The downside of meditation

Sri Lanka, the country that I grew up in, is made up of about 90% of Buddhists and Hindus, religious traditions that have meditation as a part of their tradition and yet, growing up there, I did not know anyone who was a real devotee of the practice. I do recall dropping in with a friend out of curiosity to a place that was supposed to be a meditation center and listened to the leader of the program tell us of the need to ‘open our third eye’, which my friend and I found pretty funny, conjuring up as it did the sudden appearance of an eye in the middle of our foreheads like Cyclops, and tried to suppress our laughter. We never returned.
[Read more…]

Are Christian nationalists killing Christianity in the US?

A recent Gallup poll shows that the number of people who belong to a church, mosque or synagogue is dropping rapidly and that this may be due to a reaction to aggressive Christian nationalist politics. (Thanks to reader Jeff for then link.)

Just 47% of the US population are members of a church, mosque or synagogue, according to a survey by Gallup, down from 70% two decades ago – in part a result of millennials turning away from religion but also, experts say, a reaction to the swirling mix of rightwing politics and Christianity pursued by the Republican party.

The evidence comes as Republicans in some states have pursued extreme “Christian nationalist” policies, attempting to force their version of Christianity on an increasingly uninterested public.
[Read more…]

Christian evangelism and the QAnon cult

An interesting fact about the QAnon phenomenon is that even though the mysterious Q has not been heard of in over four months, suggesting that following Trump’s defeat they are trying to wash their hands of this whole thing, the cult keeps going on, though there has definitely been some attrition as some people’s hopes were dashed when Biden’s inauguration went ahead without Trump swooping in and arresting everybody.

Another interesting thing is that the cult members are not easy to pigeonhole and are all over the place, except for one common factor.
[Read more…]

Great moments in sermonizing

A baptist preacher is on leave and in ‘professional counseling’ after a video surfaced of his Sunday sermon in which he told women that they had better always look hot in order to prevent their husbands from being attracted to other women.

He tells churchgoers that it is “really important” for men to have a beautiful woman on their arm, asking the crowd: “Why is it so many times that women, after they get married, let themselves go?”

“Now look, I’m not saying every woman can be the epic trophy wife of all time like Melania Trump, I’m not saying that at all,” he says, as an image of the former First Lady appears on screen behind him.

“Most women can’t be trophy wives, but you know… maybe you’re a participation trophy.

Pastor Clark then criticises women for wearing casual clothes like jogger bottoms and pyjamas, before turning to “weight control” and referring to one woman as “a sumo wrestler”.

“Don’t ever forget this, God made them to look and you want them to look at you – not some hottie out there or someone on a computer screen,” he is seen telling parishioners.

Here’s a clip.

I’m not sure his ‘participation trophy’ metaphor works. Don’t you get a participation trophy just for showing up, irrespective of how well you look or perform?

Using gods to support bigotry

People who are homophobic and transphobic do not hesitate to say that their stance is what their god wants, as if they have a hotline to their deity who keeps them informed. Republican congressperson Greg Staube said on the floor of the House of Representatives that his god opposes transgender rights. Congressperson Al Green, who is Black and gay, had no hesitation about putting such people in their place during the debate on provide protections against discrimination to the LGBTQ community by pointing out how people had invoked their god in support of slavery and other abominations.

Snake handling as a sign of faith

In general, the things that Jesus is reported to have said are fairly benign. (I do not want to get into the question of whether Jesus actually existed or said these things, which is something over which there is heated debate). But there is one thing that is highly problematic and that is found in the verses Mark 16:17-18 where, after his resurrection, he told his disciples the following:

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

[Read more…]

The Skepticamp talks are now online

The Monterey Skepticamp conference on January 2, 2021 where I gave a talk was enjoyable and informative, covering quite a range of topics. All the talks have been posted online. The full program is can be seen here.

The full video for the day’s program is 7 hours 27 minutes long. I give below the starting times for each talk which we were asked to limit to 20 minutes to allow for 10 minutes of Q/A . After the opening welcome remarks by organizer Susan Gerbic and a small quiz by Arlen Grossman, the rest of the talks were as follows:

35 minutes: András Gábor Pintér – Building Bridges – Why we need to organize to bring skepticism forward

1 hour 14 minutes: Janyce Boynton – Facilitated Communication – I Thought That Died in the 1990s!

1 hour 56 minutes: Stuart Vyse – Do Superstitions Work?

2 hours 27minutes: Kelly Burke – Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia

2 hours 54 minutes: Monica Ashly – Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia

4 hours 12 minutes: Richard Saunders (host of Skeptic Zone) –  So you want to do a Skeptical Podcast?

4 hours 53 minutes: Adrienne Hill – Tourette Syndrome: Stereotypes and CAM treatments

5 hours 29 minutes: Kyle Polich – Data Skeptic: “I don’t know anyone who has COVID-19”

5 hours 59 minutes: Mano Singham – The Copernican Myths

6 hours 30 minutes: Rob Palmer – Belief in Psychics: What’s the Harm and Who’s to Blame?

God is punking Pat Robertson again

Pat says he has received word from his god that the Holy Spirit is going to do something dramatic before January 6th to change the results of the election so as to keep Trump as president.

This is the latest in a long, long list of predictions that never come true. I wonder how long it will take for Pat to cotton on the fact that his god is a prankster who likes making him look like a fool by feeding him nonsensical predictions.

Or perhaps the question should be how long it will be before Robertson’s viewers cotton on the fact that he is just stringing them along so that they will send him money.

My talk on the Copernican myths

I will be giving a short talk on the myths surrounding the Copernican revolution from 3:45pm-4:15pm (Pacific Time in the US) on Saturday, January 2, 2021. The talk is part of the annual one-day Skepticamp conference held in Monterey, though this year it will be virtual on Zoom and free and open to anyone. To see the full program and the link to join, go here.

There are a lot of false beliefs surrounding the response to Copernicus’s ideas about the universe being heliocentric rather than geocentric, one of the most prominent being that his ideas were strongly opposed by the church because they demoted the Earth and human beings from the privileged position of being at the center of the universe.

My talk on the myths surrounding Copernicus

There are a lot of false beliefs surrounding the response to Copernicus’s ideas about the universe being heliocentric rather than geocentric, one of the most prominent being that his ideas were strongly opposed because they demoted the Earth and human beings from the privileged position of being at the center of the universe.

I have written on this topic before, including in my book The Great Paradox of Science, and will be giving a short talk on this from 3:45pm-4:15pm (Pacific Time in the US) on Saturday, January 2, 2021.

The talk is part of the annual one-day Skepticamp conference held in Monterey, though this year it will be virtual on Zoom and free and open to anyone. To see the full program and the link to join, go here.