Shout It Out! (Or Not)

atheist-agnostic-religious

This from an article on TheGuardian.com:

Do you believe in God? How confident are you in your view? Let’s put your belief (or lack of it) to the test.

Read aloud the following statements. Don’t just think about them or mutter them to yourself – shout them out:

I dare God to make my life miserable.
I dare God to make my home catch fire.
I dare God to turn all of my friends against me.

If you found it easy, then you think of yourself as a true atheist with the courage of your convictions (Richard Dawkins would be proud). But, admit it – didn’t saying these things still make you feel just a little bit uneasy? A study conducted at the University of Helsinki found that reading these statements caused even avowed atheists to sweat just as much as religious people (literally – they were having their sweat levels monitored).

If you can’t do it, you’re either a confirmed believer or someone whose head says they’re an atheist but whose heart can’t quite accept it. Or maybe you’re just superstitious and think that talking about something bad makes it more likely to happen.

Try reading out equivalent statements that don’t mention God (for instance: “I dare all of my friends to turn against me”). The atheists in the Helsinki study found these statements stressful but still less so than the versions that did mention God.

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91 thoughts on “Shout It Out! (Or Not)

  1. Islam is NOT a religion of peace! Recommended reading “The Life of Muhammad” written by the Muslim historian Ibn Ishaq in 768 AD. The book gives an accurate picture of Muhammad… The very violent and aggressive military commander who fought and killed neighboring tribes into submission.

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  2. Saying such statements doesn’t bother me now as much as it once did, though shouting out negatives like these is not easy. I think we’re conditioned to be uncomfortable proclaiming negative statements. I wonder how the test would go if the statements were something like,” I dare the Wolfman to come bite me!” or “I dare Captain Hook to poke my eyes out with his hook!” My guess is there’ll be some discomfort even saying these things though I seriously doubt there are many werewolf or Captain Hook believers out there. It makes me no less of a non-believer that saying such statements does, indeed, cause some trepidation in me. “I DARE the Frankenstein monster to rip my head off!!! I DARE him!!!”

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  3. As a teenager, I once stood on a hilltop in a lightening storm and dared god to kill me, I’m reasonably sure that trumps* losing FaceBook friends.
    *(sorry Insipred)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am still a work in progress and struggle to even think such things let alone say them.

    It was not so much a loss of belief in God that started my deconversion but a collapse in my confidence in the Bible. I struggled to see if faith could be viable with a flawed Bible, some people seem able to accept this conflict, but I could not. If I knew the Bible was flawed how could I place confidence in any of it?

    For a considerable period of time, which is now only slightly easing, I had expected ‘God’ to punish me for for turning away from him. I am only slowly emerging from that mindset, but it only takes a little emotion and stress to bring it back.

    Because of this mindset I have spent countless hours investigating the Bible in great depth to confirm that my conclusion of it being a flawed human document is a sound conclusion. This research has strengthened my conviction that there most likely is no God, but has not totally removed the fear.

    I saw a talk by Seth Andrews where he responded to a challenge from a Christian to pledge his life to Satan (on the basis Seth argued no such being existed). Seth did so to show he had no fear, I felt uncomfortable even watching him do that.

    I had thought that the strongest argument in favour of there being some sort of God was the apparent fine tuning of the universe for life. But after watching some of Lawrence Krauss’ talks on the early universe I realise that argument in favour of a creator deity is not as strong as I had thought.

    In my case uncertainty and fear still has a stronghold in my psyche. I admire those who are able to move on and not be held hostage to this fear.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I suspect, Peter, that you need to explore where all of this came from – who introduced you to religion in the first place and who fanned the flames – I think you may find that THAT is the real source of your fear.

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      • Arch, my mother was very influential in developing my Christian worldview, belief and commitment. But I can’t recall her ever mentioning Hell, judgment, God’s wrath or sin. That was just not her way and the Church I attended in my formative years was similar.

        It was my own private study as I became more serious about Christianity that caused a fear of hell and judgement to develop, this fear fed on a deep insecurity and pessimism that seems to be at the core of my being.

        What I am saying Arch, is that in my case, the misery is all self inflicted.

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        • …this fear fed on a deep insecurity and pessimism that seems to be at the core of my being.” – And I’m asking where it came from, Peter – we are born blank slates.

          Liked by 1 person

        • NN, be very careful granting to epigenetics any confidence whatsoever. Sure, genes expressions can be affected in utero but this is not what epigenetics strictly means. It means non genetic influences that then affect genetic expressions and this is understandably disputed in biology. Add to that the heritability claim and you’re verging on pure woo… as demonstrated by Deepak’s latest publication.

          I suspect – and please correct me if I’m wrong – that you’re arguing that we aren’t born blank slates because we come with genetically based (or encoded) information… some of which may be provided or altered during in utero,/i> development. And this can be demonstrated. So we’re not blank slates: we are developed in utero to be meaning making machines once separated from the mother.

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        • I found the Epigenetics video interesting, but the ‘Charley’s Story’ video was a stretch to try and tie it to epigenetics, considering all of the events that happened to Charley postnatally – that kind of childhood, laced with abandonment and maltreatment would affect anyone psychologically, and needn’t involve epigenetics at all.

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        • Of course. But that doesn’t mean that gene expression doesn’t take place in the womb, because it does. Robert Salposky states The age-old “nature versus nurture” debate is silly. The action of genes is completely intertwined with the environment in which they function; in a sense, it is pointless to even discuss what gene X does, and we should consider instead only what gene X does in environment Y.”

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        • We all see things differently, Peter, through the lens of our subjective experiences – it’s part of what makes each of us as unique as snowflakes, but how I see things isn’t bothering me, yet you are clearly in angst over your own perception. I’m just trying to see where your perceptions began.

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        • This just in, Peter, from Carmen who, today, can read messages but can’t comment:

          “Please tell him [Peter] he is NOT a crazy, mixed-up person. He’s an intelligent, introspective wonderful man who has just recently divorced himself from a lifelong worldview that many still have.

          He’s going through a difficult withdrawal and discovering reality, is all. I don’t like to see him – and others – being so hard on themselves.”

          So there’s that —

          Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s called tempting fate and you must remember there are many fatalists among us. Many believe in luck, gamblers in particular. Some see their fate written in the stars.hence the popularity of horoscopes. Other more sensible folk refuse to walk under ladders or put uo umberallas inside. The motives and reasons behind behaviour are mutifarious. If I have an accident I might say thats just my luck.
    So research of this type goes nowhere but it does serve to keep the researchers busy and in work.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wouldn’t dare shout this out as my dogs are sleeping next to me and if they wake up they will be pawing and nagging me for ”Foodies” and it’s not lunch time yet.

    So I typed it out as if I was writing lines in detention from school and stuck it on the roof of the stoep.
    God can read it at his leisure.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks to Carmen for her support. Though I can’t blame religion for all my issues. And despite Arch’s insinuation I would never blame my mother. Sometimes we need to accept that we are our own worst enemy.

    I still think in Bible verses: “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, And I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.” (Job 3:26)

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    • And despite Arch’s insinuation I would never blame my mother.” – Did I even mention your mother? ‘Methinks he doth protest too much –‘

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      • Perhaps I do protest too much. My mother once observed that she knew my older brother and I had quite different personalities before we were even born based on how we acted in the womb. My brother was a real fidgeter and kicker whereas I was so still and quiet that my mother feared I might be still born.

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  8. “Try reading out equivalent statements that don’t mention God (for instance: “I dare all of my friends to turn against me”). The atheists in the Helsinki study found these statements stressful but still less so than the versions that did mention God.”

    I’m not happy with this kind of a statement as a control. I think the statements need to mention daring a specific entity to do you ill, and one that really exists, as opposed to a “god”. I’d be more interested to see a stress comparison to statements like this:
    I dare the IRS to make my life miserable.
    I dare ISIS to make my home catch fire.
    I dare my Ex to turn all of my friends against me.
    If they used statements like that, and the “god” statements still elicited a bigger reaction, then they’d have something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the catch might be, ubi, that even irrational people know that just making such statements can’t actually bring about an IRS audit or an ISIS attack, whereas the superstitious among them (and even those with unrecognized superstition) COULD conceivably rationalize that a supernatural entity, utilizing magic (don’t laugh!) could bring about the wished for events.

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      • Possible, but until they run a better study I’m not going to make the assumption that atheists would react differently to these statements just because they inserted god. Or make the assumption that they won’t. There’s a lot of situations where our derpy human brains do not react in the way you’d expect. I want further research before I’ll accept any conclusions on this.

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  9. Does anyone remember the “Atheist Prayer Experiment” (circa 2012)? A Christian group out of the U.K. encouraged non-believers to do just two things: (1) pray for 40 days that God would reveal himself, and (2) be observant/watchful and as open as possible to ways that God might reveal himself (i.e. it might be more subtle than a lightning bolt).

    I was in the last stages of deconversion at the time, still afraid I might be making a big mistake, and I decided this would be a good thing to do. So for 40 days, with honest intent and motives, that’s what I did. And I decided that my prayer was going to be fairly free-form… I would just let the prayer go where it would.

    I kept a little journal (I missed 2 days out of the 40) with what I prayed. And on some days, I ended up praying what I would call “dangerous” prayers, along the lines of the ones mentioned in this article. I asked only that anything bad would fall on me alone, and not my family. But I prayed things like: “If you have to make me seriously ill or invalid…” “If you have to make me insane and grazing like King Nebuchadnezzar…” etc. I remember cringing a little bit, but honestly upper-most in my mind was “It would be worth it.”

    And of course even though I was “as open as possible” to how God might reveal himself, I got silence and invisibility. Not even the slightest hint.

    At this point I have no doubts; I’m not a Christian any more, and I’m as certain as one could be that there is (are) no god(s), nor are there supernatural events. I have no fear of Hell or what some god might do to me some day. But I am really empathetic toward those for whom those fears are still real, post-deconversion… something that deeply indoctrinated can be hard to shake!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Brent, thank you so much for sharing this! It certainly underlines the point of the article. I’m sure there are some who read and/or contribute to this blog who envy you your freedom. But look what it took to get there! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well… so many people were so influential and helpful in getting me to the place I am… I hope that I can be just as helpful to others. There have been a few bloggers who wonder aloud sometimes whether what they write really means anything or makes a difference, and I have replied to them (and others): “Keep writing! I was a silent lurker for **years**, and you would never have known it, but the arguments you were making made a huge difference.”

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    • It just could well be, Brent, that such an exercise might indeed desensitize one regarding the power of prayer (and foreboding that one may be under constant observation by an unseen observer).

      Nan may not appreciate my use of a particular word in my comment, but if she will read on, she may realize that using it is the only way I can illustrate my point and forgive me. Allan Sherman, comedian of “Hello Mudder, Hello Fodder” fame, wrote one book just before he died. It was entitled, “The Rape of the A.P.E.” (which is still available used), in which he debunked the American Puritan Ethic (A.P.E.). In either chapter 4 or 6, I can’t recall exactly, he wrote the word, “Fuck.“. He followed this with six full pages of the word, one following the other for the entire six pages. At the end, he wrote that when he began the chapter, he expected the door to come crashing in and himself hauled away in shackles, but by the time he reached the end of the sixth page, he found that the word had lost all meaning for him – that it was just a combination of letters, like any other combination of letters, and hadn’t the ability to harm ANYone.

      Forty days (and forty nights) of prayer to a nonexistent god just might have the same effect. You’d be in a better position to know than I.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My wife is a huge Allan Sherman fan… she had some of his LPs growing up, and a few years ago I tracked down his first four albums in digital form and gave them to her as a Christmas gift. Our whole family is fairly musical and we all enjoy the humor.

        I remember the title of that book from years ago, but I had forgotten it, and hadn’t read it. I’ve put it on my list; thanks for the rec. I think you’re right, that just as indoctrination can deeply embed a false belief, so desensitization can work to erode/remove it. But again, I know I’ve read lots of people who e.g. know and believe intellectually that Hell doesn’t exist, and yet struggle daily with the fear of it.

        I’m not sure if the A.P.E. overlaps with “Christian exceptionalism” or “American exceptionalism” but I’ve had a few Christian acquaintances make the argument, as I’ve met with them post-deconversion, that not only is it impossible to make sense of reality without God as the starting point (presuppositional apologetics), but that Christianity should be credited for the rise and prosperity of the West.

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        • Christianity should be credited for the rise and prosperity of the West.

          You might want to point out to them that while Christianity threw all of Europe into a thousand-year dark age that lasted from 600 CE to 1600 CE, that Muslims were creating the Arabic number system, creating algebra (the very word, al gebra, is Arabic) and naming the stars – Mecca had a society that welcomed great minds of all faiths, while in Europe, the Church was burning at the stake any who dared translate the Bible into any language other than Latin. One man was so executed for translating the Lord’s Prayer into English for his children – Rah, rah, rah, sis boom ba, yaaaaay, Yahweh!

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        • ‘Mecca had a society that welcomed great minds of all faiths’

          Sadly this open attitude to knowledge and inquiry did not last.

          In regard to the West, it was the enlightenment that really seemed to be the inspiration for the great advances in the period after 1600.

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        • In regard to the West, it was the enlightenment that really seemed to be the inspiration for the great advances in the period after 1600.

          And the beginning of the end for Christianity, as fact replaced fiction.

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        • When I studied Christian history I was struck by how the quality of Christian thinking, especially in the West, deteriorated greatly in the years after the fall of the Roman Empire. Augustine was the last of the great thinkers from the Roman empire. It would take 800 years until Aquinas for a comparable to thinker to emerge in the West.

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