Ls&Cs: Changing Minds; Religions and Cults; Abortion; Wishful Thinking

Catching up on some links from a few weeks ago.

Salon, 21 June, Mary Elizabeth Williams: The science of changing your mind — and someone else’s, subtitled, Can neurology tell us how to deprogram our radicalized loved ones?


Salon, 26 June, Shawna Kay Rodenberg: I grew up in an off-the-grid Christian commune. Here’s what I know about America’s religious beliefs, subtitled, Classifying American Christians into the imaginary phyla of cults and not-cults is a dangerous mistake

With numerous personal anecdotes and case studies.

…if you find yourself talking to an American Christian, chances are they have been reared in the fear of making a wrong move, of choosing the wrong side, and believe that doing so could have nightmarish results in this life and the next. Chances are that fear is so deeply ingrained that it no longer registers as fear. Fear is simply the lens through which they view the world.


NYT, 27 June, Gary Wills: The Bishops Are Wrong About Biden — and Abortion

This is not a singular omission. No one told “Matthew” or “Mark” or “Luke” or “John” or Paul, or any other New Testament author, that he should condemn this sin of all sins. Nor did any author of the Old Testament raise this alarm, with the result that we do not have Moses or Jesus on record as opposing abortion. Nor did any of the major definitive creeds.

Nor St. Augustine, Aquinas, or the Pope in 1930.

The Catholic Church no longer claims that opposition to abortion is scriptural. It is not a religious issue. It is called a matter of natural law, which should be discernible by natural reason. Yet as the Catholic judge John T. Noonan said, the most recognized experts on natural law, in universities, human rights organizations, medical and psychological bodies, do not generally oppose abortion. Nor, according to polls, do a majority of American citizens, even Catholic citizens. Some women of my own extended family have had abortions and still consider themselves Catholics. President Biden seems to be on their side, as is Pope Francis. This, of course, does not affect the American bishops. They hate this pope and this president anyway.


Godless In Dixie, 1 July, Neil Carter: Your Religion Is Special, Just Like All the Others


Vox, 3 July, Dylan Matthews: What if the truth isn’t out there?, subtitled, The wishful thinking behind the search for alien life.

Comment: This is my take. As with the yearning for evidence for telepathy and various ESP mechanisms, the desperation to believe, in the absence of any reproducible evidence, is a count against. (That is, the need to believe is the basis for motivated thinking, that excuses weak evidence and disregards counter-evidence.)

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