Hehehe! Saw this on my Facebook page and had to share…
So this is what the belief mongers have surrendered to? Rationalizing a totally ineffectual pursuit. It must be comforting playing heads I win, tails you lose.
“I came into this project wanting to understand the question: How are rational, sensible, educated people able to sustain faith in an invisible being in an environment of skepticism?”
Tanya Luhrmann, an anthropologist spent about four years studying the rituals of evangelicals and came to the conclusion that prayer teaches them to hear the voice of God, presumably the Christian version of the supreme being. Luhrmann went on to write a book about it – When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God.
The obvious but crass reaction of many cynics and non-believers would be to retort that those who hear voices in their head are crazy or schizophrenic. Indeed in an essay on this story in The Week, one commenter observed “When you talk to your deity, you’re religious. When it talks to you, you’re a crazy sumbitch.”
Luhrmann on the other hand contends there’s more going on with evangelicals than we care to acknowledge. She believes they hear voices which they conclude is that of God for good reasons; the presumption yet again is that there is only one such being. However, while she went to great lengths to observe the evangelical behaviour and explain HOW these adherents come to believe that they’re talking to God, she does not attempt to explain WHY it happens. To be fair, as an anthropologist, perhaps it’s beyond her level of understanding; rationalizing an observation was all she was left with.
I would therefore like to indulge Luhrmann and other believers for a bit. Let’s suspend all credulity, and accept that a God does indeed talk to evangelicals, or anyone else for that matter, who from her observations at least, satisfy the following criteria:
Having satisfied the criteria, what does an adherent talk to God about, and exactly what does God reveal? According to Luhrmann:
Members told her about having coffee with God, seeing angel wings, and getting God’s advice on everything from job choice to what shampoo to buy.
Nothing of major significance or importance it seems; nothing world-changing. But that’s quite revealing actually. It seems that ordinary people talk to God about mundane things; things that don’t contribute a whole deal to the future of the planet, indeed the world.
If a supernatural entity does exist, and is talking to people, it would imply that other things we’re normally skeptical about, should also be possible. [Lest you've forgotten, we've suspended credulity].
Wouldn’t the secrets to solve both our constantly increasing energy requirements and global warming, be the most fundamentally essential revelation to mankind? Wouldn’t the solution of these issues lead to resolving poverty and other social problems? Off course there may be more pressing needs of which I am not thinking about right now.
So, in a world with a God, without doubt perpetual motion should also be possible. And a substance should exist which when diluted in water, be able to cure all diseases and render homeopathy all-powerful, right? So why hasn’t God revealed how to build that perpetual-motion machine and create the wonder homeopathic cure?
Either God doesn’t know, or the people he’s revealed such important information to, are keeping mum. Or, we need the people who can make the greatest impact to saving the world, such as scientists, to learn how to talk to God. Because they’re indubitably wasting valuable resources and money carrying out useless experiments in underground particle colliders and outer space.
Clearly then, the wrong people are talking to God. The planet’s going to hell in a handbasket at a dizzying pace. Surely those capable of talking to God should be asking Him how to sort out the mess we’re in. You have to question why we’re being made to suffer if divine information can make a difference to the way the world is unraveling.
But nada! Does God talk to us just so that we can feed his vanity? Is God then just “jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully,” as Dawkins so eloquently pointed out in The God Delusion?
Isn’t it a much simpler and more reasonable explanation that any conversation with a God is one-way traffic…
Its been just over a week since my father passed away after a protracted illness. Now that the business of laying him to rest, and the memorial service has been concluded, I finally have a chance to pen some thoughts about the experience, which I admit does not make for particularly pleasant reading.
During my years at school, I read a wonderful quip by someone, which goes something like “Death is a dreary, dull affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.” Brilliant, isn’t it? Until it comes calling at your door, off course! And now it was my turn to deal with it.
My father had been quite ill for many years. In the last year or so, his dialysis sessions were increased to three times a week, but his condition steadily declined. His death was not unexpected; however it was delayed by his tenacious will to live, quite evidently through a lot of pain. The painful expression that was almost permanently etched on his face, still dog my mind. Amazingly however, he insisted on functioning normally and doing the things that were of quintessence right to the end.
This situation posed a few questions which I tried to analyze for a time, even just prior to his death, but I could come to no real conclusions. The natural evolutionary tendency for humans is to try to survive, even if the body is in revolt. But is it desirable for a person to endure pain and suffering , especially when afflicted with a terminal illness, as in the case of my father? And while its natural for family and friends to hope for someone who is ill, to hang on for as long as possible, is it not somewhat selfish in the case of terminal illness. Is it not possible that our wish for longevity, could place pressure on terminally ill people to force themselves to live a little longer, usually under tremendous pain? And off course, watching someone waste away in pain, is extremely distressing for family and friends; not to mention the burden that care-giving places on them. A vicious cycle indeed!
I received news of him being admitted to hospital about a week before his actual passing on. With the above thoughts playing out in my mind, I delayed traveling down to Durban from Johannesburg, secretly, irrationally hoping that he would pull out of this latest setback, like he had done so many times before. On the advice from my brother that the prognosis did not look very good this time, I finally decided to make the 600 kilometer trip. Again, with irrational hope, I packed just a few jeans and t-shirts, thinking that somehow he would surprise us once again, and I would be happily back on my way to Johannesburg in a few days.
I didn’t get to see him alive one last time. He passed away while I was in transit…
I remember arriving in Durban to the smell of fireworks, and receiving the news from my tearful mother. Strangely I felt no immediate grief. I was actually relieved. Is that wrong? Does being relieved when death ends pain and suffering, constitute immoral behaviour? I should certainly think not. Yes, I’m sad, but I’m happy too, for the end of my father’s pain, and just as importantly, the end of the anguish endured by his family.
The funeral did pose a moral dilemma for me, being the eldest child. I agonized for a little while over participating in the elaborate Hindu funeral rituals, but realized that supporting the family in a time of bereavement was more important than my secular principles. Although I did not participate fully in all the prayer rituals, I did ensure that I gave them my full support and was present throughout. And, the arrival of my father’s only surviving brother from Canada, did relieve some of pressure off me. At times my rational self did get the better of me when I questioned the logic of some of the religious practices, but I relented soon enough.
I volunteered to pay tribute to my father at a memorial service held yesterday, and I managed to write down a few thoughts, but quickly had to scupper that when my sister, suspecting that I would use the opportunity to speak about my religious and political beliefs, asked me politely to refrain from turning the eulogy into a lecture. I had to resort to winging it, and I suppose I did a fairly decent job, since no one in the largely conservative, religious audience, had a heart attack.
For me, life goes on. I just hope that the rest of the family can put this tragic episode behind them fairly quickly and live their lives normally again.
I heard about a woman this morning, who was given three days to live by the doctors. That was four days ago. Everyone she knows (who is religious that is) has apparently been praying feverishly for her to get better.
This morning those who know her are claiming a victory for prayer because she has survived one day more than the doctors gave her. I know that it must be a great relief for her family and friends, and as much as I hope that she will defy the prognosis and hang onto life for as long as possible, my rational self tells me that it is unlikely. The doctors are invariably correct in their prognosis when it comes to terminal illness, even if they are not accurate to within days of predicting life expectancy.
Unfortunately for all her family and friends whose anguish has been temporarily assuaged, their belief that prayer had anything to do with it, is hugely misplaced. I suppose one can’t really blame them for grasping onto any straw that presents itself, given their religious inclinations. I know that when the inevitable does eventually occur, they will forget about the prayer vigils and ascribe it to either god’s mercy in ending suffering, or conclude nonchalantly that “it was her time to go.” Such is the flexibility of religious piety.
I also read this afternoon that Ray McCauley, founder and chief pastor of the Rhema Church in South Africa, had heart surgery yesterday. Not surprisingly the church leadership ”asks the Christian community and other faith communities to pray for his speedy recovery.” Luckily sanity prevailed when Ray chose surgery, rather than leave it to the faith community to pray him out of trouble. Off course, his recovery will be speedy, since science made it possible, but the faith community will claim a victory for prayer; such is the nature of religious opportunism.
I am sure that Ray will return to the pulpit after recovering, decrying the evils of science, while punting the power of prayer and faith. For him at least all will be well for some time to come; not so for the poor women who was given a few days to live…
I came across this rather incisive article today, and thought it would be interesting to share…
SAN FRANCISCO–For as long as he can remember, 7-year-old Timmy Yu has had one precious dream: From the bottom of his heart, he has hoped against hope that God would someday hear his prayer to walk again. Though many thought Timmy’s heavenly plea would never be answered, his dream finally came true Monday, when the Lord personally responded to the wheelchair-bound boy’s prayer with a resounding no.
“I knew that if I just prayed hard enough, God would hear me,” said the joyful Timmy, surrounded by stuffed animals sent by well-wishing Christians from around the globe, as he sat in the wheelchair to which he will be confined for the rest of his life. “And now my prayer has been answered. I haven’t been this happy since before the accident, when I could walk and play with the other children like a normal boy.”
God’s response came at approximately 10 a.m…
Go fetch the rest here…
Earlier this evening, I came across a discussion about how religion makes people happy too, started by a fellow atheist on a social utility website and it somehow reminded me of an incident that occurred yesterday.
I may have committed a cardinal atheist sin on Sunday - I joined in a prayer circle, holding hands with a policewoman from De Deur Police Station on the left and an HIV-positive kid on the right.
Yeah, that’s right; but I couldn’t help myself as I was caught up in the moment of gratitude and happiness being expressed by a group of AIDS orphans and their adult minders. And in case you think I’m intimating that holding hands with an HIV-positive person or a police officer for that matter, as being an atheist cardinal sin; I’m not. I’m referring to the prayer circle. The prayer meant nothing to me; but it felt good to feel good together with others, who usually don’t have much to feel good about.
And how did I come to be in this strange position? You see, I, together with a few friends, were helping some police officers from the local Police Station feed these abandoned kids at an AIDS orphanage. The police usually find them abandoned and then bring them over to these “safe” houses (or places of safety) where they can get treatment and care, until they are more permanently taken care of by the social welfare system.
While we were standing around in the kitchen, the visiting pastor and the rest of the group spontaneously grabbed hands to form a prayer circle and I was caught in the middle of it. I’m still alive and well (for those who think that it is deadly to hold hands with an HIV-positive person or a police officer for that matter), and the intense prayer hasn’t convinced me to accept Jesus; so no harm done.
One thing though: I did feel a tinge of envy, when I later saw the pastor get behind the wheel of that shiny new Nissan Navarra pick-up truck, with a full house of extras, parked outside…
For the benefit of those who don’t know, non-Christians mostly, Lent is a 40-day fast and prayer, preceding Easter, which begins on Ash Wednesday, and supposedly represents the time spent by Jesus in the desert resisting the temptation of the Devil.
Traditionally, those Christian denominations which observe Lent, indulge in some form of self-denial; usually fasting, abstention from meat, sex, alcohol etc. I’m no big fan of self-denial, or any form of self-inflicted punishment (not even S&M), simply because it reeks of irrational behaviour. However, just this one time, I’m willing to give up something, for a month at least…well maybe forty days. You’re probably wondering why I want to do something like this?
Over the past month or so, I’ve been feeling kind of guilty about lambasting a few Christians who have been peppering me with religious e-mails; you know the cutesy kind that tries to motivate you by making all sorts of unfounded claims, while somehow being threatening at the same time. Then there are the religious mails that spread plain old lies, hoaxes; some of which I have exposed on this blog. Well, over the last few months, I have brutally refuted most of these mails with cold scientific critique and sheer derision, and called the senders’ rational abilities to account. But no matter how much scorn I piled onto these mails, they kept coming, until I finally laid down an ultimatum: I will respect your right to believe in strange things if you will respect my right to not be bothered by it. The mails stopped coming.
So, with the advent of Lent, I am throwing up an olive branch to my Christian cor-responders: send all the cutesy religious mails you want, during this period, and I will give up my right to respond with contempt. (Offer only valid during Lent)