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Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Real Culture War

There is a sense in this country that we are in the midst of a Culture War. Liberal vs. Conservative. Secularism vs Religion. Christian vs. Athiest. However you want to break it down, the underlying theme is morality. Right vs. Wrong. Absolute moral righteousness vs. Permissive moral relativism. Standing up for your principles vs. Anything goes.

And we all know which side atheists supposedly fall on.

Yet, I think it is safe to say that neither side has complete unity within its ranks. Let's take atheism for example. The assumption is that atheists are pro-choice baby killers or at least want to allow women to make that decision for themselves. But there are undoubtedly some pro-lifers out there amongst us who aren't willing to grant women that right. And though I have run into very few (if any) personally, I'm sure it is possible to find homophobic atheists who would rather not see homosexuals attain the status of equals in our society.

Now, I will be completely honest, it seems to me that on these two big social issues (and many others to be sure), the great majority of atheists do come down on one side. I attribute this to the fact that since atheists don't have one ultimate authoritative book to turn to for moral guidance, they have to look at all the facts surrounding an issue and make their decision based on logical reasoning given the evidence. If the evidence overwhelmingly points to one side over the other, then most people will come to the same conclusion, but of course there will always be a minority who see it the other way.

But the important point to remember here is that atheists don't claim to have a monopoly on the absolute moral truth. It is entirely reasonable to present new evidence, or at least expose an atheist to evidence she has never considered before and expect her to change her mind. And may I point out that this sort of relativism isn't just practiced by one side. Just ask a Christian how they feel about slavery today and you will most likely get a very different answer then you would have a few hundred years ago.

But slavery is one of those "black and white" issues today. No civilized person is going to justify its existence. If you really want to get at the heart of Christian relativism, then you have to take a look at an issue which isn't quite so settled in today's churches, such as homosexuality. While atheists may agree to disagree with other atheists, there is no better spectator sport to watch than Christians who can't decide whose interpretation of the Bible is the best, in this case, with respect to respecting homosexuals.

Their arguments are more pedantic than Clinton's confusion over the meaning of "is". They will argue over the meaning of a single word in the Bible or some obscure command tucked away in a book over 1000 pages long. While some will argue that we must look at Jesus' overall message of "Love Thy Neighbor", others will rely on an archaic verse in Leviticus tucked away amongst such admonitions as "Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material" or "Do not cut the hair at the sides or your head or clip off the edges of your beard". And of course it goes without saying that they are using as a foundation for their beliefs a book written a few thousand years ago by extremely superstitious people and which has been both mistranslated and miscopied throughout the years (both accidentally and purposefully). But yet they take it as gospel, they just can't agree on the message.

This is the real culture war, Moderate vs Fundamentalist, Catholic vs. Protestant, Bapist vs. Even More Conservative Baptist. And they are fighting for their life, or rather afterlife. Everytime a church splinters, it makes their religion weaker. If the Bible is the word of God, then having a thousand different interpretations casts doubt as to whether anyone can really know what God is saying in the first place, which means the Bible becomes irrelevant and their claim of moral superiority essentially worthless. And as I've explained previously, they already know this, which is why they are hesitant to criticize each other, at least in public.

You see, when you have the word of God on your side, the other other side is wrong by definition, and those are fighting words in the battle for God's grace and your eternal soul.
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Friday, April 28, 2006

Angry Atheists

The good Rabbi Marc Gellman has some questions for us.

Why do nonbelievers seem to be threatened by the idea of God?

I don't know any atheists who are threatened by the "idea of God". In fact, most atheists laugh it off as a silly fantasy. But I wonder, why do you say "idea of God?" Why don't you just ask "Why do nonbelievers seem to be threatened by God?" I'm assuming that God isn't just a mere idea for you Rabbi, but rather an indisputable fact of the universe. And if it is a fact, then it doesn't really make sense to feel threatened by the "idea" of that fact. Would I ask someone if they feel threatened by the "idea" of having a nuclear waste dump in their back yard when it has been there for the past 10 years? I may be reading too much into this, but it seems to me that if God really exists (or at least you believe he exists) then you don't consider God to be an idea and you would not normally go around saying "Praise the idea of God" or "Let us pray to the idea of God". Come on Rabbi, stand up for God. Don't piss him off. I've heard his payback is hell.

So we disagree about God. I'm sometimes at odds with Yankee fans, people who like rap music and people who don't like animals, but I try to be civil. I don't know many religious folk who wake up thinking of new ways to aggravate atheists, but many people who do not believe in God seem to find the religion of their neighbors terribly offensive or oppressive, particularly if the folks next door are evangelical Christians. I just don't get it.

Rabbi, didn't you learn that you can't compare apples and oranges? Being a Yankee fan, rap music aficionado or animal hater (and I really don't think there are "animal haters", rather just people who don't necessarily want to be bothered by them) doesn't have anything to do with disagreeing about God. Religion is a fundamental philosophy of how the world works. It provides a framework and moral guideline for living. Baseball, rap music and animal preference is not a basis for morality. I can brush off a Yankee fan's obnoxious egotistical attitude because other than baseball, it doesn't really affect us anywhere else in life. Likewise, other than bad taste, it doesn't really harm us if someone listens to rap music.

On the other hand, there are numerous negative side effects resulting from religious belief. Do I really have to list them? So yeah, religious folk may not consciously "wake up thinking of new ways to aggravate atheists", but they don't have to, it is built into their religion. God says something is bad. His believers try to impose God's morality on the rest of us. They believe that they are doing God's work. Everyone else thinks it is oppressive. But you still don't get it? Really? I've never seen the movie, but I hear that the Passion of the Christ isn't exactly the feel good movie of the summer for everyone.

This must sound condescending and a large generalization, and I don't mean it that way, but I am tempted to believe that behind atheist anger there are oftentimes uncomfortable personal histories.

A generalization is "A principle, statement, or idea having general application". The word "oftentimes" means "Frequently; repeatedly". These two words seem to complement each other, yet you "don't mean it that way"? Please, stop with the wishy-washy fence-straddling already. We understand. You think the reason people are atheists is not because they used their "God-given" intellect to consider all the evidence (or lack thereof) and came to a rational conclusion, and not because they were never indoctrinated as children and thus were free from the bonds of dogma, but rather because they are mad at God. It's OK Rabbi, you can be straight up with us, we've heard this one before.

I'll let you in on a little secret though. In order to be mad at God, you have to first believe in God. You see, that's the thing, atheists don't generally tend to believe in god(s). Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to direct my anger at some imaginary being instead of (unfortunately) my friends and family. But it just doesn't work. It just rings so hollow.

But I think I can help you out. I think I see the error in your thinking. You see, you assume that belief in God is the natural state of the human mind. You think that if left to our own devices, we will naturally come to the conclusion that there is a God. Well, as I've explained previously, the burden of proof is on you, not me. That means the default human state of belief is no belief. The only mystery is why so many people fall for something that you can't prove?

I can humbly ask whether my atheist brothers and sisters really believe that their lives are better, richer and more hopeful by clinging to Camus's existential despair: “The purpose of life is that it ends."

Wow, I'm an existentialist and I didn't even know it. Actually, I think your close, but no cigar. It's not the fact that life ends that makes us who we are, it's the fact that we recognize we only have this life to live and thus we should live it to its fullest. You see, we aren't obsessed with death like you guys are. It seems that almost everything you do is done in preparation for the afterlife. You live your life cowering under the shadow of God's wrath, faithfully doing his bidding, hoping to win his graces. In fact, from what I've heard, Heaven is way cooler than this place. Heck, I bet you can't wait to get there.

We, on the other hand, try to make the best of what we have now because you can't take your regrets with you. And as hard as this may be for some of your fellow theists to believe, we aren't just watching out for number one. As I'm sure you know, you can experience great joy from helping others, from sacrificing something of yourself in order to benefit someone else in need. Being nice is its own reward. And yet, we don't need a God to threaten us with eternal damnation in order "to discipline our animal urges, to overcome racism and materialism, selfishness and arrogance and the sinful oppression of the most vulnerable and the most innocent among us" (but yet so many people insist on telling us that without the Bible they would do just those things). We seem to be able to figure these things out on our own. Besides, is it truly altruism if you are compelled to do it by threat of torture rather than doing it of your own free will?

I know that Jim believes way more in Darwin than in Deuteronomy, but he also believes that at Cold Spring Labs the most important thing is not whether you are a man or a woman, not whether you believe in God. The most important thing, as he says, is “to get something done.” Now there's an atheist I can believe in.

Actually, I'm a bit surprised that's the first time you've heard the phrase "get something done" from an atheist, because in fact, that happens to be our team motto (I'm wearing a baseball hat with that slogan as I type this). As I explained before, this is it, there ain't no other chance at life. Every atheist realizes that you've got to "get something done" while you've still got the chance. And thank goodness for that, because there have been a lot of great atheists who have made a lot of great contributions to this world. And just as importantly, the atheists working behind the scenes, the ones you don't really hear about, they are digging in the trenches, fighting to keep this country, and this world, from destroying itself over the pissing match you all are having about whose God is greatest.

And unfortunately, our work is never done.
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fear No More

Attention all you people who fear God's wrath, I've got great news for you. You don't need to be afraid any longer. You can safely ignore all those threats of eternal damnation that are keeping you from raping and killing indiscriminately. You can throw away your Bibles and sleep in on Sunday mornings from now on.

What I'm going to tell you is not hard to understand. It's based on the simple principles of logic and reason. It may be hard to accept at first. I understand. Living in constant fear all your life can wear down your critical thinking skills. But trust me, once you are able understand the argument and accept its conclusions, you will experience a revelation that is orders of magnitute greater than any religious experience can offer.

Are you ready? Don't be scared. Open your eyes and free your mind, because

God doesn't care if you believe in God!

Blasphemy you say! It says so right there in the Bible, believe in God or go to Hell. You are certainly the Devil in disguise! Be gone with you evil demon.

Now hold on a second. Stay with me for a moment. This is where that little concept called logic I referred to earlier comes into play. Ok, here it goes:

1. God gave us free will. God does not force us or cause us to do anything. We are completely responsible for our own actions.
2. Because we have free will, we are free to make decisions for ourselves based on our God given abilities intrinsic in free will, such as reason.
3. If reason leads us to conclude that God does not exist, then God should be perfectly fine with this conclusion because he gave us free will in the first place.

That's it, three easy steps. If you're having doubts, if reason tells you that religion is a big fairy tale but you still hang on just in case, well you no longer need to lie to yourself.

But God will punish us if we don't follow his word.

I am constantly hearing about how "God loves us". If God truly loves us, would he be so cruel as to give us the gift of reason and the complete freedom to exercise our intellect and conclude that he doesn't exist but then punishment us for using his gift? If this is the case, then God truly does not love us. Or maybe God made a mistake? Maybe he never thought that free will might lead to disbelief? Maybe he thought the evidence was so overwhelming that we would have no choice but to believe? Maybe he underestimated our sophisticated scientific ability to understand the universe and just assumed that some simple miracles a few thousand years ago would do the trick forever? Well then that is his mistake and to take it out on us is not the act of a loving god. Parents love their children, but they don't hand them a loaded gun and then blame them when they accidentally shoot someone.

It is impossible for us to fully understand the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Only God truly knows how the two work together. We will never be able to fully understand how God’s sovereignty and man’s free will work together.

Cough ... copout ... cough. This is the last refuge of a religious scoundrel. When you get to this point, you are basically saying "I give up". You run into a logical inconsistency and merely explain it away with God. What you are really saying is that we have free will except when God decides to exercise his sovereignty. This would imply that ultimately God is responsible because even his lack of interference is a conscious decision on his part to allow our free will to prevail. But God can't be responsible if we have free will, so we have a contradiction once again. How you survived this long without your head exploding is beyong me?
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Don't ask me how I came upon this particular web page, because I can't remember the chain of events that lead me there. It is on the WorldNetDaily web site, which from what I can tell has a conservative slant. The page itself is a critique of Richard Dawkin's recent TV special "Root of All Evil?". The review itself is nothing remarkable. But one paragraph did jump out at me:

Madeline Bunting, a columnist for the Guardian, who reviewed the series, wrote: "There's an aggrieved frustration that [atheist humanists] have been short-changed by history – we were supposed to be all atheist rationalists by now. Secularization was supposed to be an inextricable part of progress. Even more grating, what secularization there has been is accompanied by the growth of weird irrationalities from crystals to ley lines. As G.K. Chesterton pointed out, the problem when people don't believe in God is not that they believe nothing, it is that they believe anything."

So belief in crystals and ley lines are weird irrationalites but religion is not? And just where is all the credible evidence for all of religion's claims of miracles and supernatural beings? How is believing that a woman was impregnated by a god or that her son rose from the dead and will some day come back to earth any less irrational than believing in the power of crystals? And religion has never produced any weird irrationalities? Does the Salem witch trials come to mind? And believe it or not, some of the crystal web sites I found were actually written by Christians! (Although maybe they are not real Christians?) Sorry, but secularism does not have a monopoly on weird irrationalities. In fact, weird irrationalities are the hallmark of religion.

Belief in the power of crystals is merely a minor inconsistancy in logical reasoning compared to the effects of religion on rationality. In my quick perusal of some web sites devoted to the power of crystals, they seemed to be primarily about protecting yourself from negative energy and such. Yes, somebody could take this too far and foolishly decide to rely on crystals instead of seeing a doctor for a major health problem. But in general, it seems the biggest danger of believing in crystals will be your money magically disappearing from your pocketbook.

What I didn't find on these web sites was any prescription as to how to live your life. I didn't find anyone preaching about right and wrong, good and evil, saints and sinners. I didn't find anyone villifying people who don't believe in the power of crystals. I didn't find threats of eternal damnation for all those "immoral sinners" who don't follow the power of crystals.

Yes, believing in the power of crystals is an irrational belief. But something tells me that I would have a much easier time convincing a crystal believer that they are being irrational then I would a religious believer. If I got to choose, I would much rather live in a country where the majority of people believed in the power of crystals instead of the power of Christ. Crystals won't tell you whether homosexuality is a sin or whether abortion should be legal. Crystals won't try to impose creation myths upon our science classes or subvert our constitution. Crystals won't command people to persecute, hate and kill in the name of the Almighty Diamond. Hence, I have a much better chance of getting Crystalites to consider such things in a rational manner. Give me the weird irrationalities of secularism any day.

And a note to G.K. Chesterton: When they believe in God, they already believe anything.
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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Blaming the Victim

So I'm flipping through the TV channels this afternoon looking for a quick fix to veg to for a few minutes when I happened upon a documentary titled A Question of Miracles. It follows two faith healing evangelists (Benny Hinn and Reinhard Bonnke) on their "crusades" and then pretty much calls their bluff and explains away all the "miracles" performed by these two men of God as either fakes or just plain non-miracles (i.e. the "cured" still suffered from their afflictions after they had been "healed" or in the worst case, died shortly thereafter). Since I already knew that these guys are just scam artists preying off the pain, suffering and ignorance of their victims, I wasn't going to watch it, until I noticed that the Benny Hinn crusade they were going to examine was in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. So I just had to watch it.

This documentary was actually quite good. It took a scientific approach to answering questions about how large groups of people can be encouraged to behave in ways they would not normally behave (such as falling violently to the ground when Benny Hinn merely points to them). One of my favorite comparisons was to facism and Nazism in particular, such as how Hitler was able to get large groups of people to act out in ways they wouldn't normally be inclined to do. They even compared the Nazi salute of raising one arm up into the air with people at these crusades raising their arms up to God (as they were instructed to do over and over again).

But it was heartbreaking at the same time. Parents bringing their brain damaged children to be saved. Paraplegics in wheelchairs hoping to walk again. People shunning their medication and refusing to have operations because they believe they have been healed. And of course, the healing didn't begin until the collection plates had been passed. And they'll take cash, check or major credit card. The donation slips they hand out have suggested donation amounts, with the minumum being $500 and the maximum $10,000! The Rose Garden in Portland holds about 20,000 (and the place was packed). Assume the average donation was the minium $500. I'll let you do the math.

But I'm not going to write a review because you all know how it ends anyway. Instead, I want to concentrate on one particular family that was followed in the documentary. They had recently converted from Hinduism to Christianity and genuinely believed that Benny Hinn would cure their 10 year old boy from the two inoperable tumors in his brain. The doctors had given him only a short time to live, but they knew that with enough faith, God and Benny Hinn would cure their son.

Though they were struggling to make ends meet due to the amount of money it cost to care for their dying son, they were already on Hinn's $100/month donation plan. And at the crusade in Portland, they were so caught up in the moment that they decided to donate another $2000 there on the spot. Why they thought that giving $2000 to Benny Hinn would help cure their son, I don't know? Was God demanding some sort of monetary payment for his services? Sounds like blood money to me.

So they brought their son to this weekend long crusade with hopes that Benny Hinn would personally cure him. But as the crusade was winding down, Hinn had still not called out to their son. Amazingly, at the suggestion of the director of the documentary, on the last night, Hinn called the entire family up on stage. He spent minutes talking to the parents and praying for the boy and rallying the crowd. The emotions were overwhelming. And then at last, Hinn put his hands on the young boy's head and declared him healed.

And you all know how this one ends.

Nine months later and the boy is dead. The parents can barely speak, they are so overcome with grief after his death. They really believed that Benny Hinn (and God) were going to cure their son of his fatal brain tumors. So the family is out an extra $2000. Maybe they won't be so quick to throw it away as fast next time? And it's not like the boy had any alternatives. He was receiving medical treatment after all. The problem was, there was no cure. So if Benny Hinn could bring just a little hope and comfort to this family in the face of certain death, what's the harm?

One of the last questions the director asks the father after his son's death is whether he blames himself in anyway. And the father explains that his son was punished for his own sins earlier in life. He believes that he has cursed his family and that the curse may last for several more generations. This poor man believes that he is directly responsible for his son's brain tumors and may go to the grave believing that he basically killed his own son. And where did he get such a ridiculous idea? You guessed it, from Benny Hinn.

Bad things happen to good, innocent people. Yet this man will continue to suffer for the rest of his life believing that he has contributed to the death of his son. I guess there really is a Hell on earth, and religion is stoking the fires.
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nutty Professor

Some quotes from Bush's speech discussing the American Competitiveness Initiative at Tuskegee University.

And here are some things we need to do to make sure we shape the future. First is to make sure we're always on the leading edge of research and technology.

Basic research to meet one set of objectives can lead to interesting ideas for our society. It helps us remain competitive. So the government should double the commitment to the most basic -- critical research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years.

The federal government has got a role in making sure that there's research dollars available for places like Tuskegee. The federal government has got a role to provide incentive for private corporations to continue to invest in research and development.

So Bush is concerned about our scientific literacy?

This is coming from the same man who will not allow federal funding for stem cell research. According to the Boston Globe,

[Bush's] action spurred conservative members of Congress to introduce legislation that would criminalize both research with human embryonic stem cells and their future therapeutic use. If passed, the measure will send scientists, patients, and physicians to jail for up to 10 years and fine them $1 million. Competing legislation designed to overturn the ban was written a year later. Both measures passed the House and are now before the Senate.

Not only will he not allow funding, Bush and the Republican controlled Congress are going to throw people in jail who want to expand our scientific knowledge and help keep us on "the leading edge of research and technology".

And this is the same man who believes that evolution and "Intelligent Design" should both be taught in science classes.

Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about

Problem is, there is no debate in the scientific community about evolution. Evolution is the only scientific explanation for the development of life on our planet.

So Bush doesn't understand the difference between scientific fact and religious myth. The man is willing to imprison scientists working to help make our world a better place because he thinks a few cells are a human life. And yet we are supposed to believe that he is truly concerned about our scientific literacy and wants to stay on the leading edge of research and technology?

Sorry, but as long as we have Jesus' spokesman in the White House, science will continue to play second fiddle to God.
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

How Far Will They Go?

I agree with Rachel Maddow, this interview makes me physically ill.

As I've argued previously, when you consider a few cells to be a human life with the same protections as any other person in this country, then logically, there really are no exceptions for allowing abortions. When a pro-lifer says that "abortion is murder", then it is murder whether the condom broke, or she forgot to take her pill, or she was raped by her uncle.

So who do you prosecute and what are the penalties when abortion is a crime? If I kill my friend because he is merely an "inconvenience" to me, I will most likely spend the rest of my life in prison. If a fetus-baby has the same protections under our constitution as my friend, then surely someone should pay for this "convenience" killing as well.

"Go after the doctors who perform abortions" you say. Well sure, but if I pay someone to kill my friend for me, am I still not guilty of a serious crime? Should I be let off with a slap on the wrist or should I serve some hard time? Remember, the fetus-baby and my friend have the same protections under our constitution. And, since according to pro-lifers, most abortions are for mere convenience, both abortion and my plot to kill my friend are premeditated acts for purely selfish reasons and should probably be treated the same under the law.

We all know that pro-lifers are against abortion and want to make it illegal. I'm tired of hearing their same old tired rhetoric over and over again. What I want to know is how they are going to enforce it and what the penalties will be? As we all know (because the death penalty works so well), the best way to reduce crime is through deterrence. You've got to make the punishment severe enough to fit the crime. So please pro-lifers, stop paying lip service to your beliefs and give us something we can really sink our teeth into. You're not soft on crime, are you?

Bruce's Hot Stock Tip of the Week: Invest in prison futures
Bruce's Idea for New Hit TV Show: Law and Order - Forensic Vagina Specialist Unit
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Monday, April 03, 2006

Judge, Jury and Executioner

Quick quiz. Who said the following:

"Question comes up: is there a constitutional right to homosexual conduct? Not a hard question for me. It's absolutely clear that nobody ever thought when the Bill of Rights was adopted that it gave a right to homosexual conduct. Homosexual conduct was criminal for 200 years in every state. Easy question."

A: Jerry Falwell
B: Pat Robertson
C: James Dobson
D: Phyllis Schlafly

Tough choice, isn't it? These are all hateful bigots who have no respect for our constitutional freedoms and civil liberties. They would tear down a couple hundred years of hard work to establish the world's first truly secular government and replace it with their own god in a heartbeat. They have limited understanding of constitutional legal principles and use childish arguments based on ignorant, intolerant traditions and outdated laws. They view the Bill of Rights in the most narrow of terms in order to justify their discrimination. They see the establishment clause of the first amendment as a barrier to theocracy rather than as a protection against religious persecution.

Give up? Well, I have to admit something. It was a trick question (or rather, trick answers). Even though each of the above could have just as easily spoken those words, it wasn't any of them. No, it was someone far more dangerous to our country. Someone who actually has the ability to put those words into our laws. Someone who has the capacity to legalize bigotry. Those words were uttered by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia within the past month.

Yes, this is the logic of one of our supposedly most brilliant legal minds. If it isn't specifically granted in the Bill of Rights, then you don't get it. If it has been illegal in the past, for whatever reason, then you don't get it. If the Founding Fathers didn't have the foresight to consider it, then you don't get it. And this was the role model Bush used for his last two Supreme Court appointments!

This is Bush's America. This is the Religious Right's America. This is Scalia's America. You may someday be denied the right to control your own body. You may eventually be prosecuted, fined, and/or imprisoned for your behavior with another consenting adult or adults. And this will all be done with the approval of the United States of America.

And don't think that this will stop at homosexuality. It is true that God hates fags, but he also has a lot to say about straight folks too.
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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Witch Doctor?

So some people have invested yet even more time and money into something that the reasonable among us already know, Praying Won't Affect Heart Patients.

But apparently some doctors still don't accept the results:

Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, said he believes intercessory prayer can influence medical outcomes, but that science is not equipped to explore it.

So let's explore this doctor's logic a little closer:

1. Science is not equipped to explore the effects of prayer (or I'm assuming God's intervention in our world in general)
2. The good doctor still believes that prayer can affect medical outcomes

The obvious question is how the doctor knows that prayer affects medical outcomes if we don't have the ability to measure the effects of prayer in the first place? If we have no way of determining whether prayer works (i.e. we can't quantitatively measure the results using our puny little scientific method), then we have no way of detecting any correlation between prayer and medical outcomes. Thus, we cannot in any way positively assert that prayer influences medical outcomes because that would imply that we were able to measure the effects of prayer (which we cannot).

The next question is why the doctor still believes that prayer can affect medical outcomes when he has no evidence to back up his beliefs? Of course, he has faith.

The final question you should be asking yourself is whether you want to go to a doctor who makes decisions based on sound empirical evidence and medical research or on whatever personal faith he happens to adhere to?

No offense, but if I ever go into a doctor's office and see a certificate from the Christian Medical and Dental Association hanging on the wall, I'm going to turn around and run like hell. They can pray for me all they want, just as long as they don't try and send me a bill for their services.
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