While less controversial than it was fifty years ago, psychotherapy is an anomalous feature of modern culture, plagued by defects. Among its shortcomings, psychotherapy has made remarkably little use of information technologies. This blog considers electronic devices to measure human emotional response, that may have been stigmatized by their use in radical religious movements, or by their origins in primitive attempts a century ago to cure neurotics. I do not recommend simply adopting those religious or therapeutic practices, but adapting the technology to new uses. A mentally healthy individual could employ emotion-sensing hardware to identify personal goals, consider the meaning of past events, and explore future possibilities.
What do vampires and Las Vegas atheists have in common? Ethical rules, social stigma, and a hunger for community. When people think about Las Vegas, most picture some combination of gambling, burlesque, night clubs and legalized prostitution—the pleasures that earned Vegas the nickname Sin City. But when Sociologist Lori Fazzino thinks about Las Vegas, she pictures churches.
Fewer pregnant teens, fewer abortions, fewer unwed mothers, fewer single-parent families on welfare, more balanced state budgets. Sounds like a set of goals that should be common ground for anyone who cares about America’s future, right?
Ivory Coast is one of the countries in Africa where belief is witchcraft is widespread. A Gallup Poll found in 2010 that up to 95 percent of the populations believed in “sorciellerie” – the French word for witchcraft. This means that witchcraft is more or less a ‘national religion’. Almost everyone in the country thinks as a matter of fact, not fantasy that witchcraft is real in its conception and consequences, that people can harm others using mystical means.
African traditional medicine is widely perceived as a form of voodoo medicine, as a survival of some stone age pre-modern illiterate formation that still functions and fulfills medical purposes for Africans. This is, at least, how many anthropologists have viewed the subject. They have argued that African traditional medicine is unlike ‘western medicine’, and then go on to establish how witchcraft and magic is embedded in this ‘unique’ medical practice. African medicine men and women are portrayed as witch doctors - as if the traditional-medical profession is about treating and curing witchcraft.
Like other countries in Africa, Zambia is a very religious nation and has the dubious of distinction of being officially declared a Christian nation by President Federick Chiluba in 1996. One need not look far to see where Chiluba got the political will to establish this Christian nation. Eighty seven percent of the population is Christian and only twelve percent profess other faiths. The number of non-believers is too low to measure. Apparently, Zambia is 100 percent religious and theistic.
Over the past several years the Jewish custom of male circumcision, in which the foreskin of the penis is removed, has been increasingly compared to female circumcision, in which the clitoris and sometimes the labia are removed, and condemned as genital mutilation. This comparison demonstrates an abysmal ignorance of anatomy. The clitoris is analogous to the penis and the labia to the scrotum which are certainly not removed in male circumcision. The foreskin is comparable to the clitoral hood which is sometimes removed surgically in women in order to enhance sexual pleasure.
If you are one of those who think there is no connection between politics and the savage practice of albino killing in Tanzania, then you need to read the recent statement from the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Pereira Silima. Silima made it clear to politicians in the country that if they stopped patronizing the ‘witch doctors’ then this East African country might see an end to the shameful and horrific murders of albinos.
The people in Tanzania need to discard the belief that drives them to attack kidnap and kill people living with albinism.
The rapidly growing field of transhumanism—an international social movement whose highest immediate priority is overcoming human death via science and technology—is facing a colossal challenge. About 85 percent of the world’s population believes in life after death, and much of that population is perfectly okay with dying because it gives them an afterlife with their perceived deity or deities—something transhumanists often refer to as “deathist” culture.
In fact, four billion people on Earth—mostly Muslims and Christians—see the overcoming of death through science as potentially blasphemous, a sin involving humans striving to be godlike. Some holy texts say blasphemy is unforgivable and will end in eternal punishment.
The ultra-nationalist political agitator Dinanath Batra sued its publisher and the publisher withdrew the book from the Indian market. The lawsuit was based on a law (Hate Law Speech Section #295A, enacted in 1927 by the British under pressure from the Muslim community) that de facto allows courts to punish religious blasphemy.
Children are among those who populate the witch camps in the Northern Ghana. These children are not at the sanctuary because they were accused of witchcraft. They are at these shelters because their mothers or grand mothers were accused. But from my observations, many of these children end up suffering as a result the label of witchcraft applied to their mothers or grand mothers. The belief in child witches exist among the Dagomba and other ethnic communities in the Northern region. But it takes a different dimension.
On May 20 I participated in a four person debate about the existence of God at Western Washington University. On the ‘yes’ side were Mike Raschko and Mark Markuly from the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University. On the ‘no’ side were Bob Seidensticker and me. Here are my remarks:
Is every orphanage in the world operated by a religious organization?
Nope. Not any more.
BiZoHa Orphanage was launched by four members of the Brighter Brains Institute - a think-and-do tank located in San Francisco’s East Bay. BiZoHa is situated in Muhokya, in Kasese province, near the Rwenzori mountains of western Uganda, close to the Congo border.
Witch sanctuaries, described by local NGOs as ‘witch camps’, form part of the infrastructure of witchcraft in Northern Ghana. These sanctuaries are shrines, though one of sanctuaries in Gushiegu is not attached to any shrine. Tindana are the heads of the sanctuaries. The Dagbani term, Tindana, literally means - the one who owns the land. They are responsible for consulting the Tindang, the community spirit or god whenever there is a problem like drought or epidemic, war, plague, accusations of death or illness witchcraft, etc
As William Gibson always reminds us the real role of science-fiction isn’t so much to predict the future as to astound us with the future’s possible weirdness. It almost never happens that science-fiction writers get core or essential features of this future weirdness right, and when they do, according to Gibson, it’s almost entirely by accident. Nevertheless, someone writing about the future can sometimes, and even deliberately, play the role of Old Testament prophet, seeing some danger to which the rest of us are oblivious and guess at traps and dangers into which we later fall. (Though let’s not forget about the predictions of opportunity.)
Frank Herbert’s Dune certainly wasn’t intended to predict the future, but he was certainly trying to give us a warning.
I am interested in “secularizing” Africa because I believe this would benefit the continent intellectually, socially, and economically. To help advance this goal I support Kasese Humanist Primary School, and I co-launched BiZoHa - the world’s first atheist orphanage.
What makes a Seattle mother spend her days trying to chip away at Bible belief rather than digging holes in the garden?
When my husband sent me the Pew Report news that the percent of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped from 78.4 to 70.6 over the last 7 years, I responded jokingly with six words: You’re welcome. Molly Moon’s after dinner?
Not that I actually claim credit for the decline. As they say, it takes a village.
Education is important to every individual on this planet. In pre-colonial Uganda, education was mainly informal. Missionaries and colonialists introduced the formal education system, but the missionaries wanted Africans to believe in the message of Jesus.
Today, Jesus and Muhammed have almost equal shares in Africa.
As religion dies in the western countries, it is busy in Africa, along with poverty and human rights abuses.
Groucho Marx, one of my favorite comedians of all time, famously wrote a telegram to a Hollywood club he had joined, that said: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” I have recently considered sending such a letter to the skeptic and atheist movements (henceforth, SAM), but I couldn’t find the address.
Transhumanism can be read as an intellectual and cultural movement. The objective of this movement is to enhance the human condition with the use of technological means. Enhancement in the transhumanistic sense goes far beyond everything that is regarded as normal and settled. “Enhancement” is presumably not the proper expression for this context and it should be replaced with the word “increase”.
Anybody who thinks that the wave of christianity based witch hunting and pentecostalism sweeping across Africa and migrant communities is due to some unique strand of piety and religiosity of Africans should think again. The rise of African pentecostalism has a lot to do with the 'business acumen' of the region's 'pastorpreneurs' who are exploiting the situation in the region.
Every book on torture that i have browsed is mainly devoted to methods of torture and then to three topics: Ethical arguments against torture, Utilitarian arguments against torture, and History of the rejection of torture. I cannot find a neuroscientist or psychologist who thought of writing about the exact opposite: What were the ethical justifications for torture?, What were the utilitarian arguments for torture? and What is the history of the widespread adoption of torture?
As the measles outbreak grows, 173 cases since March 6th, most cases have been traced from the unvaccinated child in Disneyland, with additional outlier cases and it has become our latest national fascination with a bioethics issue.
Just a few brief remarks about Emma Green’s recent in the Atlantic, “The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication.” Green says: “Theirs [atheists] is a subtle assertion: Believers aren’t educated or thoughtful enough to debunk God, and if they only knew more, rational evidence would surely offset faith.”
A few days ago there was an interesting article in the New York Times, “The Feel-Good Gene,” by a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. The author wonders why some people are predisposed to anxiety which doesn’t have obvious environmental causes, and which is thus not helped by psychotherapy.
Transpolitica holds that human society should embrace, wisely, thoughtfully, and compassionately, the radical transformational potential of technology. The speed and direction of technological adoption can be strongly influenced by social and psychological factors, by legislation, by subsidies, and by the provision or restriction of public funding. Political action can impact all these factors, either for better or for worse.
Are there ways to directly strengthen fairness and moral cognition in the prefrontal cortex, and weaken the cognitive biases bubbling up from the amygdala? Research on the genetic correlates of moral cognition, and the effects of psychoactive drugs, and of electrical and magnetic manipulation of the brain, suggest there are ways to enhance fairness and impartiality.