Sunday, April 15, 2018

Faith normalizes bad thinking

From Patheos:

by Neil Carter

Someone wrote me recently to ask: What drives you to be so adamant in sharing your atheistic beliefs? What is the driving force behind you? To influence others to be nonbelievers?

I have so much to say about this it will take me more than one post to get it all out, and this one won’t be short.

First of all, to me this question implies that, while it’s laudable for the religious to wear their beliefs on their sleeves and talk about them in public spaces, when nonbelievers openly share about their own perspectives it’s just wrong and, gosh, why would you take it upon yourself to talk about this stuff in public? What’s wrong with you?

My departure from the faith upset many people, but nothing bothered them more than my decision to start writing and speaking about it openly. That took people from sad to angry really quickly, and that’s because the only socially acceptable atheism is that which keeps its thoughts to itself. That disparity alone is reason enough for people like me to write and speak about why we left.

Imagine how many people plopped down into a pew this past Sunday, going through the motions again so as not to offend the people they love when in reality they became convinced a long time ago that this stuff made no sense. Those people have virtually no way to connect with anyone else who could relate to their frustration because their surrounding subculture shames anyone who openly discusses doubt and disbelief.

We write so those people know they are not alone.

But it’s not just for these reasons that I feel it’s useful to openly challenge the belief system in which I was raised. I’ve observed another consequence of rewarding credulity the way the church does and this has paved the way for one of the biggest national mistakes my country has ever made. Ultimately a series of mistakes, really, over decades.

Growing up in church impairs your ability to ask better questions and detect logical inconsistencies in the answers you get. On a large enough scale that has far reaching consequences for the fate of a nation, and maybe even the world. You are taught from birth to accept so many incompatible ideas that eventually it breaks your irony meter.

Do you ever wonder why Christian comedy is so very bad? It’s because most humor is based on observing irony, but growing up in the church teaches you to accept incompatible ideas as perfectly normal. It weakens your sense of contradiction, sending most jokes right over your head. Add to that a collective allergy to talk of anything below the belt and you’ve just eliminated 90 percent of all comedic material right there. But I digress.

In this post I’m going to take a handful of well-known logical fallacies and show how growing up in church teaches you to accept these as “just the way things are.” My intent is to illustrate how faith normalizes bad thinking, leaving us vulnerable to manipulation by people and institutions whose chief purposes are self-serving and often deleterious for the rest of us...

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Damaging public land in Marin

Private lands where cattle can graze abound in the Bay Area, while public lands are in short supply. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle 2017
Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez

A letter to the editor in today's SF Chronicle:

Welfare Ranching

Regarding "Cattle grazing on public lands is incompatible with wildlife" (Open Forum, April 9): Eric Molvar's comments on the ecological disaster caused by cattle ranching on public lands at Point Reyes National Seashore were spot-on. 

Several decades ago, I was employed as the wildlife biologist there, managing the elk program, including the starting of a population at Limantour. Molvar's contrast of the degraded condition of the cattle pastures with the more ecologically intact elk range reflects my observations precisely. In his short piece, Molvar was unable to list all the damaging ecological consequences of this welfare ranching, including effects on water quality and anadromous fish.

Cattle also harbor and spread to wildlife, especially elk, the disease paratuberculosis, caused by intestinal bacterium. I nearly gag thinking of the spreading and volatilizing of manure from cattle-manure ponds done every year by the ranches.

The specious argument that cattle ranching is a "historic" use and must be preserved is laughable in the face of the effort to give the weakest nods to the longest and most historic use, that of Native Americans.

These National Park Service lands would much better serve their public owners as a demonstration of ecological restoration rather than as a continuing degradation of them.

Thomas Kucera
San Rafael

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