Really Recommended Posts

Really Recommended Posts 12/5/14- secular humanism, theology books, RPGs, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneYep, lots of diversity this go-round. We have a challenge for secular humanism, theology books, the atonement, Levitical Law, and a role-playing game. Think I didn’t get a good variety? Think again! Let me know what you think in the comments below, I’d love to read them! Be sure you let the others who wrote the posts know what you think.

The Secular Humanist’s Dilemma– An extremely brief but challenging post. How should secular humanists behave? Is this a compelling argument? I’d love to read your thoughts.

Why November Overwhelms Me (Books!)– A bookseller reflects on this past month and all the awesome looking books that come out in November. Lots of theology books this past month that are of interest.

Zack Hunt and Ken Ham walk into a House of Cards, on Yom Kippur– An interesting look at the doctrine of atonement and the interrelationship with sacrifice via a look at Ken Ham and Zack Hunt. Here’s a surprise- Ham and I agree largely on this point.

Why Wearing Clothes of Mixed Fabrics (Leviticus 19:19) Was Wrong–  Sometimes it seems the laws in the Old Testament don’t make sense. Here’s an interesting post on critiques of the Hebrew Scriptures on these types of laws and points. I got this link from The Poached Egg, a site you should definitely follow!

Americana Dawn: Historical RPG– I don’t often share kickstarters, but when I do, you should take notice! Check out this awesome looking kickstarter for an RPG that is based on early American history. I’m pretty pumped for it!

About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


9 thoughts on “Really Recommended Posts 12/5/14- secular humanism, theology books, RPGs, and more!

  1. The secular humanist’s dilemma goes like this:

    1. Secular humanists define moral actions as “those which promote human flourishing.”

    2. Countless studies have shown that religious individuals are happier, healthier, and more charitable with their time and money than non-religious individuals.

    3. Therefore, secular humanists have a moral obligation to promote the spread of religion.

    Arguably, this is how some people including some secular humanists might define moral actions (although my understanding of morality has to do with good and evil while ethics has do with behaviours book ended between right and wrong). Others like Harris define moral considerations as ‘well being’ that is quantifiable by independent means measurable in terms of human health outcomes. (I know many religious folk – and I bet you do too – who also include this human aspect of effects to judge the morality of the various causes.) Nevertheless, the first premise – by isolating ‘secular humanists’ – already shows a framing of the issue that is intended to promote religion. Gird thy loins!

    We move on to the second premise and ask ourselves if this premise accurately reflects reality. We check out the link under the word ‘studies’ and read about various compilations of data that seem to indicate that it’s true.

    But hang on a second.

    I’ve come across this method before where people compile statistical evidence based on self reporting to back up various claims… particularly in areas of ‘alternative’ and ‘complimentary’ naturopathic health care. I am well aware of how many studies compile data of self reporting healthy benefits to all kinds of so-called ‘therapies’. The problem there is identical to the problem here, namely, that people claim causal effect where none is present. In medicine, this is called the placebo (and nocebo) effect. Studies that compile data on independent rather than self reporting outcomes do not support the self reporting claims. And the same is true here.

    If religion offered the benefits claimed, then we should see this result in the aggregate. That is to say, the more religious a population is, the greater the claimed effect should be… if the claim about human flourishing were indeed accurate. And this is where we find a huge discrepancy. The correlation is opposite to the claim, namely, that the more religious a population is, the greater the independent aggregate data indicates higher societal dysfunction (measured in all kind of ways) and the worse the health of that population is (again, measure in all kinds of ways).

    So the conclusion is not correct. We know that the lower the rates of religiosity tend to correlate with hgigher measurable rates of human flourishing…. even though we can carefully select certain areas – like charity – that would seem to indicate support that religion causes more of it. But I know that I – a New Atheist – have also donated money and time to various religiously organized charities. I also know that the majority of volunteer (and salaried) hospice workers under a Catholic organization in my city are in fact non believers… people the author of the OP would no doubt call ‘secular humanists’. Data based on what this organization provides in charitable activities would be clumped as ‘religious’ when, in fact, it’s not. That’s why we have to be careful in assigning too much confidence in such premises when the nuts and bolts of isolating variable – such as religious motivation claimed to be the cause for a certain selected effect – are, at best, correlational.

    What the author of the OP (closed to comments, of course) wants to sell us is bias through self reporting disguised as independent data compilation. What he fails to do, of course, is include the wealth of data that indicates how various kinds of religious belief really does cause a measurable decrease in human flourishing in order to present a very one-sided opinion as if supported by reality. It’s not. What this author has done is cherry picking of the worst kind that produces an intentional misrepresentation and is then trumpeted as if independent ‘evidence’. This method is a very common approach on all kinds of issues about religion… presented in its very best light compared to non belief in its distorted worst light. This tactic is business as usual for such disreputable and dishonest bloggers such as Wintery Knight.

    Posted by tildeb | December 5, 2014, 2:07 PM
    • I’ve come across this method before where people compile statistical evidence based on self reporting to back up various claims…

      So wait, you’re going to decide for people how much they’re flourishing, instead of ask them? While I understand that self-report has its biases, your whole comment has the sense of an objective, imperialist imposition of ‘the good’, instead of respecting people’s actual subjective experiences, which I claim is truly what matters when it comes to ‘human flourishing’. This is wonderfully captured by anthropologists who studied pastoral and hunting economies in Africa and found those people to work less hard, experience more leisure time, and have less uncertainty about life. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences, 3) Are you going to barge in, note that those folks don’t have antibiotics, and declare those Africans as thriving less than an average European? I hope not, but I see your comment as moving strongly in that direction.

      What he fails to do, of course, is include the wealth of data that indicates how various kinds of religious belief really does cause a measurable decrease in human flourishing […]

      To what data do you refer? I’m aware of data establishing correlation, but you say ’cause’.

      P.S. I don’t know whether the following is based on self-report, but it is from a textbook recommended to me by atheist James Lindsay:

          Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives exist in many early studies of relationships between religion and psychopathology. The more modern view is that religion functions largely as a means of countering rather than contributing to psychopathology, though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences. In most instances, faith buttresses people’s sense of control and self-esteem, offers meanings that oppose anxiety, provides hope, sanctions socially facilitating behavior, enhances personal well-being, and promotes social integration. Probably the most hopeful sign is the increasing recognition by both clinicians and religionists of the potential benefits each group has to contribute. Awareness of the need for a spiritual perspective has opened new and more constructive possibilities for working with mentally disturbed individuals and resolving adaptive issues.
          A central theme throughout this book is that religion “works” because it offers people meaning and control, and brings them together with like-thinking others who provide social support. This theme is probably nowhere better represented than in the section of this chapter on how people use religious and spiritual resources to cope. Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices appear to constitute a system of meanings that can be applied to virtually every situation a person may encounter. People are loath to rely on chance. Fate and luck are poor referents for understanding, but religion in all its possible manifestations can fill the void of meaninglessness admirably. There is always a place for one’s God—simply watching, guiding, supporting, or actively solving a problem. In other words, when people need to gain a greater measure of control over life events, the deity is there to provide the help they require. (The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach, 476)

      Posted by labreuer | December 5, 2014, 5:57 PM
      • The data I refer to is the implementation of certain religious rules on others that decrease their well being in a measurable way, say, the scriptural justification used for the hanging of gays in Iran or the shooting of school girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan or the Christian Science practice of withholding insulin from children with diabetes. The resulting suffering and deaths are caused by implementing specific religious justifications based on (interpretive, of course) scriptural authority. The harm to ‘human flourishing’ for the affected individuals is measurable independent of any self-reported harm.

        Now, Lab, did I really have to spell this out to someone like you who is both able and willing to search the internet far and wide to come up cherry picked pieces of data that will fit with your (interpretive) critical narrative of anything and everything I write?

        Posted by tildeb | December 5, 2014, 10:36 PM
      • Examples like these don’t actually establish your overarching claim. Sharp knives are sharp. Yes, I did need to point that out, because apparently you think that a few cherry-picked examples of religion doing extreme things implicates all religion, instead of merely implicating some religion and being really quite uninteresting, as we have some implementations of atheism also leading to bad things, which clearly doesn’t implicate all of atheism.

        Posted by labreuer | December 6, 2014, 12:16 AM
      • And yes, I’m going to remind people that all of us are quite susceptible to believing that the placebo effect is independent of us when it is not. Shockingly forward of me, I know. But empowering this false belief, which is demonstrably a root cause of much unnecessary suffering (through the exercise of gullibility and credulity that empowers ignorance and calls it ‘another way of knowing) it is given authority by those who prefer to think belief alone is a sufficient measurement for confidence rather than hold out for some method that empowers independent confirmation. But, hey, even snake oil sales people must earn a living and if you’re willing to pay them to fool you, then that’s your right. But your money doesn’t make the snake oil efficacious.

        Posted by tildeb | December 5, 2014, 10:44 PM
      • What ‘overarching’ claim? My claim is that data based on self-reporting is not a reliable indication of the veracity of the results. I equate this with the placebo effect and point out that the religious who grant confidence to these kinds of claims are doing what supporters of alternative and complimentary ‘medicine’ do, namely, make a causal connection based on extremely unreliable evidence. (I dance, it rains, therefore I self report that I truly believe that my dancing causes rain.) If this was a self-evident as you mockingly suggest – sharp knives are sharp – then we wouldn’t have the aggregate evidence we do, namely, that alternative and complimentary ‘medicine’ isn’t efficacious beyond the well known placebo effect, that religious belief doesn’t translate into increased human flourishing beyond the well known placebo effect in self-reporting (where some 80% of us report to be above average drivers).

        Posted by tildeb | December 8, 2014, 11:14 AM
      • Wait, are you saying that these studies are dependent on:

             (1) people’s self-report of level of well-being, or
             (2) people’s self-analysis of religion as a causal factor

        ? (or something else?)

        Posted by labreuer | December 8, 2014, 12:50 PM
  2. Interesting stuff!

    Posted by SLIMJIM | December 6, 2014, 3:21 PM


  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg - December 9, 2014

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