Questionable Motives

May 20, 2010

So you think religious sentiments are compatible with human rights?

Filed under: civil rights,Human Rights,Islam — tildeb @ 10:59 am

Think again. From BBC News:

Pakistan has blocked the popular video sharing website YouTube because of its “growing sacrilegious content”. The page contains drawings and caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and characters from other religions, including Hinduism and Christianity.

Access to the social network Facebook has also been barred as part of a crackdown on websites seen to be hosting un-Islamic content.

“Such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world and cannot be accepted under the garb of freedom of expression,” Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said about the page.

Hurt sentiments? What about my hurt sentiments? That some goat-loving nimrod cares not one whit about my freedom of expression and has the arrogance and stupidity to think his sentiments about caricatures of a long dead man ranks above the actual real life civil and legal human rights of others is an indication of just how insidious are the effects of islamic religious dogma. Let’s face it: such religiously inspired sentiments are in direct opposition to human rights, freedoms, and dignity of personhood. We either support one or the other and apologists need to stick their head in a paint shaker if they think the two are in any way compatible cultural values.

Tip to Misunderstoodranter


Trouble in (before) paradise?

  • Of the 1,050 pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
  • 89% of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.
  • 81% of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (remember these are the Reformed and Evangelical—not the mainline pastors!). 
  • 77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage!
  • 75% of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
  • 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • 71% of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
  • 38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. (This and the previous statistic raises an interesting reflection on what Family Values look like to those in the ministry – tildeb.)
  • 26% of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.
  • 23% of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!
  • Of the pastors surveyed, they stated that a mean (average) of only 25% of their church’s membership attended a Bible Study or small group at least twice a month. The range was 11% to a max of 40%, a median (the center figure of the table) of 18% and a mode (most frequent number) of 20%. This means over 75% of the people who are at a “good” evangelical church do not go to a Bible Study or small group (that is not just a book or curriculum study, but where the Bible is opened and read, as well as studied). (I suspect these numbers are actually lower in most evangelical and Reformed churches because the pastors that come to conferences tend to be more interested in the teaching and care of their flock than those who usually do not attend.)

From the article Statistics on Pastors over at the Schaeffer Institute.

These stats line up nicely with Daniel Dennett’s latest work about preachers who are not believers (pdf here). And their numbers are growing . What is striking in this compilation of stats is that more than half would leave if they could. Three quarters are fighting depression and nine in ten can’t cope with the challenge of ministry. But why? If religious belief added some measurable quality of life and comfort as we have been led to believe, then these numbers should be strikingly different by those who champion it. But as I have long suspected, the show-and-tell of religion are quite different: we see the show of happy and well-adjusted people who pretend religious belief is a marvelous way to live – even a necessary element to living morally well – but underneath that facade we find a very different story.

May 18, 2010

Dismantling creationism: how can this happen?

Over at Neurologica there is a wonderful post about a conversation between Novella and a creationist named Duane. It covers many of the standard creationist canards hostile to the science of evolution and clearly reveals how someone like Duane can pretend to respect logic and evidence and appear to be inquiring yet remain firm and steadfast in religiously inspired ignorance when those methods and the provided evidence counter some quacked-up theological beliefs. But half the fun of reading a calm and patient smack-down of hostile creationism is reading some of the comments. My favourite comment is from Weii, the tenth comment down (May 14th, 10:21 pm), who perceptively notes:

He is a typical believer who relies on his faith to answer his questions. Evidence doesn’t convince him as he will only seek evidence that confirms his belief and ignore it if it doesn’t, as we all will. A creationist that is also a scientist is an oxymoron, unless they are in a totally unrelated field. Creationists believe things and only see confirmation. Scientists make certain assumptions about the world and then test them. Someone who believes that toast always lands on the buttered side down, when faced with it landing buttered side up, will think that he buttered the wrong side.

And that is exactly what I have found as I venture through the blogosphere: those who insist that truth must be compatible with their theology have already made the decision to rank what is true to be less valuable than maintaining a religious belief, and will then bend, distort, excuse, and ignore the fruits of honest inquiry that run counter to these comforting beliefs in order to protect and promote religiously inspired ignorance. But with enough cognitive dissonance created by good reasoning about the overwhelming evidence counter to claims about special human creationism, then perhaps some will dismantle their walled religious beliefs one brick at a time and wake up one day to the beautiful dawn of an open mind and wonder “How did this happen?”

May 17, 2010

Threatened by clarity?

Filed under: Atheism,Dawkins,Religion — tildeb @ 10:14 am

What a nice way to put it… for someone assumed to be so strident, militant, arrogant, and so on.

May 14, 2010

What’s the point?

Filed under: Argument,Critical Reasoning — tildeb @ 4:49 pm

Theramin Trees explains…

May 13, 2010

What does militant and strident atheism sound like?

Filed under: Atheism,Religion — tildeb @ 5:45 pm

Thanks to the cartoonist of Jesus and Mo

May 12, 2010

How much is freedom of expression worth?

Filed under: censorship,Islam,religiously inspired violence — tildeb @ 10:04 am

Apparently, the most recent islamic bounty to kill those who dare exercise such rights is about $100,000 for a cartoonist and another $50,000 of an editor willing to publish the cartoon… at least in Sweden. Of course, there will be those who say that such bounties don’t really reflect any true values of the religion of peace, but it’s a head-scratching mystery why (some, many) those who take offense to a religious caricature in cartoon form are then willing to resort to real life violence as if such action were religiously justified.

Oh, wait…

Might that actually be the case? Might the religious justification for violence in its name accurately reflect the inherit disrespect for freedom of expression within that religion? In other words, as long as everyone respects the religion and its claims over and above respect for basic human freedoms, then it really is a religion of peace… except when (some, many) believers face dissent, in which case it’s just as much a religion of violence.

The sooner the moderates of islam recognize this discrepancy as part and parcel of their faith, the sooner its evolution into a civilized expression of peaceful religious faith can occur. In the meantime, this is what freedom of expression and islam look like when they meet in a lecture hall.

May 9, 2010

Do we derive our morality from religion?

Filed under: Biology,Harris,Morality,Religion,Science — tildeb @ 7:03 pm

No. We do not. Without question all the evidence points to the inevitable conclusion that morality (necessarily) precedes religion. If morality precedes religion, then from where does it come? The answer may surprise those who automatically disagree with Sam Harris’ latest offerings that we can use science to determine the ought from the is: morality originates from our biology.

I have come across many such child development studies over the years: indications that morality – a knowledge to differentiate between right and wrong – is present in very young children long before any exposure to religious beliefs that supposedly teach us this difference. This old canard – that we derive morality from sources like the bible – is the basis upon which many people allow an area of biological expertise to rest with theology as if theodicy is the natural home for studying this (innate) trait. But we know that religious inquiry is an oxymoron and reveals nothing not previously assumed to be true. The study of morality as an expression of biology can only be enhanced by further scrutiny of scientific inquiry.

This long (7 pages) article (for a newspaper) supports this notion yet again with children one years old and explains how they tested and what results they gathered.

What is the difference between scientific and relgious truth claims about the world?

Filed under: Dawkins,Faith,Religion,Science — tildeb @ 5:42 pm

Dawkins shows us a side by side comparison. Why is the religious one so funny?

May 6, 2010

Medical ethics or religious policies? Which one is best for health care patients?

Filed under: Ethics,Medicine,Religion — tildeb @ 9:43 pm

There is an excellent article over at Science-based Medicine well worth reading. It’s about how the policies of religious-based hospitals affect physician behaviour, from which I have taken excerpts:

Science-based medicine is, among other things, a tool.  Science helps us sequester our biases so that we may better understand reality.  Of course, there is no way to avoid being human; our biases and our intuition still betray us, and when they do, we use other tools.  Ethics help us think through situations using an explicitly-stated set of values…

And like all professions, these ethical values are spelled out so that each member of that profession adheres to the same ethical rules of conduct. Or, at least, that’s the intention….

Ethical problems are a normal part of medical practice. But ethics are not a weapon used to obtain a result we want; they are a tool to give a framework for understanding and resolving dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas can arise out of may types of conflicts, for example when our personal beliefs clash with those of our patients, or when patients’ and families’ desires conflict.  They can also arise when we as physicians are constrained in our actions by outside forces.

And what might be an example of an ‘outside force’ be? If a government asked a physician to intentionally cause harm to one patient for information that could achieve a greater good for many, should a doctor do so?

I would object on the basis of many of these shared ethics: it violates patient autonomy, it causes them harm, and fails to benefit them.   My responsibility to avoid harming my patient trumps my government’s desire to obtain information via torture.

What about providing appropriate science-based medical advice for something more controversial… like abortion?

There is no set of data that says that “abortion is harmful to women”, so doctors who oppose abortion cannot claim that science supports their bias.  But if  a doctor legitimately felt that a particular abortion would bring physical harm to a particular woman, then they must give her the advice they feel is necessary.  Conversely, if a doctor feels that a particular abortion may help a particular patient, they must tell the patient.

I can see why the emphasis on following a standardized set of ethical guidelines is so important for professionals to frame controversial issues. And this raise a significant question when 20% of American hospital beds are religiously-affiliated: how does this affect the care given by doctors working with these institutions?

Well as luck would have it, a study has been released on just this question in the Journal of General Internal Medicine . For more specific data, please go the article’s link.

From an ethical perspective, these data are mixed.  It is comforting that the polled doctors were more often willing to make decisions based on their patients’ needs rather than institutional policies, but it is disturbing that such significant barriers to care arise from these  policies.

So which should prevail: hospital policies or medical ethics? As the article’s author concludes,

I find the intrusion of sectarian values into health care disturbing, especially since most of these institutions take money from federally-funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  At the same time, many of these institutions provide significant amounts of charitable care.  I do not believe, however, that this creates a balance.  Charity is good, but treating human beings with dignity and allowing for the science-based delivery of medical care should be a minimum requirement.

I would add that medical ethics need to be dominant over religiously inspired policies if we wish to publicly fund religious medical providers. If the religious institutions cannot agree to this hierarchy then they have no business accepting public money while pretending to provide science-based health care; instead, they should be clear that what care is provided will be religiously approved care and not ethical medicine.

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