An Extreme Act For Religion

Religious views often lead to strange beliefs and behavior. Apparently this is true beyond the Judeo Christian world per this report from Reuters:

A Thai Buddhist monk cut off his penis with a machete because he had an erection during meditation and declined to have it reattached, saying he had renounced all earthly cares, a doctor and a newspaper said on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old monk, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons, allowed medical staff at Maharaj hospital, 780 km (480 miles) south of Bangkok to dress his wound, but refused reattachment, hospital chief Prawing Euanontouch said.

“We cleaned up the wound, gave him some stitches, but he declined to have it reattached because he said had abandoned everything,” Prawing told Reuters by telephone.

As pathetic as this is, at least he is only harming himself and not imposing his views on erections on others.

Evangelicals Want to Remain Right Wing Extremists

The Buffalo News reports that a Florida pastor has resigned as president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America as members didn’t go along with his plans to extend their focus beyond the issues of the religious right:

The Florida pastor recently tapped to lead the Christian Coalition of America resigned his position in a dispute about conservative philosophy – more than a month before he was to fully assume his post, he said this week.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Fla., said he quit as president-elect of the group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson because he realized he would be unable to broaden the organization’s agenda beyond opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment.

“These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about,” Hunter said.

The resignation took place Tuesday during an organization board meeting. Hunter said he was not asked to leave.

“They pretty much said, “These issues are fine, but they’re not our issues; that’s not our base,’ ” Hunter said. A statement issued by the coalition said Hunter resigned because of “differences in philosophy and vision.” The organization, headed by President Roberta Combs, claims a mailing list of 2.5 million.

Hunter’s move signals more tumult for a group that has fallen on hard times. Members have complained the coalition’s agenda has become too liberal and diffuse.

Hunter hoped to revive the group by expanding its agenda to include what he called “compassion issues.” He also planned to teach evangelicals how to “vote with their life,” or integrate and apply their Christian values to public life.

The coalition’s rejection of Hunter’s approach means it is unwilling to part with its partisan, Republican roots, Hunter said.

“To tell you the truth, I feel like there are literally millions of evangelical Christians that don’t have a home right now,” Hunter said.

It looks like Rove, despite his mistakes in 2006, sure knew which issues would work to mobilize the religious right to support Republicans. Keeping two gays from marrying is apparently more in line with what Jesus would do than to protect the earth from global warming in their minds.

(Hat tip to Mainstream Baptist.)

Deepak Chopra and Considerations of Us vs. Them

Yesterday I commented on Chopra’s latest posts at Huffington Post. Normally I am spared the trouble of writing very much to refute Chopra as various writers at the Science Blogs normally get to him before I do, but this time I was first. Pharyngla got to it today, and this post stems from a comment I added to their post. PZ Myers has similar objections to Chopra’s writing as I expressed, including the manner in which Chopra pleas for support by offering silly false dichotomies. He writes, “The flim-flam artist is losing his magic–I’m beginning to think his exposure at the Huffington Post might not be such a bad thing after all.”

Myers has a point that the more Chopra lays out his beliefs, the clearer it becomes how absurd they are. Before he started attacking science at Huffington Post, my suspicion is that most liberals had very little idea of what Chopra believed, and might have expressed vague approval in order to be open minded about his new age beliefs in order to be consistent with liberal views on freedom of religion. His views were mysterious, with no reason for liberals to necessarily care or be offended.

The more Chopra describes his views, the clearer it becomes that he is not just a writer expressing his personal religious views. Many of us are accustomed to just ignoring those whose religion is used to fill in the gaps left by current scientific knowledge. If they want to say a god initiated the big bang or set evolution in motion, there are the obvious logical problems but the view is harmless, as long as such a view doesn’t interfere with science ultimately answering these questions and making such religious beliefs as outdated as those who blamed earth quakes on the anger of the gods before we understood plate techtonics.

The problem with Chopra is that his beliefs compel him to attack both established science and the scientific method. Even worse, Chopra quite frequently repeats the exact arguments used by the religious right when he both attacks evolution and argues for the existence of a creator (or that the universe is conscious).

The more Chopra gives specific descriptions of his views, the less they are a vague new age viewpoint which we can just ignore and the more they are clearly attacks on science and reason which are every bit as dangerous as those which come from the religious right. His tactics also become obvious with the manner in which he is now ending his posts with false dichotomies. Intelligent readers will realize that neither choice offered by Chopra is the one that is most plausible, and will see the logical fallacies inherent in Chopra’s views. Chopra offers creationism versus random chance as the only choices, obfuscating the fact that evolution provides a non-random alternative which has been verified by experimentation and application of the scientific method. He is similarly falacious when he offers random chemical reactions as the only alternative to his view that the universe has a consciousness of its own. (more…)