Posts Tagged “belief”

Veracicat has checked your facts and is not impressed with your lies. (PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com: http://www.quitor.com/cat-with-glasses.html)As I blogged a little while ago, we now live in a post-truth world. Facts no longer matter, and no one gives a flying fuck about veracity. Worse than merely dismissing the need for reliance on fact, many people now openly express contempt for veracity. Wild speculation and antic sanctimony are what rules them, and anything contrary is viewed as an existential threat to their persons.

This view of veracity not being merely unimportant, but antithetical to one’s own existence, can lead to some very real dangers. I have two examples of this extreme for your consideration.

The first is “pizzagate,” the utterly absurd Right-wing political trope that got so far out of control that a man showed up at a Washington pizzeria and fired a gun there, supposedly in an effort to “investigate” the controversy. The Washington Post has a story on how this asinine foolishness started, how it escalated to gunplay, and — worst of all — how it will never go away — in spite of the fact that there’s not one stitch of evidence to support any of its contentions (WebCite cached article).

The whole “pizzagate” ridiculousness is only a month old … but my other example today has been brewing for years, and doesn’t appear to be letting up. That involves the so-called “Sandy Hook hoax.” The “hoax” here, of course, is that the Sandy Hook shootings are — sadly — not a “hoax” at all. The “hoax” comes from those who keep calling it a “hoax.” This is something we’ve dealt with, here in my home state of Connecticut, since those shootings occurred 4 years ago. USA Today reports on just the latest example of the dangers that keep spinning out of the “Sandy Hook truther” movement (cached):

A Florida woman who believes the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting was a hoax was arrested Monday on charges she threatened the parent of a child killed in the 2012 school shooting.

Lucy Richards, 57, of Tampa, Fla., was indicted on four counts of transmitting threats, according to a statement from the United States Attorney Southern District of Florida.…

According to authorities, Richards made a series of death threats against the parent of a child who was killed in the shooting.

Death threats aren’t new to survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting, unfortunately. Truthers have gone after them repeatedly, and no doubt will continue to do so … forever.

Lies such as “pizzagate” and the Sandy hook “truther” movement have power, because those who hold onto them resist correction. No amount of debunking will work. If you ask them, this is because (as they see it) the mass media are debunking it, and the media are not to be trusted. The media lie, you see. All the time. Every time! Without letup. And they can even point to things that — they think — support that view, such as the fact that no chemical weapons were found after the US invaded Iraq on the pretense that chemical weapons were there. (This very example was mentioned in the WaPo article I cited above.)

So in their minds, they’re free to cling desperately, and sanctimoniously, to any laughable, counter-factual trope they want to.

There are many problems with this view. First, just because the media have sometimes been wrong, doesn’t make them “always-wrong.” It just doesn’t work that way. Second, the example of Iraq and chemical weapons is a false one, since it wasn’t the mass media themselves who claimed chemical weapons were there; it was the G.W. Bush administration, and the media simply reported that claim. (And contrary to popular belief, many outlets were skeptical … but without any ability to dig around freely in Iraq themselves, the media’s ability to verify this was limited.) Third, the notion that the mass media are arrayed “against” the folk who cling to their lies is a known psychological phenomenon, the hostile media effect. It is this, coupled with another psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect, which prevents people from giving up the lies they love.

But really, I’m no longer interested in anyone’s excuses for clinging to lies. I really don’t fucking care that distrust of the Clintons and their minions is what ultimately led to “pizzagate.” I mean, I don’t trust them myself … but that doesn’t mean I’m going to buy into that phony trope. I also don’t fucking care that it’s mainly gun fanatics who’re convinced Sandy Hook was a hoax, and they’re concerned someone might take their firearms away. None of that matters to me. All I care about are facts and veracity. I will continue to care about them for as long as I live. If that makes me some kind of hateful, intellectual, elitist ogre, then I guess that’s what I am.

Photo credit: PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com.

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The Word: Truthiness (The Colbert Report, 10/17/2005) / Comedy Central, via GiphyJust a few days ago, the Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” its “Word of the Year” for 2016 (WebCite cached article):

After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

Events during 2016 apparently brought the notion of “post-truth” to light in an unprecedented way:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

The news media have reported on this declaration as a kind of revelation: “Post-truth” as a word has existed for some time, but the concept itself is one the media apparently only just now realized exists.

On the other hand, I’ve always known about it. I’ve only said for many years — here, in this very blog, in fact — that people generally are much less concerned with veracity than with whatever they can find which validates their feelings. In fact, “post-truth” is related to “truthiness,” made famous by Stephen Colbert back in 2005. And even then, the concept wasn’t new to me … or to a lot of other folks. “Post-truth” and “truthiness” explains why a lot of people buy into a lot of asinine, absurd, laughable bullshit and take it seriously. Because “it feels right” to them — and that’s all that fucking matters! Veracity? Who cares about that!?

Pretty much every religion on the planet can be explained as manifestations of “post-truth” attitudes. It also explains beliefs in the paranormal and assorted insane woo like hauntings, auras, chakras, Satanic ritual abuse, extraterrestrial abductions, Creationism, homeopathy, trickle-down economics, qi, and many other tropes too numerous for me to list here. They’re all rank bullshit, but they all have legions of loyal followers who will swear to their graves that they’re real — even though there’s not a fucking stitch of bona fide evidence supporting a single damned one of them!

What’s even worse than just the irrational belief in “truthy” bullshit, is the sanctimoniousness which often accompanies it. Skeptics and debunkers who insolently dare tell these folk their bullshit is bullshit, are condemned as hateful pricks who simply aren’t “open-minded” enough to “understand” or “experience” the (unfounded) “truth.” Who are these skeptics to run around telling people they’re wrong!? How dare they question people’s sincerity? Why, they’re trying to destroy people … or something.

Yes, it’s an exceedingly childish mindset. Nevertheless, a lot of people — most of them grown adults — love to engage in it, anyway.

In sum … anyone who wasn’t aware of “post-truth” prior to the election of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump, simply hasn’t been paying attention to how people think (or, worse, emote).

Call me unimpressed with media outlets reporting on the Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement as though they’re discovering something for the first time. They ought to have known all about “post-truth” long ago … even if the word itself wasn’t often used. It’s a very real human foible, one that people need to work to repair, rather than indulge. Yeah, people won’t like it … but too fucking bad. When they’re wrong, they should be told so, and it shouldn’t matter that they’re too immature to be corrected.

Photo credit: Comedy Central, via Giphy.

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Residents came out to show thier [sic] supports [sic] for Bridgeport Police Officers with a community march in solidarity in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday Sept. 24, 2016. Dozens of residents joined members of the department and local clergy and officials at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Park Avenue and then proceeded to march to police headquarters nearby.  / Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut MediaIn the world of sanctimonious Christianist nutjobbery, atheists are only just a shade better than Lucifer himself. They’re to blame for almost everything that ever goes wrong, and even Christian-world villains like Muslims and pagans earn more respect from Christianists. An example of this sort of thinking, as reported by the Connecticut Post, came from the chief of police in Bridgeport, CT (WebCite cached article):

Teens joining gangs? Shooting incidents on the rise?

The city’s top law enforcement officer thinks irreligiosity is a major factor in the problems facing the city.

“We need God in our lives,” Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said Saturday to a group of around 50 people following a police solidarity march.

Perez, who is Catholic, addressed a group of mostly church members between the police department and City Hall.

“The problems that we’re having is because people have abandoned church, people have abandoned God, and that cannot happen,” he said.…

Perez, in his remarks, advocated a lot more praying.

“Let’s bring God back in our lives, back in our church — bring our kids — in our city, in our schools — absolutely,” Perez told the crowd.

When asked to clarify his remarks, Perez said that he didn’t advocate a specific religious belief, though he stood by his statement about religion in schools.

Gee, it was nice of the Chief not to demand that everyone in Bridgeport convert to a particular sect of a particular religion; it’s OK by him, I guess, if that city’s citizens join a religion of their choice. But, he does appear to think everyone must belong to one religion or another. Non-belief isn’t an option, in his book.

He wouldn’t be alone in that regard. There’s a significant wing of American Christianism that genuinely thinks there’s no such thing as freedom from religion; that it’s possible — and legal! — to force every American to have to be a religious believer … of some sort. (Yes, they do. For real.)

Chief Perez doesn’t seem to realize that, although non-belief has been rising over the last several years, crime rates haven’t matched that curve. Despite his whining about atheism growing, the majority of Americans are religious believers (cached). And the proportion of folks in prison who’re atheists is actually lower than that of the general population (cached) … meaning that atheists are less likely than believers to have been convicted of crimes.

Crime and non-belief are not linked lock-step in the way he asserts. To be generous, the Chief is blowing smoke; to be more blunt, he’s lying through his teeth.

It’s long past time for religious believers to grow the fuck up for once and get over the fact that atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) exist. They need to stop getting their panties in bunches over the insolence of those of us who refuse to believe in their absurd metaphysics. They erroneously think they’re personally harmed by the presence of non-belief in their communities; that’s just fucking absurd. They object to atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) for only one reason: They’re insecure in their beliefs, and knowing there are people who don’t believe as they do, only serves to heighten those insecurities. Since they’re not mature enough to handle those insecurities, they lash out against them, like infants. “Waaah! Mommy, the bad people are <sniff> atheists! Wah waah! <sniff> Mommy, make the bad atheists go away! <sniff>” What a damned joke.

Photo credit: Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media, via Connecticut Post.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Imagine No ReligionIn news that’s sure to ignite the rage and fury of religionists throughout the country, a Harris poll shows that religious belief is declining in the U.S. (WebCite cached article):

A new Harris Poll finds that while a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults do believe in God, this belief is in decline when compared to previous years as just over four in five (82%) expressed a belief in God in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Also, while majorities also believe in miracles (72%, down from 79% in 2005), heaven (68%, down from 75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (68%, down from 72%), the resurrection of Jesus Christ (65%, down from 70%), the survival of the soul after death (64%, down from 69%), the devil, hell (both at 58%, down from 62%) and the Virgin birth (57%, down from 60%), these are all down from previous Harris Polls.

Belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution, however, while well below levels recorded for belief in God, miracles and heaven, is up in comparison to 2005 findings (47%, up from 42%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

I can hear Christianists’ bellicose, sanctimonious whining now: People are worshipping Darwin instead of our Gawd! they’ll shriek. I know I’ll be chuckling when I see/hear it!

The news isn’t entirely good, however. An awful lot of Americans cling to a wide range of other nutty metaphysical and/or irrational notions:

The survey also finds that 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% each believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24% believe in reincarnation — that they were once another person.

42% believing in ghosts? That’s almost half the country believing in something that doesn’t exist!

I note that the Harris Poll story refers to “belief in UFOs” … but what they really mean is “belief in extraterrestrial visitors to earth,” because no one questions that “UFOs” (i.e. “unidentified flying objects”) exist. People do occasionally see flying things they can’t readily identify. What they don’t see, are extraterrestrial craft breezing through the atmosphere.

I note that Harris admits these results were drawn solely from online respondents. As such, they may well reflect the beliefs of Internet-connected Americans; but it can’t be safely assumed they reflect the beliefs of the entire population. So everyone — myself included! — must take this report with more than a grain of salt.

Photo credit: JasonTomm, via Flickr.

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White House press secretary Dana PerinoFor a very long time, the Religious Right has contended (incorrectly, of course) that there’s no such thing as “separation of church and state” in the U.S. While they are correct when they say that phrase is not found in the Constitution or any of its amendments, they’re wrong when they claim it’s not even implied. No less an authority on the matter than the author of the First Amendment, James Madison, himself once explained this in writing:

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.

So this contention is factually incorrect.

Put more bluntly, they are lying about the Constitution.

Even so, despite being as obviously wrong as they are, they aren’t holding back. In fact, they’re going even a bit further. Texas governor Rick Perry, for example, recently stated openly that there is no such thing as “freedom from religion.” In other words, it is perfectly legal, as far as he’s concerned, for government to force a non-believer to adopt a religion.

In that same vein, a Rightist pundit — who’d been G.W. Bush’s last press secretary — used her virtual podium on Fox News to declare that atheists ought to leave the country, as the Raw Story reports, and her colleague Bob Beckel agreed (WebCite cached article):

Fox News host Dana Perino this week suggested that atheists should leave the country instead of trying to maintain the separation of church and state.

In a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Court, atheist lawyer David Niose argued that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the state’s constitution.

“I’m tired of them,” Perino complained on Wedneday [sic].…

“If these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here,” she added.

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” co-host Bob Beckel agreed.

Here’s video of this pleasant little exchange, courtesy of the Raw Story:

I’m old enough to recall all the “love it or leave it” talk that was common back in the 1970s. It was hurled most often at Vietnam war protesters. The implication is that Americans are required either to support whatever the US does — whether right or wrong — or shut up and leave the country. It’s been 40 years or so since then, and I’d thought people had gotten over that sort of thinking. I guess they haven’t?

The bottom line is, we have two Rightist pundits averring that non-believers should be forced either to swear the Pledge of Allegiance, including the “under God” phrase, or else be thrown out of the country. I can’t think of many better examples of religiofascism than this. Can you?

Hat tip: mepper, via Reddit.

Photo credit: fredthompson, via Flickr.

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Picard Facepalm: Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesnt workIn a country which is overwhelmingly religious, it’s not unreasonable to assume any given American is a believer. But that doesn’t mean everyone is a believer, so making this assumption all the time inevitably will cause one to stumble into an awkward moment. Precisely this happened to Wolf Blitzer of CNN, as CNN’s own Belief blog reports, when he interviewed a tornado survivor in Oklahoma (WebCite cached article):

Behind her were ruins, a tangled mess where structures once stood. Cradled in her arms, the mother’s 19-month-old son played with a snatched microphone, unfazed by the chaos swirling around him. And in front of Rebecca Vitsmun stood CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who — after asking her about the decision that saved her and her son’s lives — had one more question:

“I guess you got to thank the Lord, right?” he asked.…

“I, I, I,” the 30-year-old stay-at-home mom stammered before adding, “I’m actually an atheist.”

She laughed, Blitzer laughed, and the moment passed seamlessly on live TV. Except it also became a clip heard across the Internet and social media — one that pointed to a reality about faith in America that exists even where, and when, people might least expect it.

CNN provides video of this exchange:

I note that Ms Vitsmun had worked fairly hard to avoid having to address the matter initially, but Mr Blitzer kept trying to elicit a religious response from her, so finally she had no choice but to just admit she was an atheist. But even then, she only meekly — almost apologetically — admitted being an atheist.

The best thing for Blitzer to have done, of course, was not to have tried to get her to talk about religion or God in the first place and not to have pronounced her “blessed” before he’d even said anything else to her. If she’d chosen to bring up God or religion, that would have been fine. But for him to assume that she’d want to, and then to repeatedly try to get her talk about them … well, that was pretty stupid of him to do.

This Belief blog article itself also engaged in an invalid assumption: It pontificated about the growing influence of “the Nones,” as though atheism and “the Nones” are one and the same. But they aren’t. By the admission of the folks at ARIS, who originated this term, “only a small minority are atheists.” (And in turn, the folks at ARIS are themselves the originators of a misnomer: While they call “the Nones” a “no-religion population,” the truth is that most of “the Nones” are theists. That makes them decidedly “religious,” even if they don’t belong to a specific religious organization, sect, denomination, whatever.)

On the subject of thanking God for getting through disasters like this … can religionists please stop doing this already? People survived this tornado … and any number of other natural catastrophes … for any of a vast host of other reasons. A lot of those reasons depended on them; God, assuming he exists, had nothing to do with it. Let’s give people, not God, credit for their own resourcefulness and accomplishments. Taking the credit away from them, and handing it over to God, is quite simply wrong. It needs to fucking stop already.

Photo credit: Science After Sunclipse.

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YHWHOnce again, in the wake of a horrific crime, believers around the country are asking the question, “Where was God when this was going on?” That they’d be doing so — yet again — is not really unusual or strange. It’s an old trope within the Abrahamic religious tradition. CNN is asking it (cached), and so is Hartford FAVS (cached) … among many others. I blogged on this very issue after the Aurora, CO massacre.

Part of my remarks back in July were:

The question, “Where God was during the Aurora massacre?” is a direct consequence of “the problem of evil” which lies at the philosophical heart of the Abrahamic faiths.

Elsewhere I’ve devoted an entire Web page to this particular dilemma. To keep it brief, the problem lies in the fact that the Abrahamic faiths believe in a creator deity which is simultaneously omnipotent (i.e. having the power to do anything s/he/it wants), omniscient (i.e. knowing everything that can be known: past, present, and future alike), and benevolent (i.e. wanting there to be no suffering on the part of anyone). In spite of this supposed combination of traits, though, we know that this deity’s creation contains suffering … a lot of it. Over the centuries many theodicies have been proposed to explain how this presumed creator deity can have all three of these traits yet still there is a lot of suffering.

Check out that blog entry, for the rest.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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