Questionable Motives

August 26, 2013

Why is accommodating respect for faith-based beliefs stupid and irresponsible?

medical treatmentOver at  Jerry Coyne’s site, Why Evolution is True, he posted about a measles outbreak in Texas traced back to a mega-church and non vaccinated children.  Coyne titled his post, “Measles back again, thanks to religion,” and gave us information about the outbreak, the response from church authorities and its ‘medical’ team, and data on the disease, all very useful stuff (as usual). But I disagreed in one sense that the measles outbreak was due to religion. It was just as much back because of those who accommodate faith-based beliefs of any kind and smugly attack New Atheists for daring to criticize any of it publicly. This is what I wrote in my ridiculously long comment:

I apologize for the length of my comment, but this post highlights that the ‘enemy’ of reason and knowledge isn’t just religion per se but those who support and tolerate a methodology that is clearly broken, namely, the empowerment and public acceptance of any faith-based belief (an acceptance demonstrated by offering unjustified respect rather than justified criticism of those who exercise any faith-based belief. I’m talking to you, accommodationists).

Into the category of faith-based beliefs can be everything from religion to anti-vaccination, conspiracies to astrology, alternative medicine to Winfrey/Chopra/Dr. Oz-ian woo. Belief in these is all of a kind, and the root is faith- rather than evidence-based belief… a method of thinking that elevates possibility to be equivalent to probability, meaning that it’s a way to elevate any belief in something to be the same weight in consideration as not having belief in it. In other words, it’s a way to make any faith-based belief seem as reasonable as not believing… one either believes in alien abductions, for example, (by entertaining the possibility) or one does not (by seeming to be closed-minded when there is no compelling evidence in its favour). See? Equivalent: six of one, a half dozen of the other. How very reasonable and open-minded we are and not followers of scientism like those intolerant, strident, and militant folk who are Doin’ it Rong!

What’s lost, of course, is any meaningful way, a methodology we can trust, to allow reality to arbitrate the faith-based belief because the weight of evidence (supporting or not supporting the belief) plays no important role; the equivalency is already clearly established by believers, which is why any possible evidence for the most ludicrous of beliefs is drafted into service and used as if equivalent to the array of evidence contrary to them combined with the absence of compelling evidence where it should be if the belief were true. In this sense, the use of evidence (aka, reality) by the faith-based believer is only used in service to the belief, whereas in every other area of life we know enough to allow our beliefs to be in the service of reality… if we wish to function successfully in it.

Any method of inquiry that refuses to allow reality to adjudicate claims made about it is a guaranteed way to fool one’s self. Believers in faith-based beliefs fool themselves (along with the tacit approval of accommodationists who decide the appearance of being tolerant of foolishness is a higher standard of intellectual integrity than respecting reality to inform our beliefs about it). But it doesn’t end here and this is the point accommodationsits fail to appreciate. A measles outbreak doesn’t just threaten those foolish enough not to vaccinate; it threatens both the non vaccinated AND the vaccinated with exposure to a preventable disease! This is unconscionable stupidity and social irresponsibility in the face of spreading a very real disease because of acting on a faith-based belief. As if believing in such faith-based foolishness weren’t bad enough, acting on this foolishness carries with it a demonstrable cost to all of us that causes real harm to real people in real life. Faced with this reality, I must ask: where did all these ‘reasonable’ accommodationists suddenly go? This is where the rubber meets the road of why respecting faith-based beliefs by anyone including accommodationists is a public threat to the health and welfare of us all.

August 7, 2013

What is ‘scientism’ really all about?

Filed under: Religion,scientism,Steven Pinker — tildeb @ 9:49 am

Steve Pinker offers some keen insight why theists are so motivated to attacking the necessary role science plays in undermining their claims to authority and attracted to vilifying it with this Straw Man argument:

“(T)he worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality. The scientific refutation of the theory of vengeful gods and occult forces undermines practices such as human sacrifice, witch hunts, faith healing, trial by ordeal, and the persecution of heretics. The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet. For the same reason, they undercut any moral or political system based on mystical forces, quests, destinies, dialectics, struggles, or messianic ages. And in combination with a few unexceptionable convictions— that all of us value our own welfare and that we are social beings who impinge on each other and can negotiate codes of conduct—the scientific facts militate toward a defensible morality, namely adhering to principles that maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings. This humanism, which is inextricable from a scientific understanding of the world, is becoming the de facto morality of modern democracies, international organizations, and liberalizing religions, and its unfulfilled promises define the moral imperatives we face today.

You can read the whole article here.

August 2, 2013

Who is Rex Murphy to tell us why non believers do not deserve military chaplians who are atheist?

Filed under: abuse,anger,apologetics,Atheism,Military Chaplains,Rex Murphy — tildeb @ 11:04 am

religious confusionA success story for the power of religious indoctrination seemingly unable (certainly unwilling) to understand why religious privilege in the public domain is a problem in need of real and workable solutions.

I often listen to Canada’s Mother Ship on public radio (called the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and have enjoyed one of its popular shows called Cross Country Checkup, a weekly call-in program about current events. Its host, Rex Murphy, usually does a terrific job making every caller feel like he or she is contributing understanding to the topic under review. But I noticed that his thinking, which once upon a time usually analyzed and expressed complex issues very well, seemed to shut off in response to legitimate issues about the catholic church. When such issue arose, Rex then became first and foremost an across-the-board apologist for this deplorable criminal institution. I thought to myself just how insidious must be the indoctrination needed to shut down such an otherwise powerful brain. I had hoped it was a one-off area of blindness, all to familiar and so very similar to many such deeply indoctrinated people; they are simply unable to see the forest for the trees, the problems for the Church. They have never developed the neural capability.

So it was with sadness at the blindness of a powerful mind that I then I had the great misfortune to read one of the stupidest articles ever penned by Canada’s Great Curmudgeon and Pride of Newfoundland, Rex Murphy.

His article was a knee-jerk reaction with little cognitive assonance against the proposal for atheist chaplains to be allowed in the US military in order to offer services to non believers simlar to those offered religious believers. Rather than deal with the actual issues raised by looking at the accessible mission statement of the chaplain’s designated role in the US military (“The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps provides religious support to America’s Army while assisting commanders in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion for all Soldiers. In short, we nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen“, which is perfectly in tune with a secular chaplain, let me be clear) ), Rex turned his article into a foul diatribe against what he calls ‘angry atheists’. Motivated by his misdirected anger at an ‘unmanly’ Hitchens, for exposing Mother Teresa as another religious hypocrite who promoted suffering while enjoying private planes and access to the rich and powerful and a beneficiary of their largesse, Murphy manages to smear and misrepresent not just Hitchens, not just Dawkins for good measure, which is standard operating procedure by angry religious apologists generally and christian apologists in particular, but all atheists everywhere. In his deep wisdom and erudite thinking, Murphy manages to miss the existence of the ongoing, widespread perception by the religious that atheists are of questionable character, somehow less trustworthy and probably immoral because of their non belief. Atheists experienced in this receiving this kind of discrimination from people far less educated and wise than Rex do tend to present themselves honestly as victims of this abuse and respond in various ways… like attempting to get people of no religious belief into positions once privileged for only the religious – like chaplains, for example – whose secular roles are described by ex-priest Eric MacDonald:

While it is true that, for the religious, chaplains provide the opportunity for service members to continue, during their military service, the practice of their religion, and have the comfort of their religious beliefs in the performance of duties that are often difficult and, at the sharp end, concern things which religions often concern themselves with: moral and spiritual reflection on things like being required to kill or to accept suffering and death in the performance of their duties, reflection on the suffering and death of comrades, and the reception of comfort, reassurance and counsel at moments of crisis in their lives, crisis which so often attends the performance of military duties. It is not only about church services, hymns, prayers or other forms of religious practice. Indeed, as a priest, religious ritual or belief often did not enter into the practice of ministry to those in times of crisis. To be a listening and sympathetic ear is often much more important than prayer or the sacraments.

Atheists are subject to unwarranted and ill treatment for their non belief all the time. Rex simply proves the point for us by adding his big-brained bowel movement of an article to this shit pile fertilizing not what’s true but noxious and toxic religious beliefs that blatantly discriminate against us. Imagine the audacity and ill manners of atheists to respond to this unfair and unwarranted attack of our characters with some anger. The nerve! Apparently, we just need to shut the fuck up and continue to privilege religion and the religious whether they are deserving or not. Then all will be fine and dandy according to Rex because, hey, that’s the way god’s creation should be run.

(One take-down of Rex’s slow motion fall from grace over the past several years comes from journalist Graham Templeton here, but highly negative responses come from all over, like here, here, here, and here.)

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