Religions, of course, have their own demanding intellectual traditions, as Jesuits and Talmudic scholars might attest.... But, in its less rigorous, popular forms, religion is about as intellectually challenging as the average self-help book. (Like personal development literature, mass market books about spirituality and religion celebrate emotionalism and denigrate reason. They elevate the "truths" of myths and parables over empiricism.) In its more authoritarian forms, religion punishes questioning and rewards gullibility. Faith is not a function of stupidity but a frequent cause of it.
I don't care if religious people consider me amoral because I lack their beliefs in God. I do however care deeply about efforts to turn religious beliefs into law and those efforts benefit greatly from the conviction that individually and collectively we cannot be good without God.
Interactivity has the virtue of democracy, conferring upon everyone with access to a computer the right and opportunity to be heard, but it's also saddled with democracy's vice - a tendency to assume that everyone who has a right to be heard has something to say that's worth hearing.
It is the inevitable effect of religion on public policy that makes it a matter of public concern. Advocates of religiosity extol the virtues or moral habits that religion is supposed to instill in us. But we should be equally concerned with the intellectual habits it discourages.
The phenomenal success of the recovery movement reflects two simple truths that emerge in adolescence: all people love to talk about themselves, and most people are mad at their parents. You don't have to be in denial to doubt that truths like these will set us free.
What makes fantastic declarations believable is, in part, the vehemence with which they're proffered. Again, in the world of spirituality as well as of pop psychology, intensity of personal belief is evidence of truth. It is considered very bad form - even abuse - to challenge the veracity of any personal testimony that might be offered in a twelve-step group or on a talk show, unless the testimony itself is equivocal... Whatever sells, whatever many people believe strongly, must be true.
There are, however, exceptions to this reliance on feelings as evidence of truth: if, for instance, your feelings lead to disbelief instead of belief, they're apt to be dismissed as some form of denial. This is not a common problem. Usually intellectualism, not feeling reality, is blamed for disbelief. But, some angel experts suggest, there may be emotional as well as intellectual barriers to belief: unwillingness to believe in angels can reflect low self-esteem.
It's easy to sell good news like this, and the authors confidently rely on classic fallacious arguments. They argue by declaration, which is what makes the books so amusing. In matter-of-fact, authoritative tones, the authors tell us how plants and human beings exchange energy - or they describe what angels look like, whether or how they're sexed, how they communicate with human beings, and how they differ from ghosts. Readers might be expected to wonder, How do they know?
Jerry Falwell knows who caused the terrorist attack on America: the ACLU. "The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this," he declared on the 700 Club, because, he explained, the ACLU, abetted by the federal courts is responsible for "throwing God out of the public square (and) the public schools."This is a familiar charge and a false one. God is still present in the public schools, where students are free to pray, alone or in groups, so long as their prayers aren't officially sponsored and don't infringe on anyone's freedom not to pray.
Interactivity has the virtue of democracy, conferring upon everyone with access to a computer the right and opportunity to be heard, but it’s also saddled with democracy’s vice — a tendency to assume that everyone who has a right to be heard has something to say that’s worth hearing.