Freitag, 8. April 2011

Religion defined as a result of stress disorder ?

PZ Myers posts about an article in psychology today: "When The Going Gets Tough, The Atheists Go Praying"
Let me quote the essential paragraph:
Perhaps atheism is a luxury of the well-to-do. Put differently, everyone--even the most hardcore atheists, I think--will start believing in God if put under a high amount of stress. Think of the last time you prayed to God, and I will bet that, for many of you (whether you generally classify yourself as an atheist or not), it would have been when you were under stress. For most of us so-called atheists, when things go horribly wrong, we think of God.
There is a second nice statement:
And even a hardcore atheist may exhibit belief in God if he feels his life is sufficiently broken.
PZ criticizes the author/text for drawing unjustified conclusions but i think he actually misses something. It seems as if PZ wouldn't even want to consider the claim because no conclusive argument was made for it. I know quite a lot of people that actually went for the "i call for God's help, when life is bad" attitude.
And i saw quite some who didn't. So i guess it's not as easy as the author says it is BUT
Let us for a second assume that the guy writing this article is correct. What would that mean? Wouldn't that redefine Religion as a kind of result of stress disorder? In other words... would religion not be a pathological condition.

Could anybody make a purer statement showing the world that:

  • religion is not about truth and
  • religion is connected to mental instability?

Of course that would require the article to be true. So in case someone mentions it or makes a similar kind of argument, feel free to show him the other side of the coin.

Montag, 4. April 2011

Crucifixes in European schools: a different opinion about the courts ruling

Over at the NYT Stanley Fish wrote a nice opinion on the recent ruling of the European courts on Lautsi and Others v. Italy.

You might remember my take on the decision.

Here is another opinion

The plausible but flawed argument is that in the long history of Italy, the crucifix has become a “historical and cultural” symbol that now possesses an “identity-linked” rather than an exclusively religious value. Furthermore, in its “identity-linking” guise, the crucifix stands for “the liberty and freedom of every person, the declaration of the right of man, and ultimately the modern secular state.”That’s a little fast and claims too much. It may be the case that over the centuries the crucifix has become allied with secular values in the sense that the religion it represents no longer sets itself against them; but that doesn’t mean that the crucifix, especially when installed by law in state-administered classrooms, is no longer a Christian symbol and the bearer of a distinctly Christian message (salvation is by Christ and through the Church) non-believers might find uncomfortable and pressuring.
While i would agree much to what he says, i again think that he didn't ponder the question what this ruling actually says about the status of religion in Europe.

Freitag, 1. April 2011

Death anxiety prompts people to believe in intelligent design? - Why am I different?

Yesterday I came upon an article posted through RD.Net.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Union College (Schenectady, N.Y.) have found that people's death anxiety can influence them to support theories of intelligent design and reject evolutionary theory.
"Our results suggest that when confronted with existential concerns, people respond by searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in life," says Tracy. "For many, it appears that evolutionary theory doesn't offer enough of a compelling answer to deal with these big questions."

Naturally I was interested in that study because with me it is the exact opposite. I lost my faith because of anxiety attacks.
The researchers carried out five studies with 1,674 U.S. and Canadian participants of different ages and a broad range of educational, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. 
In each study, participants were asked to imagine their own death and write about their subsequent thoughts and feelings, or they were assigned to a control condition: imagining dental pain and writing about that.

The participants were then asked to read two similarly styled, 174-word excerpts from the writings of Behe and Dawkins, which make no mention of religion or belief, but describe the scientific and empirical support for their respective positions.

After going through these steps, participants who imagined their own death showed greater support for intelligent design and greater liking for Behe, or a rejection of evolution theory coupled with disliking for Dawkins, compared to participants in the control condition.

"Imagining" (emphasis mine) Your death is far, far, far away from anxiety! Anxiety and imagination are two totally different things. of course some people are afraid of their death and some might also feel a certain amount of fear but that's not the same feeling that you get when you have a real anxiety, lest alone an anxiety attack.
I could imagine that for religious people an increase in "woo" after an uncomfortable imaginative situation is reasonable. I could even assume that for irreligious people Behe's work might seem more likable.
But when it comes to anxiety attacks I would doubt these findings.
I could imagine that nonreligious people would show an increase in belief perhaps.

In a situation of tremendous fear...if you didn't believed in a god before ... you might be so desperate that you just want him to exist, want this life to not be over, want yourself to have a value that lasts beyond.

I would also think that religious people would display a decrease in belief.
In a situation of tremendous fear...if you believed in a god before ... you might realize that he is not there as you don't have the luxury to spend bran capacity imagining him.

Then again ........ i could be the well known exception to the rule that this study seems to formulate.

Finland: Anti-Gay Campaign Doubles Average Church Resignations

(found after an initial tip scanning the blasphemieblog)
Sometimes it needs nonbelievers and rationality to get religious people out of churches. Often it's a hard and long  process. Sometimes religious people alienate others from religion. Then it is a very short process.

In Finland the religious did something remarkably good (again). They told everybody that wanted to listen (and all those that didn't) that homosexuality would be bad and could be healed. And within days the flock started to flee.

Interestingly not only for the reason that the religion is against homosexuality but also in some cases for the reason that they are supposedly to liberal.
Resignees have given different reasons for their decision. Some have criticised the church’s perceived narrow-mindedness and discrimination against homosexuals, while others have said that their decision is for doctrinal reasons as the church is too liberal towards gay people.
Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

An article for your pleasure.

Belgian lawmakers pass burka ban

As the BBC reports Belgium passes a law banning burqas.
Belgium's lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public.
The law would ban any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street. No-one voted against it.
The law now goes to the Senate, where it may face challenges over its wording, which may delay it.
If passed, the ban would be the first move of its kind in Europe.
Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million.
The BBC's Dominic Hughes in Brussels says MPs backed the legislation on the grounds of security, to allow police to identify people.
Other MPs said that the full face veil was a symbol of the oppression of women, our correspondent says.
Senate approval
Thursday's vote was almost unanimous with 134 MPs in support of the law and two abstentions.
It is expected to pass through the Senate without being blocked, with initial reports saying it could come into law as early as June or July.
But the Liberals and Christian Democrats - both represented in the Senate - say they will question the phrasing of the law, which could cause delays.
It will also take longer to become law if elections are called, as parliament would have to be dissolved. The Belgium government collapsed last week.
The Muslim Executive of Belgium has criticised the move, saying it would lead to women who do wear the full veil to be trapped in their homes.
Amnesty International said a ban would set a "dangerous precedent".
In a statement, the human rights group said it would "violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or niqab as an expression of their identity and beliefs".
The ban would be imposed in all buildings or grounds that are "meant for public use or to provide services", including streets, parks and sports grounds.
Exceptions could be made for certain festivals.
Those who break the law could face a fine of 15-25 euros (£13-£27) or a seven-day jail sentence.

An attack on personal freedoms or a protection of human rights? Your opinion about this?

Automated Prayermachine: If only God had lived to see that

As - SPIEGEL ONLINE - (in German) reports, we have a nice new device standing in Berlin. It looks like a photo booth, but inside there are no flashlights .. there is just spiritual reflection.

300 prayers in 65 languages, ready to be listened to by religious customers... and the creator already dreaming of a global business.

The irony of life is that I would even believe it to actually become a cashcow. All you need is a small mp3 player, a GUI to select your language and perhaps your current mood.

I liked the following passage (translation below):
Zumal die Bedienung des Gebetomaten alles andere als respektvoll gegenüber höheren Wesen wirkt: Während das Gebet in Stereo abgespielt wird, zeigt ein Fortschrittsbalken auf dem Bildschirm an, wie lange man noch bis zum Amen warten muss. Wem das zu lange dauert, der kann jederzeit auf ein anderes Gebet wechseln. Das alles gibt es nicht gratis: Vor die Besinnung hat Sturm die Bezahlung gestellt, 50 Cent für fünf Minuten sind vorgesehen, schon vorher erinnert ein unschöner Störton ganz profan ans Nachwerfen frischer Münzen.

rough translation:
Especially as the operation of the machine seems anything but respectful to higher beings: while the prayer is played in stereo, it shows a progress bar on the screen, telling the you how long you must wait until your obligatory "Amen". If that takes too long, you can always switch to another prayer. All this is not free: Before reflection comes payment, 50 cents for five minutes are required, an ugly disturbing sound reminding you in advance to insert fresh coins as time runs up.

Now today ist 1st of April, so could this be an april's fool? I thought so too at first but two factors seem to speak against it:
a) Its TOTALLY realistic! Religion is a cashcow.
b) Even Japan reports about it