Archive for the ‘Religion & Cults’ Category

Redeeming “Atheism”

4 September 2009

Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine and Richard Dawkins at its launch in London

I “came out” as an atheist a few years ago, after years of shilly-shallying.

The basic Protestantism of my upbringing yielded, as a teenager, to an orthodox but rather devout kind of new-age pantheism; this drifted imperceptibly into a “spiritual but not religious” phase, followed by a lengthy spell as an agnostic. If people understood the word “agnostic” as it’s meant to be understood — the view that God’s existence isn’t provable one way or the other, so we should reserve judgment — I might have been willing to leave it at that. But in reality, most people think agnostic means “undecided,” as if its proponents just haven’t made their minds up yet. In either case, “agnostic” began to seem annoyingly timid, the soft option. So I took a deep breath and embraced the big, scary “A” word. (more…)

Cults, religion, and the spectrum of social manipulation

21 August 2009

Photo by swthmal08 via Photobucket

Last Saturday, the New York City Skeptics hosted a lecture called, Cults and Coercion: How Ordinary People are Turned into Extraordinary Fanatics at the New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Branch. The lecturer was Paul Grosswald, a former Scientologist who left the infamous cult 20 years ago. (more…)

Operationalizing God

12 August 2009

god with protractor

Say I wanted to conduct a study. I wanted to determine if a group of people in one situation or condition had more, less or equal chance of having anxiety as another group of individuals in a different situation or condition. Most of you can probably imagine how this would be set up; two groups, one exposed to one condition, the other exposed to a different scenario. In each group, I would count how many people in that group suffered from anxiety during the condition. In the end, I would evaluate (perhaps using sophisticated means) if there was a significant difference in the proportion of anxious people between the groups. Perhaps I might even conclude something, should I find such a difference.

All sounds rather scientific, yes? Well, it is. It’s an experiment. Folks publish academic articles of this nature all the time. But, and here’s the kicker, how did we know when one of the participants in either group was anxious? What does anxiety look like? Is it graded on a continuum, and if so, how is it graded? Is it just a dichotomy dividing anxious/not anxious people, and if so, how do qualify a person for either group? (more…)

Roger Friedman’s Scientology Claim

23 July 2009

Note: At one point in time, this article was in fact topical.

Roger Friedman used to be a freelance entertainment writer for NewsCorp.  That was before he got fired in April.  Now, Friedman is claiming that his firing was due to the actions of The “Church” of Scientology, and is trying to make a case for that in court. (more…)