Op-ed: Happy Science, Margaret Thatcher and the issue of balance

Op-ed: Happy Science, Margaret Thatcher and the issue of balance September 19, 2019

EARLIER this month we carried a piece entitled ‘Thatcher to give her views on Brexit … from beyond the grave’. Happy Science, the Japanese outfit that was organising a series of seances aimed at conveying the late British Prime Minister’s views on Brexit, took grave offence at our report and demanded its deletion. We published their complaint as an update to the original report, as well as on our Facebook page (please feel free to like it). Freethinker contributor ROBERT STOVOLD offers his thoughts on the issue.

THE Patheos website as a whole brings together a range of articles about religion, and Patheos’s articles collectively may be said to contain “credible and balanced information”. It doesn’t logically follow from this, however, that every individual article within Patheos site must be “balanced”.  To assume that every article must be balanced from a claim that the site itself is balanced commits what philosophers call the Fallacy of Division (assuming the parts must resemble the whole).

The Freethinker article is one part of the Patheos whole, and the Freethinker describes that part as “Cutting”, “abrasive”, “sarcastic” and “offensive”.

An appeal for “balance” sounds fair-minded, but as Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne point out (in response to the Creationist clamour for “equal time” in science classrooms):

When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong … In a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

Balancing time spent defending truth with time spend promoting falsehood is a false equivalence. But how do I know “Happy Science” to be false?  I don’t have to know “Happy Science” (or any other remarkable claim) to be false in order to be sceptical of the plea for “balance”; it’s enough for me that I’ve been given no good reason to suppose that its remarkable claims are true.

Its claim to be an “authentic international religion” raises many interesting questions. Which religions (other than their own, of course …) do “Happy Scientists” regard as “authentic”? By what objective criteria are we to distinguish an “authentic” religion from an “inauthentic” one?  Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Christianity and Judaism are both “authentic” religions, how do “Happy Scientists” square their claimed ability of channelling Margaret Thatcher with the fact that both Christianity and Judaism condemn the use of mediums (Leviticus 19:31)?

An article on Happy Science’s website raises this question, but tellingly fails to answer it, playing the persecution card instead (“sometimes very serious and devout followers persecute such a person”).  Perhaps they do – but they are supposedly acting on God’s orders! Why, if God exists and inspired Leviticus, would he put one law there that prohibits the methods now employed by Happy Science? It’s almost as though God didn’t see Happy Science coming ….

Thatcher first spoke through ‘Master’ Ryuho Okawa the day after she died in 2013

The Freethinker’s post centred on the incredible claim that Margaret Thatcher spoke through Happy Science’s founder Ryuho Okawa, above, “the reincarnation of the highly revered Shakyamuni Buddha” – despite the little matter of Mrs Thatcher having died in 2013.  An incredible claim like this requires incredible amounts of evidence before it can reasonably be believed; disbelief in such claims, as reflected in the Freethinker article, is the rational and credible response, unless or until high quality evidence is offered to substantiate the unlikely claims.

The Freethinker article’s author expressed reasonable grounds for scepticism within the article itself, pointing to the fact that Mrs Thatcher usually referred to her husband as “DT” and not as “Denis, Denis!” as she did at Okawa’s seance. The complainant, Taku Igata, rather than actually addressing this objection or offering evidence to back up their remarkable claims, simply asserted without evidence that the Freethinker article was “biased”.

The complainant condemned the use of material from RationalWiki, which he wrongly identified as coming from Wikipedia. Perhaps he would prefer Wikipedia as an alternative; their article on Happy Science describes the organisation as “controversial”, notes that it has been “characterized as a cult”, and adds that its political wing engages in “denial of historical events”.

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  • Broga

    I thought this was an excellent article and, in my opinion at least, balanced.

    Thatcher was a deeply unpleasant woman and seemed to have minimal regard for those who most needed help and an exaggerated concern for her son to whom, largely invisible by his own merits, she gave a hereditary title. “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” became infamous for stopping free milk for school children.

    The “Iron Lady” , a fanciful description, was not so “iron” and wept as she was booted out of Downing Street.

    I think any claim of specific comments about anything from beyond the grave to this Japanese Gentlemen is improbable:

    John Hume: on the basis of experience, the probability that a miracle has occurred must always be less than the probability that it
    hasn’t. Because it is rational to believe what is most probable, we never have a good
    reason to believe that a miracle has occurred.

  • Old Harry

    I find it hard to believe that any organization which seriously markets under the trite, childish phrase “Happy Science” can be trusted on any subject unless they can provide incontrovertible evidence to back up their claims in that subject, readily accessible and without even people having to ask for it.

    In this case, it also appears to me that this particular organization is not even up to the task of hiring a competent marketing firm for the serious-minded English-speaking audience they seek to attract.

    “Happy Science” = Carnival Side Show Come-On to me. Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy!

    That is completely aside from the admirable advice given by Hume for matters in this area, as provided by Broga, below.

    And, as always, I’m ready for Happy Science to prove me wrong in my initial opinions.

  • Tawreos

    Did Happy Science present a balanced program on 9/13 by providing time for people that claim the whole channeling thing is a con trick? Will they be doing so tonight? They certainly have a strange idea of balance if they think that balance must be tilted their way.

  • Barry Duke
  • Milo C

    “Denial of historical events” does put them in the same category as “authentic” religions.

  • Brian Shanahan

    Barry, seems the Thatchers weren’t content with that 8 hours they inflicted on you. They’re getting Ryuho Okawa to annoy you too.

  • barriejohn

    “As I said at the Labour Party Conference…” Was that Harold Wilson or Mike Yarwood? Well, I said it before anyway: it appears to be neither happy nor science!

  • barriejohn

    It’s a stupid name!

  • barriejohn

    At least the articles here had links to their website, which puts their point of view. What more “balance” do they want?

  • Cozmo the Magician

    These poor fools. They did not realize they were trolled by the spirit of a Thatcher Impersonator. The REAL spirit of Thatcher is hanging out in Zanadon’t (an afterlife for Brits who are to stuck up for Xanadu).

  • barriejohn

    Good point! They forgot I John 4:1.

    “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (NIV)

    Must have been that Mike Yarwood again, or one of his friends!

    https://youtu.be/ThkVqCYdR0Y

  • ManxStuart

    I don’t get it. Laughing at the inanity of a religious cult made some people who prefer science-based lives happy. So now the Happy Science cult can consider their job done, disband, hand their remaining funds over to the poor and…..what’s that? Oh, never mind then.

  • Person223

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b7bd3b383aad91366807545ef0d5188bebe06605eab4b408adc89760ce3458ff.jpg I spent far less for far more coverage before ObamaCare. The ObamaCare plan costs 50% more per month and it is barebones coverage. High deductibles and low limits. And take a look at how insulin prices have spiked since ObamaCare went into effect. Prior to that the price increases were slight and since they’ve gone up by multiples. That man in Texas who died rationing his insulin is a victim of ObamaCare.

  • Old Harry

    So, Thomas Cook has an office in Heaven.