Religious Violence Isn’t a Mental Illness, and Neither Is Misogyny

Sexism

In the wake of the mass shooting in California last month, committed by a killer who left a long, misogynist manifesto vowing to punish women for not dating him, many pundits and commenters have strained to blame something other than sexism for his rampage. The most common claim is that the shooter, Elliot Rodger, was mentally ill, that the illness was the real cause of his killing, and the misogyny is just what his disturbed mind happened to latch onto as an excuse; if not for that, it would … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: January 25

Coffee

• Is conservative Christianity itself bad for marriage? The research says yes. Michelle Goldberg lays out the facts:Ironically, the very practices meant to shore up marital security in conservative communities end up sabotaging it. By promoting abstinence until marriage, these communities encourage people to marry young. Poor sex education and limited access to contraception for teenagers lead to unintended pregnancies and shotgun weddings. Gender-role traditionalism leads to … [Read more...]

Your Weekend Brain Training with ClearerThinking.org

If you're motivated to be a better reasoner and critical thinker (and shouldn't we all care about that?), then you should want to hear about ClearerThinking.org, an online academy founded and run by my friend Spencer Greenberg.If you know how human cognition works, then you know that we're far from being perfect reasoning machines. There are certain systematic biases built into our brains that operate without us even being aware of them, causing us to make reasoning errors or decisions that … [Read more...]

More Than the Sum of Our Senses

I'm still reading Timothy Keller's book. He's very much a fan of presuppositional apologetics, like this one in which he argues that an intelligent being that came about through evolution wouldn't be able to trust its own reasoning abilities:Evolutionists say that if God makes sense to us, it is not because he is really there, it's only because that belief helped us survive and so we are hardwired for it. However, if we can't trust our belief-forming faculties to tell us the truth about … [Read more...]

The Fiery Fountain

My first book hasn't been out for long, but I'm thinking it's almost time to start writing the next one. I came back from my trip to the U.K. with a head full of ideas, and I want to start getting them down on the page. My next book is going to be a novel, not nonfiction. I may write another book about atheism in the future, but at the moment, I don't have any topic ideas that haven't already been covered better by other authors. But I do have some ideas for works of fiction, lots of them, in … [Read more...]

Is Your Soul an Information Field in Another Dimension?

[Author's Note: In keeping with the tradition that whenever you have a blog post whose title is a question, the answer is always "no"...] Of all the essays I've written, my favorite is "A Ghost in the Machine", presenting the evidence that our personality traits and sense of self arise from neural circuitry in the brain and not a supernatural soul. I've just found out that this essay has drawn a reply from the blog Paranormalia, written by Robert McLuhan. McLuhan writes that, despite the … [Read more...]

The Purview of Skepticism

I may have mentioned that, at Skepticon IV, JT Eberhard gave a fantastic talk on why the skeptical community must concern itself with mental illness. For the most part, the response from the community has been enthusiastically supportive - but there were a few sharp notes of dissent, like this post by Gina Colaianni. Most of Colaianni's criticisms are so off-base, I can't help wondering if she saw the same talk as the rest of us. (She thinks that JT, of all people, is calling for us to stop … [Read more...]

Near-Death Experiences Without Being Near Death

I've written before about near-death experiences and what they can prove about the existence of the soul. Now another study has come to my attention, one that has an even more potent conclusion. (HT: Boing Boing)It's long been known that the content of NDEs is influenced by religion and culture. People who have them consistently encounter the kind of afterlife they expect and meet the religious figures they've been taught to believe in. For example, while Christian NDEs often include Jesus or … [Read more...]

Treating Demon Possession with Antipsychotics

As I've written in the past, modern Christianity has never outgrown the demoniac fixation of its founders, who believed that evil spirits were constantly on the prowl and assaulting them. People like Gary Collins - an evangelical, a clinical psychologist, and the head of a 15,000-member association of Christian counselors - still believes, based not on evidence but on his "theological beliefs", that demons exist and are the cause of at least some cases of mental illness. Although this post from … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically: Anchoring

I'm pleased to announce the first-ever holiday edition of How to Think Critically. If you're planning to do your Christmas shopping soon, this post might just save you some money!The mental phenomenon called "anchoring and adjustment" was first described in the 1970s by the psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. When we're trying to estimate an unknown quantity, such as judging whether a price tag is reasonable or guessing what percentage of the population belongs to a certain age … [Read more...]


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