Faith Survey

The following is a link to a survey on Christian faith I put together. If you are a Christian and would like to participate, it would be much appreciated. I will post the unadulterated results once I have around 20 responses. Thanks. -phil

Faith Survey

Salvaging Santa

This year has been a bit disappointing for Santa believers. Fewer and fewer souls seem to be taking the Santa story seriously. Anti-santaists have been enticing young minds away from the Christmas magic that has been essential in the maintenance of a healthy society. They ridicule Santa as a myth, along with all the accompanying concepts that have given us warmth and comfort for all these years. They actually suggest that the notion of a Santa rewarding only “good” children is not necessary to rearing well-behaved children. They are constantly asking for evidence of our Santa, not understanding that there would be no magic if Santa was subject to scientific scrutiny.

If we are to save our Santa culture from this insidious secularism that makes mockery of our faith, we need to acknowledge our weaknesses, and adapt to the changing cultural climate. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Place Santa out of the reach of science.
    Some point to what they consider the absurdity of a voluminous man descending a narrow chimney and other mysterious aspects of Santa. Here are a few ways to deal with this form of persecution.

    • Announce that Santa’s magic is far above human understanding. Santa, in his infinite magic, can fatten flues at will, create chimneys where there are none, and leave everything intact as if he had never descended from the roof at all. Ask the secularists how they even dare with their puny minds to question the magic of our Santa.
    • Call problematic parts of the Santa story figurative. Suggest that the notion of “descending the chimney” is a metaphor of Santa’s intent. He actually may come through a window. What matters is that the presents are there in the morning. In doing this, never submit a standard for discerning between literal and figurative elements of the Santa story. That will make it convenient for you to choose which is which as aplogetics needs arise.
    • Remind non-believers that, if the Santa story could be tested and confirmed, we couldn’t employ the faith that feeds the magic. Accuse them of not listening to the clear voice of Santa that each of us carries deep in our hearts if we only listen with open minds.
    • Affirm the magic. Point out all the cases in which reindeer dung was found on roof tops. Suggest that any father who would simply throw dung on his roof in an attempt to create the illusion of a rangiferine landing would have to be either a lunatic or liar. The only sensible inference is that Santa’s sleigh had indeed visited your house.
    • Belittle science and its tools. Point out that science is often wrong and is therefore not an appropriate method to assess the magic of Santa. Claim that statistics are a silly invention, and strongly affirm the idea that anything can be “proven” through statistics. The stronger you affirm this, the more true it will become. In this way, reports that suggest poorer (not misbehaving) children receive fewer presents can be dismissed. If secularists suggest this is not logical, claim that Santa logic is not the same as secular logic, but don’t bother explaining how.
    • Suggest that science and magic fall into two non-overlapping domains. Declare that scientific methodology cannot assess the wonderment of magic. When asked about specific claims of Santaism that seem to fall within the reach of science, offer evasive permutations of the particular doctrine to make it impotent and thus unassailable. Fudging a bit on exegesis is forgivable if the net result is an increase in believers.
    • Disparage the notion of belief based on “evidence”. This is becoming one of the most troubling issues that has already led to the apostasy of thousands. You’ll hear secularists claim that the degree of confidence in an idea should match the degree of the evidence. Where is the magic in that? Evidence only goes so far and is largely linear. How can belief be linear? Choose a side! Unless we go beyond the evidence with faith, we would be left saying “I don’t yet know” on many questions, a wholly unacceptable option.
  2. Exercise the right to arbitrarily define true Santaism.
    You’ll often hear accusations that Santanists do not behave any better than non-believers. Here you’ll want to point out the fallacy in this accusation by simply explaining that those who don’t act like Santanists are not real Santaists. This will prevent your opponent from citing anecdotes, and require him to lean on statistics that require a substantial sample that you can then simply dismiss as not representative of Santaism. If your opponent then demands positive evidence for superior behavior among Santaist, simply offer a few anecdotes as proof.
  3. Appeal to what people already know in their hearts.
    There are times when you may simply ignore the anti-santa arguments. Every person knows deep in his heart that Santa is real. Presuppositional affirmations are the way to go. This is economical in that it minimizes potential cognitive dissonance that may creep in through cracks in your counter-arguments, and eliminates the expenditure of contemplation that distracts from faith in Santa, and may even lead to doubting.
  4. Emphasize emotions.
    Fortunately, Christmas is replete with salient sensations that easily form a sense of identity, of belonging, and also address dozens of other emotional needs. We know through a feeling of certainty that emotions are a legitimate validator of what is true, so regardless of the apparent power of the secularist’s arguments, this emotional validation is what will vanquish the doubts that have destroyed the magic in so many young lives. And perhaps the greatest argument you can make is to ask weak believers if they would want to live in a world that had no magic. Ask them if they want to grow up to become merely scientists restricted by the parameters of materialism. Emphasize the rigor and critical thought required by those who have abandoned magic and have endeared themselves to rational thought. Above all, emphasize the personal relationship believers have with Santa. Have them make psychological investments by writing Santa letters for years, then remind them of this and of all other psychological investments at any point in which their faith is weak. Remind them that Santa’s apparent silence is simply a test of their faith or an indication that their requests are selfish. And always return to the assurance that emotions are a legitimate way to confirm the truth of their faith.

If we can only employ these noble tactics, Santa will not dissipate into a distant cultural memory as has the Easter Bunny. May Santa bless us all.

Strength In Numbers?

Homeopathy is a popular but worthless “alternative medicine” that involves diluting disease compounds in water to a degree that there is little chance that any of the compound molecules remain in the resulting container of water that is then marketed as cures for everything from asthma to cancer. Proponents claim that the water’s “memory” inoculates the patient from the disease.
In a recent debate over the efficacy of homeopathy “drugs”, a spokesperson for homeopathy seriously made the statement…

If [the homeopathic drugs] didn’t work beyond the placebo effect, why do people keep buying them?

Let’s have some audience participation. Here are your possible responses to this rhetorical question.

  1. Because claims of the drug’s efficacy are true.
  2. Because of the placebo effect.

In the absence of any other evidence, the only warranted answer is #2, and is amazingly even part of the question. If you chose the 1st option, you may well be among those who employ the same basic argument in other domains of inquiry. One of the most common defenses of religion I have heard is in a rhetorical question of the same form.

If there were no truth in my religion beyond a placebo effect, why do so many people believe it?

I’ll give you the same 2 basic options.

  1. Because claims of the religion’s efficacy are true.
  2. Because of the placebo effect.

If there is efficacy in either homeopathy or religion, it will not be demonstrated by someone pointing out the number of believers. In fact, if a believer employs this argument to their own particular religion which promises to provide superior wisdom to its faithful, then it has failed since the argument that the reliability of a claim increases as the number of believers increases is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad populum. To persist in this argument will require holding that the god of your religion has his own rules of logic, not a direction I’d suggest you take.

Which Side Of Reality?

I recently received a note from a very nice Christian that contained the following.

No matter who has wronged you as a Christian or how God has disappointed you that you work so hard to explain Him away, He still loves you and wants to live with you forever. So do I!

Please forgive me for offending you.

I responded as follows.

No problem, ——.

I once said the very same things to others.

As you know, many gods have been explained into existence, and the christian god takes many forms in the imaginations of its emotionally needy constituents.

Pause to think about your motivations. Would you want to live in a world where there was no god? Do you want to live in an immoral world that has no moral accountability?

Your reactions to these questions are also based on the lies that you have been taught, coupled with your imagination and a lack of interest in empirical data.

Your entire concept of self and of others is informed by the bible and your emotionally based imagination.

Continue reading

Reason is a Whore

whoreMartin Luther, the father of the Reformation said,

Reason is a whore of the devil.1

Luther then demonstrates his commitment to this claim by employing a Christian version of reason and arguing,

Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children.2

The “broad hips” of women were reasoned evidence to Luther that women should “sit still” at home. Perhaps if Luther had learned what reason was and how to properly engage her, she would not have seemed like a cheap whore. Instead, Luther’s commitment to the deceitful whore called “Faith” led him to abuse reason.

A few hundred years and the internet later, we have a Christian named Ray Comfort similarly arguing from bananas to Jehovah’s purpose in the following video.

Just think of all the things that are hand-shaped and mouth-shaped that we could, with Christian logic, argue were made to go into hands and mouths. If you treat reason like a whore, don’t complain when you discover you’ve been arguing with a diseased mind. However, treating reason with respect, and making a commitment to her alone while refusing the whore in the shadows called “Faith” will yield far more rational conclusions to inform our lives.

Continue reading

Angles Of Perception

iceWhy is the following anti-marijuana slogan doomed to fail?

Smoking marijuana will soon have you giggling hysterically about nothing with your pothead friends.

The obvious answer is that, for some perhaps inexperienced lives, no greater mode of existence can be envisioned beyond guffawing inexplicably in a smoky room with guffawing friends. For those of us who have experienced so many other wonderful modes of life that far outperform delusional giggling, this seems an obvious no-brainer; it is a waste of life. However, for those with a much smaller notion of the world due to a lack of education or experience, the warmth of a community of delusional gigglers is deeply appealing. This world soon becomes normal to them, and their reach of other modes of existence fades away the more they drag and giggle.
(Don’t bother trying to convey to me the virtues of pot smoking. I have far too many skitzotypical friends who were quite normal prior to taking up “recreational” usage.)

Now consider a second slogan.

Belief in God will soon have you making confident assertions apart from any evidence.

For those of us committed to science and reason, this is repulsive. However, to those with limited education and interaction with a larger world this concept seems quite pleasant. It is a concept in which there is not the angst of not knowing and having to admit to ignorance. It is a concept in which the immediacy of feelings reigns over the often strenuous exercise of reason. It is a concept in which you can warmly imagine that you have knowledge that was given to you directly by a divine being. These people wear the badge “faith” as proudly as a junkie wears the badge “hallucinogenics”.

So how might we adjust our message to the theists? Continue reading