Monday, November 3, 2008

5 Marḥeshwan 5769: Cliché Day/Sandwich Day


Note: Tomorrow is Election Day (here in the United States). “Party at the Polls!” gives some useful tips on how to make voting a more comfortable and fun experience for everybody.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Notes on a few books:
    1. Join Me! by Danny Wallace: This is one of two books relevant to my project I have read recently. Wallace’s great-uncle at one point tried to start a 1,000-person agricultural commune; he got a total of three volunteers. After the great-uncle’s funeral, Mr. Wallace was inspired to start a 1,000-person collective. He therefore placed an advertisement in a paper saying little more than “JOIN ME” and this and other efforts at publicizing created a movement which took on a life of its own. At first Wallace provided no purpose for the Join Me movement, but eventually “the Leader” needed to provide the needed purpose in the form of sending people to do nice things for old men, later expanding it to doing nice thing for practically anyone. Despite that one name of the movement is the “Karma Army”, it never gained any real theology, so at best it was a quasi-religion. This book is perhaps useful for understanding something of how ideological movements can get started. It is also sufficiently humorous for even those who have no interest in the origins of religions to find interesting reading.

      Relevant Web-sites:

    2. Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero: This is the other of two books relevant to my project which I have recently read. Dr. Prothero notes that in the United States most people, even religious people, know very little about religion, whether their own or those of others. (This includes the misconception that Noaḥ’s wife was Joan of Arc, something I previously thought no one actually believed!) This ignorance makes for severe trouble in understanding and dealing with religiously knowledgeable people, which includes a very sizable fraction of the planet. He also explains how we got into such a sorry state (runaway tolerance compounded with anti-intellectualism, including emotion-emphasizing revivalism). Dr. Prothero therefore advocates basic religious education for everyone. This book ought to be required reading for everyone just so people realize how much they do do not know.

      Relevant Web-sites:

    3. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne: I have not read this book yet, though I have watched the movie it is based on. However, I understand this book is (and certainly the movie is) based on the idea that you get what you think about (“the law of attraction”), which allegedly works through means not demonstrated to be real. Wikipedia presents a good deal of valid criticism of this idea, which will be a nontrivial task to outclass. (Though I think I can probably write about how Secret-esque thinking is subject to confirmation bias.) I would like to note that I obtained the book in exactly the wrong way that Byrne says I should get it. It was something I put on my wish-list and specifically thought I would never get that way since there were a zillion other people wishing for The Secret, too. I thus did not bother thinking about getting it that way. When the book came up on eBay, I fully expected that any time I bid on a copy that I would be outbid. Sum thinking: “I’m not going to get this book any time soon.” According to the law of attraction, this should mean that I should not have gotten a copy of this book. And yet, to my own surprise, my request on for The Secret was fulfilled, and I got a copy, proved by this picture:

      Me:  1, the law of attraction:   0.
  2. What's The Harm? has updated, giving more examples of why irrationality is dangerous.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a song by weird musical artist Weird Al Yankovic, “Bob”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.

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