Identify your beliefs in one short phrase, please

This post has been in draft format since October 2010. WIth the recent Rapture discussion, I thought it might be worthwhile dusting it off and finishing it.

On the weekend I was asked about my religious views, with respect to how I identified myself through Facebook. Whilst I think the intention was to push my buttons and spark controversy, it’s instead had a different impact on me.

Until a few minutes ago I considered myself, according to my entry on Facebook, as being “strongly atheist.” At the time I set this, I certainly felt as though my stand was being questioned on a frequent basis (I was marrying Magdalena and her family identifies as Catholic), and the position of “atheist” didn’t summarise my feelings strongly enough.

I’m not someone who is uncertain, or simply hasn’t been exposed to the right information or a strong enough opinion to sway me. On the contrary, I’m quite certain of what I believe. Back when you could click your religious affiliation link on Facebook and find others who were similarly aligned, there was only a few dozen of us in the “strongly atheist” camp. I wasn’t in a majority; not by a long shot. But I also wasn’t alone.

So what has changed in the last few years? I think there’s been two major influences on me.

Firstly, my general day-to-day life has exposed me to more people with a greater range in religious associations. Many of the people I consider the dearest consider themselves Christian, or perhaps “strongly Christian.” These people love me for who I am (cliched, I know) and what I believe in, and funnily enough seem to care less about questioning my lack of faith than you might expect.

Secondly, I listen to the Joe Rogan Podcast quite a lot. Through this I’ve been exposed to an even greater variety of ideas and takes on religion, spirituality, and more often that not, their links to hallucinogenic drugs. I find the podcast format very interesting, in that I feel like I almost know Joe, Redban, Joey Diaz and the rest of the Death Squad crew personally. I feel like I know them as deeply as I know people I consider my friends, though the closest interaction I’ve ever had was seeing Joe from 50m, at work at the UFC in January. That’s a weird position to be in, when you’re in Perth, Western Australia, and they’re in Los Angeles, USA, and have no idea you exist.

However, I feel like I’m involved in a conversation with these people, whereby I’m not actually talking, but instead just get to listen.

I’m eavesdropping on the most captivating, relevant and applicable conversation imaginable.

Many times I feel like the podcast has been tailored just for me, as the topics discussed intersect my interests perfectly. The fact that both sides of any argument or idea are always discussed (that’s one of Joe’s awesome personal traits) means that often my perspective comes up in the discussion anyway. The fact is I respect the hell out of these guys, and admire their honesty and intent.

So yeah, for the last 6 months my religion-as-defined-on-Facebook has been “Joe Rogan” and in the same way as Christians have found a role model in Jesus, I feel like I have a role model in Joe. The main differences I see is that Joe talks one way to me, instead of me talking one way to Him…

And I can prove to you that Joe exists ;)

The vaccine-autism link proven false, again

Anyone that’s studied statistics, even at a very basic level, will be able to tell you that “correlation does not equal causality.” Just because two things move in the same direction doesn’t mean they’re interacting with each other, or even influenced by each other. It’s very dangerous to draw assumptions. In statistical circles there’s even a term for a person who draws these links where the data doesn’t support it.

“Idiot.”

Unfortunately, autism traditionally strikes children between the ages of one and two. It’s around this time that a bunch of vaccinations are typically administered. For about the last decade parents that needed to blame something for their children’s illness sought refuge in attacking “big pharma.” Hopefully this will stop now that the main proponent of this disinformation has been proven completely and absolutely fraudulent.

Your mesiah is a liar.

He was taking money from lawyers to create laboratory data. The other ten researchers that formed the panel that issued the initial report indicating causality have petitioned to have their names removed from the paper. Thiomersal has been removed from vaccinations in the US since the late 90s and the rate of autism is still climbing, not that thiomersal has been ever proven to be harmful to humans. Read the article and follow the links to the other sources. Don’t use Google to reinforce your crumbling position. What’s that saying about “degree in bias reinforcement from the Google University?”

The problem with stupid people is that they’re not able to have their opinions swayed by evidence, data or new facts. They’ll hang on to their “beliefs” as though it’s their right. I love quoting Emma in this respect:

Anyone without a medical degree is not qualified to have an opinion.

This issue really gets me wound up, because parents have the “right” to reject these proven medicines because they “have a bad feeling about it.” We get outraged when Michael Jackson hangs his kid off a balcony but when some parent chooses to not have their child vaccinated we applaud their right to choose. How does that work and what does it say about us as a society? Is it just another instance of natural selection?