Cognitive Dissonance: 2013

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance: a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming and denying.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Confirmation Bias Rears its Ugly Head, Once Again.

Mark Driscoll, the pastor of the Seattle mega-church called "Mars Hill" posted the following on Facebook.

- "A deacon at Mars Hill Church Everett was diagnosed with kidney cancer eight months ago and was given six months to live. He approached the elders for prayer after his diagnosis. They prayed for healing and for Jesus to be glorified. Recently, the man had a scan of his entire body and the results came back with no trace of cancer in his kidneys or lymph nodes."

I responded by pointing out the fact that he failed to mention the months of radiation, chemotherapy, proton therapy, etc that this person underwent, and suggested that those things MIGHT have had something to do with his recovery. I got the following response to my statement from someone I know quite well that saw my comment on Mark Driscoll's page.

- " ... the basis of faith tells us that knowledge doctors etc all came from The Lord. Many good doctors will acknowledge miracles, where they come from we also know."


This blog post is a word for word response to that person's comment:

The basis of faith (when considered objectively) is to purposefully ignore any and all possibly explanations to the contrary of what a person believes (or wants to believe). In this case, the fact is science and medicine are responsible for the remission of this person's cancer.

The statement/claim in this case was that prayer healed this person, not doctors/medicine, nor was there any mention that those doctors and/or the medicine/therapy he received were "gifts from god". I am challenging the notion that the reason this person has survived beyond the estimation of their doctor(s) is not because of prayer, but because of science, medicine and human beings that have devoted their lives to helping other people. While it is true that some doctors do acknowledge that things occur that they cannot comprehensively explain, and some doctors may label those occurrences as "miracles". It does not necessarily mean that the ONLY other explanation for those happenings is that "god did it". In my experience and estimation, far more doctors are offended by the notion that their 10-12 years of schooling, extensive knowledge, comprehensive expertise, long hours and hard work have nothing to do with the outcome of their treatments/patients. That instead the results are determined by the whim of an invisible man in the sky and entirely out of their hands.

I heard someone say during a lecture once that about 150,000 people die each day on planet earth. If the rest of us, all 6+ billion people prayed for those 150,000 that were about to die, 150,000 would still die that day. Nothing fails like prayer. However we tragically see parents and caretakers that persist in this belief, refusing their children (or the person they care for) medical care for conditions that could EASILY be cured by antibiotics or minor surgery. And the reason they do this is because they are convinced that prayer alone can heal them. In every single one of those cases when medical attention is withheld, the child (person) dies, 100% of the time.

People like James Randi (as one example among many others) have devoted a great deal of time and energy to either proving or debunking claims of miraculous healing and faith healers. Again, 100% of the time these people are shown to be frauds. They're using actors, they have people fill out slips of paper that someone reads to the person on stage through a listening device, some use "mentalist" type manipulations and the list of predatory, fraudulent tactics like that goes on and on. Not once, literally not even a single time have any of these people that claim to be able to heal through prayer and/or the power of god proven to be able to effect any kind of supernatural changes on people/the natural world. For myself and people outside the "bubble" (religious belief/faith) this is obvious evidence that the foundational claims behind these beliefs are flawed. However, for people who do believe, there is always some excuse or explanation that they can use to justify the failure of their beliefs and these kinds of claims. This lessens the often painful Cognitive Dissonance that occurs when religious belief/faith collides with reality and allows the person to continue on without having to question their beliefs or the foundation(s) of those beliefs.

One other thing comes to mind regarding prayer/faith and healing. There have been multiple (10-12) major university studies done on prayer and its effect on and ability to heal or help people heal. In every case the results were the same, prayer had no effect whatsoever on the outcome, people being prayed for did not recover faster or to a higher degree than the people in the control group. And most interestingly, people that knew they were being prayed for did worse than the other 2 groups, this finding was confirmed by multiple studies.

The bottom line is this, the reason this person's cancer is in remission and he/she has beat the odds of surviving beyond 6 months is (solely) because they received highly advanced medical care. You can call it a gift from god, but that just begs the question.... (several questions actually, but let's focus on this one). If god intended for us to have a cure to diseases like cancer, why didn't he just provide them in the bible or through some other means? Why allow such painful suffering, death and loss to continue for thousands of years while we as human beings slowly made the progress necessary in science and medicine to be able to cure them?

The bible says we are god's children and that he loves us like a father loves a child. Would you withhold information from your child/children if they were suffering the way people dying of bone cancer, lung cancer or pancreatic cancer suffer if that information would certainly ease that suffering? Would you call it loving or benevolent if someone withheld information that would relieve their children from such horrific pain and a wretched death? Not a chance! So why let god off the hook? Because the bible says his ways are higher than ours and we shouldn't question his authority? Because it says that we should "just believe", regardless of how much contradictory, conflicting facts/truth/evidence we come across? That is NOT love, that is sociopathic, narcissistic, cruel, indifferent and depraved!

Epicurus said it best, thousands of years ago, when he said:
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"

Friday, September 6, 2013

Liars, Idiots & Cowards aka Ray Comfort (and Pat Roberts, but we'll discuss him later).

If hell was a real place, there would be a special place in it for the people I like to call, "liars for Jesus". These people spin and sell blatant lies and nonsense to unwitting people, often for profit or other forms of personal gain. One of my least favorite members of this club is the crown prince of inanity himself, none other than Ray "The Banana Man" Comfort. Ray is an asshat of epic proportions, his ignorance knows NO bounds! Every time the man opens his mouth, you can bet bananas to donuts that he's going to say something stupid.

If you haven't seen Ray Comfort's Facebook page, and you're ok with having your good mood ruined you should check it out. 9 out of 10 posts are statements that are either blatantly false, shamelessly manipulated (like his videos/movies/interviews almost always are) or utterly insane. Ray spends the vast majority of his time railing against evolution. He has a new movie out called "Evolution vs. god" and every single time he puts a new post on Facebook, he plugs that pathetic mummer's farce he calls an "argument" against evolution. If you listen to what he says and/or read what he writes, it becomes readily apparent that Ray either doesn't have a fucking CLUE how evolution works, or what the word even means - or, he knows exactly what it means and he's regurgitating tired, old propaganda that has been refuted over and over and over again in order to deceive people. And I can't tell if he's just manipulating the ignorant masses of fundamentalist Christians for money, or if he really believes the shit he says. Either way its shameful, and Ray is a prime example of a "liar for Jesus".

One of the most despicable examples (in my opinion) of Ray's blatant lies and manipulations is the FACT that he often edits the interviews in his films. He cuts out/rearranges words and sentences to manipulate the responses to his questions. Sometimes he even changes the questions he's asking, after purposefully misleading his victims into saying something so he can twist it later. What you see/hear in his videos is NOT what the folks he's interviewed said, in many cases, its quite the opposite! On more than one occasion people have gotten ahold of the original, unedited interviews and compared them to the bullshit Ray slaps on his overpriced DVDs, there are several on YouTube for your viewing displeasure.

I'm going to stop now and defer to the intelligent and insightful Jacklyn Glenn. She does a fantastic job of tearing Ray's "Evolution vs. god" video to shreds in her own video/vlog. Take a few minutes and check it out, but be warned, you'll need a drink afterwards, or... ten. - Jacklyn Glenn on "Evolution vs. god" by the Banana Man himself!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two wrongs don't make a right, my response to an article by Rachel Cox (

Rachel Cox, wrote an article on a website called titled "My body, my choice: So what about the choice to have a large family?" I ran across it on Facebook yesterday, and as I read the first paragraph I was shocked, I thought I'd found a valid complaint about the secular community from the religious right. I was right, however, Rachel quickly tossed any and all credibility out the window when she launched into a propaganda laden tirade about this fairy tale "abortion industry" Christians rail on about all the time.

Having said that, I am shocked and disgusted by the responses the author cited, directed towards the Duggars. There is no excuse for heaping that kind of abuse on this family. However, as we all know by now, the internet is a “special place" where people can say whatever they want, anonymously, and so… they do. I checked the original article out for myself, and scrolled through the comments/responses. There were a lot of ignorant, asinine comments, but to say “it was very challenging to find any positive comments at all", is not true. There were plenty of encouraging, or in some cases sympathetic remarks. Anyway, the point is, the author made a valid point, people are jerks, people hiding behind anonymous screen names on the internet are colossal jerks.
Her second point, regarding the hypocrisy of the folks who don’t consider both sides of the coin when it comes to the “my body my choice" assertion is also valid. It is ridiculous to assert that a woman can/should be able to choose to have an abortion and then turn around and villainize her for choosing to have a large family, or no family, etc. 

However, her argument devolves quickly after that… while I agree that the comments about the Duggar ladies are sexist; so is trying to legislate what choices women do/don’t have regarding their bodies, and limiting their access to healthcare. That assertion was just as hypocritical and biased as the ones made by the folks she’s calling out for being hypocritical and biased.

Her arguments goes MUCH further downhill when she starts making comments like “Since the 70’s, the abortion industry has drilled into our culture that it’s not only okay to limit your children by having them killed before they’re born, but expected. They've preached that the only way women can be truly free is if they can get abortions. They've touted abortion as an integral tool of family planning that should be utilized on-demand." That kind of propaganda is utter nonsense. Those statements are not only false, but they’re nothing more than an attempt to evoke an emotional response, rather than a rational one. No one in the “abortion industry" aka, the health care industry has “drilled" the idea that abortion is a good family planning option. The message is, and has always been birth control first and safe sex, to assert that it’s “expected" that women have abortions is preposterous! Neither has anyone “preached" that abortion and “true freedom" for women are synonymous. Abortions should be an option for many, many reasons, the least of those reasons is family planning, and you’d be hard pressed to find any respectable doctor, clinic or organization that provides abortions touting them as such.

In the end the author is just as big of a hypocrite as the folks she was criticizing. She resorted to ad hominem, demonizing the healthcare providers, she mischaracterized the “abortion industry" (not an actual thing…) and she made false, inflammatory, accusatory statements that have no basis in reality. She should have quit while she was ahead, or just stuck to the facts.

Click here to see the original article on LifeSiteNews.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


My friend and personal heroes, Jerry DeWitt (author of Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism) posted one of those pictures we see all the time of a sign in front of a church. Many of us see these all the time, all over the interwebs. Some are funny, some are ridiculous, many are offensive and a few are really encouraging. However, this one made me stop and think. It wasn't profound in any way, in fact it was rather ignorant, but the last line brought some old thoughts (and fears) to mind from my religious past. The sign read - "Atheists: Many on campuses - few in foxholes - none in eternity."

The first line about there being a lot of atheists on campuses is in line with comments I hear quite frequently from religious folks. For some reason, they seem to think they're insulting us by insinuating that our education has gotten in the way of our religious beliefs/faith (for those of us that were once religious). Or, is a barrier for those who were never religious that prevents them from conversion. Let me put this in context for any readers that adhere to this idea. When you were 5 you probably still believed in Santa Claus. You saw him at the mall, you saw him on TV and in movies, and you might have even seen the weatherman on the news tracking his progress as he delivered toys to all the kids in first world countries. By the time you were 11 or 12, maybe a little older if you weren't paying attention, you had been told, or learned on your own that Santa is a myth, a legend, a fairy tale. You see, this is how it worked for people like me, the more I learned the more I realized that I could not reconcile what I believed with what I knew to be true. The things I was taught in Sunday school and at church just didn't line up with the facts historically, scientifically, archaeologically or even logically for that matter. In fact, even the bible doesn't make much sense if you read it in it's entirety or try and reconcile it with itself. Have you ever read the nativity/Christmas story in the there separate gospels it appears in and tried to lining the story and sequence of events up? It doesn't work! For example, Matthew says the angel told Joseph that he had knocked Mary up, yet in Luke the angel tells Mary was the one told about her immaculate conception (Matthew 2:1-2 & Luke 2:15). Matthew says Jesus was born in a house, Luke says Jesus was born in a manger (Matthew 2:11 & Luke 2:7). Matthew says wise men came to visit the baby Jebus, Luke says it was shepherds (Matthew 2:1-2 & Luke 2:15). Matthew says Herod was killing baby boys under 2 yrs of age and that Joseph, Mary & Jesus fled to Egypt, but Luke fails to mention that at all, in fact it puts Joseph, Mary & Jesus in Nazareth at the same time Matthew says they're in Egypt (Matthew 2:13-16 & Luke 2:39). Nevermind the FACT that Herod had been dead nearly a decade when Jesus was supposedly born and Nazareth didn't even exist yet! These are just some of the problems with the biblical account of Jesus' birth, if you're among the faithful and you believe that the bible is literally true and the word of an omniscient, omnipotent god, I'd encourage you to rethink your position on that. I digress, and am yet again off topic, let's move on.

Regarding the statement about atheists in foxholes... this is another bit of propaganda I hear from Christians fairly regularly. Nearly 30% of men and women in the armed forces identify as "atheist" or "no religion". And though many do identify as "Christian", it's more often than not because their parents did, or because they went to church on Easter and Christmas growing up. I met very, very few "practicing" Christians in Iraq, or anywhere else while working for the Department of Defense.

The last line is really the reason I started writing about this. The last word struck a chord - "eternity". I was a teenager before I ever really tried to wrap my head around the idea of eternity. When I was finally able to conceptualize something that resembled eternity, I became genuinely afraid. 'Afraid', you might be asking yourself? Yes, afraid. Not because I didn't want to live forever, but because I thought god might toss me out of heaven and down into hell because I KNEW there was no way I wouldn't get bored of bowing down to some shiny, bearded guy and singing those obnoxious songs we had to sing every Sunday while tears were streaming down the faces of the more, emotional gals in our youth group. That sounded TERRIBLE! I now realize that was only the tip of the iceberg. I have no desire at this point to live for eternity, even in a magical place where I feel no pain, sadness, the streets are made of gold and I have a mansion and a crown full of jewels for all my good deeds... (Does this not sound preposterous to anyone else?) Knowing what I know now, having ACTUALLY read the bible and considered the violent, abhorrent, immoral, misogynistic, brutal content objectively (aka not making excuses for, and justifying god's behavior, or the behavior of his followers) I would NEVER bow down to such a monster! Eternity is an awfully long time to be forced to do anything, especially something so asinine as worshiping a supposedly "all powerful" being. He must be pretty damn insecure if he needs his measly little creation to bow down to him for ETERNITY! I still can't get over how long that really is... I might be alone in this, but the idea/concept of eternity is something I find very strange.

If you're religious and you've never taken the time to genuinely consider what it would be like to live forever, and ever... and ever. Stop, go somewhere quiet, sit down and think about it. Not only is the idea of eternal life ridiculous (and obviously a product of our fear of death) but it's also quite overwhelming. If you're not religious, and you've never considered the implications of eternal life from the perspective of someone that is (religious) I'd encourage you to do the same. Put yourself in their shoes, try and think about god the way they would (make excuses for his behavior, ignore the contradictions and pretend what the bible says god does is "love") and think about what eternity really means. Crazy shit, eh?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The 4th of July, celebrating the birth of a SECULAR nation.

Dan Barker and his life partner Laurie Gaylor joined (started?) the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) after they left "the church". Dan Barker was an evangelical pastor, missionary and musician. He worked full time as a pastor for years, and was quite successful writing music and musical theater programs for children. Over time, Dan began to recognize the lies and propaganda that he was sold/told, and was now propagating to the members of his church, and the folks who bought/heard his music. After a long struggle he reached a point where he had no choice but to reject Christianity based solely on the fact that the premises were not true. This is a conclusion that anyone brave enough and honest enough will reach if they take the time to investigate the claims of any/all organized religions. Anyway, I'm way off topic, Dan wrote a book titled, "Godless" about his journey from faith to reason. There are a couple other books by Dan I would recommend as well. "Losing Faith in Faith" and "The Christian Delusion - Why Faith Fails" which he wrote with another friend of mine, John W. Loftus, also a former evangelical Christian.

This past 4th of July, the FFRF put a full page ad in newspapers around the country. In the ad, they quoted many of our founding fathers, framers of the Constitution and other great men who helped shape the United States as a nation. Contrary to the popular myth put forth by the Christian church, the US is not and was not a "Christian nation" in any way, shape or form. The United States exists because of religious persecution and poor government by religious bodies/institutions. The United States has and always has had a secular Constitution. There was a purposeful separation of Church and State by the framers of the Constitution, and again, contrary to popular myth, the framers were not "Christians" for the most part. The few that were religious, or that did claim association with the Christian church did NOT subscribe to any of the ridiculous tenets/notions that we find at the core of evangelical Christian churches today. A few were Anglican, a few were Quakers, a few admitted to being "deists", which means they had a loosely held belief in a god, but didn't claim to know much beyond that about god... I didn't know any of this before my apostasy, and I find it striking how many American citizens aren't aware of these facts either. It reminds me of what Joseph Goebbels, the head of the Nazi propaganda department once said - “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

Often, when I bring this up in conversation with "believers" I get a lot of excuses, or vaguely veiled insults. So let me give you one last example that should put this issue to rest. Assuming you're a reasonable person, who is influenced by facts/truth. In article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli it states - "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." The preliminary treaty began with a signing on 4 November, 1796 (the end of George Washington's last term as president). Joel Barlow, the American diplomat served as counsel to Algiers and held responsibility for the treaty negotiations. Barlow had once served under Washington as a chaplain in the revolutionary army. He became good friends with Paine, Jefferson, and read Enlightenment literature. Later he abandoned Christian orthodoxy for rationalism and became an advocate of secular government. Joel Barlow wrote the original English version of the treaty, including Amendment 11. Barlow forwarded the treaty to U.S. legislators for approval in 1797. Timothy Pickering, the secretary of state, endorsed it and John Adams concurred (now during his presidency), sending the document on to the Senate. The Senate approved the treaty on June 7, 1797, and officially ratified UNANIMOUSLY by the Senate with John Adams signature on 10 June, 1797. Many of our founding fathers and the framers of the Constitution had a hand in wording this document. There should be little or no doubt whatsoever that the US is not, in any sense, a "Christian nation."

All that to get to the point, the reason I am sharing this is because I want people to see the reaction these ads got from Christians. The backlash is laced with fear! This is what cognitive dissonance looks like. This is what happens when you confront lies with the truth. It's painful for the individual experiencing it, and it's equally painful to watch from the outside looking in, especially since I was once EXACTLY like the people who responded to these ads. Lastly, I'm sure I don't have to point this out, but the responses from these "Christian" folks are ANYTHING but "Christian" and they're certainly not patriotic. I hope, for the sake of our children and our country we can dispel these myths and eradicate the irrational thought and behavior that's elicited by adherence to lies as a core belief system.

Take a moment to read the responses from the followers of Jesus and his religion of love...