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July 24, 2008

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Brian,
I love this post....sad an hilarious at the same time.

But, it does bring up an interesting point about the fragile nature of intersubjective reality and naming things as a community. Just to play devil's advocate, you write "You've done a terrific service to those of us who subscribe to the Religion of Reality, by pointing out that bread is just bread"---but form another, more extreme perspective, bread is not just bread...it's formless, emptiness. To say "bread is just bread," is attempting to reify, through the attitude of "this is just obvious" the mundane perspective on bread. But bread also is a concept, not the reality.

That's really good and the funny part is that those who do this for Christianity are ignoring the commandments they worry about and value so highly of not making anything into an idol. People are funny when they aren't making a person mad anyway :)

Some of you folks might find this "funny": http://wonkette.com/401410/fat-fundie-idiots-make-boycott-mcdonalds-video#more-401410

Robert Paul Howard

"Nothing must be held sacred." How wholey immature and fatuous. How cold and narcissistic. Myopic and small.

What dreamless, affectionless life leads someone to reject veneration of anything. What weepy, chin-thrusting churl dismisses with the wondrous, flatly and out of hand.

I do not pray for this person, or cry for this person. I do not believe such a being thrives. If they are not lying, they will inevitably change their mind.

And here is precisely what is stupid about debating faith, dogma or religion. Isn't it clear that the central disfunction here is the so called, "sin against the Holy Spirit"? Myers misunderstanding about the reaction he gets from Catholics shows that such a "sin" is unforgiveable not because god is a meany, but because in Myers' ignorance, he wouldn't understand the terms of his forgiveness.

To see this another way, the monks stranded in the mountain temple will freeze to death unless one of them burns the wooden statue of the buddha. It is okay to burn the buddha, but that does not mean that nothing is sacred. And even understanding that the statue of the buddha is not the buddha, the monks still need to be forgiven for burning the statue to stay alive. They need to seek that forgiveness IN THE FULL KNOWLEDGE THAT THE STATUE IS NOT BUDDHA.

Edward,
impressive commentary...
Your stance seems to be a balancing act between understanding our (apparently) relative existence and the misconceptions that arise from such, but having compassion for them anyway...is this right?

Adam,
If I am an ignorant idiot, I would still like to be treated kindly by those who know better. Don't take my Tonka because it is not a big-boy truck.

Picture this: the pharmacy runs a test to see the efficacy of certain medicine. There is a control group that receives a placebo. In 80% of those who receive the real drug, there is a positive effect, and in 10% of those that receive the placebo, there is a positive effect.
At the end of the test, the scientists kick the 20% that received the real drug but showed no effect, because the drug worked, but they didn't believe strong enough. The proof that the effect is contingent on belief is that there was positive effect in the placebo group.
The scientists then kick the 10% that showed positive effect in the placebo group, for skewing the results of the actual medicine.

Having successful results from a placebo is the same as thinking that my life is better because I belive in God. Why would anyone kick a placebo recipient that improved? The placebo effect is arguably dangerous to the continuance of hard science, after all.

Similarly, why would anyone kick a person who did not thoroughly enjoy the benefits of modern science? If I receive no benefit where others have, do I deserve recrimination and exile? Or entire books dedicated to revealing my perfidity?

I do not recognize misconception as pitiable. And I try to have compassion anyway.

Excellent comment, Edward. I'd never looked at placebos that way before. Wonderfully creative ideas (per usual).

I agree with you that the religious placebo, in its personal guise, doesn't deserve recrimination. All of us engage in some imaginative believing to get through the day.

But when placebo'ish beliefs actively harm people -- akin to a "placebo" actually having serious side effects (the main effect being "nothing") -- then some recriminating is in order.

It's one thing to do no harm. It's another to be a Dark Ages influence on national social policy (abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, Israel policy, etc.). That's when religion becomes a clear and present danger, not an innocuous placebo.

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