Are Psychics Coming Aboard, Too?

This was news to me: Patheos has an Astrology channel:

It features gems like this:

Pluto goes direct today in Capricorn closely squaring Uranus in Aries. Mercury, the planet of communication just went into Libra, the sign of balance and fairness; add to that the Sun going into Libra for the Autumnal Equinox on Saturday and we’ve got a very distinct shifting of energy.

Bonus points to you if you can distinguish how that made-up nonsense is any worse than, say, Catholicism.

Anyway, that’s the nature of the beast when you’re writing on a website that promotes all sorts of dialogue about belief. You get the people who believe whatever the voices in their head tell them to believe without regard for proof or evidence… and you get the atheists :)

Being on the same channel doesn’t mean we can’t criticize bullshit when we see it, though. Here’s a prediction for you: It’s gonna be one hell of a good time when two of the Astrology bloggers post on the same day but say wildly different things.

I, for one, welcome my new blog fodder.

(via WWJTD)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Thegoodman

    I don’t know how you associate yourself with these quacks, Hemant. I applaud your efforts to have open dialogue with so many irrational people, but I find it impossible to respect views that are so absurd.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      You don’t have to respect absurd views. You’re right, it is impossible. The idea is just to treat people respectfully even as you disagree with their absurd views. That’s quite possible to do, and not that hard.

      • phhht

         It’s pretty hard for me to do.  I tend to guffaw.

      • Grizzz

        Nonsense. If the views are oppressive, seek to hold back large groups via myth (LGBT rights) and are just stupid, by no means does the person(s) holding those views deserve respect. It is this very sentiment that allows for an indirect acquiescence of the stupidity that holds back humanity.

        A person who is intellectually dishonest, holds dumb-ass views and seeks to hold back others deserves no respect.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          Hi Grizzz, please see my reply to pRinzler below, as it is a reply to both of you. Thanks.

          • Grizzz

            Look above RW – I responded to the one you were telling to check out.

      • pRinzler

        The ensuing conversation about respect will be difficult enough without considering exactly what people mean when they say “respect.”  If people would avoid using that word, but instead operationalize it and say exactly what behavior they approve or disapprove, it will help the conversation.  I know, for myself, that I could not weigh in here until that happens.

        What does “respect” actually mean?

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          I think that the phrase “respecting their views” makes many skeptics uncomfortable because it implies an agreement with all or part of the views’ content, or an agreement with perhaps a premise in the views, or an acceptance of the social consequences of the views, or some kind of acquiescence as Grizzz mentions. This is why I frequently make the differentiation between “respecting their views” and “treating them respectfully even as we disagree with their views.”

          Grizzz, I can certainly understand your frustration with views that are oppressive, retrogressive, and just plain stupid, but here is where I think you could make an important decision about what is your purpose in interacting with people who hold such views.

          If your purpose is to simply vent your frustration, then treating the person with the view disrespectfully, by calling them names, calling them stupid, making remarks about their utter lack of human decency, etc. and doing it all with clever sarcasm will probably give you a brief emotional gratification.

          However, indulging yourself in that kind of emotional venting will do nothing to improve the social problem that you care about. The person with the objectionable view whom you have attacked will simply react with insults of their own, and the conversation will devolve into childish, playground tit-for-tat, and/or the other person will become all the more galvanized in their view. This is because they will now link defending their view with defending themselves. People are usually somewhat attached to their views, and insulting them personally for having those views will only strengthen that attachment.  They will begin to defend their views with the same life-or-death vehemence as they would if their very lives were threatened.  They will also link your contradictory view with a now stronger stereotype of “rude, angry, disrespectful, even dangerous” people, and they will resolve that such awful people must be resisted.  We’ve all seen such objections to skeptics being rude, angry, disrespectful and so forth completely distract the dialogue away from discussing the arguments themselves.

          If on the other hand your purpose is to persuade the person to question their view, to rethink their view, to even change their view, and thereby actually make the social situation better, then venting is counterproductive.  For example, if I were to preface my remarks to you with “Grizzz, you pig-headed dumbass motherfucking douchebag,” I’d be making my attempt to persuade you of something much harder for myself. Instead, I have very respectfully and without any undertone of condescension laid out what I think is a rational case that I hope will resonate with your own rationality, with the purpose of encouraging you to question, to rethink, and to perhaps even change your view. If I have not done anything to reinforce a link between your view and your ego, then you might have an easier time altering your view. As much as you can, make it safe and easy for people to change their minds.

          I must acknowledge that I do not succeed at following this method 100% of the time. I sometimes succumb to my own frustration, and I can vent with vicious vengeance. But I know that since I really care about making things better in the world, I have to stop myself, clean up my act again, and refocus on the bigger picture, the higher purpose.

          • Grizzz

            RW,

            I agree with much of what you said, and I think where you and I diverge is in what we think is possible via persuading those who hold the idiotic beliefs/thoughts.

            Perhaps I am more cynical than you. I simply do not think it is possible to really get through to the ones who hold such vile views. I also think that our side gets too self righteous and has “tunnel vision”. So, when I encounter those with the idiotic beliefs I don’t think they are (a) going to change the bigoted or vile thoughts and actions and (b) are worth the effort.

            Understand I am not suggesting you follow my obviously feral and ham-fisted views. Suffice it to say, there is a reason I love wilderness, wildlife and animals SOOOOoooOOOooOOOooo much more the people. It is funny because last night I attended a function and had a similar conversation with someone. The person was reading one of my favorite books of all time – Antoine De St. Exupery’s “Wind, Sand and Stars” (side note – if you have not read this do so. One of the greatest books in history) in the book Exupery posits that the most important thing for all is the connection to humans and relationships. I disagree, but I did get my view to the person who was reading the book. I confessed that yes, I enjoy certain relationships with individual humans of my choosing, but I hold humanity itself in very low regard. I suspect with you it is the opposite, and I think that may be the crux of our differences. 

            • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

              Thank you very much for your respectful reply, Grizzz, and thank you for the book referral. Your combination of earnest candor delivered with a mannered tone makes for a persuasive recommendation.  I will find a copy and read it. 

              Yes, our different outlooks about how and whether to respond to people with destructive views may be linked with where each of us see humanity in general on a spectrum between hopeless disgust and hopeful esteem. My attitude can vary rather widely on that spectrum depending on things like what news I’ve just read, how well my personal relationships are going, how much sleep I’ve had, and whether or not I’ve had my coffee, so I have learned to not take my mood toward my species too seriously.

              What I take more seriously is what I have observed many thousands of times. I have observed people make profound changes in their long and deeply held views on a wide variety of topics. This very website is populated by many people who once held hard and fast fundamentalist religious beliefs and all the horrid social attitudes that went with them.

              Yet they changed.

              I think for most it was probably not a particular single experience or interaction that precipitated their change, but more likely a gradual soaking-in of more reasonable and more reasoned outlooks from people around them.  So I base my preferred style of interaction on those observations. I want to make an actual positive difference in the world around me, and I have seen in small ways some success. If all I were to do with people was to express my anger and anguish in ways that result in no difference, then I might as well be, if you’ll permit the expression with a fond wink, a voice calling in the wilderness.

              Please return from your recuperative times amidst wild nature occasionally, and share the clarity and wisdom you’ve collected. Your passion can be turned into compassion with just a gentle, persistent voice, not so much from someone like me, but more from the best part of Grizzz, who is as much of one of those horrible/wonderful humans on that spectrum as any of the rest.

  • C Peterson

    The vast majority of the blogs and forums on Patheos are batshit nuts. Oh well. The only difference between astrology and most religion is that is is pseudoscientific as well. Of course, so are creationism arguments coming from Christians.

    • Winchester

      Careful now, or people will realize you are Haters.

      Tone it down and they won’t realize that, but think you are “intellectual”.

      All kidding aside, why does Mehta call this “The Friendly Atheist”?  He has as much as admitted that title is not accurate.

      The Hateful Atheist…that would be more fitting.

      • Lucilius

        To the religious who are obsessed with their own petty hatreds, justified by attributing them to their deities, it’s not surprising that disagreement without enmity is incomprehensible.

        We often hear from Christians that we “must hate God” because we don’t believe in one (or many). Our standard reply to that is applicable here as well: We don’t “hate God” any more than we “hate” Santa Claus. We just realize he/she/it/they isn’t/aren’t really there.

        Likewise, arguing against religious belief isn’t an expression of hatred toward religious people. If we really hated you (and all our friends and relatives who are religious), we wouldn’t bother trying to convince you of your error. Emotion enters into it regarding specific attempts to enforce your beliefs on others, through public actions or policies.

      • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

        Just because we think astrology is crazy and wrong and we express that opinion with conviction, doesn’t mean “hate” is involved.

        I think you are projecting.

      • http://www.facebook.com/DocMonkey Mick Wright

         This isn’t hatred, though. It’s just honest disdain from someone who cares too much about people to lie to them and pretend stupid, unfalsifiable beliefs have merit.

      • C Peterson

        I hate the effects theism, religion, credulity, and irrationality have on the society we all have to live in. But I don’t think that makes me a “hater” in the sense I believe you to mean.

        Hemant appears to approach his dislike for the same things in a generally light and humorous fashion, which might reasonably be described as “friendly”. That word doesn’t require him to accept patently silly (if not outright dangerous) beliefs as respectable.

      • Mike Laing

         Sure thing. Now go and remind all the religious blogs that people will think they are haters of civil rights,  equality,  and truth.

  • A3Kr0n

    I’ve always wondered why the hell you are here. Actually, I still do. I stayed away from FA because it’s on Patheos, you’re “friendly”, and were probably all squishy about religious doo-doo, but when Edward Tarte joined your troupe I had to take a second look.

    • Michael Brice

      I think of Patheos as a little town with a lot of stores on their main street. They all sell different things, and they may disagree on many things. But the street has, electric power, heat, water and buses that bring customers to them. So, I might not like my neighbours but I like my store’s location.

      • Michael Brice

        And, as an afterthought, even though my neighbours are ‘next door’, I am under no obligation to visit them. Ever. Because they sell crap.

  • GabyYYZ

    Hate to say this, but there’s a certain level of consistency to Catholic inanity…astrologers, on the other hand, keep changing the rules.

    • amycas

       Vatican 2 anyone?

  • jose

    I demand UFO hunters and psychophony recorders next.

    I recorded a psychophony when I was 15. I should send an application.

  • TiltedHorizon

    What’s next? A  Patheos blog for those who believe in the divine truth of fortune cookies?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      If you end it with “in bed” it becomes pretty funny.

      • IndyFitz

         You are very right.  I’ve been adding “in bed” after every fortune from a cookie for years.  At some of the Chinese places around here, it makes for the highlight of the visit!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

          I learned it from an SNL skit many moons ago and have been doing it ever since.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

           Or” in my pants” works well too

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        That’s a hilarious idea. Now I want to go to a Chinese restaurant right away. :)

      • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

        I still remember the fortune from many years ago, “You will meet many interesting people….”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

          I’m trying to think of a proper reply but the beer won’t let me.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=533968931 Andrew Willyard

        Once got a fortune that told me I love sports. My faith in fortune cookies was forever shattered…*says dramatically*

      • HA2

         “with a battleaxe” is also often pretty good.

    • Stev84

       What about an alchemy blog?

      • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

        Dowsers to, we need dowsers.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    As an amateur astronomer who gives lectures on astronomy for young people, once in a while someone will ask me if I think astrology has any merit. I’m polite and gentle, but I don’t actually hold back:

    I tell them that astrology offers people two things that they have wanted for centuries: to predict future events, and to know the basic personality of someone before having to take the time, effort, and risk of getting to know them closely.

    I point out that despite many attempts over the centuries by kings and leaders to use the stars to predict the future and to vanquish their enemies, they have not done any better than those who did not use the stars. Hitler (sorry for the Godwin) is a notable recent example. He lost. I tell them if they really want an insight into the future, they should study the past. History does repeat itself, and the past really is prologue.

    I tell them (gently) that wanting to know someone’s personality from a safe distance without taking the time, effort, and risk of getting to know them closely is a basically immature and somewhat cowardly approach. No, the way to know someone well is to spend time with them and not just listen to their words, but more importantly to watch their behaviors. The kind of person they really are is indicated by their consistent behaviors. They are what they do. Beware of shortcuts to knowing people.

    With this polite but still rational approach, I’ve seen people let go of their hope that astrology has merit, and resolve that it is just useless superstition. Hopefully, that will free them to use more rational and effective ways to anticipate future events and to get to know people.

  • Grizzz

    That’s it Hemant, bight the hand that feeds you.

    • Grizzz

      (and no, that was not a misspelling – I used the “bight” instead of “bite” because this is a terrible knot in a rope that should be straight and narrow).

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.pearce.nz David Pearce

    I love the sub-title on the blog Hemant linked to – “REAL Astrology with Stephanie Jones”.  Although I’m having trouble figuring out what that actually means.

    • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

      It means none of that fake stuff you find on the papers.
      I’ll bet you my next paycheck that’s what she means. My mother has been suffering from credulititis all her life. She took me to seances (where I learned to act and say the right things to make her happy, I was 9), astrologers and mediums and she mostly used homeopathy for our everyday medical needs. 

      Her “astrologer was very derisive of the paper horoscope, claiming that newspaper astrologers were all charlatans. 
      I’ll bet you these bloggers have the same attitude. The irony.

  • Helanna

    I still remember being legitimately, completely shocked when I found out some people actually believed in astrology. I really always thought that horoscopes and star signs and the like were just silly things that everyone knew were totally fake, but fun to look at.

    I’m still a bit shocked, really. 

    • Mike Laing

       Yeah, isn’t it freaky? It is dumbfounding!

    • amycas

       That’s what I always thought too.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Me, too. Add to the list my amazement that people actually thought Ouija boards were anything other than a fun party game!

  • Brian Pansky

    just for fun, carl sagan on astrology:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iunr4B4wfDA

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Oh, I haven’t seen that for years. What a classic. Thank you, Brian.

    • oambitiousone

      Put an articulate man dispelling superstition in a corduroy blazer and turtleneck.

      Is it warm in here?

      • The Other Weirdo

         What about elbow pads?

  • Aljaž Kozina

    I think they’re just using random word generators, since I’m seeing pearls like:
    “One foot is stepping into your dreams and the other is right here in the present moment.” Or “It may be a busy day at home, but it’s even more hectic within the confines of your mind.” 
    I laughed out loud when I read: “Pluto goes direct today in Capricorn closely squaring Uranus in Aries. Mercury, the planet of communication just went into Libra, the sign of balance and fairness; add to that the Sun going into Libra for the Autumnal Equinox on Saturday and we’ve got a very distinct shifting of energy. Skipping down life’s stepping stone path, we’re once again at a point where one segment of time makes way for a new segment of time and with that comes new opportunities, feelings, insights and actions.”

    It’s very fluffy, indistinct and reassuring – with these predictions, you can never know you’re wrong.

  • rich h

    Well, I am reminded of this… http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/

    “Interdependence nurtures quantum fulfillment”
     

  • Nazani14

    At least no animals are killed for entrail reading.  (I always wondered how they knew which animal had the relevant message in its guts.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Her comment section requires moderator approval before being posted. Could you imagine what everyone would say if comments had to be approved at an atheist blog like this? We’ve come to expect it so much from religious online postings that we don’t even mention it.

  • ZenDruid

    Astrology is interesting enough to learn just for entertainment’s sake. I prefer it to religious dogma in that astrology admits to huge levels of variability between personalities without imposing judgment values on anyone.

    Back in my callow youth, I had a computerized horoscope prepared for me, and it mentioned a tendency toward the mystical (due to the appropriate planet in the appropriate house — I forget which), but included the caveat that I would likely be damaged by participation in religion.  Important information there. I took it to heart and have never had reason to be sorry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

    My favorite “jellybean” in the 2006-2010 General Social Survey data: people born under winter signs (Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces) are disproportionately likely to consider astrology “Not at all scientific”. Really.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    I used to read my horoscope when I was a kid, but I always considered it just for fun, like fortune cookies. Hard to believe that there are adults who actually take it seriously.

  • Christian Marcus

    it’s interesting that astrology is denounced as “pagan” by most religions, and that astronomy and astrology were once enmeshed as one.  It’s interesting that the Christian religions borrowed heavily from astrology when forming their beliefs.  There is no current quantifiable information that proves astrology can do anything other than present certain energies present in the universe based on the arrangement of planets, from an earth-based perspective.  That *might* be why the daily horoscopes are usually found with the comics … because it’s meant for entertainment.  Having said all that, it sounds like your Mars is conjunct Saturn.  :-P

    • The Other Weirdo

       Of  course, you’d still have to show evidence that “…certain energies present in the universe…” actually exist, and if they do, that they indicate anything at all on a human level.

      • Christian Marcus

        Twue, wabbit.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    I’ve never understood why atheists are generally so intolerant of astrology. Strip the quasi-psychic new age elements from it and you have something that resembles the typical atheist worldview to a tee: conditions in our lives are determined by the movement of matter in the universe. 


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