History of Religion in 90 Seconds

How much does your religious belief system depend on where you happen to have been born? Would you hold the same religious beliefs you hold today had you been born in a different part of the world? What if you had different parents, or had been raised in a different household?

This 90-second long animated map provides an interesting perspective on how religious vary by geography and how they change and spread over time. For me, it raises questions about the eternity and exclusivity of any religion; and the balance of nature, nurture, and geography on religious views:

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.mapsofwar.com/images/Religion.swf” width=”500″ height=”250″/]
 
A slightly larger version of this animation is available here and a full screen version here (may not work in all browsers).

Justifying Policies that Defy Human Reason

Via Pharyngula, an interesting concept from Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism:

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism“Much of what has gone disastrously wrong in American policy, especially foreign policy, in recent years can be attributed to a reliance on blind faith rather than evidence. When The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward asked President Bush whether he had consulted his father before going to war in Iraq, Bush famously replied that he had consulted a “Higher Father.” Isn’t it fascinating that the voice of God always sounds suspiciously like one’s own voice?

When politicians start citing God as the authority for whatever they want to do, they are usually promoting some policy that defies human reason.”

God does seem to be able to justify just about anything for people, from charitable goodness, to justifying genocides.

Central Front in The War on Christmas: Eastern Wisconsin

A friend of mine from college thinks that George W. Bush’s Texas accent is real, that we’re winning in Iraq (yet he can’t define HOW we’re winning or what winning looks like), and that Democrats drink the blood of babies (more or less).

He also happens to be a member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders defending Christmas from Democratic evildoers. While crushing his latest can of Busch Light (ironic when said rather than read) with his left hand, he forwards right-wing jokes with his right. Here’s the latest:

For My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere.

For My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

My friend celebrates the birth of a non-white, non-American, non-Republican person born to an asexual couple by making fun of people (Democrats) who, ironically, respect others without regard to “race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference.”

Here’s a previous exchange from over three years ago when he was convinced the media was misleading the American public by supposedly failing to report on how well things were going in Iraq. 465 Americans had already died in Iraq. 2,485 more Americans have died since.

I suppose it’s easier to fight (via keyboard) a fake war trumped up by a couple FOX News talking heads than to defend the bloodshed caused by President Bush.

What I don’t understand is why so many people NEED an enemy in their life. Is hate therapeutic? Does a polarized world-view give people a sense of place?

Here is my first shot at a theory on this: people who look down on others due to their political affiliation or religious beliefs would like to live in a simpler world. By dismissing the beliefs of the vast majority of Americans (the majority of Americans belong a different political party or no party at all), and the vast majority of the world (people of different religions, races, etc.), the world becomes a much smaller and more manageable space. It’s a comfortable world-view that comes without the burden of learning about other places, people, and religions beyond basic stereotypes so you can make fun of them.

Sam Harris vs. Dennis Prager on Atheism vs. Christianity

Ironically, Atheism is a hot top this Christmas with best sellers like Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation” on the scene. I haven’t read either of them yet, but just finished a very interesting exchange of letters between Sam Harris and Judeo-Christian talk show host, Dennis Prager. Prager’s on AM 1280 – The Patriot in Minneapolis, and has been mentioned before on The Deets as the guy who think Keith Ellison shouldn’t be able to take his congressional oath on the Qur’an.
The two writers correspond once a day for four days with their best arguments for their own beliefs / against the other author’s beliefs. I really like the format of the debate, since it gives both sides time to create well-reasoned arguments, unlike the polar opposite format of the now-defunct Crossfire show from CNN.

While the two never meet on whether a God exists, Sam Harris admits that there may be some value in believing in God. For example, if being a believer makes you a more moral person, believing has some benefits. However, there are also believers who use their beliefs to justify outrageous behavior up through genocide, so not all belief is a good thing. On the positive side, Harris uses the term “useful delusions” to describe the value that comes from belief. I believe Jesse Ventura called this “a crutch.”

There is one thing I’m certain about: I believe that many people are true believers.

Pray for an Amputee Experiment

This sounds like a fun experiment, and probably has more meaning than Nobel nominated work previously reported on The Deets regarding sour ball hardness.

The site “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” uses that question to question God’s existence. Shouldn’t a God that’s capable of curing cancer, migraines, and athlete’s foot be capable of regenerating a lost limb? Yet, it’s never happened. Perhaps believers simply weren’t focusing their prayers enough to bring attention to the issues? That’s what leads to the experiment listed below:

Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?

If possible, get millions of people all over the planet to join the prayer circle and pray their most fervent prayers. Get millions of people praying in unison for a single miracle for this one deserving amputee. Then stand back and watch.

What is going to happen? Jesus clearly says that if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. He does not say it once — he says it many times in many ways in the Bible.

And yet, even with millions of people praying, nothing will happen.

No matter how many people pray. No matter how sincere those people are. No matter how much they believe. No matter how devout and deserving the recipient. Nothing will happen. The legs will not regenerate. Prayer does not restore the severed limbs of amputees. You can electronically search through all the medical journals ever written — there is no documented case of an amputated leg being restored spontaneously. And we know that God ignores the prayers of amputees through our own observations of the world around us. If God were answering the prayers of amputees to regenerate their lost limbs, we would be seeing amputated legs growing back every day.

I think they’re biasing their experiment by assuming nothing will happen. Shouldn’t they just wait and see?

Now is the perfect time to try an experiment like this. We have a perfect combination of religious fervor in this country combined with a bumper crop of amputees to work with. Perhaps George W Bush can champion this issue during the rest of his time in office?

Bringing believers together to grow limbs through prayer would be one hell of a legacy.