Friday 19 June 2015

The Bradford Sisters and the Faith Pyramid

Much debate has raged this week regarding the (presumed) Syrian bound sisters from Bradford. How could these people become so radicalised in our free and democratic society? To the rational mind it remains a complete enigma as to why anyone would choose such an irrational, immoral, preposterous and ultimately dangerous path. Some blame the internet. Some blame extremists in the local community. Some blame the radicalised brother. But regardless of where these hateful ideologies were preached from, how could such insidious ideas possibly take root?

It seems to me that some groundwork has to be done first. Believing in vile nonsense requires a bit of effort. Before you can believe in something utterly ridiculous and hateful, you need to first believe in something seemingly slightly less ridiculous and hateful. The best way to believe in something slightly less ridiculous is firstly to make it a cultural norm, so we stop questioning it, and secondly to make sure you start believing in it before you are capable of fully comprehending the ridiculousness of the belief.

Religious fanaticism and its associated consequences could therefore be seen as having a Maslow styled hierarchy of belief. Here’s my belief pyramid and the consequences you can expect at each level.

While much thought and effort is directed at tackling those at the top of the pyramid, society seems equally keen to continue fuel the system from the bottom, ensuring that we have a constant fresh supply of enough receptive minds to climb to the top of the pyramid.

Of course things are a lot more nuanced than my knowingly provocative graphic suggests and I’m keen to stress that the attributes of these levels of religiosity are not restricted to any particular faith.

Finally, does the general decline in religion mean that this pyramid will eventually die out, or will we just find a new base?

Tuesday 17 February 2015

(They Long To Be) Close To You: A Rational Explanation

As a sceptical and pedantic old git, one thing that especially infuriates me is people who, when presented with a situation that is not immediately explainable to them, resort to the comforting pre-prepared paranormal or supernatural explanation that is prevalent in their culture. Indeed, if that instantly thought of supernatural or paranormal explanation also adheres to a previously subscribed to worldview or supports an ulterior agenda, then very little effort is often expended in identifying the natural, and frequently rather banal, actual explanation for the phenomenon.

As an example, let us consider these immortal words from the sadly demonstrably mortal, Karen Carpenter: 
 “Why do birds suddenly appear, every time, you are near?”

A curious portent indeed and one worthy of critical and unbiased examination rather than simply dismissing it as a mere justification of the allure of the recipient of Ms Carpenter’s affection. Leaving aside the fact that extensive scientific research carried out in the sexual selection preferences of female Homo sapiens has shown no measurable correlation with an increased avian presence let us consider more plausible explanations for the ubiquitous fowl. Indeed we need to look no further than the first 3 lines of the chorus:
“On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true               
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair”

Clearly the reference to fictional spiritual beings is an extrapolation of the initial flawed supposition regarding the divinely bestowed attributes of the subject. It would not be unreasonable to assume that any interference with the person in question at the time of the birth would be from a member of the family or a trained medical professional, most likely, a midwife. Karen then alleges that the angels (or as we have already established, most probably midwife) sprinkled moon dust in the hair of the new-born. Although Karen’s claim was made in 1970, shortly after the first Apollo mission to land on the moon, and indeed bring back small samples of moon dust, it seems unlikely that the target of Karen’s affection would be so young. Furthermore, Karen’s claim is actually plagiarised and can be traced back to Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 1963, long before the plausible availability of moon dust on Earth.

We must therefore now consider what substitute for moon dust the offending midwife must have applied to the head the infant later to become the infatuation of Karen Carpenter. Perusing a supermarket for handy sized box of small granules that can be easily sprinkled from a perforated opening the obvious purchase would be a box of Trill.

Suddenly a rational and non-supernatural explanation becomes clear. Karen Carpenter simply had the hots for a scruffy chap with birdseed in his hair placed there many years before by a malevolent midwife.
Angels and moon dust my arse, you just need to think about these things for a while