that it pops up on Disinfo with a certain regularity.  What I don’t like, what I suspect many of us don’t like, is that they often devolve into, if not begin as, something along the lines of:

Poster A:  religion is stupid

Poster B:  YOU’RE stupid

Sometimes it’s a little more eloquent, but this is the bare bones of it. Not very useful, nor very informative. This I think we can agree on.  So how does one go about creating a better, more informative dialogue? Can it even be done? One side believes the other to be irrational, delusional, utilizing a sort of maladaptive coping mechanism to either protect oneself from the harsh realities of life or as an easy way to answer the hard questions with which life presents us.Read the rest

Continue Reading

Maybe We’re All Conspiracy Theorists

Michael Shermer. Photo: David Patton (CC)

Michael Shermer. Photo: David Patton (CC)

Matt Ridley for the Wall Street Journal:

Michael Shermer, the founder and editor of Skeptic magazine, has never received so many angry letters as when he wrote a column for Scientific American debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Mr. Shermer found himself vilified, often in CAPITAL LETTERS, as a patsy of the sinister Zionist cabal that deliberately destroyed the twin towers and blew a hole in the Pentagon while secretly killing off the passengers of the flights that disappeared, just to make the thing look more plausible.

He tells this story in his fascinating new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents rather than to chance — the better to make sense of the world.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Listening to Prayer Halts Brain Activity

Sergei Frolov (CC)

Photo: Sergei Frolov (CC)

Believers and non-believers alike, please chime in. This is sort of how I felt when I had to attend church as a kid (I never went into a coma, although I did get really, really bored). Your experience with praying may have been different back then and still is today.

Andy Coghlan has written, what I think will be a contentious article for disinfo.com readers, on New Scientist:

When we fall under the spell of a charismatic figure, areas of the brain responsible for scepticism and vigilance become less active. That’s the finding of a study which looked at people’s response to prayers spoken by someone purportedly possessing divine healing powers.

To identify the brain processes underlying the influence of charismatic individuals, Uffe Schjødt of Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues turned to Pentecostal Christians, who believe that some people have divinely inspired powers of healing, wisdom and prophecy.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

DeIicious Iconography: The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Feast your eyes on this, true believers. Via notetoself.net: 4568069317_b652e29591
Image: AKA Dillweed (CC) via Flickr
On this, the first of May 2010, I am proud to release this piece of sacred art which I commissioned from Sarah Pierce. I welcome you to join me in silent reverence to His Savoriness, the Noodle in the Sky, our Saucy Master, The Flying Spaghetti Monster. May you be forever touched by His Noodly Appendage.
Continue Reading

Everyone’s a Skeptic — About Other Religions… Merry Swik, Discordians!

The following article “Everyone’s a Skeptic — About Other Religions” is written by James A. Haught, one of over 40 articles in the Disinformation anthology, Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion, edited by Russ Kick.

———————————————————————————–

RedPillBluePillReligion is an extremely touchy topic. Church members often become angry if anyone questions their supernatural dogmas. (Bertrand Russell said this is because they subconsciously sense that their beliefs are irrational.) So I try to avoid confrontations that can hurt feelings. Nearly everyone wants to be courteous.

But sometimes disputes can’t be avoided. If you think the spirit realm is imaginary, and if honesty makes you say so, you may find yourself under attack. It has happened to many doubters: Thomas Jefferson was called a “howling atheist.” Leo Tolstoy was labeled an “impious infidel.”

Well, if you wind up in a debate, my advice is: Try to be polite.… Read the rest

Continue Reading