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I Don't Get the Joke: My Year-End Tirade PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

rwOn Xmas Day, "pastor" Rick Warren, the currently-celebrated evangelist who is on every TV screen and front page as the hand-picked preacher to deliver the invocation of divine magic at the Obama inauguration ceremony, gave an effusive, rambling account on the NBC Today Show that demonstrated his incredible naivety about rational thinking and how disconnected his brand of religion - at least - is from reality. He was gushing over a miracle that he said had "blessed" his family.

The facts: Warren said that his daughter-in-law Jaime gave birth to her first child six weeks prematurely, though he can't seem to remember whether it was five, six, or seven weeks, since he gave all three figures... The hospital, he said, performed a C-section to save the baby's life - and the mother's. In that procedure, Warren said, they discovered that it was a "breech baby," that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck and it was not receiving oxygen.

If Jaime had tried to give birth in the normal way, at the normal time, and if she'd "pushed" during the delivery, it might have killed both her and the child. What they didn't know at the time, but then discovered, was that the mother had what Warren described as a "three-inch" brain tumor - which may be hyperbolic, since I think that such a growth might be visually evident.

But consider: the baby was in a breech situation, a critical position arranged by God; this was remedied by medical science during the Caesarian procedure, an invention by Man to thwart natural disasters brought about by a not-uncommon imperfection of the human body - which is also God's design. And the baby's umbilical cord had shut off oxygen-rich blood, another design error, or maybe a purposeful Act of God. The mother had a sizeable brain tumor, placed there by God, who we're told creates all these things.

And the Divine solution to this problem, according to Rick Warren? God - who, remember, is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, Omnipotent and Omniscient, knows all, the One who can do anything He wishes - arranged the oxygen-deprived baby in a breech position, bringing about a crisis that medical science had to avert by performing an operation. And He thereafter allowed medical science to detect the tumor, which is still in place, being poorly placed for access by surgery. Who designed this scenario - Rube Goldberg...?

I ask, is this God character a comedian, using humans as His marionettes for amusement? Does He get His kicks by manipulating us just for laughs? Was this near-disaster for the Warren family just a sort of Divine whim? How can Rick Warren see this as a demonstration of God's mercy - a miracle, yet! - rather than as a cruel, capricious, joke? A caring God would not have created and placed that brain tumor in the mother, would not have designed the process of gestation-and-birth so that oxygen starvation and breech delivery are possible, and would not be playing with the lives and security of humans, who He claims to have designed and created - out of dirt, yet. Doing this, putting humans in danger of death, is a purposeful act that He Himself has already declared to be a sin. Just who makes the rules in this stupid morality play...?

Since I'm dealing here with reality, let me return to the real world to close this subject of my tirade. The actual questions we have before us, are these: Does Rick Warren, personally, actually believe that the fantasy he preaches is true? Did he deliver that nonsense on NBC with the conviction that it made sense? Does he believe that this God of his is a capricious, vengeful, jealous, cruel, bored deity, who delights in threatening humans, and expects total obeisance, fear, and trembling as insurance against further bullying - or death? Or is Warren well aware of reality and of the deception he supports, riding his way to financial and influential success on the backs of the naïve?

Those are four heavy questions, of which I personally suspect the last one is answered by "yes."

Far more politically-savvy persons than I have opined that President-elect Obama made a good move by asking Warren to fill that prominent position on January 20th. Yes, I can see the truth in that; the move will happify the California Christian Right, I'm sure. I only hope that there'll be a minimum of this sort of appeasement from the Oval Office, and that the promised return to critical thinking and common sense, along with an end to science-bashing, will become significant characteristics of Washington politics.

The NBC Today show followed this dreary plug for righteousness with another, an interview with Franklin Graham, President of "Samaritan's Purse" and the chosen successor to his father, the Rev. Billy Graham, and with Rabbi Irwin Kula - demonstrating how incomprehensive the network's representation of "real" religion can be, since some 21% of the world's population embraces the religion of Islam, 33% espouse Christianity, and only .22% Judaism. The two savants delivered, through fixed and rather forced smiles, appeals for viewers to return to traditional superstitious beliefs while of course still enjoying the gifts and pagan associations that Xmas has taken on. Giving presents, overeating, overspending, and believing in absurdities, were touted as being "okay," perhaps primarily to keep the two gentlemen employed, but to me, their appearance on the show had all the atmosphere of a desperate stand against the creeping rationality that they saw threatening their respective Ivory Towers...

There's little doubt, I think, that our species is very slowly recovering from this centuries-long Dark Age, though another three generations or so will surely suffer through the remnants of the debris...  Churches will become museums... And yes, I can anticipate the amusement that will be expressed by folks in 2070 C.E. if/and/when they read these words...

But I note that there are real steps forward being made. Most of us now treat Santa Claus and flying reindeer as myths, though devils and angels, along with eternal life and Heaven, are still held by millions around the world to be attractive and probably-true delusions...

Hang in there...

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written by bosshog, December 29, 2008
"I only hope that there'll be a minimum of this sort of appeasement from the Oval Office, and that the promised return to critical thinking and common sense, along with an end to science-bashing, will become significant characteristics of Washington politics."

NOW who's disconnected from reality?

(PS: "Return" to critical thinking? Since when...?)
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written by Willy K, December 29, 2008
Riding his way to financial and influential success on the backs of the naïve? [/quote
YES - it's the only reason his does what he does.

..is Warren well aware of reality and of the deception he supports..

I really don't think so, the reason he has amassed a cult of personality is to have them share and reinforce his delusions of grandeur.

I wonder if there is a positive aspect to Obama picking this guy. Warren now has a national platform to espouse his hateful, ignorant ideas. What better way to clean an infection that to expose to the light.

I think this kind of exposure is what ultimately doomed Sarah Palin's, along with that old guy, run for the White House. She would have be very successful with her provincial prejudices before the age of television. smilies/tongue.gif

Willy K
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written by Willy K, December 29, 2008
Oops... messed up the placement of the quote attribute.. so sorry. smilies/cry.gif
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"Atheism" doesn't denote "politically left"...
written by Human Person Jr, December 29, 2008
but the comments on this site could lead one to think so.

This is a great column, one of Randi's finest. The subject matter is critically important. Thank you, kind sir.

Rick Warren is an idiot, and a very well-off idiot, at that. I think he mostly believes his own line of tripe, which, of course, requires lead-lined blinders. The pretzel shapes into which he twists his mind, just to make his belief possible, are truly incredible.

I will celebrate alongside the lefties, should the new administration promote critical thinking and scientific endeavor. Of course, "W" and predecessors have bankrupted us already, and President-elect Obama promises still more massive spending, which makes me wonder if any thinking is getting done, critical or otherwise.

Obama's plan to have "Pastor" Warren pray at the inauguration is just pandering, as was his support of "Reverend" Wright. This new pandering is a bit more inclusive, but no less odious. Pandering -- it's what politicians do.
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written by latsot, December 29, 2008
On a sort-of related note, here in the UK our queen - our non-elected head of state with no qualification other than parentage - gave her traditional speech on Christmas Day noting that for many, the Christmas period and the coming year might be more sombre than they may have hoped due to the economic situation and events in other countries (for example, various wars we've helped start). This might have sounded more sincere if it weren't delivered from a room the size of Trafalgar Square, stuffed with opulent furnishings, grand pianos and so on, behind a screen of some of the best security personnel on the planet.

It's OK though, she said, we (that is, the rest of us) don't need physical safety or financial security to be happy. The happiest people she personally has met are those who have served and given what they can for others, unencumbered by pesky things like untold hereditary wealth. I can't help but feel that the queen might not tend to meet a representative cross-section of people.

She suggested, almost truculently, that we ought to follow the example of Jesus. We shouldn't be pissed off about the current financial situation or the myopic practices by business and government that may have contributed to it. We should be *grateful* for the problems that beset us, because they give us the opportunity to find strength and courage within ourselves.

Thanks Ma'am. Thanks for that.

The speech is here, for those who want to give themselves a conniption: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=4iHGmVd82Aw

The fact that this woman and her appalling offspring aren't really remotely relevant in day-to-day life in the UK does little to curb my embarrassment at these posturing inbred fools.
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It's obvious
written by Bruno, December 29, 2008
Clearly Rick Warren and his wife are still being punished for the original sin. It was there and then that God decided that childbirth would be painful (Gen 3:16). The bible doesn't spell out how this was done but since it wasn't a problem before, I presume Eve was surgically and genetically modified on the spot to include an intentional design flaw.

I had BBC Radio 4 on at Christmas eve and was enjoying the choir music on a special programme called "A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols". After two splendid carols, on came a choir boy reading Genesis 3:8-19. Read that chapter and imagine it delivered by an innocent boy. I found my enjoyment of the rest of the music thoroughly galled.
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written by Diverted Chrome, December 29, 2008
possible interpretations:

a1)Why was the tumor was put there by God in the first place?
b1)The Warren family was being "taught a lesson"
c1)Warren's not pious enough and/or undeserving of his position as a power glutton/manipulator

a2)The tumor was put there by Satan
b2)God could not stop Satan from doing this
c2)Satan is more powerful than God
d2)God is a cowering character and, since he will not stand up for humans, is not worth attention

a3)There is no supernatural event present in this story
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written by Diverted Chrome, December 29, 2008
possible interpretations:

a1)Why was the tumor was put there by God in the first place?
b1)The Warren family was being "taught a lesson"
c1)Warren's not pious enough and/or undeserving of his position as a power glutton/manipulator

a2)The tumor was put there by Satan
b2)God could not stop Satan from doing this
c2)Satan is more powerful than God
d2)God is a cowering character and, since he will not stand up for humans, is not worth attention

a3)There is no supernatural event present in this story
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written by Diverted Chrome, December 29, 2008
@latsot
"She suggested, almost truculently, that we ought to follow the example of Jesus."
So she suggested you sever yourself from your family, denounce all personal possessions, and break laws until you receive the death penalty??
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written by magicmaker, December 29, 2008
Mr. Warren just needs a good boot in the ass for being so unsmart. I had a toothache all night so I decided to think positive thoughts about it late last nite in the hopes that it would go away. Guess What??? It still hurts like a SOB! I don't know about the rest of you all that post here but If I were Goddess of all Creation I would have certainly done a better job at creation. I would have created a pain free world where you could eat anything and drink alcohol like a fish and get drunk as skunk without any side effects....Life would be one big happy party...People like Warren just annoy that crap out of me...Sure live and let live but try asking Rick Warren if he wants to part with his God CASH COW and see what happens...SAME THING WITH ALL THOSE MORONS AT TBN..I spend alot of time out in nature and nature just does it thing and doen't wait around to be blessed by Some Possible God....I don't know how life started here on earth or in the Universe.......so I seek scientific answers...and let the power of mytho live on and on and on...it just gets so riduculous.....
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written by Kuroyume, December 29, 2008
As I've pointed out before, if god created the universe especially for us, it sure didn't do a great job. We are only capable of living on a speck 10^(many 10s) smaller than the 'known' universe (and there is speculation that because universal expansion causes a visible region limitation to the radius where light speed isn't overtaken by expansion, the universe may be many factors larger or even infinite). Was god just being a big, friggin' show off? Or maybe we're not so special after all and there is no god.

I'll take two of the latter to go, please.
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written by monstrmac1, December 29, 2008
I also can't stand Rick Warren. I used to subscribe to the "Purpose-driven life" but I no longer have any religious notions. I think Rick Warren is the kind of guy that takes advantage of peoples basic needs and struggles. A con man,is the best way to describe him, along with Joel Olsteen, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes etc. etc.

However, I REALLY wish Randi would have made his point without bringing up the birth of there child. I just feel that it should be an off-limits topic. Though its crap, I could see how the religiously inclined would think what happened with there childbirth was miraculous. I know that Rick Warren has done more wrong and said worse things than this.

I have a 4 year old, when I look at him I realize he's the closest thing to a miracle I'll ever witness in life. I guess this makes me bias towards the topic, I just wish you could have trashed him for something else.
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written by latsot, December 29, 2008
Diverted Chrome:
So she suggested you sever yourself from your family, denounce all personal possessions, and break laws until you receive the death penalty?


Ask her. She said it, not me.
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This message just in from GOD
written by Willy K, December 29, 2008
GOD just let me know that Rick "The Prick" Warren was punished because he compared gay marriage to bestially and incest.

Why would GOD tell me, an atheist from birth, why he was punishing Ricky Da Pricky instead of telling Rick directly? Well... that's the way Ricky's GOD works! smilies/tongue.gif
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written by kedo1981, December 29, 2008
The “Seinfeld” tv show had a running gag, whenever someone would mention somebody being “gay” they would say “but there’s nothing wrong with that” as a kind of politically correct mantra/crossing of fingers.
Fundys do the same thing, 4 x ample “ our baby has cancer, but it’s really a blessing in disguise” is always the follow up, as if they hope that by putting a “blessing” spin on it that the BIG G won’t be pissed
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Act IV Scene 1
written by Ian Mason, December 29, 2008
Shakespeare, of course: King Lear.
"As flies to wanton boys are we to th'Gods".
Very astute of old Will. This is how life is under God: harm then help then harm then help then.......
Question that and you'll be told that God moves in mysterious ways. Mysterious! More like downright perverted. Catch flies, pull their wings off and expect them to be grateful for being let go afterwards. Nature may be amoral and indifferent to our fate, but that's preferable (and more logical) compared to the Great Sadist in the Sky the preachers have invented.
And that was my end of year tirade. See you in the new one smilies/grin.gif
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People will always feel guilty about something
written by Realitysage, December 29, 2008
I agree with Randi that as the world progresses rational thought will most certainly experience gains. However, with projections of a huge growth in worldwide population numbers, it's most likely superstitious beliefs will continue their meteoric climb simply because human nature doesn't change much. People will always believe in the unprovable because they want to. And it's big business. It might not be off the mark to imagine that some museums will actually become churches and not the opposite. Sort of like the "Creation Museum" whose admission prices seem higher than what a church collection plate would be.
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written by Kuroyume, December 29, 2008
Unfortunately, even with the meteoric rise of science, technology, and rationality, we still have to contend with majorities of people who believe stupid stuff.

For instance, a friend of mine thinks that there is room for Intelligent Design because Evolutionary Theory is 'incomplete' (i.e.: it doesn't explain 'everything' and is open to improvement) and that "The Bible should be allowed as a historical text book, rather then a holy book" in scientific research. Oooookay. He's not ignorant or stupid. Just brainwashed. I deprogrammed myself nearly three decades ago and it is a liberating and eye-opening experience.

Let me explain further about the 'incomplete' part. Science is, by its very nature, open to improvement. That is what makes science the best methodology for learning, understanding, and exploiting the real world ever envisioned. When we come to understand something we do it tentatively with the precursory knowledge that this understanding will change and improve over time. How beautiful is that?! That trumps 'god, the immovable rock of dogmatic status quo' in every way imaginable. In my mind, to say that Evolutionary Theory is incomplete is a great compliment. For, if it were ever deemed 'complete', we would be in trouble. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by nelson650, December 29, 2008
For crying out loud, BHO will be exactly like every other polical hack---if he thought Twiddle Dum Stick Followers were the majority, he would have the Right Reverend Mad Hatter at his party.
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written by Kuroyume, December 29, 2008
Well, yes. Politicians are politicians just as lawyers are lawyers. Every once in a 'blue moon' one finds one of these that is exemplary. Otherwise expect the same old. But at least BHO isn't gung-ho about invading countries and expending resources at alarming rates while ignoring the plights of his constituency. We've gone from a surplus/boom to near depression in the span of eight years (despite people shushing me on that 'depression' word, don't hold your breath that it won't be). Yes, much of this was blithe naivety concerning debt and loans with mortgages and credit cards and false economy. Still, to let it escalate into a world-wide disaster is apprehensible. Was noone cognizant of the impending disaster? Seems that GWB will be remembered, if not for anything else, for not being cognizant despite ample warnings (9/11, Katrina, Afghanistan, Iraq, Stock Market, blah, blah) ...

Unless there is some more underlying cunning in old BHO, the dream of a 'Manhattan Project' for energy independence won't happen any time soon. It is hard to mine for gold while you are starving without food (so you 'mine' for food instead). These esoteric, albethey honorable and necessary, expeditions will be postponed in lieu of stability. This is the way of the world. As 'politicky' as BHO is, at least I don't expect him to incur further and further and further damage to civilization like the current sitting president.

Note: We are on the brink of world-wide catastrophe unseen in millenia. Hating to be the bringer of doom, I just see a continual spiraling downward of the current spiraling downward as the tip of a major disaster. Almost every situation like this has led to famine or war or significant shifting of power. Do you really want to live in the United States of America under China (or similar)? My spidey sense is tingling. Something wicked this way comes. Our laizzes faire attitude has come to an end.
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written by Trish, December 30, 2008
One thing that always irritates me about these godly types thanking god when other humans have stepped up & rescued them or their loved ones from natural disasters, fires, medical emergencies & such, is the way they proclaim the end result a miracle & thank "god" for the good result. I think this is a gigantic insult to every rescue worker, doctor, firefighter or ordinary citizen who happens on an emergency & does something to minimize or deflect whatever threatened the health or safety of whoever was rescued.

I'd also like to note that Pastor Warren's book, "A Purpose Driven Life" was a favorite of Scott Peterson & Amber Frey, and that they shared the book after Amber knew that Scott was the husband of the missing Laci. Amber hoped the book would help him in San Quentin. Charming.
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 30, 2008
I'm the last to defend them, but I think the religious types who declare miracles see it a bit differently than we suppose. When it comes to rescues or successful surgeries and the like, they realize that not every rescue or medical intervention is successful, and when a successful one happens to them or someone they love, voila! A miracle. I don't think they disrespect or ignore the rescuer, surgeon, or whatever at all, and are quite effusive with their gratitude to them, they just add the unnecessary entity that their God provided and guided the human rescuer. Faith-based belief requires miracles the way evidence-based knowledge requires evidence.
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written by Trish, December 30, 2008
Cuddy Joe, I was referring specifically to the godly types who thank god and don't thank rescuers, doctors, EMTs, etc. Those who thank both god & rescuers are also insensitive, if to a lesser degree. Yes, it's a different world view, but that doesn't make it right. Some people are never taught by their parents to chew with their mouths closed, but that doesn't make them pleasant table companions.

I began noticing this weird lack of thanking a few years ago, when panhandlers, instead of saying thanks for the money, started saying, "god bless", or sometimes, how great it was that god sent me to give them money. I'd be standing there thinking, "What am I, chopped liver?"

I suspect this is a relatively recent development, inconsistent with the good community feelings etiquette is meant to foster. Note that while thanks have a standard response - "you're welcome" - "god bless" leaves the person who did something for their fellow human standing stumped for a reply.
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written by cwniles, December 31, 2008
Trish, accident victims shouldn't thank god or the EMT's that saved their life, we all know they should really be thanking Tom Cruise as he is the only one that can truly help smilies/tongue.gif

In regards to Warren....virtually every US president since FDR in '37 has had a preacher pray at his inauguration and I would bet dollars to donuts that ALL of the previous preachers held beliefs that many would consider to be silly at best and devisive at worst. Speakers and guests representing the spectrum of humanity we call America is a political tradition designed to be inclusive not exclusive. Warren represents a large percentage of Americans (certainly not me but I digress), a percentage of Americans Obama is trying to include not exclude.
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Include
written by Ian Mason, December 31, 2008
Having just seen a documentary on the W**tb*r* B***ist Ch**ch (shudder)I've realised how much more positive inclusion is compared to exclusion. The idea that Brights and Supers can find common cause and common ground is a good one. It's also one I have experience of at AA meetings. One of the few sensible things St.Paul wrote (or plagiarised) was "by their deeds shall ye know them". It doesn't matter that much if you aid the world's needy because of humanisme or love-thy-neighbour priciples. The action is good. And it's still possible to disagree publicly without promoting hate. In football (soccer) there is a good solid rule: tackle the ball, not the man and I think this applies here. We don't want to be a mirror image of those lunatics. Take the best of sportsmen and women as ideals: competitors during the game and friends afterwards.
And a Happy New Year (Gregorian) to you all. Julians please wait 11 days before reading.
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Recently saw a huge sticker
written by thorby, December 31, 2008
on the back of a car thanking god for the new heart he got at UMC (a local hospital) in 1994.

No mention of the donor or family of the donor. No mention of the dozens of medical professionals and support staff who made the transplant possible. No mention of the ongoing care it probably takes to keep his body from rejecting the heart.

I can think of half-a-dozen other things he should be thankful for without bringing god into it.

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"Including" the prayers of one form of religion is not being inclusive
written by Trish, December 31, 2008
The only way for a government to be truly inclusive is to be truly secular. Our founders put a great deal of thought into this issue.

The constitution doesn't authorize any prayer during the installation of a president. Presidents can affirm, on a book of law - like JQA - to do the job. There's no requirement that a new president swear on a bible.

Just because our ancestors let presidents get away with injecting religion into the ceremony doesn't make it consistent with the constitution, or with fairness. People have been murdering people for all of history, and that precedent doesn't make murder right.

I’d like to note that the very bible used for swearing says, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's..."

If Obama wants to have a preacher pray for him or his administration or the universe, he can do that like any citizen has the right to, at the church of his choosing.

I'm sorry, but I don't see having a preacher as being "inclusive" of people who are not of the faith of that preacher.
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Mention of Rick Warren in Obama's book
written by alofkeene, January 01, 2009
In the chapter on "Faith" in his "Audacity of Hope" Obama mentions Rick Warren (p. 256--tho he's not listed in the index). He is discussing the need for progressives to "not simply block the religious right but to engage all persons of faith in the larger project of American renewal." He then mentions Warren as one of the megachurch pastors using his influence to "confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur". This chapter is worth reading for insight on Obama's views on such things as faith, religion, separation of church & state, and dialog between those of different faiths or of no faith.
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written by cwniles, January 01, 2009
Trish, the history of inauguaral prayers clearly shows the prayers to be non-secular or offered to a anonymous higher power if you will, inclusion of all the goal. To demonstrate this point refer to the 01' inauguration of Dillwad Jr. when both the Revs. Franklin Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell were criticized rather harshly for invoking Christ. As I alluded to before, if you have an issue with Warren praying at Obama's inauguration then you basically have an issue with virtually every US presidents inuaguration since FDR.

As far as Warren following the tradition, obviously I don't have a clue but when asked by the AP if he would dedicate his prayer to Jesus he did not answer directly.

One can only hope he shows more intelligence than Graham and Caldwell while making this decision.
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written by madamemoon, January 02, 2009
While I am not a big fan of either Rick Warren or Franklin Graham and was appalled by Obama's choice of Warren to deliver the invocation, I do want to speak up on behalf of Irwin Kula. I have no interest in getting into Warren's theology here, but urge you to learn more about what Rabbi Kula actually does before writing him off. I am a recent seminary graduate who also happens to be a leftist lesbian. Probably just the fact that I hold an M. Div. degree will convince many of your readers that I, too, am a crackpot or a phony. However, just in case...I just finished taking a class on wisdom formation from Rabbi Kula & The Rev. Dr. Lisa Hess. Rabbi Kula is, far from being primarily interested in keeping his own job or promoting belief in "absurdities", incredibly wise and delightfully forward-thinking. While I haven't seen the Today Show episode, I do know that Rabbi Kula is a world-changer, not a maintain-the-superstitious-status-quo-at-any-cost-as-long-as-I-get-mine guy. Not all religious folks are backwards crazies or pawns for the powers that be. Look into it.
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written by Trish, January 03, 2009
Cwniles, I don't understand your point. Any prayer is "nonsecular" by definition. I think you might mean "nonsectarian." To which I ask, When has an American president's inauguration included prayers from a religious leader who was not part of a christian tradition? Where are the buddhists, muslims, taoists? If it prays like a christian, belongs to a church like a christian, it's not "an anonymous higher power".

Claiming prayers prayed by christians aren't specifically christian is just an attempt to sound inclusive so christians can keep trying to force their god into our secular society.

The American presidential oath of office doesn't include any reference to god, and doesn't require a bible for it to be executed. John Q. Adams used a law book for his affirmation of the oath of office.

Like any citizen, a president has the right to practice the religion of his choice, on his/her own time, in the privacy of his/her private quarters, &/or in a church. When at work, s/he is the head of a secular state. Just like any citizen is at work, presidents have to do their jobs. A meter reader can't sit quietly and wait for god to tell him/her what numbers to enter for your electric bill. A trucker can't close his/her eyes & let Jesus navigate an 18 wheeler. A cashier can't give your change to his/her favorite church. The president is the president of all of us, even atheists who are too stubborn to let christians pretend their prayers are "inclusive" when they're not.



P.S. :
The idea of anonymous "higher power" is a dodge originally invented by AA:

1. to make sure that the Catholic Church wouldn't oppose Catholics joining which would reduce the potential pool of members or prevent opportunities to use church property to hold meetings, and
2. to fool potential recruits into believing AA is about quitting drinking until they were well hooked ["Give them the truth in teaspoons rather than buckets." -AA Big Book]. Six steps mention god, ZERO mention quitting drinking. All AA techniques for recruiting and controlling members trace directly to the Oxford Group, a manifestly religious organization that invented the "spiritual not religious" dodge to counteract the Catholic church's refusal to let Catholics to join the OG.
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written by cwniles, January 03, 2009
Trish, yeah, I chose my words poorly, the main point is that it just doesn't bother me. I don't see this as somebody trying to force their god on me. If the man wants to be sworn in on a bible and have a preacher pray, as is the tradition, thats just fine with me. Though, it would be nice to see some Buddhist, Taoist or even Muslim prayers issued as that would really be "inclusive"

As far as AA being responsible for the philosophy of an "anonymous higer power"....umm, yeah, they may have taken an existing philosophy and shoehorned it to fit into their program but to say they are responsible for the invention of the idea of an anonymous power is giving them way too much credit.
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written by Trish, January 03, 2009
cwniles, here's why it's so important to be bothered when someone sneaks a prayer into a secular government function, sneaks the phrase "in god we trust" onto coins [done in 1863 by a Denver mint employee without authority], or ads "so help me God" into the affirmation spoken when a new president takes office [first done in 1933]- it's because once those things happen, then members of the specific religious tradition from which those ideas spring use them as evidence that the U.S. is a christian nation, "Why look, it's on our money!" "The president swore on a bible," etc. If it were just empty words, there wouldn't be such an ongoing campaign to ad these "empty words" to our secular nation's money & functions. It's done to create an imression in the minds of the public that America is not a secular nation, & that christians are more real citizens than unbelievers are. Then you get an American president, running a secular nation, saying publicly, "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." THIS is a problem.


The only reason these christian preachers pretend their prayers are to a "general" god is because they think at least some members of other religions to support their efforts under the assumption that any religion is better than atheism. As long as the other religions are ok with a christian praying over the president, then they won't face the attacks that atheists suffer.

As for the "anonymous higher power, I wish I were just giving too much credit to one small organization, but it's a historical fact that this concept was first published in 1934 in AA's Big Book. Here's a link to further info on the subject:
http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-spirrel.html

AA was founded by Bill Wilson, who'd been a member of the Oxford Group for quite some time, which also claimed to not be competing with religions & to be a sort of adjunct to spirituality. But the OG was grounded in christianity, while AA went so far as to claim that someone's higher power could be "a bedpan or a doorknob." -AA Big Book. So if you want ot get super technical, yes, AA borrowed techniques & concepts from OG. But AA did far more to spread the idea that spirituality is something separate from religion, and that there is a generic god who works for members of all religions including atheists [AA definitely claimed since it's founding atheists couldn't sta atheists & stay sober]
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written by Ian Mason, January 03, 2009
This "higher power" stuff at AA meetings brings my piss to the boil too, but Brights and Supers working together, brothers and sisters. So I just sit, fume and stay sober, the best way to prove my point.
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written by Trish, January 04, 2009
Ian, if the higher power stuff gets to you, you might want to check out the Orange Papers, which is a comprehensive look at AA, its founders, philosophy, etc., with lots of back-up documents that should be of interest to anyone who is skeptical about AA's claims:http://www.orange-papers.org/

And, as a skeptic, I would also point out that the idea that drinking too much can only be treated/cured by total abstinence from alcohol is a uniquely American phenomenon. In the rest of the world, behaviorial techniques to train people to drink in moderation are the norm. Not that I'm encouraging anyone who is happy not drinking to start again. But I would say it might not be a great thing to think of oneself as permanently diseased when there's no evidence the "disease" exists, and the things that separate people who "have" the so-called disease from the rest of the population is going to a meeting and announcing, "I'm X, & I'm an alcoholic (addict)", and the way other people suspect that someone in their lives has the "disease" is by bad behavior - running around, not working, abusing spouses/kids, etc. I have to ask if people who are backed up against the wall when loved ones &/or courts are sick of them are allowed to claim "It wasn't me, it was the diesase" is another set of pseudo-christian sin/redemption rituals.

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More on Warren in "Audacity of Hope"
written by alofkeene, January 04, 2009
I posted Jan 1 to point out that Rick Warren is mentioned on p 256 in "Audacity of Hope", by Barack Obama (title of post: "Mention of Rick Warren in Obama's book"). It turns out that there are at least two editions of this book. My copy is put out by Vintage Press. In the Three Rivers Press edition this passage is on page 216, I'm told.
Al, Keene NH
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written by Ian Mason, January 04, 2009
Hi Trish, and thanks.
I don't have any illusions about AA, so I've done my own research.Theories abound, including the ubiquitous endorphins, malfunctions in dopamin receptors. at least 10-12 genes involved, most put forward by "our" type of scientist/researcher, including supporters of dawkins.net. My experience of alcohol fits closely a description of a "morphinist" from the 1940s I once read, so there is some credibility in the neuropsychiatric explanations from both sides, if you understand me. So AA have got it half right. What they miss is that groups work because they are therapy, nothing to do with a Higher Power. AA's biggest problem is that it's culturally and temporally handicapped. 1) It's American. No-one's fault, just a fact. 2)It was started by people who grew up in a time when teaching Darwin to anyone below the age of 21/university entry was illegal. Forgive them, they knew not what they did. 3) Prayer works for some people. The areas of the brain that activate are the same as those that turn on when talking to a close friend. Again, a half truth: psychological effect, not Gaahd.
Religion propagates itself by these psychological mechanisms, which is what makes it potentially malign and benign, but it's still a lie, I know. I just use the best bits and understand why.
Fair winds to you and yours in 2009.
Ian
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written by Kuroyume, January 04, 2009
The problem with AA et al is that, yes, they sort of achieve their goal (at low success rates) simply by substituting one addiction for another and promulgating a communal relationship. Instead of having a physio-psychological addiction to alcohol or drugs, you're now 'addicted' to a belief in a higher power that controls your life and to which you must seek advice, forgiveness, and comfort (as an alternate consciousness). Prayers work for noone (in a literal sense). Prayer can stimulate the same ecstatical brain centers as drugs, alcohol, and hallucination from long-time meditation. You basically said this yourself. That 'warm fuzzy' feeling imparted by the emission of dopamines from drugs and alcohol is very closely linked to the feeling that religious experience brings.

Personally, I find the underlying principles of organizations like AA to be suspect and their efficacy to be even more suspect. Addiction is a physio-psychological phenomenon which is more prevalent in some than others and instigated by environmental circumstances (i.e.: those that are more susceptible are more likely to cave in opportunistic environments). The best course of action is to find ways to remove the instigation, educate about the causes and reasons, and continue to improve ways to divert the mind to other things and help enforce a personal regiment of personal conscious realization of temptations. These are things best left to scientific, biological, and medicinal investigations than in hopeful methodologies.

Look, I speak from personal experience. In the 1980s I went from 'top 5%' of my high school graduation class (of nearly 600) to smoking marijuana (pot/weed/etc) and hashish. Later this 'evolved' into doing valiums, qualuudes, methamphetamines (krank), and cocaine and later even crack (after a respite). Dribble some alcohol in there as a social lubricant always present. I am susceptible to addiction for sure (as is evident by my father). But, guess what? I haven't done any of this for two decades! Being aware of this susceptibility and making sure to avoid environments that would instigate, I have done so. There was no AA or similar involved. I was always cognizant of what was happening (for my sake) and changed my motis operandi accordingly to separate myself from such influences and urges.

I'm not saying that everyone can recognize and rectify their addictions themselves. It is just that these types of organizations with religious contexts really don't work - really. They work ocassionally but what they don't do is monitor their effectiveness and adapt their methodologies to increase it. This is typical of non-science. That is because their basic premise isn't scientific - it is social or religious. They only work by substituting one 'addiction' for another. Prisons are full of people who have changed from their ways by becoming religious. This is not a solution just a substitution socially acceptible. I just can't say enough about reprehensible these programs are with respect to what could be done by finding clinically viable solutions instead of throwing solutions to religious and archaic ideologies.
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written by Ian Mason, January 04, 2009
There are competing scientific theories, so which one? Group therapy worked for me in fighting depression, so a group is the obvious place for fighting alcoholism. I wish it were secular but I take the best I can get. Their God delusion is their preoblem, not mine. And they're not bad people just because they're believers. I can put up with them, so they're lucky to have me.
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written by BillyJoe, January 05, 2009
Yeah, don't rock the boat, people.

It's okay to say "Merry Christmas" this holiday season.
It's okay for prayers to be said at the inauguration.
"I'm all right with that".

God help us. smilies/angry.gif
(Because we sure aint helping ourselves!)

BJ
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I know what you mean
written by Dennis, January 06, 2009
Two years ago on Halloween, I had these neighbours, a single mom and two or three kids. They were cooking fries, and spilled some grease. This started a small fire and burned the mother's hand. As the smoke alarms went off, the mother came outside, clutching her hand. My family helped her stay comfortable, as well as keep an eye on her kids, as we waited outside for the fire department to arrive. They went in the house and extinguished the fire, which only damaged the kitchen at that point. As they left, and we kept waiting for the ambulance, we learned the hard way that our fire department kinda sucks; the fire came back with a vengeance. We called the department to come back again, but by the time they responded, the place was ruined. Furniture destroyed, the building was damaged. They'd have to get a new everything.

As they found a new house to live in, my family and I started planning to collect furniture donations. We posted alot of fliers, rented a moving truck, and went around town for a week collecting furniture. The amount of donations we picked up was impressive, and most of the destroyed furniture had been replaced once we were done. It was one of those renew-your-faith-in-humanity moments, we felt really good about it.

So as we move the last of the furniture in and are on our way to return the truck, the burned woman's mother came up to us. She said that she was glad God had put us on Earth to help them. We weren't entirely sure how to respond, especially since we are very atheist.

And that's how God burned down a house, then stole my thunder for cleaning up his mess. Seriously, that guy's a dick.
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written by BillyJoe, January 06, 2009
In her own way, I think she was paying you a compliment: one of the better of god's creatures - yeah, it sounds like a compliment. I think she was probably looking you in the eyes and smiling. Am I right? I think it would have been okay to return the smile and gently ask if god also works through atheists!
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written by Dennis, January 07, 2009
I kinda figured, but it's the "And what am I, chopped liver?" kind of thing. I didn't really talk to her, my mother did.

But hey, if my religious views are wrong, do I get special consideration for being a divine tool? Coz that heaven thing sounds pretty fun, let me tell you. If it's already done I might as well cash in.
Plus, I mean, he owes me, man. I got a junker of a mortal coil.
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written by Trish, January 07, 2009
Kuroyume, I don't believe that AA has a success rate - they do the old remember-the-hits-forget-the misses form of collecting "proof." AA members who quit drinking, even if they do it before they actually join AA, are counted by AA as AA success stories. People who fail to stop drinking and leave AA are accused of "not working the program" i.e. it's their fault, not AA's. People who keep going to meetings, yet still drink, are "experiencing relapse as part of their recovery process." People who quit without ever going to AA are "dry drunks" who are exactly as mean, miserable, unfaithful, violent, rude & criminal as a drunk could possibly be, but "only not drinking."

AA is about belonging to the AA club and recruiting new members. It's not about quitting drinking.

Also, I question the idea that there even could be a disease process/genetic mutation that would cause humans to have wildly antisocial responses to consuming alcohol. Every society on earth - including Native Americans - has had fermented beverages. Before modern sanitation, drinking water was a dangerous proposition because of deadly, waterborne infectious agents. For health reasons, humans drank fermented beverages - wine in southern climates, beer in colder regions, with some boiled tea in the east. The people who founded America drank way more alcohol per capita than we do today, and even drank beer with breakfast. If a genetic mutation occurred that caused people to respond to alcohol by becoming nonfunctional & intolerable to loved ones & society, evolution would not encourage such a mutation to spread. If any infectious agent caused such a response to alcohol, why would there be no infectious agent associated with the problem?

The theory that alcoholism is a disease was first proposed by Dr Benjamin Rush, at a time when "fever" was considered to be a single disease. And they weren't talking about teens who drink til they puke & upset their parents, they were talking about people who had consumed such large quantities for so many years that they'd caused damage to their livers and developed tolerance & withdrawal symptoms to the point where they couldn't stop abruptly without symptoms. Dr Rush & subsequent doctors who believed the disease model were going on the real, physical manifestations that a lifetime of overconsumption caused. They were not talking about the kind of people who would qualify as "alcoholics" today - people who have no cirrhosis, who don't have withdrawal symptoms, and who are often motivated to claim they are alcoholics because they are in trouble with the criminal justice system, and will get a lighter sentence by claiming alcohol made them commit the crime/s they're in trouble for.
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written by Trish, January 07, 2009

The disease theory was revived in 1934 by AA founder Bill Wilson, who had absolutely no science or medical background, and whose wife was sick of his decades of not working, sponging money out of her purse & spending his days drinking - and Bill's answer to this "real physical disease like diabetes or cancer" [AA Big Book] was a religious program based on the Oxford Group's program of public confessions designed to be entertaining recruitment tools [OG kicked Wilson out because they wanted to concentrate on recruiting rich, influential people, not Bill's alcoholics].


I'm concerned about the disease theory of alcoholism/addiction as a skeptic, because of the lack of science in the claims for disease & treatments. And I'm extremely concerned as a citizen, with the new popularity of "mental health parity" laws that require health insurance to pay for drug & alcohol treatment at the level they pay for physical diseases.

Physical diseases are usually only treated after there is evidence of a physical problem - symptoms, signs, lab tests, deformities - and the success of treatments is measured by evidence as well. If alcohol/drug treatment were at all scientific, wouldn't people who go into rehab be tested to see if/how much their functioning is compromised, and be tested before release to see if functioning has improved. Since the only "diagnosis" of alcoholism [addiction] is someone going to a meeting and saying "I'm an alcoholic" and there's no objective measure of malfunctioning or of the success of treatment, AND rehab can cost anywhere from free [local AA meetings] to $25,000 a month for posh celeb retreats, the disease theory of alcoholism/addiction might be the straw that breaks our federal/state/local budgets as people just keep cycling in & out of rehab every time they piss off all their relatives, or face jail or need a place to stay [that health insurance can pay for].

My other concern, as a citizen, is the idea of treatment instead of jail. It is a function of society to motivate people to be civil & responsible, and we might need to do drastic things, like using prisons to keep dangerous people from killing innocent citizens, or punish people for harm to others. And while drugs are illegal to buy & possess without prescriptions, it is still the right of a citizen to disagree with the logic under which the government bans drugs, to see that there is not as much evidence of danger as the government would like us to believe, and even to use drugs when travelling in countries where those drugs are permitted. Forcing citizens into drug treatment seems to this citizen to be an attempt to force people to believe & spout ideology, and seems to me similar to the Soviet Union's use of psychiatric hospitals to house & try to change ideology of dissidents.

Sorry this is so long, but it's a complex issue.
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written by Kuroyume, January 07, 2009
I don't go for the 'disease theory' at all either and didn't promote or mention it. There is a possible medical component in genetics but that isn't a disease - it would be a propensity or disorder at most. When I mentioned success rate (at all), it was mostly to show that some people gobble this crap hook, line, and sinker. Look at, gulp, Gary Busey! One mania replaced by another. This isn't about fundamental resolution of addictions. It is simply transference of a fundamental problem without resolution or adequate care. Some may be correct in diagnosing this practice as 'treating the symptoms' rather than 'treating the cause' which sometimes occurs even in clinical medicine.

The problem with 'treatment instead of jail' is that the organizations that are considered 'acceptable' are almost all religious-based with no real track record (because of the former part of their credentials). I find it appalling that no clinically approved therapies are offered in most cases but instead we get credulous therapies based upon unproven methodologies based upon tenuous ideologies. Replacing addictive behavior with religion is a thinly vailed shroud to brow-beat someone into disisting in destructive behavior.

Yes, it is a complex issue. Humans are complex in their ideosynchracies and we don't know a whole lot about them because the answer has always been proferred by idiots (religious, pseudo-scientists, shaman, quacks). Methamphetamine addiction recovery (including relapse) is less than 10% (hard to pin down good statistics). I can understand that having been there to some extent myself. This is about several factors (at least). Susceptibility to addictiion, brain chemistry alteration, environmental circumstances. You cannot treat an addiction as a failing of someone's so-called 'spirit'. Nor can you brow-beat everyone into submission to quell addictions. Addiction is about propensity, circumstances, and decisions. Realizing the propensity, alleviating the circumstances (this is mainly a socio-economic issue), and providing individuals with outlets, information, and education are all ways to begin to stem such addictive behaviors. I hate to be gushy and all that but this isn't something that can be solved with a pill (yet, anyway). We need to look at the systemic reasons for the perpetuation of such behaviors and reduce their influence.
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written by Trish, January 08, 2009
Sorry, K, I disagree. I think what is currently called "addiction" in our society is a collection of voluntary behaviors. First off, alcohol & drugs don't crawl down people's throats - especially with illegal drugs, it requires guile to acquire the goods. When people are unhappy with the "alcoholism" or "addiction" of their relatives it's possible that what they are really angry about is the lying, stealing, not working, skipping school, being unproductive, cheating on lovers/spouses, & general obnoxiousness. The "alcoholic/addict" claims "it wasn't me, it was the alcohol/drugs" which opens the door for people who are fed-up-to-here with the person to forgive & let them have time to "heal." The fact that our society as a whole & the criminal justice system in particular are now buying this sin-and-redemption narrative, and that Hollywood promulgates the narrative, makes it possible for impressionable humans to conform their behavior to the disease model and claim that their "substance of choice" is controlling their lives. Perhaps they do feel something outside them is affecting their behavior, but they are identifying the wrong phenomena - perhaps it's the story they conform to, rather than the substance, that is the outside factor influencing them.

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written by BillyJoe, January 08, 2009
Trish,

...sneaks the phrase "in god we trust" onto coins [done in 1863 by a Denver mint employee without authority]
According to an article in Wikipedia, "In God we trust" first appeared on the one cent coin in 1864 and the decision to do so came from official sources:

Congress passed the Coinage Act (1864) on April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. In God We Trust first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

BJ
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"In God We Trust" is also the official motto of the United States
written by BillyJoe, January 08, 2009
A law was passed by the 84th United States Congress (P.L. 84-140) and approved by the President on July 30, 1956. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a joint resolution declaring In God We Trust the national motto of the United States.[1]

As a matter of interest (or not), Australia has no official motto (though it used to be "Advance Australia")and does not mention god on its currency. However, parliament begins with a prayer and the PM holds a bible and uses the words "so help me god" as he is sworn in.
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written by Kuroyume, January 08, 2009
Trish,

I strongly and forcibly disagree with everything you said above. People don't wake up one day and say to themselves, "Hey, I want to become addicted to ... !" How about people who become addicted to their prescription medications (unknowns like Elvis Presley and Rush Limbaugh come to mind)? How about peer pressure and availability? Believe it or not, there are places where drugs are so accessible (like some inner-city down-trodden neighborhoods), it is actually more difficult to avoid it then to find it. Again, unlike you most likely, I HAVE BEEN THERE (with capitals maybe it will sink in?). I know all about drug and alcohol addiction from being there myself 25+ years ago and seeing my friends and family members there as well. I can make a long pharmecopeia list of drugs that I've done if you'd like.

All it takes is that chance opportunity to 'just try this'. People don't go up to acquaintences or friends at parties and attempt to give them their first drink saying, "Try this, you'll be an alcoholic in no time." Are we in the same world here? People experiment. People cave to peer pressure wanting to belong. People don't know what they're getting into. It is not always a very conscious, or conscientious, motive that brings people to addiction. Once you're physically and psychologically addicted, it is damned hard to quit. Maybe you should try it once and get back to me. smilies/tongue.gif

Why do teens get pregnant often? It isn't that they decided to do so (in most cases). Raging hormones, lack of knowledge, spur of the moment. Humans are, to say the least, not excellently rational beings. We have desires, hormones, pheromones, irrational thoughts, ignorances, adrenaline, animal instincts that all compete against being so.
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written by Trish, January 09, 2009
Sorry, K, I still disagree with you. I don't think, and never said I think that someone, "wakes up one day & decides to be an addict." I think there can be a long series of bad choices, starting with smaller, simpler ones like, "Maybe I'll skip class & get high today." I think there’s no one phenomenon, "alcoholism/addiction" but a variety of behaviors being lumped together under a single label.

Sure there are people who overuse alcohol &/or drugs, & the overuse can be accompanied by bad behavior. I'm skeptical a disease process driving these events. Looking at disease theory in light of Occam's razor, it’s as likely that bad behavior, selfish choices, bad decisions, short sightedness, laziness, unwise spending, taking advantage of friends/family, & partying instead of going to work/school, could be behaviors not caused by any disease process, but by the same causes as any bad behavior. Bad behavior runs in families, too.

Most MDs are suspicious when a patient announces they have X disease, but this is exactly how alcoholism/addiction is "diagnosed." Treatment basically consists of rewriting one's life story to conform to a version of "I used (substance) to hide my unhappiness, it took over my life, I hit bottom & AA/NA saved me."

Elizabeth Loftus' work shows how easy it is to get people to believe things happened to them that never did - and in her work, the people implanting the false event didn't even believe it. Consider how powerful this effect when a group who all believe the claim work on a person over a period of time, and Hollywood movie stories, public service announcements & books & articles support the claim.

Just because lots of people say "everybody knows X exists", just because people declare it with ALL CAPS, doesn't make a hypothesis correct. The evidence that alcoholism/addiction are a disease is underwhelming - no birth defect, no infectious agent, no malformation, is consistently found in people who claim to be alcoholics/addicts & not in people who don't. The amounts of "substances" that are now claimed to be enough to qualify as "addicted" have been routinely consumed by humans who don't do their consuming in the context of antisocial, selfish or dumb behavior. The evidence that people only quit in the context of group confessions & meetings is contradicted by the fact that 80% of the people in the US who quit using alcohol or drugs do so on their own, while AA's "success" rate, according to their most recent Triennial Survey (1997) is about 5%, or worse than chance.

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written by Trish, January 09, 2009
P.S. I quit a 2 1/2 pack a day cigaret habit while living in the Bronx.

I've also been pregnant. While I didn't decide to become pregnant, I did decide to have sex, and birth control is not perfect...
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coins, in god we trust
written by Trish, January 09, 2009
Billy Joe, It looks like I fell for an urban legend.
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written by Kuroyume, January 09, 2009
Again, nowhere did I intimate that drug addiction or alcoholism are 'diseases'. Not once. You keep bringing that up. But to suggest that the only 'remedy' to someone's addiction is through incarceration or other legal processes is wrong in the worst way. People used to be 'incarcerated' (shoved off into sanitoriums) when, instead of trying to understand the causes and treat them in some way, we decided it was better to hide them away.

Fact: People get addicted to things. The 'things' can be various such as addiction to food, medicine, drugs, alcohol, other people, adrenaline rushes, sex. Anything that stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain and causes it to emit dopamine to such an extent that in its absence the person desires the thing (withdrawal) could be considered an addiction.

As I noted, yes, many people can stop their addictions by their own force of will or conscious effort. That isn't an answer though. Many people cannot stop and there should be some form of clinical methodology to help people in absence of that self-determination.

You have definitely never been there. I can tell.
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written by BillyJoe, January 09, 2009
Trish,

Billy Joe, It looks like I fell for an urban legend.

Well, you're not the only one:

My son caught me out yesterday about the Great Wall of China being visible from space. Urban Legend. It's not even visible from Low Earth Orbit. I went for google to confirm this, but my son reprimanded me and asked me to just think about it for a moment. "Could it actually be true?" he asked, and then he explained "The GWC is thinner than the average house!".

I feel very proud to have a such a sceptical son.

smilies/smiley.gif
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It feels like addiction
written by Ian Mason, January 10, 2009
Dopamine, endorphins, whatever: I "knew" physically I was an alcoholic long before the cognitive version. I knew I was an all-or-nothing drinker, as I then called it. The experience felt from the inside is addiction. The support of others with the same problem can be decisive, as peer group support can be in so many difficult situations, including being a skeptic in a superstitious world.
Yes, it's great when our small ones say obvious truths. (sing)" The king is in the alltogether, the altogether....."
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written by Trish, January 10, 2009

Ian Mason, I don't doubt your experience of yourself as someone for whom drinking is all-or-nothing. Your experience is your experience. I would point out that our experiences are heavily influenced by input from the people around us, the fiction, dramas, history, urban legends & "common knowledge" we consume. People are malleable and can be convinced that they've experienced things that never really happened, or to change their interpretation of events without realizing their interpretation or even the memory itself has changed. This is why scientific method & objective evidence are so important for getting at the actual facts as they are, as opposed to what we suppose they are or wish them to be.

Right now our society is working very hard to convince us that addiction is an all-purpose explanation/justification for bad behavior and a reason to give another chance to people who habitually do loved ones, friends & society wrong, and that it is a manifestly physical process, and that it requires lifelong, active effort to prevent returning to antisocial behavior. But what if, like the 18th century physicians who considered fever as one disease, rather than a symptom of numerous conditions, we're lumping many behaviors under the label of "addiction” (alcoholism)?



Billy Joe, good work in the skeptic-raising dept!
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written by Trish, January 10, 2009
K, Fact: people who consume drugs, alcohol, food, & oxygen sometimes do things that upset their family, friends & even courts. Our society currently allows people to claim that they are "addicted" to things and that this makes the person less able to control their behavior.

The vast majority of people who support the claim that addiction causes people to be unable to control themselves do so under the claims of the "disease theory." If you don't believe in the disease theory, and you cite the lighting up of pleasure centers in the brain, do you think addiction is normal operating of all brains? Or do you think that people who manage to not overuse drugs & alcohol don't have pleasure centers? I don't understand in what way "addiction" is real in your opinion, other than "people say they experience it, so it must be so." But people also claim to experience demonic possession, faith healing making them feel better, meeting clones aliens created with their germ cells etc., etc, and skeptics don't buy it just because they say so.


When people consume drugs &/or alcohol, electric circuits light up & chemicals move around inside the brain. But even when people don't consume "substances" electrons & chemicals move inside the brain. Changes in electrical & chemical activity in the brain doesn't prove addiction is "real."



I find it interesting that my former heavy use of tobacco doesn't give me any insight in your estimation. People can be “addicted” to sex (which isn’t even a chemical), but a 2 ½ pack a day cig habit (for the record: 10 years heavy smoking, quit for 20 years as of next month) doesn’t count? I suspect that it doesn’t count in your estimation just because I disagree with you, not because my experience isn’t valid.


I don't know how you can "tell" anything about me, other than that I disagree with your position, and that I once smoked a lot of cigs every day.
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People are people
written by Ian Mason, January 10, 2009
People are different. Different people react to different things in different ways. Maybe my body produces endorphins as a response to alcohol. Yours doesn't. Cannabis makes me depressed, others love the stuff. There isn't a hard and fast rule because people vary so much. Alcohol/drugs are never an excuse, dut can be part of an explanation. Removing an intoxicant from one's lifestyle can make a world of difference. There may come better and more refined diagnoses and treatments in the futureb but for now total abstinence works for me.
Wikipaedia mentions 10-12 genes involved in alcoholism. I'm not a scientist so I don't know how reliable that is. Have a look for yourself and see what you think of the research.
I'm not hostile, it's just I've heard various forms of "pull yourself together" too many times, about alcohol, depression and OCD, my own unholy trinity. I can't do it alone. I need experienced help. Anthro zoon polis: we are social, we need each other to get by. Let the hermits and other professional anorectics sit on their poles and claim not to need others, but leave me my fellow men and women.
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written by Trish, January 10, 2009
I think it’s an important note alcohol &/or drugs are neither necessary nor sufficient to cause &/or explain bad behavior. Some people use drugs, work jobs & never do anyone harm. Some use drugs & are jerks or criminals. Some do horrific things while never ingesting mind-altering drugs or alcohol. Some nice people never consume “substances".

The addiction hypothesis is that people who use "substances" & behave badly are addicted [diseased]. The problem is that the claim is considered sufficient evidence of its truth. There is no reliable way for a disinterested party [like a scientist] to distinguish the addicted from everyone else – no infection or deformity, no rate of consumption, no reliable decline in functioning [I’d argue that the misbehavior part of the equation involves a lot of complex functioning – lying, sneaking, hiding].


We now know life stories are malleable, even more when the teller is under the influence of an ideology. People gripped by conversion experiences often make their pre-conversion story as lurid as possible so their conversion seem more impressive. And what is "treatment" or "rehab"? Essentially, it is to re-work one's life story in light of the claim "I'm an alcoholic.”


That there are genes "associated" with overuse of alcohol is a correlation, which could be an artifact of things like people learning their drinking habits from their family members, with whom they share genes.



As a skeptic I have to ask: Is there any way to falsify a diagnosis of addiction? If a person who has gone to meetings starts to think, "I'm not doing anything as bad as the stories I'm hearing" & says, "Maybe I'm not an alcoholic" the other members will accuse that person of being in denial. What evidence exists [or could exist] that would make an AA group say to a person, "You don't have alcoholism"?

One might ask, where is the harm in convincing people to stop consuming something even if addiction isn’t real? What if those labeling themselves addicted include some undiagnosed bipolar people, some schizoaffective, some depressed & a couple of criminals using the disease claim to get over on the court & anyone they want to use?

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written by Trish, January 10, 2009
Ian Mason, I would never say the answer to this problem is to tell one person to "pull yourself together." I think we need to examine the situation when claims without scientific support are allowed to have such a huge impact on individuals & society. A person who is, in current society, self-identifying as an addict didn't get to that point without the influence of others, past & present. The situation won't improve without concerted action to get to the truth of the situation.

Maybe the addiction hypothesis sounds good to a lot of people because it parallels the sin/redemption storyline so popular with American Christians, especially with the emphasis on "forgiveness" as being necessary for the health/sanity of the "forgiver." Also, repetition of a message makes it more likely the hearer will believe it, whether there is evidence to support the claim or not.

It’s possible the influence of people & the ideology, rather than the "substances" is affecting people's attitudes about alcohol, drugs, their lives & the people they interact with. When I was young & learning about alcohol, I was told never to drink when sad or angry, on the theory that alcohol magnifies whatever mood one is in when one starts drinking. At least this advice gave me a sense of control over my own behavior, and seems to have worked fairly well for the people I’ve known who subscribe to this practice.

I am concerned that it might not be in people’s best interest to tell them they are damaged/diseased/less-functional than others. Look what happened when recovered memory therapy became the rage. People who had no memory of abuse, but felt sad or at loose ends, were hypnotized &/or indoctrinated by therapists to believe they'd been severely harmed by events in early life that they couldn't undo, often becoming so upset & wrapped up in their survivor status that they were unable to continue working, suffered disruption in relationships with loved ones and sometimes even became suicidal. Later, evidence came out to demonstrate that the claims of the recovered memory movement had no factual basis.
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written by BillyJoe, January 10, 2009
Trish,

I would just like to say thank you for your input here.

I don't know yet where I stand on this issue because, not being a person who has ever had a problem with alcohol or drugs and not having any friends or family with such a problem (yes, unusual isn't it!), I have never thought about it all that much except for having a rough knowledge of the prevailing "disease model". But you have given me much food for thought.

BillyJoe
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written by chaunceyworld, January 27, 2009
"Kuroyume, I don't believe that AA has a success rate - they do the old remember-the-hits-forget-the misses form of collecting "proof." AA members who quit drinking, even if they do it before they actually join AA, are counted by AA as AA success stories. People who fail to stop drinking and leave AA are accused of "not working the program" i.e. it's their fault, not AA's. People who keep going to meetings, yet still drink, are "experiencing relapse as part of their recovery process." People who quit without ever going to AA are "dry drunks" who are exactly as mean, miserable, unfaithful, violent, rude & criminal as a drunk could possibly be, but "only not drinking." @Trish
Wrong on several counts. AA does not 'collect proof' in any way nor as an organisation does it do scientific studies on its results. That is because AA is not a scientific organisation, and is well aware of that. AA does not 'count' successes. The individual themselves claims success or failure (with a lot of leeway as to the definition of those words) People who quit without AA are not considered 'dry drunks'; a dry drunk generally is a person WITHIN AA who has a negative attitude. The general attitude toward those who quit without AA is positive, and I have been reprimanded for feeling that those who do not 'work the program' are less-than those who do. I now welcome news from any front where an addict has succeeded in changing themselves and their lives for the better. I have been affiliated with AA for 12 yrs, and I am an atheist. I do indeed ignore the god stuff, because I am one of those people for whom the 'program' worked. I would say it works in aprx. 30% of those who attempt, and this number is roughly equal to #s in research in addiction. No matter the technique, AA or other, people who have a problem with substance abuse manage to stay clean at a rate of 30 out of 100. I did a research paper once that included many scientific studies, and actually found that the numbers given were 20 - 40% of abstinence achieved. And while my post is not scientific, I am appalled at the nearly religious responses against AA. Yes, I've read the AA-as-cult papers, but I just don't see it.
Within AA there are all types of responses to AA, and these are welcomed and tolerated positively. You have, as with any social group, true believers who can be dictatorial, but they are working out of their own prejudices and certainly not as representatives of AA. I've never experienced anything less than a feeling of tolerance for other ways of 'recovering' from such devastating behavior as one may experience when addicted.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, not everyone has critical reasoning skills with which to stop destructive behavior. AA fills a void here, and does so without acting as a for profit or with a hidden agenda. People in AA who attempt to use addiction as an excuse for bad behavior are set straight, on the theory that once you know better you can not cop a plea. Such folks are often not taken very seriously, often told to quit rationalising their past behavior.
Obviously, the writers here have read of AA, and read quite a bit. But they are lacking in a few areas of the subject.
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Toldyaso
written by Ian Mason, January 27, 2009
That's what I said in the begining. Brights and Supers can work together. smilies/grin.gif
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