War profiteering

October 6, 2010

My skeptical thought of the day came about from the Rational Skepticism forum, where someone wanted some ‘scary ghost stories’ about ex-skeptics turning to religion after being prideful rationalist sorts. It got me looking around the Net for examples and I came up with Peter Steele, RIP, of Type O Negative, and Dave Mustaine, of Megadeth.

Steele was an often-depressed, frequent drug abuser and apparent atheist for most of his life; evidently he turned to religion when mortality gave him a scare. I suppose xians would be happy that he died of heart failure as one of them. Mustaine experienced some turmoil in his life, hurt his arm, to the point that he might not play the guitar again; and after investing himself in the guitar, I guess he was ripe for the picking too.

Steele chose religion out of hope in an afterlife; Mustaine basically gave Pascal’s Wager as his reason. I wouldn’t consider either of these as good reasons for adopting faith. But on reflection, I guess that’s the point. That’s why believers continue to employ arguments like these. They simply work, on some people. It doesn’t matter if the argument makes much sense or stands up to scrutiny. Catch the right person in a properly vulnerable moment, and they’re in.

Now, I’ve considered the merits of acting like Job’s companions, picking on god while the believer’s down, but I seem to have enough of a sense of decorum to not do so — unlike the vultures around the deathbeds of skeptics, looking for the last-minute conversion. It suggests to me that the skeptic’s best course of action is to help make a better world, put simply. If people turn to religion in bad times, and away in prosperity, then what’s the downside of prosperity?

But if organized religion thrives on disaster — what does this mean? Would believers be well advised to exploit disaster? Well, they already do that…would they go so far as to create, or prolong, or exacerbate disaster? Maybe they do.


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