World Wide Weirdness Shootout – updated

January 27th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, matthias rath, MMR, nutritionists, religion, scare stories | 59 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday January 27, 2007
The Guardian

I’m not a complicated man – as my girlfriend could happily tell you – but I do get a bit worried about these stories I’ve been emailed, where African people say something stupid about the science of Aids and we all laugh at them. To be fair, the facts don’t make it easy for me to be this sanctimonious. The Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, has just this week disclosed that he can personally cure HIV, Aids and asthma, using charisma, magic and charms. “The cure is a day’s treatment” he says: “asthma, five minutes”. HIV and Aids cases can be treated on Thursdays, and within three days the person should be tested again. “I can tell you that he/she will be negative.”

Gambian bloggers have described the president – the president! – marching triumphantly into hospitals and leaving patients vomiting and in agony. It’s hard to tell what the treatments involve, but Jammeh explains his patients are not allowed to eat seafood or peppers, and “they should be kept at a place that has adequate toilets facilities, because they can be going to toilet every five minutes.” The official news source meanwhile – in a country where journalists have been imprisoned and shot dead in unexplained circumstances – reported that the president’s curative power left doctors and nurses “mesmerised and stunned“.

Medicine deals in biblical themes like life and death, tragedy, and pain, and so naturally it’s a magnet for superstitious beliefs. But – torturing despot though he may be – I’m not sure the president is alone in this fruitcakery.

We actively export our superstition: there’s the white European nutritionist Matthias Rath from last week, out there in South Africa, selling his ridiculous vitamin pills with the message that they are better than antiretroviral medications, with a sturdy influence over Thabo Mbeki.

And people are still dying of polio, simply because of a deluded anti-vaccination movement causing havoc and death in northern Nigeria; its anti-vaccination propaganda would sound eerily familiar to your ears, because it gleans moral and intellectual inspiration, unfortunately, from its cosier cousins bravely campaigning against MMR in Hampstead.


Jammeh & Bush

We have superstition in our own despotic leaders, of course. Over here it just makes them discriminate against gay people, but in America everything’s bigger. Like Pepfar, the grandiosely named Presidential Emergency Plan For Aids Relief: among its many bizarre manoeuvres, Christian moral superstition made Pepfar demand that every recipient of aid money sign a declaration, promising not to touch sex workers.

This may be insensitive to the Christian value system, but to me, sex workers and Aids policy do go very naturally together. Because science, viruses, microscopes and drugs are one thing, but if you secure the legal rights of sex workers to be free from violence and discrimination, you empower them to demand universal condom use, and that way, you stop HIV being spread into the whole community).

But of course these superstitious Christians don’t like condoms either; or needle exchanges, because their moral principle of abstinence is more important than saving lives.

And then there are the widespread financial superstitions. I hate to break it to the shareholders out there, but it’s pretty obvious to us non-believers that people in Africa have never bought – and will never buy – your new patented Aids drugs: you know, the ones with better side effects. But they hold on to the dream, they can’t step outside the frame and give them away, in the developing world, off-patent.

Last year 2.8 million people died of Aids, and 40 million are HIV positive. This is an illness that laughs at our superstitions, it laughs at our politics, it dwarfs our wars, it laughs at our quackery, our love of money, and it shows up our morality as nothing more than vanity. In no sense does the president of the Gambia stand out of this picture as being particularly weird.

· Ben Goldacre won the Royal Statistical Society’s inaugural award for statistical excellence in journalism last week.

EDIT:

Holy crap, the Gambian Observer is reporting that he’s been successful!

Jammeh’s Breakthrough Nine HIV/AIDS patients cured

Now Video Here:

news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-1252349,00.html


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

59 Responses



  1. Jut said,

    January 27, 2007 at 2:47 am

    Jammeh is just doing what any politician would do to ensure reelection; take a national crisis and make himself a saviour. Bush did it with terrorism, Jammeh with AIDS. Why not?
    Nevermind, I guess Africa wins again as usual :(

  2. DocOperon said,

    January 27, 2007 at 2:55 am

    Count me among the doctors who are, indeed, “mesmerised and stunned.”

    I fear what role the pictured staff/cudgel/device plays in said cures, or why they must visit the toliet facilities “every five minutes.”

  3. AitchJay said,

    January 27, 2007 at 3:20 am

    Ugh..

    Thanks for that mental picture DocOperon..

    I hope he at least washes it between patients.

  4. Daniel Rutter said,

    January 27, 2007 at 5:04 am

    There is, you must admit, a certain symmetry to the proscription of sex worker contact in return for AIDS treatment assistance.

    After all, noisy American evangelists do not need AIDS treatment, for they are righteous and pure and protected by God against disease, poverty, Communists, et cetera.

    And so it is all right that they are ineligible for assistance, on account of the fact that they simply cannot stop visiting hookers and taking very uncool drugs at every opportunity.

  5. Robert Carnegie said,

    January 27, 2007 at 9:20 am

    I wonder how long it’ll take before they can tell him that there are no AIDS, HIV, and asthmatic patients left in the hospitals. (“Behind those screens? Hiding? No, no, Mr. President. You are mistaken. In my Radio 4 No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency voice.”)

    I don’t believe half of what I’m told about Africa, even by you, Dr. Goldacre. Of course if this is true then the man should be immediately released from his presidential responsibilities so that he can bring to the whole world his… oh, apparently he is only allowed to treat 100 patients. Heaven knows why.

    I intend to continue to be sceptical.

    I suppose the medicinal herb could be an endangered species, and if he’s working someone else’s intellectual property then certainly he’ll be limited by licensing terms. I presume it is spirits guiding him… but imagine, a grown man carrying on this way. Do they have assassinations in Gambia?

  6. Robert Carnegie said,

    January 27, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Afterthought: isn’t there a long tradition of kings and bishops having magical healing abilities? As in The Lord of the Rings for instance… which is set in BCE and then some of course :-)

    I note the bloke’s insistence that you can’t be a witch and a doctor. Since his herbs are stated to be medicinal, I take it he’s a doctor. Or a pharmacist. not a very good one in either case.

  7. kuvera said,

    January 27, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Good and important points well made… but it’s probably only fair to add that the people who influence Pepfar policy are a particular brand of Christian – many who consider themselves Christian do not oppose condom use, empowerment of sex workers, provision of needle exchanges, etc
    As an atheist, I’m often left feeling as though most or all of these examples of irrationality having a negative impact on people’s lives are the fault of religion. Yet, I keep coming across people with deeply-held religious beliefs who have a perfectly rational and pragmatic approach to issues that involve others – who they do not expect to have the same beliefs as them.
    Personally, I don’t understand how this happens – my instincts tell me that if someone falls for ‘all that god/spirituality nonsense’, then they can’t be expected to be sensible about anything else. However, my experience of many ‘believers’ proves me mistaken again and again.
    Afterall, while church leaders in England were desperately trying to maintain their agencies’ unfair discrimination against lesbians and gay men this week, a group of Catholic MPs were lobbying cabinet members to pay them no heed.
    I suppose what I’m saying is that, if our real aim is to promote a sound, rational approach to complex issues in order to prevent the suffering caused by this kind of abuse of superstition and ignorance, then atheists need to take care to ally ourselves with people who believe things that we think are irrational, but who are otherwise ‘on our side’.
    If we alienate them, we risk failing to achieve the really important things, for the sake of making points about how wonderfully marvellous it is to be atheist.
    Gosh, all this for not saying ‘this particular Christian value system’ and ‘these particular superstitious Christians’… who’d be a writer, eh?! :-)

  8. censored said,

    January 27, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I think your sub-editor means “Last week, Ben Goldacre won the Royal Statistical Society’s inaugural award for statistical excellence in journalism.”

    Unless, of course, it was only judged from last week’s journalism…

  9. terry hamblin said,

    January 27, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Kuvera is right. It is the Roman Catholic Church that opposes the use of condoms. Other churches do not. Even the obnoxious tele-evangelists don’t oppose them.

    Christianity continues to get a bad press, but in 2007 we should remember that 200 years ago it was evangelical Christians who got the law on slavery changed and evangelical Christians who throughout the ninetenth century were resposnible for improving the lot of children, widows and orphans, prisoners, drunkards and the poor.

    Today in Africa much of the social support for AIDS sufferers is provided by Christians. I agree that the approach of Roman Catholics is not helpful, but for all the good they may have done the Roman Catholic Church is well known for its errors of judgement (the Oxford martyrs, William Tyndale, the Spanish Armarda, the Spanish Inquisition, Galileo, the list is almost endless).

    To tar all Christians with these excesses is like blaming all atheists for Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.

  10. Dibs said,

    January 27, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Hitler wasn’t an atheist.

  11. pv said,

    January 27, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    “To tar all Christians with these excesses is like blaming all atheists for Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.”

    Joe Stalin and Pol Pot were not doing anything in the name of atheism. Atheism is neither a religion nor philosophy. It is merely an absence of theistic belief.
    And, as Dibs has already pointed out, Hitler was not an Atheist. He was most definitely a Christian although it cannot be stated with any certainty that his religious beliefs are what guided his actions.
    The problem with Christian influenced aid, and most other religious aid, is that it is conditional on the recipients conforming to the particular religious dogma being promoted. So the aid isn’t being given out of any deep or unconditional love for mankind. Rather, people’s ignorance and suffering are being used as recruitment tools, exactly as they have been by colonial missionaries over the centuries.

  12. jimbob said,

    January 27, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Spot on article, Ben.

    @6 Robert Carnegie: The royal touch that cured scrofula for example?

    I still think it was one of the “cultural archetypes” (no I am not a Jungian) that helped give princess Diana the status of a cultural icon: Fairytale royals curing TB, modern one “alleviating” suffering caused by AIDS…

  13. amoebic vodka said,

    January 27, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Oxfam and Christian Aid are two of the bigger Christian charities and neither make their aid conditional on religious beliefs. Neither do Amnesty International or the Samaritans, also set up as Christian charities.

    And while atheism may be the absence of a belief in god(s), at times it seems to create an intolerance of other people’s religious beliefs that is strangely familiar ;)

  14. jdd_london said,

    January 28, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    I can certainly subscribe to the notion that certain faiths may have a positive role to play in society but I don’t agree with the idea that this excuses many of their other less worthy endeavours. The recent ‘debate’, for example, on ‘gay adoption’ (it was, really, about anti- discrimination) in the UK leaves me a bit cold in the sheer nastiest of some of the comments from Christians and others. Although it seems to have created an unholy (pardon the pun) alliance between many faiths that have always had a strong dislike for each other.

    Sadly, I feel that organised religion per se seems to be doing as much (if not more) harm than good. As regards intolerance to these beliefs, I am happy to tolerate people religious beliefs but not when they seek to illogically suppress and undermine other members of society.

    I found Richard Dawkins recent interviewed on Newsnight a nice antidote:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWL1ZMH3-54

    Although, one of Dawkins most frightening comments is regarding some of the USA religious-right who wish armageddon via nuclear war to implement, in their minds, the second coming of Christ.

  15. killary45 said,

    January 28, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Sad to see anti-Catholic prejudice spreading to this site.

    If Catholic policy is having such a bad effect in Africa one would imagine that it would be the Catholic countries which had the highest rate of HIV/AIDS. May I suggest that anyone interested should look at the prevalance of HIV/AIDS in countries with large Catholic populations and compare it to the rate in countries with similar climate, geography, education and development which have fewer Catholics.

    Strange as it might seem the countries in which the Catholic church has some influence have, on average, far lower rates of HIV/AIDS than other similar countries.

    In Asia the HIV/AIDS rates in the two countries with large Catholic populations (East Timor and The Philippines) are far lower than in other similar countries.

    I would have thought that on this site people would be required to produce evidence to justify their attacks.

    Essentially the policy adopted in countries in which the church has influence is: ABC – Abstinence outside marriage, Be faithful in marriage, Condoms as a last resort. The countries which are most successful at fighting HIV/AIDS follow this policy.

  16. terry hamblin said,

    January 28, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Hitler a Christian?

    Well, if that’s what you think, no wonder people dislike Christians. He may have come from a Christian background, but Christianity is a personal faith not something you imbibe from your surroundings or nationality. No Christian denomination would own Hitler. Furthermore he had a hatred of Christianity that was at least part of the motive of his atrocities.

    I will accept, though, that he wasn’t an atheist. He thought atheists no better than animals. He made up his own religion with his view of the German National Character as God. This is his view of Christianity as quoted by his secretary: “The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.”

    The subject is discused at homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ca_hitler.html and on many other sites.

  17. pv said,

    January 28, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Since when did a dismissal of all theistic religion become an exclusive “attack” on Catholics? It’s always interesting to see that some Catholics don’t even acknowledge other Christians. And that theirs is the one true god, in spite of the apparently billions of believers in other deities – even if they are all a load of superstitious mumbo jumbo. Very revealing!
    Regarding Oxfam being a Christian charity, I think a quick reference to its own account of its origins would tell you that it isn’t.
    www.oxfam.org.uk/about_us/history/index.htm

    The idea that Catholic countries have lower rates of HIV because of Catholic doctrine is also plainly absurd. Italy, home of that subversive state within a state known as the Vatican, is a Catholic country. And the reason HIV rates are low here, along with a disastrously low birth rate, is that people use condoms (among other forms of contraception) – rather against Catholic doctrine I’d say. In other words, as I hear from many educated Italians, “loro sono bugiardi”, because in reality so many live their lives as Protestants. As for them being any more faithful in marriage than anyone else, I suspect this is wishful thinking. Are there any figures to support the assertion; always bearing in mind that divorce statistics aren’t an indication of fidelity?

  18. killary45 said,

    January 28, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    PV you will note that “kumera” and “Terry Hamlin” were both specifically anti-Catholic in their posts. It was to them that my post was addressed. My point is that there is no evidence to support the idea that the teaching of the Catholic church has a negative impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS. If you know of any evidence then I would like to hear it.

    In your post you said that “The problem with Christian influenced aid, and most other religious aid, is that it is conditional on the recipients conforming to the particular religious dogma being promoted. So the aid isn’t being given out of any deep or unconditional love for mankind.” That is totally false – just as false about CAFOD – the Catholic relief agency as about all other major charities. This shows that your comments are based on ignorance and prejudice and have no place on a “Bad Science” website.

    Please find any examples to support your statement or withdraw.

  19. David Mingay said,

    January 29, 2007 at 12:01 am

    If Hitler wasn’t a Christian, why did he say to one of his generals in 1941, “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so”?

  20. pv said,

    January 29, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Killary I accept your assertion that not all such aid is conditional. OK? However, I do maintain that the aid given by religious groups on the ground in foreign countries would be much sparser if it wasn’t felt there was an opportunity to expand the “client base”, if you’ll pardon the expression. For heaven’s sake it’s written in the scriptures that the word of god should be spread to the four corners of the world (obviously it was flat and rectangular in those days). And we know what a peaceful, blood-free process that’s been over the last couple of thousand years!
    Incidentally, historically, what was the role of missionaries in British Colonial Africa? Or in any other part of Africa? Or any other parts of the world where they ventured? They set up schools, hospitals etc. All good things, no-one can deny. But their purpose was not solely or even primarily the physical and academic welfare of humankind. Was it?

    But back to the topic. You wrote:
    “Essentially the policy adopted in countries in which the church has influence is: ABC – Abstinence outside marriage, Be faithful in marriage, Condoms as a last resort. The countries which are most successful at fighting HIV/AIDS follow this policy.”

    The United States aid to African countries with respect to HIV and Aids is given on condition that no US aid money is to go towards the supply of condoms. This is a religiously motivated condition an everyone knows it. And the reason it is such a reviled condition is that advising abstinence is neither a just nor workable policy. For a start it is wholly unjust and inhumane to say that a partner in a marriage or relationship should suffer because of the infidelities of the other partner. It is also unjust to inflict such particular cultural values on another culture.
    In any case the US Government has nothing to crow about, with the highest rates of teenage pregnancies and promiscuity in of practically any Western country. So, even where the President is bordering on the evangelical, preaching abstinence doesn’t even work at home. The UK doesn’t fare too well in the teenage pregnancy stakes either, but at least that Government doesn’t impose religiously motivated conditions on its foreign aid.
    Just as nutritional or health advice doesn’t need to be dressed up in pseudoscientific claptrap (the purpose of which is usually to deceive), so kindness, goodness and care for one’s fellow human beings doesn’t need to be wrapped up in religious superstition (the purpose of which thoughout history, it seems to me, is to exert power and influence).

  21. motmot said,

    January 29, 2007 at 12:11 am

    18: I agree with you that many Christian aid agencies do not take account of the religion of the needy that they assist. But condoms need to be promoted, as part of a more comprehensive plan for AIDS transmission reduction. For example, Christian Aid’s take on condom usage, from www.christian-aid.org.uk/news/media/pressrel/060321p.htm, “S refers to safer practices covering all the different modes of HIV transmission. For example: … barrier methods for penetrative sexual intercourse…”.

    Perhaps you could provide an example of somewhere where AIDS transmission was increased by the use of condoms and advice on STIs? For an example of a successful scheme where condoms were used, take a look at heapro.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/19/1/69. “Condom usage (36.10% to 38.70% to 46.31%), … increased significantly from baseline to post-test and 6-month follow up, respectively (p

  22. motmot said,

    January 29, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Okay, last paragraph of 21 should read: Perhaps you could provide an example of somewhere where AIDS transmission was increased by the use of condoms? For an example of a successful scheme where condoms and advice on STIs were used, take a look at heapro.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/19/1/69. “Condom usage (36.10% to 38.70% to 46.31%), … increased significantly from baseline to post-test and 6-month follow up, respectively (p [less than] 0.01). Furthermore, the reported STI incidence decreased significantly (7.4% to 4.6% to 2.4%, respectively).”

  23. killary45 said,

    January 29, 2007 at 10:24 am

    PV – if you read the gospels you we see that the teaching of Jesus in his sermons and parables was concerned with social justice for its own sake – good Christians of all denominations want to feed the hungry and help the sick with no ulterior motive.

    Catholic organisations do not ban the use of condoms – they simply do not pay for them. They also make sure that education about HIV/AIDS is accurate so that when someone is not following Catholic teaching of abstinence outside marriage and fidelity in marriage they know the risks of sex without a condom.

    I did not think I would be defending the US government, but I would again ask you to look at the record of whether or not the countries which have been most helped by USAID have been more successful in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

  24. jj_hankinson said,

    January 29, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    There are various quotes from Hitler that suggest he at least pretended to hold onto some Christian (specifically Catholic) beliefs. Like this one from Mein Kampf: “I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord’s work.”

    However he is also attributed with other anti-Christianity (and often anti-Catholic) quotes. To claim the actions of Nazi Germany were anything much to do with Hitler being a Christian is a bit much. The evidence isn’t clear either way IMHO.

    On Ben’s comments: I’d suggest that most people will understand the variety of literalist Christianity he is referring to.

    On charities: Oxfam is secular.

    On tolerance: like ‘free speech’, tolerance can go too far. I’m happy to tolerate other people’s beliefs as long as they recognise they have no right to let their beliefs negatively impact the lives of others.

    Tolerating the Catholic churches attempt to blackmail the government into allowing it to discriminate against homosexuals is a step too far for me. So is their line on contraception in Africa.

  25. amoebic vodka said,

    January 29, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Oops, sorry about not looking up about Oxfam to check what I got told at primary school.

    The point was that grouping charities by religious affiliation, rather than by their policies or aid they give out is too simplistic. It just serves to antagonise religious groups who agree that aid shouldn’t be about promoting religious doctrine. It also turns a debate about a particular action motivated by belief into a “religion is evil, discuss” debate, which by its nature is unwinnable.

    BTW, surely using Hitler as an example of why Christianity is a bad thing (assuming he was one) is like arguing that all vegetarians/painters/men with a moustache are evil?

  26. Despard said,

    January 29, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    #24: “BTW, surely using Hitler as an example of why Christianity is a bad thing (assuming he was one) is like arguing that all vegetarians/painters/men with a moustache are evil?”

    Exactly. But the claim was originally made in response to the assertion that Hitler was an atheist, which he wasn’t. He probably believed *he* was god, to be honest.

  27. jj_hankinson said,

    January 29, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    “BTW, surely using Hitler as an example of why Christianity is a bad thing (assuming he was one) is like arguing that all vegetarians/painters/men with a moustache are evil?”

    Yep – sounds about right to me. That’s why I said: “To claim the actions of Nazi Germany were anything much to do with Hitler being a Christian is a bit much. The evidence isn’t clear either way IMHO.”

    As an aside, did anyone see that the Home Office are suggesting that lie detectors should be used in the UK to check up on sex offenders. Dunno how familiar you all are with the polygraph, but the claims made about its effectiveness are dubious at best.

  28. pv said,

    January 30, 2007 at 12:52 am

    “BTW, surely using Hitler as an example of why Christianity is a bad thing (assuming he was one) is like arguing that all vegetarians/painters/men with a moustache are evil?”

    That surely is the very intention of Christians who claim (erroneously) that Hitler was an atheist. It’s the same when they refer to atrocities committed by various communist and other totalitarian regimes, and their leaders, whose philosophies aren’t founded in a theistic religion. They are implying that the likes of Stalin and Pol Pot were promoting atheism, which is patent nonsense and often a deliberate lie.

  29. Martin said,

    January 30, 2007 at 8:07 am

    “BTW, surely using Hitler as an example of why Christianity is a bad thing (assuming he was one) is like arguing that all vegetarians/painters/men with a moustache are evil?”

    Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian.
    This is one of those wierd lies which gets told often enough that people start believing it (like the earth being flat).

  30. AitchJay said,

    January 30, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    If you like art, he wasn’t a painter either..

  31. rosy said,

    January 30, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    I think he [Hitler] *was* a painter at one point… mainly of walls, as I understood it…

  32. manigen said,

    January 30, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    On the whole catholicism/condoms thing, I don’t know if any of you remember a panorama program from a few years back:

    www.guardian.co.uk/aids/story/0,7369,1059068,00.html

    Let’s be absolutely clear about this; the actions of the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, are indefensible. He is directly responsible for some of the further spread of aids in many (predominantly very poor) countries. This man is extremely senior in the Catholic church – he was a member of the conclave that elected Pope Benedict.

  33. manigen said,

    January 30, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Just to clarify, I’m not saying that all (or even most) catholics think or behave this way, or condone this behaviour.

  34. pv said,

    January 30, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    “Let’s be absolutely clear about this; the actions of the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, are indefensible. He is directly responsible for some of the further spread of aids in many (predominantly very poor) countries. This man is extremely senior in the Catholic church – he was a member of the conclave that elected Pope Benedict.”

    You mean he lies? Who’d have thought it? A religious person lying in order to promote their philosophy / ideology! That’s a new one on me. Whatever next?

  35. manigen said,

    January 31, 2007 at 11:11 am

    No actually, I don’t think he does, because the OED says that a lie is an “Intentional false statement”. I think Trujillo and the other Pontificators are now beyond rationality and honestly believe they are telling the truth.

    I don’t think he lies, I just think he’s as crazy as a soup sandwich.

  36. Delster said,

    January 31, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Killary post 23,

    if i remember correctly either the current or previous pope declared that condoms did not stop the HIV virus from being transmitted. bearing in mind that a lot of the more devout followers take the pope’s word as gospel (if you’ll forgive the saying) this was a huge blow against the education program. Also they advocate the use of the rythem method over condoms.

    Amoebic vodka… post 25… you forgot Clerks…all clerks are evil too, right?

    I was raised in the roman catholic faith but once i was old enough to questions things and started to become interested in science i became more or less an agnostic.

    What i did take away was that all the 10 commamdment’s says boils down “be nice to each other” If somebody is not being so, either through discrimination or physical harm, then they are not bahaving in a “christian” manner. This is also the essence of many other religions.

    If a couple, of any sexual combination, wish to adopt a child then surely the only thing that should matter is their capability to love & care for that child?

    I live in Dublin and in Irland same sex couples can’t adopt or even have IVF treatment (if female) with a donor’s sperm. This leaves them more vulnerable to comunicable diseases as they have to use AI instead.

    At present i’m in the process of arranging for STD tests (HIV, Syphilis etc) so i can act as a donor to such a couple. Having met them and found that they seem to be people who would treasure a child as it should be i was more than happy to do this for them. As a roman catholic should i do doing this? no is probably the answer but as a person wishing to help people then the answer is yes.

    Take what you want from a religion and leave the rest…. after all they have ALL been pased down through ordinary people like you and I

  37. Delster said,

    January 31, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    appologies if that last bit got a bit heavy :-)

  38. killary45 said,

    January 31, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    jj_hankinson (24) brings up the issue of gay adoption. I am not sure what relevance to the topic under discussion this has – i.e. HIV/AIDS treated by the President of Ghana – except to give an opportunity to express prejudice. The Catholic church is not blackmailing the government. The church has been told that unless it offers gay adoption it will soon be unable to continue to operate adoption societies.This was a decision of the government. Until 2002 gay adoption was illegal in Britain and it still is illegal in the vast majority of countries in the world whether they are Catholic, Protestant, other religions or atheistic, including in most countries in Europe. The law which the government introduced making gay adoption compulsory will make it impossible for the Catholic adoption societies to carry on – a strange definition of blackmail.

    As far as contraception in Africa is concerned you are of course allowed to dislike the Catholic position but why mention it on this site unless you are prepared to back up your comments by facts? Can you find any evidence that the countries in Africa in which the Catholic church is present in large numbers are in any way suffering because of the church? I can accept that some developing countries have problems because of high birthrates, but I would be grateful if you could point me to research which shows that any such problems tend to be worse in Catholic countries than in other countries where there are very few Catholics.

    Cardinal Trulljo says that abstinence is the only 100% safe way of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. That is obviously undeniable. His statements about the reliability of condoms have been widely criticised, but what he was saying is firstly that condoms are not 100% safe. Research by Weller and Davis www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=11869658 had this summary of its findings “This review indicates that consistent use of condoms results in 80% reduction in HIV incidence. Consistent use is defined as using a condom for all acts of penetrative vaginal intercourse.” Some of us are old enough to remember when condoms were the only widely available means of contraception – and that plenty of couples using them found they were expecting a baby. This is presumably mainly because in practice condoms are not always used correctly, even by couples who have been using them for some time. He also argues that a policy promoting condom use can have a negative effect because it promotes promiscuity. This may seem to be far-fetched, but if we consider the sex education policy in British schools; the more that condoms and safe sex is taught, the higher the rate of teenage pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted disease. Not a proof, of course, but evidence that promotion of safe sex might not be a panacea.

    “In many sub-Saharan African countries, high HIV transmission rates have continued despite high rates of condom use. In Botswana, for example, condom sales rose from one million in 1993 to three million in 2001 while HIV prevalence among urban pregnant women rose from 27 percent to 45 percent. In Cameroon, during the same period, condom sales increased from six million to 15 million while HIV prevalence rose from 3 percent to 9 percent (AIDSMark 2002). Of course, prevalence might have risen even faster without increased condom use, but no clear examples have emerged yet of a country that has turned back a generalized epidemic primarily by means of condom promotion.” (Keep Media 1/03/2004)

    The unanswerable defence of the Catholic position is that contrary to the expectations of the critics the rates of HIV/AIDS in countries in which the Catholic church has influence is far lower than in other similar countries.

  39. apothecary said,

    February 1, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Just to chime in with my twopennyworth –

    1 if we define a religion as a set of beliefs which sets out to answer some fundamental metaphysical questions which humankind has asked since prehistoric times – principally, where have we come from, why are we here, what happens when we die and what if any moral principles should govern our lives while we’re here – then neodarwinist atheism is as much a religion as any other (NB I’m not talking about whether evolution is correct or not here – I personally think it is) . Atheisists believe in the non-existence of any kind of deity. Since God’s existence can neither be proved nor disproved in the same way that I can demonstrate that 2+2=4 and not 5, or that acid+base=salt+water, it is ultimately a matter of conviction, based on the available evidence. My response to Lewis’s trilemma about the identity of Jesus – bearing in mind of course, the culture in which he lived, what witnesses say he said and did, etc (was he a liar who set out to deceive, a lunatic who was totally deluded, or who he said he was, Lord and God) is to chose the last option. Equally, I believe in the resurrection, improbable though it is, because that seems to me the only possible conclusion from the historical evidence. Anyone who has looked seriously at the evidence and comes to a different conclusion from me has my sincere respect. I’m a Christian because I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s true, and in all honesty I’m bound to accept the consequences of drawing that conclusion. St Paul actually wrote “if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain and we most greatly to be pitied” – which is as near a falsificationist statement as I think we can get for an (alleged) historical event

    2- there are and have been and will always be arrogant bigots who also happen to be Christians, or atheists or whatever (viz comment from prominent evangelistic atheist on Rod Liddle’s recent Channel 4 programme: “what’s wrong with being arrogant if you are right?”). I find this deeply distressing and toe-curlingly embarassing, but not suprising since, as someone said “the church is a school for sinners, not a home for saints” – and people will always try to justify either their prejudices or their actions which advantage themselves over others.

    3 – One of the first organisations in UK to offer medical care to people with HIV/AIDS – at a time when most victims in UK were homosexual, and so subject to all kinds of additional prejudice – was the Mildmay Mission Hospital: quote from their website “Mildmay is a Christian organisation dedicated to improving the lives of men, women and children challenged by HIV and AIDS. We translate our faith into action by caring for body, mind and soul, with unconditional care and compassion”

    4 – Re the Catholic church’s poition re adoption by Gay couples – see Cormack Murphy O’Connors comments on the Today Programme

    Sorry for long post

  40. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 1, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Re. religion — have been listening to a lot of Dylan Moran recently.

    “It’s all very well, but, see… To me it just sounds like someone talking about their invisible friend. Which is fair enough but some of them are world leaders.”

    Or words to that effect…

    Andrew.

  41. jj_hankinson said,

    February 1, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    killary45: “The Catholic church is not blackmailing the government.”

    Well that’s one way of looking at it.

    By choosing to state that Catholic adoption agencies would have to close specifically because of not getting an exception to this law, it is blackmail. Their black and white morality means that rather than suck it up and deal with the fact society’s views evolve, they’d rather stop offering the service completely. He’s basically saying “but think of the children!” which looks like emotional blackmail to me. Biting off your nose to spite your own face etc.

    If you can’t see the relevance of the Catholic church’s stance on contraception to this article then I’m pretty sure you’re too blinkered by your support of the church to see very much at all.

    Your stats on HIV infection rates in spite of sales of condoms does not lead to the conclusion that an anti-condoms stance is valid. To argue this is spurious on your part. If the people were using condoms correctly they wouldn’t be getting HIV – but they are getting HIV so they’re not using condoms…

    And as for abstinence only policies… good luck with that… I think human nature might be counting against you there.

    apothecary: “Atheisists believe in the non-existence of any kind of deity.”

    Yes and some of an atheist’s hobbies are not-playing-chess and not-playing-tiddlywinks.

    The absence of a belief is not the same as a belief. People have got to get over the whole agnostic / atheist split – although its literally correct, virtually all atheists are agnostics – its just that they’re not willing to simply say “well anything’s possible” when asked about their beliefs.

    I find it baffling that anyone can really claim to have this philosophy. If someone knocked on your door dressed in prison overalls with a SWAG bag and told you they were here to read your gas meter, would you say “well anything’s possible!” and let them in? Nope. You’d decide not to believe them and ask for some proof (or phone the police)…

  42. jj_hankinson said,

    February 1, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    jj_hankinson: “If you can’t see the relevance of the Catholic church’s stance on contraception to this article then I’m pretty sure you’re too blinkered by your support of the church to see very much at all.”

    killary45 – apologies, misread your original post. You were actually referring to the relevance of the gay adoption issue in the UK. My bad.

    That said, I do think its relevant because its all about how personal religious prejudice (some call it faith) can negatively impact others. In Africa its prejudice towards contraception and sex out of marriage, in the UK its the desire to stop gay couple adopting, which impacts both gay couples and the children.

  43. killary45 said,

    February 1, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    jj_hankinson introduced the idea that the Catholic church is blackmailing the government over the gay adoption issue. Is this a reasonable way to describe the situation? At present Catholic doctors and other health workers are allowed on ground of conscience not take part in abortions. If in the future the government were to insist that all NHS staff would have to be prepared take part in abortions would those doctors and nurses be blackmailing the government if they said that as a consequence of this change they would have to leave the NHS? Is a conscientious objector who refuses to fight for his country blackmailing the government? I can understand the argument that agencies should not discriminate against gay people, but to describe the Catholic position as blackmail is ridiculous.

    The point about condom use not being 100% effective is not spurious. Even when used properly in ideal conditions condoms have a 1% failure rate. In practice people do not always use them properly – and this is particularly true in poor countries – a much higher failure rate occurs.

    As I stated above the only really effective programmes against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa are based on ABC: Abstinence outside marriage, Be faithful in marriage, Condoms if you cannot either abstain or be faithful. There is a lot of research about this which shows that policies based just on promoting condoms do not work when the epidemic is established.

    The fact that Catholic countries in Asia and Africa have generally far lower rates of HIV/AIDS than other similar countries has not been challenged.

  44. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 1, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Well said JJ. I prefer the term ‘rationalist’ to ‘atheist’ because I think defining someone in terms of a lack of a belief in an abstract concept is a bit silly. And defining them in opposition to someone who has such a belief is particularly silly when all the different flavours of ‘theists’ all define themselves in opposition to each other anyway.

    It’s not like being a holocaust-denialist, AIDS-denialist or whatever which involves taking a position against a widely-held theory which is strongly supported by evidence. It’s just a matter of not getting involved in any of a morass of absurd and contradictory beliefs about unprovables and unobservables.

    And yeah, blackmail’s not a bad word for the Catholic adoption thing — no-one told them they had to close, they’ve chosen to ‘martyr’ themselves rather than adapt. “Discrimination is okay when my imaginary friend says so” is a rubbish argument.

    Now, where’s me spaghetti…

    Andrew.

  45. Aspiring Pedant said,

    February 1, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Killary45

    In post 15 you said

    “If Catholic policy is having such a bad effect in Africa one would imagine that it would be the Catholic countries which had the highest rate of HIV/AIDS. May I suggest that anyone interested should look at the prevalance of HIV/AIDS in countries with large Catholic populations and compare it to the rate in countries with similar climate, geography, education and development which have fewer Catholics.”

    I have done so and found that, while there very few Catholic Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 70% of Lesotho’s population is Catholic and the HIV/Aids prevalence rate is 28.9%. This is similar to Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe & South Africa, all countries with small catholic populations.

    in post No. 38

    “The unanswerable defence of the Catholic position is that contrary to the expectations of the critics the rates of HIV/AIDS in countries in which the Catholic church has influence is far lower than in other similar countries.”

    Spain (92% Catholic) has the highest HIV/Aids prevalence rate in western Europe according to the UNAID/WHO 2006 report on the global aids epidemic 2006.

    in post 43 you said

    “The fact that Catholic countries in Asia and Africa have generally far lower rates of HIV/AIDS than other similar countries has not been challenged.”

    The Philippines (81% Catholic) has the third-lowest HIV-infection rate in Southeast Asia behind Laos (0.6% catholic) and Singapore (3.75% catholic). I can see no evidence to support your “fact” and it seems to be of the same standard as Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo’s “fact” that “The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom.”

    This nonsense possibly did very little harm, as I understand many Catholic bishops in South Africa support condom use as a means of preventing the spread of HIV. Catholic charities, like the charities of other religions, undoubtedly do a lot of good work but the absurd superstitions of organised religions can only be a hindrance.

  46. kuvera said,

    February 1, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    killary45: re your post #18, I am concerned that you seem to think my previous post #7 was anti-Catholic, specifically or otherwise.
    My use of the phrase ‘a particular brand of Christian’ was not a reference to Catholics or any other specific denomination, but to those who influence Pepfar policy for their own political ends.
    My point was that many Christians do have rational and human-centred approaches to complex issues that do respect other people’s beliefs. It seems ironic at this point that most of the people who have proved this point to me personally have not only been practising Catholics but also nuns and priests.
    My only actual reference to Catholics was in my example of how some lobbied cabinet members in disagreement with their own church leaders in the debate over discrimination against lesbians and gay men – hardly an anti-Catholic statement.

  47. apothecary said,

    February 2, 2007 at 9:54 am

    re JJ Hankinson @41 and “The absence of a belief is not the same as a belief”. Well, I can see that is true until one has to address the question. I neither believe nor disbelieve that there are steps up to the door of number 52 Main Street, Small Town USA, as a) I’ve never had to consider the question and b) it really doesn’t make any difference to me one way or another. But if as soon as one addresses the question of the existence of God, and more particularly the truth or otherwise of a particular faith, one has to reach a decision (as you say yourself JJ). And surely saying “I don’t believe that is true” is only another way of saying “I do believe that is not true”. Certainly several contributors to this discussion, and prominent evangelistic atheists such as Prof Dawkins, etc seem to be saying just that.

    Now, if Christianity is true, then any honest person (having considered the question) would be bound to accept it – whether than made him/her happy, sad, comforted, disturbed,etc. Equally, if it is not true, then no honest person can believe it – however comforting it might be. What saddens me is that many of the arguements against faith put here and elsewhere seem focussed on the stupid, hurtful and just plain wrong things that have been done in its name. By which arguement we should also reject democracy and science (Nazi experimentation, scientific fraud, etc). As I said previously, I would ask only that people look seriously at the evidence for the central claims of Christianity: the nature of Jesus and the resurrection. If, having done so, you decide it’s all at best untrue and at worst a malevolent hoax – well, you have my sincere respect and and admiration for your integrity. What disappoints me is this general dismissive, almost supercillious dismissal of Christianity without seriously considering it. Like the Daily Wail reader who says “all asylum seekers are spongers and should be sent home”, without actually considering the specific case of individual people who have fled their her home country to escape torture, persecution etc. Surely in such a learned group as this we can have a better level of debate

    Has Dawkins or any other leading contemporary Atheist apologist (in the technical sense of the word) dealt with the issue of Jesus/his resurrection in a serious way? If they have, I should be most grateful if someone could direct me to it

  48. jj_hankinson said,

    February 2, 2007 at 9:57 am

    killary45: re: post #43

    The whole ABC thing you mention is preaching a dogmatic view. It amounts to instructing people that:

    * Sex outside marriage is wrong
    * Extra-marital sex is wrong
    * If you’re a bad person because you can’t keep to points 1 and 2, where a condom.

    But the problem is that sex outside marriage isn’t wrong. In fact I’m quite sure people have been doing it for years! Just because a religious belief tells you it is against God’s will, doesn’t mean that same thinking applies to others.

    Unfortunately, in the real world, the first two bullets happen A LOT! And that is true whether you’re in Africa or in the West. So you might as well ditch those points and focus on providing decent sexual health education (and the required items – i.e. condoms).

    Abstinence is not a solution, it a moral position most often preached by religion organisations. People will screw each other whether the church likes it or not.

    And re: “The fact that Catholic countries in Asia and Africa have generally far lower rates of HIV/AIDS than other similar countries has not been challenged.”

    You jammed out a bunch of quoted evidence on condom use, but I didn’t see any stats to back up this position. I have no idea whether its true or not, but Aspiring Pendant appears to have dug some material up that contradicts this view.

    P.S. I do try not to be too zealous about my anti-religious views. The problem is that I find I can understand the real nutty fundamentalist believers better than the woolly liberal ones. At least the fundamentalists don’t pick and choose beliefs from their faith…

  49. jj_hankinson said,

    February 2, 2007 at 10:10 am

    re: apothecary post #47.

    I can understand your view here.

    Have you head The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Although it glosses over a lot of important aspects of the ‘atheist’ position, it does cover off the issue of atheism as a belief.

    He uses the idea of a ‘defacto atheist’ to describe atheists such as myself. A defacto atheist is an agnostic, usually because they recognise that NOTHING can ever be 100% proven as false or true. However, most of us need to make choices based on our own assessment of probability as to whether things are true or not. When it comes to the existence of God, a defacto atheist says “I can’t know for sure, however in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I must assume that God does not exist”.

    On your 2nd point, this discussion is necessarily focussing on the bad aspects of blind faith. For me the underlying message in the article (and many of the comments that have followed) is that prejudice or blind belief is fine until it starts hurting others. We could talk about the fluffy lovely side of religious belief if you like, but I find its not any different from the fluffy lovely side of human society irrespective of religion.

    And finally: “Has Dawkins or any other leading contemporary Atheist apologist (in the technical sense of the word) dealt with the issue of Jesus/his resurrection in a serious way?”

    Erm… why would they? Jesus might have existed (there is some evidence beyond the bible that he did), but as for the resurrection, well its just a bunch of arse isn’t it? Dead people don’t rise from the grave whether its written in a book or not. Apologies if you find that offensive – its not meant to be.

    To put it another way, you might as well ask “Has [insert leading skeptic] or any other leading skeptic (in the technical sense of the word) dealt with the issue of Peter Pan’s ability to fly in a serious way?”

  50. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 2, 2007 at 11:58 am

    … Or on a slightly less absurdist level, the issues of any of the central ‘miracles’ of any of the many, many other religions and cults out there?

    There’s nothing special about Christianity that means one must get deeply involved in Bible scholarship and “deal with the issue of Jesus/his resurrection in a serious way” in order to discuss the irrationality of religion in general.

    For that matter, Christians, have any of you dealt with the issues of the revalation of the Qur’an to the Prophet by the Angel Gabriel in a serious way? One might have assumed, speaking as a layman, that Jesus would have thought to mention something that important. Or the creation of the universe by Brahma in the Hiranyaagarbha? These all seem like things that a Christian ought to “deal with… in a serious way”.

    Andrew.

  51. apothecary said,

    February 2, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for that @ 48:

    >>Jesus might have existed (there is some evidence beyond the bible that he did), but as for the resurrection, well its just a bunch of arse isn’t it? Dead people don’t rise from the grave whether its written in a book or not. Apologies if you find that offensive – its not meant to be

    None taken!

    “Why would he [address the issue]“? Its the crucial question. In falsificationist terms, its the criterion on which Christianity stands or falls and is openly admitted and positively declared as such- see I Corr 15: 12-19 (its at www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=53&chapter=15&version=31&context=chapter, if you want to see). Summary – if Jesus wasn’t raised, its all a lie. One can’t say “in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I must assume that God does not exist”, and ignore this crucial bit of (alleged) evidence, which if true provides strong positive evidence and if false blows Christianity out of the water

    So – no-one seriously doubts that in the 1st Century CE Roman province of Judea, there was an itinerant preacher named Jesus bar Joseph who got a lot of people exited, p*ssed off the authorities (Roman and Jewish) and ended up being executed. There were many people like that. But the difference from the others was that starting three days later (counting inclusively, like all ancient peoples did) his followers turned from a frightened, scattered, disillusioned group to one that was boldly telling people Jesus was alive again. And claiming that large numbers (up to several hundred) people had seen him again, spoken, eaten and drunk with him – including people who had spent the last three years or so wandering the country with him, so presumably knew him very well. And were prepared to stick to their stories in spite of particularly unpleasant torture and death. But surely, as JJ Hankinson said “dead people don’t rise from the grave”. So what other possible explanations are there?

    1 – he wan’t really dead. Well he was executed by trained professionals well used to that method of execution. Luke (a physician) wrote that they stuck a spear into his heart to confirm death and “out came blood and water” – sounds like post-mortem separation of cellular components and plasma to me. He was also sealed in a cold tomb and left. I guess with modern ITU facilities a top team might be able to save someone whose been crucified and exposed for several hours (after a severe flogging too) – but that really wasn’t the situation here

    2 – the authorities removed the body. Clearly the way to snuff out any rumours would have been to display it, so that doesn’t work either

    3 – the followers hid the body, and concocted stories about meeting the risen Jesus later. Surely the truth would have got out eventually. And would so many people be prepared to stand by their stories that they’d seen and interacted with the risen Jesus, in the face of torture, execution, etc, if they knew it was all a hoax?

    4- the followers found the wrong tomb, saw it was empty and claimed it was a miracle. Well, the authorities could easily have displyed the body (as in 2) and anyway, people claimed to have seen and interacted with a risen Jesus (see also 3)

    5 – it was a mass delusion/hallucination. Many people who have lost someone close to them have had the experience of thinking they see them again, then realising it was someone else. This was different. Witnesses recount talking with, eating and drinking with a risen Jesus, over a long period of time (40 days or more) – large numbers of witnesses, many of whom knew the (pre-mortem) Jesus extremely well and so would not have been taken in by an imposter over that length of time.

    I can’t think of any other possible explanations (short of time travel, alien abduction, etc). So having eliminated those, I’m left concluding that the only explanation, however improbable, is that Jesus really did “rise from the grave”.

    It’s up to you. That’s my “witness statement” as it were. I’m not trying to convert anyone – that is emphatically not my job. I’m only trying to demonstrate that mine is not “blind faith”, or something that deep down I know is untrue, or something that I want to believe because it makes me feel better or I think will make me a better person. I’m trying (a la Socrates) to follow the argument wherever it takes me. If someone happens to come to the same conclusion as me – fine. I don’t get any benefit from that, no extra “spiritual brownie points”, no financial or other benefit, nothing. If they don’t – well, as I said, they have my sincere respect.

    This has been my third long post and I do apologise if this is getting tedious. We are also, I suspect and as jj-hankinson implies, moving very off-topic. I think its best to stop posting on this now, as I don’t want to trespass further on the group’s (or Ben’s) patience. If you’ve read this far – thanks.

  52. jj_hankinson said,

    February 2, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Apothecary, re: post #51:

    “But the difference from the others was that starting three days later (counting inclusively, like all ancient peoples did) his followers turned from a frightened, scattered, disillusioned group to one that was boldly telling people Jesus was alive again. And claiming that large numbers (up to several hundred) people had seen him again, spoken, eaten and drunk with him – including people who had spent the last three years or so wandering the country with him, so presumably knew him very well. And were prepared to stick to their stories in spite of particularly unpleasant torture and death. But surely, as JJ Hankinson said “dead people don’t rise from the grave”. So what other possible explanations are there?”

    And your evidence for all of this is…? All these claims are in the Bible, which is a book written and edited by lots of different people over a period of several hundred years. Any belief based purely on what the bible says is somewhat flawed. You wouldn’t even get away with using it as evidence in a GCSE History class… its second or third hand, written by a biased source and most of it can’t be confirmed by referencing other texts from that time.

    And with all due respect, you only need to look at recent incidents like the Jonestown Massacre to realise that people will blindly follow charismatic leaders with very little trouble.

    Do you equally believe in the flood that Noah survived? Or is that one just a nice story? Or doesn’t that count because its in the Old Testament and no-one really believes that anyway?

    This is why I find literalist believers much easier to understand. At least I know they view their holy texts as literal and 100% fact.

  53. apothecary said,

    February 2, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    >>All these claims are in the Bible, which is a book written and edited by lots of different people over a period of several hundred years

    They are, but I wasn’t relying on any (solely) biblical claim. The claim of the resurrection was made consistently by people at the time, before as well as after the gospels were written, and there is external evidence for that (ie that the claim was made). Persecution of Christians started pretty much soon after the resurrection, largely because they were making claims which ran counter to religious orthodoxy and/or threatened state security.

    I then tried to apply reason to the problem (these people all said it happened – can we really believe it) and worked it out from there.

    WRT OT stories – we haven’t got space here for discussion of Myth (technical use) vs history, the nature of different types of biblical writing, etc.

    >>And with all due respect, you only need to look at recent incidents like the Jonestown Massacre to realise that people will blindly follow charismatic leaders with very little trouble.

    this is undoubtedly true, but I’m not sure I see why you raise that – sorry. It wasn’t one or two people who claimed they had met the risen Jesus, and then persuaded others, it was lots. OK I know this is internal evidence, but Paul (writing a letter) not many years after the resurrection said “look, Jesus appeared to lots of people, some of them are dead, but many are still around – don’t trust just my word, ask them” That doesn’t suggest to me someone who was trying to deceive others – it would have to have been a pretty huge conspiracy and as they saying goes “two people can only keep a secret if one of them’s dead”

    >>This is why I find literalist believers much easier to understand. At least I know they view their holy texts as literal and 100% fact.

    So – if we swallow everything literally without engaging brain, we’re naive fools, and if we try to apply some intellectual process we’re sophists? Can’t win then :-) ! (That is not intended to be offensive)

  54. apothecary said,

    February 2, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    re 49 _ sorry, posts crossed so didn’t see this til now

    >>have any of you dealt with the issues of the revalation of the Qur’an to the Prophet by the Angel Gabriel in a serious way?

    That claim is based on one person’s (ie Mohammed’s) testimony that it happened, it can’t be tested in the same way.

    >>One might have assumed, speaking as a layman, that Jesus would have thought to mention something that important.

    Islam was founded several centuries after the gospels were written, so presumably that specific issue didn’t come up at the time. :-)

    That really is the end of posts from me on this topic. If others want to carry it on, go ahead without me. Thank you for reading if you’ve got this far, and thank you especially to my interlocutors – I have found your contributions very interesting and thought provoking (that may sound a bit patronising – it really isn’t intended to be).

  55. killary45 said,

    February 3, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Aspiring Pedant (45) While I am glad that my post has encouraged someone has looked at the data about relative rates of HIV/AIDS in countries in which the Catholic church has influence, I am sure that you will agree (and presumably do not claim) that it is not possible to prove or disprove a correlation by picking out a few individual elements of the data.

    I have done a correlation analysis of the full data which clearly supports my argument. When I get time to write it up properly I shall publish the figures in a blog so that they can be criticised and commented on. I hope that In that way the debate about this subject can be better informed.

  56. Aspiring Pedant said,

    February 3, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Killary45,

    I only gave a few examples, but I have have looked at a great deal of data and can see no correlation between religion and aids rates. While Catholic countries in Western Europe have higher aids rates than non-Catholic, I very much doubt that Catholicism is a causal factor. In other parts of the world making comparisons is difficult. There are no non-Catholic countries in South & Central America, for example. Similarly, there are few Catholic countries in Africa.

    I’d be very interested in seeing your data and analysis and if you can produce data to support your argument please do so, otherwise it looks like you’re bluffing.

  57. Robert Carnegie said,

    February 3, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I found online a summary of a debunking of “Hitler was a vegetarian”, but the principal evidence seemed to be a statement by someone who cooked for him before he allegedly switched to a vegetarian diet. That wasn’t very convincing. Apparently at that time he often ate poultry and fish but not red meat. He was then advised by a doctor to go vegetarian.

    So according to this version, he wasn’t vegetarian from birth or from adulthood and it wan’t from conviction but on specific and personal grounds of health, but if that’s as rebutted as it gets… I mean you don’t think he was sorry for the animals? (Then again… I can see that too. He was a vicious man but his viciousness may have run in some particular channels and not in others. Please don’t think I’m a fan.)

  58. jj_hankinson said,

    February 5, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    We’re way OT here (Ben – tell us to clam up if this is not the place for this…), but:

    Apothecary: post #53:

    “They are, but I wasn’t relying on any (solely) biblical claim. The claim of the resurrection was made consistently by people at the time, before as well as after the gospels were written, and there is external evidence for that (ie that the claim was made). Persecution of Christians started pretty much soon after the resurrection, largely because they were making claims which ran counter to religious orthodoxy and/or threatened state security.

    I then tried to apply reason to the problem (these people all said it happened – can we really believe it) and worked it out from there. ”

    Apologies if I missed this, but where is the evidence that lots of people saw Jesus post-resurrection (other than the Bible)? People still claim this today, but they got their evidence from the Bible and church from what I can see – this is not what I would call a quality source of evidence.

    The fact that Christians were persecuted by the Romans isn’t really evidence either way. The Romans persecuted a lot of different peoples!

  59. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 21, 2007 at 10:47 am

    apparently sky have video of this man here:

    news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-1252349,00.html

You must be logged in to post a comment.