Introduction This document is a collection of miscellaneous +quot;side notes+quot; which a

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Introduction This document is a collection of miscellaneous "side notes" which are referenced by the main alt.atheism FAQ web. The material here is considered interesting, but not important enough to warrant cluttering the main web with. This document is not designed to be read sequentially. Definition of a 'cult' "What makes some religions cults and others mainstream?" This is taken from Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon", a guide to contemporary neo-paganism. She quotes P.E.I. Bonewitz on what to look for and avoid in any organization that promises wisdom by participating in its activities. Score each item on a scale of 1 to 10 (or whatever is your favorite scale): 1. Internal control, the amount of internal political power exercised by leader(s) over members. 2. Wisdom claimed by leader(s), the amount of infallibility declared about decisions. 3. Wisdom credited to leader(s) by members; the amount of trust in decisions made by leader(s). 4. Dogma, the rigidity of reality concepts taught; the amount of doctrinal inflexibility. 5. Recruiting, the emphasis put on attracting new members; the amount of proselytizing. 6. Front groups, the number of subsidiary groups using names different from that of the main group. 7. Wealth, the amount of money and/or property desired or obtained; the degree of emphasis on members' donations. 8. Political power, the amount of external political influence desired or obtained. 9. Sexual manipulation of members by leader(s); the amount of control of sex lives of members. 10. Censorship, the amount of control over members' access to outside opinions on group, its doctrines, or its leader(s). 11. Dropout control, the intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts. 12. Endorsement of violence when used by or for the group or its leader(s). 13. Paranoia, the amount of fear concerning real or imagined enemies, the perceived power of opponents. 14. Grimness, the amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines, or its leader(s). This list of warning signs preceded a list of neo-pagan groups, mostly American ones. Margot Adler stated that she hoped that there would be no groups on her list that scored too high on this scale. Loren Petrich More research concerning atheist morality This article that appeared in the "Living" section of the 1993-09-11 edition of the "San Jose Mercury News". It is a summary of a study which shows that religious belief and ethical behavior have little to no correlation. NOT AS I PREACH By Richard Scheinin When it comes to lying on job resumes, cheating on exams or plagiarizing reports, folks who consider themselves devout churchgoers often leave their ethics at the chapel door when they return to their homes and jobs. In fact, according to a soon-to-be-released report, the ethical behavior of people who say religion is "essential" to their lives is often not distinguishable from the behavior of those who describe religion as "unimportant." The findings "run counter-intuitive to what many people expect," says Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Marina del Ray, which researched and produced "Ethics, Values, Attitudes and Behavior in America: the Impact of Religious Belief, Gender and Age." "There's a general assumption that people make that religious people are more honest than non-religious people," says Josephson. "They are," he says, pausing for emphasis. "Slightly." Josephson based his opinion on the results of interviews about ethical behavior with nearly 9,000 people, 60 percent under age 25. More than 5,000 responded to questions about the degree of their religiosity. Among other things, the report says 13 percent of the people who regard religion as "essential" have lied to get jobs (as opposed to 15 percent of irreligious people); that 36 percent of the same religious group cheated on exams as high school seniors (compared with 39 percent of irreligious people); that 30% percent of respondents who regard religion as "essential" cheated in college (as opposed to 29 percent for the irreligious); and that 20 percent of them admitted to submitting other people's work as their own (as opposed to 21 percent of their irreligious counterparts). There were some brighter spots for the religious group: Only 18 percent admitted to stealing merchandise from a store in the past year (29 percent of the irreligious said they had done so). And those who say religion is "essential" were less cynical: They tended to disagree that it is necessary to lie or cheat to get ahead in society, and were less likely to say they would be willing to do so. "The religious people are much more optimistic about their own virtue," says Josephson. What does this it all add up to? "It sounds like original sin continues to flourish, and that is not news," says the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, the social commentator who edits "First things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life." [...] The institute set out to analyze the overall impact of religious faith on behavior, without categorizing those who responded according to their specific denominations or faiths. Those who responded to questions about religiosity fell into four groups: those who said religion was "unimportant;" those who said it was "somewhat important"; those who said it was "very important"; and, finally, those who said it was "essential" to their lives. Only when considering the extremes -- the groups who characterized religion as "unimportant" and "essential" -- were there any discernible differences in ethical behavior. Otherwise, the "unimportant" group's behavior was indistinguishable from the others'. There is a large body of research that indicates what religious people think about proper ethical behavior, but a somewhat smaller body that attempts to analyze how their beliefs translate into action. A 1992 Gallup study showed that church members are more charitable than non-members: 78 percent of church members had made donations of food, clothing or other property in the previous year (as opposed to 66 percent of non-members); 54 percent had "directly helped" a needy neighbor (42 percent of non-members did so); and 37 percent "directly helped" a homeless person (compared with 33 percent of non-members). Other surveys show that religious people are somewhat less likely to drive while intoxicated or steal in the workplace. But, as with the Josephson study, the manner in which people characterize their religiosity does not always seem to have a dramatic effect on the way they live out their lives. Perhaps that's not surprising. "One would like to believe that people who think of themselves as devout Christians would also behave in a manner that is in accord with Christian ethics," says Neuhaus. "But pastorally and existentially, I know that that is not the case -- and never has been the case." Michael Wang Michael writes: "A few comments about the article. First, there were no error bars reported so most of the comparisons that the article talks about are probably statistical washes. Second, I'm not sure what the term "irreligious" means in the context of this article. It sometimes means just atheists and agnostics, but in this case I think it means those who believe religion is "unimportant" in their lives, which could include a large number of Christians. Finally, it would be interesting to know whether or not the difference in behavior between church-goers and non church-goers is mostly a matter of "peer pressure" rather than church-goers somehow being more "moral". Why alt.atheism exists "I don't wish to offend anyone, but I was wondering why this newsgroup exists?" Some hold that the newsgroup was created by some sort of elder creator. He saw that there was darkness upon the face of the net, so he created a posting in alt.config suggesting that there should be a newsgroup alt.atheism. For five days he created articles discussing the newsgroup, then on the sixth day he created the newsgroup itself, with the assistance of some daemons. On the seventh day he rested, and looked at the newsgroup, and saw that it was good. Others hold that the newsgroup came about through random chance. It began as a mail message accidentally created by a system process, which (over the course of hundreds of thousands of bounces and millions of CPU cycles) evolved into a Usenet control message. Some forked copies of the mail message created newsgroups like "alp.arbghhh" and "prqa.dne.auvheism", but the forces of natural selection ensured that these groups were unpopular, and soon died out. Eventually, after many years, "alt.atheism" took over as their natural successor. "I mean, in a sense, the large traffic on this newsgroup justifies its existence" Ah, yes, the anthropic principle of newsgroup creation. This holds that the newsgroup MUST exist, because otherwise we would not be able to post to it asking why it exists. mathew More on Hitler's religious beliefs Adolf Hitler, in a speech delivered April 12, 1922, and published in "My New Order": "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. "In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. "Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. "As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... "And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. "When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited." Quoted in "Freethought Today" April 1990. The Revelation Game The Revelation Game is an interesting abstract analysis, like a game theory version of Pascal's Wager. The players are H, a human, and G, a superior being. Each player has two strategies. H can either believe or not believe in the existence of G. G can choose to reveal its existence to H by providing confirming evidence, or can choose to not do so. Each player has two goals, a primary and a secondary goal. H's goals Primary: Must have evidence before believing in the existence of G. Secondary: Would prefer to believe in the existence of G. G's goals Primary: Wants H to believe in him. Secondary: Prefers H to believe without evidence. Outcomes We rank the outcomes for each player on a scale: 4Both goals obtained. 3Primary goal obtained but not secondary. 2Secondary goal obtained but not primary. 1Neither goal obtained. We then have the following payoff matrix, where the first score is the payoff for H, the second the payoff for G: G Reveal Not Reveal Believe (4,3) (2,4) H Not Believe (1,1) (3,2) We see that the dominant strategy for G is to not reveal itself to H regardless of H's strategy, since 4 > 3 and 2 > 1. Thus H, being aware of G's goals, knows that G will not reveal. H is thus forced to choose between the payoffs 3 and 2. Hence the dominant strategy is for G to not reveal and for H to not believe. Whether or not this game is valid psychologically or philosophically, it is and interesting and new approach. For further reading into game-theoretic theology consult S. J. Brams, "Superior Beings: If They Exist How Would We Know?", 1983 Springer-Verlag, NY. James F. Stafford The Argument Clinic A reception desk in a sort of office building. Receptionist: Yes, sir? Man: I'd like to have an argument please. Receptionist: Certainly, sir, have you been here before...? Man: No, this is my first time. Receptionist: I see. Do you want to have the full argument, or were you thinking of taking a course? Man: Well, what would be the cost? Receptionist: Yes, it's one pound for a five-minute argument, but only eight pounds for a course of ten. Man: Well, I think it's probably best of I start with the one and see how it goes from there. OK? Receptionist: Fine. I'll see who's free at the moment... Mr. Du-Bakey's free, but he's a little bit concilliatory... Yes, try Mr. Barnard -- Room 12. Man: Thank you. [...] The man knocks on the door. Mr Vibrating: (from within) Come in. The man enters the room. Mr Vibrating is sitting at a desk. Man: Is this the right room for an argument? Mr Vibrating: I've told you once. Man: No you haven't. Mr Vibrating: Yes I have. Man: When? Mr Vibrating: Just now! Man: No you didn't. Mr Vibrating: Yes I did! Man: Didn't. Mr Vibrating: Did. Man: Didn't. Mr Vibrating: I'm telling you I did! Man: You did not! Mr Vibrating: I'm sorry, is this a five minute argument, or the full half-hour? Man: Oh, just a five minute one. Mr Vibrating: Fine. (makes a note of it; the man sits down) thank you. Anyway I did. Man: You most certainly did not. Mr Vibrating: Now, let's get one thing quite clear... I most definitely told you! Man: You did not. Mr Vibrating: Yes I did. Man: You did not. Mr Vibrating: Yes I did. Man: Didn't. Mr Vibrating: Yes I did. Man: Didn't. Mr Vibrating: Yes I did!! Man: Look this isn't an argument. Mr Vibrating: Yes it is. Man: No it isn't, it's just contradiction. Mr Vibrating: No it isn't. Man: Yes it is. Mr Vibrating: It is not. Man: It is. You just contradicted me. Mr Vibrating: No I didn't. Man: Ooh, you did! Mr Vibrating: No, no, no, no, no. Man: You did, just then. Mr Vibrating: No, nonsense! Man: Oh, look this is futile. Mr Vibrating: No it isn't. Man: I came here for a good argument. Mr Vibrating: No you didn't, you came here for an argument. Man: Well, an argument's not the same as contradiction. Mr Vibrating: It can be. Man: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition. Mr Vibrating: No it isn't. Man: Yes it is. It isn't just contradiction. Mr Vibrating: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position. Man: But it isn't just saying "No it isn't". Mr Vibrating: Yes it is. Man: No it isn't, an argument is an intellectual process... contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says. Mr Vibrating: No it isn't. Man: Yes it is. Mr Vibrating: Not at all. Man: Now look! Mr Vibrating: (pressing the bell on his desk) Thank you, good morning. Man: What? Mr Vibrating: That's it. Good morning. Man: But I was just getting interested. Mr Vibrating: Sorry the five minutes is up. Man: That was never five minutes just now! Mr Vibrating: I'm afraid it was. Man: No it wasn't. Mr Vibrating: I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to argue any more. Man: What!? Mr Vibrating: If you want me to go on arguing, you'll have to pay for another five minutes. Man: But that was never five minutes just now... oh come on! (Vibrating looks round as though man was not there) This is ridiculous. Mr Vibrating: I'm very sorry, but I told you I'm not allowed to argue unless you've paid. Man: Oh. All right. (pays) There you are. Mr Vibrating: Thank you. Man: Well? Mr Vibrating: Well what? Man: That was never five minutes just now. Mr Vibrating: I told you I'm not allowed to argue unless you've paid. Man: I've just paid. Mr Vibrating: No you didn't. Man: I did! I did! I did! Mr Vibrating: No you didn't. Man: Look I I don't want to argue about that. Mr Vibrating: Well I'm very sorry but you didn't pay. Man: Aha! Well if I didn't pay, why are you arguing... got you! Mr Vibrating: No you haven't. Man: Yes I have... if you're arguing I must have paid. Mr Vibrating: Not necessarily. I *could* be arguing in my spare time. Man: I've had enough of this. Mr Vibrating: No you haven't. From "Monty Python's Flying Circus: Just the Words, Volume 2", episode 29. Methuen, ISBN 0-413-62550-8 (hardback).


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