Showing posts with label skeptic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label skeptic. Show all posts

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Tipping Doubt

Mary Baker Eddy
The last god I believed in was the version of Jesus seen through the eyes of Mary Baker Eddy, an American women who attributed overcoming health issues to faith healing after homeopathic “medicine” failed her. The religion she founded, called Christian Science, framed sin and sickness as errors of thought and framed thought as an expression of Mind, Soul, or Spirit--all of which she considered synonyms for God. Jesus was considered the first and ultimate Christian Science practitioner, a skill and awareness he passed on to his disciples, who also healed the sick in the Bible. The healings eventually became less common as the teachings of Christ were muddled over time. Luckily, Ms. Eddy got us all back on track...or so the CS narrative goes.

I bring all this up because I’ve been thinking about the catalyst of my journey to atheism. Was there one event that made me turn the corner from believer to nonbeliever? The answer for me is the same as most of us, no. A series of many events progressively inspired me drop my faith. That said, I remember one place, in particular, where my doubt reached a tipping point.

I was 16 years old at the then biggest (only?) Christian Science summer camp. The camp had a CS practitioner on staff. If you think of God as faith healing medicine, a CS practitioner is basically a faith healing doctor--prescribing God. Ideally, a Christian Scientist can learn to be their own faith healing doctor or a practitioner for others, but if one isn’t comfortable in receiving the spirit or working out their own problems, guys like the one at camp are there to help. Interestingly, the camp also had a nurse. Not a faith healing nurse, a nurse nurse. Apparently CS magic is great for healing invisible ailments of subjective pain, but isn’t trusted to reset a broken arm when there is a possibility of a less-than-faithful parent suing the camp.

This is problematic because Christian Science Sunday School taught me that this faith is unique among all others in that they are evidence-based. One can prove the efficacy of the Christian Science process by it’s ability to heal, but if prayer works consistently, why the safety net? The presence of the nurse weighed on me. When, during the various physical activities common to most summer camps, I injured myself. I tested my ability to faith heal in earnest. I fucking hurt so I fucking prayed. This wasn’t the first time I attempted to heal myself. At home, I got rid of a few headaches, or so I thought, and failed to get rid of a few others. My immune system and confirmation bias convinced me the system worked. There, at camp, when the pain didn’t subside, I doubted. I thought back to all those other “healings” and wondered if my success rate was any higher than chance. If the length my headaches naturally lasted was, well, just how long they lasted--regardless of me asking JC for an assist.

I stayed at camp and continued making friends and eating granola, but I took in the remainder of the Christian Science material through a new found skeptical filter. When I got home, I kept going to Sunday School more for the cute girl in my class than for any spiritual insight. The questions compounded until I learned to value the evidence-based belief my church professed, and decided that they weren’t the ones able to provide it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Asymmetrical Skepticism

Christians are skeptical.

Christians, and theists in general, are skeptical of life arising from non-life and the universe originating from quantum fluctuations they’ve never observed. They don’t feel inclined to believe that consciousness as deep and self-aware as ours can arise through random mutations that are built upon guided by selective pressure.

Don’t make fun of them for this.

They are right to be skeptical of these things. These are counter intuitive concepts with evidence that can’t be assessed directly by laymen and requires a large commitment to gain any competence.

Make fun of them for believing in miracles.

Where does that skeptical instinct they methodically apply to naturalism go in regards to virgin birth, resurrections, and transubstantiation? One one hand they deny living matter arising from unliving matter, but one the other they freely accept living matter arising from non-matter. It’s okay to be extremely skeptical of both--they are extraordinary claims that are so rare that we only have clear reason to believe one or the other happened once in the history of the universe--but be consistent.

Why? What specifically makes walking on water and the magical duplication of bread and fish more believable than quantum mechanics or a multiverse? Why be understandably skeptical about some extraordinary claims and so faithful about a host of others?

I've asked Christians these questions and the answers, when given, are never satisfying. If I had to distill their varied answers to a core principle, it's an emotional connection to their indoctrination. In lieu of understanding, embrace what is comfortable.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Faith vs. Force

If I believed the Force was real as completely as theists say they believe their religion is real. I'd be out staring at rocks all fricking day thinking "Go up! Fly! Levitate dammit!" I'd be reading the grocery lists of Jedis--anything to get a handle on this power. Hell, if it didn't work out after a couple years of daily training, I'd even give the Sith a shot.

Christians claim to have complete faith in the word of God, but generally don't even spend the time to learn the original languages in which the Bible was written. They read translations of translations, sure (or more commonly listen to someone else's interpretation once a week), but I don't find that convincing. Maybe they aren't so convinced. Maybe we aren't so different.

I was a Christian Scientist, a denomination that taught God's power and influence was more attainable then the average flavor of Christianity. If I lived by the values of Jesus I could, with complete faith, do as Christ did with God working through me. The analogue to Star Wars is very appropriate. Live like a Jedi and when you truly believe you can lift a rock with your mind, it will happen. JC's disciples were the Jedi of the Bible, healing folks long after the ascension.

I tried healing myself and others as a Christian Scientist. Surprise, surprise, it didn't work. The theological out for my failure was that I didn't have enough faith that it would work. I agreed there. More than that, I knew I was fundamentally incapable of complete faith in what I found unbelievable. So I embraced my disbelief and here I am.

Sometimes I think the vast majority of theists, if not all, are also incapable of complete faith in their supernatural stories. I would think an underlying skepticism in that which is contrary to experience is a feature of human nature. Surely there is selective pressure for it, evolutionarily speaking. The question is, how to get them to embrace their disbelief and move on?

Or maybe they just need to believe a little harder and start levitating rocks. ;-)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trust Less That Which You Agree

I was listening to the Geologic Podcast’s Religious Morons of the Week segment in which host George Hrab highlights the most ridiculous or hypocritical stories involving people of faith. There was a reported moron a couple weeks ago who convinced followers that his semen was holy and a divine benefit would come from swallowing it. If you have listened to the segment as long as I have, you’d know that this moron isn’t completely unbelievable. There have been many folks who have leveaged their religious authority to trick their followers into sex, especially those from fring cults. This moron was less subtle in it’s connection to specifically blowjobs, enough so that I should have questioned it more than I did. This particular moron didn't exist.

The following week, George admitted that he misreported the story. In fact, it was made up by an Onion-like satirical website. Generally, listeners email Hrab stories to read and he reads them. He bought the lie just as I did because it fell in line with our biases. George, like myself, prides himself as a skeptic, so this is a slap in the face to both of us.

But, hey, good lesson to learn. If a theist said something unusual about atheists that reinforced his view of us, my skepicism would’ve probably been working just fine. If an atheist says something unusual about the religious that reinforces my view that some of them are mainipulative with their beliefs, I have to try to be even more skeptical than I normally would to adjust for my bias.

Holy blowjobs, yeah.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Geologic Podcast, A Podcast Not About Rocks

If you have ears, stop reading this post and download any episode of The Geologic Podcast. (iTunes link)

Welcome back. Awesome right? You’re welcome.
Still need convincing? Okay, if you must, read on.

I can’t give this show a big enough endorsement. After sampling fifty or so different podcasts, I’ve narrowed down my regular listening lineup to six shows. The Geologic Podcast is first among them. I’ve been wanting to spread the word for some time, but the skeptical nature of the show hasn’t meshed with the other sites I write for. It is, however, perfect for you nonbelievers!

George Hrab is the Geo in Geologic. He is part musician, part comedian and all atheist. It should be no surprise that my favorite bit on his show is The Religious Morons of the Week in which he highlights faith-based hypocrisy and stupidity. Other bits include Interesting Fauna in which he discusses crazy cool animals, Ask George in which he answers questions usually related to religion or music, and Geo’s Mom Read Jay-Z Lyrics which is self explanatory.
Using religion to teach morals is like licking a self-adhesive stamp. You're just gonna mess up the way it should stick. ~ a tweet by @georgehrab
There are other regular segments and various skits where Geo plays multiple characters. It’s amazing what this one-man-show can do. As an added bonus, he releases music on his podcast. If you haven’t heard of Hrab as a podcaster, you probably haven’t heard of him as a musician, but you should have. He is a singer and drummer of a funk band and a solo artist with a few albums of skeptical and atheist friendly songs. My favorites are Think for Yourself and Small Comfort, a song about losing someone knowing they won’t have an afterlife. It’s surprisingly comforting. Other songs include God Is Not Great inspired by the Hitchens book and Death From The Skies performed with fellow skeptic and Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait. You can check them out on iTunes or Pandora.
The secret service guys figured they didn't need to use condoms because they have diplomatic immunity. ~ a tweet by @georgehrab
Please, give him a listen. I’ve heard all 260 shows and there aren’t any stinkers. Show #159 is a particularly interesting jumping on point. Hrab does something cool with the format that may be confusing at first, but if stick with it you’ll learn a lot about him.

Here is a video of Geo performing Brains Body Both I found on YouTube