Reason Freely

British Advertising Standards Authority calls Homeopathy a Science

Posted in Uncategorized by reasonfreely on February 2, 2011

According to this article (in The Register, which I don’t recognize – anyone?), the UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled that people with doctoral degrees in Essential Oils, Homeopathy, etc. are “scientists.”

Is this for real?

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Crisis Pregnancy Centers Defend the Right to Lie

Posted in Uncategorized by reasonfreely on January 19, 2011

Not much time today. Here’s a 6 month old story: Montgomery County, Maryland passed a law saying if you wanted to offer pregnancy counseling without a licensed doctor on staff, you had to say you didn’t, and post a sign saying that the state suggests you see a real doctor.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers are basically anti-abortion organizations pretending to be confidential medical clinics. They are not regulated by HIPAA and are not staffed by licensed medical care providers. They give pregnancy tests and then try to shame and scare women out of getting an abortion, in some cases even before the test results come in. Women walk in thinking they’re seeing a real doctor, and in fact they’re just seeing preachy evangelicals in lab coats and latex gloves.

That’s the point of having licensing for medicine in the first place, right?

Well a Crisis Pregnancy Center sued them, saying it infringed on their right to free speech. No, my conservative friends, you have no right to make women think you’re a medical clinic when you really aren’t.

Check out these links:

Medical News:

A Post Editorial letter in defense of CPCs:

Local MD blogger:

NARAL MD investigation:

The Maryland lawsuit:


Posted in discussion seed, news by reasonfreely on January 11, 2011

I was reading an article in the Post about the Arizona shootings today, referring to the classic The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder when I saw a comment from an Angry Atheist:

Do you believers ever stop to wonder if your god is simply incompetent?

You people forgive your god a lot more than it ever forgives you, and for much bigger things too. How do you compare a lustful thought against a quarter million people lost to a tsunami, against a little girl killed by a nut?


What caught my eye was that the article discusses the mystery of evil — why do bad things happen to good people? — and the commenter was off topic.  It caught my eye at first because I’m annoyed by off-topic comments since they ignore the points raised in the article and make their own.  I believe if you want to make a totally tangential point, make it in your own blog.

So here I go.

First, let’s ignore the first sentence.  It’s acerbic and insulting; and it has nothing to do with the interesting part.

Now, look at the second paragraph:  It’s two sentences long and tangential to the On Faith article.   First it reminds us that some evil is committed by man (little girl killed by a nut) and some is committed by nature (tsunami).  Those that believe that the acts of others are guided by God have to accept both; but the majority of Theists I know attribute only natural occurrences to God (however, He seems content to sit idly by, watching 9-year-olds get shot by sick nutjobs without so much as a clear omen of warning or providential jam in the gun).

Instead of exploring the metaphysics of the question of evil (as I have, here; as Thornton Wilder does in his novel; and as Julia Duin does for On Faith) he throws it back in our face:  “You people forgive your god a lot more than it ever forgives you, and for much bigger things too. How do you compare a lustful thought against…”  He’s not saying “God can only be at most two of the three:  just, knowing, or powerful” as many philosophers have reasoned, dryly and ad nauseum.   He’s just pointing out the obvious — that to give up resenting God for natural disasters or failure to save the innocent (by arguments like “He works in mysterious ways”; “He is testing us”; or “we cannot hope to understand his plans for us”) is to forgive.  And, the commenter points out, Theists seem to do quite a lot more forgiving of Him than they expect from Him.

What does that mean?

What do you think?

Insightful comment?  Internet trolling?  Both?

Wakefield MMR Study is Fraud

Posted in news by reasonfreely on January 7, 2011

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) retracted the Wakefield study and called it a fraud.  Finally!

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study — and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.”


The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

Anderson Cooper 360

Robert Putnam on Religion in America

Posted in Uncategorized by reasonfreely on December 23, 2010

Listen to this interview

Robert Putnam co-wrote a new book on religion in America called American Grace.  In the interview linked above, he talks a lot about the Nones.

Good news all over the place.  For instance, over 80% of Americans believe that there is truth in most religions, per a survey question that also gave the option to respond that their religion was the only one that’s right.

Is this some form of Pascal’s Wager (what if I dis the wrong religion) or is it something deeper — growing reason?  The belief that what you were told is right and what others were told is wrong is a deep acceptance of an argument from authority.  The belief that everyone is basically right about most things, despite the fact that most religious dogma disagrees, is thinking for yourself.

Thoughts?  Feel free to listen to the interview and comment on Kojo’s site instead.  Just link me to your comment so I can read your insights 🙂


(And…  Yes, I know it’s been a while since my last post.)


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The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

Posted in review by reasonfreely on October 26, 2010

A co-worker of mine read Sharlett’s The Family and suggested I read it myself.  He and I are very different:  He’s extremely faithful, but suspicious of religious institutions.  I’m suspicious of claims of the supernatural, but optimistic about the charity works of religious institutions.  We probably come together on this sort of issue.  We also agree on politics.

The Family chronicles the history of American fundamentalism, both popular and elite.  He focuses on the branching of elite fundamentalism, though, and its implications for American politics.  The thesis of the book is that there is an elite fundamentalism that is largely independent of political party that reveres power through the belief in the concept of Key Men — God puts key men into positions of power.  This philosophy tautologically justifies a powerful man’s actions and helps him feel like he not only deserves his power, God wills it.  The Key Man idea requires sister concepts such as submission to authority — those beneath the Key Man must submit to God’s Will through him, and he must submit to Jesus.  If a man deposes another man for power, it was because God willed it; if he fails, it is because it was not God’s Will.  Power, power power.  Let me quote a passage:


“Absence?” I said, realizing that what he meant by the absence of doubt was the absence of self-awareness…

…God was just what Bengt desired him to be, even as Bengt was, in the face of God, “nothing.”  Not for aesthetics alone, I realized, did Bengt and the Family reject the label Christian…  His commands phrased as questions, His will as palpable as ones own desires.  And what the Family desired, from Abraham Vereide to Doug Coe to Bengt, was power, worldly power…


Power is revered by prayer cells at the highest levels, arranged by The Family, the group that runs the National Prayer Breakfast among so many other things.  They use prayer cells as ways to organize access to power, to enforce consensus on political aims, and to spread the Idea.  What political ideas does the Family push?  Concepts that help their Key Men in positions of power, of course:  Free-trade and electoral obfuscation (e.g. the Citizens United case); but also politics of authority:  Pro-life, anti-gay-marriage, etc.

Sharlett returns to this theme over and over.  Contemporary American fundamentalism does not care for the nuances of scripture, so arguments from scripture are pointless.  That leaves only arguments from authority and appeals to emotion — the tools that are used to drive elite and popular fundamentalism, respectively.

One problem I found with The Family is that Sharlett doesn’t offer a good alternative.  He spends one or two pages discussing “deliverance” (by seeking, questioning, reflecting) as an idea that can defeat the big idea of “salvation” (through submission and banishing reflection); but he doesn’t create a clear path to a nationwide elite or popular ideology of deliverance — secular or sacred.

It made me want to go back to writing a book on how Jesus was a communist.

If it worked…

Posted in Uncategorized by reasonfreely on October 20, 2010

Neat Infographic

Posted in Uncategorized by reasonfreely on October 15, 2010

Atheists know what they’re talking about

Posted in news by reasonfreely on September 29, 2010

…but “nones” don’t.  This is according to a new Pew study on religious knowledge.

The exercise of reason requires unbiased, factual information; so it’s no surprise that atheists are the most knowledgable.  Those who care to reject religion in favor of rational secular ethics have typically studied it before they made that decision.  So, as the LA Times points out,

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” he said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”

What interests me is that the “nones” have some of the lowest religious knowledge, lower than white mainline protestants, even.  Given what the LA times said about atheists, this implies that the “nones” are people who don’t think a lot about religion and don’t care about it.  And that’s OK, too; while it’s always better to think hard about your ethics, if you’re going to make a decision without engaging in a lot of reason and analysis, it’s better to disbelieve passively than to believe passively.

Other sources:  Times, NPR

Wackjob Terry Jones

Posted in news by reasonfreely on September 13, 2010

Most of the United States, from rightys to leftys, believe that Pastor Terry Jones is a wackjob extremist moron.  He was planning to burn a stack of Korans at the end of Ramadan on 9/11 to tell the “Islamofascists” that we “aren’t going to take it anymore” (quoting Jones, not Rollins).

Jones is clearly outside the mainstream.  His views don’t represent basically anyone who lives in the USA, and I applaud mainstream Christianity for publicly and emphatically distancing themselves from this loon.  But…

…He kinda made a point.  Unintentionally.

Terrorists — and here I refer to Jones as a terrorist, so keep that in mind — do what they do to provoke overreactions from their enemies and to provoke violence on both sides.  Now, Terry Jones didn’t plan to do anything illegal in the US, but what he did is a very serious crime in some of the countries he was aiming at infuriating.  So when Jones plotted his burning, he was engaging in a form of terrorism.  It certainly horrified Muslims, and that’s the point he made.  And it provoked violence.  Specifically, it got the following reactions:

AfghanistanMass protests, blocked roads, clashes with security forces, deaths and injuries, attack on a NATO base, arson.

Pakistan: Pakistani Christians burned an effigy of Jones; as did Muslims; lawyers are burning Amrican flags in the streets.

IranThreat of “a crushing response by Muslims across the world.” And conspiracy theories by President Ahmadinejad: “[The proposed burning is a] Zionist plot that is against the teachings of all divine prophets. Zionists and their supporters are on their way to collapse and dissolution and such last-ditch actions will not save them, but multiply the pace of their fall and annihilation.” And the Ayatollahs put out a hit on anyone who burns a Koran.