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Old 22nd November 2008, 06:45 AM   #1
Baby Nemesis
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Desperation fuels belief in the supernatural

I think a lot of belief in the supernatural will disappear when living conditions throughout the world improve for people so there's more social equality. I'll give some examples of why:

Example 1.

Yesterday evening, there was a television programme about a cult with a lot of appeal for gangsters in Venezuela called the Cult of the Thugs. Members worship the spirits of dead gangsters, and visit mediums who say they channel the spirits of especially prestigious dead gangsters, who give people advice on keeping safe, such as on how to hold guns to make them less obvious so their carriers won't be such a target for other gangsters. You see, Venezuela has a huge murder rate, mainly because of the gangs. It's trippled since Hugo Chavez took over as president nine years ago. Government figures now say there's a murder every forty minutes. There's a hospital in the capital where they say 80-90% of their patients have gun shot wounds. There's a prison filled with gangsters that has massive overcrowding, where murder is very common, and they say no efforts are made to rehabilitate people, so when they get out, they don't know any other life than violent gang life, so they just go back to it.

People living in violent neighbourhoods think the police are providing a completely inadequate service. So they've turned to the supernatural for protection. There are massive festivals honouring dead gangsters, where devotees worship them and seek their protection. See here for more information.

Example 2.

Many people in the third world don't have access to adequate healthcare, and don't even know such a thing could cure a lot of their ailments. When something bad happens to them, they often think they must be the victim of a curse put on them by a witch. So there are witch hunts to find out who the witch is and punish them. This isn't helped by the fact that some people do in fact try to better themselves by turning to witchcraft, sometimes committing gruesome murders to get body parts, which they believe work as charms that can give them prosperity or other good fortune. For example, see some of the articles in my latest post in the Please help with the Wall of Harm thread. (He's had it unstickied since I put that there. LOL I hope that wasn't because my post was so gruesome he couldn't tolerate any more. I feel a bit guilty now.)

I actually know a Nigerian person who said when he was at school one day, all the children were warned to stay indoors, because they were warned there were "medicine men" in the area who might want to get their body parts. I know someone who knows another Nigerian man who actually was attacked by such people, who gouged his eyes out to use in medicines supposedly containing supernatural charms.

Anyway, belief in witchcraft in such places causes a climate of fear. Here's something I posted elsewhere that illustrates how:

From an article called: An Unexplained Death in Haiti:

Quote:
My best friend in Haiti, Bòs, died two weeks ago. He was the one that I ate meals with for two years while I served in Haiti as a Peace Corps volunteer.
He was the one who welcomed me into his house as a family member. He was the one who showed me around the village and who sat underneath the big neem tree with me as the sun set over the fields of millet on the other side of the 10-foot wide Route Nationale # 2. And two weeks ago, he died at the age of 47.

His son told me that he died of something 'unexplainable', something caused by a 'voodoo curse'. Yet, I believe that he died because of something that is indeed very explainable and much more scary than a voodoo curse- I believe he died because of poverty and the lack of access to adequate healthcare. ...

For so many Haitians, the struggle is not only with a lack of treatment options, but also with a lack of diagnostic capabilities. Many, like my best friend
Bòs, die without ever knowing what kills them. They do not even have the opportunity to know that there may be a drug that, although too expensive for them to buy, could save their life.

Of course, although left 'unexplained', there is always a reason given for the death - 'the wind was changing', 'God decided it was time for them to die', or 'someone had laid a voodoo curse upon the victim'. This last explanation, a voodoo curse, is often the hardest one for the family to deal with. For,
in the case of Bòs, his son now has to deal with trying to understand who cursed his father and why. As he explained to me on the phone last week, his aunt may have arranged the curse because she has had such an inimical relationship with Bòs's wife. Or, he said, it could have been one of Bos's coworkers
who was jealous for some reason. And now the son must also wonder if he too is in danger. ...
An even worse thing is that thousands and thousands of children are now being accused of being witches in some parts of Africa, and killed, or sometimes badly injured before being abandoned.

There was a television programme recently about how a lot of children in Nigeria are being rejected and killed or threatened with being killed, because many pastors were accusing them of being witches who caused bad things to happen to their families or communities.

It said that though there's a longstanding tradition of accusing people like elderly women of being witches, the craze for accusing children of witchcraft started about seven years ago, when someone made a video about how children can get involved in witchcraft and do all kinds of terrible things, and lots of people saw it.

You can find out more information about the programme and the issues here: Saving Africa's Witch Children.

It features a charity that takes in abandoned children who've been accused of being witches:

Quote:
... Gary and Sam introduce Dispatches to some of the rescued children who have been through unimaginable horrors, such as Ekemeni, aged 13, who was tied up
with chicken wire and starved and beaten for two weeks, and Mary, aged 14, who was burnt with acid before her mother attempted to bury her alive. Other
children display the hallmarks of witch-branding - acid burns and machete scars. Uma Eke, aged 17, has been left brain-damaged after having a three-inch nail driven into her skull. ...

The parents or siblings of children torture them in an attempt to kill them or force confessions from them to admit that they are witches. ...
It links to the charity's website, so you can find out more about their work raising such children.

When there's adequate healthcare all around the world, good education for all, an efficient police force and a progressive prison system in the more lawless parts of the world, and poverty is reduced a lot so many more people have satisfactory living standards and can live in security for much more of the time, then belief in the supernatural will probably diminish a lot. I suspect that in Europe, the virtual elimination of belief in witches who go around causing serious harm had a lot to do with such things.
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Old 22nd November 2008, 07:08 AM   #2
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Certainly ignorance, poverty, and fear work hand-in-hand to promote a climate where supernatural beliefs flourish.
Still, how do we then explain the widespread belief in such things in all manner of countries with good education and affluent lifestyle?
In the US alone, we have always had a flourishing market for quack medicine and bizarre "therapies", and the amounts of money made by "psychics", "readers", fortune tellers, and the whole panoply of such people must be in the billions....
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Old 22nd November 2008, 07:45 AM   #3
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Yes, a surprising number of rich women love to see "psychics"---even those who are liberal Christians or non-believers. It is "fun" to them. They have difficulty assessing the trickery involved.

But this subject can be delved into deeper than we have. I mean that no one has clearly stated what "superstition" is. Was what we call "superstition" the same thing as what was thought of as "superstition" in Roman times? If not, then much of what we now call "truth" is sure to end up being called "superstition" in the distant future.

In other words, "superstition" is only old religion. I would add that it is old-religion that is so old that it no longer has a clergy able to defend it!

In Asia, I met many people who believe in "ghosts"---even putting food out for them every August and burning money so they can get it and spend it when they go back to purgatory. These were middle income people.

What I think is that the "upper classes" everywhere break free of such beliefs while all religion and even superstition has always been what binds the common people and the poor together into a community. Belief serves a function.

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Old 22nd November 2008, 07:52 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Certainly ignorance, poverty, and fear work hand-in-hand to promote a climate where supernatural beliefs flourish.
Still, how do we then explain the widespread belief in such things in all manner of countries with good education and affluent lifestyle?
In the US alone, we have always had a flourishing market for quack medicine and bizarre "therapies", and the amounts of money made by "psychics", "readers", fortune tellers, and the whole panoply of such people must be in the billions....
But I think these people still prey on vulnerability, since even in a rich country, there's still a lot of that. For instance, mediums advertise to grief-stricken people, faith healers appeal to people who aren't getting satisfactory healthcare, etc. Here's an example:

From an article called Psychic Scams (AsianWeek, Apr 2003)

Quote:
... Lisa* is a victim of Mrs. Sonia, and it was only after a decade of keeping her silence that she came forward to authorities. In a period of three months, she was swindled out of more than $15,000. Now, she is working with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to track down Mrs. Sonia, and teaming up
with the Board of Supervisors and the District Attorney's Office to propose a law that would require the city's fortunetellers to hold permits. ...

Mrs. Sonia pulled out the death card, and proceeded to inform Lisa that someone in her family was very ill and was going to die. The news struck a chord
with Lisa because her sister was diagnosed with leukemia and was undergoing chemotherapy treatments; moreover, her 17-year-old cousin had died recently.

"I was like, 'Omigod.' I was shocked," recalls Lisa. "She then told me that I had a lot of darkness in my life caused by a curse."

Gauging the concern rising in Lisa, Mrs. Sonia knew that she had found an opening into Lisa. Mrs. Sonia told Lisa if she returned for more readings and
healings, she could help her sister.

"She said I could assure the health of my sister if I came back consistently to see her," Lisa says. "I was at a very vulnerable state at the time, and
once she brought in my sister, she got me. All I wanted was for my sister to get better." ...
And a lot of people who phone psychics should really be speaking to counsellors or wise friends. That's the conclusion of some people who've worked on psychic lines.

I'm not saying it's always the case that people who fall prey to things like this will be vulnerable in some way. But educating people to think critically about such things from an early age, as well as helping towards eliminating social equalities like third world poverty and highly inadequate healthcare, should go a long way towards improving things. After all, there may be a lot of people turning to psychics now, but as I said, at least people in the West have advanced beyond witch burnings now. I suspect a lot of them were motivated by just the same kinds of concerns that motivate some people in the third world to try to kill people who've been accused of witchcraft now for instance, they have little modern healthcare, so they don't realise diseases are caused by natural things and that most can be treated with drugs.

But actually, people who've researched these things say the fear of witchcraft in the third world is often taken advantage of by people who just want to get revenge on people or put competitors out of business, and so on. They can accuse the people they want to harm of being witches, and chances are, they will be harmed. There's a group in India calling themselves the Rationalists, who go around educating people about what really causes misfortunes. I think more of that should happen.
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Old 22nd November 2008, 11:27 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Me
And a lot of people who phone psychics should really be speaking to counsellors or wise friends. That's the conclusion of some people who've worked on psychic lines.
To elaborate:

Here's a quote from an article that used to be on the Internet, called My Nightmare Job as a Phone Psychic. It's by someone in America who thought being a phone psychic would be fun. She didn't think of herself as psychic, but didn't have to to learn what they had to do on the phone. She soon realised it was unethical, since lots of people were calling who actually needed professional medical or psychological care or specialist advice, not a psychic reading; but the psychic hotlines were far more popular than seeing a counsellor, (counselling probably has an image problem for one thing, not undeserved; but I won't get started on problems with some types of counselling).

Anyway, she said,

Quote:
... After a few calls I realized how harmful these psychic lines can be. 80 percent of the calls I received were not just people calling for fun. They were people with questions concerning their health and other serious problems. And these poor people relied on the advice of so-called psychics like me to make major decisions in their lives. ...
She said she spoke to one caller who'd just spoken to another "psychic" for a whole hour, who was worried by something the psychic had said, warning her about her health:

Quote:
I tried to calm her down and told her the truth: "Some psychics will say anything to keep you on the line. Noone always feels in tip top shape. And if you
really feel bad you should visit a doctor. Don't let a phone call scare you into thinking that you have some terrible disease." ...
And from an article called Hotlining - An intrepid reporter does hard time in the telepsychic trenches by someone else in America who thought it might be fun to be a phone psychic, and found her employers didn't require people to actually consider themselves to be psychic, and thought profits were very important so the main thing was keeping people on the line for some time:

Quote:
... Shyly, she asked me how the man from her past felt about her now, and I told her that the cards said that his love for her had never died. This, of course,
was exactly what she wanted to hear. Barbara wanted permission to follow a path of action that her better judgment warned her was pure folly.

This was the first time Barbara had ever called a psychic hotline, and she said she did it only because she was "so worked up and didn't know what else to do." In her vulnerable state, she had seen the ad on TV and decided to "just give it a try." After all, the first three minutes were free. If she wasn't satisfied by then she could just hang up. Of course, a large portion of the first free three minutes of a pay-per-call are used up in phone menus and routing. ...

NO SOONER had I concluded the call with Barbara then my phone rang again. This time an 18-year-old girl from Kansas City, concerned about her newborn baby's heart murmur, wanted to know about the child's father, who was in prison, and about the father of her other child, who was also in prison. Twenty minutes and $99 later, I gently concluded the call without even offering her the free tarot deck (a sneaky way to get mailing addresses). ...
Maybe if professional help-lines for a number of different things were given more funding, recruited more, and advertised for callers as well as the psychic lines do, having the advantage of not charging extortionate amounts, a lot of people would phone those instead, although it must be appealing to think you're phoning someone who can see how your problem might work out in future.
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Old 23rd November 2008, 01:36 PM   #6
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Here's an interesting story: The confessions of a leading psychic.

Quote:
... KOREM: Why did you feel that you had to tell people that you had powers that you didn't have?

HYDRICK: Because I wanted attention. My parents would never give it to me. I would always be ignored or kicked around. I had to do this to make me feel good. ...

I wanted to see if these people who were so-called intelligent and I was so-called dumb; I mean, surely I'm here for a reason. My whole idea behind this in the first place was to see how dumb America was. How dumb the world is. ...
Quote:
When in Egypt performing for family members of the late Anwar Sadat, Hydrick relates how he healed a woman stricken by a heart attack.

HYDRICK: She strongly believed that I could actually heal her.

KOREM: What did you do that made her believe that?

HYDRICK: I'd move things. I'd show her so many things. I would touch her and she would feel weird things. But its only in her mind. She wanted to feel those things.

KOREM: Do you feel bad because you...

HYDRICK: No! No! I don't feel bad at all. It would be different if you tricked them and done wrong, but I tricked them for their good. ...
It would be interesting if more people like that confessed to their real motivations.
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Old 25th November 2008, 08:27 AM   #7
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Oh look, here's another one!

Quote:
... Her most important job, she says, was not to divine the future — it was to keep callers on the line. She was required to maintain a 15-minute average per call (later increased to 20 minutes); when her average declined, so did the number of calls that were sent her way. She was paid according to how long
she was on the line. ...

There was the caller from Mississippi who was looking for her retarded, epileptic brother. Galperin knew of only one place in Mississippi: Jackson. So she said the man was there.

"She thanked me so much. 'Now, I can at least narrow it down,' she said. So I told her that I saw a two-story brick building," Galperin says.

Maybe it's a clinic, the caller suggested. Could be, Galperin agreed.

Then there was the caller whose boyfriend told her that her cat had been run over by a truck. She suspected that the boyfriend had killed the cat.

Galperin closed her eyes. "Yes!" she said. ...
http://archive.seacoastonline.com/2002news/4_7_w2.htm

Last edited by Baby Nemesis; 25th November 2008 at 08:28 AM.
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Old 25th November 2008, 11:42 AM   #8
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Cultural and religious harm with paranormal cured with education

Many of the comments expressed on this thread are over due. The best cure for many dangerous health ailments while reducing quackery is education that overcomes pseudoscience beliefs. Worldwide cultural, emotional, and religious impacts that often seek paranormal cures can be steered to ones with repeatable results. And in doing so the "profit" motives of some are economically dismantled and new lower cost methods spread to larger segments of the public.
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Old 29th November 2008, 12:52 PM   #9
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Thanks. I think the same.

If people were educated about psychics in schools, it wouldn't mean teachers had to be controversial and risk offending some people in the area by saying real psychics don't exist or anything. They could teach about the dangers of being too trusting as part of a general social development course, where besides learning about psychic scams, like this one: Exposed: TV's bogus 'psychics',
they also learned about other types of scams, such as the ones you can find out about here:

An Overview of Consumer Rights (from the BBC).
Car Repair Scams.
Typical Consumer Cons (Rip-off Tip-off). Classic Cons… and How to Counter Them.
Work-At-Home Scams.
Phishing Scams.
Dealing With Loan Sharks (Consumer information from the UK Government).
Consumer Alert | Beware: Predatory Lenders at Work (AARP Bulletin).

They could learn about views that astrology has no basis, for instance by studying things like this:
The Universe At Your Fingertips Activity: Activities With Astrology.
Horoscopes Versus Telescopes: A Focus on Astrology.
Astrology or Star Struck.

But they could also read perspectives from astrologers, so they weren't just getting one side of things, so it wouldn't be so easy to argue they were being taught to be biased.

Or is there a reason why that wouldn't work?

Also, in Nigeria where all those children are being accused of being witches and harmed and abandoned by their families, the craze began when there was a popular video made about how children can get involved in witchcraft and do all kinds of things, like leave their bodies at night and go off to covens, or something like that. If a video could have such an impact, I think someone should make a video debunking those beliefs in a compelling way and do their best to popularise it there. It might save a lot of children from harm.
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Old 30th November 2008, 01:05 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
I think a lot of belief in the supernatural will disappear when living conditions throughout the world improve for people so there's more social equality.
The bad news is, you'd be completely wrong.

You might end up stopping belief in voodoo and witchcraft in the third world with education, but all you need to do is look at the exponential rise in psychics and astrologers in the past 20 years in the western world to see that education doesn't matter a whit. (not to mention the explosion of paranormal-based tv in the past decade)

Social equality has nothing whatsoever to do with it - people want to believe and as people slide off religion, they frequently pick up something equally stupid.
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Old 30th November 2008, 07:02 AM   #11
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But are people being educated about paranormal scams?

Well, at least the really harmful things would probably disappear. The things that are causing the most suffering. Like the examples I gave in my first post.

For instance, if modern healthcare was accessible to everyone and people in the third world were educated more about science, people would stop getting scared and going on witch hunts when they or others got ill or a natural disaster happened because they thought someone had cursed them. If they knew illnesses were caused by germs, and had other rational explanations for things, it could even save lives, not only the lives of the people who were getting ill but currently haven't got access to adequate healthcare, but also the lives of people who might otherwise be killed because they were being blamed for causing the problems. At least in the West, people aren't being killed because they're being blamed for supernaturally causing disasters.

Another thing that would happen is that people's ignorance couldn't be played on by nasty people who want to commit crimes, who make knowingly false and malicious accusations against people. They couldn't draw people into helping them, or convince them to ignore what they were doing by saying they had it on authority that these people were witches.

For more information about the kinds of attacks that go on in the third world, see these articles:

Where Superstition, Black Magic Thrive (The Hindu, Apr 2001).

Quote:
RAIPUR, APRIL 29. Illiteracy and social backwardness are believed to be the main factors behind high incidence of human sacrifice and prevalence of black magic in Chhatisgarh.

The highest number of incidents is, perhaps, reported from the State with the recent one being the killing of a young boy in Surajpur village last week. The `sacrifice' came close on the heels of a similar killing reported from a village in Jammu.

Besides human sacrifice and black magic, the rural areas of the region abound in `tohni' or witch where women are beaten up or killed mercilessly after being declared `witches.'

According to Dr. Dinesh Mishra, who runs the Andha Shradha Nirmulan Samiti - an organisation working for creating awareness against these superstition - besides illiteracy, there is a social factor behind these practices.

Putting across his point, he says declaring a woman `tohni' is often done with a vested interest. A woman is driven away from the house or village to grab her property or to pressurise her to do something she is not willing to do. Children are `sacrificed' to please the Gods to fulfil the wishes of the accused, he claims. ...

The incidents of human sacrifice and tongue sacrifices increase during March and April and in October and November in the festival season since people believe in making generous offerings to the Gods so that they can be relieved of their problems.

``However, awareness is gradually increasing and villagers themselves inform our organisation whenever there is an incident of this nature,'' he says.
Witchcraft Problem in South Africa (AP, Oct 1999).

Quote:
... Such ideas are not new in this society, where belief in "muti" -- the power of magic -- is strong and traditional healers are a respected and established group. Hundreds of witchcraft accusations are reported every year and police have recorded about 600 killings in Northern Province since 1990. ...

The causes of the violence are complicated.

Poverty, ignorance, isolation, deep-rooted traditional beliefs and rebellion against authority under apartheid form the background, said Prof. Thias Kgatla, a University of the North theology professor studying the issue. On such fertile ground, a natural disaster or sudden death is easily blamed on sorcery, and a mob mentality takes over. Charges often result from family feuds, political rivalries or jealousy of a person who seemingly finds inexplicable wealth amid poverty. ...

Sekhethi Lebogo, 85, said he was accused of being a witch by his wife's lover, beaten by a mob and chased away. ...
Women branded 'witches' to settle scores (Asia Times, Feb 2000).

Quote:
PATNA, India - Neepudi and her five children, none older than 10, were axed to death in Mandwa village of Palamau district, in eastern India's Bihar state.

They were killed by Mohar Shah who accused Neepudi of being a witch and responsible for the death of his daughter-in-law. The incident took place in September 1997. Later it transpired that Shah had his eye on the land she owned and succeeded in his plan to wipe out the entire family because she was a woman....

In the absence of modern health care, people depend on ojhas, or spirit diviners, for remedies for minor and serious ailments. In exchange the ojhas take locally-brewed liquor, goats or hens.

A high incidence of witchcraft-related atrocities are reported from the inaccessible areas where literacy rates and health care facilities are poor. Lack of awareness, superstition about health and diseases further complicate the problems for the poor tribals, who are left completely at the mercy of their village headmen, ...
In the name of the witch (Frontline - "India's National Magazine" Nov 2000).

Quote:
Persecution and torture of women after denouncing them as witches no longer appears to be a tribal practice. Assertion by women in matters such as political representation, gender equality and property rights is resulting in "witch-hunts", ...

... of late there has been a sharp rise in the number of women being denounced as witches and sentenced to gory deaths. This trend is all the more alarming because the victims have often been women from Dalit or tribal communities and the reasons for the "witch hunt" have actually been political, property-related or gender-specific. The new form of oppression is camouflaged under tribal rusticity or yokel behaviour. ...

In another case, in Tarra village in Raipur district, a woman was hacked to death after being branded a witch by her brother-in-law after she sought a right over her deceased husband's land. In yet another case, in Gaandi village in Angara Block in Ranch i, two Dalit widows were tortured, resulting in the death of one of them, who was 75 years old. It began with the death of two children due to malaria and jaundice in September. An exorcist told the father of the children, Mahavir Baitha, that the two widows, Jeetan Devi and Dubhan Devi, were responsible for the deaths. In front of the son, the mother was tonsured, beaten, paraded and burnt. Earthen pitchers were broken on the heads of the two widows. ...

It is most likely that cases of witch-killing and persecution of women will continue as long as economic inequities and neglect of the health care infrastructure continue. The reluctance on the part of both the community and the law-enforcers to see the killings of these hapless women as blatant murder, as was evident in the case of Basumatray, points to collusion among various elements to keep women at the lowest rung of society. ...
Witch-hunts in Orissa (Frontline, May 2005).

Quote:
... When diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea claim lives, they often blame a woman for it, accusing her of casting an evil spell. This makes villagers decide to get rid of the bad soul and the woman is punished, sometimes with death. ...

The reasons for the superstitious practice are not far to seek. The health care service in the interior districts is poor and in many areas, tribal people have to walk miles to the nearest health centre. The problem is accentuated by illiteracy, poverty and lack of awareness. There is no road to thousands of villages in the State and hundreds of schools do not have enough teachers. ...

"The problem is a combination of poverty, superstition, lack of medical care and illiteracy. It makes a deadly mix,'' said Narendra Nayak, a Professor of Biochemistry in the Kasturba Medical College at Manipal in Karnataka and the president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations. "The solution to the problem lies in improving the levels of literacy, creating a scientific temper and improving the medical infrastructure,'' said Nayak, who has been
making visits to tribal pockets of the State to organise demonstrations of tricks that the tribal people believed could only be performed by those claiming to possess supernatural powers. ...
India opening its eyes to tricksters who prey on blind faith (Reuters, Oct 2002).

Quote:
Bombay -- In tradition-bound India, if someone claims to be able to exorcise ghosts, levitate or pull a gold chain out of thin air, it does not take long
for him to become known as a "godman."

While many godmen are not confidence tricksters, there are numerous "miracle babas" who are just out to get rich by duping as many people as quickly as
they can.

But Bombay police are cracking down on the charlatans and have enlisted the help of a group known as the All India Committee to Eradicate Superstition and
Blind Faith to convince people that special power is more often than not a sleight of hand or an illusion. ...

In another demonstration, a man clad in saffron robes and a false beard seems to sit suspended in mid-air without any support but for a hand resting on
a pole.

A superstition-busting activist tells the hushed crowd of more than 100 people that the long garment actually hides a wooden seat fixed to the pole. ...

While most godmen restrict themselves to relatively harmless fraud, others get caught up in much more sinister affairs, including human sacrifice to appease "evil spirits."

In July, a nine-year-old boy was found dead on the outskirts of Bombay. A man told police he killed the boy after a godman told him doing so would save his troubled marriage. "We have intensified patrolling day and night to arrest fake godmen. Another human sacrifice cannot take place," R. D. Jagtap, assistant police commissioner, said.

While Bombay police say the fake godmen are becoming scarce in the city, the activists campaigning against superstition are travelling to towns and villages to spread their message.

"We understand that blind practices cannot be ended easily. It will take generations. But our effort will continue," committee member and Bollywood actor Shreeram Lagoo said.
IHEU launches science education program in India | International Humanist and Ethical Union

Quote:
... Nalgonda district was chosen for the school program because of stories of human sacrifice and frequent reports of witch killings from this district which neighbours Hyderabad, one of India’s important IT hubs. Here, travelling exhibitions with models and charts which could be used in public outreach programs will be created and distributed to other
NGOs and schools in the neighbourhood. Children and their parents will be given education and information on hygiene, nutrition and health to improve the lives of those who are victims of dangerous superstition. Teachers will be offered teacher training. ...

A mixture of song, dance and magic tricks will be used to expose children to the fun and delights of science and maths. during classes they will be challenged to think for themselves, and will be exposed to Humanist ideas, and encouraged to examine their tradition and values. As Humanist ideas reach them at a young and impressionable age, they are likely to have long-term impact and even transform the atmosphere in the rural setting where the project will be
implemented. ...
As for what's going on in the West, I think education could help, such as what I suggested in my last post. If people were made more aware of psychic scams, as part of a course that included education about scams in general, it would probably cut down belief in supernatural things that might turn out to be harmful.
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Old 30th November 2008, 07:07 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
If people were educated about psychics in schools, it wouldn't mean teachers had to be controversial and risk offending some people in the area by saying real psychics don't exist or anything.
I'll agree and go even further. What's wrong with offending people who believe in psychics? In many states and cities, fortune telling is outlawed. Explaining to students why an outlawed activity is outlawed is a perfectly appropriate activity.

On the other hand, there is a limit to how much progress can be made with this topic, students will talk about things they have seen on TV or things they have seen themselves and may be unwilling to abandon a belief in psychic phenomena.
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Old 30th November 2008, 07:32 AM   #13
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Oh what a relief, you're agreeing with me this time instead of telling me I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm glad you think that Idea's OK then!

So you don't think that parents who were strong believers in psychics might complain to the school or even take their kids out if the teaching was perceived to be anti-psychic? When I suggested children could be educated about ... whatever it was we were talking about in that thread about how a Baptist minister had said women deserved to be beaten, or whatever he said, - my memory isn't that good, - you said education wouldn't work, and one reason was that parents would take their kids out of school if they thought teachers were teaching them things that conflicted with their particular view of Christianity. But then, I suppose the amount of time devoted to teaching each topic would make a difference, if teaching about psychics was only a few lessons in a social development course? Wouldn't schools still be at risk of getting complaints though?

If kids were taught that people have been drawn into psychic scams thinking they were only entertainment but then getting caught up in them and defrauded, and read stories from people that happened to, it might make them more cautious about seeing a psychic, even if they still believed a lot of them were genuine, so it would at least cut down on the harm done.
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Old 30th November 2008, 08:59 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
When I suggested children could be educated about ... whatever it was we were talking about in that thread about how a Baptist minister had said women deserved to be beaten, or whatever he said, - my memory isn't that good, - you said education wouldn't work, and one reason was that parents would take their kids out of school if they thought teachers were teaching them things that conflicted with their particular view of Christianity.
Can you provide a link?

ETA: nevermind. I found it.
Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis
and if everyone was educated about it before they got to the point where they were programmed to reject alternative interpretations, or whatever happens, they wouldn't take seriously the nasty things the ones who wanted excuses said.
Originally Posted by Ladewig View Post
Who would you have educate these people? Our Constitution prohibits public schools from teaching Bible interpretation to children. Even if schools were to break the law and attempt it, the fundamentalists would pull their children from school and homeschool them. Many of them already do that because they are upset that schools teach that the world is 4 billion years old and that life is over 2 billion years old.
Back to the topic at hand.

Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis
So you don't think that parents who were strong believers in psychics might complain to the school or even take their kids out if the teaching was perceived to be anti-psychic?
The number of fanatical psychic-believing parents is negligible. The number of fundamentalist-Bible-is-the-inerrant-word-of-God parents is between 37 and 47 percent of the United States.

ETA: I may be way off on the number of psychic-believing parents. Here is a poll showing that in educated countries like the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. belief in the paranormal is not small: http://www.gallup.com/poll/19558/Par...ally-Some.aspx

Here's my take on your position, BN:

- Because curricula is set at the state and city level (in the U.S.), we will have a difficult time convincing a significant number of school boards to adopt the ideas you have outlined. Some topics will draw significant protest.

- Even if the ideas are put into widespread practice, I don't think you'll ever get beliefs in the supernatural to drop below 20% in first world countries and below 50% in third world countries.

- I agree that education in third world countries is of great importance due the persecution and murder of innocent people.

- Achieving a reduction in less educated countries will be exceptionally difficult and will have to be a multi-generational effort. Even if children are convinced, the adults will continue their superstitious beliefs and will die before they give them up.

- I have no idea how much this educational effort will cost in uneducated countries, but it will not be small.
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Old 30th November 2008, 10:43 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
But are people being educated about paranormal scams?
Maybe not at school, but I think you'll find the entire school curriculum is a bit full of other stuff to start on a subject as enormous as the number and type of paranormal scams in existence and how to deal with them.

That sort of thing is best done by private institutions, and as to whether anyone's currently educating people, there are a few organisations already doing it - CSICOP, various skeptic societies and the James Randi Educational Foundation which runs a forum you should check out.
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Old 30th November 2008, 01:59 PM   #16
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Do some schools have social development-type classes already though? Such things wouldn't have to be a big part of the curriculum. They could just be five or six lessons even, and the one about psychic scams could maybe even be just one. Children wouldn't have to be taught about the whole range of psychic-type scams to become sceptical about them. They'd only need to be warned by listening to a few salutary stories, and maybe given a couple of websites to look over for homework with more on them, and explanations about how some psychic scams are done. That might be enough to make them cautious enough to be less likely to be scammed themselves, and it might make some of them want to find out more about scams.

One of the best articles I ever found about psychic scams was actually on the website of a professed psychic. So it could be put to anyone protesting about the introduction of such lessons that children weren't being taught that all psychics were fakes, just to watch out for scams.

There are educational sceptical organisations, but I think it's likely that most of the people who read their articles are already sceptical. The people most likely to be scammed would probably only read such things if they were recommended by a friend.

Hopefully, in the third world, if some children learn about rational explanations for things currently put down to the supernatural at school, some of them will pass the knowledge on to their parents and their parents will be convinced. Also, those rationalist/humanist groups who are beginning to educate school children go around to various neighbourhoods holding meetings for everyone about how there are scientific explanations for things commonly considered supernatural. They have had some success in making people more sceptical, and I think some people's lives have been saved as a result. So hopefully they'll carry on and their efforts will increase.

It might still take ages, but in one of those articles I linked to, it said the belief in witches is partly being fuelled by a soap opera that was on. If the makers of such things could be persuaded to make one with a storyline in it about rationalist groups persuading villagers not to kill people because they weren't really witches because what they were being accused of really had a scientific explanation, then things might change the other way. If governments got more involved, things might change more quickly.

There was a television programme on last week about how billions has been poured into aid for third world countries over the years, meant for them to improve their healthcare systems and other things, but not much has got to the people who need it, because a lot of it has been siphoned off by corrupt officials who've used it to finance luxury lifestyles. If systems were put in place so things could be monitored better to make sure aid was getting to the right places, then maybe healthcare in the third world would improve quite a bit in a relatively short time. And when people had better access to it, and knew their diseases had natural explanations and a lot of them could be cured easily, then their belief that witches were causing their misfortunes would diminish, and so hopefully, that would save a lot of lives.
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Old 30th November 2008, 02:32 PM   #17
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I think the idea that superstition or belief in the supernatural correlates with lower socio-economic status is factually not true.

Ever visited a psychic fair? Do you know about the weird beliefs of Prince Charles, Ronald Reagan, and the like? The U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations, yet we are among the most religious/superstitious.

Don't misunderstand me--I'm all for improving living conditions world wide. I think that should be a goal for its own sake. I disagree with the prediction that as these conditions improve, supernatural beliefs will disappear.
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Old 30th November 2008, 02:55 PM   #18
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Well, they might not disappear, but I'm sure they'd at least be replaced by less harmful ones. I mean, as I said in about post 4, in Europe in the Middle Ages, there were beliefs about witches that were akin to beliefs in the third world today. People were accused of witchcraft and persecuted and killed, just as they are in some third world countries today. People held similar attitudes, like that they could cause storms to wreck ships and other disasters. I doubt it's a coincidence that at the same time there was advancement in scientific knowledge and improvements in healthcare, such beliefs disappeared, although I don't suppose they were the only factors.

But if education in critical thinking was part of school curriculums, that might help as well. Even at the best schools, it might not be at the moment.
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Old 30th November 2008, 03:12 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
Hopefully, in the third world, if some children learn about rational explanations for things currently put down to the supernatural at school, some of them will pass the knowledge on to their parents and their parents will be convinced.
I do wish for improved conditions in those places, but I cannot put any credence in the idea that the type of people who believe witches should be stoned to death are prepared to learn anything from their children. Those people will carry that belief to their graves. The only hope is that the next generation can be taught to be more rational.
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Old 30th November 2008, 03:45 PM   #20
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The children might not be able to convince the kinds of parents who are actually prepared to do the killing, but the children of parents who might otherwise believe false accusers and so ignore their crimes might be able to convince their parents not to, so the parents will be more likely to report them to the police.

Hopefully witch-hunts will become less and less acceptable in ccommunities where children have passed on information to their parents about the real causes of the things people are being accused of causing by witchcraft. Fear might drive a lot of the tolerance of such behaviour. Hopefully that will be eliminated by education.
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Old 30th November 2008, 06:37 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by JoeTheJuggler View Post
I think the idea that superstition or belief in the supernatural correlates with lower socio-economic status is factually not true.

Ever visited a psychic fair? Do you know about the weird beliefs of Prince Charles, Ronald Reagan, and the like? The U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations, yet we are among the most religious/superstitious.

Don't misunderstand me--I'm all for improving living conditions world wide. I think that should be a goal for its own sake. I disagree with the prediction that as these conditions improve, supernatural beliefs will disappear.
.
From this month's "Free Inquiry
"The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved"/ by Gregory S. Paul
"Democrary, middle-class security and a scientific outlook constitute a triple threat to faith so powerful that across the first world it is inflicting severe damage upon popular religiosity, except where economic tribullations perpetuate the dysfunction milieu that popular religion must enjoy if it is to thrive."
"Across the first world, lower income inequality correlates with lower religiosity."
"With its low taxes, relatively high rate of poverty and huge disparity between incomes of the poor and rich, the United States displays greater income disparity than any other industrialized democracy."
"It is no coincidence that religiosity is low in every first-world nation with universal health coverage and high in the only one without it."
"Religion, then, has proved able to thrive only in populations where living conditions are sufficiently defective to cause the majority to resort to petioning speculative supernatural power for aid."
It's a good compilation of data with charts as the the state of religion.
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Old 30th November 2008, 07:15 PM   #22
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In a word, evolution.
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Old 1st December 2008, 06:53 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
The children might not be able to convince the kinds of parents who are actually prepared to do the killing, but the children of parents who might otherwise believe false accusers and so ignore their crimes might be able to convince their parents not to, so the parents will be more likely to report them to the police.

Hopefully witch-hunts will become less and less acceptable in communities where children have passed on information to their parents about the real causes of the things people are being accused of causing by witchcraft. Fear might drive a lot of the tolerance of such behaviour. Hopefully that will be eliminated by education.
It is not my goal to simply be a contrarian. I do wish for better conditions in these places. That being said, I think that the scenario you describe is not likely to happen. If a teacher in a village of one or two thousand people begins telling students that there is no such thing as witchcraft, the kind of people who use lethal force to attack alleged witches will beat the crap out of the teacher. Desperation and ignorance are powerful forces in third world countries. A concerted and organized effort may eventually reduce or eliminate the murder of accused witches, but it will take years, probably decades of work.
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Old 1st December 2008, 06:55 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by interwaff View Post
In a word, evolution.
Would you explain what you mean?
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Old 1st December 2008, 07:33 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Ladewig View Post
It is not my goal to simply be a contrarian. I do wish for better conditions in these places. That being said, I think that the scenario you describe is not likely to happen. If a teacher in a village of one or two thousand people begins telling students that there is no such thing as witchcraft, the kind of people who use lethal force to attack alleged witches will beat the crap out of the teacher. Desperation and ignorance are powerful forces in third world countries. A concerted and organized effort may eventually reduce or eliminate the murder of accused witches, but it will take years, probably decades of work.
You're probably right.

There are small humanist/rationalist efforts now to teach children that things commonly attributed to witchcraft have natural causes. They hope to do more of it. I don't know how they're avoiding being beaten to death by people who don't want that kind of information being taught to children, when so many other people who are standing up against other oppressive traditions are being harmed. And I suppose if parents start opposing people like witchdoctors who declare people witches and make money from such things, they themselves might be in danger of being accused and harmed. I don't know how that could be got around.

Maybe the only thing that'll really help is if large projects happen all at once, such as if big government hospitals are built that have so much prestige that witchdoctors can't discredit them with propaganda because they're worried about losing business, and where people are treated successfully so they realise there are modern scientific treatments and scientific explanations for their problems so they can tell they're not being caused by witches.
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Old 1st December 2008, 08:34 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
Maybe the only thing that'll really help is if large projects happen all at once, such as if big government hospitals are built that have so much prestige that witchdoctors can't discredit them with propaganda because they're worried about losing business, and where people are treated successfully so they realise there are modern scientific treatments and scientific explanations for their problems so they can tell they're not being caused by witches.
I can agree with that. When a country has a functioning health care system, a non-corrupt and widely situated police force, and a non-corrupt military to support the police, then the government can make significant progress when working with outside and domestic rationalist/humanist organizations to focus the public school system and private entities (television stations) on the goal of eliminating superstition-based violence.

Progress can be made before all that happens, but one has to be careful given that some people may have a vested interest in perpetuating the ignorance that leads to these crimes. I agree with you that this is a laudable activity and it deserves our support.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 03:43 AM   #27
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Just to add a small point to Ladewig's post. You also need lots of outside contact. It does not matter if people go outside the community and see people having different beliefs or people with different beliefs coming into the community or both. Once that happens people will start questioning their own beliefs.

Things will change when the things ladewig has mentioned has happened.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 06:09 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
Just to add a small point to Ladewig's post. You also need lots of outside contact. It does not matter if people go outside the community and see people having different beliefs or people with different beliefs coming into the community or both. Once that happens people will start questioning their own beliefs.
I suspect, but cannot prove, that unfettered internet access will help as well.

ETA: Increases in literacy rates are also useful in fighting this type of ignorance.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 11:31 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by I Ratant View Post
.
From this month's "Free Inquiry
"The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved"/ by Gregory S. Paul
"Democrary, middle-class security and a scientific outlook constitute a triple threat to faith so powerful that across the first world it is inflicting severe damage upon popular religiosity, except where economic tribullations perpetuate the dysfunction milieu that popular religion must enjoy if it is to thrive."
"Across the first world, lower income inequality correlates with lower religiosity."
"With its low taxes, relatively high rate of poverty and huge disparity between incomes of the poor and rich, the United States displays greater income disparity than any other industrialized democracy."
"It is no coincidence that religiosity is low in every first-world nation with universal health coverage and high in the only one without it."
"Religion, then, has proved able to thrive only in populations where living conditions are sufficiently defective to cause the majority to resort to petioning speculative supernatural power for aid."
It's a good compilation of data with charts as the the state of religion.
So the sort of nonsense people with plenty of disposable income engage in (New Age, Astrology, Feng Shui, etc.) is less supernatural than "religion"?


I still don't buy the central thesis that better living conditions leads to less belief in the supernatural.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 11:52 AM   #30
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Joe, it's a multi-page article, well worth the reading, but in essence its premise is security in life; economic and physical, leads to a lessened need to invoke the supernatural for assistance with reality.
All the first world nations except the US are for all intents non-theistic. The standards of living there have brought this about.
The US "anomaly" is due mostly to the large gap between the haves and the have-nots. This gap isn't as great in the other first world nations.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 02:46 PM   #31
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Joe, it's true that some wealthy and influential people rely far too much on astrologers and people like that. But you never hear of things like this happening in the developed world:

Planetary Panic Leaves Town Deserted.

Quote:
Thousands of workers have fled India's largest ship-breaking yard, after rumours predicting large-scale destruction as a result of a peculiar planetary
formation.

More than 60,000 workers have left the port town of Alang, in the belief that the town will be devastated by a cyclone and flooding on Saturday 8 May.
And here's another story about the influence of astrology in India. The link's broken now, but it was called Why Jupiter Lies Behind Thousands of Cancelled Indian Hindu Weddings, from the Sunday Herald:

Quote:
... Astrology is nothing short of a national obsession in India, where many people consult an astrologer over every important decision in their life, from when and whom to marry to which subject to study at university, when to buy a house or change job. Their pronouncements are treated with the utmost seriousness.
The rich often employ their own personal astrologer to be on hand at all times.

Bombay astrologer Dharshi Gajaria is warning against all marriages between now and next April but says it is particularly important for anyone living between two Indian rivers - the Ganges and the Godavari. ...

In the Gujarat city of Ahmedabad, astrologer Bhupendra Soni has alarmed many couples with his dire warnings. Marriages entered into at this time, he says, could be troubled, barren or fail to produce a son. “The effect of this constellation is that those marrying in this period won’t have a male child or
could have children with physical problems,” he said. ...

For now, the confusion looks set to keep Bhushan’s phone ringing day and night. “Some people who are phoning me are in a terrible panic,” he added. ...
I've heard that the children of Indians who've moved to the UK are on the whole less inclined to follow the beliefs of their parents.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 02:53 PM   #32
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Well desperation is a step beyond being not being completely secure...

It's not exactly uncommon knowledge that when people are in desperate situations and in dire straits they often choose to engage in wishful thinking and believe in a world where the laws are a little more flexible...


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Old 2nd December 2008, 03:40 PM   #33
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Indeed. This thread's about what can be done about the direst of such consequences. You can find out examples of what those are by reading the thread.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 04:11 PM   #34
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Did everyone feel a strong desire to go west last night?
With the Moon, Venus and Jupiter this "close" to each other, just imagine the forces on your Chi!
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Old 2nd December 2008, 05:09 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Ladewig View Post
I suspect, but cannot prove, that unfettered internet access will help as well.

ETA: Increases in literacy rates are also useful in fighting this type of ignorance.
I will agree with this. When people are exposed to conflicting point of view to their own they may start questioning their own point of view. The internet is one way to get other points of view. Of course you need to be able to read to use the internet or books.

Cheap printed books were the one of the first ways used to combat woo (I am think of fighting the Catholic church as my example).
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Old 2nd December 2008, 05:34 PM   #36
Crowlogic
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Might as well throw people who go to church or believe in god/relegion into the premise as well.
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:44 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by I Ratant View Post
.
From this month's "Free Inquiry
"The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved"/ by Gregory S. Paul
"Democrary, middle-class security and a scientific outlook constitute a triple threat to faith so powerful that across the first world it is inflicting severe damage upon popular religiosity, except where economic tribullations perpetuate the dysfunction milieu that popular religion must enjoy if it is to thrive."
"Across the first world, lower income inequality correlates with lower religiosity."
"With its low taxes, relatively high rate of poverty and huge disparity between incomes of the poor and rich, the United States displays greater income disparity than any other industrialized democracy."
"It is no coincidence that religiosity is low in every first-world nation with universal health coverage and high in the only one without it."
"Religion, then, has proved able to thrive only in populations where living conditions are sufficiently defective to cause the majority to resort to petioning speculative supernatural power for aid."
It's a good compilation of data with charts as the the state of religion.
There's an interesting article called Rapture and Renewal in Latin America which says there's been a huge rise in Pentecostalism there in the past sevearal years, and talks about the benefits and drawbacks of it from a social point of view.

Quote:
Pentecostals are generally credited with providing a sense of community to the masses migrating from the countryside to the cities and with preaching a message that concentrates on the power of God not only to comfort spiritually but also to help materially. The British sociologist David Martin has studied the impact of Pentecostalism in Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America, arguing that the Pentecostals have created “free spaces”
where a new ethos can develop. Former prostitutes, drunkards, and adulterers freely testify to their conversions. Finding a sense of purpose in their new beliefs, many have developed abilities within the church (leadership, organization, public speaking, etc.) that have improved their daily work and helped them rise economically. Pentecostal men are found to be more sensitive and dedicated to their families. More of their family income is spent on children’s education, while a recent poll of two thousand Brazilians found that they “see themselves as more optimistic and hard working than in the past” as a result of their conversion. ...

One might conclude that the “Pentecostalization” of Latin America promises a bright and prosperous future. Undeniably, several Pentecostal churches and leaders, offering a positive and integrated view of faith and the world, have had an impact felt in all areas of life. About whether the explosive growth of Pentecostalism will bring forth the long awaited and much needed economic and social transformation of Latin America, however, serious doubts and uncertainties remain. ...

The pattern of Pentecostals despising or at least minimizing their studies or professions and the value of their work has caused an ecclesiastical atrophy and a lack of growth beyond church activities. It has also diminished other areas of life, such as education, business, and especially politics (seen largely as Satan’s domain). ...

One Pentecostal pastor, learning about my legal work on behalf of religious liberty and human life, remarked, “That is good, and I hope one day God will use you in His work.” Well-known Latin American evangelists repeat over and over that they would not “lower themselves” to become presidents of a republic.
The emphasis on the end of the world has added a sense of urgency to evangelism, which at least partially accounts for the rapid Pentecostal growth in Latin America—particularly when joined to the comfort it gives the poor and downtrodden in the midst of dismal economic conditions. But a constant emphasis on the end of the world can also sap the will of believers to work to improve their lot, and it may even provide a sense of vengeance at the injustices of this world. ...
I read an article that said something similar about the USA once - that some people are attracted to "end of the world" preaching, because it gives them consolation amid economic hardship, and even satisfies them that people they resent, like people who earn much more than them and have job security and access to good healthcare and things, will be punished for not caring about those worse off than them. But it said apocalyptic preaching can be damaging, because it saps people's motivation to improve things, since they're just waiting for the end of the world and happiness in the after-life. I tried to find that article, but I couldn't.
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Old 6th January 2009, 10:07 AM   #38
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Consider this. A belief in the supernatural cuts across virtually all of human existence. But it was perhaps strongest in Hunter Gathering times. If desperation fuels a belief in the supernatural then we must assume that our ancient ancestors were mired in desperation. I don't believe this is the case at all. I am of the opinion that there is far more desperation in the modern world than in ancient times (read pre agriculture). Was life ever easy? No and I don't imply that it was. However basic needs were met directly which if nothing else adds to a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Furthermore its been speculated that humans spent only about 4 hours in the day meeting their basic needs. Compare that stress level with modern times and expectations. So within the construct of ancient culture there arose a belief in the supernatural. Why? As a means to explain existence and as a means to enrich the open time after basic needs were met. After all what were they supposed to be doing in their free time? Washing the car, mowing the lawn, or fixing the lawn mower? I do not believe that the roots of belief in the supernatural stemmed from desperation and there are many many non desperate people who believe in the supernatural.
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Old 6th January 2009, 12:56 PM   #39
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Well, perhaps this thread could be more accurately titled "Desperation fuels belief in the most harmful aspects of the supernatural".

People in those days may well in part have developed beliefs in the supernatural to explain all the things they couldn't understand. Supernatural explanations might have seemed the only logical ones for things like why the seasons changed, why it rained, why plants grew, and so on. But there was more to it than that. In the absence of effective medical care for a lot of things, when they got ill, feeling otherwise helpless to do anything about it, they would want to appease the forces that seemed beyond their understanding that were harming them, and control them. When there wasn't much food around and they were going hungry, instead of just feeling helpless about the situation, they'd want to try to ingratiate themselves to forces that seemed beyond their control, who might be able to improve their food supply.

In fact, sacrificing things, including humans, sometimes children, was apparently well-known in a lot of ancient cultures, and sacrifices apparently increased in times of hardship, like when harvests failed.

Human sacrifice still goes on today in some places. See, for instance: Indian couple sacrifice boy, 7, to ward off evil spirits.

Quote:
... The faith healer had recommended the human sacrifice to the couple to ward off "evil spirits" which were making it difficult for them to find marriage partners for their five sons, the news agency said. ...

Human sacrifices are reported occasionally in rural India where many people put faith in occult practices to ward off evil or gain prosperity.
There are cultures even today where the majority of people believe illnesses and misfortunes are often caused by evil spirits. See this Wikipedia article, for instance:

Quote:
The Yi believe in numerous evil spirits. They believe that spirits cause illness, poor harvests and other misfortunes and inhabit all material things.
Where modern healthcare and security from starvation etc. are lacking, and so is knowledge about what causes illness and the conditions that lead to harvest failure, and how to improve living standards in those respects, the supernatural will often be blamed, and invoked for help.
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Old 6th January 2009, 02:30 PM   #40
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Of human sacrafice it still goes on even without supernatural reasoning. We're sacraficing lives at the moment in the middle east and it doesn't need a supernatural reason to go on. Lives will always be sacraficed lives are expendable like it or not. Take a look around and look at the expendability of lives, the human condition reeks of it.
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