Archive for the “Metaphysics” Category

Aimless metaphysics of all sorts

Believers tend to thank “God” for all sorts of things, when in fact, it’s human beings who are responsible. One example is when, during a stressful period (e.g. a natural disaster has occurred, someone is missing or recently died, etc.) people flock to their churches to pray over it. Here’s one such event, reported by CNN:

Praying for a flood’s end as water crests

The faithful gathered for church services Sunday in towns hard-hit by flooding along the Mississippi River, and many found comfort in word that the swollen waterway had apparently started to hit its high point.

Dozens of parishioners filled the dry Centenary United Methodist Church in Louisiana, a few blocks from floodwaters that still cover about 15 percent of the town’s neighborhoods.

What’s bizarre about this is that any relief these people have received, has not come from God (who — depending upon whose doctrines you listen to — either ordained the flooding, or created the conditions which have allowed it to happen), but from emergency workers … i.e. people. Just plain folks. OK, so they did manage to work in a little gratefulness to the workers:

They prayed for aid and gave thanks for the volunteers, National Guard soldiers and prison inmates who helped the community of nearly 4,000 in recent days.

I concede that they “thanked” people. Even so, they did it in a church devoted to God. Not in a firehouse (for example) where emergency workers are actually found and who can be thanked in person. Really … what has God done for any of them? It’s nonsensical to go into a church to thank fellow human beings.

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People often ask me what harm there is in believing in psychics. They can offer comfort, it’s often said. Mediums who claim to speak to the dead, for example, can reassure the bereaved, regardless of whether or not they are actually in touch with “the Other Side,” so why worry about it? Unfortunately, faith in the power of psychics is not harmless, as at least one Canadian mother and daughter can attest:

Psychic’s vision sets off sex-abuse probe

A Barrie mother of an autistic girl is considering legal action against her local school board after a psychic’s prediction to a special educational assistant sparked a sexual abuse report to the Children’s Aid Society.

“I’m in shock,” said Colleen Leduc, 38. “They reported me to Children’s Aid because of a psychic. Can you imagine?”

It seems an educational assistant at Victoria Leduc’s school had visited a psychic. The psychic told the EA that a child she works with whose name begins with “V” was being sexually abused. School officials are citing “zero-tolerance” policies as the reason the report of abuse was submitted to CAS … but I wasn’t aware that the ambiguous ramblings of a psychic constituted a sufficient trigger. The fact is that the reason for this is not “zero-tolerance,” but the deluded credulity of an EA and school officials who actually considered this “tip” enough of a reason to call in the authorities.

Thankfully, in this case, CAS quickly dismissed the case and all is now well … but it might easily have blown up into a serious matter and caused a lot of trouble and expense. Ms Leduc is still waiting for an apology from the hypercredulous EA and school officials, and offered this amusing quip:

She can only assume that the closing of the file by CAS ends the school’s concerns, said Ms. Leduc.

“Unless they take out a Ouija board and decide to do something else. They might want to take out a Ouija board or hold a seance, I’m not sure.”

Hopefully those involved will mature to the point where they can find it in themselves to say “I’m sorry” to this family … but somehow I doubt it.

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A lot of people who know that occidental religions, with their emphasis on “faith,” can be detrimental, see eastern religions as being superior and not vulnerable to the same abuses. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Hinduism, the dharmic religion that dominates India, has a caste system, which until the middle of the 20th century was strongly observed (and still is, in most places). Indian society is made up of a number of castes, the bottom two of which, known together as the Dalit or untouchables, were once so reviled that they could be punished merely for allowing their shadow to fall on someone of a higher caste. Over the last three millennia or more of Hindu dominance over India, the dalit have been subjected to harassed, ostracized, beaten, and even killed. Given India’s high population and the long history of caste-based abuse, it’s quite likely that much more human misery has been inflicted on humanity via this, than by all the abuses of occidental religion (e.g. the Inquisitions, the Crusades, etc.) combined.

The reason for the emergence of a caste system in India — and the reason that many cling to it still, in spite of civil-rights laws which have been in place since India’s independence — is that Hinduism has reincarnation at its core. People are born into social strata, and thus assigned their lifetime’s dharma, according to their past actions or karma. This actually leads some Hindus (though certainly not all!) to believe that the Dalit actually deserve to be treated like animals (or worse than animals) … because of the fact that they were born Dalit! Had their karma been better they would not have been born so low on the social ladder. What’s more, it is actually necessary to treat them poorly, since if they are not, their dharma will not be fulfilled and they will not ascend higher in their next lifetimes.

Reforms in India meant to improve the lot of Dalit have been met with resistance by large swaths of Indian society; despite their civil rights, the Dalit are still widely harassed.

A recent honor killing brings this point home (WebCite cached article):

Five armed men burst into the small room and courtyard at dawn, just as 21-year-old, 22-week pregnant, Sunita was drying her face on a towel.They punched and kicked her stomach as she called out for her sleeping boyfriend “Jassa,” 22-year-old Jasbir Singh, witnesses said. When he woke, both were dragged into waiting cars, driven away and strangled.

Their bodies, half-stripped, were laid out on the dirt outside Sunita’s father’s house for all to see, a sign that the family’s “honor” had been restored by her cold-blooded murder.

A week later, the village of Balla, just a couple of hours drive from India’s capital New Delhi, stands united behind the act, proud, defiant almost to a man.

Among the Jat caste of the conservative northern state of Haryana, it is taboo for a man and woman of the same village to marry. Although the couple were not related, they were seen in this deeply traditional society as brother and sister.

“From society’s point of view, this is a very good thing,” said 62-year-old farmer Balwan Arya, sitting smoking a hookah in the shade of a tree in a square with other elders from the village council or panchayat. “We have removed the blot.”

If that doesn’t make your blood run cold, I don’t know what will!

Those of us in the western world should not operate under the illusion that the evils of religion and its attendant intolerance are limited only to extreme Christianity or Islam. There is brutal intolerance elsewhere, too, even in the eastern religions that so many in the western world think of as peaceful. Yes, India was the home of famously non-violent Mahatma Gandhi, but he is the exception it seems, not the rule.

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Most religious politicking in the US takes place among the Right wing. But sometimes the Left gets tangled up in religiosity and metaphysics, too. Here’s a recent example:

Code Pink Protesters Try Witchcraft at Anti-Marine Rallies

Code Pink is now resorting to witchcraft to beef up the number of its supporters protesting a controversial Marine Corps Recruiting Center in Berkeley, Calif.The women’s anti-war group has told ralliers to come equipped with spells and pointy hats Friday for “witches, crones and sirens” day, the last of the group’s weeklong homage to Mother’s Day.

“Women are coming to cast spells and do rituals and to impart wisdom to figure out how we’re going to end war,” Zanne Sam Joi of Bay Area Code Pink told FOXNews.com.

So here we have war protesters — diametrically opposed to the Religious Right™ which usually makes religious appeals in its activism — trying witchcraft in order to end the war. On top of the irrationality and immaturity which underlies protesting a war which the majority of Americans already oppose, after having found they aren’t getting anywhere and becoming desperate over it, these people react by piling on more irrationality and metaphysics.

Folks, this country is plummeting into an abyss of irrationality.

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I blogged earlier about the death of a girl at the hands of parents who knew she was sick but refused to get any medical care, hoping instead that prayer and faith would take care of her, and not really caring if she died. The good news: Today, authorities decided to charge her parents with reckless homicide.

The parents of an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl who prayed instead of seeking medical help for the diabetic child are facing homicide charges in connection with her death.

Dale and Leilani Neumann were charged with second-degree reckless homicide, Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad announced at a press conference today. If convicted, the couple could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

The Neumanns’ ignorance and obliviousness is downright sickening:

Dale Neumann, a former police officer, told The Associated Press at the time that he started to perform CPR on his daughter “as soon as the breath of life left.”

If this guy knows CPR, why didn’t he try it when it might have been useful — before the breath of his daughter’s life left? If he truly knew CPR then he knew it was too late, by that time!

In an interview with The Associated Press, the girl’s parents confirmed that they believe healing comes from God, but said that they did not want their child to die, that they are not zealots and that they do not have anything against doctors.

First, these people are definitely “zealots,” regardless of what they may claim. Second, they may not exactly have willed their daughter to die, but they certainly did absolutely nothing to prevent her death, and that’s functionally the same thing.

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Most of my comments concern religious topics, and sometimes things like quasi-religious forms of medicine; but humanity’s enslavement to metaphysics is not limited to those areas. No, people inject their irrational metaphysics into many other areas of life. Recently the New York Yankees went to great expense — and made a big deal out of — removing a Red Sox jersey from where it was embedded in concrete in the new Yankee Stadium, currently under construction.

It seems a malicious Red Sox fan, working last year at the site for just one day, managed to bury the jersey there, hoping it would “curse” the Yankees when they begin using the new ball field in 2009.

That’s right … work halted on one of the biggest public works projects underway in one of the world’s biggest cities, so that a baseball team could put to rest Yankees’ fans fears that their precious team might have been cursed.

Now, I live in and am a native of New England, so I know all about “the curse of the Bambino” (aka Babe Ruth), which was famously broken in 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. I had hoped all this asinine curse talk would have been put to rest, back then … but no.

Seems to me an awful lot of people are in desperate need of growing the hell up and getting over their metaphysical hangups. (Then again, these are the Yankees we’re talking about, whose owner and fans are not exactly famous for their maturity when it comes to their team — they fired Joe Torre, one of the best managers in the game, at the end of last season, because the Cleveland Indians beat them in the first round of the American League playoffs.)

Yes, stupidity, irrationality, and belief in unfounded metaphysics permeates humanity like a horrid contagion.

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