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Religion

Children Can Tell It’s Made Up

There’s a great story on Atheist Nexus about a six year old boy who had no trouble figuring out that Intelligent Design is a silly idea.  Read it HERE.

“So God made everything?” he asked.

“Well that’s what some people believe,” I stated, “but I don’t think so.” This sent him into hysterics.

“He made South America!” I wasn’t sure why this was so funny to him but he continued to laugh and list the things that God had “made.” Squirrels, Dr. Seuss, and cat butts had him laughing especially hard. “Doesn’t he have any brains? Cause he made some weird stuff in this world.” A six year old debunks Intelligent Design with a simple observational idea that ID proponents can’t even grasp. That had me chuckling for a moment before I read on.

When I told him about the creation of the sun on the fourth day he became serious again. He wrinkled up one eye and stated matter-of-factly, “Light has to be from the sun.” And I thought I was the only one in the room that would have a problem with light being created three days before the sun. My six year old was quickly demonstrating that he was a better critical thinker than people who believe the creation story.

There are two important things here.  To begin with, this is the first time this six year old had ever heard the creation story.  Instead of telling him that it was true or false, Dad just read it to him and let him do his own thinking.  Second, and more importantly, this child had already been taught how to think, and already knew the theory of evolution.  Yes, gentle readers.   This six year old understands evolution.  Here are his own words:

“It’s a gradual change in species that happens slowly over really long periods of time.”

Simple, eh?

This story illustrates the big, glaring difference between religious indoctrination and teaching critical thought.  When children are given their own problems to work out, and taught how to solve problems with reason, they are generally very good at spotting cognitive dissonance, internal contradiction, and flat out ridiculous claims.  It’s sometimes hard for those of us raised in religion from the beginning to grasp, but when children aren’t introduced to the concept of magic, or the supernatural, or fairy tales, a really weird thing happens:

They become de facto naturalists.

Honestly, I’m amused sometimes when I watch otherwise intelligent adults trot out arguments from incredulity that lead to the supernatural.  Don’t you think that’s funny?  An adult ought to know better than to just make shit up when they don’t know the answer to a question, but when they’ve been taught that magic is real and invisible men can just snap their invisible fingers and shit just magically appears…  it sort of complicates things.

What I really, really love about this story happens at the very end.  After the child had some time to think about the creation story vs evolution, he decided he believed evolution because the creation story God sounded like an idiot.  But that’s not even the best part.   As he was going to bed, he told his dad:

I think I want to be a scientist when I grow up and study water, animals, and space.” What an amusing array of choices. I had to inquire about them. “I want to find out where the water came from, for real, and dig up animal bones and put them together.”

Isn’t that wonderful?  The creation story didn’t make any sense to him, but instead of just deciding what was true, he wanted to discover what was true.   A six year old was able to come up with the correct answer to ignorance and incredulity.  So many adults can’t even do that.

And we even have to have the debate about whether religious indoctrination of children is harmful?

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Discussion

39 thoughts on “Children Can Tell It’s Made Up

  1. Actually children usually favour the creation story than evolution regardless of the position of the parents.

    I don’t think indocternation tells the whole story [and no Hamby, I’m not say it doesn’t have anything to do with it].
    as it doesn’t explain the origins of the beliefs in the first place.

    I mean if somebody has to tell you the creation story is true who told the first person? This shit came from somewhere.

    I think this kid could be the exception, not the rule.

    For your reading pleasure:

    http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/AtranNorenzayanBBS.pdf

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Trust-Evolutionary-Landscape-Evolution/dp/0195149300

    Posted by Alison | February 17, 2010, 4:53 pm
  2. you’re kidding me… a six year old said that! Frigging amazing! Did he also mention that Jesus is the light of the world and those who do not abide in Him are in darkness?

    Amazing what those darned lil atheists will say!

    Posted by professordendy | February 17, 2010, 5:05 pm
  3. Thanks for the Atran link. I’ve got to go in a minute, so I won’t be able to get to it today, but I’ll definitely have a look at it.

    By the way, I should have been more clear about something I said once in the post but didn’t reiterate. This child has clearly been taught critical thinking skills. I didn’t mean to say that children will become naturalists just by not having religious indoctrination. Instead, I meant that children who are taught how to think critically as opposed to being religiously indoctrinated will tend to become de facto naturalists.

    In other words, you don’t have to teach a child, “All that exists is part of the natural universe.” If you simply teach a child how to use logic, empiricism, and the scientific method, they will tend to assume that things make sense, and questions have reasonable answers.

    The point of religious indoctrination is to get children before they can think critically and tell them that some things are true despite the fact that they don’t make sense. Raising a child in a religion free environment while teaching them basic thinking skills gives them the tools to evaluate religion later. This isn’t to say children don’t invent fanciful tales or come up with very non-scientific answers to questions. We can’t expect them to be little Einsteins. What we can expect is that when they’ve been taught to think critically, they will reject their more fanciful ideas when the evidence mounts against them. That’s what theists never learn to do.

    And yes, I’m familiar with all the evidence suggesting that children often screw up attribution of agency. That’s why being taught thinking skills is the lynchpin to this whole line of thought.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 17, 2010, 5:25 pm
  4. Actually children usually favour the creation story than evolution regardless of the position of the parents.

    Hey, look! More bald assertions from Alison.

    Some day she’s gonna grow up and realize that simply stating something is true doesn’t mean it is true.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 18, 2010, 12:56 am
  5. Append: I also love how Alison laps up absolutely anything that comes out of Scott Atran’s mouth like he’s her personal savior or something. Scott Atran could write a book about the moon being manufactured by the Pepsi corporation and she’d buy it hook, line and sinker.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 18, 2010, 1:00 am
  6. Okay I thought you were arguing that if they weren’t indoctirnated they wouldn’t hold those beliefs

    they will reject their more fanciful ideas when the evidence mounts against them. That’s what theists never learn to do.

    Actually Hamby, that’s not what anybody really learns to do.

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 1:08 am
  7. Actually Hamby, that’s not what anybody really learns to do.

    Oh, really? I wasn’t aware you were an expert in the field of human neurology.

    Feel free to link me to your paper on the subject.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 18, 2010, 1:14 am
  8. Append: I also love how Alison laps up absolutely anything that comes out of Scott Atran’s mouth like he’s her personal savior or something. Scott Atran could write a book about the moon being manufactured by the Pepsi corporation and she’d buy it hook, line and sinker.

    Did you notice that was in a peer reviewed journal?

    Did you notice when I talk about the cognition of religion I cite people who study the cognition of religion? Notice how many studies he cities in the book [Not all of them by him]?

    Isn’t that what critical thought is about? Evaluating evidence and not jumping to conclusions?

    This is just projection, Kevin. You’re projecting your bias onto me.

    Oh, really? I wasn’t aware you were an expert in the field of human neurology.

    Feel free to link me to your paper on the subject.

    Read:

    Mistakes were made but not by ME

    By Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson

    [You should be able to read it since I don’t think Atran had anything to do with it. You’re comments are the perfect case study]

    All the relevant studies are citied in the back

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 1:55 am
  9. Gee Kevin, I just looked at the references in Atran’s book, and see it starts at about half way down page 300 and keeps going [in alphabetical order] all the way to half of page 336.

    Many of them are in psychological, anthropological or neurological journals.

    This is the paperback edition so the page numbers may differ in the hardcover edition.

    I’ll let you do the math.

    and holy shit he wrote a book about Pepsi???

    I WANT IT I WANT I WANT IT!!!!

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 2:13 am
  10. Did you notice that was in a peer reviewed journal?

    Did you notice when I talk about the cognition of religion I cite people who study the cognition of religion? Notice how many studies he cities in the book [Not all of them by him]?

    Isn’t that what critical thought is about? Evaluating evidence and not jumping to conclusions?

    This is just projection, Kevin. You’re projecting your bias onto me.

    Bullshit.

    Every single time that ANYONE has ever provided a peer reviewed article that has found a different conclusion to Dr. Atran’s or a peer reviewed direct rebuttal to Atran, you’ve just shrugged your shoulders and preferred your pet intellectual’s findings for no reason other than your own inherent bias. But when Atran publishes? Well then, dammit, we better bow our heads!

    Dr. Atran is in the fringe minority. Dr. Dennet, Dr. Dawkins, Dr. DeGrasse Tyson, Dr. Pinker, Dr. Scott, Dr. Weinburg, Mr. Hitchens, Mr. Harris, Dr. Singer… there’s no parity in the consensus at all (if you want, I could throw up Dr. Chomsky as an ally – though I’m dubious that’s something you’d appreciate). You don’t find it rather telling that Dr. Atran happily walks arm in arm with murderers from the mujahideen on his excursions to the Middle East?

    No, of course you don’t. You’re happy to sit on your ass, nit pick from the sidelines and quaff Starbucks while women in Afghanistan are stoned to death & their faces are burned off, while North Koreans are continued to be made the wind-up toys of their dictator until he tires of their robotic cheering, while the Basij – as this is written – cut down revolutionaries in Tehran who have grown exhausted of their monarchy, while the al Qaeda warlords in Somalia rob children of their future and while the Roman Catholic Church continues to do it’s damndest to make sure that AIDS will be an indefinitely persistent terror throughout the entire African continent.

    The only reason that you, myself, Dr. Atran or anyone reading this from the comfort of their home office is not right now proudly wearing several coils of chain is due to the uncompromising violence used by the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Payne, Marx, Trotsky, Roosevelt, Churchill, Locke, Khayyam, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennet, Pinker, Weinburg, Degrasse Tyson and, though I am loathe to say it (here especially), in light of recent reading it would simply be dishonest not to, Bush, to repel the insidious, the wicked, the bullying, the megalomania, the fascism that is the manifestation of religion in our stead.

    Spitting in the eyes of those who have erected the bulwarks you currently shelter behind is odd way of saying thanks. How long do you think you’d last in Sana’a before covering your face and cowering in shame like the rest of the female populace, Alison? How many baleful glares and unspoken threats from brainwashed, divinely entitled men would it take to rend apart those convictions regarding the harmlessness, the fickleness, the superficiality of religion & religious indoctrination?

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 18, 2010, 3:00 am
  11. I never said we shouldn’t question religious beliefs.

    Let us use your post as an example of critical thinking and examine it piece by piece shall we?

    Every single time that ANYONE has ever provided a peer reviewed article that has found a different conclusion to Dr. Atran’s or a peer reviewed direct rebuttal to Atran, you’ve just shrugged your shoulders and preferred your pet intellectual’s findings for no reason other than your own inherent bias. But when Atran publishes? Well then, dammit, we better bow our heads!

    And what studies would those be Mr. Brown? Harris/Hitchen’s books aren’t in peer reviewed journals.

    Dr. Atran is in the fringe minority. Dr. Dennet, Dr. Dawkins, Dr. DeGrasse Tyson, Dr. Pinker, Dr. Scott, Dr. Weinburg, Mr. Hitchens, Mr. Harris, Dr. Singer… there’s no parity in the consensus at all (if you want, I could throw up Dr. Chomsky as an ally – though I’m dubious that’s something you’d appreciate).

    This seems to be all or nothing kind of thinking. I know Harris and Hitchens disagree vehemently with Atran on matters of cognition of religion, however I haven’t heard disserning voices by Dr. Tyson, Dr Scott [Who I assume to be Eugiene Scott], or Dr. Pinker on the matter of cognition of religion

    I haven’t even heard an agreeing voice by Dr. Chomsky, [I haven’t read his stuff] but I get the impression you disagree with him, as to whether or not he makes the same arguments as Dr. Atran I don’t know.

    I get the impression you think that:

    “The above people critisize religion therefore they disagree with Atran”

    I for one think this stems from your pre-cognition that myself or Dr. Atran don’t want people to say nasty things about religion.

    That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Dr. Atran’s own research is a critisizim of religion! He show conclusively that these beliefs weren’t handed down by some magic sky daddy! He shows that people just make this shit up! What other weapon against religion do you need?

    For the record I saw videos of Dr. Tyson and Dr. Scott speaking and I am a big fan.

    I’m not critisizing them when they use science in their claims, such as when Dr. Scott or Dr. Tyson critisize intelligent design.

    You don’t find it rather telling that Dr. Atran happily walks arm in arm with murderers from the mujahideen on his excursions to the Middle East?

    He’s not there to have breakfast. It’s called “data collection”

    Look it up someday.

    For the record he works for NATO to find out the cognition of suicide bombings. In order to do that he collects data. Funny that.

    No, of course you don’t. You’re happy to sit on your ass, nit pick from the sidelines and quaff Starbucks while women in Afghanistan are stoned to death & their faces are burned off, while North Koreans are continued to be made the wind-up toys of their dictator until he tires of their robotic cheering, while the Basij – as this is written – cut down revolutionaries in Tehran who have grown exhausted of their monarchy, while the al Qaeda warlords in Somalia rob children of their future and while the Roman Catholic Church continues to do it’s damndest to make sure that AIDS will be an indefinitely persistent terror throughout the entire African continent.

    Really? Perhaps you should fill me in on how my logic leads to that conclusion:

    P1: We should back our critisisim of religion with empirical data and not rely on intuition or emotional arguments. Seeing as we are selling science, we might as well use it. [My main argument]

    P2: ????

    C: We should let women get stoned in Afghanistan

    Can you fill in P2 so the C follows logically from P1?

    The only reason that you, myself, Dr. Atran or anyone reading this from the comfort of their home office is not right now proudly wearing several coils of chain is due to the uncompromising violence used by the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Payne, Marx, Trotsky, Roosevelt, Churchill, Locke, Khayyam, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennet, Pinker, Weinburg, Degrasse Tyson and, though I am loathe to say it (here especially), in light of recent reading it would simply be dishonest not to, Bush, to repel the insidious, the wicked, the bullying, the megalomania, the fascism that is the manifestation of religion in our stead.

    I have no idea where this comes from. I have never said Harris, or Dawkins or Hitchens or any of the people mentioned above were violent or even immoral people.

    Nor do I support Bush or Bin Laden.

    Nor have I said we shouldn’t critisize religion or said we should throw out seperation of church of state.

    Spitting in the eyes of those who have erected the bulwarks you currently shelter behind is odd way of saying thanks. How long do you think you’d last in Sana’a before covering your face and cowering in shame like the rest of the female populace, Alison? How many baleful glares and unspoken threats from brainwashed, divinely entitled men would it take to rend apart those convictions regarding the harmlessness, the fickleness, the superficiality of religion & religious indoctrination?

    More strawman addressed above.

    I don’t “Spit in the eyes” of Harris or Hitchens etc.. I just ask them to provide empirical scientific evidence for their claims, and what I hear back isn’t scientific evidence published in peer review journals supporting their claims, or even them following the scientific method.

    I point that out and that isn’t “spitting in their eye” it’s [ironically enough] applying critical thinking no matter what the claims are or who is making them.

    So tell me Kevin, shouldn’t we be applying critical thinking and the scientific method to ALL claims regardless of whether or not we agree with them in the first place or we think they are true?

    Shouldn’t the claims ABOUT religion [such as religion on a cognitive level is this or that?] be put up to the same scientific light as claims FROM religion [such as the Earth is 6000 years old]?

    Scientists don’t use different standards of proof for different things.

    The standards of the scientific method apply to biology, geology, physics, psychology, etc….. regardless of the claim.

    A Biologist who says the duck evolved from the T-Rex has the same standard of evidence as the one who says the duck evolved from the velociraptor. [As for the actual ancestor of the duck…..I don’t give a duck]

    The method doesn’t magically change based on the claim.

    I don’t know about you, but I think the best way to get rid of religion is to understand the cognition of it.

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 4:29 am
  12. Fucked up the quotes

    I never said we shouldn’t question religious beliefs.

    Let us use your post as an example of critical thinking and examine it piece by piece shall we?

    Every single time that ANYONE has ever provided a peer reviewed article that has found a different conclusion to Dr. Atran’s or a peer reviewed direct rebuttal to Atran, you’ve just shrugged your shoulders and preferred your pet intellectual’s findings for no reason other than your own inherent bias. But when Atran publishes? Well then, dammit, we better bow our heads!

    And what studies would those be Mr. Brown? Harris/Hitchen’s books aren’t in peer reviewed journals.

    Dr. Atran is in the fringe minority. Dr. Dennet, Dr. Dawkins, Dr. DeGrasse Tyson, Dr. Pinker, Dr. Scott, Dr. Weinburg, Mr. Hitchens, Mr. Harris, Dr. Singer… there’s no parity in the consensus at all (if you want, I could throw up Dr. Chomsky as an ally – though I’m dubious that’s something you’d appreciate).

    This seems to be all or nothing kind of thinking. I know Harris and Hitchens disagree vehemently with Atran on matters of cognition of religion, however I haven’t heard disserning voices by Dr. Tyson, Dr Scott [Who I assume to be Eugiene Scott], or Dr. Pinker on the matter of cognition of religion

    I haven’t even heard an agreeing voice by Dr. Chomsky, [I haven’t read his stuff] but I get the impression you disagree with him, as to whether or not he makes the same arguments as Dr. Atran I don’t know.

    I get the impression you think that:

    “The above people critisize religion therefore they disagree with Atran”

    I for one think this stems from your pre-cognition that myself or Dr. Atran don’t want people to say nasty things about religion.

    That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Dr. Atran’s own research is a critisizim of religion! He show conclusively that these beliefs weren’t handed down by some magic sky daddy! He shows that people just make this shit up! What other weapon against religion do you need?

    For the record I saw videos of Dr. Tyson and Dr. Scott speaking and I am a big fan.

    I’m not critisizing them when they use science in their claims, such as when Dr. Scott or Dr. Tyson critisize intelligent design.

    You don’t find it rather telling that Dr. Atran happily walks arm in arm with murderers from the mujahideen on his excursions to the Middle East?

    He’s not there to have breakfast. It’s called “data collection”

    Look it up someday.

    For the record he works for NATO to find out the cognition of suicide bombings. In order to do that he collects data. Funny that.

    No, of course you don’t. You’re happy to sit on your ass, nit pick from the sidelines and quaff Starbucks while women in Afghanistan are stoned to death & their faces are burned off, while North Koreans are continued to be made the wind-up toys of their dictator until he tires of their robotic cheering, while the Basij – as this is written – cut down revolutionaries in Tehran who have grown exhausted of their monarchy, while the al Qaeda warlords in Somalia rob children of their future and while the Roman Catholic Church continues to do it’s damndest to make sure that AIDS will be an indefinitely persistent terror throughout the entire African continent.

    Really? Perhaps you should fill me in on how my logic leads to that conclusion:

    P1: We should back our critisisim of religion with empirical data and not rely on intuition or emotional arguments. Seeing as we are selling science, we might as well use it. [My main argument]

    P2: ????

    C: We should let women get stoned in Afghanistan

    Can you fill in P2 so the C follows logically from P1?

    The only reason that you, myself, Dr. Atran or anyone reading this from the comfort of their home office is not right now proudly wearing several coils of chain is due to the uncompromising violence used by the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Payne, Marx, Trotsky, Roosevelt, Churchill, Locke, Khayyam, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennet, Pinker, Weinburg, Degrasse Tyson and, though I am loathe to say it (here especially), in light of recent reading it would simply be dishonest not to, Bush, to repel the insidious, the wicked, the bullying, the megalomania, the fascism that is the manifestation of religion in our stead.

    I have no idea where this comes from. I have never said Harris, or Dawkins or Hitchens or any of the people mentioned above were violent or even immoral people.

    Nor do I support Bush or Bin Laden.

    Nor have I said we shouldn’t critisize religion or said we should throw out seperation of church of state.

    Spitting in the eyes of those who have erected the bulwarks you currently shelter behind is odd way of saying thanks. How long do you think you’d last in Sana’a before covering your face and cowering in shame like the rest of the female populace, Alison? How many baleful glares and unspoken threats from brainwashed, divinely entitled men would it take to rend apart those convictions regarding the harmlessness, the fickleness, the superficiality of religion & religious indoctrination?

    More strawman addressed above.

    I don’t “Spit in the eyes” of Harris or Hitchens etc.. I just ask them to provide empirical scientific evidence for their claims, and what I hear back isn’t scientific evidence published in peer review journals supporting their claims, or even them following the scientific method.

    I point that out and that isn’t “spitting in their eye” it’s [ironically enough] applying critical thinking no matter what the claims are or who is making them.

    So tell me Kevin, shouldn’t we be applying critical thinking and the scientific method to ALL claims regardless of whether or not we agree with them in the first place or we think they are true?

    Shouldn’t the claims ABOUT religion [such as religion on a cognitive level is this or that?] be put up to the same scientific light as claims FROM religion [such as the Earth is 6000 years old]?

    Scientists don’t use different standards of proof for different things.

    The standards of the scientific method apply to biology, geology, physics, psychology, etc….. regardless of the claim.

    A Biologist who says the duck evolved from the T-Rex has the same standard of evidence as the one who says the duck evolved from the velociraptor. [As for the actual ancestor of the duck…..I don’t give a duck]

    The method doesn’t magically change based on the claim.

    I don’t know about you, but I think the best way to get rid of religion is to understand the cognition of it.

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 4:35 am
  13. You’ve been shown studies over and over again previously that respond to Dr. Atran’s claims, so don’t bother trying to play the naivety card.

    And don’t pretend that data collection for terrorists necessarily entails making friends with them.

    That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Dr. Atran’s own research is a critisizim of religion! He show conclusively that these beliefs weren’t handed down by some magic sky daddy! He shows that people just make this shit up! What other weapon against religion do you need?

    Dr. Atran also claims that, because religion is just another human invention, it’s not dangerous – or, at the very least, not of greater danger than any other human fault. This is akin to claiming that because nuclear weapons are not the only type of explosive, they’re not uniquely capable of destruction.

    He claims that the contemporary Islamic jihad that has killed so many people is a myth, that the real problem is Western Imperialism, that the Muslim fascists are only ‘retaliating’ against oppressors, etc. This is victim blaming and apologetics at it’s worst, and yes, it most certainly does serve to insult and belittle our benefactors.

    P1: We should back our critisisim of religion with empirical data and not rely on intuition or emotional arguments. Seeing as we are selling science, we might as well use it. [My main argument]

    P2: ????

    C: We should let women get stoned in Afghanistan

    The issue is that after posing P1, people have provided you with the evidence. Mountains of it. Testimonials from the fascists themselves, historical records of theocratic regimes, record after record after record (contemporary and not) of people being butchered, killed during childbirth as a minor, disfigured, etc, all in the name of a religious cause, and you simply shrug and demand more. It’s the same tactic used in Holocaust denial, creationism, 9/11 ‘Truth’, etc – so your de facto position is apathy and, by extension, silent approval of the atrocities so long as they’re far enough away for you to comfortably ignore.

    I don’t know about you, but I think the best way to get rid of religion is to understand the cognition of it.

    I’m not of the Chamberlain school of thought, where there are no urgent problems to be dealt with. North Korea is busy testing it’s missiles even as Kim Jong-Il grows increasingly more ill (and thus less lucid), a brave future for the Middle East is busy fighting for it’s life in the streets of Tehran, the Taliban are re-consolidating and gaining momentum in Afghanistan even as the political capital for the allied intervention there is getting deeper into the red; some problems can only be rid of with military force. Theocratic regimes need to be extinguished now – we can worry about the root causes of religion after the existential threats to the safety of millions of people are dealt with.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 18, 2010, 5:52 am
  14. You’ve been shown studies over and over again previously that respond to Dr. Atran’s claims, so don’t bother trying to play the naivety card.

    As I suspected, you DON’T have the studies otherwise you would have posted them.

    And don’t pretend that data collection for terrorists necessarily entails making friends with them.

    You take data from the source. You yourself take quotes from the terrorists.

    Dr. Atran also claims that, because religion is just another human invention, it’s not dangerous – or, at the very least, not of greater danger than any other human fault. This is akin to claiming that because nuclear weapons are not the only type of explosive, they’re not uniquely capable of destruction.

    No, he says that because religion is the RESULT of cognitive mechanisms you take away the religion and the cognitive mechanisms are still there.

    Do you have any peer reviewed articles that shows atheists are less likely to cognitive bias than theists? I sure haven’t seen any.

    In fact I’ve seen to the contrary

    http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/Hansen%20&%20Norenzayan_religion_chapter.pdf

    If you notice, Atran did not do that study.

    He claims that the contemporary Islamic jihad that has killed so many people is a myth, that the real problem is Western Imperialism, that the Muslim fascists are only ‘retaliating’ against oppressors, etc. This is victim blaming and apologetics at it’s worst, and yes, it most certainly does serve to insult and belittle our benefactors.

    The issue is that after posing P1, people have provided you with the evidence. Mountains of it. Testimonials from the fascists themselves, historical records of theocratic regimes, record after record after record (contemporary and not) of people being butchered, killed during childbirth as a minor, disfigured, etc, all in the name of a religious cause, and you simply shrug and demand more. It’s the same tactic used in Holocaust denial, creationism, 9/11 ‘Truth’, etc – so your de facto position is apathy and, by extension, silent approval of the atrocities so long as they’re far enough away for you to comfortably ignore.

    Here’s another study [not by Atran]

    http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/GingesHansenNorenzayan2009.pdf

    Taken together, these four studies represent strong support for
    the coalitional-commitment hypothesis and disconfirmation of
    the religious-belief hypothesis. Our findings suggest that the
    relationship between religion and support for suicide attacks is
    real, but is orthogonal to devotion to particular religious belief,
    or indeed religious belief in general. Of course, economic and
    political conditions may contribute strongly to support for suicide
    attacks. Our studies concern only the relationship between
    religion and support for suicide attacks. The proposal that there
    is some relationship between religious devotion and intergroup
    violence did not receive empirical support. It appears that the
    association between religion and suicide attacks is a function of
    collective religious activities that facilitate popular support for
    suicide attacks and parochial altruism more generally.

    That is three peer reviewed studies I have citied Kevin.

    But allow me to use your logic against you. Video games cause violence, because a group of teens said GTAIV inspired them to go on a mugging and car stealing spree.
    The Colombine shooters played Doom extensively.

    Do you not want more evidence than that to say video games causes violence?

    I’m not of the Chamberlain school of thought, where there are no urgent problems to be dealt with. North Korea is busy testing it’s missiles even as Kim Jong-Il grows increasingly more ill (and thus less lucid), a brave future for the Middle East is busy fighting for it’s life in the streets of Tehran, the Taliban are re-consolidating and gaining momentum in Afghanistan even as the political capital for the allied intervention there is getting deeper into the red; some problems can only be rid of with military force. Theocratic regimes need to be extinguished now – we can worry about the root causes of religion after the existential threats to the safety of millions of people are dealt with.

    I never said or even implied that we shouldn’t get rid of theoctratic regimes.

    This is Cold War thinking. The Americans will yell

    “WE NEED TO GET RID OF SOCIALISM NOW!”

    Would pointing out to them that we have to find out the actual causes of the USSR brutatility saying that we should keep the USSR or shouldn’t get rid of it?

    I call this the apologetic fallacy: By explaining WHY somebody does what they do people think you therefore condone or support what they do.

    Your view is toxic to science. You’re saying don’t bother studying it. Don’t bother doing empirical research because if you do YOU SUPPORT THE TERRORISTS!!!11111

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 3:19 pm
  15. I think the ‘c’ button on my laptop is sticky hence not always putting the ‘c’ in “blockquote” hence messing up the quotes

    So for the half that was fucked up

    He claims that the contemporary Islamic jihad that has killed so many people is a myth, that the real problem is Western Imperialism, that the Muslim fascists are only ‘retaliating’ against oppressors, etc. This is victim blaming and apologetics at it’s worst, and yes, it most certainly does serve to insult and belittle our benefactors.

    The issue is that after posing P1, people have provided you with the evidence. Mountains of it. Testimonials from the fascists themselves, historical records of theocratic regimes, record after record after record (contemporary and not) of people being butchered, killed during childbirth as a minor, disfigured, etc, all in the name of a religious cause, and you simply shrug and demand more. It’s the same tactic used in Holocaust denial, creationism, 9/11 ‘Truth’, etc – so your de facto position is apathy and, by extension, silent approval of the atrocities so long as they’re far enough away for you to comfortably ignore.

    Here’s another study [not by Atran]

    http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/GingesHansenNorenzayan2009.pdf

    Taken together, these four studies represent strong support for
    the coalitional-commitment hypothesis and disconfirmation of
    the religious-belief hypothesis. Our findings suggest that the
    relationship between religion and support for suicide attacks is
    real, but is orthogonal to devotion to particular religious belief,
    or indeed religious belief in general. Of course, economic and
    political conditions may contribute strongly to support for suicide
    attacks. Our studies concern only the relationship between
    religion and support for suicide attacks. The proposal that there
    is some relationship between religious devotion and intergroup
    violence did not receive empirical support. It appears that the
    association between religion and suicide attacks is a function of
    collective religious activities that facilitate popular support for
    suicide attacks and parochial altruism more generally.

    That is three peer reviewed studies I have citied Kevin.

    But allow me to use your logic against you. Video games cause violence, because a group of teens said GTAIV inspired them to go on a mugging and car stealing spree.
    The Colombine shooters played Doom extensively.

    Do you not want more evidence than that to say video games causes violence?

    [ADDITION]

    As an admen, I would also add I seem to cite studies more than you do.

    Also there is ANOTHER study I would like to add [Not by Atran]

    http://mit.edu/cis/pdf/argo_audit_4.06.pdf

    But these arguments fall short. At present, bombers are primarily Muslim, but this was not always so. Nor does indoctrination play a strong role in growing today’s self-selected global jihad networks. Rather, militants and bombers are propelled by social ties

    I’m not of the Chamberlain school of thought, where there are no urgent problems to be dealt with. North Korea is busy testing it’s missiles even as Kim Jong-Il grows increasingly more ill (and thus less lucid), a brave future for the Middle East is busy fighting for it’s life in the streets of Tehran, the Taliban are re-consolidating and gaining momentum in Afghanistan even as the political capital for the allied intervention there is getting deeper into the red; some problems can only be rid of with military force. Theocratic regimes need to be extinguished now – we can worry about the root causes of religion after the existential threats to the safety of millions of people are dealt with.

    I never said or even implied that we shouldn’t get rid of theoctratic regimes.

    This is Cold War thinking. The Americans will yell

    “WE NEED TO GET RID OF SOCIALISM NOW!”

    Would pointing out to them that we have to find out the actual causes of the USSR brutatility saying that we should keep the USSR or shouldn’t get rid of it?

    I call this the apologetic fallacy: By explaining WHY somebody does what they do people think you therefore condone or support what they do.

    Your view is toxic to science. You’re saying don’t bother studying it. Don’t bother doing empirical research because if you do YOU SUPPORT THE TERRORISTS!!!11111

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 3:26 pm
  16. And before anybody jumps on me on this:

    Do you have any peer reviewed articles that shows atheists are less likely to cognitive bias than theists? I sure haven’t seen any.

    In fact I’ve seen to the contrary

    I do NOT mean that atheists are more likely to have cognitive bias than theists, I think they are AS likely to have cognitive bias as theists.

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 3:38 pm
  17. Alison, I can’t speak for Kevin, but I know for myself, I’ve never claimed that across the board, atheists are any better at avoiding cognitive bias. My claim is that faith based reasoning is a particularly sinister form of cognitive bias that causes lots of damn problems.

    Being irrational about how you arrange your refrigerator is a lot less dangerous than being irrational about birth control or education or medical care.

    Wouldn’t you agree, Alison, that some kinds of cognitive bias are inherently more dangerous than others, and that comparing the prevalence of cognitive bias without qualification between atheists and theists totally misses this important observation?

    Posted by hambydammit | February 18, 2010, 3:59 pm
  18. Wouldn’t you agree, Alison, that some kinds of cognitive bias are inherently more dangerous than others, and that comparing the prevalence of cognitive bias without qualification between atheists and theists totally misses this important observation?

    Yes Hamby it would have missed the observation if I did that. But, I did qualify the types of cognitive bias.

    I’m sure you would agree that dogmatisim and authoritarianism would be different than the placement of the fridge. So I did qualify the different types. [And Mr. Brown is working as a perfect example]

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 8:17 pm
  19. Just from that one graph, Alison, I have no idea why you disagree with me so much. It looks like it represents damn near everything I’ve been saying about what faith based belief does.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 18, 2010, 8:46 pm
  20. Just from that one graph, Alison, I have no idea why you disagree with me so much. It looks like it represents damn near everything I’ve been saying about what faith based belief does.

    Can you explain this?

    Cause I’m seriously at a loss as to how a graph that shows people who aren’t devoted to religion show the same level of dogmatism and authoritarianism as those that are devoted somehow goes with the notion that people devoted to religion will show higher levels of dogmatism and authoritarianism than those not devote to religion?

    I mean….. I’m serious……. Explain please.

    Posted by Alison | February 18, 2010, 10:51 pm
  21. Alison, I’m the person who has been touting “The Authoritarian Specter” for years. It’s the definitive book on the personality type “authoritarian.” That’s saying that we either are or are not authoritarian, regardless of our environment. So that graph… yeah… people are authoritarian or not, regardless of their religious devotion. That follows.

    What I say, and have been consistently saying, is that faith based reasoning exacerbates existing negative human traits. For authoritarians, it is justification for acting out authoritarianism more. It doesn’t change where you score on the RWA evaluation, but it does provide a social outlet for inappropriate, hurtful, and otherwise dysfunctional expressions of authoritarianism.

    That chart shows two important things: First, if a person is a devotee of religion (i.e. practices faith based reasoning) they are far more likely to display religiosity — that is, religiously (faith based) inspired behavior. It’s a freaking no brainer, Alison. Second, it shows that humans are coalitionists, regardless of religiosity. Again… I’ve been saying this consistently… there’s nothing wrong with forming coalitions. It’s the human condition. What’s bad is coalitions doing things inspired by faith based reasoning — RELIGIOSITY — which is far more prevalent among the devoted.

    It’s the simple observation that the belief in faith based reasoning allows the practice of beliefs that are not based on reality. How hard is that?

    Get it?

    Posted by hambydammit | February 18, 2010, 11:54 pm
  22. Okay, I am legitimently curious as to your definition of “dogmatism”. [Considering all your posts about equivocation and knowing what words we are using to describe what.]

    Seeing as dogma, according to the free dictionary online is

    An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.

    That sounds an awful lot like your definition of faith based reasoning. [i.e belief no matter what.]

    When I think of dogma, I think of something damn close to that and is pretty much interchangable with “Faith based belief”

    That is a dogmatic belief is a faith based belief and a faith based belief is dogmatic.

    This is why I want to know your definition of dogma. Because the way you define faith based belief [Belief despite no evidence or despite evidence to the contrary] is pretty much a dogmatic belief.

    However you say this:

    What’s bad is coalitions doing things inspired by faith based reasoning — RELIGIOSITY — which is far more prevalent among the devoted.

    Which would [to me at least] imply that the non-devote will have less dogmatism.

    So what is your definition of dogma, and how is it different than faith based beliefs?

    Posted by Alison | February 19, 2010, 1:25 am
  23. Well, you’ve hit exactly on my primary issue with your primary argument — all of the research you’re citing (Atran, especially) is correct. Religious affiliation is not the boogie man that’s destroying the world. But then… I’ve said that repeatedly. But for some reason, you insist on repeating the observation that religious affiliation is not the boogie man, and citing Dr. Atran. (Whose work looks damn interesting, by the way. I’m about half way through the link you gave me.)

    As I’ve said many times before, Atran’s work doesn’t threaten my claim, nor does it address it. I fully acknowledge pretty much everything I’ve read of his. Maybe understanding dogma will clear it up.

    When Atran, et al, say that someone is dogmatic, they mean that they have a personality type that tends towards absolutes and rigidity. Once they believe something, they believe it.

    When I speak of dogma, I’m usually speaking of a system of dogmatic beliefs, i.e. Catholic Dogma. A codified hypothesis about the way the universe works which does not allow for evidence based reasoning that disagrees with it.

    Let’s label these Dogma(p), for personality type, and Dogma(c), for codification of belief.

    My claim, which Atran does not address (at least as far as I’ve seen or you’ve said) is that people who are Dogmatic(p) are what they are, but that an environment which includes the teaching and reverence of Dogma(c) exacerbates their dogmatism(p), giving them social and moral permission to behave in dysfunctional and even antisocial ways — ways they would not behave if they were in a culture which placed high value on evidence based reasoning.

    Get it?

    Posted by hambydammit | February 19, 2010, 12:36 pm
  24. Alison, here’s something interesting for you to chew on:

    http://psr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/1/126

    Posted by hambydammit | February 19, 2010, 4:25 pm
  25. Hamby you are going all over the place.

    I the reason I asked for your definition of dogma is because you said that it is far more prevalent among the devoted

    What’s bad is coalitions doing things inspired by faith based reasoning — RELIGIOSITY — which is far more prevalent among the devoted.

    Then why was dogma the same among the devoted and non-devoted?

    giving them social and moral permission to behave in dysfunctional and even antisocial ways — ways they would not behave if they were in a culture which placed high value on evidence based reasoning.

    Hamby, the point is that authoritians and coalitions form their own dogma.

    I mean look at PETA

    http://www.peta.org/about/index.asp

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 2 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world.

    PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds and other “pests,” and the abuse of backyard dogs.

    PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.

    I don’t see “firebomb pharmacitical companies” on there, but people from PETA still do it.

    Alison, here’s something interesting for you to chew on:

    http://psr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/1/126

    I don’t have a subscribtion to that journal, or found a copy that didn’t require one, but from the abstract I don’t see how I would have a hard time “chewing on it”

    Religious racism partly reflects intergroup dynamics

    In addition, religious racism is tied to basic life values of social conformity and respect for tradition

    I mean seriously, I’m not saying there aren’t religiously devote bigots.

    There are people with high religious devotion and high intolerence [Fred Phelps comes to mind] I don’t think I ever denied this.

    It would be like me saying “chew on this”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4671687.stm

    So can you explain to me why I’m suppose to chew on it?

    If you DO have a subscribtion to the journal and hence can see the article I do have some questions.

    Posted by Alison | February 19, 2010, 5:20 pm
  26. Then why was dogma the same among the devoted and non-devoted?

    Whoops, I meant to say: “Then why was dogmatism the same among the devoted and non-devoted?”

    Posted by Alison | February 19, 2010, 5:23 pm
  27. As far as I know, Alison, the only sociological scales for dogmatism are like those for authoritarianism. They measure a person’s inherent tendency towards those actions, not an absolute number of acts qualifying as dogmatic or authoritarian.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 19, 2010, 5:41 pm
  28. Alison, sheesh. Dogmatism is a measure of a personality type. The scale measures a person’s tendency towards dogmatic behavior. People give in to their tendencies more when they are socially approved and less when they’re socially disapproved. How hard is that?

    The reason I gave you the link to racism and religiosity is that I’m trying to show you that you’re cherry picking. You find a study that says, “Religion doesn’t correlate to X bad behavior,” and then trotting it out as if you’re proving something important.

    But religion does correlate to some bad behaviors. Get it? Religiosity does exacerbate some bad behaviors. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying? Along with racism, we might as well say homophobia. So yes, there are some serious negative effects from faith based belief combined with coalition behavior common to all people.

    All I read was the abstract of that study, but I do have access to the university archives. If it’s in there, I can find it for you.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 19, 2010, 5:49 pm
  29. The reason I gave you the link to racism and religiosity is that I’m trying to show you that you’re cherry picking. You find a study that says, “Religion doesn’t correlate to X bad behavior,” and then trotting it out as if you’re proving something important.

    Let me get this straight.

    You’re accusing me of cherry picking when I actually linked to the study to show you it says what I say it says, and then you link to an abstract of a study that may or may not be saying what you are saying it is [For example did it distinguish between the intristic and extrinstic religous? Did they control for authoritianism?] and I’M cherrypicking??

    Isn’t your OP about critical thinking? Well, wouldn’t that entail showing me how they obtained the result so that I can verify that it says what you say it says that it logically follows from the study? For all you know the study could show that religious devotion is unrelated, but coalition is which would look an awfully lot like the study I citied.

    Anyway notice how the study I citied didn’t necessarily say the TYPE of intolerance [such as for example racism or sexism or whatever]?

    I’m beginning to wonder if you understand MY points.

    Posted by Alison | February 19, 2010, 7:28 pm
  30. Alison, I’m sorry. I’m not just going to keep going in circles with you. I’m sorry I even linked the damn abstract. It wasn’t necessary or pertinent. Just an illustration of the point you clearly don’t get. Did you even read what I wrote about the sociological measures of personality traits, and how that doesn’t correlate to the degree to which it is socially acceptable to practice overtly authoritarian or dogmatic acts?

    Why is this so hard?

    Posted by hambydammit | February 20, 2010, 6:49 pm
  31. Alison, have you ever even seen the RWA scale evaluation? It asks questions like, “Is it good to trust the president, even when you don’t understand or agree with his actions?” It doesn’t ask, “How many times in the last week have you trusted the president’s judgement over your own?”

    Get it? RWA and dogmatism scales measure propensity towards these traits. They do not measure or even address how often or to what degree the subject is socially encouraged towards acting out their traits.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 20, 2010, 6:53 pm
  32. Hamby, have you even read the study I linked to?

    Take this image [figure 4 at the end]

    From the study:

    Figure 4 shows that with this more controlled division of the sample between the devoted and non-devoted, the devoted group was LESS intolerant on all measures, even on civil intolerance (recall that the devoted group was MORE intolerant on this measure when coalitional variables were not controlled).

    Get it?

    This is what you wanted right? A MEASURE of the actual quantity of the intolerance???

    And yes, I have seen the RWA scale etc…

    The reason I linked to the first chart again is because you asked me to clarify the type of cognitive biases between atheists and theists.

    Posted by Alison | February 21, 2010, 4:33 pm
  33. Very valid points. Great post.
    My daughter was told that God made her, to which, at 2 years old she responded, “my mummy made me.”

    Posted by Lindsaydianne | February 21, 2010, 4:59 pm
  34. Well Hamby is that what you wanted or not?

    The first one measured the propensity towards intolerance, the second measured the actual quantity of intolerance [Which is what I think you are looking for.]

    Posted by Alison | February 23, 2010, 3:49 pm
  35. We’re back to me not being sure what you’re trying to prove. So you found something that the religiously devoted do less than the religiously non-devoted. How does that address my claim about faith based reasoning? Like I said, the abstract I linked was just a side note… you find studies linking religion to tolerance, and I’ll find studies linking it to racism. So what? None of that addresses what I say about faith based reasoning.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 23, 2010, 7:39 pm
  36. Actually I wasn’t really trying to prove something.

    After all your accusations that I don’t understand your position, and all my insistence that I do, I wanted to make sure I actually do.

    From what I get you argue [paraphrase]

    Religion provides a dogmatic system for those who have a high tendacy to hold dogmatic views to latch on to and elevate their innate prejudices that they would not be able to do sans religion.

    Right?

    As for my study vs your study, I wasn’t even trying to imply that religion promotes tolerance. What I was trying to do is to provoke a scientific basis. If you noticed, in my study when coaltition wasn’t controlled for religious were more likely to show intolerance, but when it was controlled for they didn’t.

    What I was trying to figure out is that if your study did control for coalition. [Or being a meta-analysis did the studies they looked at control?]

    What I was asking was if that was what you were looking for the measurement of actual prejudice. The reason I asked is because you were emphaisizing the difference between prosperity towards a trait vs actually executing that trait.

    Posted by Alison | February 24, 2010, 12:09 am
  37. Alison, I haven’t made the argument that religion promotes prejudice. I’ve made the argument (which you’ve paraphrased nicely except for the conclusion) that faith based reasoning (often in the dogma of religion, but not limited to it) provides a nearly unimpeachable framework which encourages, justifies, and exacerbates innate human tendencies towards dysfunction, including, but not necessarily limited to dogmatism and authoritarianism.

    In mentioning the meta-study, I wasn’t making a claim. I was throwing information in the pot. I don’t know if we have enough information to say that faith based reasoning, in and of itself, promotes racism. My intuitive guess is that there wouldn’t be a direct correlation, but there might well be an indirect one, based on non-religious cultural factors.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 24, 2010, 11:49 am
  38. Now I’m more confused

    I haven’t made the argument that religion promotes prejudice.

    http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/religion-is-not-compatible-with-tolerance/

    Plus this comment:

    But religion does correlate to some bad behaviors. Get it? Religiosity does exacerbate some bad behaviors. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying? Along with racism, we might as well say homophobia. So yes, there are some serious negative effects from faith based belief combined with coalition behavior common to all people.

    This look as if you’re saying religion promotes prejudice.

    This is why I accuse you of changing your position all the time.

    I don’t know if it’s because I’m misreading you, you’re not aware you’re doing it, or you’re doing it on purpose.

    Plus you say religion exacerbates bad behaviour and prejudice is a bad behaviour so wouldn’t the religion exacerbate innate prejudice and authoritianism?

    I just don’t get what specific bad things you think religion exacerbates.

    I’ve made the argument (which you’ve paraphrased nicely except for the conclusion) that faith based reasoning (often in the dogma of religion, but not limited to it) provides a nearly unimpeachable framework which encourages, justifies, and exacerbates innate human tendencies towards dysfunction, including, but not necessarily limited to dogmatism and authoritarianism.

    In mentioning the meta-study, I wasn’t making a claim. I was throwing information in the pot. I don’t know if we have enough information to say that faith based reasoning, in and of itself, promotes racism. My intuitive guess is that there wouldn’t be a direct correlation, but there might well be an indirect one, based on non-religious cultural factors.

    Now the last part REALLY confuses me because isn’t that what I’ve been saying? I mean from my perspective you slap me on the wrist and call me a bad girl when I try to probe into the non-religious cultural factors.

    Posted by Alison | February 24, 2010, 5:55 pm
  39. Ok, Alison… You’re right, I’m being unclear, and I can see how you could think I’m waffling. Here’s my claim: Faith based reasoning is an all-purpose catalyst for exacerbating bad parts of human behavior. The trick to it, and why it probably seems to you that I’m changing positions is that I don’t claim that it correlates to any particular behavior across the board. In other words, if we studied all faith based religions, looking for particular behaviors that are common to all, I don’t think we would find any or many. That’s because faith based reasoning in itself doesn’t lend itself to a particular dogma. In America, certain branches of Christianity teach a sex-negative, anti-woman version of dogma. In that branch, you would expect to see elevated levels of self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, inability to orgasm, etc, etc, in women. In another branch, people are taught that modern medicine is evil. We would expect to see elevated levels of minor health problems left untreated.

    And make no mistake, Alison, here in the Deep South, USA, religion does correlate to racism. Again, it might be localized, so that a broad study won’t find it, but I guarantee that the churches here are the most segregated institutions you’re going to find.

    But the general claim, which ought to be easy to accept, is that when people are part of a faith-based church that teaches faith-based, dysfunctional practices, we should expect elevated levels of the dysfunctional practices they teach. Pretty simple, eh?

    I’m honestly sorry that I haven’t been perfectly clear on this, and I guess my only advice to you is this: My blog is not a peer reviewed journal, and I don’t edit or write as if it were. When I do make specific scientific claims that might be controversial, I cite my source. If I make a statement like the one you quoted about racism and homophobia, you’re perfectly within your rights to ask me if I’m making a broad claim about all faith-based religions, but in general, I’m probably not. Instead, I’m probably talking about localized institutions in America, since I really don’t address other religions much.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 25, 2010, 2:16 pm

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