Religions and morals

A lot of people harbor a deep suspicion of atheism and atheists. I was recently reminded of this while reading an article on how admitting that one is an atheist would badly effect his/her chances when running for a public office.

This has always struck me as a rather strange phenomenon and I have often wondered why someone would fear/doubt an atheist more than a guy who believes in God. Religious institutions have done a very good job of convincing a lot of people that all the morals required for a person to participate peacefully in the process that society is comes solely from them.

The business of giving advice

It is definitely an easy thing to do. The various institutions which exist in the name of religion and spirituality are more than happy to tell you that everything there is to know and understand about human morality has already been made clear to them through the word of God. Moreover they are willing to interpret these words in the light of the various dogmas they bandy about to tell you what you should do. In return for a sufficient amount of money of course.

But, are they doing a good job of it? I mean, when you pay them to tell you what you should do with your lives you are certainly not acting like an adult. But, at the very least you have the right to expect some value for your money. Right? Maybe a more important and perhaps basic question is whether they really are capable of doing the job they claim belongs to them, well.

Is the business based on a sound product?

I have tried a lot to put aside my very profound disagreement with religion, the kind of philosophy that drives it and the conclusions it arrives at. Most of my problems with it stem from the fact that I have a very strong passion for truth and a belief that it has some intrinsic value which is worth significant sacrifices. Not a lot of people nowadays claim that the religious texts are literally true simply because they look more and more ridiculous with the passage of time. The defense of religion nowadays finds its material in the problem of the source of human morality and the need for psychological comfort and support in times of distress and depression.

If you are going to claim that you already have with you everything required to make an informed decision about such a complex and subtle problem as morals then will you be open to asking deeper questions and critically looking at your own suggestions?

Secondly, given the fact that almost every religious book is full of contradictions, how do you go about choosing which directions to follow, which stories to take in their literal sense, which ones are metaphorical etc. etc.. People in the know say that you have to use your “common sense” or if you feel like you are not up to it leave the questions to the people “qualified” to do it. If it is possible to twist the sometimes incoherent and ambiguous texts into something that YOU THINK sounds right, then what really is the role of the text? Can’t you arrive at the same conclusions by yourself or better still through a wider consultation among people with different perspectives? Going one step further, aren’t these texts of dubious sources and doubtful intentions a force constraining when it comes to reasoning out deep and confusing questions?

Thirdly and this where hints of my problem with religion based philosophy not regarding truth with the value it deserves starts becoming apparent. If you are going to go around saying that somehow you know better than everyone else how everyone should act, then you either be ready to battle the world with your wits or if you are too lazy for that claim the backing of some authority that everyone respects and fears.

You know what everyone fears, respects and bows to!? Yep, you guessed it right! It is the UNKNOWN! Something you are told you cannot understand, control or communicate with yet possesses total and absolute power over you. A lot of people have traced the origins of supernatural thinking to holes in man’s understanding of the world. Though it is an ever shrinking one, it will always be there and it will always have some power over our lives. But, some people have succeeded in assigning an anthropomorphic personality to it and claiming its backing for their actions and words.

The authority

Whatever you say or do has value only as long as people continue to believe in that authority. It is only then you escape from the need to provide clear reasons or results in support of your prescriptions for life decisions. So, it becomes of paramount importance that you first and foremost drive into everyone’s psyche the importance of never doubting that authority. To value faith above all else. To not question you. This is important because this is where it all starts. Built on this foundation of lies the tottering edifice of religious morality rises up in search of answers to the bigger problems. It is only when you start moving away from the stink of the foundation that you get anywhere even close to solving the problems you are interested in.

Where this gets us

Well, what is the end result of it all. More often than not it results in a kind of moral inversion. Instead of starting from the question of what one should do to leave peacefully with others you started with ensuring that whatever you say carries the weight of the truth without any need for experimentation or the difficult test of passing the critical scrutiny of society.

What does this inversion mean? Things that are really important, like honesty, integrity, civic sense, non-violence etc. become somehow less important than making the required contributions to your priests, chastity, credulity, not pissing off your God and ensuring that everyone hears about him or better still believes in him.

It is really when we get to this point that the defense of religion on the grounds that it somehow makes people more moral starts to fall apart. Good people generally speaking find justification for and enough motivation to be good to others. No matter what their religion. The reason for this is that man evolved to be a social animal. That is why the overwhelming majority of people in the world are good. But the bad ones will simply twist things to suit them. Moreover some good people, people of action and strong convictions can simply and easily be prodded into taking their religion too seriously and through that made to do grievous harm to others. The really sad thing is that the firm conviction and absolute trust that unquestioning faith creates in people can act to undermine their own consciences and abate their natural guilt.

An example

There is this funny story I know about a friend of mine. I always used to think that it illustrates the problem of misplaced priorities of faith-based morality pretty well. This friend used to regularly download porn(rather copious quantities of it) on his neighbor’s unsecured Wi-Fi connection. He used to tell us that watching porn was anyway a pretty bad sin that would need some serious confessing to wash away. But, it can’t be helped. He was relieved that at least he didn’t have to pay for his weakness.  This reasoning always used to make me laugh. Watching porn is something people do privately and I can’t think of anything bad that could come out of it. In fact, it might even be helping the mighty American Porn Industry. Not to mention lots of talented young guys and gals who make money from something they are passionate about and enjoy doing!(Hahaha). Plus, in our deeply repressed society it might help douse some fires and improve the collective mood a bit. But, using the neighbor’s Wi-Fi without permission is a pretty bad thing in my book. You are exploiting a guy’s ignorance for your own benefit. It seems even worse, in light of the fact that if the friend ever ran into some trouble that guy wouldn’t mind helping him out.

When things that don’t really matter are blown up into huge crimes it blinds us to the things that actually hurt other people.

I have no problem with people even the ones who are in my life and closely associated with me being religious. But their faith should be a personal matter and it cannot be allowed to influence decisions that affect everyone. On a larger scale, I think, our society needs to consider questions of ethics, law and state powers as completely separate from questions of faith and not allows faith-based bodies to interfere with decision-making in these areas.

Paranormality by Richard Wiseman

I had spent the Onam holidays at home. Sleeping, eating, watching movies and generally just letting myself redefine the boundaries of laziness. I also read this delightful book that I had bought but did not up until then have time to read.

It was an insightful, light, engaging and exciting book.  I have read similar books before. Like Phantoms in the Brain by Dr.Ramachandran and Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan. The book was funny in a very subtle way and featured a lot of DIY experiments. It was also a very unique book.

Most books that deal with paranormal phenomena simply give natural reasons and explanations for allegedly supernatural occurrences. But, that is not the main aim of this book. This book instead tries to focus on one of the several reasons that are generally considered to be the reason behind such things. Human fallibility. It tries to look at why our brains mislead us and the possible reasons for the existence of such chinks in our cognitive abilities. So, it is essentially a book more focused on understanding ourselves than anything else.

Our tendency to protect our ego, our beliefs and our self from perceived dangers, our ability to see patterns, to weed out unnecessary information and focus on the essential etc. are abilities that are necessary for our day-to–day life. But these same abilities and gifts can, given a set of conditions mislead and fool us. The book exploits these incidents to try to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the brain.

The  part where the nature of free-will is analyzed was wicked-cool. The idea that one section of our brains is tricking another section into thinking that it is in control was interesting. I was really impressed by the way our brains carefully build up and preserve the illusions of consciousness and sense of agency. The book details how one can muck around with these things by oneself and some of the experiments described were very exciting.

There is one another chapter that really struck me. It dealt with how cults arise and certain personalities manage to gain absolute and total control over a huge number of people. I have witnessed this phenomenon in real life. Almost all of us have. I have always been doubtful of the claim that you can control another person using hypnosis and make him do things that he does not want to do. This book too is deeply critical of that idea. But, it goes on to point out that by studying cults one can learn a far more effective method of controlling other people. The tragic Jonestown incident is described in some detail to describe how such methods work in real life.

Very often we fail to realize that we are surrounded by and soaked with stuff that are so intricate, beautiful and mysterious. We don’t notice these beautiful things and don’t make an effort to understand and appreciate them. The book tries to explain the need for a more critical outlook on things and how it can lead one to a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of the world and it’s workings…

In response to a comment

I recently made a post detailing my position on one of the last arguments that people throw up in defense of religion in an all-out debate. The question of whether religion is the only practical and reasonable choice as a last resort for people in distress. The post was in no way meant to detail my entire position regarding atheism or my reasons for why I think it is a more intellectually honest and morally superior choice. It was merely meant to caricature the position that prayer has a useful role in people’s lives. I got this valuable feedback as a comment. I found that this comment mirrors the position of a lot of people and  is sort of a mean position when it comes to opposition to atheism or secular ideas. So, I thought that I would post a reply to it.

Sabu:(While agreeing with **** about the video) You say that religious belief degrades one’s intellect. And now, that is the opinion of an atheist. Even you move away from being tolerant and rational, and become one sided here. Religious belief is above/below rationality, it is a subjective thing. I don’t find any point in arguing what is right or wrong here. This whole religion thing might be a mechanism people sought for sharing their fears and tensions. Let that be. Why should you become so uneasy about such things?(The way the three member group got agitated was our starting point; It is time to do away with such baseless convictions as all those who believe in religion do so because they are not rational). There are as many number of hardcore ‘rational thinkers’ as there are hardcore fanatics. The best thing to do here would be to be tolerant. Religion has done many good things too (though I agree that bad things outweigh the good ones ). It has presented common people with a manifesto of living. It has made them more or less disciplined. And I think there is actually no way you can prove or disprove the existence of God. In short, let subjective things like belief or atheism not make us prejudiced and predisposed.

Even you move away from being tolerant and rational,…

The comment accuses me of moving away from tolerance and rationality because I accuse religious belief of restricting intellectual growth. I have a fair understanding of what tolerance means. It is, in a nutshell allowing people to make their own choices. It is leaving them alone and asking to be left alone regarding matters which are purely personal and affect no one else. I don’t think I have become intolerant merely because I restated the mainstream scientific position regarding the uselessness of prayer and it’s diversionary effects and consequences on my personal blog.

Religious belief is above/below rationality[sic], it is a subjective thing.

While it is hard to find absolute error with belief in a “higher power”, an esoteric and/or recondite  philosophy of life, worshiping of the universe(pantheism) or agnostic faiths, the same cannot be said of organized mainstream religion. Accepted scientific opinion is utterly opposed to the idea of a personal God with an anthropomorphic personality favoring one variety of one species of the millions that inhabit the earth. It is completely damning of the evidence for religion and the “unassailable truth” of the texts that form their backbone. We no longer have scientists or physicists of caliber pushing one religion or the other. I would like to recommend a piece by Stephen Hawking that was published in The Hindu.

If you look at surveys of the National Academy of Sciences of the US, you will find that 80+ percent of its members are atheists. Reason, curiosity, propensity for acquiring new ideas are all linked to a higher IQ. A lot of studies link higher IQ with liberal ideas and atheism.  So, there is something to back up my opinion that reason is in fact neither above nor below but somewhat opposed to religion.

“Why should you become so uneasy about such things?”.

Well that one is very easy to answer. The world over problems are being fueled by millenia old lies. We have Afghanistan(Taliban), Pakistan, India (BJP-RSS combine), the US(Right Wing Tea Party movement gaining force), Egypt(Agitation for democracy being hijacked by Islamists), Israel-Palestine(Israel committing atrocities in the name of fairy tales while masturbating to fantasies of a promised land), Palestine(Ideological rigidity aggravating suicidal tactics), Somalia(Al-Shabab) etc. etc. There is more than enough reason for anyone to be unsettled by the price that is being paid for the calming, soothing and tension-reducing effects of religion.

The way the three member group got agitated was our starting point; It is time to do away with such baseless convictions as all those who believe in religion do so because they are not rational.

That fact that the 3 people got agitated and started screaming like monkeys while the atheist did not does point to the fact that baseless convictions are indeed to fault. But which one is the baseless point of view. The one that made people scream in outrage and babble nonsense or the one that made a guy calmly explain what all precautions need to be taken to face an emergency. Also, I would like to make one more thing absolutely clear. No one believes in a religion because they are not rational. How does that make sense? You go up to a guy and ask him why he believes in Jesus or Allah and what does he say? “I am not rational, that is why!”? Absolutely not! The reasons for why people believe the stories are many.

Most of the time it is the only one they have heard. There may be fears of retribution for questioning fundamental tenets of their faith. They have not devoted time to question their beliefs. A lack of aptitude for the kind of science that can answer the questions and dispel the versions espoused by religions. A certain fear of death that needs to be handled more appropriately. I can’t list all the possibilities.

There are as many number of hardcore ‘rational thinkers’ as there are hardcore fanatics.[sic]

This one actually made me smile a little. Picture this scene. On a plane that is about to take off, suddenly the PA becomes live with the Captain’s voice,

“We have just received a tip-off…. There is a “hardcore-rationalist” on board. Everyone please stay calm….”.

The person who made the comment failed to note that the rhetorical impact of “hardcore” was somewhat mollified by its association with “rationalist”.

There are also “hardcore” poets, skeptics, artists, stamp-collectors, rock-fans etc. etc. Somehow, in all these cases the word “hardcore” fails to instill the same sense of foreboding that it does when combined with “religious fanatic”.

The best thing to do here would be to be tolerant.

There is no doubting that tolerance is a virtue. But, we cannot just do nothing when wacky stories start threatening our freedoms and start imposing themselves on us. Also, the idea that faith can help people become tolerant is deeply flawed. A truly religious person who absolutely believes in the validity of his faith can be tolerant only by resorting to a certain level of mental gymnastics(philosophy, anyone?), twisted interpretation of texts and/or by adopting a don’t care attitude. The tolerance is often tainted by sympathy, condescension and a sense of privilege. Also, the ultimate value of human life is more often than not, a corollary of the teachings of most religions. In some cases there is a marked contempt for life in this world that is encouraged by some faiths. This is where religions contradict humanism and secular values  most significantly.

Even if someone does succeed in convincing oneself that his God/Gods and other  God or Gods are all the same, there is still the unsettled question of which set of illogical and antiquated set of rules and practices need to be followed.

Also, sometimes, the conditions that such people impose on society and their opinions when it comes to questions which should be considered in the light of knowledge that came into existence within the last 1000 yrs or so tend to be a constant source of unnecessary suffering.

And I think there is actually no way you can prove or disprove the existence of God.

This is an argument that has been beaten to death. But it never fails to come up. Actually, we have had less success disproving the notion that we are living inside “The Matrix”. But, we don’t go around looking for Morpheus and if we feel that this world is “not real” we take medicines for schizophrenia. We also don’t fantasize about sleeping with latex clad chicks with USB ports on their bodies. The burden of proof when it comes to outrageous claims lies on the claimants. Also, the amount of effort that such claims inspire need to be modulated by the proof for such claims.

religious belief degrades one’s intellect…

I chose to address the objection raised to this statement last as it was one made to add punch to the article and was not that well-considered. But, still, I don’t think that there is any doubt about the fact that theocracies and religious institutions are not friends of the spirit of free inquiry and unbiased research. The worlds foremost centers of learning and scientific advancement in all ages were mostly the result of liberal and secular  leanings and mindsets. The dark ages, destruction of Nalanda, modern day theocracies, the decline of the US as a scientific power-house all stand testimony to the insidious power of unquestioning faith to sabotage scientific growth and advancement. There is a fundamental dichotomy between the kind of mindset that a religious person would need and one that fosters new ideas.

Some people are somehow able to manage to carry on despite this. But, it will only be a matter of time before his/her questions take him to a point where he/she has to confront the walls of dogma and unquestioning faith. What happens then? Which will get sacrificed first?

This one is an important question because in the answer lies our collective fate…

P.S. I greatly enjoyed replying to the comment and it made me think and reflect a little more deeply. I thank the person who made the comment for giving me an occasion to put down my thoughts in writing. I wish that more people would disagree with me and put down their objections here. Debates could follow and I am a big fan of them.

What do atheists do in a crisis?

I was watching this video posted on a popular blog. It is about what atheists do when faced with a crisis warning? David Silverman brought up a point during the discussion(well, sort of!!) which is one that I use often but haven’t up until now witnessed being used in a debate.

A lot of people argue for religion saying that the prayers and rituals are a great source of comfort for a great many people. A last hope, an ultimate consolation it seems. This is one argument that I have never been able to stomach and for all its superficial appearance of being one that a kind and understanding person would espouse, I feel that at a deeper level it is sad, pathetic and cruel. The strength of the argument lies merely in its wording and it’s use of the words comfort, solace etc. along with the condescending tone of the voice that makes the argument. It could be restated this way.

“Hey, people are really stupid and some people don’t know how to deal with their problems and even if they do, they needlessly worry about whether the measures they have taken are adequate. In such situations a little lying to oneself is helpful. There is a tsunami coming? Tell him that the God who didn’t care about stopping it is going to protect him from it. There, now he is relaxed and peaceful! See? Religion is so beautiful.” If a person is indeed helpless, then how is it kind to him/her to ask him to turn for help to non-existent things? What if there are still things that you need to/can do? Why is it that most people have such a low opinion of other’s coping capacity? If the uncertainty is unbearable, is irrational hope the only answer? What would you think of a grown up guy believing in Santa Claus? Sad or beautiful? Why think differently of someone who believes that someone up there is waiting for the right moment to jump in and help him?

Of course you could say that there is no harm in a little solace. Yes, no harm! But, then, what is the problem with heroin, marijuana or alcohol? All of them give some level of comfort and make one forget his/her troubles for a while. Some of them are cheaper than religion. They don’t degrade your intellect, cause you to become judgmental or lead to you making decisions not based on fact when you are not under their influence.  At least, not to the extent that religion does. So, you should encourage their use by people for comfort, right? Well, no! We have an innate sense of what is right and wrong and somehow artificial reduction of anxiety and pain which is usually the sign of some deeper malaise doesn’t sit well with our conscience. One would feel that same way about prayer only if we can firmly remind ourselves that it doesn’t work. Once that concept is completely grasped, we will feel that same revulsion for prayer and religion that one would feel for drugs and drinking.

The Demon Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark by Carl Sagan

I just finished watching Here Be Dragons by Brian Dunning which is an introductory video to critical thinking. Most of the concepts and tools which were described in the video were familiar to me. This was because of the book by Carl Sagan I had read a long time ago. I remember seeing a dusty copy of the book in the the public library and being a little put-off then by its cheesy title and uninspiring cover. I must say those were the criteria I used in those days to judge the quality of a book.

I still took the book because of my trust in the ability of Carl Sagan to be interesting and engaging. I was not much of a fan of science or skepticism then. But, the book managed to sow the first seeds of doubt in my mind. I still remember feverishly going through the book as it tore apart one false idea after another. After finishing it in a hurry, I put it down and went into one of my trademark crazy-walking-in-big-circles episodes as I tried to make sense of it all.

It was such a strange feeling. Like living for long in a cold, dark, damp, wet room and then suddenly sensing a strong fresh wind starting to shake the doors and windows and the sunlight poring in through the cracks and holes. It was such a sense of relief and I started to feel, for the first time that I could answer some of the questions that were so deeply bugging me.

I was deeply religious though highly skeptical of some of the stories when I was younger. Part of the reason for my religious character was my ambition. I wanted to achieve great things and I didn’t want to piss off anything that might ruin my chances. God was one among several such things.

I was also plagued by doubts about everything. I was of an extremely curious and questioning disposition and all the contradictory information piling in from all sides deeply confused and troubled me. Is evolution true? Are aliens for real? Why is that different people have different opinions about Homeopathy? When I get sick should I take English medicines? What about their side-effects? When I go and search on google I just end up getting more confused. My family and relatives were not of much help. Even my uncle who is a doctor was rather vague about homeopathy and natural medicine. Most of the explanations for why things are the way they are seemed to me to be half-baked and incoherent. Though I was interested in technology and engineering and liked reading, I didn’t know where to go to access reliable information about questions pertaining to everyday life.

The book opened my mind to the idea that maybe we have much more control over our lives than we think we have. That not every guy who says he knows how some thing works is correct. That there are some things that have been proved beyond reasonable doubt and others that have been thoroughly debunked. It did these things not by merely stating them. It backed them up with evidence, logic and references that I was able to verify. For the first time, I realized that the education that I was put through had cheated me and that the society had failed at giving me the tools I needed to protect myself from frauds. I knew a lot of trivia. But nobody had bothered to sit down and explain to me the art of critical thinking.

I was asked to always keep an open mind and give credence to all view points and be “tolerant”. Never mind the mental dissonance that sets in and the indecision that it leads to. Never mind that quacks are going to exploit you and you might probably place your own life in danger. Never mind all that because we really don’t know the truth…. science claims to be perfect, but it can’t explain everything…. there are things unknown to science… that the ancients knew and exploited. We must never say we know anything for certain…. everything is subjective… truth is a personal opinion… why do you have to choose one over the other? why can’t both/all versions be right? all religions point to the same God… never mind that their followers are at each others necks and that their teachings are contradictory… they are similar at a “higher” level… all medical systems are equally correct… they just represent different approaches to health…. never mind that some of them lack a scientific basis… never give notice to the notion that there might be a best approximation to the truth… all are equally valid… you just have to look hard enough to see it…  modern science is not for real… all the wisdom and knowledge is contained in the vedas… you just have to be clever enough to interpret it…. similar claims about the bible and etc. etc… i was just getting fucking sick of all this fucking bullshit.

This book… it pulled me out of a really deep hole that I was sinking into. I have a streak of extremism inside me and am prone to recklessness and quick action.  The book made me seek out better sources and ask deeper questions. I became a bigger fan of Sagan after reading the book. It a must read for anyone who is not familiar with skepticism and critical thinking. The video that was mentioned in the beginning is also a very good one and conveys the key ideas in a short span of 40 mins.

Ayurveda and the myth of “natural” medicine

There are a lot of ideas circulating in our society some of which don’t have a scientific basis. More often than not they are propagated through word of mouth, anecdotal evidence peddled by people who stand to gain from it’s spread, passed from one generation to the next as ancient “wisdom”, hypocritical media etc..

Besides, people really don’t have the time or the inclination to check the veracity of each and every thing they hear anyway. Sometimes, we got to trust what people say. This makes our perspective of things as shaped by society susceptible to statistical bias and misinformation.

India is a free-for-all country where practically anything goes. The judges decide where Ram was born 6000 years ago, we have the govt. standing by while religious organizations deliberately spread lies for the purpose of attracting poor desperate pilgrims and milking them for their money, where national parties oppose projects of national importance on the grounds that it might damage ancient bridges which were supposedly, as described in a fairy tale, built by “monkey men”, where Homeopathy is a recognized system of medicine requiring qualified doctors etc..

The govt., probably in it’s eagerness to appear tolerant and to avoid trouble with anyone has placed the onus of separating the crap from the real deal on the common man. And people have far more pressing needs than to settle such questions by conducting personal research especially in a country where starvation and desperate poverty are so widespread. People are forced to make choices only when they are in trouble. I am not saying that such things don’t happen in other countries. I just think that we are not being as strict as we need to be.

I had once written about Homeopathy and how it has managed to stage a come-back and is now in full force in our country in this Information-Age when every body of scientific literature worth it’s salt has thoroughly debunked it.

Ayurveda

Aurveda in India comes under the Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yunani, Siddha and Homeopathy). It is said that one’s company is reflective of one’s character. Well, then, that doesn’t make ayurveda look too good, does it?

Ayurveda is a 5,000 yr old system of medicine having it’s roots in the Vedas. Many people take the fact that it is such an ancient system of medicine based on an equally ancient text to mean that it has withstood the test of time. But, that is not really logical.

It is more or less obvious that the ancient people had very little understanding of the biochemistry of the human body and that they were limited by contemporary technology(if at all there was any) from achieving any deeper insight into the complexities of the physical processes behind life. This is in evidence in the writings which involve demons and simplistic theories of disease.

Any average person today has access to several orders of magnitude more information than a guy who roamed around 5,000 yrs ago. They were humans like us, puzzled by the same questions and same mysteries that any child would be puzzled by. They came up with some plausible explanations that seemed to make sense to them. They described their thoughts in their literary works and millenia later, these works have come to be regarded as textbooks containing unassailable facts.

Instead of applying rigorous tests to the material subsequent generations came to regard it as sacred truth. Now, Ayurvedic practitioners don’t feel the need for empirical proof for their system of medicine. They just “intuitively” know that it is right and that is all that matters. After all, if you feel it’s right what else is required?

When some system is based upon gratuitous BS that has been shown to be clearly wrong or at least too simplistic, then the chances of it being effective are pretty low. If someone came and told you,

Hey, I am a computer repair man! I have a theory of computers. Every computer is a perfect divine balance of the Pancha Dhathus. They are sand, metal, plastic, wood and soul(some unholistic, unmystic, useless-stic people call it software!).

An imbalance involving the above things manifests itself in the computer being unhappy and acting like a POS(Piece-of-S**t). Based on this I have compiled thousands of pages containing big words which describe a new holistic healing method that can be used to set right misbehaving computers.

Also, it must be said that different computers have different natures. A calculator is less “soul-y” than say… a Mac which is mostly just soul. So, they have to be handled differently. You of course wouldn’t be able to do it as you require a sharply honed intuition to do it.

Do you think you would want to entrust such a guy  with your computer? Obviously, it is highly unlikely that he has a way to solve any problem. But, it is quite possible that in all that stuff he has written up, by chance, there might be something which might be mildly helpful. If you get some time you might want to go through it. But, wouldn’t depend upon him to run your enterprise systems.

No Side-Effects!

A lot of people have been taken in by this promise of “natural/herbal” treatment that is completely without side-effects and that are in-tune with the body. They delay or withhold treatment sometimes for conditions that can be controlled or treated easily using modern medicine. They keep putting up with the pain and convince themselves that their body is regaining the “balance” and eventually the disease just goes away on it’s own. But, not always! Sometimes, it horribly maims or even kills them. I have seen how people with Arthritis, Cancer, infectious diseases and other such illnesses stick to Ayurveda and end up with irreversible complications and sometimes even reduced chances of survival because of lack of timely medical intervention.

Medicine is not something that healthy people take. It is something that temporarily does something to the body to try and help it to recover. Thus, it has an effect. Now, medicines vary widely in their specificity and some might have other unwanted effects. Doctors prescribe a drug when they think that the benefits outweigh the side-effects. Most of the ayurvedic medicines don’t have side-effects because they don’t have effects. And the ones that do have effects generally tend to be toxic simply because they have been chosen based on bad science.

The dead people never walk around bad-mouthing ayurveda. But, if a single guy finds that his sickness goes away after he started taking ayurvedic medicines, he will talk about it to everyone.

When something claims that diseases can arise due to demonic possession then it should trigger your internal “crap-sense”. When it uses heavy metals and other demonstrably toxic materials in it’s concoctions you should be even more alarmed. When it gets banned in the EU and the US you should be scared of it.

Ayurveda selects medicines based on some assumptions regarding the functioning of the human body. These assumptions are in clear disagreement with science. Thus, the selections are likely to be wrong and ineffective and possibly, even harmful. These kinds of assumptions are used by a lot of other Alternative Systems like Chinese Herbal Medicine which is notorious for using animal parts that have resulted in hunting down of endangered species, acupuncture, Faith Healing, Osteopathy, etc.. All of them have been shown to be hollow and ineffective when properly tested in blinded, controlled studies using statistically sound techniques.

What one needs to realize is that intuition really doesn’t work as a means of arriving at the truth when it comes to stuff that are beyond the realm of everyday experience. This is simply because intuition is not something magical. It is something that is shaped by our experiences and a trait that helps us to take quick decisions in our day to day life. You can use it to come up with new ideas. But, not to test for it’s validity.

You could figure out how to use a computer application using your intuition because it was designed by human beings for use by human beings. Thus, you can easily make educated guesses and quickly figure it out. But, the human body was not designed by anyone and it does not accomplish things in an optimum fashion. A lot of the responses are irrational and inexplicable if you were to assume that it is perfect.

Ayurveda is rightly categorised as a “complementary” system of medicine and no one should rely on it as a primary treatment option. People should also be careful about taking herbal remedies as they might contain dangerous substances. There really is nothing called “natural” medicine. Everything ultimately comes from nature itself and there is no guarantee that everything natural is safe. To figure out what to take, it is best that we rely on the most rigorously tested and accepted bodies of knowledge.

There might be some remedies and rare herbs that have been found to work through trial and error. These herbs must be studied, their active ingredients identified, tested and then they should incorporated into modern medicine. There is really no justification for maintaining separate systems with different standards.

There is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t work.

Richard Dawkins

Lastly, there is this idea that people in the olden times did not suffer from illnesses and that it was probably because of traditional medicine.  The average life expectancy has been consistently increasing and when people live longer they just tend to get more diseases. Modern medicine has not been adequately appreciated at least in some circles for the improvement in the quality of life that it has brought about.

There are non-believers and skeptics out there

I occasionally read the very popular atheist blog Pharyngula and I recently happened to see this video posted there.

I happened to take note of it in the light of the recent shooting of a governor in Pakistan and other such religiously/ideologically motivated violence that we have been witnessing recently.

A lot of people are stuck in the rut of religion because of lack of visible support. Most people don’t realize that their beliefs are less in conflict with a Godless doctrine than with say another religion. The see all faiths in the same light as they do their’s and see faithlessness in a dead super-jew or in myths as a faith in itself. The most common argument that I hear everyone offer for religion is that everyone else believes in the same stuff. So, it can’t be without a reason. Actually, thats a pretty flawed argument. Most of the believers in the world have widely diverging and most of the time mutually incompatible beliefs.

Once, they get to see people who don’t believe in fancy fairy tales and are not ready to put their’s or any one else’s life on the line over an ideological disagreement, they will realize that it is something that they can easily agree to.

The reason the doubting people won’t come out with their questions is the climate of fear that religious leaders create to protect their institutions and the lack of organized movements and visible examples.

The most common image of an atheist that a religious person has in his mind is that of an amoral and unprincipled person who has no emotions, is pessimistic and does not see the need for good deeds. Over and above that there are the stories of atheists who eventually get into horrible situations, die and go to hell. When people see that there are a lot of good guys and girls out there who don’t belong to organized religions yet are responsible members of the society, they will feel more confident and willing to ask some questions that they have been raring to ask.

It’s always been my firm conviction that organized religions are evil and a negative force that will most likely be the undoing of our civilization. A sense of mystery and spiritual wonder is something that is innate in every child and religion is just dope that dulls these precious gifts.