Sunday, October 7, 2012


"Surrendered people obey God's word, even if it doesn't make sense"
--Pastor Rick Warren

In my youth I was very skeptical of other religious belief systems. I viewed Pentecostals through the lens of Mormonism and saw their "miracles" as fraudulent parlor tricks used to "ooo and awe" full auditoriums. Very rarely (if ever) did I confront those who I perceived as victims of charlatans, and instead carried myself in smug satisfaction and self-righteous demeanour as one with "the truth". Although, ironically, I was not self-aware enough to apply this same scrutiny to my own ridiculous and unfounded beliefs.

As I have become more familiar with the "New Atheist" movement, I have found that many other people were in the same boat as I. It is quite easy to play the part of the part-time skeptic. But this leaves room for cognitive dissonance and logical inconsistencies, which for a true skeptic would make holding any unjustified belief a near impossibility. So, as I grew as a skeptic and began applying my skepticism to my own belief system, I had no choice (in a manner of speaking) but to give up such beliefs.

In another post I referred to the case of Andrea Yates, who sacrificed her own eternal salvation so that her 5 children (all below the age of reason) would not have the opportunity to sin, thereby damning themselves to eternal hellfire. According to the implications of Christianity, this is one of the greatest sacrifices a mother can make for her children (imagine the implications this could have on abortion...), as she explains:

"It was the seventh deadly sin. My children weren't righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them, they could never be saved. They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell."

In her mind, drowning her children one by one in a bathtub was the only way to save them from "the fires of hell." According to Christian theology, Yates was successful. Yet, despite having a predominately Christian jury at her trial, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and sent to a high security mental hospital rather than being paraded as a theological hero.

I hope I am not alone in seeing the irony of the jury finding Andrea Yates insane for acting on her religious beliefs, and then themselves going to mass on Sunday to eat the literal body and blood of Christ, or speak in tongues to the beat of gospel music. Clearly the jury is applying skepticism to Yates's beliefs. But how about their own?

It is easy for mainstream Christians to dismiss the fringe belief of Christian Scientists that diseases and other physical ailments are actually spiritual in nature and do not require medical aid. In fact, the denial of medical care is a way for Christian Scientists to flex their faith muscles.

Mainstream Christians may equally dismiss Jehovah's Witnesses when they say they can't have a life-saving blood transfusion because the blood is where the soul resides and should not be shared with another person.

Would denying medical attention to a child for these reasons be on par with the murder of Andrea Yates's 5 young boys?

How are these things any different than believing pornography destroys the soul as viciously as it does families. Or that curse words have enough power scare off the Holy Ghost and thus warrant avoiding their use, lest you be tempted by the Devil?  How about burning witches and heretics. Or believing that if you die defending your faith you will be on the fast track to heaven. How about killing the infidel in the name of Allah?

Tell me, how exactly does the sacrifice of a god satisfy the proposed demands of sin?

As Richard Dawkins has said, "Half an eye is better than no eye at all"; so then is selective skepticism better than absolute gullibility. Progress is gradual and sometimes generational. Creating an entire population instilled with good skeptical practices and a refusal to just believe things on faith may take a while. But I am hopeful.

For the record, I still think Pentecostals are nuts, but I'm a lot less smug about it. As Mr. T says (repeatedly), "I pity the Fool."


Here is Micheal Shermer (Editor in Chief of "Skeptic Magazine") on "Why people believe weird things":

Also, Andrea Yates wants to get court approval to go to church while incarcerated. And some opportunistic lawyers say it will be "therapeutic"...

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