Kids raised without religion have easier time with fact vs fiction

July 24, 2014

A couple studies were done recently to check how believable 5 and 6 year olds find stories that stretch the imagination.

In two studies, 5- and 6-year-old children were questioned about the status of the protagonist embedded in three different types of stories. In realistic stories that only included ordinary events, all children, irrespective of family background and schooling, claimed that the protagonist was a real person. In religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention, claims about the status of the protagonist varied sharply with exposure to religion.

The abstract briefly touches on the reasons for that. Kids without exposure to religion treated the religious stories as fictional tales about fictional people. Children from church-going families/religiously educated believed them all to be true.

Upbringing also played a role in the studies in terms of fantasy and magic and how easily each group of kids would buy into them.

Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional. The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.

Ideally I’d be reading the studies rather than reporting on an abstract but some of this feels like “duh!” research. Then again, anecdotes aren’t science whereas now there is data to support any claims that religious upbringing can impede a person’s ability to tell fact from fiction.

I may have told this story previously but back in my university days I was friends with a woman who was from a very religious family. My secular lifestyle bothered her enough to try the witnessing business and offers to attend church and the like and, to be social, I did do some of that. It was a different time, before I ever heard the term Freethinkers let alone thought of myself in terms of unabashedly atheist, though I was.

I was also a fan of Star Trek and enjoyed reading the books based on it, too. One day we were near a particular used book store I’d been frequenting and she waited around in there while I browsed the shelves a bit and picked a couple things to buy. When we got outside my friend stopped me on the sidewalk and pretty much begged for me never to set foot in there again because she felt the devil in there. Read the rest of this entry »


How can anyone back Ken Ham?

July 22, 2014

Back away from him, yes. Back him? His brain baffles me with its illogical pronouncements.

Creationist Ken Ham, who recently debated Bill Nye the Science Guy over the origins of the universe, is calling for an end to the search for extraterrestrial life because aliens probably don’t exist — and if they do, they’re going to Hell anyway.

“You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe,” Ham wrote on his blog on Sunday. “This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.”.

And

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word). To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

And

The search for extraterrestrial life is really driven by man’s rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution!

The rest of his screed is here but it’s not worth the clicks.

I don’t think there’s any desperate attempt to prove evolution, either. It happens. Ken Ham and his ilk are wasting their time, energy and money promoting their very silly alternative.

It’d be interesting to find out if life happened on other worlds, or is happening on other bodies in this solar system.

And it’s good that humans have the drive to discover. Speaking biblically, it turned out to be the wrong move for Adam and Eve because apparently God really wanted them to stay obedient and stupid. In the real world, that ambition to know is what moves us forward and keeps us fed, watered and housed. That drive to know is why we also have so many gods and religions — for some of the bigger questions, our ancestors had no way to find the answers so put gods in as placeholders. And people like Ken Ham want to keep them there rather than find any real solid answers. It’s a shame, really. The world, the universe, and our place in both is far more fascinating when taking the science into account than it is just blowing it off with “God did it!”

My mind is blown by the very idea that we’re all star stuff. I trust those who say it’s so. I’m just blown by what that means.. it’s so big and fantastic and wild. No god invented by man can beat that, in my mind.


Pareidolia hair

July 11, 2014

Looks more like OOOO to me

Kristin Kissee says her hairstyle is divine.

As she recovered from rounds of chemotherapy and radiation in a battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Kissee posted a photo to Facebook of her regrown hair in November 2011.

She’d never noticed when she posted the picture but a year or so later she was going through some other troubled times and happened upon the picture again – this time seeing what she supposedly missed before.

She believes the holy hairdo — which is only visible in that one photo — was God’s way of sending her reassurance when she needed it.

“I was overcome with feelings of joy and serenity,” she told HuffPost. “I cried. God answered my prayers.”

Kissee says she does not go to church and is “a bit wary of organized religion,” but does believe she has a “spiritual relationship with God.”

When it comes to signs, it’s very easy to make anything mean something. I can see why she thinks the word GOD is in the curls on her head in that photo. She’d been through something traumatic and scary and who wouldn’t look for reassurance of some higher power looking out for you? Well, me and other atheists.. but ignore us for the moment. I can see why, even if she’s not a regular church goer.

It’s soothing and made her feel like she’d been singled out to be special and prized. It’s a common thought among the faithful I think, that challenges of this nature are put upon a person because God is a bastard wants to test one’s strength and faith. It’s Job all over again. Everyone wants to have steadfastness like Job when the shit hits the fan. God will take care of it..

But they’ll still visit doctors and get chemotherapy. Faith and prayer only go so far…


Because there aren’t enough actual issues to be pissed off about?

July 10, 2014

Apparently.

Urban Outfitters had the “audacity” to feature Ganesh on a blanket and now we must be upset about that. Who cares about the starving, the abused, the killed for religion? Ganesh is featured on a kitchy fucking blanket…

Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, has asked Urban Outfitters to take the duvet cover off the market.

“You can put him in a frame and on the wall. That is fine,” Zed said. “But not to be put on the bed, on which you lie and your feet will go on. That is very inappropriate.”

I’ve had some wine, so I’m somewhat nonsensical at the moment, but this still makes even less sense than my alcohol fueled mind can figure…

Tacky Ganeseh blanket

It’s so tacky. Why give it any publicity whatsoever?

Why!?

Had it been ignored by the faithful, it would have been barely a ripple in the consciousness of the internet consumer. Now, it’s there for the world to see…\

Why do people need to make mountains out of molehills.. tacky molehills…


Corporation sued over questioning Christianity

June 18, 2012

I think I’ve created a misleading headline but here’s the story. Edward Wolfe applied for a job with the Voss Lighting Company of Lincoln, Nebraska and sailed through the first interview. On the second, he claims, is where he ran into trouble. The interviewer insisted on knowing what churches Wolfe had attended and when and where he was saved.

In the interview, Wolfe claims he was told most employees at Voss were Southern Baptist, but employees could go to any church, as long as they were “born again.”

The complaint claims the manager asked Wolfe if he would “have a problem” coming to work early, without pay, to attend Bible study.

Wolfe, a single parent who says he cannot attend church on Sundays, told lawyers the branch manager was “agitated” at his answers.

He didn’t get the job.

The suit is filed under Title VII, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion.

The company, though, claims he was passed over because someone more technically qualified applied also.

Hopefully it’ll occur to me to check for an update to this one. I can’t imagine applying for a job where those kinds of questions would be asked anyway. Crazy, if you ask me.


Christian “The Devil will get you!” doctor given warning

June 15, 2012

The image offered by the Telegraph makes Dr Richard Scott look a bit demonic himself, but anyway. The story is this:

The GP, who has worked as a missionary doctor in India and Tanzania, claimed that, after the usual medical consultation, he made a “gentle offer” to the patient to broach the subject of faith and was told “go for it”.

But in an 11-page finding, the GMC committee ruled that the GP had told the patient he was not going to offer him any medical help, tests or advice and stated if he did not “turn towards Jesus then he would suffer for the rest of his life”.

The committee also found that the GP had said no other religion in the world could offer him what Jesus could and he had used the phrase, or something similar to “the Devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus and hand him their suffering”.

The General Medical Council is not against religion, they claim, but their rules clearly stipulate that doctors “must not impose your beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views” and will take action in cases where patients say such a thing has gone on.

After the hearing, Dr Scott said he remained unbowed and the ruling would not stop him using his faith in work.
o
“I will continue to raise the issue of faith, in particular Christianity, where relevant in consultations in the future, because it is for the patient’s benefit.”

In his eyes, at least. I’d rather not be under a doctor who thinks it’s also his or her duty to play minister to my so-called soul. I think most patients just want to get well and will take a pill or surgery if either will get them to that goal. I know studies seem to indicate that faith and belief can assist in healing but so do placebos, pets, and compassionate caregivers. I’d take any of those over a prayer service, thank you very much, and I know I’m not the only one.


Black Jesus cartoon too discriminatory

June 8, 2012

Poke fun at Christian beliefs all you want, but cut the racism. That’s what I say.

Times Live reports on a short cartoon that featured a black Jesus:

The two-minute animation, created by Johannesburg company Mdu Comics, depicts a “black Jesus” attempting to commit suicide after his doctor “diagnoses” him as a Shangaan.

In the clip, which has had 49000 hits on YouTube, “Jesus”, who speaks Zulu, consults a doctor after breaking his toe. After a DNA test, the doctor says: “Jesus, there is no easy way of telling you this … You are Shangaan.”

The character then scrubs himself with bags of oranges to rid himself of his “shangaan-ness” before leaving a suicide note.

Shangaan part of an ethnic group in South Africa, the Tsonga people.

According to the Tsonga, there exists a strong relationship between the creation (ntumbuloko) and a supernatural power called Tilo. Tilo refers to a vaguely described superior being, who created mankind, but it also refers to the heavens, being the home of this creature.

The Tsonga believed that man had a physical (mmiri) and a spiritual body with two added attributes, the moya and the ndzuti. The moya is associated with the spirit, enters the body at birth, and leaves at death to join the ancestors.

The ndzuti was associated with the person’s shadow and reflected human characteristics. At death, in the spirit world, it left the body. This meant that the spirit was attached with the individual and human characteristics of that person. Inherent in this concept is not only the belief in life after death but also that the dead retain very strong links with the living. Passing over into the spirit world is an important stage in the life of a Tsonga.

The country is rife with racist notions of certain tribes being better than others and the woman who initially lodged the complaint has heard many a slur against her Shangaan roots. Caroline Sithole thought this particular cartoon was worth taking to the Human Rights Commission after an acquaintance sent her to look at it.

“The [animation] came from a colleague and friend who said: ‘I am happy you will be Zulu soon’, referring to the fact that I will be getting married to a Zulu man.

“Well, it is sad that in this democratic South Africa you still have people who really believe Zulus or other tribes are more superior than Shangaans and that Shangaans are non-human or sub-human,” Sithole wrote in her complaint.

She said the animation carried many upsetting stereotypes.

“No wonder my son refuses to be Shangaan. I grew up being ridiculed by schoolmates for being Shangaan and I was not sure where this hatred was coming from.

Nowhere logical or scientifically factual, I’m sure.

Mdu Comics founder Mdu Ntuli denied the cartoon was offensive.

“It is purely fictional . Every nationality has a joke on each other and that’s just how it is. For me, it is just ridiculous for any Tsonga person to take this personally,” Ntuli said.

“Just how it is” is just what the problem is. So long as people refuse to see the problem with that kind of attitude, the longer the attitude will persist.


Linkskrieg! (First pass)

June 7, 2012

It’s occurred to me that I’ve collected far more links than I have time to write about, so here’s a batch of things I did want to bring up at some point but never did. I may flesh out some of these at some point, though. Time will tell.

1. The Codex Gigas:

Lore behind the codex suggests the book was the effort of one monk’s labor in a single night. After breaking the rules of the monastery, he’d been sentenced to a slow death – he’d be walled up in a room of bricks. The night before his sentence would be executed, the monk decided to write his last work, an evil book written on animal skins. He realized that finishing the book before imprisonment would be impossible, so he made a Faustian deal at midnight with Lucifer to finish the book, with the devil signing the document by painting a portrait of himself on the 290th leaf.

2. A pastor’s controversial book on sex:

The book was written by Driscoll and his wife, Grace, to, in Mark’s words, “compel married couples to have important conversations about important things.”

In the first half of the book, the Driscolls discuss their own sexual issues using the lessons they learned to discuss how to reignite a marriage whose flame may have gone out. The book’s second half, which is getting most of the negative attention, discusses sex in detail.

In response, religious scholars and writers have blasted the Driscolls’ work on a number of grounds ranging from the logistical to the biblical.

3. Apocalypse tourism:

The Mexican government is expecting 52 million tourists to visit the five regions — Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche, over the next 12 months, says the Latin American Herald Tribune.

According to goverment reports, the boom is part of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s tourism campaign: “Mundo Maya 2012,” to promote Mexico as a unique destination.

4. Ancient document claims dozens visited Jesus, not just three:

The translation of the mysterious ‘Revelation of the Magi’ describes how the three wise men actually numbered over a dozen and came from a faraway land, possibly China.

(Since the bible never specifies how many wise men visited, I don’t see this as news, personally. Straight Dope dealt with this years ago.)

5. “Miracle” survival of a kid with flesh eating disease:

The pope on Monday signed a decree authenticating the miracle, clearing the way for Tekakwitha to be canonized as America’s first Roman Catholic indigenous saint.

“There is no doubt in me or my husband’s mind that a miracle definitely took place,” Jake’s mother, Elsa Finkbonner, told msnbc.com on Tuesday. “There were far too many things that could have and should have gone wrong with his illness. The doctors went through every avenue they could to save his life and he survived. It’s a miracle that all of the other things that could have gone wrong, didn’t.”

6. Utah’s festive season vs atheist billboards:

“We’re glad to share the Christmas season with Christians, but they have stolen Christmas, and it is not the birthday of Jesus,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based organization. “It’s a natural event, the winter solstice. … The shortest day of the year has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with decorations and lights and celebrations. We just think it’s important to celebrate reason and celebrate reality.”

She added that the foundation has heard there’s a feeling of claustrophobia among non-Mormons and nonbelievers in Salt Lake City. “There’s a great dominance there, so we want to be there, too.”

7. Evidence from Dead Sea dirt may verify some bible tales:

Ben-Avraham, head of the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University in Israel, noted that this is important because, when it comes to earthquakes, the last century in the Middle East was unusually quiet.

“People don’t take this into consideration,” Ben-Avraham said, “but we have mighty earthquakes.”

Looking farther back, one of the seismically active eras revealed by the core samples appears to have been about 4,000 years ago, he said.

“If you believe the biblical chronology, this is roughly [the time of] Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said. During this period, according to the Book of Genesis, God “rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed all.”

8. British PM and Dawkins disagree on need for faith schools:

David Cameron has said atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins “just doesn’t really get it” on the issue of faith schools.

The Prime Minister made the comments as he answered questions from well-known figures for a Guardian newspaper article. Mr Cameron said he thinks faith schools are “very often good schools” and he noted that the church had provided “good schools long before the state got involved”.

Dawkins would rather see more schools promoting secularism and critical thinking instead of traditions and indoctrination.


Old news: Cross purposes

May 17, 2012

A couple stories I’ll throw in; one from the start of 2012 when I wasn’t in the mood to blog and one from September 2010 when I would have blogged about it had I seen it. Oldest first: Mount Lebanon village erects giant cross as sign of unity

In the mountainous village of Qanat Bekish, a giant cross soaring over 73 meters in the air was constructed and lit up as a sign of unity among the world’s people.

I fail to see how a cross can be a sign of unity for Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, atheists and any other group that wouldn’t fall under the Christian umbrella. But maybe those people don’t really count…

The edifice was inaugurated by the Maronite Christian Church and was lit up with 1,800 spotlights, according to Father Farid Doumit, a Maronite priest in Qanat Bekish. The inauguration came on the eve of the Feast of the Holy Cross, a celebration which commemorates finding the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.

The cross was found? How come I didn’t know about that? When did that happen? States Wikipedia,

According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross[2] placed inside it. Other legends explain that in 614, that portion of the cross was carried away from the church by the Persians, and remained missing until it was recaptured by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 628. Initially taken to Constantinople, the cross was returned to the church the following year.

French Catholic groups and locals donated a total of $1.5 million to make the cross a reality.


(via)

What a waste of money in my opinion. They could have gotten the same amount of pipe from Home Depot a lot cheaper than that, even including shipping costs.

In northern Lebanon, a Mass was held in Koura at the Saydit Bkifteen monastery. Archimandrite Issac Khoury presided over the ceremony and stressed the importance the cross had for Christians.

And what do the Muslims who share Lebanon think about this so-called unity cross? The article doesn’t say.

Onto the second. I discovered the link I’d saved died but the story was out of Mt. Juliet in Tennessee where the mayor there was hoping to erect a giant cross to honour God and country. While looking for a copy of the story elsewhere, I found the Storify rundown of tweets about the news.

The mayor of Mt. Juliet said he wants to see a megachurch build near I-40 and erect a Christian cross to complement a nearby flag. The idea was met with applause when he floated it to the local chamber of commerce but has been derided by sites like Fark.com.

Fark is probably where I found out about it. PZ Myers got his followers to crash a poll the Tennessean paper had posted about it but that link is also dead. The question was, “Should a mayor incorporate his or her faith into plans for a city?” The only real answer should be no, rendering the need to poll somewhat moot. Alas, if PZ had to get involved, responses must have been going in the opposite direction.

The site also notes the existence of a “15-foot cross along Interstate 40″ already, erected by Cookville, a town 30 miles east. The mayor wants to keep up with the Joneses, I guess. Maybe he thinks it’d boost tourism, like those who erected a 33 foot tall Jesus in Swiebodzin, Poland:

Some locals think the statue will bring more visitors to the area, which others think is a waste of money.

“I don’t understand. With all this money, we would have done better to build an elementary school,” said Jarek, 41, from a nearby village.

A source close to the project said it had cost around a million euros (£870,000).

But, no money goes to waste if it’s a statue of Jesus or his torture implement. Never mind what kind of social programs could have gotten a boost from that kind of money, throw it all toward a giant erection instead…


I get a kick out of church sign advice

May 15, 2012

Pithy, no? It’s off a local church sign I drive by once in a while.

I gather it’s a dig at the “no atheists in foxholes” kind of mentality, that notion that people are prone to calling on a higher power only when they’re in the tightest of jams instead of going through life “knowing” they’re covered by God’s security blanket from birth to death.

This analogy is flawed, though.

Unless God is like Google’s driverless car, people still have to do all the steering for themselves. People still exert some control over where they go in life and how they’ll get there.

Plus, a spare tire is a guarantee against the unanticipated. Like the ubiquitous nail in a parking lot, maybe, the random “accident” that would not have happened had one steered a bit more to the left, or parked elsewhere. A spare tire might be looked at by some as a “god send” since it means it’s possible to get the car to a nearby garage instead of paying for expensive towing.

Am I being too literal? Probably. It’s what I do.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 122 other followers