Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Atheists do NOT Know About the Study of Religion

I have addressed this issue in the past, but it appears I am not beating the drum loud enough. In the atheist community we talk about things such as science, facts, education, and logic. Unfortunately I have noticed a disturbing trend. That trend is an almost pure ignorance of religion. I use the term “Religious Studies” and people have never even heard about it. They simply assume I am talking about theology or reading a religious text. This could not be further from the truth. If this is the first assumption you made, I hope you continue reading. If you were unaware there was a scholarly and scientific study of religion, I urge you to continue reading.

First, I will address WHY one should continue to read and why I am speaking about a crucial issue. It comes down to the very basic things atheists say the most…science, logic, knowledge, facts, ect. Any agnostic, atheist, or theist, which engaged in discussions, should have a basic knowledge of the very thing they are talking about. I often here that we “know everything” or that religion is “pointless to study.” Many atheists fail to even define religion correctly or understand the study that goes into it. The blatant refusal to even consider it is the most irritating thing, because look at it this way…What if a creationist told us that there is no point in study science or biology, that we know everything about it we need to know, while at the same time lacking the ability to even define science or biology? The wolves would descend on them. We could all them ignorant, illogical, non-scientific, un-intellectual, and unwilling to learn. The problem is that we are doing the exact same thing. That makes us hypocrites. It is one thing to be ignorant of Religious Studies, but is an entirely different think to flat out ignore it and not even try to understand what it is or see any kind of value. If we want people to see the atheist community as intellectual, the very least we can do is not be total hypocrites. That is why I am writing this. I am writing this to educate and inform people about the area of religious studies.

Before I tell you what Religious Studies (RS) is, I will tell you what it is not. RS is NOT theology. Theology can be a part of religious studies, but the terms are not interchangeable. Theology is the study of deities or other super natural things. In general, it is my opinion that theology is the same as fairiology, or the study of fairies, which is totally pointless, so please do not get the terms confused. Religious Studies is not "faith." Faith can play a role, but faith can play a role in any type of belief system, such as politics. Religious Studies is also not simply reading a religious text and/or determining if it is “right” or “wrong.” Of course scholars of religion read religious texts, but they attempt to understand them in a number of ways, such as, context, historical aspects, literally (literature,) and other things, such as “what did people think of their texts?” It is not about point out contradictions in the Bible, but explaining why we would expect to find contradictions in the first place. It is not about learning that Noah built an ark, while God flooded the world, but how this story is not new or unique to the Bible. RS also does not mean one is becoming a priest or a pastor, or some other type of religious leader. While RS can lead to that, that requires a M.Div or Masters in Divinity (more fairy study.) RS can actually lead someone to atheism or agnosticism. Last, but certainly not least, RS is not pointless. The scientific and scholar study of anything is hardly what I would call pointless, ESPECIALLY, if that is the exact topic one is talking about.

So what is Religious Studies? Since I could not word it better than Wikipedia, here it is…

“Religious studies is the academic field of multi-disciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.

While theology attempts to understand the nature of transcendent or supernatural forces (such as deities), religious studies tries to study religious behavior and belief from outside any particular religious viewpoint. Religious studies draws upon multiple disciplines and their methodologies including anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history of religion.”

Does this show how RS is different from theology? To give even more detail, I will explain the

Religious Studies program at the University of Minnesota…
http://www.religiousstudies.umn.edu/

At the U of M there are two tracks one can take…
Description of the Track I Major
This track is ideal if you wish to study religion broadly or as a social and cultural force.
• It emphasizes the methodologies of the humanities, social sciences, and arts.
• It addresses questions of expression, psychology, theology or religious thought, as well as public and social policy and the political contexts and ramifications of religion.

This track provides a solid foundation for careers serving diverse communities in public arenas, as well as graduate study in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, or in theological or seminary programs.

For more info on it, you can check out the full link.
http://www.religiousstudies.umn.edu/ugrad/track1.html

Here is track 2…

Description of the Track II Major
This track is ideal if you seek in-depth knowledge of a particular religious tradition (for example, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, American Indian, or Hmong).
It emphasizes learning about the selected tradition through study of its untranslated foundational texts.

For this track, you must complete preparatory work through the 4th semester (or the equivalent) of a language appropriate to the specific religious tradition and its sources.

This track provides a solid foundation for careers serving diverse communities in public arenas, as well as graduate study in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, or in theological or seminary programs.

Track II is particularly recommended if you are interested in such topics as the (1) the advanced study of the Bible or the Qur’an both in their origins and their later interpretations, (2) the history of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity before the modern period, or (3) the study of the traditions and texts of the religions of South or East Asia, whether in their countries of origin or in diaspora.

Sample subject and language pairings include but are not limited to:
• Judaism: Hebrew (for scriptural or historical area of concentration), German or Yiddish (e.g., for Jewish literature or 20th-century)
• Islam: Arabic, Turkish
• Christianity: Greek or Latin (for scriptural or medieval concentration), German or Spanish (for relevant geographical/cultural themes)
• Buddhism: Chinese or Japanese
• Hinduism: Sanskrit or Hindi
• American Indian religions: Ojibwe or Dakota
http://www.religiousstudies.umn.edu/ugrad/track2.html



In both tracks one are required to take this course. Just reading the description of this course will answer many of the questions people may have about the study of Religion. In my opinion, this is the single most important course in the entire program, which is probably why it is a requirement.

RELS 3001 – Theory and Method in the Study of Religion: Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion-
Description: While even a quick glance at any newspaper these days impresses upon us the importance of religion, just how we are to understand and/or learn about religion, given the vast array of ideas, practices, institutions, and communities that lay claim to the category, is anything but straightforward. Scholars from many disciplines study religion, adding another layer of diversity, not to say confusion, to the question of how one might go about learning about religion. This course attempts to sort through the many theories about religion and methods for studying it that have developed over the past century. We will first examine several theories of religion (what ?religion? is and entails and how it works) from such writers as Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, Rudolph Otto, Thomas Berger, Jonathan Z. Smith, Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, and others. Then, we will examine a number of different approaches to or methods for studying it, examining some recent monographs using specific methods to explore topics such as Catholic devotional practices (ethnographic), the Gnostic gospels (historical-textual), American spirituality (sociological), and Hindu nationalism (historical, literary deconstruction).

Two of the required books for this class are Eight Theories of Religion and Introducing Religion by Daniel L. Pals. These books are the bare basics and clearly show why defining religion is a difficult thing to do. It also shows how people, such as Richard Dawkins, have less knowledge about religion than an undergrad that has taken but one class in the area. This is demonstrated by making statements like “religion is a mental illness” or “religion is a virus.” This is a claim Freud made 100 years ago, which we cover in detail in this class. Even the most incompetent student could understand why a statement like that is not scientific, or is it even a coherent argument. If you want more detail on that, I can provide more another time.

In RS scholars attempt to understand WHY people believe what they do and HOW these beliefs came about in the first place. When I say WHY, I am talking about the origins of religion. Is it sociological, psychological, biological, cultural, something divine, or something we do not even understand?  WHY does someone believe “if you accept Jesus you’ll get your evidence?” Is it their method of thinking and reasoning different? Methods of reasoning are clearly different between Scientist and “Religious,” but at the same time a scientist can be “religious.” HOW does this happen? How can someone that studies things with empiricism and the scientific method flat out ignore that and believe something based on faith alone? One would think a scientist could not have “blind faith,” but they do. Do you see the complexity of these questions?”

In the atheist community, so many atheists do not even try to answer these questions. They make general assumptions that are not based on any type of science or study and then have the nerve to go and vilify religious people for doing that exact thing?

Atheists constantly say things like “science says” or “science has disproven” this, that, and the other thing, about religion. The thing about science is when one makes a claim, they have to back it up. You cannot claim something without any actual facts to back it up and say “science says.” That is called be intellectually dishonest. It may sound smart to other people that are ignorant on the topic, but it is clearly obvious when one knows nothing about what they are claiming. I can tell in a few statements if someone has any idea what they are talking about when it comes to religion because I have taken at least one class in the area. Would you not expect someone that has taken a class in evolution to not be able to tell creationism is total BS? You don’t think any dumb dumb that passed college biology could understand that micro and macro evolution are the same thing? You are not fooling anyone if you think studying religion means reading a religious text. You are not fooling anyone if you claim “science said” some BS that was shown to be wrong 100 years ago. You are not fooling anyone if you think theology is the same as religious studies. If you are going to tell someone what “science says” at least read the basic literature an undergrad would read in an introductory course, so you at least give the appearance you are not lying or are not totally ignorant on the topic.


Please, I beg you, stop being hypocrites when it comes to the study of religion because it makes us ALL look bad. We are the promoters of science, logic, knowledge, intellectualism, and facts. We are not promoting blind faith. We need to practice what we preach…

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is Religion a Mental Illness?

       Before I get into this, I would encourage and real scientist to correct me if I am wrong. I would also like mention that the atheist I am generally talking about in this article is . You should probably follow him on twitter because he is the smartest guy in every room and way smarter than I am because he is an atheist.

 I often hear atheists talk about science, reason, logic, facts, and evidence. Being part of the atheist community (I am an agnostic atheist,) I also enjoy practicing and promoting those things. Oddly enough, I constantly hear that religion is a mental illness or a disease (a virus specifically.) You constantly see anti-theists on twitter saying this, but occasionally we hear smart people, such as Richard Dawkins, making this claim.

 Being the champions of science, atheists constantly send religious people pictures like this…


If the claim that religion is a mental illness is true, I can only assume we have research and experiments that follow this model. We are not looking for just one example, but many examples because in science once a hypothesis is shown to be correct, we test it again, a number of times. This is the reason that theories, such as evolution, and the germ theory of disease, are nearly fully accepted in the scientific world. Hundreds of experiments have been done based on these theories and they are yet to be dis-proven, and it is highly unlikely that they ever will be.

I think we would also agree that the people doing these experiments should be experts in the related fields. There would be no reason to get the opinion of someone that has a Ph.D. in something such as geology, correct? 

So what would be the areas of relevance in relation to the topic at hand? We would most certainly want an expert in psychopathology (the scientific study of mental disorders,) and an expert in Religious Studies.

(Side note: Do not confuse Religious Studies with theology. A brief introduction to Religious Studies can be found here... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_studies

Here is the introduction...

Religious studies is the academic field of multi-disciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.


While theology attempts to understand the nature of transcendent or supernatural forces (such as deities), religious studies tries to study religious behavior and belief from outside any particular religious viewpoint. Religious studies draws upon multiple disciplines and their methodologies including anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history of religion.)


In addition to those two fields, experts in the fields of biology and psychology may be competent enough to perform this type of experiment. Oddly enough, when one fills out the scientific method diagram posted above, it actually looks like this…


I have been told by a number of atheists that this is incorrect and that there are "mountains" of evidence to support their claim. Typically I am simply insulted and called a moron, but a select few have been nice enough to point me towards the mountains of evidence...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_religion#Mental_illness_or_delusion

There are your three paragraphs, or "mountain of evidence..." 

I however, have apparently studied this topic in slightly more detail than Wikipedia. Having completed the Religious Studies major at the University of Minnesota, this was a topic we discussed. I have also read most of the works of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris (I mentioned I was an atheist, right?) I am also a fan of the works of Michael Shermer, who has discussed this topic. There is also an entertaining bit my Mr. Dawkins on YouTube called The God Delusion...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FiHRVb_uE0

That being said, I believe the most logical place to start would be with the person that first made these claims, and no, it is not Richard Dawkins. This claim was first made in the early 1900s by a man named Sigmund Freud. In my introductory class to the study of the theory of religions, we studied Freud in depth because he was the first person to look at religion though the field of psychology. We used the books Eight Theories of Religion, and Introducing Religion by Daniel L. Pals and A Beginner's Guide to the Study of Religion by Bradley L. Herling.

It is obvious to any beginner in the study of religion that Freud was wrong, and a little crazy. But as many atheists have told me, I am just some stupid undergrad and Darwin's theory is over 150 years old, so why is Freud wrong!? Even though I have the unique ability to read to what a Ph.D. says and mildly understand it, I took the liberty of scanning a few pages of the books mentioned above, so that a Ph.D. is saying it, and not myself...






Here is a recap of the issues with Freud's theory...
1.       His theory only works for monotheism
2.       He believed in Lamarckian evolution, not Darwinian evolution
3.       His Biblical and archeological claims were flat out wrong.
4.       His theory is purely guesswork that relies on ignorance and inaccessibility.
5.       He claims traits of individuals can be applied to an entire culture.
6.       He makes assumptions that things like prayer are unnatural. In addition to that he is ANTI-RELIGION.
7.       His argument is circular, he fails to prove the very thing he sets out to prove.
8.       He assumes the things he is seeing are neurosis and not a reasonable and appropriate understanding of the real world as we perceive it.
9.       Psychoanalysis is not a science.
10.   Freud was not a scientist.
11.   His theories cannot be proved or disproved because there is no way to test them.
12.   He bent evidence in his own self interest.
13.   He is a reductionist and reduces religion to sex


14.   Carl Jung, one of the people from his own time (along with many others) disagree with his claims and actually asserted the exact opposite of what Freud was saying.


     First, I would like to point out that Freud did not even believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, so if one is going to equate Freud to Darwin, you should at least make sure that Freud agree with Darwin on the most basic of levels…

        After providing this analysis of Freud, I am told that I am using second and their rate scholars and I am cherry picking (because using Richard Dawkins as one’s sole choice is not…)

        As to the claim that I am using second and third rate scholars? Here is Daniel L. Pals… http://www.as.miami.edu/religion/cv/pals.pdf

        Apparently, to atheists, a second and third rate scholar has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and is one of the leading experts in their field…

        Here is the professor of that class, Jeanne Kilde, apparently, another clueless Ph.D…

        And did you notice that Carl Jung, another moron, disagree with Freud?

        But back on topic, this was 100 years ago, so surely research has been done since then, right? Apparently it has. Here is 100% of the sources I have been given on this topic…


        That is a shocking three paragraphs of scientific experiments. Personally, I find the Lenski experiment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment to give a more of a scientific explanation than the bit listed above…But I am just an undergrad after all…

        Seriously though, let’s start at the beginning of the scientific method. The first step is “ask a question.” Our question is “Is religion a mental illness.” Next, we need to do background research. I would argue that the first thing we need to research is mental illness. I was assured by @MaxAutonomy that the definition of mental illness is “believing something that is not true.” Since he is not an expert in the field, I went one step up…Wikipedia…


“Psychopathology[a] is the scientific study of mental disorders, including efforts to understand their genetic, biological, psychological, and social causes; effective classification schemes (nosology); course across all stages of development; manifestations; and treatment.

Psychiatrists in particular are interested in descriptive psychopathology, which has the aim of describing the symptoms and syndromes of mental illness. This is both for the diagnosis of individual patients (to see whether the patient's experience fits any pre-existing classification), or for the creation of diagnostic systems (such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) which define which signs and symptoms should make up a diagnosis, and how experiences and behaviours should be grouped in particular diagnoses (e.g. clinical depression, paraphrenia, paranoia, schizophrenia).


Before diagnosing a psychological disorder, Clinicians must study the themes, also known as abnormalities, within psychological disorders. The most prominent themes consist of: deviance, distress, dysfunction and danger. These themes are known as the 4 D's, which define abnormality.



The four D's

A description of the 4 D's when defining abnormality:

Deviance: this term describes the idea that specific thoughts, behaviours and emotions are considered deviant when they are unacceptable or not common in society. Clinicians must, however, remember that minority groups are not always deemed deviant just because they may not have anything in common with other groups. Therefore, we define an individual's actions as deviant or abnormal when his or her behaviour is deemed unacceptable by the culture he or she belongs to.

Distress: this term accounts for negative feelings by the individual with the disorder. He or she may feel deeply troubled and affected by their illness.

Dysfunction: this term involves maladaptive behaviour that impairs the individual's ability to perform normal daily functions, such as getting ready for work in the morning, or driving a car. Such maladaptive behaviours prevent the individual from living a normal, healthy lifestyle. However, dysfunctional behaviour is not always caused by a disorder; it may be voluntary, such as engaging in a hunger strike.

Danger: this term involves dangerous or violent behaviour directed at the individual, or others in the environment. An example of dangerous behaviour that may suggest a psychological disorder is engaging in suicidal activity.

The term psychopathology may also be used to denote behaviors or experiences which are indicative of mental illness, even if they do not constitute a formal diagnosis. For example, the presence of a hallucination may be considered as a psychopathological sign, even if there are not enough symptoms present to fulfill the criteria for one of the disorders listed in the DSM or ICD.

In a more general sense, any behaviour or experience which causes impairment, distress or disability, particularly if it is thought to arise from a functional breakdown in either the cognitive or neurocognitive systems in the brain, may be classified as psychopathology.



The DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is an official guideline for the diagnosis of psychological disorders. Clinicians, researchers and psychologists use this manual as a reference guide to diagnose psychological disorders.

Formerly, for a diagnosis to be made, 2 levels of criteria within the DSM must be met. First, the disordered behavior must originate within the person, and it must not be a reaction due to external factors. Second, the disorder must be involuntary, meaning that the individual cannot physically or mentally control their symptoms.

Current diagnostic criteria within the DSM does not recognize this requirement. Instead, it recognizes that specific diagnoses may indeed be reactions to environmental or external factors (e.g. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The DSM-5 uses specific diagnostic criteria for each individual disorder listed within. Many disorder descriptions within do make the distinction that specific symptomatic criteria cannot be the result of medication or drug side effects, but this is mostly to segregate diagnoses, as there are specific diagnoses for conditions caused by drugs or medications. Additionally, mental control is no longer a factor, as conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have elements that, while precipitated by involuntary compulsions, are marked with an element of agency and choice.

Examples of Disorders classified within the DSM include:
  • Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder defined by symptoms of loss of motivation, decreased mood, lack of energy and thoughts of suicide.
  • Bipolar Disorders are mood disorders characterized by depressive and manic episodes of varying lengths and degrees.
  • Dysthymia is a mood disorder similar to depression. Characterized by a persistent low mood, Dysthymia is a less debilitating form of depression with no break in ordinary functioning.”


       There is our background research on mental disorders. Now let’s compare that traits of religion…

Deviance: Based on the statistics, religious views greatly out-weigh atheistic views, which means they are not abnormal, but actually THE normal.

Distress: The majority of religious people do not feel distressed. They are actually quite happy believing what they do and live very fulfilling lives.

Dysfunction: Religious people, as a whole, appear to be able to function and participate in human society.

Danger: Many religious people could actually fit into this category, oddly enough, it is the vast minority of religious people, not all, by any shot of the imagination.

Our hypothesis does get one bit of hope…

“The term psychopathology may also be used to denote behaviors or experiences which are indicative of mental illness, even if they do not constitute a formal diagnosis. For example, the presence of a hallucination may be considered as a psychopathological sign, even if there are not enough symptoms present to fulfill the criteria for one of the disorders listed in the DSM or ICD.”
So, let’s see if there are hallucinations…


“Formerly, for a diagnosis to be made, 2 levels of criteria within the DSM must be met. First, the disordered behavior must originate within the person, and it must not be a reaction due to external factors. Second, the disorder must be involuntary, meaning that the individual cannot physically or mentally control their symptoms.”

       This says religion must not be a reaction due to EXTERNAL factors. This means religious beliefs cannot be caused by organized religion, an authority figure, parents, teachers, or Jesus walking on water. Oddly enough, the things I just listed are what most atheists claim are the causes of religious beliefs…
It also says that a person cannot physically or mentally control their symptoms. This is clearly not true in regards to religion because many religious people, including many of you reading this, have made the conversion from religion to atheism.

       They do note that there is an exception. External factors can be a cause, such is the case with PTSD.
Examples of Disorders classified within the DSM include:
  • Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder defined by symptoms of loss of motivation, decreased mood, lack of energy and thoughts of suicide.
  • Bipolar Disorders are mood disorders characterized by depressive and manic episodes of varying lengths and degrees.
  • Dysthymia is a mood disorder similar to depression. Characterized by a persistent low mood, Dysthymia is a less debilitating form of depression with no break in ordinary functioning.
       Do religious people, as a whole, express these symptoms? No, they do not.

          Obviously, there is MUCH more background research that can be done, but by reading a single Wikipedia page, we can almost entirely eliminate religion from being a mental illness. However, we do have a lead, such as hallucinations. I can only assume that scientists will back up these claims…

          The next step is constructing a hypothesis. I would argue that the background research suggests there is not enough evidence to define religion as a mental disorder, but let’s roll with it…


            Following that, we must now perform an experiment…And we have hit gold! We have exactly one experiment done. Experiments have never been proven to be wrong or flawed, so let’s just assume it is truth (because that is how science works?)


            Michael Persinger stimulated the temporal lobes of the brain artificially with a magnetic field using a device nicknamed the "God helmet," and was able to artificially induce religious experiences along with near-death experiences and ghost sightings.[46] John Bradshaw has stated, "Some forms of temporal lobe tumours or epilepsy are associated with extreme religiosity. Recent brain imaging of devotees engaging in prayer or transcendental meditation has more precisely identified activation in such sites — God-spots, as Vilayanur Ramachandran calls them. Psilocybin from mushrooms contacts the serotonergic system, with terminals in these and other brain regions, generating a sense of cosmic unity, transcendental meaning and religious ecstasy. Certain physical rituals can generate both these feelings and corresponding serotonergic activity."[47]


            Let’s look into Michael Persinger… 


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Persinger

“Michael A. Persinger (born June 26, 1945) is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor with over 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has worked at Laurentian University, located in Sudbury, Ontario, since 1971. He is primarily notable for his experimental work in the field of neurotheology…”

Looks good so far, but wait, I did not finish…


“…work which has been increasingly criticized in recent years.”

“During the 1980s he stimulated people's temporal lobes artificially with a weak magnetic field to see if he could induce a religious state (see God helmet). He claimed that the field could produce the sensation of "an ethereal presence in the room". This research has received wide coverage in the media, with high profile visitors to Persinger's lab Susan Blackmore and Richard Dawkins reporting positive[13] and negative[14] results respectively.

The only published attempt to replicate these effects failed to do so and concluded that subjects' reports correlated with their personality characteristics and suggestibility. They also criticised Persinger for insufficient double-blinding and argued that there was no physiologically plausible mechanism by which his device could affect the brain.[1][5] Persinger responded that the researchers had an incorrect computer setup[15] and that many of his previous experiments were indeed carried out double-blind.[16] Both claims are disputed.[2]


The evidence base on which Persinger's theory rests has been criticised[6] and commercial versions of Persinger's devices sold by his research associate Todd Murphy have proved unable to produce the effects that Murphy claims under experimental conditions.[4][17]

            Thank God we already assumed that experiment was the truth, because if we had not, we would only have one flawed experiment that was not able to be reproduced. Dodged a bullet there…


            Our next step? Analyze results. I would argue we have none based on the criticisms above. This would mean our hypothesis is wrong and we should rethink it and try again. Unless you are an atheist and just assume everything Richard Dawkins says is true…



            I guess I means I stand by my model…


        How did we atheists, screw this claim and the scientific method up so royally? We fell victim to another areas we are self proclaimed experts at, the mighty logical fallacies. Atheists fell victim to Argumentum ab auctoritate or appeal to authority. We just assumed that because the greatest “intellectual” to ever live, Richard Dawkins, was correct or not flat out lying to us because he is not only a distinguished biologist, but our favorite prophet. Instead of questioning him or evaluating his arguments, we just assumed he was correct because we see him as an authority figure, the leading expert in atheism and science.

        We also fall victim to argumentum ad ignorantiam. We assume that religion is either a mental disorder, or that it is not. We do not consider that religion may be more than black and white, right or wrong, or a mental disorder, or not. We do not consider that it is complex and may involved any number of factors or systems. We also shift the burden of proof to those that claim religion is not a mental disorder.

        As with everything, I do not just assume because “Dawkins said so.” I evaluate claims. I also live by Russell’s Tea Pot, which basically means “if you are going to make a ridiculous claim, the burden of proof is on you.” I would argue that the burden of proof goes on the person making the claim that religion is a mental illness, due to the fact that there is not one shred of science to support this claim.

        But how could Richard Dawkins have been so incredibly wrong!? See, Richard Dawkins is a very smart guy, he is not a moron. He found that there is a correlation between saying what people want to hear, and making money. I will most likely make no money off of this blog, because I am not telling you what you want to hear, but you will most likely buy the next Richard Dawkins book. Dawkins was smart enough to realize that after 9/11 people wanted to hear how stupid Muslims and religion was...


        Is it possible that Dawkins is playing us for fools? That is the big question. I would like to hope not, but how does he make the same mistakes that Freud made 100 years ago? I mean let’s compare Dawkin’s arguments to those of Freud…

Criticisms of Freud compared to Dawkins... 

1. His theory only works for monotheism (Probably true, It is the same argument)

2. He believed in Lamarckian evolution, not Darwinian evolution (At least Dawkins gets this one correct)
3. His Biblical and archeological claims were flat out wrong. (Dawkins are better than Freuds)
4. His theory is purely guesswork that relies on ignorance and inaccessibility. (I think we estabished that)
5. He claims traits of individuals can be applied to an entire culture. (Yup)
6. He makes assumptions that things like prayer are unnatural. In addition to that he is ANTI-RELIGION. (Yes, and yes)
7. His argument is circular, he fails to prove the very thing he sets out to prove. (Yup)
8. He assumes the things he is seeing are neurosis and not a reasonable and appropriate understanding of the real world as we perceive it. (Yup)
9. Psychoanalysis is not a science. (Don't tell Mr. Dawkins that)
10. Freud was not a scientist. (Dawkins is actually an accomplished scientist which makes him look that much worse)
11. His theories cannot be proved or disproved because there is no way to test them. (There might be ways, he just does not even try to)
12. He bent evidence in his own self interest. (Yup)
13. He is a reductionist and reduces religion to sex (No, he reduces it to a mental illness)
14. Carl Jung, one of the people from his own time (along with many others) disagree with his claims and actually asserted the exact opposite of what Freud was saying. (How would Dawkins know what Jung said? I mean besides the fact Dawkins came after Jung?)


     What Dawkins is doing is psychoanalysis AT BEST, but is really just using abductive reasoning and making inaccurate comparisons. Abductive reasoning is what Intelligent Design proponents do. They say “this looks like it was designed, therefore it was designed.” That is the exact same argument and line of reasoning as “religion looks like a mental disorder, therefore it is a mental disorder.” I have never heard an atheist claim that ID proponents are using science, so I can only conclude that when Dawkins uses the same type of reasoning, he is not using science.

        When people such as Mr. Dawkins claims that religion is a mental illness, he is actually stating an opinion that is not based on any kind of science. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but if we are going to preach science and logic, we should at least practice what we preach…

     I challenge any scientist to challenge these claims…or stop making them…




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Convo about Freud's View on Religion

To the casual reader, you will most likely be lost in this bit. This is a bit of a conversation I was having with someone, which I turned into a blog because I needed to post pictures...

Okay, so thank you for responding and continuing our discussion. There are a few things I wanted to clarify. As far as agreeing with your extreme views, I do not. If you look at my timeline I have no issue with speaking my mind. I am brutally honest and tend to cross the line. This is how I am in person also. If you do not want to be offended, I am not the person to talk to or joke with, because I will surely offend you. I have no fears of what a potential employer might read about me (at least right now.) I also do not have regular contact with any scholars I might be afraid to offend, and frankly, I could give a shit about what other scholars feel about my opinion. I actually had to drop a class because I called a professor out…but generally you prove your point by providing the facts. The reason I put everything out there is to gain credibility. I do not have a Ph.D. after my name so I have to SHOW someone WHY I might be worth listening to. I have no hidden agenda and I will tell anyone anything. You can be the judge of if my experiences and my education holds any weight. I do this to show that I am not some chump that is just Googling things. I give you the benefit of the doubt that you have actually read the things you claim to have read, but when it comes down to it, you are just a random person on the internet. For all I know, you are some 18 year old punk that is Googling stuff. I am choosing to believe you, though there really is no logical reason to do so.

As far as your extreme views go, I must admit that some posts make me chuckle…because I like it or believe it in my gut. The difference is that one must step back from those feelings and evaluate them, and come to reasonable conclusions. Let me give you an example…I will use the recent Dunn trial as a hypothetical. Let’s say I hear loud rap music playing. My gut may make me feel that these black teens are just thugs that are up to no good. If I step back and think about it, I know that most black kids are just good, regular kids that are listening to some music and have no ill intentions. This may not have been my first reaction, but it is the correct one once we reason through it.

Certainly I agree with many quotes from people such as Dawkins, IF they are well founded. For example, here is one of my favorite quotes ever…

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

            I love this quote because it is extremely accurate. If one studies the OT, this is the obvious conclusion. His assessment is totally accurate and it makes me chuckle. At the same time, I find his belief that religion is a mental illness utterly stupid and unfounded in any type of scientific research.

            Another thing that I cannot stand…The whole “elitist” claim…this is a flat out insult and totally unfounded. I do not think I am any smarter than anyone else. Sure, do I have a hobby of reading textbooks? Yes, but anyone can read them. It is not like I have the one true library of knowledge. I may have read things in an area that is more relevant than another, but anyone can read that stuff. If it is an area that I am not well read in, I easily defer to another’s opinion or state that I have no opinion because I do not have the facts for that topic. For example, my wife has a BS in Nursing. She clearly knows more about the topic than I. I go into detail to explain things like religious studies and history to, once again, show you why I am, or it is, credible and why someone should listen. I am not saying that it is better than another field, but if we are talking about religion, scholars of religion are the experts.

            You do not need to have the education that I do. I stopped believing in God before I started college. Also, one of my good friends is an atheist and a liberal and agrees with me on nearly everything, yet he is a high school drop-out. Oddly enough, or maybe not so much, he is a big time reader. He likes people like Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and Michael Shermer. I do believe someone should be taught the basics of scientific reasoning, logic, and scholarly research, but this requires 3 or 4 college classes…it is not like I am a Ph.D.

            I try to use proper grammar and explain my views in details, so that makes me an elitist? You are more than welcome to show me why I am wrong because I welcome it. I have been wrong many times. Sure I do not really like it when I am embarrassed in front of a class but that is what I get for speaking up…and I learned something. Typically what I find is that people call me an elitist because I am explaining something that they are not fond of, such as religious studies, but usually 6th grade history and 8th grade biology. If I am an elitist because I explain things taught to an 8th grader, I really question the validity of their claim (I am not talk about you here.) Generally people use the term elitist when someone is explaining something that they do not know about and do not agree with. If you agreed with them, they would not be an elitist, they would be a role model.

            "The fact that you think religious people suffer from a mental illness, yet call me condescending, is totally hypocritical. I know you said my entire bit, but either you did not understand or you were not listening to what I was saying. I will clarify this by explaining it a little more (and I do hope you understand it this time.)"

            Let me start with a brief story in my life…

            I was raised in a Christian home. They were not very into it, but I did go to Sunday School and on church camps. It never “made sense” to me. I always questioned it and asked questions. I asked for Jesus into my life and felt nothing. I asked God for an answer and received nothing. It did not make sense and I was never given a reason to believe. Because of this, I took the route of atheism.

            I tell you this because I suspect you can relate to this story. I have a theory on why you can relate to this…

            I personally believe there are two “mindsets.” One I call the “scientific”, the other I call “faith based.” I believe these two mindsets work in different ways. The scientific one relies on inductive reasoning, empiricism, and physical evidence. The faith based reasoning relies on abductive reasoning and faith. To clarify, abductive reasoning goes something like this…

I have faith that it rained last night, the ground is wet, and therefore it rained. The fact that the ground is wet is validation of their faith, even though the ground could be wet for any number of reasons, such as spilt water, or a sprinkler. It is the simple fact that their faith was validated based on a claim that was not inductive or empirical.

            I have the scientific mindset, and I suspect you do also. That is why religion never “made sense” to you. It did not fit with the way your brain works. I cannot be sure that my mindset is the correct one, but I do know that the other mindset will appear “stupid” to me, and vice versa.

            My conclusion to this is that people do not have a choice as to their mindset. Those that have the scientific will sway more towards atheism and science, those that have the faith based one will be religious. Though I personally find the other one “wrong” or cannot understand it, I understand that it is NATURAL.

            If you find my hypothesis not likely, once again, I point you to Michael Shermer that says a religious belief is a natural and expected error in our reasoning system.

            The point here is that it is NATURAL. Though I may find their view “stupid” or simply disagree with it, I am not looking at religious people in a condescending way, because the reality is that is just HOW THEY ARE. Recognizing people for how they were made by nature is not condescending, it is natural.

            But let’s look at your view. You believe people with religious beliefs are mentally ill. Your view also assumes that everyone can use your type of reasoning (logic and reason) to come to a conclusion. This conclusion is not empirically or evidence based. If it were, we could simply take religious people and teach them the truth. We could put them all in a classroom and show them their beliefs are wrong. The problem is that when we do that, they still believe in their religion. This INVALIDATES your claim. The fact that you see their type of reasoning as a mental illness means YOU believe they are second class citizens. I believe they are on the same level I am, they just do not reason the same way my brain is wired to reason. So before you accuse me of looking at people in a condescending way, you need to clearly understand what I am saying, and look in the mirror.
           
            Okay, you clearly did not read my bit on why I do not think religion will go away. Sure, belief in Jesus or Muhammad may go away, but you missed how I define religion and the fact that some atheists could be considered religious. “Religious belief” can be a type of reasoning that IS human. Christianity may disappear, but the “atheist religion” will continue to exist…We will reach a point when the battle is between religious atheists and secular atheists. You make the assumption that religion=god. Please read my stuff before you try to disprove it with unrelated sources

            “I also don't buy the old argument which you favor that says religion is not at the root of violent conflicts around the world, but instead the conflicts are just about politics, culture and greed. People have traditionally used their religion as the FOUNDATION of their politics, culture and economics so you cannot blithely dismiss the critical role that religion has played and continues to play in conflicts. Just one example for now: Look at all the wars in European history where the side one was on was DETERMINED by whether one was Catholic or Protestant. Religious people have deviously tried to sweep those kinds of historical facts under the rug because they know how poorly it reflects on religion in general.

            To be blunt, this is an incredibly stupid argument. To make this argument, you would have to define religion as a single “thing,” which you cannot, and you fail to understand the complexities that exist. Your claim that people have used religion as the foundation of their politics is supported by nothing and I can disprove this ignorance…which I already did, but clearly you did not read, or you ignored what I said.

            If one were to study sociology, political science, and economics, they would see that there is a complicated blending of religion. To call religion the FOUNDATION is not based on empirical evidence, and I will explain why. As I explained before, and you clearly ignored, religion is not the DRIVING FACTOR in these things. If religion was the driving factor, all Muslims would be the same. Oddly enough, Muslim countries are very different from one another. Some make women cover their faces, others are RUN by women. In the UAE women walk around in bikinis, but in Saudi Arabia women must cover everything but their eyes? If religion was the basis for politics and culture, why are there female presidents in Muslim countries? Why can some Muslim women wear bikinis, but others have to cover their face?

            Why do not all Muslims agree? What is up with the Sunni/Shiite conflict? Why are there opposing views? The answer is because one group is of the Arab culture and the other is of the Zoroastrian tradition. That is a cultural battle.

            I do not understand why you fail to recognize the rifts within the religious communities. Why do they exist? If religion is the driving factor, why is there a rift?  The answer is because the religious views do not match up with the cultural views, therefore they CHANGE the religion.

            Have there been cases that are entirely religious? Yes, of course, but those are far fewer than the other factors I mentioned. I mean if you are going to claim that everything is due to religion, I ask, what have you read on politics and culture in the Middle East?

            I feel one of your problems is you have never looked at Islam, the Middle East, or Arab culture. I have. I have lived there, interacted with the people, and made friends.

            Your view of the Middle East can be described as one thing…prejudice…

You said my scenario of Iran being run by atheists blatantly false? By your response, I can only conclude that you see Harris’ proposal not only as the logical course of action, but that it only is if it is Muslims. Once again, I explained to you why people in the ME hate us but you either did not read, or continue to ignore me.

            Your views on Israel are utterly laughable. Have you even read a single article on this topic? Do you have Google? The only Democracy? You mean besides Kuwait, Turkey, Morocco, and Lebanon, right? And what about Iraq? Did we not go in there and establish a democratic government? You know what is happening with them right now? They are on the verge of civil war. What about Egypt? They elected their last leader and that turned out to be a disaster. Who were the two groups at conflict? They were fundamentalists Muslims and SECULAR Muslims. You act as if democracies cannot have problems.

            Human rights? You mean if you ignore the Palestinians, right? You are aware they are part of the country right? You think they are not oppressed? The Israeli government is building walls right through their cities so that they cannot move between their places of work and their homes. This is like what we did to the American Indians. NATO defines the West Bank as “occupied.” The Israelis never had any intent to work with the peoples whose land was taken from them. Once again, you clearly did not listen as to why the other ME countries do not like them there. They are not legitimate. If you want to say that my claim that they are one of the most oppressive governments is wrong, I want you to look up the work “oppressive” and then look up how the Israelis treat the Palestinians. You want to get into the details of this conflict, bring them on. Your only argument is that you are prejudice towards Muslims. You do not care if people are oppressed, as long as they are Muslims, am I right?

            Now on to the final point, and clearly the most ridiculous point you keep trying to make…your claim that religion is a mental illness. To start, your term for “mental illness” is not even close to a medical term. How do you find that definition fair? Because you want it to be? Ask any medical professional if the phrase “thinking which is unsupported by verifiable, empirical evidence” has ever come up. I would argue that this is the topic in which you go from ignorance to stupidity. Nothing you say about this has any weight outside of your own mind.

            Because you think I am an elitist, I will refrain from stating my own opinion. I will simply scan some pages from some books so that you can read it for yourself. Let’s evaluate Freud’s argument and see why you are 100 years behind…




            So let’s recap…
1.      His theory only works for monotheism
2.      He believed in Lamarckian evolution, not Darwinian evolution (the one which you mentioned.)
3.      His Biblical and archeological claims were flat out wrong.
4.      His theory is purely guesswork that relies on ignorance and inaccessibility.
5.      He claims traits of individuals can be applied to an entire culture.
6.      He makes assumptions that things like prayer are unnatural. In addition to that he is ANTI-RELIGION.
7.      His argument is circular, he fails to prove the very thing he sets out to prove.
8.      He assumes the things he is seeing are neurosis and not a reasonable and appropriate understanding of the real world as we perceive it.
9.      Psychoanalysis is not a science.
10.  Freud was not a scientist.
11.  His theories cannot be proved or disproved because there is no way to test them.
12.  He bent evidence in his own self interest.
13.  He is a reductionist and reduces religion to sex
14.  Carl Jung, one of the people from his own time (along with many others) disagreed with his claims and actually asserted the exact opposite of what Freud was saying.

Do you want me to scan more books for you? See, this is why I said you view is 100 years behind. People of his time, like Carl Jung, did not buy his theory. He did not even accept the science of the day (Darwinian evolution.) His theory is not science. His assertion was not science then, and it is not science now. You just like it because it fits with your previously held beliefs.

            Your claim that religion is a mental illness is unsupported and unverifiable. It is unsupported by empirical evidence, just like the rest of the points you try to make. You do not care to even look at the evidence because it does not fit with your world view. According to your definition of mental illness, we could conclude that half of all Americans (Republicans) are mentally ill. But I think you have done a very thorough job of showing you are mentally ill, just like those you criticize. That offers more proof to my claim that religious thinking will not go away…