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Sauce For the Goose and For the Gander PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

On April 16th, 2009, the Consumer Health Digest announced that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had issued a statement that sharply criticized "reiki," which is based on the same ancient notion that the human body is surrounded with the usual undefined "energy field" that cannot be detected nor measured by ordinary scientific instrumentation, of course. Reiki practitioners claim to be able to facilitate healing by strengthening or "balancing" this "force."

The thoroughly aroused USCCB stated that reiki lacks scientific credibility, has not been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy, and that reputable scientific studies attesting to its efficacy are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious. Reiki, they complain, finds no support in the findings of natural science, either. So there.

Hold on. Let's re-phrase that statement, substituting another fatuous claim for the word "reiki." Let's try "prayer." It now reads:

The thoroughly annoyed JREF stated that prayer lacks scientific credibility, has not been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy, and that reputable scientific studies attesting to its efficacy are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious. Prayer, they complain, finds no support in the findings of natural science, either. So there.

The USCCB further stated that it would be "inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for reiki therapy." Oh, I loudly agree, but this question I must now ask of the USCCB:

Since exactly those same qualifications apply to the notion of prayer, should not prayer come under this shadow of suspicion, and for the very same reasons...?

Thanks to Karl Black for calling this to our attention.


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written by Ambushbug, April 19, 2009
Good point. I ran into something similar yesterday at a cultural diversity discussion. The speaker pointed out how difficult it can be to rid oneself of a negative stereotype since the mind tends to confirm what it believes to be true. For example, if you've been raised to believe that members of an ethnic group are freeloaders on society, you'll ignore examples in the media of successful members of that group, but remember stories of members of that group on welfare.
All well and good, but later the speaker mentioned being mindful of how people's religious beliefs affect their culture, and asked the audience for a show of hands on how many of us pray. After almost all raised their hands, he asked individuals how they know their prayers are answered. Many people replied, "Things get better!"

I was tempted to point out that the same persistence of belief applies to prayer; people are likely to remember the times it "worked" because things "got better" and forget all the times those prayers went unanswered. But since my boss was right next to me, and she raised her hand . . . I decided discretion was the better part of employment. smilies/wink.gif
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written by MadScientist, April 19, 2009
I think you're attacking the wrong cult. I don't know of any catholic congregation that endorses prayer as an alternative to medicine. Of course when someone's dying from an incurable disease they go off and pray, but except for a few loonies on the fringe (and with a population size of the catholic church that's quite a few loonies) prayer is not advocated as a cure for disease; they don't even tell someone with a terminal illness "forget the doctors and just pray" - they do their god-nagging while the poor victim also gets medical treatment (if they can afford it). Now if you look at the Christian Scientists or the Jehovah's Witless or any number of pentecostal cult leaders like Benny Hinn, those creeps really do encourage people to pray rather than get proper treatment.
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Strange Stragedy
written by BillyJoe, April 20, 2009
Here we have the gift horse of catholic bishops calling it on reiki and we look it in the mouth.

We sure know how to lose.
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written by Careyp74, April 20, 2009
I would have to say this for the church. The USCCB believes in prayer because of faith in their religion, while there is no such faith in Reiki. Therefore, they have to rely on science for everything outside the religion. Applying this understanding to the above story might clear up what isn't understood by the author.

BillyJoe, how about "Damned if you do..."
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written by bosshog, April 20, 2009
Perhaps, perhaps the Catholic priesthood doesn't endorse prayer as a medical treatment. Still, if the Catholic religion doesn't teach its adherents to pray for SOME THING, what do they pray for?
Don't rank and file Catholics routinely pray for: help with love, winning lottery numbers, a better job, a faithful spouse and obedient children, the driving away of devils and lifting of curses etc.
None of which can be scientifically shown to work. And yet the priesthood encourages it.
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Slippery slope
written by DZiemke, April 20, 2009
I find the USCCB's statements on this quite adventurous and am surprised they want to bring the topic down this path. Science and scientific methods inter-mingling with religous discussions is dangerous place for them to go. And Jeff makes the best and most obvious connection with his replacement of the word "Prayer". It immediately puts the ball back in the church's court to explain why they are different. If they make a claim like this about Reiki, it opens them up to all sorts of debates.

And we know where this debate ends up. Most Science educators say that it's very difficult to have scientific scrutiny on religion and, conversely, religious discussions in Science.
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written by Alan3354, April 20, 2009
Religion = Superstition + $$$$$

A fundamental law.
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written by dasmiller, April 20, 2009
It's certainly true that the Catholic church doesn't hold the skeptical high ground, but they're still correct about reiki so I wouldn't be too quick to condemn them on this topic. To their credit, the Catholic Church doesn't suggest that anyone use prayer as an alternative to conventional medicine (as other posters have pointed out) and they don't charge people for praying, so the prayer/reiki analogy isn't compelling for me.

I have many issues with the Catholic church, but this isn't one of them.
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written by stlemur, April 20, 2009
The Catholic Church does practice a bit of outright hoodoo. When I was in elementary school they made us undergo the Blessing of the Throats every year.
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written by Alan3354, April 20, 2009
Did they mention exorcisms?
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written by Alan3354, April 20, 2009
I have many issues the the RC church, but calling the kettle black isn't one of them.
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CORRECTION: Article was written by Randi, not Jeff
written by JeffWagg, April 20, 2009
Apologies for the mis-attribution... the article was written by Randi and the words are his. Any comments made regarding me are actually regarding Randi.
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Catholic Church Woo Woo
written by DZiemke, April 20, 2009
The Catholic Church does practice a bit of outright hoodoo.

Yes, they do practice quite a bit of woo woo which now seems more open to scrutiny and testing with this Reiki position. Belief in miracles and of demonic posession are two examples of widely held beliefs by the Catholic Church. Would they be willing to provide proof of these? Or welcome scientific inquiry to validate? I doubt it...
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written by Steel Rat, April 20, 2009
I think there's a difference her with what the "Catholic Church" believes and what their followers believe.

Onw could argue that Lourdes is an example of people using prayer and bogus healing waters to replace modern medicine.
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RC Church loves its woo woo
written by Kajabla61, April 20, 2009
Come on folks - the church still endorses exorcism, though rarely any more. They are a bit more careful about that since all this science stuff has become popular however.

I was raised in the Roman Cathoholic church (I gave it up for Lent 25 years ago) and I stll have many relatives in the church. Trust me, the church tells them to pray for everything. The only thing that has changed in the church is that they no longer condemn people who allow science based medical doctors to cure them.

As usual, there is very little forward thinking going on in the oldest Christian religion around.
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written by Kuroyume, April 20, 2009
Science stuff hasn't simply become 'popular' - it has worked so well for so long, there are few places to go where it has not shown its efficacy. More so since the computer/internet revolution of the past twenty years. With so many people using and encountering technologies, they have become accustomed to the success of technology and thereby the science that has driven it. Same for medicine, archaeology, paleontology, biology, chemisty, genetics, space research and exploration, weaponry, engineering, and on and on.

The RCC is slowly (very slowly) climbing out of the middle ages and realizing that science isn't just an esoteric 'fad' that may fade away with time. It has superceded all past methodologies of examination of this world overwhelmingly. Nonetheless, this article does bring visions of black pots and kettles. Thinking in Christianity has always been backwards. smilies/wink.gif
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US Catholic Bishops as Critical Thinkers
written by StarTrekLivz, April 20, 2009
Considering the Roman Catholic bishops believe:
1. In exorcism.
2. That homosexuality is a "choice" and a "moral evil."
3. That birth control is always wrong & immoral, let alone abortion.
4. Well, just that whole invisible Sky Wizard thing ......
5. That prayer is efficacious for everything from war to acne.
6. That saying Magic Words over bread & wine changes it to something miraculous.
7. Likewise about dipping babies in water.


I found their denunciation absolutely hilarious. Pity they don't apply the same kind of thinking inwardly.....
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Gift Horse?
written by juryjone, April 20, 2009
BillyJoe,

In what way is this a "gift horse"? The bishops restate something that is obvious and we're supposed to say "thank you"? The only people that will be swayed by this declaration are those dogmatists that say to themselves, "Well, if the church says it, it must be right!"

Now, if the bishops were encouraging people to think for themselves rather than accepting a diktat, then I would definitely consider that a gift. I would be most appreciative.
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written by mjh937, April 20, 2009
As others have said, we should be happy that the Catholic church is agreeing with the skeptical position on this issue. Trying to then use this to disparage the church only serves to distance religious people from this website. Faith, by definition, cannot be proven, and as long as people of faith (of which I am one) are willing to listen to science I see no problem. I know I cannot prove what I believe, but I have not found any science that disproves it either.
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One thing I noticed
written by epok205, April 20, 2009
James Randi's words were "Reiki practitioners claim to be able to facilitate healing by strengthening or "balancing" this "force.""

The keyword is "facilitate", which is not saying that practitioners should turn away from traditional medicine. So the RCC is condemning a practice which they themselves....practice. So I agree it is the pot calling the kettle black. You gotta remember this is James Randi speaking, and that is something he does quite well and with prescience. The man knows what he is talking about.
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written by tctheunbeliever, April 20, 2009
This kinda reminds me of the widespread American attitude toward Arabs/Muslims/terrorists: "they" are a bunch of narrow-minded fanatics with crazy beliefs, while "we" are the good guys, impressing our god with our show of blind faith.

And what about the laying on of hands? Isn't that reiki?
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written by MJG, April 20, 2009
Twelve years of Catholic school gives me the perspective to chuckle at this. The core beliefs of the Church are every bit as much irrational woo woo as Rieke. This isn't a case of skepticism, this is a case of one organization of hucksters trying to protect their turf from the incursion of new upstart cons. I am surprised though by one thing though. Historically the Church's Modus Operandi has been "assimilate, assimilate, assimilate!" Local gods are too popular to stamp out? Make 'em into saints. Bacchanalia and Saturnalia or their equivalents too entrenched in local culture? "Hey, we've got Easter and Christmas! You don't even have to get rid of your decorated trees!" Surprising that the Catholic Church hasn't taken the same approach toward New Agey woo. Must be loosing their touch.
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Hello, Kettle...
written by Brookston John, April 20, 2009
Meet The Pot...
Best chuckle I've had all day.... smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by Alan3354, April 20, 2009
written by mjh937, April 20, 2009

As others have said, we should be happy that the Catholic church is agreeing with the skeptical position on this issue. Trying to then use this to disparage the church only serves to distance religious people from this website. Faith, by definition, cannot be proven, and as long as people of faith (of which I am one) are willing to listen to science I see no problem. I know I cannot prove what I believe, but I have not found any science that disproves it either.

That applies to the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny as well.
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written by Steel Rat, April 20, 2009
Alan3354, it also applies to all the other gods/goddesses/animals/objects of worship which humans have ever thought up. Of course, mjh937 couldn't possibly accept that any of them exist, only his fairy story is the "right" one.
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written by Steel Rat, April 20, 2009
This kinda reminds me of the widespread American attitude toward Arabs/Muslims/terrorists: "they" are a bunch of narrow-minded fanatics with crazy beliefs, while "we" are the good guys, impressing our god with our show of blind faith.


No, we just think that of the ones who ARE "a bunch of narrow-minded fanatics with crazy beliefs". There are no "good guys".
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written by Alan3354, April 20, 2009
written by Steel Rat, April 20, 2009

Alan3354, it also applies to all the other gods/goddesses/animals/objects of worship which humans have ever thought up. Of course, mjh937 couldn't possibly accept that any of them exist, only his fairy story is the "right" one.

Imaginary "friends" are for children.
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written by PaulJ, April 20, 2009
Whenever members of the Catholic Church talk about the incredibility of things like Reiki they display massive irony-failure, as if they have a mental block that prevents them from pursuing arguments to their logical conclusion.
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written by Kuroyume, April 20, 2009
They tend to pursue arguments around in circles. smilies/cool.gif

Sorry that I have nothing of actual value to add to the comments on this article. This is a pure case of blinders and agenda, as was mentioned.
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written by Willy K, April 20, 2009
written by Alan3354, April 20, 2009 Imaginary "friends" are for children.

I've said this many times before...
Everyone grows older, few grow up. smilies/tongue.gif
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written by Willy K, April 20, 2009
written by MJG, April 20, 2009
...Local gods are too popular to stamp out? Make 'em into saints....


So the beatification of Uri Geller is not too far off?

Where would Randi keep his Saint Uri statue? Not on his dashboard I would guess.smilies/wink.gif
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written by BillyJoe, April 20, 2009
BillyJoe, how about "Damned if you do..."

I think we should acknowledge and welcome the church's conclusion about reiki.
We can do then over with the prayer argument another day.

BJ
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No wonder then...
written by BillyJoe, April 20, 2009
Apologies for the mis-attribution... the article was written by Randi and the words are his. Any comments made regarding me are actually regarding Randi.

Oh, now it makes sense. smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by Alan3354, April 20, 2009
It took them a mere 400 years to admit they were wrong about Galileo, so be patient.
Infallibility isn't what it used to be.
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No Special Place
written by Silver, April 20, 2009
There is no need to tip toe around the issue of religion or walk on egg shells when we talk about religious ideas. Religion occupies no special place among other ideas that requires special treatement. I do not even recognize the concept of sacred or holy. To do so gives religion the very power that it seeks. Some say we should not offend people's "religious sensibilities." I say b.s. The term "religious sensibility" is an oxymoron. We do not need to talk about religious concepts any differently than we talk about ghosts, channeling or the Bermuda Triangle.
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written by MadScientist, April 20, 2009
@bosshog: the prayers are usually something like:

* thank you for the little food I can afford (sorry, the little scraps you've given my family)
* please be nice to me and let me go to heaven
* it would be nice if I got anything on my christmas wish list
* it would also be really nice of you if my friends who are dying of cancer are miraculously cured

Of course that would vary a lot between communities and even individuals.

@stlemur: Yes, and if you travel you'll find a different local mystical tradition everywhere. Only a week or so ago the predictable news included idiots in the Philippines having themselves nailed to planks. Some church leaders say they do not endorse it (but don't condemn it) while others say it is an inspiring act of faith - personally I think there should be more such inspiring acts of faith; since the church opposes condoms this primitive means of population control may have to do.

@StarTrekLivz: True, but what has that got to do with Reiki? I don't see any claims that the other silly things cure diseases. It's funny though - christians of all denominations don't understand why I say they're all creepy, but it's so easy to come up with a list of weird stuff like you have. Still, if you get 'em young enough they haven't got much chance of learning to think, and that has actually been part of the dogma for ages. Even Monty Python spoofs it in the song "Ev'ry Sperm is Sacred": "You're a catholic the moment dad came..." It's a very clever song stating many points of catholic dogma in a way that would offend the bishops and yet it is 100% in line with the dogma - the words just differ a little from approved church wording.
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Numerous Comments
written by JasonPatterson, April 20, 2009
@dasmiller: I agree with much of what you wrote, but one thing about christians in general has always bothered me. While they may not charge you for praying, they most definitely make it clear that you'll burn for all eternity if you don't tithe. That's 10% of your income, for goodness sake. There are cults that don't take that much...

@careyp74: I've got a Japanese friend who is very much into reiki, and she definitely has as much faith in it as anyone has in their religion. Just because she doesn't believe in a particular god doesn't make her without faith. It also doesn't make her belief any less baseless.

@Willy K: Uri, now what could he be patron of? If I wear my St. Uri relic, a scrap of cloth wiped on a bent spoon, I'll never miss in the men's room again!

The only good I can see in this is the likelihood that a few catholics will reconsider their belief in reiki, but those who would take the church's advice on that are unlikely to have believed in it in the first place. I definitely can see the humor in it though.
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juryjone
written by BillyJoe, April 20, 2009
In what way is this a "gift horse"? The bishops restate something that is obvious and we're supposed to say "thank you"?

Yes, thank you for acknowledging the truth.

The only people that will be swayed by this declaration are those dogmatists that say to themselves, "Well, if the church says it, it must be right!"

Better than nothing, and maybe a gateway

Now, if the bishops were encouraging people to think for themselves rather than accepting a diktat, then I would definitely consider that a gift.

It would be a miracle!

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, April 20, 2009
You gotta remember this is James Randi speaking, and that is something he does quite well and with prescience. The man knows what he is talking about.

All hail, James Randi, Messiah! smilies/cheesy.gif
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@ Alan
written by BillyJoe, April 20, 2009
That applies to the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny as well.

Oops, no, I know damn well who exchanged my tooth for a dime and who planted the easter eggs for the easter egg hunt, but I have not yet discovered how something came from nothing.

BJ
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written by Cian, April 20, 2009
... you could also sustitute "Lourdes" for "Reiki" for a specifically catholic form of scientifically unproven "healing". I'm currently trying to talk my mother out of bringing my nephew there for his epilepsy ..... this is not easy. From being brought up in catholic background i can confirm that all sorts of woo-woo healing is promoted by the church (in conjunction with your staple "prayers"). Only recently Padre Pio's glove has been "curing" the sick in my hometown .... and the worst part about this is that this glove is being brought into hospitals!!! I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a doctor whose expertise and dedication helps heal, yet the credit is given to a an old piece of handwear. But yes, they can snear at Reiki .... the word "myopic" springs unbidden to the lips!
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written by MadScientist, April 21, 2009
@Cian: Argh! Why did you remind me of that stuff? OK, Medjugore too (is that how you spell it?). Let's not forget that Mark Twain wrote in his travels through Italy that if you gathered all the relics of the cross you'd have a forest. Let's see ... the shroud of Turin was proclaimed a hoax by catholic authorities when it first appeared, but for a few hundred years it has been venerated as the "Real Thing (tm)". Anyone want to go into St. Peter's Sepulchre in Rome, dig out the bones and carbon date them? How about a DNA check too just to see what group of people the bones came from? Scapulars with a piece of cloth from the burial cloths of Saint X (usually a female saint - how's that for kinky) - they're surely a modern miracle since there must be quite a few bolts of cloth used over the decades, thus making saint whatever the biggest mummy not in the world records book. What I love most about the catholic church is its long history - you wouldn't run out of things to laugh at in a lifetime.
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written by Alan3354, April 21, 2009
At least we know they make good use of the money people "give unto the lord", paying off people to cover up for child molesters.
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written by Steel Rat, April 21, 2009
Cian, yeah. I mentioned Lourdes way up above... smilies/grin.gif
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written by Cian, April 21, 2009
to MadScientist - I had never heard that Mark Twain one before ..... i like it.
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@ BillyJoe
written by Human Person Jr, April 21, 2009
You seem to be saying that science claims "something came from nothing." This seems to offend you. Would you care to put your theory in plain words, in this space?
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@ steel rat
written by Cian, April 21, 2009
smilies/wink.gif lourdes is always worth mentioning twice eh? hehe
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Not offensive, just not solved yet...
written by BillyJoe, April 21, 2009
You seem to be saying that science claims "something came from nothing." This seems to offend you. Would you care to put your theory in plain words, in this space?

"something from nothing"
"always something"
"something rather than nothing"

Take your pick.

BJ
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written by Steel Rat, April 21, 2009
How about we stick to the topic. Every thread is getting derailed by this crap.
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written by MadScientist, April 21, 2009
@Cian: I may be senile and misquoting Twain; I can't find a reference. Anyway, the travel book to read is "The Innocents Abroad". See how a real writer tears apart the church, its traditions and relics.
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written by Cian, April 21, 2009
thank you MadScientist - "The Innocents Abroad" is next on my list.
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Nice suggestion but...
written by BillyJoe, April 22, 2009
How about we stick to the topic.
Sceptics are like cats.
Uncontrollable!
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@BJ
written by Steel Rat, April 22, 2009
No, we just get easily derailed by trolls. smilies/cool.gif
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written by Careyp74, April 22, 2009
Jason, I meant to say that the Catholic church does not have faith in Reiki. Now that I state that out loud, it does make me rethink what I said. The church uses science to dispel everything they don't believe in, while turning a blind scientific eye on their own beliefs? And people follow this religion?
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Got it.
written by JasonPatterson, April 22, 2009
@careyp74: Thanks for the clarification. It's always hard discussing these things via text. smilies/smiley.gif
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Reiki
written by vasallese, April 24, 2009
They are so ridiculous in how they choose what to believe and what not to believe. The Pope reports condoms do not help prevent AIDS, yet the scientific community has proven it does help decrease the spread of AIDS. Yikes. No wonder I'm not a Catholic anymore.
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