Thursday, February 23, 2012

Religious Insanity kills another Indiana baby

Employees told officers they found the child in water about 2 feet deep in the baptismal pool and called for help, said officer Kendale Adams, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) spokesman.

Adams said the boy attended the day care center at the church. He was found about 1:45 p.m. and taken to St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital, where he died a short time later, police said.

A one-year-old is able to wander off on unsteady feet, unnoticed, until he stumbles into a baptismal pool that shouldn't be accessible to him at all.  A tragedy, and sure stuff happens in other day care centers, but here's the kicker:

"This was preventable," said Emily Barrow, of Child Care Answers in Indianapolis. "Licensed facilities have a sight and sound regulation; child care ministries do not."

The "sight and sound" rule requires children to be within seeing and hearing distance of an adult at all times....

Among the other exemptions are staff-to-child ratios; educational requirements for owners or managers; medication monitoring; nutrition requirements; food safety and sanitation requirements; and heating and lighting standards.

The Praise Fellowship Assembly of God Church did have to meet an additional 17 requirements in order to receive federal funding. The most important of those included drug testing and limited criminal background checks for employees, officials said.

I looked up the statute (.pdf) and it's even worse than it sounds.  Not only are these places allowed to operate without a license, but parents sign waivers saying they'll take responsibility for kids' health and nutrition.  They can also exempt kids from vaccinations on religious grounds.  Other than Christian "Science," who would qualify for that?  Apparently Indiana lawmakers think that children in religious care are different from children in secular care.  I mean, the Baby Jesus waited until he was old enough before getting dunked, didn't he?

They get inspected for "fire safety" and "life safety," but nothing else.  At least they are eligible to be sued for injury due to negligence.  I hope the family sues the holy off the church.  It's too bad the state doesn't have an interest in making sure that injury doesn't happen in the first place.  Apparently prayer was enough for the idiots who make Indiana laws.

Until now, anyway.  They should name the inevitable too-late statute over the little baby that died.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Blog doesn't have nearly enough followers

No, not this blog.  This blog!

Check out the list of new species on the blog.  I'm still going over old posts of this new discovery.

I really appreciate a pro putting it on the line to help us argue against the ostriches trying to claim that creationism is true and evolution is false.  What's happening in the U.S. ought to be criminal, but the First Amendment protects the rights of dumbasses to promote dumbassery.  They can sound very convincing to people who are ignorant and gullible (not their fault, should be their fault).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Indiana Students are Safe From Creationist Idiocy ... for now

Curiously, the local paper that has published so many letters on this topic did not carry this news item, but the Indy Star, owned by the same corporation, did:

A bill that would have specifically allowed Indiana's public schools to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classes has been shelved by the leader of the Indiana House of Representatives.

The proposal cleared the state Senate two weeks ago, but Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma is using a procedural move to kill the proposal for this legislative session.

“It seemed to me not to be a productive discussion, particularly in light that there is a United States Supreme Court case that appears to be on point that very similar language is counter to the constitution,” Bosma said Tuesday. “It looked to me to be buying a lawsuit when the state can ill afford it.”

He wouldn't admit that it's just plain WRONG to pass off fairy tales as science but at least he admits it's a waste of money to fight a losing battle.

I'm glad this sorry episode is over.   Now I can return to being embarrassed about Indiana for other reasons!



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Four Faulty Foundations of Faith

1.  Revelation as the basis for belief

The basis for the Abrahamic religions is well known to be revelatory experiences.  Moses received revelations about Judaic law after seeing a burning bush.  Paul experienced a conversion on the road to Damascus.  Muhammed was visited by the Angel Gabriel.  There are a bunch more stories.  Dreams, angel visions, voices, it happens all the time throughout the holy books.

But these aren't all.  Buddha attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.  Mormonism is based on the revelations received by Joseph Smith.  Where L. Ron Hubbard got his stuff is scary to contemplate, but it seems he received "revelation."

Or was this all revelation?  L. Ron Hubbard sought psychiatric treatment during his 30s, long before learning the truth about aliens and humans, and then founding an anti-psychiatry "religion."  For the others, psychiatric treatment wouldn't have been possible, as the field of psychiatry wasn't developed until the twentieth century.  If Moses or Paul or Mohammed were alive today, would anyone take them seriously?  And how is Mormonism growing when it's based on such a psychotic story?

The thing is, revelation is indistinguishable from psychotic symptomsWhen Moses saw the burning bush, was there really a burning bush?  Conveniently, he was alone, so if it happened at all, there is nobody to corroborate it.  He could have been having alcoholic psychosis for all we now.   How about Paul's revelation?  He was alone as well.  Joseph Smith?  Who was that angel that directed him to the golden plates, that eleven people supposedly also saw.  Those eight would have been subject to incredible pressure from Smith to validate his revelation.  After being guided to the plates, he viewed them through a magic hat and was able to dictate a translation from ancient Egyptian.  So even though he supposedly had witnesses, nobody else was privvy to the revealed wisdom except via his translation.  That's convenient.

This is what has to say about hallucinations:

Hallucinations are false perceptions, inaccuracies that affect our senses & cause us to hear, see, taste, touch or smell what others do not. In the acute phases of schizophrenia, patients are likely to insist they are hearing voices that no one else can hear. Sometimes they hear noises, clicks or non-word sounds. On occasion they are disturbed by seeing, smelling or feeling things that others do not.

Descriptions of these perceptions differ. Sometimes they are experienced as very forceful & apparently important thoughts. Frequently they seem to come from outside the self & are heard as conversations between other people, or commands, or compliments (or insults) addressed to the person. Sometimes the voices are reassuring, at other times menacing. Often the remarks heard are not addressed to the person but seem to be concerned with them in an unclear (but perhaps derogatory) way. Individuals who experience this describe it "like a tape playing in my head". The experience is so real that many schizophrenics are convinced someone has implanted a broadcasting device in their bodies. Or they come to believe in a supernatural explanation for the strange sensation. It is so real to the person that it cannot be dismissed as imagination.

This sounds a lot like what Moses, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Jesus, Paul, the author of Revelation, Muhammed, Buddha, Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard experienced.    In the modern age, people who claim to hear angels, or to be the son of god, or to just know things nobody else knows, are considered psychotic.  In fact, religious delusions are rather common.

If we are to accept that one or all of the religious revelations of the major religions are actual, true, communication with a supernatural entity, then why not accept the religious delusions of the psychiatric population?   A very few are lucid enough to be very convincing.  The dangerous ones are called "cult leaders."  The somewhat less dangerous ones have been called, or called themselves, "prophets."

What distinguishes a psychotic from a prophet?  Charisma, control and a gullible audience.

According to, stress exacerbates psychotic symptoms.  What would cause this stress?   In some religions stress is self-induced so that even sane people will experience "the spirit."  Religions based on West Africa's traditions invite the spirit to enter through dance and song.  Ascetics deny themselves food and sensory input.  Self-denial of the sex drive could do it too, I bet.  What if you take a tradition that encourages this, and throw a charismatic person with a psychotic disease into it?

I would imagine this would be a recipe for prophesy.

Should people who are aware of the symptoms of psychiatric diseases believe in anything that's based on people hearing voices, seeing burning things that nobody else sees, or believing themselves to be divine?  I say, no.  That is absolutely no basis for a belief system for a relatively sane person.

I stop short of calling believers delusional, because they aren't the ones with the psychotic symptoms.  They are the vitims of delusional people.  They have been convinced via some very clever and charismatic manipulations.  I don't blame them for this but I do think they should be mindful of the fact that their psiritual heroes would be considered psychotic today.

The psychotic believes deeply that what they hear was actually said.  Hearing takes place in the brain, not in the ear.  If someone "hears" something that nobody else hears, it's their brain making stuff up.  So I don't blame the psychotics, either.  Their sincerity can be convincing because it is so sincere.  Today, they have symptoms relating to God, the devil, aliens, and celebrities.  Fortunately, we don't say they've been possessed by demons.  We diagnose them as psychotic and offer them treatment

Sadly, people with religiously-associated symptoms have caused a lot of damage, possibly more than people with other kinds of psychoses.  Andrea Yates killed her childrenJim Jones killed his and others' children.  People have killed themselves because of what a delusional yet charismatic cult leader told them.  People have killed others because of what their cult leaders have told them.

If a person is born into a society full of people who believe in stories that would be considered psychotic today, you can't really blame them for believing their voices and believing the people who believe the voices.

But I have to ask believers:  why do you consider Harold Camping or Jim Jones or Andrea Yates crazy, but not the author of Revelation, or Paul, or Abraham?  Your religion isn't only based on ancient hallucinations and delusions, but it creates and atmosphere where mentally ill people feel even more justified believing their symptoms are real, and where others feel justified in following them.

I remember as a child, asking my grandmother, "Why did God stop talking to people like he talked to Noah?"  She had no answer.  With mental illness in our family, what could she say?  Humans, there's mental illness in our family.  It's time to call a spade a spade and accept that ancient delusions are not real and true revelations of anything but insanity.

2.  Authority of ancient (or even modern) texts.

Stories that date to periods before writing was commonplace were transmitted "orally," i.e. by speaking.  Anyone who has played the game of repeating a word or phrase from one person to the next to the next etc.knows that what you wind up with at the end is often very, very different from what you start with.  Even if everyone is trying very hard and listening very carefully, mistakes happen, and the mistakes cumulate.  Mistakes don't generally correct themselves - they only get more wrong.  When one recipient thinks they've heard something that doesn't make sense and then attempts to make sense of it, they would have to now which part didn't fit to know what to change.  The field of scholarship devoted to unraveling generations of mistakes in the written word is called "textual criticism."

Of course, you give people too much credit when you assume they always intend to transmit information faithfully.  Sometimes "faithfully" means putting in or taking out words or stories they think are "wrong."  The translator, copyist, and publisher may believe they would get it right because they prayed before they did their work each day, but since they come up with different variants, apparently those prayers don't wor.

And then there are the intentional changes.  I have reviewed two excellent books on the writing of the Bible.  The Bible Unearthed uses findings in archaeology to analyze the supposedly historic stories of the Old Testament, finding that there is some truth in them but the final revision was considerably influenced by political spin.  Forged by Bart Ehrman discusses the practice of outright forgery of religious texts during the early centuries of Christianity.  (Some of these forgeries made it into the Bible)
"You can't believe everything you read," and that should go double for ancient texts.  But "fundamentalists" believe the older the text the more authoritative it is. Well, it may be authoritative in that it represents the beliefs of people living in a certain cult at a certain time, but in no way can these ancient texts be considered "The Truth."

3.  Culture / Tradition

Most people believe in the religion that's dominant in their culture.  In Shintoism.  The received narrative of the religion was written down eventually, not as revelation, but as received wisdom.  For other religions, it's the way received delusions transmitted via ancient texts gets played out for average people.  Judaism, for example, includes "historic" texts that define the ethnic and cultural group as well as spell out the belief system.

The culture is really the more important of the two. The God Delusion makes some cogent points about this.  Many of the "rules" of religions are systematically ignored, while other rules are used to prop up rules that society already likes.  Morality is defined by community, and communities change over time.  Slavery is the most famous example in the United States.  Pro-slavery advocates drew on the Bible for justification.  Abolitionists drew on the Bible as well.

Clothing rules are another area where people just do what they want, then claim they are being consistent with the Bible, or whatever they believe.  Some of the local sects where I live insist that women dress like 19th century farm wives.  Others won't let their kids watch TV. 

And then there is the "I Love Jesus" youth movement that relies on peer pressure and pop music to keep secularized kids in the flock. (Such as Fields of Faith)

There are so many varieties of every major religion that it can't merely be due to psychotic prophets leading splinter groups.  Sometimes these groups do consciously separate themselves due to their splintering, but other times they are just part of a form of cultural evolution.

Basing your life on a religion because you grew up in it makes sense; we want to belong to our society.  But the fact that your parents, pastor, neighbors, or even your new friends in your goofy cult believe a certain belief does not make that belief true.  This is the ad populum fallacy.   High numbers of believers is an indication of the religion's effectiveness in proslytizing or of holding their members under tight control.  It doesn't mean that one set of founders had more true psychosis than all the other psychotic founders.

The term "freethinker" is really the best alternative to "atheist" in my opinion.  People who are bound by culture aren't free to question the basis for the culture.  In some places it could get you killed.  But if you look behind the authority of the people, books, and stories you have been led to believe are "true" you may change your mind.  Once you have freed your mind from authority, true "seeking" begins.

4.  Church, family, and pastor. 

You may be born into a culture with a dominant religion, or you may be born into a family that is part ofa religious minority.  As a child, your family is your culture; your parents are your gods.  Many children go to church from infancy, and even if they don't understand any of it, they do get that this is an extension of their family, because their family takes them there.  You may then go to religious school, which is a further extension.  It's all very comforting and cozy, but that doesn't make it true.

I have known many people who are children of pastors and never question whether what they learned was true.  At root, they trusted the authority figures, and that the authority figures knew what was  true.  Their authority figures decided what they should believe; they didn't.  Questioning the truth of the holy books would be the moral equivalent to questioning your parents, and conveniently, many religions teach their children never to question their parents.

The fallacy here is appeal to authorityOf course, some authorities do get things right, but the rightness of their opinions isn't dependent on their authority.  You can tell how much authority means to some Christians when they bring up Darwin, or his current bulldog, Richard Dawkins.  If neither of these men had ever been born, there would still be a theory of evolution and there would still be people calling bullshit on evolution deniers.

So...  psychosis, written down, used to convince others to believe in the hallucinations, and then indoctrinated in children, is no basis for a belief system.  It's understandable, but not in any way guaranteed to be true.  Quite the opposite.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pure Nuttery from a Creationist

The local paper continues to entertain:

The evolution theory is an irrational falsehood, zealously embraced by atheists, that is a phony conclusion of the 600+ million year fossil record. There is no “valid supporting data” for evolution. In a court of law, or in a public forum, the same evidence that evolutionists would use to try to “prove” the validity of that theory, I would utilize to reveal the truth of Genesis. In order to believe in evolution, you have to purposely ignore certain facts of reality. For example, when you see illustrations of primates being pictured as evolving into humans, it can be shown in a court of law that such a premise is impossible, because certain human and primate traits are different, and could not have ever been shared. The only “common ancestor” that humans and primates share is God Himself.

Current Creationism has refused to ...teach the truth of the Genesis text, and either teaches foolishness (young Earth), or false doctrines (non-literal reading of the text). Creationists thoughtlessly try to prove “Creationism”, rather than seeking and teaching the truth of Genesis. How can an untruth, ever prove another lie, to be in error? You can’t do it. That is why Creationism fails. It essentially is also a lie, and should be discarded, even by Bible believers.

The correct opposing view to evolution is the "Observations of Moses", which conveys the truth of Genesis chapter one.

Those that imply that God used evolution are infidels at worse, or clowns at best, that refuse to learn the truth of Genesis. The truth has been available for more than 18 years. Such a discussion is currently silly, and shows stubbornness against learning the truth of God's Word.

There are no "creation stories" in Genesis. In fact, about all of theology and creationism have no idea what Moses was writing about. You can't simply take an advanced book of math or science, and try to read from it on your own without personal instruction. 

For example, Genesis declares that mankind has been on this Earth, in his present likeness, for more than 60 million years. The "male and female" in Genesis chapter one was not "Adam & Eve". Has modern science discovered that yet?

Herman Cummings

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Annie Laurie Gaynor weighs in on the Indiana creationism bill

It is shocking that a bill to teach creationism from the perspective of "multiple religions" has passed the state senate.

The Indiana Senate would lead public school students back into the Dark Ages. This month marks the 203rd anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. It's been 153 years since Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859, with the incontrovertible evidence for evolution piling up since. These senators would dumb down understanding, belittle the scientific method, and ultimately, endanger our nation's standing in the world and our ability to compete in a global market which necessarily rewards accomplishment, not stupidity.

The comments show how such a shocking idea could take hold in the Texas of the Midwest.  Very discouraging.  In other news, the graduation rate is dropping.  Any wonder?  Their parents don't seem to value edjumacashun