“You can’t miss it…”

“…when I tell you it’s there.”

That’s a quote from this talk from TED featuring Michael Shermer. He is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine and here he discusses “Strange Beliefs”.

UFO’s, Mother Mary on a cheese sandwich, tributes to Satan in music lyrics… all of these can be traced back to seeing whatever you want to see. The mind can be tricked easily and it’s really a shame if we don’t recognize that.

The church often takes advantage of these principles when presenting their weekly messages and music presentations. Weekend retreats and camps can capitalize on the phenomenon. The revival pastors of my youth made a living on “telling us it was there”.

This video is an entertaining and light-hearted look at the subject of “belief” and the ways we are actually programmed to see what we want to see, even if it isn’t there.

National Stop Praying Day

You’ve probably heard by now that the National Day of Prayer has been deemed a violation of the Establishment Clause. The suit was brought against President Obama and others by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I won’t go into the specifics since you can read that elsewhere.

It’s my contention that the National Day of Prayer has never been about prayer but mainly about political posturing and in some sense power. Since it’s inception in the 50’s it seems that it has become a way for politicians to massage their religious (predominantly Christian) constituents.

Many have argued with me on this site and others that there was nothing inherently wrong with such things as the National Day of Prayer, prayer at the inauguration, prayer to open Congressional sessions, etc. But I am very excited that this ruling came down and I just hope it stands up through the appeal process (although it is highly unlikely it will).

Regardless of what you think about prayer (I for one do not pray), the idea that our national and local leaders can invoke religious and mystical acts like prayer and encourage us to invoke them in our own lives (either directly or implied) is a scary notion. Read the proclamation for yourself. This part is especially troubling:

I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love.

I’ve never understood the notion of a National Day of Prayer. It never made sense. If we don’t allow prayer in schools how is the President allowed to ask the nation to pray on one day in May every year? Some say, “If you don’t want to pray don’t. If you don’t believe in it, then it doesn’t matter.” My response: ”Hell yes, it matters!”

As U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb noted in her ruling:

“The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.”

Our President imploring people to pray should scare you. Why? Can you imagine the outrage if the President invoked a “National Stop Praying Day” where our President says this to us:

I call upon Americans to stop praying on this day. Our freedoms and blessings are a result of our efforts and no spiritual being real or otherwise has any bearing on them whatsoever. This land that we love is not guided or protected by the hand of a supreme being. Give grace to each other and care for each other because that’s where our strength lies, not in the daily intervention of God.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe in the power of personal prayer. I know that many of my friends and readers here do. It’s one thing for the President to state his personal belief in prayer. It’s quite another for him to “call upon” us to pray (or not pray) as well

Happy 5th Anniversary SCP

Although I was away on April 1st vacationing, SCP (for whatever reason) wasn’t far from my mind. I love this site for so many reasons that I won’t take the time to elaborate on them or I would bore you, but all you have to do is read the past five years of posts to see how writing here has transformed me.

I would say it’s been for the better but I am sure some will disagree. And that’s been one of the largest transformations… I just don’t care (as much as I used to) what others think. Blogging, writing and sharing openly your thoughts and ideas can translate into thickening your skin.

This site has also transformed over the past five years. At one point it was a daily place where many joined to debate, laugh and bug each other. Now, a lot of what I write and share on a regular weekly basis can be found on our Facebook Fan Page. But I will continue to blog and post here from time to time. Facebook isn’t conducive to “blogging” in my opinion. Also, this site has some historical value in my opinion and people still find it and comment on posts long since gone from my memory.

But this site will change in the near future. I will be moving to a new look and feel. I am not sure how this will effect the old posts but they will always be available in some form and fashion. It’s time for an upgrade on this old house. I am suspecting that my writing will change as well but that will remain to be seen and you can be the judge of that.

Thanks for a great five years to all of my friends (new and old) here on SCP. Looking forward to the future.

Steve