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10 July 2010

Psychology: Just-World Fallacy: You Want Justice, So Pretend it Exists

Just ran into this essay.  I must say that it was interesting, and it is something that just by human nature one needs to be aware of and avoid placing thought patterns into this fallacy.  So when you see something horrible happen, or something good happen, remember this fallacy.  New Orleans didn't deserve Katrina, the Gulf didn't deserve the oil spill, Memphis didn't deserve the floods.  Although, I think Texas does deserve all those tornadoes.  J/K!

Just-World Fallacy: You Want Justice, So Pretend it Exists

The "Just World Fallacy" is fairly well known in psychology and the social sciences, but it's not so well known outside this field. That's a problem because the Just-World Fallacy is not only a fundamental premise behind American politics, economics, and religion, but is also arguably behind a lot of errors in thinking and reasoning we see all over the place. 
Put simply, the Just-World Fallacy is the assumption that the world is just: you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get. The word "deserve" is key: this isn't a neutral, objective observation of events but a moral evaluation of the character and behavior of the people involved.

It's why rape victims are blamed for having been raped -- they must have done something wrong to deserve it. It's why people who survive accidents say it was God's will -- they must have deserved to be one of the few to live. It's why the poor are at fault for being poor while the rich are to be praised for being rich -- they must all deserve their current financial situation.

08 July 2010

How Do European Christians Perceive American Christians?

Another opinion essay that I found.  This one I found particularly amusing/enlightening.  I have never been theist in my life, but I have traveled a great deal.  And in all my travels, I have found that pretty much everyone has a rather concerned opinion of the US christian right movement.  There is a reason that they are compared to the Taliban so often (NOT Al Queda, which is a different organization with different methods...).

The Taliban is an anti-modern, strictly religious political organization intent on having everyone follow their crazy mix of shaira law and Pashtun tribal codes.  The US christian movement?  Well, they seem intent on having people adhere to a view that the earth is 6000 years old, and are supposed to hate the people they hate.  At least with the Taliban, they are up front and honest in their goals and crazy.  The crazy we get from the US christians is insidious through the school boards and politics.  Particularly political activism that they could care less about those who don't adhere to their beliefs would be subject to...

So, this opinion essay was one that I found interesting:
One of the signs that American Christianity is as much defined by American political and economic ideology as it is by anything "Christian" is the degree to which American Christianity differs from Christianity in other nations. European Christians for example -- including European evangelicals -- sometimes look upon American Christianity with a mix of horror and disbelief. They just don't understand how Christianity can come to look like it does here.

06 July 2010

Facebook Friends that are Cowards

So the other day I was wasting time on Facebook, and just looking at profiles of my friends.  A lot of the profiles are interconnected with numerous mutual friends.  So I was rather surprised at one person that used to be a mutual friend, that is no longer a friend.

Now, when I go on facebook, and I see people post statuses that are clearly wrong, or just foolish, I generally let them have their delusions, and don't comment on them.  Besides, how do you argue to someone about their delusions, when they have fully bought into them?  HOWEVER, if they make deluded statements in response to one of MY status updates, they are fair game.  While I am able to show restraint and respect for your own personal status, I will not show that same restraint when you come to my status and spout your bullshit or crazy ideas.  This happened a few times to this individual, and not only let him have it with both barrels, but many of my other friends basically ripped him to logical shreds.

So I must just assume that this guy slunk off into the woodwork as a coward because he couldn't take the heat.  Which I find sad, because in general I never thought of this guy as a coward, or such a supremely insecure person.  Again, if someone wants to have their delusions, fine.  Just don't ask me or anyone else around you to buy into those delusions (a concept that theitards find incredibly hard to understand by all appearances).

So, how about you?  Has anyone just run away with their tail tucked between their legs because you refuse to buy into their childish superstitions?  Even though you show restraint and don't "correct" them unless they step in it to their knees?

04 July 2010

Why the Texas Taliban fears Mr. Jefferson.

In the spirit of passing along essays, here is one that I found on a friend's blog that he found on a friend's blog.  Why do I sound like a Pantene commercial?  Entry in its entirety:

Here is a nice essay that my friend Dave Miller had published (as a guest essayist) in the July 1st issue of "The Hook" newspaper. Hawes Spencer (or some other Hook editor) cut it down a bit (possibly to help it fit) so you might be interested in the full Monty, the unedited original article. Here it is in full. Thanks to Dave Miller for graciously permitting me to reprint it here.

Have a happy 4th of July everybody!
Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum
The impending celebration of Independence Day comes about four months after the powerful Texas Board of Education voted to undermine one of our Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms; namely, that of religion. Freedom of religion goes hand-in-hand with separation of church and state. The government is neither to establish religion nor prevent it from being practiced, according to the First Amendment. The Texas School Board’s recent acts of textbook censorship and revision of American history suggest that a Christian Taliban is on the rise.

Unfortunately, the extreme religious right is of the belief that our government is based on Christianity and should be recognized as such publicly. Often, the arguments are given that the founders were Christian men and the laws of the land are based upon the Biblical ten commandments. Although the founders in general did attend Christian churches of one kind or another, they wisely realized that the populace was religiously diverse and that no particular religion or sect should be formally recognized. Our laws and their antecedents basically agree with the ten commandments, but so have the laws of most civilizations throughout history. Non-Christian religions all teach similar rules of morality. They were all drawn from human experience down through the ages.

The thinkers who formulated the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were deists, not theists, and were inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment movement in England and Europe. Among the leaders of that movement were Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet), Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot of France, and Francis Bacon, Isaack Newton, and John Locke of England. Americans Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Alexander Hamilton accepted the tenets of Enlightenment philosophy. These men believed in a creator, but not so much in the tradition of the familiar Hebrew/Christian God. They referred to that creator with terms such as “the First Cause”, “the Creator of the Universe”, “the Divine Author of all Good”, “the Grand Architect”, “the God of Nature”, and “Divine Providence”. The Declaration of Independence uses exactly this kind of wording, speaking of “Nature’s God”, “Supreme Judge”, and “divine Providence”; all echoes of enlightenment terminology.

Orthodox Christians, if they think about it at all, usually consider deists not to be Christians because, even though deists believe in a creator of the universe, they base their beliefs on reason rather than faith, rejecting supernatural revelation. According to the deist view, once creation was accomplished, the creator essentially no longer took part in directing the course of events. By and large, deists don’t believe in the Trinity; communication with God; the miracles described in the Bible; or the divinity (via the incarnation), virgin birth, atonement, resurrection, or ascension of Jesus.

Thomas Jefferson was raised in the Anglican Church, which was the Church of England in colonial America. He spent his school-boy years at the Reverend James Maury’s academy and his college years at William and Mary, both Anglican institutions, and he attended Anglican and Episcopal churches with some regularity all his life. Yet he was proud of his authorship of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which disestablished the Anglican church as the official church of Virginia, thus removing it from its chief source of income, which was from taxes on the public. Authorship of that statute was one of the three things that he requested to be inscribed on his grave monument (none of the three were to be his political offices, even his service as President of the United States).

While in Philadelphia, he attended Joseph Priestly’s Unitarian church and probably would have done so in Virginia, if one had been available. Priestley had founded the Unitarian Society in London in 1891, three years before immigrating to America. Jefferson had entered many notes from the writings of the leaders of the Enlightenment into his copy books at William and Mary and found that he greatly admired Priestly’s similar philosophy. While Jefferson served as a member of the Board of Visitors of William and Mary, he helped to abolish its divinity school and replace its two professors with professors of science and law. Jefferson did revere Jesus, but as a great religious reformer, teacher of ethics, and as a moral example to, not as a savior of, mankind. In his later years, he produced an edited version of the New Testament, from which he redacted the “corrupted” passages, which he considered to be illogical and unreasonable, added by partisan priests promoting their new religion. The resulting “Life and Morals of Jesus” was published after his death. We often call it the “Jefferson Bible”.

Now, seemingly unaware that our Constitution is a secular, not religious, document the reactionary members of the Texas Board of Education push Creationism as an opposing view and they have downplayed Jefferson to just a few short sentences in their approved history books. To see why his ideas provoke such fear, one need only read Jefferson:

"I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
--to Benjamin Rush, 1800

"I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others."
--to Edward Dowse, 1803

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty Gods or no God."
--in Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-83

"Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art or science."
--to P. H. Wendover, 1815

"I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this [i.e., the purchase of an apparent geological or astronomical work] can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. If [this] book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its reasoning, refute it. But, for God's sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose."
--to N. G. Dufief, 1814

" .. I am myself an empyric in natural philosophy, suffering my faith to go no further than my facts. I am pleased, however, to see the efforts of hypothetical speculation, because by the collisions of different hypotheses, truth may be elicited, and science advanced in the end."
--to George P. Hopkins, 1822

"History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."
--to Baron von Humboldt, 1813

"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors."
--to William Roscoe, 1820

Regarding the University of Virginia, which he founded:

"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
--to Thomas Cooper, 1814

"… a professorship of theology should have no place in our institution."
--to John Adams, 1823