Last month I picked up a book at the library with an engaging title -- 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True. The book was written by journalist Guy P. Harrison in 2011. The premise of the book was to present silly things that people believe in.
Glancing through the table of contents, I saw a number of beliefs that I could shake my head about and think, ¨Man, how can people belief such stuff?¨ These included:
- A Psychic Read My Mind
- ESP Is the Real Deal
- Nostradamus Saw It All Coming
- The Holocaust Never Happened
- NASA Faked the Moon Landings
- A Flying Saucer Crashed Near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and the Government Knows All about It
- Astrology Is Scientific
- Most Conspiracy Theories Are True
- Something Very Strange Is Going on in the Bermuda Triangle
The idea is that believing in such things is kooky, irrational, silly, wrong, and possibly dangerous.
Also on Harrison's list are a bunch of stuff that I believe in (and you might too) that he also thinks is kooky, irrational, silly, wrong, and dangerous, such as:
- I Know There Is an Afterlife Because of All the Near-Death Experiences
- I Believe in Miracles
- Global Warming Is a Political Issue and Nothing More
- Faith Healing Cures the Sick and Saves Lives
- Intelligent Design Is Real Science
- Prayer Works
- Archaeology Proved My Religion Is True
- Angels Watch Over Me
- I'm Going to Heaven When I Die
I will address a few of these individually, but how many people really believe the world would be a better place if everyone thought all of these beliefs were false? I think the world would be a better place if more people believed these things.
I doubt what I have to say will change Mr. Harrison's mind, because he is very good at making his case in a narrow, legalistic way. However, I think there can be a strong case made that these things that I, and many others, believe in are true.
For example, Harrison is skeptical of near-death experiences. He wrote his book before Ebam Alexander's excellent book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Near-Death Experience and Journey into the Afterlife. I think I will believe Dr. Alexander over Mr. Harrison. Harrison would find it difficult to explain how Alexander found out about his dead sister that he only learned about through his near-death experience.
Harrison's position on global warming is equally laughable. A fair-minded skeptic would include global warming as something that you can't believe in based on what we know. However, Harrison blinding states, ¨I am convinced that global warming is real.¨ So debate over, move on. Sorry, but the science is not settled, and more important, the solutions proposed by liberals to address the ¨problem¨ cost so much that the solution is worse than the problem.
Harrison is once again showing his bias (and ignorance) when he claims intelligent design is just repackaged creationism. His book came out before Stephen Meyer's excellent Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Meyer's argument is clearly not repackaged creationism, but something tells me that Harrison would not even bother to read the book because it would undermine his belief system.
Until an angel personally visits Harrison, he believes such beings are all a figment of our imaginations. My grandfather's elder brother fought in World War I. He ran messages through the trenches. While he was in Europe, his father died but the news did not reach him when a week later he was lost in the trenches. If he went the wrong way he would be captured by the Germans. To his surprise his father appeared to him and pointed the direction to safety. Well, because Mr. Harrison was not there, I guess we have to believe that this never happened.
Harrison obviously believes that any time spent on religion is a waste of time. Prayer is pointless. Jesus never did any miracles. And don't bother looking to archaeology to find proof of your religion because the Bible is just a bunch of fables recorded by ignorant goat herders. I disagree. Harrison's ¨better, more rational¨ world without religion would not be pretty. Believers know better about the power of prayer, the reality of miracles (ancient and modern), and even the archaeological evidence of Biblical events.
Skeptical secularists like Harrison dream of a better world where people have abandoned the silly belief in God and all that comes with it. Well, they don't have to dream about it. We already have examples of society where the rulers and decision makers are skeptical secularists. Secularism gave us Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia.
If we want America to be a better place we need less skeptical secularism, not more.
P.S. There is a chapter titled ¨The Bible Code Reveals the Future.¨ One of the evidences Harrison uses to debunk this believe is to point out that the Bible Code got it wrong when it predicted Yasser Arafat would be assassinated when he actually died of illness at age seventy-five. Whoops! Since Harrison wrote his book we have learned that Arafat died from polonium poisoning. Queue the Twilight Zone music.
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