Measured Against Reality

Friday, November 03, 2006

Psychotic Religion

I love Fark, you find the best and strangest news there. Like this gem.

A man in Tennessee will have to undergo mental health treatment for trying to sacrifice his two-year-old son to God by strangling him. Fortunately he failed, although Abraham or a literalist might disagree about the fortuitousness of his failure.

But what I really want to share is the last paragraph of the article:

Jennifer Thorbon testified that her husband had battled mental illness for years. She said he would become psychotic and start "talking about God and Jesus and religion."

I like the implicit message that talking about Jesus, God, and religion are psychotic. Of course, I wouldn’t say that, but the (probably accidental) implication in the article was amusing.

This is a good segue into another interesting thing I recently read. The classic example of an absurd religion that would be ridiculed today is the Greek Pantheon. A few thousand years ago, it was the dominant Western religion. But today it has no adherents, we openly call it a myth, and its claims about nature are so easily refuted that no one in their right mind would believe it.

Well, apparently not. Sam Harris’s new mini-book, Letter to a Christian Nation, has the following footnote (p. 68):

Truth be told, I now receive e-mails of protest from people who claim, in all apparent earnestness, to believe that Poseidon and the other gods of Greek mythology are real.

Apparently, people do still worship the Greek pantheon. There aren’t very many of them, but the ancient religion has survived. So does this mean that we should stop using the Greek gods as the go-to example for an absurd religion that no one in their right mind would believe? There are people who are perfectly sane, but believe in Zeus. Should we ridicule their beliefs by doing this?

I think this changes nothing. The Olympic gods are clearly not real, and as such make a good example for why gods in general are (almost certainly) not real. The belief that Zeus exists deserves to be ridiculed. However, believing in Zeus is no different than believing in any other god, and if you think otherwise then the burden of proof is on you to show that your pet god is the correct one. Until that’s done, it’s no better than Zeus.

Lastly, read Letter to a Christian Nation. It’s very short, it’ll take about an hour, and it’s a very good. At the very least, you’ll know where atheists like myself are coming from. Plus, Leonard Susskind, a Stanford Physics professor and inventor of String Theory recommends it, so you know it’s good!



  • LoL I think the Egyptian religion's been wiped out so it's probably safe... any ancient Romans around?

    By Blogger Mosilager, at 6:52 PM, November 03, 2006  

  • My roommate worships the Egyptian goddess Bast, and honestly, it's refreshing. At least she's not trying to convert me like my Christian roommate.

    By Blogger Li Madison, at 9:18 AM, November 04, 2006  

  • I'm worried about all those Aztec fundamentalists...

    By Anonymous Frank Key, at 10:22 AM, November 06, 2006  

  • Just discovered your blog, and I love it. Great references, reasoned arguments and discussion, and good jabs at the insanity of religion and its effect on the world today.

    I agree with you that everyone should read Sam Harris' "Letters...." For those with a bit more time and interest in going a bit deeper, I also recommend his earlier book "End of Faith."

    By Anonymous Icolycan, at 2:27 PM, November 07, 2006  

  • I find your post extremely ambiguous especially at the point of interconnecting a criminal action of a Christian fundamentalist with the belief in Zeus. Is this the reason which draws you to the conclusion that Hellenic Pantheon “deserves to be ridiculed”?

    By Blogger Nikolaos. M., at 5:01 AM, November 25, 2006  

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