Archive for the ‘Religion Destroys the Brain’ Category


Nigel Barber

Biopsychologist; Blogger, Psychology Today’s ‘The Human Beast’

Atheism to Defeat Religion By 2038

Countries with the best standard of living are turning atheist. That shift offers a glimpse into the world’s future.

Religious people are annoyed by claims that belief in God will go the way of horse transportation, and for much the same reason, specifically an improved standard of living.

The view that religious belief will give way to atheism is known as the secularization thesis.  The specific version that I favor (1) is known as the existential security hypothesis.  The basic idea is that as people become more affluent, they are less worried about lacking for basic necessities, or dying early from violence or disease.  In other words they are secure in their own existence.  They do not feel the need to appeal to supernatural entities to calm their fears and insecurities.

The notion that improving living conditions are associated with a decline in religion is supported by a mountain of evidence (1,2,3).

That does not prevent some serious scholars, like political scientist Eric Kaufmann (4), from making the opposite case that religious fundamentalists will outbreed the rest of us.  Yet, noisy as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity increases and standards of living improve.

Moreover, as religious fundamentalists become economically integrated, young women go to work and produce smaller families, as is currently happening for Utah’s Mormons.

The most obvious approach to estimating when the world will switch over to being majority atheist is based on economic growth.  This is logical because economic development is the key factor responsible for secularization.  In deriving this estimate, I used the nine most godless countries as my touchstone (excluding Estonia as a formerly communist country).

The countries were Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  These nine countries averaged out at the atheist transition in 2004 (5) with exactly half of the populations disbelieving in God.   Their gross domestic product (GDP) averaged $29,822 compared to $10,855 for the average country in the world.  How long will it take before the world economy has expanded sufficiently that the GDP of the average country has caught up to the average for the godless countries in 2004?
Using the average global growth rate of GDP for the past 30 years of 3.33 percent (based on International Monetary Fund data from their website), the atheist transition would occur in 2035.

Belief in God is not the only relevant measure of religion, of course.  A person might believe in God in a fairly superficial way without religion affecting his or her daily life.  One way of assessing the depth of religious commitment is to ask survey participants whether they think that religion is important in their daily lives as the Gallup Organization has done in worldwide nationally representative surveys.

If fewer than 50 percent of the population agreed that religion was important to them, then the country has effectively crossed over to a secular majority.  The godless countries by religiosity were Spain, South Korea, Canada, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany and France.  At a growth rate of 3.33 percent per year it would be 2041 before the average country in the world would be at an equivalent level of affluence as these godless nations.

If national wealth drives secularization, the global population will cross an atheist threshold where the majority see religion as unimportant by 2041.

Averaging across the two measures of atheism, the entire world population would cross the atheist threshold by about 2038 (average of 2035 for disbelief and 2041 for religiosity).  Although 2038 may seem improbably fast, this requires only a shift of approximately 1 percent per year whether in religiosity or belief in God.  Using the Human Development Index as a clock suggests an even earlier arrival for the atheist transition (1).

Is the loss of religious belief something fear?  Contrary to the claims of religious leaders, Godless countries are highly moral nations with an unusual level of social trust, economic equality, low crime and a high level of civic engagement (5).  We could do with some of that.

Sources 1. Barber, N. (2012). Why atheism will replace religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky. E-book, available at: http://www.amazon.com/Atheism-Will-Replace-Religion-ebook/dp/B00886ZSJ6/  2. Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2004). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 3. Barber, N. (2011).  A Cross-National test of the uncertainty hypothesis of religious belief Cross-Cultural Research, 45, 318-333. 4. Kaufmann, E. (2010). Shall the religious inherit the earth? London: Profile books. 5. Zuckerman, P. (2008). Society without God: What the least religious nations can tell us about contentment. New York: New York University Press.


Don’t Replace Religion; End It
Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette is the author of “Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!” and “God, No!

Religion cannot and should not be replaced by atheism. Religion needs to go away and not be replaced by anything. Atheism is not a religion. It’s the absence of religion, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Religion is not morality. Theists ask me, “If there’s no god, what would stop me from raping and killing everyone I want to.” My answer is always: “I, myself, have raped and killed everyone I want to … and the number for both is zero.” Behaving morally because of a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is not morality. Morality is not bribery or threats. Religion is bribery and threats. Humans have morality. We don’t need religion.

Atheism is the absence of religion. We don’t really need atheism. We just need to get rid of religion.

Religion is faith. Faith is belief without evidence. Belief without evidence cannot be shared. Faith is a feeling. Love is also a feeling, but love makes no universal claims. Love is pure. The lover reports on his or her feelings and needs nothing more. Faith claims knowledge of a world we share but without evidence we can share. Feeling love is beautiful. Feeling the earth is 6,000 years old is stupid.

Religion is often just tribalism: pride in a group one was born into, a group that is often believed to have “God” on its side. We don’t need to replace tribalism with anything other than love for all humanity. Let’s do that, okay?

Religion also includes fellowship, joy, compassion, service and great music, and those can be replaced by … fellowship, joy, compassion, service and great music.

Atheism is the absence of religion. We don’t really need atheism. We just need to get rid of religion.


Atheists are better for politics than believers. Here’s why

As my term as British Humanist Association president comes to an end, a few words of advice to my successor, Jim Al-Khalili

Polly Toynbee

Noma Bar 1412

Illustration by Noma Bar

‘If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so,” we implored, and many did. Over a quarter of the population registered as non-believers: more might have done were the census question unambiguous about whether it meant cultural background or personal belief. My term as president of the British Humanist Association ends this month, but gladly I hand over to Jim Al-Khalili, the distinguished professor of physics, writer, broadcaster and explainer of science. With atheism as the second largest block, he will be in a stronger position to see that unbelievers get a better hearing.

Rows over gay marriage and women bishops bewilder most people. With overwhelming popular support for both, how can abstruse theology and unpleasant prejudice cause such agitation at Westminster and in the rightwing press? Politics looks even more out of touch when obscure doctrine holds a disproportionate place in national life.

The religions still frighten politicians, because despite small numbers in the pews, synagogues and mosques, they are organised and vocal when most of the rest of society lacks community voice or influence. Labour was craven, endlessly wooing faith groups – David Blunkett wishing he could “bottle the magic” of faith schools.

With a third of state schools religious in this most secular country, Michael Gove not only swells their number but lets them discriminate as they please in admissions. As he is sending a bible to every English school, the BHA is fundraising to send out its own Young Atheist’s Handbook to school libraries. Government departments are outsourcing more services to faith groups in health, hospice, community and social care.

But of all the battles Jim Al-Khalili confronts, the most urgent is the right to die. Powerful religious forces block attempts to let the dying end their lives when they choose. Tony Nicklinson was the most public face of thousands in care homes and hospitals condemned to what he called “a living nightmare” by 26 bishops and other religious lords who say only God can dispose – the Bishop of Oxford decreed: “We are not autonomous beings.” The public supports the right to die, but many more will drag themselves off to a bleak Swiss clinic before the religions let us die in peace.

Sensing the ebbing tide of faith since the last census, the blowback against unbelievers has been remarkably violently expressed. Puzzlingly, we are routinely referred to as “aggressive atheists” as if non-belief itself were an affront. But we are with Voltaire, defending to the death people’s right to believe whatever they choose, but fighting to prevent them imposing their creeds on others.

The Abrahamic faiths, with their disgust for sex and women, still exert deep cultural influence. When David Cameron claimed “we are a Christian country”, there are certainly enough cultural relics in attitudes towards women and gays. Baroness Warsi’s letter expressing alarm that schools might teach gay marriage equality causes tremors of that sexual disgust branded into the souls of all three major monotheistic faiths. Are there many gay couples perverse enough to yearn to be married inside religions that abhor them? Humanists can offer them heartfelt celebrations.

In the Lords this week, by a whisker, section 5 of the Public Order Act was amended to remove the offence of using “insulting words or behaviour within hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harm, alarm or distress thereby”.

An extraordinary alliance of extreme religions wanting the right to preach fire and brimstone against gays joined with free thinkers wanting the right to be rude about religions. Liberty and the Christian Institute were on the same side against the government, which was defeated. Now the Commons will have to decide. Some religions argue they have a God-given right not to be caused offence, to give legal weight to fatwas against those who offend their prophets. But in the rough and tumble of free speech, no one can be protected against feeling offended. Jim Al-Khalili can expect all manner of attacks, but no protection for his sensibilities.

For instance, he might take offence at the charge that without God, unbelievers have no moral compass. Hitler and Stalin were atheists, that’s where it leads. We can ripost with religious atrocities, Godly genocides or the Inquisition, but that’s futile. Wise atheists make no moral claims, seeing good and bad randomly spread among humanity regardless of faith. Humans do have a hardwired moral sense, every child born with an instinct for justice that makes us by nature social animals, not needing revelations from ancient texts. The idea that morality can only be frightened into us artificially, by divine edict, is degrading.

The new president will confront another common insult: atheists are desiccated rationalists with nothing spiritual in their lives, poor shrivelled souls lacking transcendental joy and wonder. But in awe of the natural world of physics, he’ll have no trouble with that. Earthbound, there is enough wonder in the magical realms of human imagination, thought, dream, memory and fantasy where most people reside for much of their waking lives. There is no emotional or spiritual deficiency in rejecting creeds that stunt and infantalise the imagination.

Liberated by knowing the here and now is all there is, humanists are optimists, certain that our destiny rests in our own hands. That’s why most humanists are natural social democrats, not conservatives.


Rash of demonic possessions in Poland gives rise to ‘Exorcist Magazine’

poland - Rash of demonic possessions in Poland gives rise to 'Exorcist Magazine'

Posted by George Dvorsky

Business is good in Poland for priests who are skilled in the arts of demonic extrication. The country is in the midst of an exorcism epidemic (or boom, depending on how you feel about it.) And this has inspired Catholic priests to join forces with a publisher, and launch the world’s first monthly magazine devoted to the subject. And with a three-month waiting list for exorcisms in Warsaw, people had better start reading.

Called Egzorcysta Magazine, the monthly journal contains such page-turning titles as, “New Age – the spiritual vacuum cleaner,” and “Satan is real.” The first issue is 62 pages and costs about $3.00.

The Raw Story tells us more:

“The rise in the number or exorcists from four to more than 120 over the course of 15 years in Poland is telling,” Father Aleksander Posacki, a professor of philosophy, theology and leading demonologist and exorcist told reporters in Warsaw at the Monday launch of theEgzorcysta monthly.

Ironically, he attributed the rise in demonic possessions in what remains one of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic nations partly to the switch from atheist communism to free market capitalism in 1989.

“It’s indirectly due to changes in the system: capitalism creates more opportunities to do business in the area of occultism. Fortune telling has even been categorised as employment for taxation,” Posacki told AFP.

“If people can make money out of it, naturally it grows and its spiritual harm grows too,” he said, hastening to add authentic exorcism is absolutely free of charge.

Ah, so it’s authentic exorcism that’s free of charge. Good to know; now we can avoid all those inauthentic kinds.


Arthur Goldberg Likens his Embattled Ex-Gay Therapy Group to Weight Watchers

Submitted by Brian Tashman

Before founding the ex-gay therapy group JONAH, Arthur Goldberg was an investor convicted on felony charges and served time in prison for mail fraud and conspiracy. But the con man is being hailed as a hero by the Religious Right now that he is going up against the Southern Poverty Law Center in court, which is representing several customers of his New Jersey-based organization who are suing him for consumer fraud. Goldberg, however, will be unable to represent himself as he has been disbarred.

While speaking to American Family Association president Tim Wildmon and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins on AFA Today, Goldberg denied the SPLC’s claims that he defrauded customers by advertising that his group is able to “cure clients of being gay,” for example by instructing a group of men to “remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle” alongside a nude “counselor.”

Goldberg told Wildmon and Perkins that filing suit against an ex-gay therapy organization is like suing Weight Watchers for failing to lose weight through their program.


Jacobs Claims to have Thwarted Numerous Terrorist Attacks
Submitted by Ariella on Friday, 11/9/2012 1:15 pm

Self-proclaimed “prophets” Mike and Cindy Jacobs of Generals International continued to spew their predictions about terrorism, natural disasters and economic turmoil on their show God Knows. Jacobs—who previously alleged that she helped avert bombings—revealed that she along with other prophets were having dreams in 2011 about a looming terrorist attack, and explains that their visions were confirmed by the events in Benghazi.

Mike Jacobs contended that there were even more terrorist plots, but that they had been thwarted by “the prayer cover that has been placed over the United States by various prayer groups and individuals praying.”

Watch:


Florida Okays Execution of Schizophrenic Man in Direct Violation of Supreme Court Ruling

By Rania Khalek

  • Death Pentalty.

    (Photo: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty / Flickr)The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state can proceed with the execution of 64-year-old John Erroll Ferguson, despite its finding that he is a paranoid schizophrenic. The decision will be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

    The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state can proceed with the execution of 64-year-old John Erroll Ferguson, despite its finding that he is a paranoid schizophrenic. The Justices upheld the ruling of a lower court, which found that Ferguson’s “Prince of God” delusions, while “genuine”, are not “significantly different than beliefs other Christians may hold.” Gov. Rick Scott has since signed a new death warrant with the execution scheduled for Tuesday, October 23 at 6 p.m.

    Christopher Handman, one of Ferguson’s attorneys, tells Truthout that Florida’s method for determining competency is “overly restrictive” and “out of step” with the Constitution, as determined by the US Supreme Court. He says they will appeal to the Supreme Court for a stay and ask that they hear his case.

    Ferguson was sentenced to death for a 1977 mass murder in Miami Dade, which he committed shortly after the state released him from a mental hospital against the warnings of several state-appointed psychiatrists. During his incarceration, state appointed experts have continued to diagnose him with paranoid schizophrenia.

    The prosecution initially argued that Ferguson was faking his symptoms. But that was shot down last week by Bradford County Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge David Glant who found the testimony of Ferguson’s experts “credible and compelling” and ruled that Ferguson’s delusions are “genuine.” Nevertheless, Glant ruled that Ferguson is competent for execution because his beliefs are in keeping with Christian teachings.

    Ferguson expresses the belief, among other things, that he is the “Prince of God” chosen to fight two antichrists alongside Jesus – after which he will rule the world with multiple wives. In his mind, his incarceration is part of a “hardening” process designed by God to prepare him to return to earth after his execution and save America from a communist plot.

    Ferguson’s delusions represent a “relatively normal Christian belief, albeit a grandiose one,” concluded Glant. “There is no evidence in the record that Ferguson’s belief as to his role in the world and what may happen to him in the afterlife is so significantly different from beliefs other Christians may hold so as to consider it a sign of insanity.”

    Ferguson’s attorneys immediately appealed Glant’s decision to the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling, though they ditched the “his delusions are totally normal Christian beliefs” part.

    “This is the first time the Florida Supreme Court has had an opportunity to consider the state’s methods for determining competency since the Supreme Court decided Panetti,” Handman told Truthout, referring to a Supreme Court ruling that clarified competency standards.

    The US Supreme Court initially banned executing the mentally ill in Ford v. Wainwright (1986), specifically if the inmate lacks the “ability to comprehend the nature of the penalty.” The Court expanded on that view in Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), a case brought forward by a psychotic Texas inmate whose case closely resembles Ferguson’s.

    Panetti had schizoaffective disorder that led him to believe the state wanted him dead to stop him from preaching. Though Panetti recognized the factual rationale behind his death sentence – that he was found guilty of murdering his ex-wife’s parents – the Supreme Court held that “[a] prisoner’s awareness of the State’s rationale for an execution is not the same as a rational understanding of it.” Furthermore, the Court reasoned that executing a prisoner who “has no comprehension of why he has been singled out and stripped of his fundamental right to life” undermines the concept of retributive justice.

    Ferguson, like Panetti, thinks that the state wants him dead not because of his crime, but as part of a conspiracy. According to testimony from George W. Woods, an expert in neuropsychiatry who examined Ferguson three times in the last year, Ferguson expresses a belief that “the guards [are] soldiers and communists” who are “going to kill him because they know he is the prince of God and that he has the power and can control the sun,” and that “he has more power than Jesus.”

    Ferguson also lacks any understanding of the consequences of execution. He believes death penalty is no match for his special powers which prevent him from ever being killed and that “just like Jesus, you’ll come and look and you won’t find me there [in my grave]”.

    Despite all of this, the Florida Supreme Court held that only a factual “awareness” of his crime and the reasons for his sentence are required for Ferguson to qualify as competent. At the same time, the Court denied that Ferguson “believes himself unable to die or that he is being executed for any reason other than the murders he was convicted of in 1978.”

    “The State has taken a hardline view that Panetti didn’t change anything,” says Handman. “[Panetti] amplifies the Ford requirements and clarifies the way it’s supposed to be approached because a lot of the lower courts had applied this overly restrictive conception of what it means to be insane. Florida’s statute currently embodies that same flawed conception.”

    It’s now up to the US Supreme Court to correct that flaw, because, contends Handman, “No justice will be served by executing a very sick, elderly man.”