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Ch. 2: Who was the first person? 
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
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Robert Tulip wrote:

Society has a moral responsibility to teach people the truth.


Society cannot teach people the truth - because we don't know what the truth is. We do know what is a great lie and a deception, and we do know how easily people can be misled.

I would like to share this article transcribed from a newspaper called 'The Two Worlds' March 26th 1948.

What Has Spiritualism achieved since 1848?

Spiritualism, during a century of existence, has proved survival to millions of people in many countries. It has saved a myriad of stricken mourners from despair. It has forced innumerable scientists to admit its claims after a hostile enquiry. It has explained so-called 'miracles' by spreading a knowledge of natural law.

After saying that, I find it hard to answer the question, 'What has Spiritualism achieved since the Rochester rappings?'

It is always difficult to estimate the effect on society of a revolutionary idea. The change takes so many forms. Often, it is indefinite. Progress is seldom a move in a straight forward direction.
.
Besides, it must be recognised that proof of our claims have not been confined in a 'movement'; in my view, they will never be. Over and over again, spirit guides have declared, 'There are too many organisations already. They have always failed us. We intend to permeate society with our revelations, not to build up a new body or establish a new Church'.

The result of the permeation is, indeed, remarkable.

When I was a boy, the trappings of funereal woe spread grief wherever they were seen. Horses dragging along hearses wore ugly plumes that were as black as coal. Hired mutes looked like ravens walking to the gallows. The horrors of Hell were preached from the pulpit, by Soloman Eagles who told of the wrath to come.

Anglicans sang, at burial services: 'Day of Wrath! O day of warning! Heaven and Earth in ashes burning!'

They chanted, 'Worthless are my prayers and sighing' and 'While the wicked are confounded'.

I recall, too, the abyssmal gloom of the hymn: 'When the solemn death-bell tolls, for our own departed souls, When our final doom is near.'

Even the poorest workers spent the insurance money on a funeral that would impress the neighbours. After it, they handed round ham sandwiches made from meat they had often kept for weeks to consume after what was a ceremony of which 'savages' should have been ashamed. Christianity then seemed to be based on fears of the anger of a vengeful deity.

Today, much of that has gone - and yet the only new teaching about death that has come to the world to effect the change is the teaching that has poured through humble mediums that, even today are subject to punishment intended to stop 'witchcraft' and 'vagrancy'.

Preachers at funeral services now frequently speak of the 'dead' as people present in the congregation. Death is regarded as a release and not as a prelude to punishment. Cremation is becoming more and more general, largely because Spiritualist teaching has insisted that the idea of a physical resurrection is ridiculous.

Spiritualism, too, has done much to bridge the gap between religions that not long ago were almost openly at war. People belonging to all the Christian sects except the Catholics, the Salvationists and the Plymouth Brethren have all shared our platforms. So have Buddhists, Moslems and Hindus. I have myself spoken on Spiritualism in the mosque at Woking.

The earthly reasons for our failure to organise Spiritualism into a mighty army are many. For one thing, it is almost impossible to control mediumship, most of which has started spontaneously in families outside our ranks. It would be hard, indeed, to evolve a way of placing it under management, even if we had the financial means with which to endow it.

As for our religious services, many former Christians used to ritual and a liturgy are dissatisfied with the comparative coldness of our lack of a formula. On the other hand, most Agnostics who become convinced of Survival cannot fit themselves into devotional practices. Many folk to whom we prove our cause prefer to remain inside the orthodoxies from which they cannot mentally free themselves. They object to the fact that we do not hail Jesus as 'divine'. Only in the framework of the democratic systems of Britain and the United States can Spiritualism function with any freedom. It is, indeed, in those countries where, apart fromt he healers in South America, nearly all mediums are to be found.

No, most of the results of a century of Spiritualist propaganda are hard to fasten down or to explain in words that would not need much qualification. It has been an enfranchising mission. It has swept away infinite prejudice. It has been a unifying influence, whereas most of the other ideas born in the field of religion have become barriers between nations, between classes and between sects.

But in the case of most of its adherents, fervent in their early days, what was a fervour has become merely an acceptance. That is one reason why the statement, 'There are perhaps 1,000,000 Spiritualists in Britain' can neither be proved nor controverted. People enquire, they receive proof, and then they drift back to the churches in which they spent their childhood - or else they give up religion altogether.

Our speakers, since they cannot threaten a Hell or promise a Heaven, cannot continually interest them. And, except in the home circle, mediumship loses its attraction soon after its wonders have ceased to excite.

Spiritualism, whatever the weaknesses of the bodies that proclaim it, is the only religion out of which a new world can be born. The orthodox creeds are dying because of the narrowness of their doctrines and because of the dreary reiteration of texts and hymns which no longer have a meaning.

By Hannen Swaffer 1879 - 1962

I have typed this directly from the newspaper article because I think it is so very well expressed. And I think it demonstrates that it is not just the intellect that needs to be fed....but the soul.....What does the soul feed on? Hope, I suppose. Anything which suggests that there is more to us than flesh and blood, like music, poetry, love, compassion.....feeds the Hope......long may it do so.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
Penelope wrote:
Society cannot teach people the truth - because we don't know what the truth is.
Hi Penelope

This is precisely where Dawkins’ book The Magic of Reality is so valuable. “Truth” is another of those elusive words, like faith and love, which have been corrupted by long usage in ways that are highly dubious. But Dawkins’ point is that we do know what truth is, because scientific evidence is reliable, and science is constantly advancing in its explanation of truth.

Science presents abundant information about truth, a term that Dawkins is happy to use in an accurate metaphysical sense, although of course with his empiricist prejudice he would deny that his discussion of truth is at all metaphysical. Consider, in The Magic of Reality, by “creating models and testing them”, science brings us “closer to the truth” (p22). And “evolution … has real evidence to demonstrate the truth of it” (p31). Any suggestion of a “truth” that is incompatible with science is wrong.

Penelope wrote:
there is more to us than flesh and blood, like music, poetry, love, compassion.....feeds the Hope......long may it do so.[/i]


Yes, we also have nerves and organs. And language and culture. It is hard to show how language is ultimately material. But all that mean is that we need a more imaginative understanding of the nature of matter, encompassing the symbolic communication that we have evolved as material entities. Hope is neural.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
There's no question that people feel empowered by their spiritual beliefs, even if those beliefs aren't supported by evidence. The beliefs of a Spiritualist, such as belief in an external soul, can not only be individually inspiring but a positive social force as well. I'm reading on Wikipedia that most Spiritualists in the 1800s supported causes such as the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage.

I think this is Penelope's point. Certainly many of us are drawn to the mystical sense of the universe and this is much of the appeal of religion. A strictly empirical view is seen by many as too sterile.

Many theists perceive criticism of Creationism as criticism of all religious belief and, unfortunately, this is the usual tone of the dialogue. I would suggest that it isn't Creationism, per se, that needs to be addressed as a "pervasive cultural ignorance" but ignorance itself. The sad truth about Creationism, though, is that it does actually promote ignorance and suppression. In this respect there's a world of difference between Spiritualism and Creationism. Spiritualists aren't rigidly tied to literal dogma that must reject scientific knowledge about evolution and the geologic timespan. The difference is between seeking truth and suppressing it.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
I wanted to thank you for your post geo., but it won't let me, I think because I already thanked Robert, so please consider yourself thanked won't you?

There is a lot of evidence for the existence of the soul, and I grew up with a very nonchalant attitude to such, because it was in such abundance in my childhood home. The benefit was that it never scared me......I was used to rappings and things transporting themselves around. Grew up accepting it, so to speak.

What does puzzle me, is why people didn't continue to investigate such phenomena. There are books written by such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and by Hannan Swaffer and many other books written eloquently by educated people. This piece is about Conan Doyle's and Sir Oliver Lodge's son who was killed in the first World War and he wrote a famous book called 'Raymond'. Btw, this article, to be fair, is anti spiritualism.

Quote:
At the time, sceptics were wary of debunking the mediums’ claims. Today, there are counselling services for the bereaved, but during the First World War and after, comfort and consolation were hard to find in a Britain that valued stoicism and the stiff upper lip. In many cases, grief-stricken relations heard what they wanted to hear and glossed over holes in the medium’s story. A similar boom in communication with the dead came after the American Civil War. It’s said that a séance even took place in the White House itself.

In Britain, perhaps the most famous of the mediums’ dupes were the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the physicist Sir Oliver Lodge. Both were grief-stricken by the loss of their sons in the First World War. Doyle’s son Kingsley died in the flu pandemic of 1918, weakened by the wounds he had received at the Battle of the Somme. Both men were scientifically trained, but seem to have suspended their disbelief in the séance rooms they frequented.

Raymond Lodge was Sir Oliver’s youngest son. He was killed by a shell fragment in Flanders in 1915. Yet, exactly a week after his death, Raymond was apparently in touch with his grieving family through an amateur medium. Her son, too, had died, but, she claimed, he was busily chatting away to her from ‘the other side’, with good news of others who had made the journey there.

The message had come through clearly and unequivocally. ‘I have seen that boy, Sir Oliver’s son; he’s better, and has had a splendid rest, tell his people.’

Lodge seized the opportunity to make amends for having been a neglectful father, and he and his wife were soon listening eagerly to Raymond’s ‘voice’ as he described life in a happy country called ‘Summerland’. There he claimed to have been reunited with his grandfather and a brother and sister who had died before him.

‘Summerland’ seemed to be a pretty nice place. Its residents lacked for nothing. Whisky and soda flowed freely, and many of the most luxurious trappings of life were there for the asking: fine houses, fashionable clothes, glorious landscapes, excellent cigars.

Sir Oliver was soon convinced, but not before he had demanded proof from his son that he was still alive and was actually speaking to him. Raymond duly ‘revealed’ obscure details of his life that only his family could have known, his father believed. But the real clincher came a few days later, when a medium called Alfred Vout Peters told Lady Lodge:

‘You have several portraits of this boy. Before he went away you had got a good portrait of him – two – no, three. Two where he is alone, and one where he is in a group of other men. He is particular that I should tell you of this.’

The Lodges, who still held on to a few vestiges of scepticism, knew nothing of this group photograph, and reluctantly dismissed it as ‘a shot or guess on the part of Peters at something probable.’

But it did exist. The mother of one of Raymond’s fellow officers wrote to ask whether they would like a copy of a regimental photograph taken a month before his death.

While they waited for the picture to arrive, Sir Oliver questioned a medium about it and was told that the group had been photographed ‘with lines at the back of them.’ And Raymond apparently then added a curious detail: ‘someone wanted to lean on him, but he was not sure if he was taken with someone leaning on him.’

This was the picture that came four days later:
Raymond Lodge - Regimental Photograph

Raymond is sitting on the ground, the second from the right in the front row.

NRaymond Lodge - Close Upow look at this close-up of the officer behind him: his right arm does seem to be leaning on Raymond’s shoulder.

Sir Oliver was amazed. What better proof could there be that Raymond was in touch? ‘To my mind,’ he wrote, ‘the whole incident is exceptionally good as a piece of evidence. Our complete ignorance, even of the existence of the photograph, in the first place, and secondly the delayed manner in which knowledge of it normally came to us … seem to me to make it a first-class case. While, as to the amount of coincidence between the description and the actual photograph, that surely is beyond chance or guesswork.’

After his son Kingsley’s death, Conan Doyle also sought refuge in spiritualism, a subject in which he had long been interested. And he stuck to his beliefs, even after his favourite mediums, Eusepia Palladino and Margery Crandon, had been exposed as audacious fraudsters. Doyle befriended Harry Houdini, the escapologist, who, when not escaping from padlocked trunks or sealed milk churns, was desperate to contact his mother through the spirits. But Houdini, unlike Doyle, recognised the conjuring tricks used by the mediums. He became disaffected, and devoted the rest of his life to trying to persuade Doyle and other true believers of the errors of their ways.

Towards the end of his life, it became clear that Doyle’s grief had changed him. His books about Sherlock Holmes, the most rational man in fiction, were joined by others about ‘real life’ fairies, ‘psychic photographs’ and the weird rantings of ‘spirit guides’. His own was called Phineas, a talkative former resident of the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia.

Another friend, Harry Price, himself no stranger to making doubtful claims about the paranormal, offered this gently barbed obituary, on Doyle’s death and weird beliefs:

‘Among all the notable persons attracted to Spiritualism, he was perhaps the most uncritical. His extreme credulity, indeed, was the despair of his colleagues, all of whom, however, held him in the highest respect for his complete honesty. Poor, dear, lovable, credulous Doyle! He was a giant in stature with the heart of a child.’



I suppose, that because I grew up witnessing all these odd phenomena, and I 'matured' (though there are those who will disagree) with no doubt in my mind about the eternal nature of the human soul, NOT that I think all is cut and dried. NOT that I think that my loved ones are now angels in heaven, NOT that they're always even loved ones.....sometimes I think they are barely tolerated ones! Still, it does make one examine ones' life and motives to think of oneself, not as a body with a soul attached, but as an infinite soul with a temporary body. I realise that I am widely off-topic. This thread is called 'Who was the first person' - well, in my philosophy, there is no first person, birth is not the beginning of us and death is not the end of us. If naught else......it is a life enhancing way of being.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
Penelope wrote:
I wanted to thank you for your post geo., but it won't let me, I think because I already thanked Robert, so please consider yourself thanked won't you?


There are no restrictions on thanking people. You can thank any post you like not just one post per thread. I'm not sure why you're not able to thank Geo. Maybe you clicked "thank" already and you don't realize it, or maybe you weren't logged in. Let me know if you have that issue again. Thanks, Penny. :-)



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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
I would only add that, even if it's creationism that is under consideration, there is nothing in that belief that is necessarily stultifying to full human life, even life highly developed in some respects. Think of it in anthropological context. When we hear of the myth-based beliefs of a foreign culture, of how the world was created and so forth, do we accuse the culture of ignorance or see that as something to oppose? We don't. It's when the variant beliefs exist within our own culture that we put our defenses up and tend to draw battle lines. Now we perceive a threat. Is the threat really there? Well, maybe, as we look at the matter. We see those beliefs as impeding social progress, so they assume an importance they don't have when they occur "out of the family." If I have an actual point to make, it's that sometimes intentional distancing is a good thing to do. It can help us to see how much humanity is shared in common despite issue-related differences.

I saw a film that won a prize in the category of Christian documentaries. This was about a Bible-following family that pulled up stakes in Nashville and moved to the country to live without electricity (although they used gas-powered equipment). They had about eight kids (home-schooled, of course) and they all worked together to raise organic vegetable and sell them in town. The patriarch of the family made this change in order to really be a family, and by all accounts the plan succeeded. We can assume that these people lived by the letter of the Bible as much as is humanly possible. We can assume that the kids had a poor science education. And yet they did achieve something that is hard to denigrate. I say this even though it rings false to me when I hear people talk about what God is calling them to do, as though it's not their own idea. Toward the end of the film, the patriarch uproots the family at God's calling and moves them all to Israel, there to live and farm among the Israelis and show them "their Jesus." It's a very odd slant on life in my view, but in this case don't we need to exercise a little relatavistic understanding by reserving mental space for ways we'd never entertain ourselves?



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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
You are far too kind to these fundies DWill. These supposedly self-reliant rural yeomen actually depend on a whole modern infrastructure of law, technology, trade and state security. This romantic fantasy of the Israeli Family Robinson is subsidised by the USA to the tune of five billion dollars a year to keep the Arabs out, and by urban Israelis in the modern economy who pay the tax needed for these creationist dreamers to survive. "Stop the world I want to get off' is imaginative but impractical.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
I don't see myself as being far too kind but as advocating for pluralism. Our highest consideration at all times should be preserving a civil society, which means that we have to suppress the part of our nature that wants to cast differences in culture, belief, and politics as lesser types of humanity (of which the label 'fundies' is an example). We take a civil society for granted at our peril. Once we lose it we might never get it back. As the old hippie bumper sticker says, "COEXIST."



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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
Maybe I am more of a Dawkinsite than you DWill. My view is that fundamentalist religion is an evil that should be eradicated. However, the process of change should be evolutionary - gradual, cumulative and based on precedent.

Creationism contains practices and beliefs that are adaptive, and we cannot easily tell the wheat from the tares. Worship and praise and tradition are socially valuable and useful. Culture is so complicated that we should be tolerant and should respect heritage. However, I support the Christian principle that forgiveness should be conditional on repentance. Insisting on untrue beliefs is unforgivable.

The cultural mutation required is to shift from conventional supernatural belief to recognition that religious myth is allegorical, and to extract from it the part that is compatible with science. The problems of the world are too severe to tolerate egregious error.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
Robert Tulip wrote:
Maybe I am more of a Dawkinsite than you DWill. My view is that fundamentalist religion is an evil that should be eradicated. However, the process of change should be evolutionary - gradual, cumulative and based on precedent.

Creationism contains practices and beliefs that are adaptive, and we cannot easily tell the wheat from the tares. Worship and praise and tradition are socially valuable and useful. Culture is so complicated that we should be tolerant and should respect heritage. However, I support the Christian principle that forgiveness should be conditional on repentance. Insisting on untrue beliefs is unforgivable.

The cultural mutation required is to shift from conventional supernatural belief to recognition that religious myth is allegorical, and to extract from it the part that is compatible with science. The problems of the world are too severe to tolerate egregious error.

Which fundamentalist religion do you want eradicated, Robert? All of them or just selected ones? There is a tension between your eradication and slow and gradual change, of course. I become concerned with talk of eradication of beliefs, for obvious historical reasons.

I'm not sure what a Dawkinsite is exactly, but one feature of a Dawkinsite could be a reaction to beliefs that borders on the hysterical at times. The word 'delusion' doesn't seem to be used only for rhetorical effect. He and others also regard those who profess religious beliefs to be afflicted with psychiatric disorders. They exaggerate the prominence of what they've called beliefs in the thought processes of the general population. When a belief becomes significantly controlling, you know it, as interviews with real psychiatric patients make clear. A belief, whatever that really is in neural terms, may be no big deal at all in terms of thinking and behavior. Give a mental status exam to a creationist, and the topic is unlikely to even come up.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
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You are far too kind to these fundies DWill.


No-one can be too kind, surely! DWill is displaying the 'charity' towards his fellow man that St.Paul advocates in his most famous epistle. Without it, he says, you are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, no matter how clever you are.

I know that fundamentalists in religion or politics are a pain in the butt, to use an Americanism, but I will defend to the death their right to hold those beliefs.

People have all different perceptions of what God is. Some people don't need any perception of God at all....and insist that he/it doesn't exist. That is their right. It isn't always a matter of intellect. Some people of a certain intellect can only conceive of God as a 'headmaster' in the sky or 'Our Father'.....but if they are good kind people...and don't insist that everyone sees it their way...then surely they should be allowed to live in their own faith in their own way.


Quote:
Robert:

Worship and praise and tradition are socially valuable and useful. Culture is so complicated that we should be tolerant and should respect heritage. However, I support the Christian principle that forgiveness should be conditional on repentance. Insisting on untrue beliefs is unforgivable.


It is absolutely forgivable and understandable.

Oh Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou will not with Predestin'd Evil round
Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?

Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make, And who with Eden didst devise the Snake; For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man Is blackened. Man's Forgiveness give - and take!



[/i]


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
DWill has a point that attacking Creationism is probably going not going to be very effective in the long run. We do have a responsibility to point out stupidity when we see it, but we can't limit our criticism exclusively to Creationism. Stupidity comes in many sizes and shapes these days.

People think in different ways and we never want society to limit those freedoms for people to believe what they want. I mean, we can and should still point out stupidity when we see it.

The best we can do is to provide opportunities for quality education. In that respect it's not society's responsibility to teach people the truth. It's up to the individual to seek what James Madison called "the power of knowledge."

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both."


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
DWill wrote:
Which fundamentalist religion do you want eradicated, Robert? All of them or just selected ones?
Eradication is obviously a loaded word. Here in Australia we would like to eradicate feral cats and foxes because they are sending our native animals extinct. But this hits up against the emotional feeling that cat owners have for their pets. This eradication program is very difficult, and has to work with evolution rather than against it. Just allowing shooters in wilderness areas, for example, is likely to be ineffective and to have perverse impacts.

In the long term, I would like to see Christianity, and religion more broadly, reformed to become grounded in knowledge rather than belief. This vision means that false belief will gradually wither and be replaced by sound understanding. That is another way of saying that fundamentalism will eventually be eradicated. It is not through a purge like Stalin's liquidation of the kulaks as a class and deportation of the Crimean Tartars to Kazakhstan, but rather through a gradual process of dialogue and education. This process has to involve a clear understanding of the moral evil of creationism, while recognising that people should be free to believe and promote untrue claims when they hold them in good conscience.

Other examples of eradication campaigns include tobacco, alcohol, gambling and crime. In saying something should be eradicated, you have to recognise that many vices are entrenched, and certainly cannot be abolished by force, and also that social movements like prohibition of alcohol can often lack deep understanding of the real impact of their actions.

Eradicating fundamentalism may be more like the Taoist idea of water dripping on a rock and eroding it gradually. Whole continents formerly populated by dinosaurs are now under the sea. Things change slowly. But we should have a clear vision of the direction in which we would like things to change, so we can be the water dripping on the rock.
DWill wrote:
There is a tension between your eradication and slow and gradual change, of course. I become concerned with talk of eradication of beliefs, for obvious historical reasons.
I will post a summary of Bill McKibben's latest article on climate change from the New York Review of Books. The situation is extremely alarming, and requires enlisting of religious ideas to mobilise a war between good and evil. Richard Dawkins is on the side of the angels. But there is no room or reason for fanaticism. What we need is a simple focus on the moral implications of scientific evidence to shift the terrain of the public debate.
DWill wrote:
I'm not sure what a Dawkinsite is exactly, but one feature of a Dawkinsite could be a reaction to beliefs that borders on the hysterical at times. The word 'delusion' doesn't seem to be used only for rhetorical effect.
World politics is polluted and corrupted by the power of money, in alliance with delusional religion. That is not a hysterical statement, but a factual observation. Dawkins simply focuses on scientific evidence, and on the alarming denial of evidence by our dominant cultures. I don't completely agree with Dawkins, because I see potential to repurpose religion to serve good rather than evil, where he sees religion as irredeemably damned.
DWill wrote:
He and others also regard those who profess religious beliefs to be afflicted with psychiatric disorders. They exaggerate the prominence of what they've called beliefs in the thought processes of the general population. When a belief becomes significantly controlling, you know it, as interviews with real psychiatric patients make clear. A belief, whatever that really is in neural terms, may be no big deal at all in terms of thinking and behavior. Give a mental status exam to a creationist, and the topic is unlikely to even come up.

I think that here you are underestimating the depth of the pathology caused by the meme of creationism. As Dawkins explains, memes are like genes in being durable, stable and fertile. Creationism goes back to the beginning of history, as a default assumption. For most people it is peripheral to their daily concerns, even though 46% of Americans say humans were created in the last ten thousand years by God. When you have such a broadly held piece of idiocy, its influence will not show up as psychiatric, but rather as a set of bad attitudes, such as contempt for evidence and reason.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
Robert Tulip wrote:
Eradication is obviously a loaded word. Here in Australia we would like to eradicate feral cats and foxes because they are sending our native animals extinct. But this hits up against the emotional feeling that cat owners have for their pets. This eradication program is very difficult, and has to work with evolution rather than against it. Just allowing shooters in wilderness areas, for example, is likely to be ineffective and to have perverse impacts.

I know off-topic, but now can eliminating feral animals work with evolution?
Quote:
In the long term, I would like to see Christianity, and religion more broadly, reformed to become grounded in knowledge rather than belief. This vision means that false belief will gradually wither and be replaced by sound understanding. That is another way of saying that fundamentalism will eventually be eradicated. It is not through a purge like Stalin's liquidation of the kulaks as a class and deportation of the Crimean Tartars to Kazakhstan, but rather through a gradual process of dialogue and education. This process has to involve a clear understanding of the moral evil of creationism, while recognising that people should be free to believe and promote untrue claims when they hold them in good conscience.

In other words, you want to see religion end. Wouldn't it be better just to say that? This is an old topic by now, but there is no point to religion if it is not to be centered on beliefs. What you have with knowledge and sound understanding is universities, not churches.

I suspect that your hostility towards Christian creationism relates to the way you connect it to the climate issue. Calling it a moral evil lessens the meaning of morality itself. It's like saying that cutting down a tree is murder.
Quote:
Other examples of eradication campaigns include tobacco, alcohol, gambling and crime. In saying something should be eradicated, you have to recognise that many vices are entrenched, and certainly cannot be abolished by force, and also that social movements like prohibition of alcohol can often lack deep understanding of the real impact of their actions.

That analogy holds up only if you're thinking that creationism will be not eradicated, but managed somehow, as the use of alcohol and other drugs is managed. But I don't think you want it around at all. In any case, in democracies we recognize a clear difference between thoughts, and substances that are harmful. The one we say shouldn't be infringed at all, while the other can be at least to a degree.
Quote:
Eradicating fundamentalism may be more like the Taoist idea of water dripping on a rock and eroding it gradually. Whole continents formerly populated by dinosaurs are now under the sea. Things change slowly. But we should have a clear vision of the direction in which we would like things to change, so we can be the water dripping on the rock.

One problem with the term 'fundamentalism' is that it isn't one thing that can be eliminated. It covers a multitude of religions and ideologies, for one thing. Even just to look at Christian fundamentalism--what is it? Millions of Christians who don't call themselves fundamentalists nevertheless are from my point of view, because while they disavow OT literalism, they apply a different standard to the NT, accepting these books as largely historically accurate. Yet to eradicate that belief is pointless and illiberal, as well as impossible.
Quote:
I will post a summary of Bill McKibben's latest article on climate change from the New York Review of Books. The situation is extremely alarming, and requires enlisting of religious ideas to mobilise a war between good and evil. Richard Dawkins is on the side of the angels. But there is no room or reason for fanaticism. What we need is a simple focus on the moral implications of scientific evidence to shift the terrain of the public debate.

Hmmm... but the phrase 'war between good and evil' does call to my mind fanaticism, and that's my problem with it.
Quote:
World politics is polluted and corrupted by the power of money, in alliance with delusional religion. That is not a hysterical statement, but a factual observation. Dawkins simply focuses on scientific evidence, and on the alarming denial of evidence by our dominant cultures. I don't completely agree with Dawkins, because I see potential to repurpose religion to serve good rather than evil, where he sees religion as irredeemably damned.

I think we have approximately 97.5% money and 2% religion in the corruption mix, the other 1/2% "other."
Quote:
I think that here you are underestimating the depth of the pathology caused by the meme of creationism. As Dawkins explains, memes are like genes in being durable, stable and fertile. Creationism goes back to the beginning of history, as a default assumption. For most people it is peripheral to their daily concerns, even though 46% of Americans say humans were created in the last ten thousand years by God. When you have such a broadly held piece of idiocy, its influence will not show up as psychiatric, but rather as a set of bad attitudes, such as contempt for evidence and reason.

I exaggerated a bit about Dawkins, whom I admire. He has the weaknesses of his strengths. I will certainly steer clear of memes for now. Threat assessment is a very difficult thing to find agreement on, and we won't agree. Pathologizing an attitude fixed with the label 'creationism' is similar to calling it a moral evil: it dilutes the strength that 'pathology' needs to have in order to signify those few things that assume dangerousness in their abnormality. Certainly when we speak of pathology and religion, we are led to think immediately of people leaving bombs in backpacks to kill people, not of someone agreeing, when asked by a pollster, that humanity's history has been brief. That is ignorance, not disease.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: Who was the first person?
DWill wrote:
how can eliminating feral animals work with evolution?
Take the example of the cane beetle. A hundred years ago some bright spark decided to import cane toads to Australia to eat cane beetles. But the cane toads exploded in population and have caused mass extinction of native animals. That is a consequence of failing to understand the evolutionary context required to control the beetle pest. There are many similar stories. Some methods work effectively and efficiently to reduce numbers of cats, dogs, foxes, camels, donkeys, buffalos, cane toads, and all the other introduced plant and animal pests. Some methods don’t work because they fail to work with evolutionary causality. Evolutionary thinking is about finding the most effective and efficient response to sustain a desired outcome through understanding of the ecosystem, working with nature rather than against it.

Similarly, the control of creationist pests in society requires analysis of the hard-to-foresee impact of various strategies. So I think it is better to accept that large parts of religious activity are beneficial, or at least not harmful (like junk DNA), and that gradual evolutionary reform of religion should involve a steady shift towards compatibility with evidence and reason.

While believers maintain false claims, they force themselves into a ghetto because the broader society views them with contempt and mockery. But luckily Christianity has many resources to help it change and adapt from its current torpor. For example, Christ taught that the truth will set you free. This should not be read to mean an invented truth, but the actual truth. We now know that actual truth is found by science. Jesus teaches that science will set you free.
DWill wrote:
In other words, you want to see religion end. Wouldn't it be better just to say that? This is an old topic by now, but there is no point to religion if it is not to be centered on beliefs. What you have with knowledge and sound understanding is universities, not churches.
I do not at all want to see religion end. Religion is socially necessary. As Confucius put it, when ceremony and ritual are in order, society is in order. The challenge of achieving order is to build religion on true beliefs rather than false beliefs. Delusion is harmful and promotes disorder.

Churches should take the pure knowledge from universities and apply it to the emotional needs of a community through ceremony and ritual. That is far better than believing rubbish.

An example of an analogous reform is that some churches in recent decades have amended the sexist language of hymns to make them more inclusive. This is typical of how faith can evolve to adapt to social values.
DWill wrote:
I suspect that your hostility towards Christian creationism relates to the way you connect it to the climate issue. Calling it a moral evil lessens the meaning of morality itself. It's like saying that cutting down a tree is murder.
Climate change poses the real and present danger of causing human extinction. Unless we change planetary tack, CO2 emissions will cause suffering on a scale greater than ever seen before. CO2 removal is the greatest moral duty of all history. To the extent you do not see that you are ignorant of facts. Getting over this current mad hump in our global energy system can put humans on a trajectory towards millions of years of progress. That would be good.
DWill wrote:
That analogy [creationism as vice] holds up only if you're thinking that creationism will be not eradicated, but managed somehow, as the use of alcohol and other drugs is managed. But I don't think you want it around at all.
In fact I like parts of the Genesis stories considered as moral parables, although I think their meaning is often opposite what the fallen graceless traditions of faith have seen in them. Creationism is part of human heritage, and should be respected just as we respect other obsolete and false myths.

There will always be people who like the Genesis story just as people like the Santa story. We do not give Santarians a free pass to challenge scientific knowledge about the North Pole, and nor should creationists be allowed to promote public idiocy.
DWill wrote:
In any case, in democracies we recognize a clear difference between thoughts, and substances that are harmful. The one we say shouldn't be infringed at all, while the other can be at least to a degree.
Thoughts get infringed all the time. That is what free speech is all about, infringing other people’s thought. Speech is hardly free if it does not include the freedom to disagree with others. Just because I think creationism is evil does not mean that I support any illegal actions to suppress it. I prefer to believe in the power of ideas, using reason, evidence and persuasion to undermine the legitimacy of untrue and harmful beliefs.
DWill wrote:

One problem with the term 'fundamentalism' is that it isn't one thing that can be eliminated. It covers a multitude of religions and ideologies, for one thing. Even just to look at Christian fundamentalism--what is it? Millions of Christians who don't call themselves fundamentalists nevertheless are from my point of view, because while they disavow OT literalism, they apply a different standard to the NT, accepting these books as largely historically accurate. Yet to eradicate that belief is pointless and illiberal, as well as impossible.
Fundamentalism in this context means acceptance of beliefs that conflict strongly with evidence. Normally, when people understand evidence, they accept it. But fundamentalism produces this weird social pathology in which the brains of otherwise intelligent people are infected and bifurcated by a cultural virus which makes them accept claims they should know to be untrue.

Christianity was fairly successful in eradicating belief in the Greek Gods such as Zeus and Apollo. I don’t think the drastic measures used by early Christianity are needed, such as finding all creationist books and burning them. We have evolved from the primitive fanatical methods Christianity used to obliterate its rivals. We can expect that fundamentalist religion will come to be seen as the moral equivalent of evils such as slavery, wars of aggression and plunder, and child rape. Admitting to creationist beliefs should be the moral equivalent of these formerly respectable activities.
DWill wrote:
the phrase 'war between good and evil' does call to my mind fanaticism, and that's my problem with it.
Yes, I understand that. I do have an apocalyptic view of world politics. CO2 will cause human extinction unless we define and implement a new energy paradigm. The climate problem is very urgent and very big and very evil, like a train bearing down on a person tied to the rails. We need to enlist the power of existing beliefs to make people understand the peril. That means looking at the stories in the Bible, such as the war in heaven between Michael and Satan, and asking who today is on which side. CO2 emissions are Satanic. The campaign to stabilise the global climate is on the side of the angels. It is about good versus evil. But that does not mean we have yet formulated workable strategies to stabilise the climate, mainly because we have not achieved a common moral purpose and applied enough effort and resources to the problem.
DWill wrote:

Pathologizing an attitude fixed with the label 'creationism' is similar to calling it a moral evil: it dilutes the strength that 'pathology' needs to have in order to signify those few things that assume dangerousness in their abnormality. Certainly when we speak of pathology and religion, we are led to think immediately of people leaving bombs in backpacks to kill people, not of someone agreeing, when asked by a pollster, that humanity's history has been brief. That is ignorance, not disease.

The two examples you give, the Boston bombers and ignorant creationists, could be compared to the difference between bubonic plague and hypertension, as pathologies with comparable respective impacts. Plague and terrorist attacks are virulent, visible, rare and brief. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is invisible and common, killing far more people through heart attack and stroke than plague does, and similar in this respect to creationism as a social pathology. Jared Diamond argues in The World Until Yesterday that we could reduce hypertension by stopping the use of salt shakers on tables. That dull public health measure lacks the drama of a campaign against terrorism, but it would actually save far more lives than making people take off their shoes at airports.

Similarly, reducing the widespread mild pathology of creationist hostility to science would ease the hypertension of our planetary system, reducing the very real risk of a planetary heart attack. Gaia’s atmospheric arteries are clogged with CO2. The problem persists because the power of money receives moral support from alienated unnatural beliefs that justify the separation of spirit from nature and confuse the public debate. Creationism is the prime villain as a social pathology that prevents emergence of a consensus on sensible understanding of scientific evidence, especially about climate.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon May 20, 2013 11:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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