Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #19: Animism

Scientific discovery is the bane of woo-woo’s existence, since New Agers adore their appeals to nature, as well as the ancient, while hilariously spreading their propaganda regarding the ails of societal advance through social media they accessed using the very progressive science and system they abhor. One of the most vital concepts in their repertoire is animism, which is basically the belief that everything is consciousness, and has spirit. The consensus defines matter as being directly constructed from spirit, which they misconstrue in the rhetoric as “energy” so they may dupe some people into thinking their way is scientific. Spoiler: it’s not. Science has revealed much more simple explanations for the existence of stuff in the universe. Of course, New Agers will insist that science hasn’t revealed everything yet, thus they cling to their nonsense as if it has any use.

old time religion

Spiritual concepts evolve over time, thus each age that passes embodies their own particular alterations to the traditions of the past. With the rise of monotheism during the bronze age, many began to reject the ideas of animism, instead asserting that worship of multiple spirits that dwell in the rocks and trees was silly, blasphemous, and primitive. The modern age has provided even better refutations to the tribalistic belief of animism, and the age of enlightenment has shown itself to actually be a utility. Still, woo-woo tribes reject this because they feel it is somehow limiting, regardless of how much the enlightenment age of empiricism has expanded our lifespans, connected us in ways we never imagined before, and given us the opportunity to actually find answers to how the universe functions. So many limits, yet animism has provided lots of inventions and progress of its own, right?

wrong

It is rather childish to anthropomorphize everything you see, and while I typically applaud imagination, I also find it to be a paranoid state in adults who take it too seriously. Think about the implications of everything having a spirit that needed appeasement – the rocks, trees, and grains of sand – all are watching you…

“I think the main reason these beliefs regarding consciousness and spirit are so appealing is because they muffle an inherent dread of death.”

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What does this belief do to the human psyche? For one, it gives them a reason to hold delusions of grandeur about themselves.

“I am a super shaman that sees stuff you normies can’t! Behold my pow-ah, and buy my tea leaf readings! They gives you luck becuz spirits!”

Charlatans toting a label of “shaman” tend to prey on those who seek answers, suckering folks out of hard-earned money for the magic beans Mr. or Missus Spiritual pulled out of their holy ass.

goku

Having multiple ghoulish eyes upon you from everywhere, is the ultimate induced state of madness. The consideration of every bad occurrence being the direct result of “dark forces” is a paranoid, irrational, useless belief. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who thinks invisible forces are after them? They get very angry when you try to reason with them, and are not convinced by evidence because “feelings” are what drives them.

I think the main reason these beliefs regarding consciousness and spirit are so appealing is because they muffle an inherent dread of death. We know that at some point, our bodies will fail us, which is a scary notion that us adults must face. The basic claims of this seem to make it quite evident to me:

Everything is spirit.
Spirit is immortal.
I am spirit.
Therefore: I am immortal, and everything.

Talk about some real dedicated wishful thinking! I suppose it takes real courage to face death.

People are free to believe that rocks have consciousness, and that water remembers passing through Adolf Hitler’s bladder, spreading harmful beliefs from the cradle of humanity like babbling infants. However they are ultimately wrong in doing so, and regressive with their agenda. I have every right to question the behaviors that result from this, and to ridicule bad ideas when they affect my life. Those who believe in these fantasies fall into the paranoid pit of their own psyche, which hurts them and their loved ones. I have been one of those loved ones hurt by such horrid fantasies, thus I deem it a duty of mine to speak out against it. Believing these things is like a drug that peaks then crashes – damaging the body, the mind, and relationships along the ride. Ultimately, these ideas become an addiction. Just say no to animism.

pet rock

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #18: The Mind

For last weeks Wednesday Woo, click here:Wednesday Woo #17: Karma and Morality.

When one hangs around New Age circles for any amount of time, their main concern with consciousness, the mind, and individuality becomes quite obvious: they wish to be rid of it all. Now, I have mentioned this subject before, particularly when it comes to the dangers of losing one’s individual freedom, but this time I would like to focus your attention on the concept of “losing the mind” AKA “becoming pure consciousness,” which translates to a method of peace that essentially turns your mind to goo. The dangers of this idea should be quite evident, but those who desire to attain spiritual enlightenment silence the alarm bells.

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“Being a human being is a tough state, especially if you have an awareness of that nagging voice within.”

Human beings cannot achieve this “no mind” of course, but that doesn’t stop New Agers from pretending. I say pretending simply because they claim to be at peace, yet when faced with criticism of their ideas, they tend to fall down from nirvana cloud nine in order to give me shit, telling me that I must open my mind to their woo, without any clue that I had already done so, much to my own despair. This is a hypocritical role in which they partake, and either they lack the cognitive ability to be self-aware (because they don’t expose themselves to adequate stimuli), or they are liars. Either way, I see no moral direction in the practice, since any negative or critical thought that arises is cast aside for more pleasant, yet ultimately meaningless platitudes.

Being a human being is a tough state, especially if you have an awareness of that nagging voice within. I cannot blame people for wishing to escape such a thing, however there are better methods in which to do this. It’s ok to take a moment to relax from the inner critic – listen to music, do something creative, learn a new, challenging skill, etc., but to abandon such stimuli leads to your own brain’s demise. What I find really disconcerting about running away from stimuli for a fake inner peace is, these folks say they wish to be more creative, yet critical thinking is the pathway toward greater creativity.

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If you have yet to read Darwin’s Apple, I suggest you check it out. It explains religious ritual, as well as prayer from a more evolutionary correlation of trying to deal with the agony of having higher order consciousness. Being aware of the self, as well as being able to predict future events such as one’s own death brings existential problems. It makes sense that human beings would wish to escape, but the reality is: there is no escaping death. All there can be is a momentary lapse in memory. No amount of belief in energy living on forever is going to change this fact, but believing your energy will last forever places a person in a state where they never have to face any mental challenges that would better their lives while they are here, not to mention, offers no moral guideline to how to treat others.

“It would be chaos – with no technological advances, because intuitions have a tendency to be absolutely wrong in practice, thus any invention would fail.”

If one is willing to sacrifice their own individuality to attain a fake sense of peace, they will push others to do the same, which they do, and wish for everyone to “wake up” to the nonsense they have adopted. Consider the implications of a society run by people who refuse to be challenged, think karma is for real, are skeptical of science, and think that their own personal truth is the actual truth. Seems like woo-woo-Jesus would like such a society…

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It would be chaos – with no technological advances, because intuitions have a tendency to be absolutely wrong in practice, thus any invention would fail. Without critical thinking, brains would be mush, so no one would even bother to care for advancement anyhow. Language and writing would decline, because New Agers consider words as meaningless, but poverty would advance, since karma/reincarnation as a moral compass provides only a way of looking down on those who weren’t born into successful circumstances. In fact, you don’t have to even imagine such a thing, since OSHO did his own experiment in mindlessness, having created a small society, but a society nonetheless, where people abandoned their minds, only to be traumatized. Many of them were never the same.

 

“Shoes and minds must be left at the gate.”

 

Keep your mind healthy, for it is pertinent if you wish to live a good, moral, healthy life. Read books that challenge you, play games with people, and begin practicing critical thinking for your own sake. Get mental stimulation, after all, a good mind is a terrible thing to waste.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young

Bad Theism

Bad Theism: Apocalyptic Mindset

For the last Bad Theism, click here: Bad Theism: Presuppositional Apologetics

Just to let everyone know I hadn’t really planned on writing another Bad Theism article tonight. I had actually intended on writing a blog about apophenia. If you don’t know, apophenia is how humans will take two completely unrelated occurrences and yet somehow come up with a way that these two things are connected. That’s a fairly simple description and one day soon I will write more on the topic, however, tonight I decided to write about people who wish for the end of the world.

brother-love

Apocalyptic prophecies are not the monopoly of the Christian faith and yet since Christianity is the faith that I know the most about, having been a minister for a decade, it will be the faith I deal with the most tonight. Islam, Hinduism, and even New Age Spirituality have their own versions of the coming end of mankind’s reign on the earth. Judaism on the other hand both does and does not have a coming apocalypse….pick a side people! lol

Anyway, the first thing that I want to say is that the vast majority of believers which I have met do not actually wish to see the world come to an end. They will however speak as if they are excitedly awaiting the apocalypse. When I was a Christian minister i would have told you about the glorious return of Christ that could happen every minute and then the horrific things that would occur after the church had been raptured. I would have spoken to you in such a way that you honestly believed I wished for the world to end and yet always in the back of my mind I hoped to have a long life that would end long before the supposed rapture was to occur.

My story is not that unique. I actually used to preach on the idea that most of us don’t really want to see the world to come to an end or else we wouldn’t spend so much time and money attempting to continue our existence here on earth. My grandfather is the type that believes any prediction about the end of the world, Y2K, 2012, the election last year…..all were definitely going to be the end of the world. I believe his latest prediction is that the end of the world will happen sometime in August, and yet he planned a family reunion for September….you can literally see the cognitive dissonance dripping off of him.

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Anyway, my grandfather is this rapture groupie and yet he has spent thousands of dollars and numerous medical procedures in order to prolong his life here on Earth. He had his prostate removed because it was cancerous, has had a couple of stints put into his heart to keep the blood flowing, had surgery to stop a brain bleed after a fall a couple of years back, and he has spent an unimaginable amount of money on vitamins and supplements to keep his eyes strong and his coat extra shiny. Now…wouldn’t you think if he was that eager to see god that he would see any of the issues that have plagued him as an express ticket to the throne of judgment?  You’d think that but the truth is he actually desperately wants to live as long as possible.

shrugged

What is there to explain this?

Somewhere in his mind is a sane and rational portion that sees death as the end and doesn’t actively celebrate the idea of the end of time.  I base this on my own experience when I too was someone who outwardly wished for the end of the world while inwardly wanted to ward it off for as long as I could. Now sure this is anecdotal but I’m only mentioning it because I want to point out that the believer and the belief are not always synonymous. It seems strange but a person can be fully 100% in a death cult and yet not wish death and destruction on anyone.

I think one of the interesting pieces of evidence is the fact that in order to explain the end of the world, judgement, and hell the believer will simply throw his hands in the air and state that god is supreme and that he has a better knowledge of life in general than any human could. Death, hell, and the end of the world are not evil, they are simply things that we don’t understand because we are dumb. Now why do I say this is evidence? I say this because it is the ultimate example of throwing someone under the bus and eliminating the problem from your own psyche.

Let’s replace “god” with Dave…

Person A: Hey, did you know Dave is going to return and destroy the world soon.
Person B: Why would Dave do that?
Person A: I don’t know, it’s Dave…
Person B: Dave seems to be a prick.
Person A: Hey, Dave’s in upper management and knows things, are you, a lowly janitor, really going to question Dave?
Person B: I guess not but it still doesn’t make much sense.
Person A: Well, Dave does work in mysterious ways…

Anyway, my point being is that the believer throws these ideas into the lap of god so that they don’t have to deal with it in their own mind and can continue on with their vitamin and supplement regimens while still pretending to excitedly wait for Dave’s return.

The next question that we face is why do believers have to live in this constant state of cognitive dissonance?

adam and eve
“The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden” depiction of Adam and Eve in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Sebastian Bergmann

The answer to that is their faith is a death cult. Let’s lay this out for you…

  • Adam and Eve sinned which brought death to the world.
  • For generations men had to sacrifice animals in order to keep gods wrath at bay.
  • Jesus came to earth for the sole purpose of dying in a brutal sacrificial way.
  • Peace and Love can only reign once the final death-blow is dealt and all sinners are done away with in a horrifically gruesome way.

Now I say their faith is but I still promote the idea that the believer is likely not in on the want for death to come to the world and destroy all of their friends and family who don’t happen to be a part of the faith. The majority of Christians and Muslims are good people not because of their faith but in spite of their faith. Both Christianity and Islam share the idea of eternal punishment for the sinner and so it is very hard for the believer to accept this truth.

Think of it….

Grandma, who bakes me cookies but doesn’t go to church is going to hell. What kind of torture is that to put on the mind? I can tell you that as a child I was deeply scared that people I knew would end up in hell and yet the older I got the less I thought about it and the more I threw my hands in the air and simply said, “Well….it must be true since it says it is and so….whatever…” That might seem a bit cold but what I mean is that I simply did not think about it all that much because it wasn’t something that I enjoyed thinking about.

Now the last question I want to touch upon is why do these faiths feel the need to promote the idea of an apocalypse?

Simply put, these faiths need some sort of grand finale for people to actually continue following them. Sure there are liberal forms of Christianity but for the most part these are just agnostics that lack the guts to admit it. You have to have the big pay-off at the end or else why would anyone follow the faith?

Think about it, religion is an absolute chore. A bunch of arbitrary rules that don’t really make sense that you have to follow in order to please god….it fucking sucks. However, with the threat of hell and the coming apocalypse, you can keep enough people on the “straight and narrow” in order to keep the lights on, buy a golden staff, and ride around in a weird bubble car. If you take radical Islam, do you really think you could get anyone to blow themselves up if this was all there was and there wasn’t some grand payday in the end? For the fundamentalist faiths you must have some sort of horrific end to keep people from leaving your garbage faith. For me this was definitely true, since when I really started to look into the origins of hell, I began to no longer fear it, and so leaving the faith no longer held the fear that it once had in my mind.

So in conclusion, I want to point out once again that even though these faiths are most definitely death cults, their adherents are not necessarily of the same mindset. The vast majority of believers say one thing while thinking another, we all want a good life and for the most part we all want a long life. Our faiths may teach one thing but in the end we are all human and just want to live our lives in peace and as fear free as possible.


bonus

Bonus: New Age Apocalypse

So perhaps one of the funniest things that I find in the New Age beliefs is how horribly wrong their predictions can be and how they explain the failure of their predictions. It seems that at least once per month the new age crowd is predicting something that is going to take humans to the next step in evolution, when we will transcend our physical bodies and enter in to the 5th, 6th, or 45th dimension. What is going to bring about this change? Well, it could be…

blood

The Super Moon
A Blood Moon
A Blue Moon
An Alignment of any number of the planets
A Cool numbered day….11/11/11 anyone?
The First Day of Fall
The First Day of Spring
The Winter Solstice
The Summer Solstice
Venus appearing in the sky
and of course NIBIRU!!!!!!

When the transformation doesn’t occur it is ultimately granted to one of two things.

1.) Too many low-frequency humans infesting the earth.
2.) A Paradigm Shift

So it’s either that there are way too many shitty people who haven’t gotten “WOKE” yet, that it was really just a change of thinking that occurred, or a combination of the two. Whenever one of these things happen I like to imagine Star Wars, and instead of the force actually working it ends up with Luke simply thinking differently about the empire and going on with his life. Not a great idea for a movie because it’s just a lazy way to explain away things that were never going to occur in the first place.  That won’t stop them from trying….cause remember….the next blood moon will mark the return of Nibiru and the Nordics are going to save us from the reptilian overlords who are all turning the freaking frogs gay…

gay

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #17: Karma and Morality

For last weeks article, click here: Wednesday Woo #16: Astral Projection

One of the most important aspects of life for us social animals our relationships, and in order to maintain good, loving relationships, we must have some sense of integrity. In fact, one of the largest debates during humanity’s enlightenment period was how to conduct ourselves morally. This debate remains alive and well, and is still a very poignant when it comes to progress. Our moral concepts drive us past the instinctively selfish states toward more harmonious goals and achievements, simply because of concern for the best in human well-being. Those who follow the gurus of New Age teachings tend to leave their innate sense of humanity behind, instead choosing a path that encourages selfishness and an utter lack of concern for other people. One of the most important aspects of life for us social animals are our relationships, and in order to maintain good, loving relationships, we must have some sense of integrity. In fact, one of the largest debates during humanity’s enlightenment period was how to conduct ourselves morally. This debate remains alive and well, and is still a very poignant when it comes to progress. Our moral concepts drive us past the instinctively selfish states toward more harmonious goals and achievements, simply because of concern for the best in human well-being. Those who follow the gurus of New Age teachings tend to leave their innate sense of humanity behind, instead choosing a path that encourages selfishness and an utter lack of concern for other people.

Obviously this is not a man who wished to transcend his own selfish desires in order to achieve the best possible morality. Instead, he was more concerned with having as much for himself as possible, surrounded himself with the very rich, and duping them out of millions of dollars so he could satiate his own folly. This is a definite step backward in terms of any serious moral argument born from the enlightenment. While Osho claims to have abandoned the teachings of the past, he certainly seems to be living in accordance to the concept of karma, which is a philosophy utilized by his native India in order to maintain the hierarchy of power and poverty in the country. The caste system is an atrocious, undignified ideology, which highlights consequences being passed on through reincarnation as opposed to actual human effort.
Karma
Basically, karma works as follows:

1. “It’s your own fault, even if you don’t remember why.”
If you’re poor, sick, or being abused, well, tough shit! You should’ve never done the stuff you don’t remember doing. It must have been horrible, so let’s treat you like crap until you learn not to do the things that we have no evidence of you ever having done.
2. “What you do now impacts the future.”
Kind of self evident, but again, this is a grain of truth in a bag full of shit.
3. “We get what we deserve.”
There is no evidence for this, but those who maintain that karma is the medium through which justice is served don’t feel they need evidence, and can selfishly justify treating people like crap while leaning on the idea of “act now, pay later.” What a wayward way of thinking!
4. “Let’s assume that nothing we do matters.”
Of course, this is pretty much where the idea of karma logically leads, although it does contradict the above notions of impacting the future, and getting what you deserve. Perhaps this is the only pillar of the entire philosophy. What kind of real morality assumes nothing at all matters?
5. “Nothing is random.”
Once again, there is no evidence to back up this claim, and only serves as a way to confirm a bias that upholds the monstrosity that is the caste system. This is a religious concept that creates a boundary between the rich and poor, us and them, those who “deserve” horrible lives and those who do not. I see no way that a person could truly hold these beliefs while maintaining a moral way of life. The belief in karma should be abandoned if we are to achieve the best possible course toward human well-being. The struggle to end this type of karmic discrimination has been going on for a long while now, and hopefully, for the betterment of their own people, those who stand against the caste system shall be victorious. The question I have is, do we really want to maintain these ideas of karma that have spread so much horror in the country from which they derive? 

When I was a New Ager, I struggled with accepting this idea, so I had to redefine karma as “lessons we learn in life” as opposed to its actual meaning. I knew about the caste system, and despite wanting to accept the New Age type of enlightenment, a part of me just could not accept karma without changing it to suit my own terms. This was one of the cognitive dissonances I had to face ultimately, and as soon as this concept broke down for me, I began to notice the horrible things people in my “tribe” were saying about other people, as well as world events. The last straw for me was seeing a friend of mine complain about videos being shared on her timeline about the Syrian gas attack that showed children writhing in pain and struggling to breathe. Her issue with it wasn’t about how horrible it was that human beings were made to suffer in such an agonizing way – no, she was bitching because it brought down her “good vibes”.  This made my jaw drop and my blood boil, and upon recalling this event, the hypocrisy and lack of concern still makes me angry. This was a woman who talked nonstop about loving others, yet where was the love?
New Agers say they abhor religion, but this isn’t really the case, they consider all religions to have some sort of truth, which of course is just cherry picking. The truth is that these ancient holy books have very little actual truth in them, and if one follows the logic of old religious concepts like karma, we take a step backward morally. I think we can do better, and in order to do that, we need to leave behind the cruel philosophies of “holy” books.

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #16: Astral Projection

Jennifer is back this week with an all new edition of Wednesday Woo. It was fun to take the reins for a week but I am glad to see her back in the fray. For last weeks article, Christian Woo, click here.


The New Age magical thinking knows no bounds, especially when it comes to the physical world. There seems to be an innate desire within these folks to hold unlimited power, and to escape the dreary limits of their position as a physical being. In other words, they wish to be everyone, and everywhere, therefore the idea of traveling wherever they desire in an instant would definitely hold appeal.

Unlimited Power

In order to actually believe this, you would have to accept that:

1. Consciousness has nothing to do with the brain.
2. You have more than one type of body, and many of your “bodies” are not physical.
3. That it is possible to separate these bodies while maintaining conscious ability.
4. The outdated concept of “aether” is true.
5. Auras are a thing.
6. Chakras are real.
7. That conscious awareness of the chakras, auras, and ether gives you superpowers.
8. Imagination is reality.
9. Near death experiences testimonials are “proof” of these things.

Now that’s a lot to swallow, considering there is no evidence of any of these features. Of course, there wouldn’t be, since (according to peddlers of woo) the physical world is an illusion, and scientific evidence is bullshit. If there is any indication that followers of such concepts are prone to escapism, this is definitely one of them. I cannot blame human beings for having very human feelings, and who hasn’t held the desire to instantly teleport to another place for whatever reason? That would be cool as fuck! However, constructing an entire belief system without evidence just to confirm a comforting lie is not a healthy way of living.

So let’s go over the concepts you would have to accept to sustain a belief in astral travel:

1. Consciousness exists in the brain, and there is evidence for this fact. I have already gone over this subject here. (link to consciousness blog)

2. There’s no evidence for anything other than a physical body.

3. I refer to #2.

4. The concept of aether, developed by Aristotle, was disproven by Einstein’s theory of special relativity. (http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/Ether.html)

5. Auras are more than likely synesthesia as opposed to a real phenomenon. There is no evidence they are real. (http://neurowiki2014.wikidot.com/individual:emotion-evoked-synesthesia)

6.

7. Since none of these things are true, consequently, super human abilities are also bullshit.

8. Imagination is… imagination, and by definition, not real.

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9. **Near** death (not actual death) experiences are produced by brains that are not functioning properly, and therefore do not produce any reliable, demonstrable representation of “spirit” nonsense.

Seems these criteria fall flat on their face, don’t they?

When I was a New Ager, I fervently believed in all of this stuff because I had an out-of-body experience while fasting and inducing a trance state for a few days. I went to sleep, but oddly enough, it didn’t feel as though I had actually lost consciousness. Instead, I seemed to be lingering over my body – watching over it as weird things occurred. Sometime in the middle of the night, three black dogs arrived and began to feast upon my body. It was a very strange thing to witness, but didn’t elicit any fearful emotions. Somehow I got the feeling they were healing me of some ailment or latent psychic problem. Of course, there was no reason to believe this was actually occurring, but I was willing to ignore this because I wanted healing desperately. When I awoke, I felt as though I hadn’t really slept, despite a lack of fatigue. I believed this had actually occurred, despite having no evidence, and never attempted to investigate the instance to find out. Now I understand that it was a dream, instigated by my fasting, trance state, and subconscious desires. I am not the only skeptic this has happened to, either.

 

Notice how investigation brought down the notion of an OBE? That’s how it always pans out, too. Sure you will have “studies” conducted by pseudoscientists offered to you by believers, and there are plenty to be found online and in various books. There’s a also an ocean of anecdotes and testimonials people love to share so they can confirm their own bias, but none of that is evidence of astral travel, remote viewing, or any form of BS out-of-body phenomena. Every time these things are subjected to double-blind studies, they fail miserably. Every. Single. Time. They cannot be replicated, and therefore not scientifically confirmed. And, just for the record, the stuff about remote viewing from the CIA doesn’t count as evidence, either. Just because experiments were done in the past, top-secret ones with redacted information released, doesn’t mean that OBEs really happen. These stories indicate absolutely zilch. One cannot help but wonder why they eventually abandoned these ideas, but I’ll bet it has something to do with the urgency and desperation of a Cold War came to its inevitable end. Hopefully government agencies no longer give a platform to just any kook that crosses their path, but considering the current political climate, who can say?

I know many folks wish to consider their consciousness to be immortal, but there’s no evidence or good reason to believe it. These concepts may be comforting to some, and I understand that, however the truth does matter, however painful it may seem. This discomfort, just like life, doesn’t last. Personally, I am confident that adults can handle an inconvenient truth, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

Comforting Lies

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: Christian Edition: Name It And Claim It

So Jennifer is recuperating from the holidays and our daughter just went back to school today so writing a blog was the last thing on her mind. So I figured why not jump on here and write my own article for the Wednesday Woo series? Today I will be talking about some of the woo like beliefs that many Christians follow even if there is no biblical standard for any of these beliefs. While New Age beliefs and Fundamentalist Christianity seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of theism some of the beliefs are so similar that you would think they are one and the same.

Prosperity Doctrine

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One of the major ways that American Christianity sets itself apart from the rest of the world would be the plethora of televangelists that promote what is commonly known as “The Prosperity Gospel.” What this set of beliefs attempts to promote is the idea that god will financially bless anyone that fully puts their trust in him. Now how does one put their trust completely into the hands of god, you ask? Well by sending cash to whatever televangelist you happen to like best.

This belief is built around a scripture in the parable of the Sower:

“And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:20

So basically the parable is about reaping souls for god, in other words saving lots of people from the fires of hell. However those who promote the prosperity gospel will use this verse and a few other cherry picked scriptures in an effort to give the idea that god wants to make you rich. The other scriptures that these pastors will use deal with the idea of tithing, giving a tenth of all your increase(income) to the priestly order, a practice that was stipulated in the old testament and continued by many Christian sects throughout the centuries. What they then say is that if you give 10 dollars you will receive 100 or 1000 in return and so who wouldn’t want to give a small offering if god is definitely going to return to you all of it and way more.

Well the facts are tithing is a tremendously arduous and sometimes painful process. If you have never practiced tithing, imagine having to set aside ten percent of your income, income that may be needed for food or bills, and giving it away, hoping that you will be blessed in the future. Now charity is good but tithing is in some ways nearly murder. I have known elderly women on social security who have begging for food simply so that they can pay their tithe and not fear the wrath of god if they don’t. This is one of the main reasons that when I was a minister I never taught on tithing, it’s one of the few things that I am proud of from that facet of my life.

So anyway, you give your 10 dollars and you get 100 back, everyone wins right? No because you almost never see this return and when you don’t see the blessings that the minister guaranteed who is at fault? If you said the minister, you’re wrong. The person who is always at fault is the one who gave the money to begin with. What you will hear is that the person gave with the wrong idea in mind, because if you give wanting a blessing then you will never receive that blessing, even if the minister promoted the blessing as the only reason to give.

Now imagine if you went to buy a car, you give the dealership your money and the dealership throws you out on your ass. When you ask why the dealership states that you gave your money expecting to get a car in return and so you don’t get the car. If you had only showed up and given the money with no expectations in your mind, the dealership would have blessed you with a car in return. Does that make any sense? Absolutely not, but this is the exact same mindset that the prosperity gospel promotes. Give your money because a blessing will be returned to you but be sure that you aren’t doing it expecting a blessing because if you do that you’ll end up fucked….It’s absolute bullshit.

name it

Name It And Claim It

In the same vein as the prosperity gospel is the “name it and claim it” crowd.  An offshoot of mainline Pentecostalism this group of ministers claim that your words have power and that if you claim good things you will receive good things, if you claim bad things you will receive bad things. If you think this sounds exactly like new age gobbledy gook then you would be 100% correct.

Basically, what this theology teaches is that our world is shaped by the things we think and more specifically the things we say, hence the “name it and claim it” moniker. While on the surface it might seem innocuous in reality this belief system can be incredibly dangerous. Positive thinking can help to a certain point and a healthy psychological perspective can be built around telling yourself good things that you like about yourself.

Saying “I like my smile” may bring you a simple confidence boost and help you feel better about yourself, however when you look at the opposite side of the coin things get very murky. Let’s say you go to the doctor and the doctor runs some tests only to find that you have cancer, well the “name it and claim it” crowd would tell you that if accept what the doctor says then you do have cancer and it will only get worse the longer you say things like, “I have cancer.” So what are you supposed to do? Go around saying, “I don’t have cancer,” and believing that god has healed you of your cancer. You don’t receive chemo, or surgery, or anything that would take away any amount of trust in god and you simply believe that the cancer doesn’t exist. Do you see the problem with this type of theology?

To bring this to a personal note, my great-grandmother went to a revival meeting one night and asked for prayer due to a heart issue that she had suffered with for several years. The minister prayed over her and asked her if she believed she had been healed, she said that she believed and so he told her to throw away her heart medication in a show of faith before god. The minister moved on to another revival in another town and my great grandmother, full of faith and lacking the heart medication that she desperately needed died of a heart attack. I’m sure the minister never thought of my great-grandmother again but the family lost a matriarch and a young boy got his first taste of skepticism which would stick with him and helped aid him leave the faith many years later.

Oil, Sand, and Other Such Bullshit

poppoff

I’ve laughed and joked about crystals and salt lamps in the past but Christianity has its own bullshit market filled with trinkets that will definitely get you closer to god. You can buy oil from the holy man that has been prayed over by a televangelist. You can buy sand supposedly from the path that Jesus walked which has healing properties because Jesus walked on it at some point in history. I knew a man who had a cloth that he said was dipped in the blood of Christ that he had purchased during a revival, in reality it was a cloth that had been dyed red but he earnestly believed that when he prayed with that cloth in hand that he was closer to god.

A local woman had scriptures written all over her house because it protected her from evil spirits. Really all it protected her from was visitors because there was no way that I was going into the creepy scripture coated house. She had them on her walls, in her cupboards, in every drawer and in every room, the worst thing was she had them scrawled all over the walls of her kids rooms too. I was friends with her son for a short period of time and knowing what teenage boys do with free time on their hand I can only imagine the psychological torture of having to wank it with the bible staring you straight in the face 24/7….not that he wanked 24/7 but you get the picture.

Anyway, most of the trinkets and practices that you see going around from church to church have little to no biblical backing whatsoever and they are simply done because it makes the person who owns it feel better. I’ve always found it hilarious that many people walk around with crosses draped around their neck even though the bible explicitly prohibits any sort of iconography. The Catholics get around this by simply removing that commandment from the top 10 but isn’t that just cheating?

mother teresa.jpg

To finish up I’ll leave you with another personal story. We had a woman in church, an elderly woman whose husband had died many years prior. She had her husbands bible and she would say that whenever she read from that bible it was as if her husbands warmth enveloped her and she felt gods power working deep inside her…Basically god granted this bible orgasmic properties which….more power to her but not the type of thing that a teenage boy wants to think about when he’s trying to wank it in his room after church….

That’s right I told the story of my great-grandmothers death and included two wanking jokes in the same blog….yep, I’m awesome!

 

 

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #15: On Higher Consciousness

For last week’s Woo,  click here.

I had a conversation the other day with a man who maintains adamantly that consciousness can in no way stem from the human brain. His reasoning was built on the fabrications built by multiple pseudoscientists, and he was happy to name every single one of their publishings, one after the other in pursuit of my concession to his claims. He was quite disappointed, but we did end the confrontation peacefully, despite the fact that I still had so many questions, specifically regarding what he deemed as the source of consciousness, and why he felt so strongly and personally about the subject. Now I am left to my own speculation, which is quite imaginative to say the least:

Perhaps he feels consciousness arises from magical pixie dust that is spread throughout the ether.

Or maybe he thinks all energy of the universe conspires to make sure Pee Wee Herman can distinguish between himself and his own porno stash.

It’s also possible he considers conscious awareness gets its source from unicorns who emit beams of thought to us from their magical horns.

But most likely, his belief stems from a total misunderstanding of quantum physics…

But quantum physics does nothing to explain a consciousness incapacitated from brain damage. No amount of “studies” on *NEAR* death experiences produced can explain the vegetative state, nor can they negate a multitude of evidence that damage to the brain causes changes in personality.

Now while there may be many things we still have yet to know about consciousness, there is no need to fill in the gaps with wild claims. As neurology progresses, we shall learn more about our sense of self, and it will be an exciting endeavor as we peer through the marvelousness that is higher order consciousness. While speculation about these things may be fun, it can be harmful to assume that damage to a human brain cannot possibly change identity. I have known folks who suffered from head trauma, which subsequently altered their sense of self, behaviors, and ability to function at the same level before their injury. If the source of their consciousness stemmed from somewhere other than the brain, then why did the brain being damaged alter who they were? This is a worthy question to ask the New Agers who tend to separate the brain from the self.

From my perspective as a skeptic, the simplest explanation is the most likely, hence the higher functioning consciousness human beings utilize has evolved over a long period of time with genetic and environmental factors working in unison as contributors to developing the human brain. We had to be inventive and anticipate the future in order to survive, and this implies a deeper understanding of our own mortality – we realize that death is inevitable, and that can be an unsettling concept. We try to rationalize our own death in order to escape the fear attached to such an idea, as well as the pain that arises when we lose the company of those we adore. It’s the human condition to occupy the spaces of boredom, happiness, sorrow, and a deep sense of loneliness that accompanies higher order consciousness.

Assumptions regarding the perplexity of one’s self awareness and inner dialogue play leap frog with logic. While human consciousness may present itself as the end-all be-all that permeates everything, there is no way we could possibly know for sure, but nonetheless, the woo crowd takes this ball and runs with it. They claim that since observation is key to translating reality, that it *must BE* reality itself, and from this follows eternal life. The reasoning is that consciousness is energy, and energy only changes form. But of course, entropy isn’t considered as a portion of this idea, because that would be deterioration, which is a negative cherry these folks tend to avoid.

Panache

The cattle finds these sweet patches throughout New Age fields to be euphoric, but in truth is a misunderstanding of what we know of consciousness, and acts as if scientific inquiry yet touches the subject. We have discovered magnificence within the field of neuroscience. Like I said in a previous article, these folks long for the comfort of some sort of hive-mind, but have yet to question the implications or efficiency in their reasoning. Herds have immunity to being reasonable.

Example of this:
Elf.png

“I am all that is real…”

Kinda doesn’t follow the whole “death of the ego” concept. The incongruities just keep piling up with the enlightened crowd, don’t they? But you can bet your bottom dollar that when faced with the problems in logic, they will add some special pleading into the mix to make these ideas work, because the aim is to believe we are more than mere animals subject to mortality. It makes us feel better to think this way, at least until the frail reality of life hits someone over the head, and we must rely on the hard-working neurologists to help them recover. I am so thankful we have medical professionals and scientists to come to our aid! To me, that is way more of a comforting thought than any nonsense the woo folks can conjure.

Wednesday Woo

Collectives

For the last Wednesday Woo, click here.

 

“Resistance is futile…”

“What you resist persists…”

A big issue I have with New Age beliefs stems from their absolute core value of shedding the ego, which is the individual who thinks independently of the collective, has the ability to reason, and critically push back at any argumentum ad populum. It’s a very easy trap to fall into, since human brains are wired for tribalism, but the New Age way of thinking goes far beyond this, and into the unification of all humanity. Of course, they have their work cut out for them, especially since another core belief is an abhorrence of any group that doesn’t concur with their own sense of purpose and reasoning, thus giving these ideas incongruence.

This way of thinking tends to overlook the present for the splendor of a future realm that is free of suffering, since mankind causes the majority of its own demise, it seems to make sense at the surface. However, when one places more emphasis on an expectation, especially one derived from assumptions, they fall into a pit of disappointing inferiority.

Nietzsche points out:

Wait a minute, doesn’t the New Age belief encourage creativity and seek out one’s inner genius in an effort toward betterment? That is the claim, but when it comes to true unification and loss of individuality being toted as a prime way of letting go of not just one’s own suffering, but all of humanity, then mediocrity ensues. What’s really ironic to me is when they call people who do not agree with all their assumptions “sheeple” and discuss herd mentality as if they are beyond this phenomenon while being completely immersed within it. The cognitive dissonance is astounding, and the wish to be a slave to unity goes against every principle of freedom western society has erected. That is the key – an absolute rejection of western ways of thinking: the enlightenment, rise of philosophical thought, political revolutions, and scientific progress for an appeal to the ancient.

Another aspect of this, which was pointed out in the Nietzsche excerpt, is the state of mind the average New Ager occupies: a deep self-loathing that is projected toward humanity as a whole due to their own feelings of unimportance in the world. Granted, there are outliers to this, but more often than not, you will see sentiments of hatred for one’s own humanity when hanging out with those who claim enlightenment. After all, they do hold themselves in higher authority consciously, but an expression of deep-seated discontent toward their own humanness simply cannot be helped. But their own motivation to ascend the ladder of being keep them driven deeper into the realization that they are not supernatural beings capable of more than humanly possible. They find themselves perpetually stuck in their own existence, and wishing to escape to a future landscape where their suffering is avoided with a wave of their magical hand. Once again, this is a set up for disappointment.

hetfield.png

Failure is an inevitable portion of life – a way of learning our capabilities. It takes courage to face, and sometimes lots of tears, but it is a worthy effort if you, as a free-thinking individual are going to find your niche. If one attempts to escape their own distinctiveness, they lose traction of the very thing they strive for: excellence and self actualization. Be present, and be you.

maslow

 

This week’s entry is a bit short, but I’m kinda running out of ideas to discuss. What I really wish to do is give a voice to other people who have found issues with woo thinking. Send us your story on Facebook or Twitter (either in the comments or a message) and I will put them in a blog for others to read.

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #14: Shamanism and Psychosis

For last week’s article, Click Here.

For this article, I wanted to discuss something a bit more serious, as well as very personal. Psychosis, if left untreated can have a negative impact on the individual, causing isolation, loss of financial stability, and self harm (including suicide).

Symptoms of psychosis and treatment: https://www.nami.org/earlypsychosis

The New Age movement has a way of exalting mental illness in a way that can be problematic for those already suffering from delusions and/or paranoia. The belief system provides reinforcement of an already grandiose sense of self, and if one has psychosis or anxiety about the world, it can have significant consequences. A person with mental illness who holds the belief that they are a shaman with special powers, gives themselves the green light to simply follow their impulses, as well as anxious ideas, while disregarding any reasonable explanation. This isolates them from support of family, friends, and psychiatric help that could potentially ease their symptoms. The individual will reject any idea that there is anything wrong with their brain function as a personal attack on who they deem themselves to be. Confirmation bias is all they will allow into their consciousness, and they will seek out persons and sources who will fulfill their fantasies of being a powerful entity who sees and hears that which is not present in reality.

As you can see in the above example, the denial is quite strong in this individual diagnosed with bipolar. Unfortunately, he is not an outlier. Most folks with the same diagnosis are very uncomfortable with being told they have a mental illness, since there is a stigma attached to it (though with expanding awareness, not as much as it used to have), but also the medications they offer tend to dampen the excited, euphoric states of mania and heightened self-esteem that accompanies it. While the heightened state of mood provides a wonderful high, the lows are extremely dangerous. Yes – medications suck, but not being able to function is much worse, as is the inevitable crash that ensues after mania has ceased. Bipolar individuals are at a high risk of suicide, and are more likely to abuse drugs, which medication along with therapy can help curb significantly. The idea of gaining a diagnosis being merely a label is an absolute myth. There is so much more to diagnosis than merely slapping on a “defective” sticker – it is a way of identifying an inner struggle, and offering solutions in order to tackle the issues that arise from genetic dispositions.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004, and began taking medications as treatment. They helped somewhat with manic symptoms, such as impulsivity and racing thoughts, but the depression was much more difficult to manage, so I quit taking them in an attempt to wrap myself in the comforting high of a mood I considered better. Soon after, I left the love of my life during a state of impulsive mania – a decision I regretted for nearly a decade afterward. After moving back in with my mom, I began college and found a bit of solace in my studies. After finals that semester, depression hit me with a vengeance. I began to contemplate how much I missed my husband, and felt all alone in a world that no longer seemed to have a purpose. My mother knew about my feelings, but wasn’t very supportive at all. She assumed I was merely being histrionic when I said I wanted to die. Her lack of empathy made the situation much worse. Now there was a sinking feeling that absolutely no one cared, including the very person who gave me life. So I decided merely wishing for death and talking about it was no longer enough. I took the remainder of my Xanax prescription, and slit one of my wrists before passing out in the bathroom floor. To my dismay, I awoke at some point, though memory fails me as to what occurred for quite a few days afterward. Mom urged me to go back to the psychiatrist, and I began the meds once again.

Things got back to “normal” for a few years. I went back to school, and worked as much as I could to keep busy. After my mom’s death in 2008, my self-care went out the window, and grief took over my life for quite a few of the following years. I quit school, and tried to focus on just going to work. After discontinuing my mood stabilizers, the depression and mania I felt worsened, and it got to where I had to drag myself to my stressful job some days, then ride the wave of irritation on others. It was incredibly rough, not only because I was still grieving, but also having to deal with symptoms of a mental illness for which I denied myself treatment. In fact, I felt the only thing motivating me to continue forward was the manic states, which had me working circles around my fellow employees, and eventually I got promoted to management. When the depression hit, I would often become ill from forcing myself to work at the same pace as I did during mania, but would still press onward because I desperately needed the money.

Eventually forcing myself to deal with a stressful state of grief while working through the ups and downs of my mood took its toll on my grasp of reality. During a day of particular high stress at work, I glanced over toward the store’s entrance to see my deceased mother walk in. I knew it was a hallucination, and immediately felt the tears well up in my eyes. In my distress, I ran to the back so no one would see me so upset. It was embarrassing, especially since we were at the peak time of business, so I knew my absence was quite obvious, but at the same time, I knew my ability to wear a mask of functionality had ceased, and this was a psychotic break.

Once again, I got back on the medication, but this time, I had to take something stronger to tackle the psychosis. There were terrible side-effects: some medications turned me into a zombie, others made me confused. It was absolutely devastating and degrading to have to visit the psychiatrist as well. There had to be another way.

I got online, and I found a plethora of ideas regarding bipolar that made me question my condition. One of the ideas I ran across was presented by Phil Borges, who asserts that bipolar disorder is a spiritual awakening as opposed to a “label” of mental illness. It was an appealing idea for me, so I looked into the concept more and more. I became obsessed with the idea that my mom had REALLY visited me, and that I was being called to mysticism, so I quit my job in an effort to dedicate my life to the esoteric. I felt exactly as the guy in the above video felt – I had been misdiagnosed, and my gifts were being suppressed by medications. I was a spiritual being in a physical body, and all that mattered was my spirit, which of course was powerful enough to heal the entire planet. It was so easy to believe this, especially since it felt good during the manic cycle, but as always, the depressive side of me awaited. Regardless of how much time I wasted learning about the mystical realm, I didn’t truly feel healed. Believing in spiritual concepts only widened the gap between my extreme moods. Considering the notion of the physical world being of no consequence, when the extreme lows hit, they were lower than ever. During one depressive episode after my “awakening” I decided to take a stroll down a nearby highway and wait for a truck so I could jump in front of it. Fortunately, there was no traffic at that time.

While in the manic cycle, I was ridiculously motivated to push these beliefs onto other people, and my delusions of grandeur got much worse. Everyone who rejected my ideas were sheep, and those who agreed were the wise ones of my tribe. Conspiracy theories made the most sense, and skeptics were limited fools who simply held no creative energy. My following on social media expanded to the maximum level, and there were a multitude of folks willing to grant me my delusional mindset, and even cheer me on. This was such an intoxicating feeling, especially for someone who had once felt that absolutely no one in the world cared. I found I could induce psychosis by going into trance states, and felt I had amazing abilities to travel anywhere, even to other planets via the astral plane, as well as intuit what people were thinking.

There were moments to doubt my newfound spiritualism, though. Some of the people had notions even I had to reject. I recall getting a comment from someone who claimed he was the Christ, and that people tremble when he “would become”… whatever that meant. Even in my own madness, I knew this was a strange statement. There were others who acted questionable whom I had attracted, including people who believed bigfoot was a spiritual guardian, and that unicorns were a real thing. I began to veer toward skepticism more and more because of this. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I started noticing the consequences of folks feeling their facts, and how a lot of the stories people were sharing were fake. This made me question some of my own sources. The more real evidence I tried to find to validate my spiritual beliefs, the more I found rational arguments and evidence to the contrary.

After some time, I decided to abandon my spiritual pursuits and get back on medication. Now, I am more or less still in recovery from my partially self-inflicted psychosis, and it is very difficult to be around some of the folks I love because I see them falling into the same traps as I did – the conspiracy theories, grandiose ideas of self, a dangerous rejection of science, and the spread of ideas that cause nothing more than a sense of guilt for one’s own humanity. None of these things are healthy, especially for individuals who are already genetically prone to losing their grip on reality. Some of the folks I have known were driven to homelessness because they chose to follow these ideas and reject social norms like holding down a job, or relying on a family that loves them simply because they suggested they get psychiatric help, or they questioned their supposed shamanistic abilities.

There are many other varieties of mental illness that can be worsened by these harmful belief systems that reject science, such as OCD, schizophrenia, substance/alcohol abuse, depression, and other forms of anxiety. The denial and exaltation of these psychiatric problems runs very deep in the New Age community, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues there that can be managed with therapies and medication. The idea that we should play into the delusions of psychotic individuals only makes the problem worse, and can have a life-altering impact. So please, if you are suffering, let go of these unfounded beliefs and get professional help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the national suicide hotline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org )at 1-800-273-8255

NOTE: The above is a United States phone number. Here’s the international list: http://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines

 

This week, I have an additional contributor to Wednesday Woo. Being a nurse, she has a professional perspective, and I am very honored to have her featured. Without further ado, here’s Stephanie’s very apt addition:

TV-Nurse-Jackie

“A Nursing “Woo” Story.

I didn’t decide to be a nurse until I was in college. I was fascinated with medicine growing up but didn’t feel confident enough to pursue a medical degree. Since then, I have found a love for the nursing profession and am very fulfilled. I do not believe I would have found the same satisfaction in medicine.

Having said that, there are disappointments in nursing. One is that while nurses are generally bright individuals, the educational requirements are more rigorous than many paths, the scientific rigor required to practice is extremely variable. Remember that many nurses enter the field with as little as 1 year of vocational school training. As many as 40% of practicing nurses do not have a bachelor degree and have never taken a statistics course or research methods. I did not take these until I was 20 years into my career. I say all this to try to excuse one of the most egregious uses of “woo” within a so-called science-based profession.

Going through nursing school I learned of an alternative therapy called “therapeutic touch”. In short, a nurse trained in therapeutic touch (TT) holds his/her hands over a body part that the patient or nurse feels may be the source of discomfort. By sensing temperature differentials, the nurse is able to tell where “energies” are imbalanced and by some technique (I’m not versed in this) is able to balance the energies and heal the patient of the imbalance. I thought this was crazy when I was in nursing school because I was a good Christian and this sounded like New Age hokey. Later on I became more educated, more secular but had forgotten about TT.

Then I found an article from the late 90s of a school child who tested TT. Unsurprisingly her mother was an RN who disbelieved in TT. Her child had seen her mom watching video of the techniques and supposedly suggested a way to blindly test the practitioner’s ability to perceive energy fields. Previous experiments were not this rigorous, generally had small sample sizes, poor design and a plethora of other issues.

The 11yo helped design, recruit and perform the experiment where the practitioner, who could not see if a person’s hand was behind a curtain, had to feel the energy of the hand and report that the hand was present or absent. The results showed the practitioners had no better success than chance would give them. The parents helped the child write-up the results and they were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Granted, the AMA has on occasion had a contentious relationship with the nursing profession but the data was made available, they were quite transparent. A Cochrane review (one of the most respected reviewers of medical effectiveness evidence) has warned of the unproven nature of the treatment and that any positive effects are likely due to the positive interactions between the patient and the practitioner.

So sorry for the length of this woo story. My take home message is, even respected healthcare providers can be questioned. This technique is still widely taught in nursing schools and is part of many (if not most) of nursing textbooks. One reason I want to be a nurse researcher is to drive the profession away from unproven methods and toward proven methods of helping and healing. The more I read on nursing history and underlying theory, it is really sad how many of them integrate unproven or unprovable premises for nursing practice. The supernatural beliefs run the gamut from Christianity and other traditional religions to more modern versions like New Age spiritualism.

So please, if your healthcare provider wants to try therapies that sound strange, ask them for the supporting evidence. They might not be able to instantly present it to you but should be able to get you a couple of articles at minimum or at least some searchable key words for Google Scholar.

And that little girl, Emily Rosa, she entered the Guinness book for the youngest author of a paper in a peer-reviewed journal and is now a college graduate. I have to believe her parents are so proud of her.

 

Cochrane review:

https://www.ahcmedia.com/articles/33533-therapeutic-touch-and-wound-healing

Emily Rosa’s article:

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/187390

A quackwatch article by one of the co-authors exploring questions on method:

https://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ttresponse.html