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Would You Give Your Life For a Symbol?

Posted in Friendly Atheist by Skepdude on September 12, 2008

Last night, I met up with an acquaintance of mine — A pretty hard core Christian, even compared to many of the devout religious people I know.

One of the topics that came up was PZ Myers‘ recent desecration of a communion wafer.

I’m not condoning everything PZ did, but I told my friend I thought he made a good point. That is: A communion wafer is not actually the body of Christ, regardless of your religious beliefs. It’s a symbol. And symbols only possess whatever meaning you give them.

My friend seemed to agree here. He’s a Christian after all. He thinks the wafer is a symbol, too (as opposed to the actual body of Christ).

As it turned out, my friend had a Bible with him. So I asked him a hypothetical question: How much would it bother him if I ripped a page out of his book? I mean, I would be pissed off if you ripped a page out of any book I own, but outside of that destruction of one’s property, would that torn page actually offend him?

Or, how about this: Would he ever be willing to rip a page out of his own book? Not because he wanted to mock his God or show any disrespect, but because it’s just a book and his faith was stronger that that.

His response really shocked me.

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Creationism in schools

Posted in improbable science by Skepdude on September 12, 2008

There has been something of a rumpus in the media today when the education secretary of the Royal Society, Michael Reiss, appeared to endorse the teaching of creationism on science classes,  The BBC’s report was only too typical.

“Call for creationism in science”

“Creationism should be discussed in school science lessons, rather than excluded, says the director  of education at the Royal Society.”

After lunch today the email below was sent out to Fellows

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When religion interferes with medical education

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on September 12, 2008

I’ve often written about the intersection of medicine and religion. Most commonly, I’ve lamented how the faithful advocate inappropriately injecting religion into the doctor-patient relationship in a manner that risks imposing the religion of the health care practitioner on the patient, sometimes through physicians feeling no obligation to inform patients of therapeutic options that violate their religious beliefs or pharmacists refusing to dispense medications that (they claim) violate their beliefs. Another common thread running through this blog is criticism of religion when it leads people to reject scientific medicine, be it religious communities that refuse to vaccinate, Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse blood transfusion based on a tortured interpretation of a single Old Testament passage even if it means their deaths, or parents who think that Jesus will do a better job of taking care of diabetic ketoacidosis than insulin and copious amounts of intravenous fluids. Finally, I’ve always been very skeptical of claims that religion or intercessory prayer somehow helps disease or makes people healthier, when there is no good evidence that it does.

I hadn’t considered how fundamentalist religion might affect medical education until now. Maurice Bernstein notified me of this possibility:

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Uncritical thinking kills

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on September 12, 2008

When I saw this website, I laughed. I couldn’t help it; it’s a funny idea.

That webcam site is a joke. It’s not real, it’s a satire on people who think the LHC would cause the end of the world. I laughed when I saw it.

But I’m not laughing now.

In India the other day, a young girl, distraught with fear that the world was ending when the LHC turned on, killed herself. She died, because she didn’t understand the truth.

Now that site is less funny, isn’t it? All over the world, in all different countries, people are raised to believe in superstitious nonsense, and raised to believe with all their hearts that it’s real.

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