Exorcism: what’s the harm?

Oh, no harm, no harm at all.

A 13-year-old girl suffocated after she was strapped down and doused with water by her father and a monk who were trying to expel an “evil spirit”, according to Japanese police and media reports.
[…]
“They allegedly strapped the victim to a chair with belts and doused her face with water,” he said.

She was confirmed dead early the next day when her mother called an ambulance after the girl fell unconscious.

“The cause of death is suffocation,” the police official said.

News reports said the two men poured water over her as an “exorcism” with the father holding the girl down while the monk chanted sutras.

Reports said the girl’s parents had turned to the monk after the youngster had suffered several years of mental and physical ill health that doctors had not been able to resolve.

It doesn’t matter what religion you adhere to. The belief that sick people aren’t sick but are actually possessed by demons, evil spirits, et cetera, is empirically harmful. So why aren’t these religious services stopped before they happen? Surely they’re not happening in a vacuum — surely someone must discuss with someone else what the techniques used to purge the victim of evil spirits will be. Why did nobody suggest to this monk that this act is far more likely to purge this little girl of her, you know, LIFE?

How strawman arguments and shitty authors undermine #atheism

I haven’t read anything by Anthony DeStefano aside from his anti-atheist screeds on various news journals like USA Today, but I have no doubt merely by looking through the title list that he is a man of deep conviction in that which he cannot see. He’s written a book for children called Little Star, all about how the baby Jesus is very tiny but is our Lord. He’s written a book for grown-up children about how awesome a place Heaven is. And he’s written a book about all those things you can’t see but that the Bible assures you are really really real. And since you know other people believe it, they must really really REALLY be real.

So today we have a Serious Author writing a Serious Article in a Serious Journal about how atheists are superstitious “Materialists” who are simply incapable of comprehending that the parts of this natural world that we haven’t figured out yet are actually impossible to decipher, because God wants it that way.

Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that atheists believe in nothing. They do believe in something — the philosophical theory known as Materialism, which states that the only thing that exists is matter; that all substances and all phenomena in the universe are purely physical.

What nonsense.

We’re off to a running start.
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Formspring – “Just what do atheists believe in?”

I jumped on the Formspring.me bandwagon and set myself up an account where people can ask me questions anonymously. It’s in the left sidebar, as well. I’ll be syndicating some interesting ones here as well as on my Twitter / Facebook accounts.

The first serious question I got was a pretty broad one, so it got a bit of a big answer. I’ll put it below the fold.

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Perspective

Once again I find myself lacking for time. So, as my placeholder for today so I don’t miss a day on my daily-posting-streak, here’s a little snippet of perspective.

The theist’s idea of what atheism is:
atheism-by-a-theist

The atheist’s self-definition:
atheism-by-an-atheist

So which one do you figure atheism actually entails, especially considering all the atheists that either know nothing about, or outright deny, science in favor of ridiculous alien invasion fairy tales or other forms of metaphysical woo. Take, for instance, Buddhism, which is a wholly atheistic worldview — there are no deities, only humans on the path to enlightenment, with Buddha himself being the first to achieve it. (Note: I’m not a Buddhist, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just mentioning it as being an atheistic religion.) Or take for instance the Pirahã tribe of the Amazon — the “Show Me” tribe of some fame for having deconverted a Christian missionary. They do not assimilate technology or other cultures, and they have no interest in history whatsoever, restricting their concept of what’s important knowledge of the world to what has happened in living memory. Wholly atheistic, wholly without scientific understanding.

Penn says:

And I agree wholeheartedly. Always have, in fact. You will consistently, if you pore through my old writings, find that I espouse exactly this. The atheist/theist schism is one of belief — “do you believe in a god”. The gnostic/agnostic schism is “can the existence of a god be positively known”.

No, I don’t believe in any gods. No, I don’t believe the existence or non-existence of a god can be positively known. And I think that just as much as I’m afraid of anyone who says “there is definitely no god,” anyone who thinks that the existence of a particular god can be known, and that they positively know of the existence of a god and therefore believe in it, is fucking dangerous to a much, much higher degree.

Especially those people who go on to dehumanize atheists, or claim that agnosticism means ignorance. Stay away from me and my loved ones, you scary fucks. The fact that you think you have some kind of knowledge of a deity that might or might not want you to kill me (or so you believe), means you might override your otherwise decent human nature to do your god’s supposed bidding.

And if you don’t consider that horrifying, you just haven’t thought about it long enough.