Maybe we need to start smuggling seditious rationalist literature into America, because look at the state of our fellow citizens’ minds:
More than half of all Americans believe they have been helped by a guardian angel in the course of their lives, according to a new poll by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion. In a poll of 1700 respondents, 55% answered affirmatively to the statement, “I was protected from harm by a guardian angel.” The responses defied standard class and denominational assumptions about religious belief; the majority held up regardless of denomination, region or education — though the figure was a little lower (37%) among respondents earning more than $150,000 a year.
It’s a weird little article in the interpretation department, too. It keeps saying these numbers indicate something more than belief, and are experiential, whatever that means. It sounds like they are trying to imply that this is something more substantial than just a goofy delusion.
If you ask whether people believe in guardian angels, a lot of people will say, ‘sure.’ But this is different. It’s experiential. It means that lots of Americans are having these lived supernatural experiences.
No it doesn’t.
It means that a lot of Americans are experiencing ordinary, natural chance events and are after the fact, and with no evidence whatsoever, crediting fortunate outcomes to invisible, intangible men with wings in diaphanous robes. It means the culture is so saturated with magical thinking that millions of people are seeing the mundane as the supernatural, in a nicely self-reinforcing lunacy that makes reality a supporting prop for their hallucinations.
So, are there anti-guardian angels who make sure that people die in car crashes and kill themselves falling out of buildings?
Problem is, magical thinking is what we seem to be wired for. We make connections the best we can, and for most of the time our brains were evolving, logic and science weren’t available tools.
How do you propose reinventing the brain to leave out the god-chip?
An experience of the supernatural is just a misinterpretation of the natural.
The idea that there is an angel protecting these people is really absurd, and it actually annoys me because its so arrogant.
It presupposes that this one person is more important than another based on some divine double standard which condemns one person to die, or at least suffer, while saving the other.
It’s not only absurd, it’s counterproductive to solving problems like genetic disease and SID and AIDS.
Cuttlefish, OM says
Of course there are Angels, all over the place;
There’s nowt could be plainer than this:
Ev’ry time you feel raindrops go splash on your face,
Some Angel is taking a piss.
Where were those guardian angels a century ago when the US life expectancy was 49 years?
Could it be that they are being created in particle beam accelerators or nuclear reactors? The invention and use of esoteric physics devices is well correlated with the 3 decade increase in our life spans.
‘Experiential’ sounds more like a term we could have used years ago on alt.out-of-body.
I am shocked, shocked, that all these angels are running around discriminately seeking out humans to protect and others left to die. And how the hell do they know it is an angel and not the Tooth Fairy that is protecting them? Heck, I want Llauraa as my angel to ward off those lightning bolts that her god is throwing at me. “Hey god; watch where you are hurling those bolts at my friend Holbach.” Oh thanks a lot Llauraa, I feel really safe now.
I wonder, though, whether or not all respondents were being literal in their definitions, or if some (many?) were speaking figuratively. Not believing in magical men with wings, but rather re-naming chance, coincidence, or even simple positive outcomes as “my guardian angel.” Not that this is not fuzzy or magical thinking, but it’s a bit better than seraphim using orgone rays to cure mommy’s ovarian cancer.
Sounds like sour grapes to me. If your guardian angel is incompetent, lazy, or was manufactured on a friday, send away for another one.
They all showed up at Treblinka. Flapping their stinky, fat fucking wings.
Could you possibly get.
No, seriously. Get one. Like, being a biology professor. Or garbage man. Or politician. (no. Bad idea on that last suggestion). Cause it’s one of the most transparent cases of projection ever known to Western Man with your constant search for the Ghost of Religion Present.
This is a materialistic culture. Faith has no place. Though apparently it does for you; like a screeching homophobe who figures the louder he yells about the Evils of Gayness he then might convince others that he himself isn’t gay.
Which he secretly fears.
So, please. Get a life. Like, yesterday.
Of course there are guardian angels! How else can you explain your immunity to the evil spells being cast by witches?
I’ve noticed that among the groups of women I’ve been in it’s often almost a matter of pride to believe in angels. From what I can tell they think it says something about how sensitive, caring, and compassionate you are. You’re so sensitive, caring, and compassionate, you can’t imagine a world which isn’t just filled with similar sensitive, caring, compassionate guardian spirits. Skeptics lack those qualities.
I sometimes get the sense that belief in the supernatural isn’t really a belief about ‘what’s out there’ in reality. It’s a way to display the kind of person you are. You make yourself believe that some concrete embodiment of sweetness and light — or authority and justice — is real and true, so that you and other people can know what they can expect with you. That’s how important your values are. You reify them into persons.
I’d like to thank all those guardian angels who kept my girlfriend from not getting pregnant when we were teenagers and had no truck with protection.
Now I truly understand why it is that a billion angels can dance on the head of a pin.
James F says
Don’t forget ABBA’s impact on this.
I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can take the future even if you fail
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I’ll cross the stream – I have a dream
I have a dream, a fantasy
To help me through reality
And my destination makes it worth the while
Pushing through the darkness still another mile
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I’ll cross the stream – I have a dream
Blake Stacey says
Make a book, already! :-)
Nobody #11 wrote:
You’re conflating two different meanings of “materialism.” Belief that reality is forms and patterns of matter and energy vs. love of comfort and wealth. People today may care a great deal about living lives of comfort and wealth — but they also believe in supernatural and spiritual realities. Overwhelmingly so, as surveys like this demonstrate.
The interesting thing is when people’s religions overtly reflect their high maintenence secular values. Look at “prosperity gospel’ — God wants to help you get rich. Or, even, guardian angels. God wants you to be safe, happy, and comfortable, and prevent bad things from happening to you. He made and sent special people to watch over you, like moms do with their toddlers.
As others have pointed out, in order to believe and have confidence in the existence of guardian angels, you have to have lived a rather privileged life, with no serious traumas. You also have to be pretty darn self-centered. God (or your guardian angel) keeps you from falling down the stairs and helps you find a parking spot — but kids dying of cancer and people killed in the holocaust weren’t on His emergency radar. Or yours.
Nobody @ 11
Who or what the hell are you directing your comments to? Your guardian angel?
Björn Ulvæus, one of the composers of that Abba song, is a prominent member of the Swedish secular humanist society and doesn’t actually believe in angels.
He just makes a load of royalty money from people who do.
Probably some who don’t too, didn’t Phil Plait admit to being an Abba fan? (and John McCain too if I recall correctly!)
On rereading my last post, I seem to be implying that I think Nobody believes in guardian angels. No, the use of “you” was supposed to be generic. I don’t know if he/she does or not. Probably not, if I had to guess.
Matt Heath says
It needn’t require “reinventing the brain” to make this sort of thing less common. We are always doing things we weren’t hard-wired for (like monogamy and living in one place). Humans are pretty good at learning to be good at things they are not “naturally” good at.
A decent education in elementary statistics and critical thinking would help here.
Sastra@#13: I think you’ve nailed a big part of it. Also, I think believing in random weird stuff (as opposed to a doctrine set down – as I understand it few churches talk about personal angels) acts as a marker of being “open to ideas” (even though you’ve shut off a lot of ideas of the form “this is untrue”). It acts as non-threatening mood music.
The thing that gets me is that everyone is supposed to have one. So how do they decide who gets saved from calamity and who doesn’t? Do they duke it out, no-holds-barred cage match style, to see whose “client” gets to avoid the one-way elevator ride? (Or is it the winner whose protectee dies, so he/she gets to jump the waiting line into heaven?)
And what about those times when many or all of the people at risk make it out. Like the plane with engine trouble that lands safely, or when Gustav misses New Orleans? Did all the guardian angels work together to save everyone? If so, why don’t they do it every time?
Or are some guardian angels just that much more powerful than the others? If so, how do I ensure that I get myself one of these uber-angels?
Musing for a moment on the entertaining prospect before me here, what exactly (and I do mean exactly) *is* an angel? In much the same spirit of candid, innocent inquiry, what are souls and gods? Exactly, please.
This is my first line of response to fantasy, and any answer that begins with the word ‘the’ is disallowed as question begging.
A belief in guardian angels is the kind of primitive anthropomorphosis of chance I’d naturally expect from people who haven’t really thought about it too hard — and that’s most people. It is the algae upon which nastier forms of spirituality feed, from Buddhists to Catholics and kids who want a quarter for their tooth. It’s really not all that threatening to me.
But this article is stem-to-stern, complete and total bullshit. Check this out:
On one end of the spectrum of American religion are the analytical churches, on both the right and the left theologically and politically, which are primarily concerned with establishing Biblical principles to live by — and are suspicious of any modern-day irruption of the supernatural into religious life.
I don’t know of any so-called “analytic” churches on the right or left that don’t include praying to God for help at every freakin’ service. I don’t know what sort of mental gymnastics these people have to do to make themselves think that they’re not asking for teh Lord to make a suspicious modern-day irruption of the supernatural, but they sure as shit must do something so they can feel superior to the African-American churches and the Pentecostals from whom they differ only in degree.
Religion is impossible without belief in magic PERIOD.
K. Engels says
But “Guardian Angel” is the name I gave my armored exo-suit (complete with jump jets and rocket launchers)…
Emmet Caulfield says
Their bladders swell up ’til they almost explode,
For angels love drinking their wine.
Their sphincters release under burgeoning load,
Creating the downpour divine.
Marc Abian says
“Could you possibly get.
What, you mean that wasn’t a hilarious joke? Cos I laughed my ass off. Where does he come up with this material I asked myself. “Get a life.” Brilliant. I can’t wait to meet the boys later so I can crack out that zinger.
Unsurprisingly, both Time and PZ leave out the rest of the story on that study. It showed that people with no religious beliefs or liberal Christian beliefs are far more likely to believe in the paranormal. Ironic.
From my personal experience, my grandfather claimed to have seen or been saved by angels several times in his life. I’m an atheist and don’t believe they exist, but if you knew my grandfather, you would know he isn’t one to make things up or exaggerate. One the one hand, I’d like to explain them away as hallucinations or random firings in the neurons of his brain, but on the other, I respected the man greatly and would take his word for pretty much anything … except religion.
When I was religious, dumb, and twenty years old, I was drop-dead tired from exams and pulled out in front of someone’s car on a busy street. Suddenly the other car was gone. I thought I should have been dead. Obviously (haha) there must have been some angel watching out for me. The guy in the other car, not so much, I guess. :)
Miss Infidel says
I saw this on Real Time with Bill Maher. It wasn’t received well on his show, surprisingly. One of his panelists was very confrontational about it, very passionately defending magical thinking. It was rather disappointing.
Flamethorn @ 2
Yes, logic and science were not available at the time our brains were evolving. But that is the point, as they are now widely available, at least science is, and we should give up those formative and primitive ideas that have been long outmoded by logic as well as science. There is no god gene or chip, only the idea of that illogical idea implanted into our brains by primitve people and methods and now negated by at least truly rational people. I have completely removed any idea of imaginary gods in my thinking, and if other people persist in holding onto what has been long discredited, then it is a question of a defect in clear thinking and not what has been previously implanted.
Since I am newly arrived in Germany, jet lagged as all hell, and as torpid as a dish of pasta in cream sauce can make someone, I have a certain fellow-feeling with the dull-witted. Therefore I will make the extra effort to reassure the duller among you that I was genly poking fun at my former beliefs and do not actually believe angels exist anymore.
Monado in Toronto says
You know, I think that when a surveyor calls up someone and asks, “Do you believe in guardian angels?” they don’t want to say, “No, it’s a load of bullcrap” because the next question might be, “What, don’t you believe in God?” so they just take the easy way out and say yes. It’s like being asked by a six-year-old if you believe in Santa Claus. Are you going to assault their tender ears with the cold, hard truth? Get into a long, philosophical discussion of exactly what you believe? More likely, a lot of people will just agree so they can get off the phone and back to whatever they were doing.
Just ask yourself: Do people act as if they thought an angel was watching them? Or as if their safety depended on being “good” so they’d be miraculously rescued? No.
% of people who believe in guardian angels after a life-threatening incident: 75*
*values do not reflect beliefs of those who didn’t survive.
emvowelled #28 wrote:
Not really ironic, but expected. The dividing line between ‘the supernatural’ and ‘the paranormal’ isn’t the content, but the context. Paranormal beliefs associated with an established church are called ‘supernatural.’ Supernatural beliefs not associated with an established church are termed ‘paranormal.’ And then there are the upstart churches: their beliefs can be categorized as either.
Both the supernatural and the paranormal rest on the intuitive inner conviction that mind is separate and separable from matter, and that thoughts or values have their own presence, force, and power.
Saying that those with no mainstream ‘religious’ beliefs are more likely to believe in the paranormal is like saying that those who do not belong to Christian churches are more likely to belong to some other religion. It’s not really much of a discovery.
Secular humanists do not believe in either the supernatural, or the paranormal, because our approach to reality is scientific. The broader group of all atheists, on the other hand, will sometimes include people who believe in the paranormal. Not all atheists think scientifically. Some of them came to their atheism emotionally.
I’ve got to disagree with you, PZ: I have a few religious friends who claim they believe in supernatural things because of “subjective evidence,” to quote one of them. So in a sense, yes, these things are “experiential”; they’re absolutely having some kind of experience that’s causing them to think this. I’m too polite to say this to their faces, but the kind of “experience” I’m thinking they’re having is highly correlated with abnormal or perturbed brain states.
Just because something is an “experience” doesn’t mean it’s necessarily external; ask anyone who’s ever hallucinated from a high fever, had a drug psychosis, or gone through withdrawl. Those experiences are real as raindrops, but not external to the person experiencing them…
I knew some 7th Day Adventists. They were in Hawaii, being driven around in the mountains. They began getting very worried about the gas gauge. The car was operating on fumes. It was sputtering, nearly stalling out. One of them started to pray. The car crested the hill and the rest of the road was all down the mountain. The driver coasted the car into the gas station at the mountain’s base and filled her up. It was, by the 7th Day Adventists involved, deemed a true miracle. The driver explained in an exasperated tone about coasting down hill and the effect it has on fuel consumption. They wouldn’t hear it. God had intervened.
Flamethorn @ Holbach: (quote) Yes, logic and science were not available at the time our brains were evolving.
Not too sure about that. It’s the only way to train cats, for example. Whenever I train mine to do something new, I have to do it like this:
– Model correct behavior with cat, or catch cat doing it themselves.
– Positively reinforce with a yummy cat treat while repeating correct behavior together with cat.
– Repeat until I’m half dead and the cat is sufficiently frustrated. (Days to weeks scale depending on complexity.)
– Learning happens in what passes for a cat brain. This is a phemomenon commonly known among cat owners as “the penny dropped.” Suddenly the cat performs the correct behavior as if it was its own idea all along.
– Realize I’ve also trained myself to give cat treats on command (command in this case being exhibition of correct behavior on the cat’s part).
That’s all very silly, but there’s a point in all this. You may not see logical thinking in cat learning, but it’s there, it’s just takes a while to get it to kick off. Even better, I’ve seen my cats try to modify their behavior to suit different circumstances.
For example, my littlest cat (who is so addicted to treats she would be capable of robbing me in a dark alley and leaving me for dead if she thought I had treats in my pocket) learned to scratch the scratching post for treats when she was a kitten. Whenever we were in the room with a post, Ink would go scratch, scratch, scratch like a good girl, and she’d get a treat. We moved our computers into a room that does not have a post, and we spend a lot of time there. Frustrated, Ink figured out a way to let us know she wanted a treat RIGHT NOW… she would go up to our leg or the leg of a computer table, and pretend to scratch it like a post (no claws, and the behavior is not “kneading”).
Now to what extent that is natural cat reasoning and to what extent it is actually reasoning triggered and facilitated by a human (and thus not wholly or naturally cat behavior), I don’t know and I’m too jet lagged to give the question its deserved attention right now.
I don’t think it’s all that complicated.
TV shows like “Touched by an Angel” make people feel good. Talking about angels in church makes people feel good. Reading new age books about protective guardian spirits makes people feel good.
Therefore, people believe in angels.
speedewell @ 33
Your qualifier “actually” as regards to believing in angels does still not remove doubt as to your belief in angels. Or perhaps you were not aware of that nebulous description to the subject at hand and should have used the word “definitely”?
Holbach @ 41:
Fair enough. I have lost my belief in angels and don’t believe that anything I once took for divine or angelic interference actually had anything to do with gods or angels, since gods and angels don’t exist. better? :)
Oh, strike that ultra-stupid “actually” in post 42… I think I’ll go see if I can positively reinforce the hotel bartender into making me a proper Cosmopolitan. (By being polite and friendly, gutter minds.)
Angels?! Really? How long until it’s wizards, or goblins, or voodoo?! Can rational people break off and form their own continent somewhere?!
Jaded Skeptic says
Well of course they come to that conclusion.
Isn’t that what people always do with their beliefs? How could so many people see UFO’s, and anal probing not be true. How could so many people see Bigfoot, and that there not be a secret woodland’s society? The government does hide thing from use, so how could they not be behind Pres. Kennedy’s murder.
It all makes perfect sense…if you embrace magical thinking, conspiracies in general, etc.
Cuttlefish, OM says
Just for you, Blake Stacey @#16, I revised and extended my little verse:
Interrobang @ 37
I have to disagree with you. Those experiences are not as real as rain drops, and because I experienced them in an altered state or while dreaming does not make them any more so. If I dream that I am falling out of a building and wake up in bed, this tells me definitely that it was not real, and the end result is reality as my safety in bed can attest to. Too much emphasis is placed on people’s feelings of experience and the need to have other people sympathasize with those altered states for one reason or another.
What happened to the guardian angels of those people who had really nasty stuff happen to them? Is some altar boy’s angel loafing on the job when the molesting priest appears on the scene? What about Matthew Shepard’s or James Byrd’s guardian angels?
Seems to me there’s a huge hole in the guardian angel conjecture.
speedwell @ 42 and 44
Better, but instead of the alcohol, have a coffee, as caffeine is a better stimulant to thinking than brain deadening alcohol. My opinion and observation.
Off-topic comment: I normally hate Rep Tancredo but I’m totally behind him here and you should be too.
“Tancredo’s [proposed] bill, dubbed the “Jihad Prevention Act,” would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law. In addition, the legislation would make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.
“We need to send a clear message that the only law we recognize here in America is the U.S. Constitution and the laws passed by our democratically elected representatives,” concluded Tancredo. “If you aren’t comfortable with that concept, you aren’t welcome in the United States.”
Tony Sidaway says
I wonder if these findings hold across different cultures. I’m sort of betting that they will hold generally, with perhaps a slight dip in more secular cultures and a big peak in places like Malta which are very religious indeed.
The plural of anecdote isn’t data
Limey Bastard says
I fired my guardian angel he was such a wanker,caught him trying to blow Nicholes Cage in a LA hospital
Ron Sullivan says
Friend of mine jokes about having a Guardian Coyote, who sees to it, e.g., that when her transmission falls out of her truck it does so in front of the only transmission shop on that stretch of the Oregon coast. But it still falls out.
I’d settle for a Guardian Cuttlefish, so whatever shit-awful thing happened, I’d have some hilarious rhyme to laugh at.
The statement they were asked to say yea or nay to doesn’t get into just what they meant. It says nothing about whether or not the respondents feel these are actual beings or whatever this prof is claiming it means. The respondents might have responded similarly to the statement “I was protected from harm by the little man in my brain”. No matter how many answered “yes” to that statement it doesn’t mean that any but the delusional actually think there’s a little male human being living in their brain.
Psi Wavefunction says
“It means that lots of Americans are having these lived supernatural experiences.”
Did they mean to say ‘livid’, not ‘lived’?
Otherwise, the grammar there is a bit off…
Where was Ted Bundy’s guardian angel when he was murdering all those women? Apparently sitting idly by while the murders were happening, but then diligently making sure Ted didn’t get hit by a car on the way home. Good work.
Gilipollas Caraculo says
Perhaps the problem is that there are so very many ordinary people who want to feel special but are so ordinary they lack anything to make them special. So, if they really reach far, they can make stuff up. It’s a small step from urban legends — made-up stories that make for interesting narratives — to demonic possession, ghostly visitations, the graveyard ghoul patrol, Bigfoot, jackalopes, and the one that got away. Liars can get so caught up in their own lies that they make a habit of it, and eventually the habit becomes a character trait.
Having a guardian angel, when 6 billion other people don’t, would make one special, but it opens the door to having one’s own personal guardian demon. (Angels and demons get equal treatment, thanks to their union contract.) Being able to speak directly to Gawd, or Jebus, or Mudder Mary, or Santa Mierda, would make one feel special. Even more special would be the OG (Original Geezer) speaking back. (If you ‘hear the call’, who or what was calling, huh?)
(Disclaimer: If I ever get a guardian angel, it’s going on eBay.)
Evidence of the existence of your guardian angel: When you smell a fart and you and the dog give each other the stink eye.
Are you trying to tell me The Invisible Pink Unicorn is fake? *goes to a corner to cry*
I’m always, always suspicious of studies like this. I went to the Baylor University ISR website to look for more info on how the survey was conducted. First and foremost it’s a Templeton Foundation supported study, which makes me wary to begin with. But I’m having a hard time finding info on how the questions were presented, exactly. And secondly, the survey lists two methods of gathering information that to me, are critical. The two methods are “telephone interview” and “self-administered mail survey”. Both of those methods lead me to inevitable questions about the true “randomness” of the sample size.
Where was the list of respondents derived from, and how were respondents in the “self-administered mail survey” informed of the study? During the phone surveys, did the pollsters identify themselves with any affiliation? Was this survey conducted more than once? Was this survey conducted with the oversight of an independent observer? I don’t know these answers, and they are relevant to the statistical accuracy of the study.
I’m sorry, but I have always found it very hard to ever accept the objectivity or the statistical relevance of any study conducted on religion, on either side of the issue, because in my opinion, the very nature of the subject matter tends to skew the randomness of the sample size.
I believe that respondents who actually take the time to even respond to surveys with a religious component, rather than just ignoring or refusing to respond, will have a statistically higher slant towards religious thinking.
I think I need to do a study that backs this claim up, statistically.
Like #31, I also watched Real Time on September 19, 2008, and after Bill Maher proffered this study as a reason why Americans can’t fix problems like the current one on Wall Street, panelist Andrew Sullivan went off on everyone about how it is insulting to people of faith to make that connection. Then another panelist, Naomi Klein, put it like this, “in Finland they have national healthcare and in this country we have guardian angels.” Maybe Bill Maher should consider you for a panelist spot on a future show.
Kingasaurus @ 58
And yet this fact and others like it do not deter the demented from their insane belief. Perhaps they think the bad angels guided Bundy’s murderous and rapine rampage? I seethe with rage whenever I hear or read that name, and am sorry that he had to die so peacefully.
David Marjanović, OM says
Nobody, what’s so horrible about pointing and laughing?
The Barefoot Bum says
Of course, it’s also possible that some respondents are just interpreting the question metaphorically.
Chupacabre Is Real, Latest Survey Proves
Emmet Caulfield says
In homage to Cuttlefish…
The imbecile, it seems, is not so rare:
We see them making fools out of themselves.
For they believe in crap beyond compare,
Like gods and angels, holy books, and elves.
With ancient desert goatherds’ moral code,
They claim divine incentive keeps them straight,
To hell you go unless the line is toed,
But faith in Jesus opens heaven’s gate.
To those who don’t believe in fairy-tales,
A cosmic Jewish zombie is absurd.
That earth is young and Noah’s ark once sailed,
Is not from any evidence inferred.
If only they would keep it out of school,
We would not have to point and ridicule.
I addressed this in a comment in another post where I linked to the survey. The survey defines “credulity” and “superstition” to exclude any religious beliefs, then marvels that religious people are less likely to be “credulous” or “superstitious”, with conservative religious people (who just so happen to be the ones running Baylor) being the least so. More specifically, bigfoot is considered to an example of superstition while guardian angels are not. That’s just plain special pleading.
The reason that religious people, and especially conservative religious people, are less likely to believe in UFOs, bigfoot, etc. is not because they are less credulous, but rather that their credulity is already being occupied by the myriad of unsupported beliefs that mainstream religion allows. What time do you have to hunt for bigfoot when you can talk to your guardian angel, worry about Satanists sacrificing babies in hidden tunnels under your town, follow the news looking for signs of the End Times, study baraminology, visit a stain that looks like the Virgin Mary, call someone on your cellphone to deliver them a “cellphone anointing miracle”, pray for rain, pray for the death of liberal Supreme Court justices, exorcise demons, etc.? All those ideas listed are not included in the survey’s definition of credulity, yet only the credulous buy into them.
Onkel Bob says
This subject never fails to intrigue me. As far as I can ascertain, angels morphed from some deity messenger service into the palace guard somewhere in the 5th century. It coincides with the barbarian invasions of Roman territory. If you look at the mosaics of Ravenna, you can trace an interesting evolution of the Christ figure. He goes from being a shepherd tending the flocks in Galla Placida to being an imperial ruler in San Apollinare Nuovo. In the latter you’ll see the first instance of angels standing in as the Praetorian guard.
Which begs the question – you’re god – why do you need protection? From whom are these angels protecting god?
More than half of all Americans believe they have been helped by a guardian angel in the course of their lives
This poll did not include 3 year olds. These are shit-for-brains adults. This is more evidence for the idea that religious insanity must be eradicated. People who are not insane, also known as atheists, should point at religious assholes and laugh at them.
A majority of Americans believe an angel has protected them. This means more than half our population is severely mentally ill.
The problem is religious indoctrination of young gullible children. This intense brainwashing needs to be attacked. This child abuse is only reason religions didn’t go extinct a long time ago. The worst child abusers, the priests, the preachers, and the Sunday school teachers, need to be attacked relentlessly. They need to be treated with contempt.
Tom Wood says
I rode a motorcycle in my younger invincible days. I had several close encounters with death. Weird stuff like the bike stalling at a red light, and then a big truck running the light in the cross direction. At the time, it seemed magical.
But each of us have an unbroken chain of ancestry all the way back to the first spark of life on the planet. Three billion years of chance events produced….me. (Fifteen if we really want to get technical.) Each one would seem magical in the moment.
It’s comforting to the survival instinct to think we are protected. Sorta the same way concepts of an afterlife are comforting. It’s wishful thinking, yes. But I think those of us who want to promote reason would do better focusing our criticism on the predators of these feelings, such as organized religion and their clerics, rather than mocking the emotion that people do actually experience.
James F says
Sigmund @ 19,
So that would mean he’s not…björn-again.
About 25 years ago, I was alone, walking down an abandoned canyon road in California. I leaned out to pick a flower when my footing crumbled and I found myself sliding head-first toward a 70-foot drop. I grabbed a sagebrush at the last moment, and hung on like the old Beetle Bailey cartoons. A second or two later I heard my eyeglasses smash on the rocks below. I was safe for the moment, but there was clearly no way to scale the 3 or 4 feet back to solid ground. And I hadn’t seen anyone for hours..
Thirty seconds later, I heard a rumble from above, then a voice. A tall, blond man reached out and took my hand, bringing me to safety… I dusted myself off, thanked him, asked his name.
“Gabriel”, the skateboarder said.
My mother would have said this was a sign. I thought it was damn lucky some fool had invented the skateboard.
According to the fine folks at Baylor, if you believe that those events were caused by helpful aliens using their UFOs’ bike-stalling rayguns, then you are credulous, but if you believe they were caused by guardian angels, then you are not. The folks at Baylor (who happen to believe in angels) see no problem with this distinction.
jpf #68 wrote:
In addition to this, a recent survey (in Skeptic I think) discovered that, after additional questioning, religious people sometimes use the phrase “believe in” to mean something different than skeptics or scientists mean. I’ve seen examples of this in person.
When you ask a Born Again Christian if they believe in astrology (or tarot cards, ghosts, ESP, magic powers, or what have you), they will often say no. They don’t believe in those things at all. They’re false.
Those things are of the devil, so they stay away.
In other words, they are REAL, and work, but the devout don’t believe you should USE or approve of them. When scientists, skeptics, and atheists say they don’t believe in those things, we of course mean that they don’t actually exist, or don’t really work.
This looks like the same confusion of both language and thought religions have when it comes to belief in God, or faith in God. Belief in something’s existence is interchangeable with trust in its reliability or good character.
Tom Wood #72 wrote:
I disagree. I think this sort of sloppy, egocentric thinking is what feeds organized religions. They would not be able to attract so many people if they weren’t giving them what they want. It’s the root of the problem.
I think people naturally tend to fall into magical and superstitious habits of thought. Our brains are built that way. You have to educate and learn your way out of it, just like you have to unlearn folk physics in order to understand actual physics. Higher levels of abstract, analytical, objective thought don’t come easily to us as a species. There will always be people insisting that giving in to lazy intuitions is a sign of deep wisdom, and encouraging it.
There need to be voices on the other side insisting that this is not true. It’s not wisdom, it’s childish habit. We can respect people’s emotions and still mock the form in which they place them. In some ways, we’ve got an easy task on guardian angels. The caring, nurturing sense that fosters belief in them may also react to the harsh unfairness and selfishness lurking underneath their assumption.
Angels have a dark side. My mother said she began to rethink religion — and eventually reject it — when she read stories in the paper after a horrible fire in a Catholic school. Mothers of the survivors were headlined saying “God Saved My Child!” and she wondered “oh, what must the mothers of the dead children think when they read that?” Then she wondered what she thought.
Some people respond better to emotional appeals than rational ones. Couple them together — like we can with guardian angels — and I think we’ve got a powerful case.
“Maybe we need to start smuggling seditious rationalist literature into America”
Loosing the war, not enough evolutionary information in the US already…lol The colleges with the biggest budgets in the world and you still need more education to convince people of evolution…lol
re Sastra #76:
So kind of like “I don’t believe in death penalty”? I never considered that distinction.
That reminds me of something I saw on the 700 Club once. I saw a preview for an exposé on psychics that implied they were going to debunk them. “Oh boy,” I thought, “irony!” But their debunking turned out not to be telling how psychics play on people’s credulity to trick them, but rather claiming psychics use demonic powers to actually do what they say they can do. So, yeah, I guess Pat “doesn’t believe” in psychics.
Since the Baylor surveyors made a big deal over their ability to distinguish “nonreligious” people who believe in God and those who don’t, I wonder if in future versions of the survey (they claim it will be on-going) they’ll feel any obligation to disambiguate that distinction or if they’d rather just keep it as it is so they can call their benefactors the least credulous.
I don’t find this causative explanation to be particularly convincing. America is definitely more religious than other modern post-industrialized countries, but I’m not sure I (or anyone else) understands why.
In my own little corner of the universe, I enjoy fantasy & the supernatural in many forms: books, movies, games – all forms of entertainment. As far as I can tell, a significant exposure to the genre hasn’t impacted my view of reality.
I suspect (aka. “guess”) that belief in angels has more to do with anti-intellectualism than anything else. On a related note, I wonder if there’s a correlation between belief in angels and belief in conspiracy theories…
As I’ve said before, on similar issues:
This is nothing more than ego-motivated anthropomorphic apophenia.
“More than half of all Americans…”
They didn’t ask me, did they ask you? Did they poll anyone you know?
The correct statement should be, “More than half of the people we polled…”
And even that is questionable. Where did the poll take place? Near a church? Manhattan? Vegas? Los Angeles?
Hmmmm. Remember that “half of Americans have been abducted by aliens” survey that turned out to have had some very weirdly-phrased questions?
I suspect (or rather, hope) this survey asked loads of wacky questions and respondents felt like they ought to tick at least one “yes” rather than look like a sneery negative skeptic. Which is a shame, too, but less horrifying.
jpf #79 wrote:
I once heard Bob Price speak on this topic at a secular humanist convention. He said something like “Religious folks can’t point their skeptical finger at paranormalists, because they know where the other 4 fingers are pointing.”
OK, I know I’ll be excoriated for this, but here goes. I’m an atheist, t’is true, as well as a follower of Darwin. So maybe 1/2 (more or less) of Americans have had their lives affected by what they perceive to be guardian angels. It does no good to snipe at them, pointing out that they are stupid, poorly educated, narrow – minded,… The way to reach them is thru “gentle” reasoning. All you accomplish by calling someone an idiot is to entrench what ever beliefs they have. In fact, by NOT reasoning w/ them, you open yourself to charges of the same.
All right…have at it.
Tom Wood says
I said in #72:
Then Sastra said in #77:
Yes, that is the root of the problem. But if you confront people directly, they turn you off. But if you attack the messengers and the symbols, many people are much more interested. It’s a fight (always interesting) that they aren’t directly involved in, so they’re relatively safe. At a personal level you might make headway with the direct approach. But at a global level, you’ll do much better attacking the messengers and the symbols (like the pope and the cracker) because it takes the argument away from the personal and into the abstract.
Tom Wood says
Dang it: *At the personal one on one level you might make headway with the direct approach.*
re Costanza #85:
You could make the same argument for all the people who believe in bigfoot and UFOs, that we shouldn’t dismiss their experiences so readily, but the folks at Baylor don’t mind ungently calling those people credulous and superstitious. The guardian-angel-believers of the world want respect they aren’t willing to give others whose position isn’t any less reasonable than their own.
(Sorry I’m beating the same drum over and over, but that really is the most self-serving and transparently ridiculous part of the survey, and pretty much removes any benefit of the doubt I would have given them about their other conclusions or their motives.)
This reminds me of a little saying I heard the other day, which disgusted me. It went,
“Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it whispering, ‘grow, grow!'”
Costanza @ 85
Good freaking grief, we have been trying to use reason, gentle or otherwise, to these people who believe in irrational ideas and have not made any headway whatever. What other method must be used if reason will not prevail, namely ridicule, which is duly warranted. You are speaking as an atheist, practically condoning such condescending attitude? Just because half of Americans believe in angels does not make angels a rational fact, and to benignly condone such irrational beliefs only exposes yourself to justified ridicule from us. And to use the counter charge that we are subjected to the same evaluation is downright ludicrous. We are atheists because we abhor the irrational beliefs that are so prevalent and which logical thinking compels us to detest in those that hold those beliefs. You do not serve youself or the cause of reason to pander to such nonsense. You will get no respect from me.
Billy Daniels says
Of course there are angels.
Have you not seen “Wings of Desire”?
It’s a little frightening just how many people believe in supernatural shit like that.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers would constantly talk about Julia, but she’d never say who Julia was. So one day we asked her and she said nonchalantly that it was her guardian angel, and that Julia was in fact sitting right next to her at this very moment.
About half the class (including me) snickered, because we thought that at 45, she was a bit old for the imaginary friend thing… but she got really offended that we’d be disrespecting her “God-sent friend”.
I know she was(and is) devoutly Catholic, but where does one draw the line between accepted religious belief and mental health problem?
Billy Daniels says
But being an angel is not such a wonderful thing:
Damiel: It’s great to live by the spirit, to testify day by day for eternity, only what’s spiritual in people’s minds. But sometimes I’m fed up with my spiritual existence. Instead of forever hovering above I’d like to feel a weight grow in me to end the infinity and to tie me to earth. I’d like, at each step, each gust of wind, to be able to say “Now.” Now and now” and no longer “forever” and “for eternity.” To sit at an empty place at a card table and be greeted, even by a nod. Every time we participated, it was a pretense. Wrestling with one, allowing a hip to be put out in pretense, catching a fish in pretense, in pretense sitting at tables, drinking and eating in pretense. Having lambs roasted and wine served in the tents out there in the desert, only in pretense. No, I don’t have to beget a child or plant a tree but it would be rather nice coming home after a long day to feed the cat, like Philip Marlowe, to have a fever and blackended fingers from the newspaper, to be excited not only by the mind but, at last, by a meal, by the line of a neck by an ear. To lie! Through one’s teeth. As you’re walking, to feel your bones moving along. At last to guess, instead of always knowing. To be able to say “ah” and “oh” and “hey” instead of “yea” and “amen.”
Cassiel: Yeah, to be able, once in a while, to enthuse for evil. To draw all the demons of the earth from passers-by and to chase them out into the world. To be a savage.
Damiel: Or at last to feel how it is to take off shoes under a table and wriggle your toes barefoot, like that.
Cassiel: Stay alone! Let things happen! Keep serious! We can only be savages in as much as we keep serious. Do no more than look! Assemble, testify, preserve! Remain spirit! Keep your distance. Keep your word.
(This is where I meant to post it :) )
I just realized that some might not know what the hell I’m jabbering on about since the Time article only talks about a part of the survey, so here’s the press release from Baylor themselves where you can read their conclusions first-hand.
The gloating “traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity” section comes right after the section on guardian angels that includes the quote “Conservative Protestants are more likely than liberal Protestants, Catholics or Jews to report religious or mystical experiences”.
All their conclusions show is that you can define your way to any conclusion you want.
Richard Beldin says
What does it mean that “you believe in X”? Believing is highly overrated in my mind. It doesn’t give you any advantage logically. Believing in angels doesn’t assure that you do or do not believe in alien visitations. Stop worrying about what people believe and observe how they live!
ANGELS DO EXIST!!!!
They exist in the minds of those who believe in them.
That’s often more powerful than the real thing anyway.
Doc M says
It’s certainly linked to egocentricity. I was appalled when an American acquaintance of mine (who would define herself as a liberal Catholic, which I regard as oxymoronic) responded to news that I had got a job after a period of unemployment by saying it was because she had been praying for me. If a god that rigged things like that existed, I don’t think he/she/it would be worth worshipping, because, frankly, the issue of my employment status is trivial when people are being killed in wars/dying of starvation and disease, and in far worse states all over the world. A deity that potters around fixing minor details at the request of individuals who are, in the world scale of things, comparatively privileged, while letting all kinds of horrors happen elsewhere, would have a thoroughly warped sense of priorities. But she doesn’t see it that way. (Mind, she’s a fairly vain individual – and I suspect the angel-believers are, too.)
Costanza #85 wrote:
I suppose it depends on what you’d call “sniping” — and where you do it, and to whom. There’s a kind of gentle sniping which seeks to cajole instead of humiliate, as if the other person is on the same ground. If the believer has been surrounded by people expressing nothing but admiration and “respect” for belief in angels, it might be a good idea to confront them with some form of “c’mon, you should know better than that.”
In fact, doing so in print, and generally, might be a very good idea indeed. Too thick a glove and it’s an attack by the soft cushions and comfy chair.
I’ll agree that in general the full frontal “you’re an idiot” onslaught probably won’t work — at least, not on the idiot. I’m not so sure about bystanders, though. And that’s just a general rule of thumb. I used to think that mockery, insult, and ridicule only set people’s backs up. Now, I’m not so sure but that it may be necessary to kick start some people, jolt them from smug complacency. Especially if done with skill. Think South Park. See your cherished belief crushed, and see that it can be done.
They bristle and argue at the time, but it plants the seed of realization that SOME people see virtue in not believing — in thinking honestly and critically even about religion. They already value honesty and critical thinking in most areas of their life. You’re not starting out dealing with a completely an alien mind.
Too soft, and they turn away. Too intellectual, and they turn off. But of course, I’m just stacking the deck with the adjective “too.”
Tom Wood #86 wrote:
Again, maybe. There are some people who desperately need to believe in angels, or God, or whatever. They’ll simply get worse no matter what you do.
But a lot of people seem to believe in belief. They believe because it’s what one is supposed to do. I’m not saying your more general ‘go for the top’ approach isn’t a good idea. But I suspect you might be underestimating the intelligence of the people on the bottom. They might be able to deal with a fight they’re directly involved in, too — especially if it’s not direct and personal, but addressed to the general public.
Otherwise, I think it’s too easy for them to claim that the leaders or institutions have “corrupted” a sweet, pure, thing like religion, and just move from one place to another, never changing their general irrational stance for a more reasonable one, or wondering if maybe they should.
Falyne, FCD says
I don’t know, but that’s definitely beyond it. :-/
bybelknap, FCD says
OK, A very good friend of mine and I were having lunch one day, and she says, “Joe has to go for an MRI on his lungs. There was an accident at work and he got a lungful of demolition dust, and he’s been coughing. He finally went to the ER a week after the accident because he’s still coughing from it. They found a spot on the x-ray that they don’t like. I thank God for the accident. They might not have ever found the spot, and if it’s cancer it just might have saved his life.”
Two weeks later the MRI results come back negative. I’m happy for my friend and her husband. I didn’t have the heart to ask if she was still thanking God for putting that lung-full of dust in Joe and making him miss a week of work and scaring the crap out of everyone with the spot on the x-ray.
I know, not entirely on-topic with guardian angels, but when it’s magical thinking, what’s the difference?
Geoffrey of Ballard says
According to this account, guardian angels may have also had a role in the rebuilding of the I-35 bridge:
Julie K says
I see angels once a year. They can really kick those winged robe-wearing guys’ butts.
Now that’s just superstitious. However, did you know that the I-35 bridge collapse was caused by Mothman?
Now, I’m not so sure but that it may be necessary to kick start some people, jolt them from smug complacency. Especially if done with skill. Think South Park. See your cherished belief crushed, and see that it can be done.
South Park is a great example.
I’m a strong advocate of the “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it” approach. You can’t just say that ridicule doesn’t work; it’s how you do it.
PZ can get away with heaping helping portions of scorn because he has the wit and humor to pull it off. Another person might very well just come across as being mean spirited and impress nobody. In any case, no approach will work if there isn’t honesty.
Truthfulness, precision of thinking is our tool; we’re totally anal about it, in fact, and truthfulness resonates with everybody–whether they’re offended or not.
Whatever approach is taken, rational people must do something and soon. Superstitious nonsense and lazy thinking are making this country self destruct, and personally, I think a verbal slap in the face is an expedient way to get people’s attention.
OT, but this seems like as good a thread as any to point to what might be WorldNutDaily’s craziest article yet:
Nephilim Stargates: the Year 2012 and the Return of the Watchers
I don’t disagree that this is the result of propagating superstition, but I also think that a culture that nurtures egotism from infancy has something to do with this.
This is what happens when society promotes spirituality as a valid explanation.
Actually, angels are supposed to be sexless, so it’s incorrect to refer to them as “men”. Sorry, I’m an atheist and all, just thought to share that little nugget of knowledge with the rest.
The guardian angel theory brings up a huge problem. The same people also believe that hordes of demons roam the world doing whatever demons do.
So OK, the good things that happen are due to guardian angels. The bad things are due to demonic influences and exorcisms will help temporarily.
So where is free will? For anyone who takes this invisible friends and enemies nonsense seriously, it is out the window.
None of this has any scriptural basis anyway. Angels in the bible are rare and they are invariably messengers of god. They never show independent autonomous behavior. As an omniscient, omnipotent being, he certainly doesn’t need much in the way of flunkies.
Since fundies always lie, they just make stuff like this up and call it the True Religion. Secure in the knowledge that while it might not be in the bible, no one else they know has ever read it either.
“Angels” are kind of a sore spot with me.
Down here in the south, the amount of energy people put out trying to have the “faith of a grain of mustard seed” is exhausting to watch. One of the perks of being a Christian is that the stronger your faith, the more angels get apportioned to you. You get better parking spaces! Why, you can get angels to move mountains for you! Pray pray pray!!
And religion has taught people for so long that they have no real power–that the only real power comes from above–that when something good happens to them, they couldn’t have brought it about themselves, so it must have come from God. Throw in biblical references to angels and the rest is perfunctory.
There is so much involved in magical thinking. How many times have I heard from both Christians and New Agers that there is no such thing as a coincidence? Everything is something happening to you – for a reason. We’re just pawns getting tossed around willy-nilly by whatever cosmic forces we have chosen to embrace. It’s not just Christians who anthropomorphize the unknown and believe in the spirit world.
Fuck Angels! The only Angels I know ride Harleys. Life is a crap shoot. How wealthy your parents are and where you live may play a role, but everything else is just luck of the draw.
The co-director of the Baylor Institute for Studies in Religion seems to be the problem here. Rodney Stark used to be an eminent sociologist of religion – but then he found Jesus. He always had a hankering for the possibility of ‘something else’ as you can read in his brief wiki bio. He now calls himself an ‘independent christian’. Or a pseudo-deist-jesus-hankerer.
350 questions used in the study apparently. I would love to see the wording of these. Perhaps compare it to the study recently conducted by Sam Harris. Are there any genuine Anthropologists of Religion out there making comment on Stark’s study-enquiring minds want to know?
Of course there are Angels, see here:
Self-referential magical thinking was probably favored in our ancestors by natural selection.
Assume that every time the leaves rustle behind you it is a sabretooth cat about to pounce on you, and 999 times out of a 1000, you waste a little energy spinning around reaching for your spear. 1 time out of 1000, you save your ass.
Assume that every time the leaves rustle behind it is just a random eddy of wind that has nothing to do with you, and 999 times out of a 1000, you go about your business and nothing happens. 1 time out of 1000, and you’re cat food.
Julian, #106, wrote:
Exactly. Religious belief of any kind is just another way that people can convince themselves they are ‘special’, in their gods’ eyes if no-one else’s. Which I guess is kind of good for those with low self-esteem, but when it allows people to accept a nonsensical concept like a guardian angel it’s gone too far.
In the immortal words of Tyler Durden: You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.
Susan Silberstein says
Last Thursday (the First Day), someone told me about her son having been a passenger in a car accident. His only injury was a black eye and she said that an angel must have been looking after him. I thought to myself, but did not ask her, why didn’t the angel prevent the accident from happening?
This has been one of the most interesting threads in a while, and I thank Sastra and jpf for their insights and research. Raven touched on a topic I’ve wondered about – how do the Christians justify their belief in personal angels (and demons), in the apparent absence of Biblical support? I had thought it was just some Catholic silliness, magnified by Hollywood (like our standard weddings), but this report shows that the mainstream Protestants and even Fundies are thinking about their angels, too.
On the one hand, Calvinists don’t believe in free will, leaving an opening for these critters. On the other hand, they are supposed to focus solely on the omnipotent, omniscient zombie.
Morgan- LynnGriggsLamberth [skeptic griggsy] says
Yes, Holbach,[good nickname].
The superstitious use pareidolia like seeing Yeshua in a tortilla to explain their own mental states. So much for religious experience!
They have to use that pareidolia as to overcome their angst as they have the argument from angst that one has to rest in the bosom of Nay, we don’t need a future state,divine love and purpose; our Sally Field lives,human love and our own purposes suffice! Therapy, medicine and more sociability helped me, not the replaceable placebo of religion.
Another use of pareidolia is their seeing a caring, super mind behind Existence as the designer whem all we see are patterns, not designs. And the atelic argument that the weight of evidence shows no cosmic teleology- gee, no designer God.
Morgan- Lamberth says
in the bosom of Yahweh. Nay,
One of the perks of being a Christian is that the stronger your faith, the more angels get apportioned to you. You get better parking spaces!
Don’t be silly. The Parking Ghods provide the parking spaces. Except at Angels’ games
Ugh…. This article embarrasses me a little. I was a very serious Catholic until I was 17. I was completely certain I had a guardian angel. Not in a metaphoric way, a real incorporeal god messenger. My grandmother told me when I was a little girl that if I prayed to my angel long enough, my angel would eventually tell me its name. My grandmother’s angel’s name was Priscilla. No joke. I was so disappointed when, even though I talked to it every day, it never talked to me…. Embarrassing
Darth Wader says
Why are people so afraid to live in a world that is random? I would prefer a random world to one ruled by cruel omnipotent being. Chance is fun. When I wake up and face the world I may stumble into million dollars or I might be struck by a meteor. The chance of the astonishing makes life amazing.
Less flippantly: IMX, the people who see angels and thank God for saving them from random occurrences are the same ones who see conspiracies everywhere. They’re afraid, they’re not able to admit that no one can predict the future, they’re terrified of their essential powerlessness against natural disasters and events beyond their control. If “God moves in mysterious ways”, then there is meaning to the everything that happens [like child molesters and torturers and bridges falling down], just meaning not perceivable by mere humans. If there had to be a second shooter on the grassy knoll, then they don’t have to worry that a single individual can take out the president of the country; it has to be a whole big group o’commies devoting their evil brains to planning the attack. If the gummint has already met – and defeated – those scary aliens, we won’t be invaded by the Martians [who will, of course, be slimy green things with tentacles who will want your daughters!] And Elvis is still alive. And JFK. So there have to be guardian angels. TO KEEP US SAFE!
Tangent: Isn’t Corpus Christi an odd name for a city? Can one speak of “the fleshpots of Corpus Christi” or “the slums of Corpus Christi” without sending Donahue into incoherent blathering in his newsletter?
Oh great! I find this out after spending hours rummaging through research papers, number crunching field data, constructing nice informative, eye-pleasing graphs and then blathering on for 6 pages about photon irradiance (PAR), CO2 exchange, compensation points, stomatal conductance, C3/C4/CAM metabolism, transpiration, photoinhibition and the Xanthophyll cycle!!
This remembers me of an incident I read about in the newspaper shortly after I came to New Zealand.
On a school trip of some religious school, seven students and their teacher drowned in a canyon after heavy rain. One of the surviving students was sure that he was saved because he prayed to god to survive. This really made me angry. So obviously the seven other students didn’t pray enough?
Sven DiMilo says
Have I mentioned Jerry Garcia’s space helemt recently?
ctenotrish, FCD says
Huh – it is late, and I am tired, so I used the power of ctl F to search for “bias” (no hits) and “confirmation” (no hits) within the comments to this post. Why? This bit about Baylor (hellooooo!) finding such results when angels are involved brings to mind “confirmation bias” as blogged by Orac, quite some time ago.
Precisely *whom* (or should it be *who*? – my grammar is shaky past my bedtime, and sometimes before) did the polsters at Baylor ask their questions? That alone changes everything.
Not that the concept isn’t just plain silly. And scary for rational thinkers everywhere.
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At #49 JoJo wrote:
What happened to the guardian angels of those people who had really nasty stuff happen to them?
Their boss, AKA god, gave them some time off. As in every case in which bad things happen to good people, it’s all part of God’s Mysterious Plan©.
Sphere Coupler says
“Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it whispering, ‘grow, grow!”
OH GREAT I thought I seen somthing behind the lawnmower, now I know …It was angel dust.
Bad things happening should not cast doubt on the existence of guardian angels. It’s just that their air traffic control system uses programs written in COBOL, which makes them easily hackable by the devil’s minions (fine word that, minions).
Thought I’d clear this up for y’all.
I’d really like to see the exact wording used in the surveys (both telephone and “write-in”). What do they mean by guardian angel? The make-believe kind, or the real kind?
Before anyone gets undies in a knot, the real guardian angels are those people who stop to help when you have a flat tire, or the person who notices that you’re lost and helps you find where you need to be, that co-worker who heard that you’ve been really sick and offers to take your kids on an outing for the day, the neighbor who mows your share of the yard between your houses just because, the fabulously wealthy person who donates a wing to a hospital or establishes a scholarship, or the powerful businessperson who mentors a young minority who might otherwise be overlooked in a company.
This is what pisses me off about this make-believe woo hooey. It debases the good that we mere mortals are capable of.
Peter Ashby says
Cuttlefish the Angels have to piss on account of having been hanging around above whisky distilleries imbibing the evaporations from the sleeping casks. It’s why the West Coast of Scotland is so wet, fewer distilleries over here in the East.
If I have a personal angel it must be a real soak, since I like running in the rain…
Bjørn Østman says
I never understood why the concept of angels in Christianity doesn’t totally destroy any claim that it is a monotheistic religion (and never understood why such is superior). They clearly have divine powers, enough to qualify them as demi-gods, at least, in many other religions. Same goes for Islam, with their djinnis, and whatnot. And the saints in Catholicism. As far as I know, though, the FSM is really the only god in Pastafarianism, no?
P.S. The Norwegian princess, Märtha Louise, believes in angels. From Wikipedia: “She claims she can communicate with animals and angels and has started her own alternative medical school named Astarte Education, after one of the oldest goddesses in the Middle East”
@135 It’s all about names. The same way ID is totally not about religion (unlike creationism, you know..), the same way angels and saints are no demi-gods and the same way three gods in one make it monotheistic.
The brain is something wonderful that usually responds to input of more good information by working better and quicker and more intelligently.
But like computers, Garbage In > Garbage Out.
And certain sectors of communities seem very good at providing mostly garbage for their members.
[blockquote] Loosing the war [/blockquote]
Say, crazy Christian person, you wouldn’t happen to have been home schooled, huh?
Wire brush and Detol will soon clear that up.
As a response to that ‘finding jesus’ thing somewhere above, this old joke comes to mind:
(Yes, it is old!)
A drunk comes upon a baptismal service one Sunday afternoon down by the river. He stumbles down into the water and stands next to the Minister.
The Minister turns, notices the drunk and says, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?”
The drunk answers, “Yesh sirr, I am.”
The Minister dunks the fellow and pulls him right back up. “Did you find Jesus?”
“No, I didn’t!” says the drunk.
The Minister then dunks him quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, “Now brother, have you found Jesus?”
“No, I did not!” says the drunk again.
Exasperated, the Minister holds the man under for nearly a minute, brings him up and cries, “For the grace of God, have you found Jesus yet?!”
The drunk gulps water, wipes his eyes, and looks at the preacher, “You sure this is where he fell in?”
What particularly stinks with Märtha Louise is that she is using her royal status to promote her fraudulent angel business. Business is booming because many want to see her, and use the angel crap as a pretext.
But being married to that fuckfart of a husband, I guess she needs something to keep her occupied.
#135: The FSM is merely too new and young a deity to have yet had time to fool around with pretty mortal women and spawn his pantheon. But give him time. We will soon see the birth of the Floating Linguine Oddity, and, her less powerful younger brother, the Merely Hovering Ravioli Anomaly.
Aquaria #133: “Donates a wing to a hospital.”
Hear, hear! That is a much better use of a wing than holding aloft an imaginary hexapodal, asexual entity which nevertheless is supposedly a vertebrate.
All the while not expecting/demanding you BUY into their religious beliefs as payment!
I’ll second amphiox, well said!
All the while not expecting/demanding you BUY into their religious beliefs as payment!
I’ll second amphiox, well said!
Joseph Santini says
The sad truth is these quacks are safe from the academic profession because they utilize the same tools – experiental rather than experimental proofs. People come to campuses and say “I did” or “I am” and expect these two statements to justify the attention they’re given.
That being said, what exactly is a “guardian angel?” By all accounts they seem to not care whether the person they rescue is good or bad or has a connection to Christianity, so there is nothing in the literature to prevent this random-event connection noticed by Dr. Myers. Their purpose in the stories is simply to randomly rescue people from despair. It is possible they are a myth. If so, they would be a grasped-at explanation for an unexplainable occurrence. And what is this unexplainable occurrence? Even Dr. Myers’ statement indicates it: they are trying to explain the human ability to beat the odds, like Stephen Jay Gould did, for longer than anyone expected.
Which brings us back, as always, to blaming mathematicians: not only do figures lie and liars figure, but liars have lied about figures so often that in America mathematics is now incomprehensible (particularly statistics) unless one ignores all printed evidence, and thus deserving of its own myth.
So now we get a bunch of people on the telly talking about glowing lights and a feeling of grace every time they successfully get a triple bypass and have a hamburger removed. And all this could have been prevented if someone had taught Americans math properly.
Daniel R says
Guardian angels exist, even for dogs: see “Tim in Tibet” p. 19.
a lurker says
I have a close friend who “sees” angels. Quite a few people do.
I know one thing. If I have a guardian angel protecting me from paper cuts and relatively small chance of being in a fatal car accident, I release him for duty where he is far more needed. I am sure a few American soldiers could use few bullets deflected or IUDs defused. Many the people in Darfur could use a supernatural scaring away of bands of murders and rapists. To protect me while living safety that only a tiny fraction of the people who lived on this planet have ever known while there is such utter need elsewhere is asinine IMHO. And heck, it would not cost the guardian angel any money nor could he be harmed by doing as I request — something very different from flesh and blood guardian.
/Maybe I should have used “it” instead of “he” as angels are supposed to be nonbiological and thus gender in them really makes no sense.
a lurker says
Weird mistake in my #148. Why is it the are always caught after hitting post?
#123: Why are people so afraid to live in a world that is random? I would prefer a random world to one ruled by cruel omnipotent being. Chance is fun.
Because when chance isn’t fun, it really isn’t fun. It really isn’t fun that my very dear friend is undergoing chemo right now and that I have to come to terms with the real possibility of genetic chance bringing a painful and permanent loss into my life and the lives of her young children. There are days when I fleetingly envy people who can say “Well, it’s all part of God’s plan and if God calls her home, she’ll be in a better place, free from pain and death for all eternity.” If you can convince yourself of the Big Lie, it’s psychologically easier to trust in the ultimate benevolence of sky daddy (never mind that half the sacred text generally portrays him as a vicious, self-absorbed sociopath — he’s only like that to the bad people anyway).
So I understand the impulse, even though as an atheist it utterly bewilders me that so many people can actually manage such extreme degrees of self-deception as to believe they are being helped by Angels without becoming wholly detached from reality. The ability of the human brain to manage cognitive dissonance is pretty impressive in that regard.
C. Sullivan says
I hope to be blessed with a Guardian Angle – a hulking Germanic warrior, imported from the 5th century A.D. or so, with the specific duty of driving off obnoxious religious proselytisers and other people likely to raise my hackles. I would settle for a Guardian Saxon or Jute, however.
And Amphiox #143, your comment reminded me – if anyone reading this thread does happen to spot a guardian angel, *please* try to capture it for euthanasia and eventual dissection. The hexapodal anatomy, superimposed on a basic hominid body plan, is surely deserving of a monograph.
Billy Daniels says
My life was saved by a guardian angel!
C. Sullivan #151:
Yes indeed. I would also point out to everyone’s attention on the reported descriptions of demons/devils, gargoyles, and dragons. There may be a whole phylum of hexapodal vertebrate analogs out there, waiting for some biologist to make himself/herself famous for describing them.
Then, of course, we have the problem of the nephilim. It seems that some of those guardian angels may be, ahem, defiling the young ladies they are supposed to be watching over…
Nick Gotts says
I recall an SF short story in which elves/fairies turned out to be descended from insects – they still had a vestigal third pair of limbs, in addition to arms, legs and of course wings. Since God, if he exists, undoubtedly evolved beetles in his own image (since he made so many), it surely makes sense that heaven’s bureaucrats would be of insectoid descent.
Sorry for not having read the thread. Just a bit tight for time today (canning the massive harvest and the kitchen is awash in peppers, tomatoes, etc.) But this is just like the idiocy that emerges when they interview the hurricane/twister survivor who says “we prayed to god and our prayers were answered and our lives were spared”. The problem is that none of the dead people who also prayed are ever available to comment. Funny that.
Get and watch a movie called “Touching the Void”. There’s a story of a realist.
Religion is such pathetic crap.
Every time an atheist posts on Pharyngula an angel dies!
Nick Gotts #155: Now that intrigues. I recall there was a time when photographs of fairies were all the craze, and I note that those photos show critters distinctly humanoid in persuasion. Now if it could be demonstrated that a humanoid form evolved from both the arthropod and chordate lineages, that would be some hell of a bit of convergent evolution. Simon Morris ought to be looking into this. . . .
Ah, I was wondering whether I should be worrying about all the people wandering around with non-defused IUDs inside them. Not that the initials IED are familiar to me as a relevant acronym*, but they seem unlikely to mean something worse than the original …
* PS: Google + Wikipedia belatedly to the rescue.
I don’t know if it’s related, but I recently ran across a theistic blog about a Baylor U paper on replacing religion with other superstitions.
Wow, talk about incentive to post!
John Knight says
Secular humanists do not believe in either the supernatural, or the paranormal, because our approach to reality is scientific.
John Knight says
Secular humanists do not believe in either the supernatural, or the paranormal, because our approach to reality is scientific.
People seek meaning. Desperately. In both the good, and the bad. It’s comforting to think that everything happens for a reason. I find comfort in know that it ain’t necessarily so. It saves me the trouble of having to obsess about wanting to kick the ass of whatever controlling being is in charge of coming up with the “reasons” for why bad things happen to good people. But that’s just me.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
intangible men with wings in diaphanous robes.
I should hope *my* guardian angel doesn’t bother with a silly robe!
John Knight says
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You try typing with your toes…
But you said it was “only a flesh wound.”
Robert Byers says
I am a evangelical Christian Canadian (or conservative protestant whatever that means).
i just tonight talked to my friend Penny (a hot Christian chick) about angels affecting human life. She recounts case after case where she is sure a guardian angel saved her from physical injury of some kind. Very real and obvious. i said it was God because I’m unclear about angels impact on us. However she quotes bible verses and I’m educated that angels are doing Gods work to some extent. not just rare cases.
T o not believe in the esistence of angels is to not believe in Christ birth celebration and therefore Christ. Of coarse people see angels as affecting their lives in some way.
They have probably affected all the posters here without noticing it.
God loves everybody.
//They have probably affected all the posters here without noticing it.
God loves everybody.//
I want what he’s having please.
He certainly loves those altar boys, a bit too much it seems
No, I don’t.
It might be E. His many spelling (and logic etc) errors don’t seem to involve a lack of ‘e’s.
What is all this “believe” garbage? As a scientist I find how the term is bandied around repulsive. I have permanent varicose veins in my forehead from every time someone claims to “believe” or “not believe” in evolution. By the same token I have failed to comprehend how atheism is anything but a null belief. You cannot prove something doesn’t exist, that’s a basic tenet of science. You can only “believe” in such things.
A scientist makes observations, and this one has observed some truly bizarre things in his lifetime that defy secular analysis. But I’m not about to say I “believe” in what they are, that’s not a the job of a scientist. They just ARE. Is that so hard for people to accept?
Scientists like to think they have all the answers. They don’t. Scientists are smashing bricks together with the new Hadron collider, with an incomplete understanding of the laws of physics, yet they “believe” nothing can go wrong. I’m sure Marie and Pierre Curie “believed” the toys they were playing with were safe, too.
“I knew some 7th Day Adventists. They were in Hawaii, being driven around in the mountains. They began getting very worried about the gas gauge. The car was operating on fumes. It was sputtering, nearly stalling out. One of them started to pray. The car crested the hill and the rest of the road was all down the mountain. The driver coasted the car into the gas station at the mountain’s base and filled her up. It was, by the 7th Day Adventists involved, deemed a true miracle. The driver explained in an exasperated tone about coasting down hill and the effect it has on fuel consumption. They wouldn’t hear it. God had intervened.”
The great thing about these stories is that in this case if the car actually HAD run out of fuel and stopped, this would NOT have been evidence that God does not exist. Only positive evidence of your particular belief is credible evidence. Everything else can be explained away….