Plato's Cave - The Orlando Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Is Religion bad for Women?

Is Religion bad for Women?

Ben Forbes G.
Kissimmee, FL
Post #: 336
“The honest question for any man: Am I good to the woman next to me?”
The problem is that vile and antiquated religions and scriptures will too often guide men to wrongful actions and insufficiently good answers vis-à-vis that question...
“I am not seeing an answer to the problem of evil. Did I miss something? I am not supporting a group of thugs either domestically or foreign — that I think we can be certain. I uphold the rights of the free association of people, speech, and anyone's endeavor to bring about a more just world. You are advocating what appears minimally to be a reductivist solution to achieving the last point. What is the basis for justice?”
I do not oppose free association or free speech. Regarding maximally promoting justice: the salient point is that the most progressive secular constitutional democracies have achieved greater and broader degrees of social-justice, superior human-rights and pluralistic minority-rights, and far more moral progress in general than any theocracy currently or in world history (and particularly those based on especially vile, antiquated, and ignorant scriptures such as the Bible or Qur'an). Moreover, atheists face no philosophical difficulty from the POE, and are more realistically able to confront its realities.

Furthermore, if any God anywhere near as potent as the one theists posit actually existed and cared about (or remained involved) in this world whatsoever, there would be no doubt of it, the world would be a very different place, and there would certainly be no need for cryptic and antiquated myths of mystical revelations in primitive cultures to assure people of salvation (if any such wishful pie in the sky actually existed).

Evidence-based reality trumps “feelings” (no matter how poignantly heartfelt) every time — and all available evidence points to petitionary/intercessionary prayer having no effect. Mistaken beliefs in prayer are typically sustained by confirmation bias — i.e. “counting the hits and forgetting, downplaying, or making excuses for the misses” — as well as circulating spectacular anecdotal testimonials and taking advantage of intermittent-reinforcement (just as casinos do with gamblers pulling slot-levers) within insular communities of the faithful wherein critical questioning of “God’s will/plan” is typically NOT encouraged.

Regardless, the unequivocal truth is that prayer has been shown by numerous methodologically sound scientific studies to be totally ineffectual: so far, without any exception I’m aware of, whenever studies of prayer are done carefully — following good scientific protocols that screen out the placebo effect, standard statistical fluctuations, conscious or unconscious interference from the experimenters, flat-out fraud, spontaneous remissions that sometimes happen with some conditions even without any intervention, etc. — the reality is that spurious claims about faith-healing or the alleged “power” of prayer consistently fall apart like a house of cards in a hurricane. Indeed, while there is some vague and inconclusive evidence from some studies that optimism, supportive community goodwill, or a positive attitude (whether religious or secular) MAY have some small positive health effects in some circumstances, prayer has exactly zero effect on people who don’t know they’re being prayed for, period.

More specifically: the American Heart Journal has published the “best” (as in the largest and methodologically most accurate) study so far that I know of examining the possible effects of intercessory prayer, and it has shown — as any sensibly skeptical person would have guessed before spending $2.4 million and a decade to actually do the study — that prayer totally fails to make any difference whatsoever…

The study was conducted by a team led by Harvard Medical School cardiologist Herbert Benson, who is sympathetic to the idea that prayer might have healing effects, and funded in large part by the Templeton Foundation, an organization devoted to the scientific improvement of our understanding of spirituality (whatever that latter phrase may mean). Benson’s group studied 1,802 patients undergoing coronary bypass, divided into three groups: patients who were prayed for (by three different types of congregations) and knew it, people who were prayed for but did not know whether that was the case, and a group who was not prayed for. The results: 59% of the patients in the first group were affected by post-operative complications, as opposed to 51% of the second group; moreover, 18% of people prayed for suffered serious complications — versus 13% of the non-prayed for group. Suffice it to say that such differences were not statistically significant — and, at any rate, they would go against the hypothesis that prayer has any power: i.e. they showed that, if anything, being prayed for (or knowing you are being prayed for) makes things slightly worse!devilish

Naturally, as we might expect in a universe where prayer is ineffectual either way, other studies (conducted on smaller samples and for shorter time periods) have found conflicting results — and there are always credulous theists who love to make miraculous mountains out of completely natural aberrational molehills. However, even those few cases of studies that even allegedly “tried” to use scientifically sound methods which “found” ANY statistically significant result whatsoever detected only a tiny/rare “effect of prayer” (so, sorry, but apparently any “god” that might exist and allegedly grants some prayers obviously ain’t that powerful), and even such tiny effects usually disappear completely once researchers properly take into account other variables that were more likely explanations (for example, in one study on the potential effect of prayer on recovery from hip surgery, researchers forgot to correct for the age of the women involved!).
Ben Forbes G.
Kissimmee, FL
Post #: 337
Regardless, the theology of prayer is risibly preposterous even if we assume there is a God who might grant some prayers... To “whom” / what sort of diety exactly “should” prayers be addressed, in what form, and how can anyone reliably know? Why doesn’t an omniscient God already know who needs/deserves help without being asked/begged — i.e. regardless of prayer? To which religious groups (if any) are some selected intercessory prayers supposedly granted? Moreover, if prayers are allegedly granted to believers in various mutually contradictory, incompatible, and opposed faiths: why? If the measurable effects of prayers are either null, tiny, seemingly capriciously inconsistent, or sometimes even malevolent (i.e. the devout suffer/die unjustly in the same proportion as heretics or apostates) — aren’t we justified in concluding that either there is no good/loving god, or at least that any God that does exist must be aloofly unconcerned with humankind or downright evil? (Invoking the Devil can try to dodge this problem, but ultimately merely serves to limit God’s alleged power and/or goodness regardless of what answers are given to the POE-related questions above and many more like them… and depending on Satan’s purported origin story.)

Furthermore, as someone with an active imagination since childhood who plays Dungeons and Dragons at least once a week and loves epic fantasy and mythology, I find it easy to imagine many possible versions of what a universe in which prayer was truly powerful and divine intervention was actually real might be like — but we definitely do not live in such a universe, and whether or not we do is not a matter of subjective opinion or personal preference — it is a testable question, it has been thoroughly tested, and more than adequate results are in: we live in a universe where prayer is completely impotent and pointless and any god(s) that might hypothetically exist obviously don’t love or care for humankind (or else are not listening, aloof/unaware, or powerless to help us). Prayer is pathetic.

In summary, one should not mistakenly believe that fantastical intercession from an imaginary divine protector in return for petition/supplication (no matter how fervently sincere) can ever offer any degree of control or influence over a situation that is beyond the natural limits of one’s own human control or influence. The erroneous idea that there is any evidence suggesting that divine intervention might be possible which could justify wishfully clinging to faith in “prayer” has been thoroughly debunked by science. Ergo, as Robert Green Ingersoll so eloquently put it: “The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray.”biggrin

Rami K.
Orlando, FL
Post #: 593
Seane Corn discusses something different which has worked for her.
Winter Park, FL
Post #: 18
I suggest that perhaps we do not have the whole overview of said "God". It's hubris to think we do. It's hubris to deny there isn't a "God" of sorts. We, as humans, have a very limited brain, limited senses, and limited view of what is exactly out there in the universe. To say definitively that there is or isn't a type of "God" is to show one's own ignorance and places no better than those who believed the world was flat. Perhaps the only place we can know "God" is in our own hearts or perhaps the right brain.
Ben Forbes G.
Kissimmee, FL
Post #: 352
On the contrary, it’s “hubris” to imagine that any type of “god” exists without being able to adduce adequate evidence to demonstrate that (and there is no question where the onus probandī properly lies regarding this question); concurrently, it’s even greater hubris to naïvely, sanctimoniously, close-mindedly, and anthropocentrically imagine that the ridiculous dogmas of any particular allegedly “revealed” or “inspired” religion could have any reasonable probability of veracity. Lacking belief in any sort of divine entity unless and until there is adequate evidence adduced to suggest the existence of a “god” as a reasonably plausible possibility is both the default and the more genuinely “humble” position — besides, most atheists have a pretty good idea of what sorts of evidence (even indirect/circumstantial evidence) belief in a god would reasonably require. In significant contrast, many theists’ beliefs are dogmas adhered to regardless of (or despite) the preponderance of available evidence (based on faith). Indeed Katlaya, the essence of your “argument” seems to be merely an argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy and/or an improper shifting of the burden of proof — which simply isn’t how thoughtful and sound philosophy works... Things we don’t know or areas where our knowledge is lacking are not sound arguments for believing or “knowing” something. If “God” were actually an ontologically real entity/phenomenon — as opposed to multifarious sorts of vague subjective feelings about teleology, invisible hands, invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, supernatural powers, ineffable qualities, etc. (most of which already have well understood natural causes with superior explanatory power behind anything illusory/imaginary that believers naïvely posit) — then there would be persuasive evidence for “God” that could be easily be adduced. That is not the case, however, and any god(s) in this universe remain(s) hidden and ineffectual to the point of nonexistence. Moreover, purportedly “knowing” any “god” (by subjective faith) “in our own hearts or perhaps the right brain” just doesn’t fly as a credible justification or compelling argument for belief, let alone as an ostensibly verifiable/reliable “knowledge” claim...

Furthermore, regarding some types of God-concepts, atheists can be more assertive in voluntarily taking on the burden of disproof (which, by the way, does not in any way obviate the burden of proof for positive theistic claims or make unfalsifiable concepts of “god” any more justifiable, nor does it mean that atheists must conclusively disprove every conceivable god-concept in order to warrant lacking belief in them). Theists should be held accountable to (and called out on) any and all inescapable (and often self-defeating) logical implications of their own definitions and beliefs. It’s not necessary to search every inch of the universe to be nearly certain that any sort of deistic OR theistic “God” (as most people understand the term) is extremely unlikely to exist (with deism highly unlikely and the probability of any form of theism essentially 0%). Indeed, concurrently, it’s not necessary to search the entire universe to know that impossible objects — that is, those that are defined with self-contradictory properties, such as round squares or married bachelors — do not exist. The non-existence of these objects can be deduced through reason alone... Similarly, many atheists have adduced compelling reasons and evidence to demonstrate that many types of conceptions of God fall into this category as well, because they advance what are known as incompatible-properties arguments, and some of these arguments are irrefutably valid and sound: at least as applied to the purportedly omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and “maximally benevolent” God of traditional monotheism (which cannot possibly exist in this universe). Indeed, it’s simple logic to rule out certain “divine possibilities” that would be unequivocally incompatible with reality as best we can observe and “know” it (e.g. per the problem of evil). That is: we can know (just are surely as we can know most of the things we “know” about the world) that a “benevolent” omnimax God is impossible given the cataclysmic, inhospitable, thoroughly lethal, and inhumane abattoir of a universe in which we find ourselves...

Moreover, there are cases where absence of evidence is circumstantial evidence of absence. If a claim is such that we should reasonably expect certain evidence to exist if the claim is true, and that evidence is not observed (despite a search that should’ve turned it up if it existed), then it’s most likely that the claim in question is false (and this is the essence of the argument from divine hiddenness). For example, if someone claims that there is an escaped circus elephant charging through my yard outside my house, I do not need to search the entire universe to know for certain that there is no such elephant. All I need to do is walk outside a bit, look for tracks, spoor, or other evidence, and notice that I do not observe any such thing. Similarly — if someone claims that there is an omnipotent, omnipresent, “wise” and “benevolent” entity that could end all human suffering instantaneously (or at least greatly lessen it) but unjustifiably does not — it’s not necessary to search the distant galaxies to disprove such a claim; the continued existence of human and animal suffering alone CONCLUSIVELY demonstrates that no such being exists (despite spurious claims of ridiculously indirect Rube-Goldberg “messianic” machinations or unjustly delayed alleged “justice” in a wishfully speculated “afterlife”). Likewise, if a god as described by one or more major religions existed, we would have plenty of good reasons to expect there to be convincing evidence of that; but since no such evidence is observed, it is more likely that there is no such being. Furthermore, ­few (if any) gods as described by any major religions are actually worthy of worship… and it’s trivially easy to imagine better and more worthy gods and how the universe would be different (and much better) if any such god actually existed.
Ben Forbes G.
Kissimmee, FL
Post #: 353
Of course, these arguments don’t rule out the existence of anything that might conceivably be called a “god” by minimalist deists (who are so very good at defining “God” out of existence and rendering worship pointless). Thus, the only reason one would need to search the entire universe would be to rule out the possible existence of a God that had/has no interest in humans — that is: One which is unaware of us, or One that does not desire to communicate with us and has never revealed Itself to us. But no atheist I know has ever claimed to have conclusive disproof of such a being (just as no deist I have ever known or read has been able to offer anything approaching even 51% proof for such a being’s existence). The reality is that any sort of personal god, i.e. a god that has consciously had a noticeable effect on human history, is also a god that would have left patently observable a posteriori evidence of Its existence, and It’s precisely such a god that atheists see no convincing reason to believe in (and much evidence strongly mitigating against the likelihood of such an entity). It’s not “arrogant” or hubristically prideful to withhold belief in a proposition, and to provisionally consider it false, in the absence of any convincing evidence that the proposition is even close to likely to be true. The salient point is that theism and atheism are NOT even close to “equally likely” possibilities (and strong agnosticism is simply the epistemic aspect of atheism). All currently available evidence suggests atheism as the only justifiable provisional conclusion (that is, unless some verifiable new evidence suddenly miraculously presents itself, there is currently no good reason to believe in even a minimalist deistic God — and certainly no good reason whatsoever for dogmatic theistic religious beliefs).

As for defining God as vaguely and vacuously as possible (Karen Armstrong style), it’s quite easy to essentially “define God out of existence” to the point where the concept is completely useless and unsubstantiated speculation, but most atheists I know are “humble” enough to be open to new evidence in support of even merely that sort of entity, should any actually ever present itself... Nevertheless, if the only thing one has going for one’s belief is “you can’t prove that it isn’t true,” that isn’t even close to enough. In the absence of any verifiable evidence supporting any particular hypothesis, the rational hypothesis is the null hypothesis — and, in the case of religion, the null hypothesis is

Also, even moderate (and relatively ecumenical) religion still does harm — it still encourages people to believe in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that are imagined to happen after we die. And, therefore, it still dangerously disables reality checks… making people more vulnerable to oppression, fraud, and abuse in the real world. What’s more, moderate religion is in the minority. The oppressive, intolerant, sexist/misogynistic, and egregiously reality-denying forms of religion are far more common, and far better at perpetuating themselves (moderate religions are in decline throughout the developed world, while many fundamentalist religions are still growing like cancers). And moderate religions deplorably give uglier forms of fundamentalist religion undue credibility. They give unwarranted credibility to the idea that believing in things there’s no good reason or evidence to believe is valid, or even purportedly “virtuous” (by the misguided lights of the twisted epistemic stupidity of “faith”). They give unjustifiable credibility to the idea that undetectable “supernatural phenomena” should be subjectively considered “true for you” if that feels “comforting” — and allegedly “more real and important” than the observable universe. They give dangerous credibility to the idea that seriously biased personal intuitions and arbitrarily culturally idiosyncratic (as well as mutually-contradictory) localized myths are “more trustworthy” than logic or verifiable evidence. All of this (and much more) about even moderate or “progressive” religions deserves strident criticism and condemnation!

Yoga and meditation are both quite healthy and beneficial, but they are not magic, and they do not require any naïve supernatural beliefs. It is a false equivalency to compare either to the pointless and pathetic ineffectual practice of supplicatory or petitionary prayer.

The intellectual and moral stains of the world’s religions — the misogyny, supernatural otherworldliness, sanctimonious narcissism/anthropocentrism, and illogic — are so ugly and indelible as to render all religious language suspect. Ergo, like many atheists, I think terms like “spiritual” and “mystical” are too often used to make unjustifiable claims, not merely about the quality of certain experiences, but about the nature of the cosmos. The fact that one can “lose” one’s sense of self in an ocean of meditative tranquility does not mean that one’s consciousness is immaterial or that it has any connection with any “entity” which is imagined to have presided over the birth of the universe. This is the spurious linkage between contemplative experience and metaphysics that pseudo-scientists like Deepak Chopra find irresistible — but which is actually unfounded and deplorably asinine.biggrin
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