I am a woman born 1949 and my quest is to find a mindmate
to grow old together as a mutually devoted couple
in a relationship based upon the
egalitarian rational commitment paradigm
bonded by intrinsic commitment
as each other's safe haven and secure basis.

The purpose of this blog is to enable the right man
to recognize us as reciprocal mindmates and
to encourage him to contact me:

The entries directly concerning,
who could be my mindmate,
are mainly at the beginning.
If this is your predominant interest,
I suggest to read this blog in the same order
as it was written, following the numbers.

I am German, therefore my English is sometimes faulty.

Maybe you have stumbled upon this blog not as a potential match.
Please wait a short moment before zapping.

Do you know anybody, who could be my mindmate?
Your neighbour, brother, uncle, cousin, colleague, friend?
If so, please tell him to look at this blog.
While you have no reason to do this for me,
a stranger, maybe you can make someone happy, for whom you care.

Do you have your own webpage or blog,
which someone like my mindmate to be found probably reads?
If so, please mention my quest and add a link to this blog.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

656. The Placebo Church

656.   The Placebo Church

In entry 441 I was expressing how a weird institution called Unitarian Universalist Church (UU) puzzled me, because it makes no rational sense.    They claim not to be a religion but they behave like one.  

In entry 589 I defined religion by also showing behaviors based upon irrational beliefs other than only the one in the existence of a deity.    These behaviors can be seen as rational methods of coping with irrational beliefs, while without such beliefs, the behaviors themselves are irrational.

In this sense the UU is a placebo religion.   

A person, who has by own experience or by reliable observation learned, that taking a painkiller brings relief from pain, can often experience the relief from pain by unknowingly taking a placebo, which is a pill without any chemical content.    It is a placebo by still looking like a pill, only the active ingredient is omitted.    

The christian religion has some psychological benefits for some people.  Their imaginary god's attributes help them to cope with human suffering.   The christian religion is especially attractive to victims finding an alleged sense in their sufferings and to perpetrators and evil doers finding alleged justification for harming others.   
  • The belief in being rewarded by the alleged god in the alleged afterlife misrepresents senseless suffering as if it were a valid method to earn such a reward.
  • The belief in an alleged god's alleged wisdom being beyond human comprehension attributes hidden reasons to suffering.
  • The belief in an alleged god's alleged wisdom and rewarding in the alleged afterlife allows the perpetrators to harm others without a bad conscience.   They perceive the alleged god as the proxy, who is considered the one responsible for the harm. 
  • The belief in an alleged god's alleged reward for forgiving is misused as the unjustified demand for being forgiven for unforgivable harm.  
The only active ingredient of any christian church is the god's impact upon the endurance of suffering and the inflicting of harm.   By being interwoven with the entire culture the christian religion has over its long history incorporated the additional supplying of many secular benefits.  As a result, many people completely lost all awareness for the differences between those benefits, which were due to the core of the religious beliefs, and those collateral and independent benefits, which were only added but not religious. 
This vague and indiscriminate notion of a church as being beneficial in a generalized and very special manner is the reason, why so many people experience it is possible to delete the god and create a placebo church, which still appears to be a church.    Just like the placebo pill looks like a pill.  

The placebo effect of a sugar pill is impossible for any person ignorant of the existence of painkillers, like some ingenious people in a remote area.   (Any similar effect would need other explanations like a general gullibility to suggestions and claims.) 

It is the same with the church.   Those, who have never experienced the christian religion as beneficial, are not prone to experience a placebo church as offering any benefits, which cannot be obtained elsewhere.   

But there is one decisive difference between taking a placebo pill and joining a placebo church:  

The placebo pill works, when the person does not know, that the pharmaceutical ingredient is lacking.   The placebo church is chosen for being the placebo, for having the god as the active ingredient eliminated.   

A person without pain needs neither a pharmaceutical nor a placebo painkiller.   The sugar in the pill can be obtained anywhere and in any form, the person without pain eats sugar when he wants to.   He does not make it look like a painkiller first.
I have never heard of anybody eating placebos, knowing that there is no medicine in them, only because of the sweet taste.   They rather eat real sweets. 

A person without religious needs does not need a church, neither one with a god nor a placebo church.  Such a person finds and enjoys the collateral benefits found in christian churches directly in secular alternative institutions.   He does not combine them to appear like a church.    
Self-labeled atheists in the UU are like people, who knowingly eat placebos for the taste instead of getting the real thing elsewhere.   

When a church already exists for those, who benefit from the delusion of the existence of a deity, then the additional use of such an institution for other benefits and also by non-religious persons can be rational.    
All the benefits offered by the UU are benefits available elsewhere, where each by itself can be experienced and enjoyed as secular.   Combining them as a placebo church is a deliberate bias.    Creating a placebo church for only non-religious benefits is irrational.   

I can think of only one explanation for this is a fallacy: 

It seems that there are two distinct types of self-labeled atheists.  
  • Those who are independent thinkers, to whom the insight of the irrationality of religious beliefs has come as an unavoidable conclusion and consequence of thinking.   Atheism and feeling free from needing any religion is emotionally beneficisal for them, because it makes them feel good about themselves.  
  • Those who have a strong need for the benefits of the delusion of the existence of a god, but who were so much disappointed by some event in their life, that they were unable to continue to believe.   They suffer from their persistent craving for their lost paradise of the delusion. A placebo church gives them the best relief for that craving.   
    As members of the UU they remain fence sitters, who look in the direction of atheism, but their behind is still entangled in christian religious needs.   
    The choice of an institution with the style of buildings and terminology as a placebo church accommodates the fence sitters' needs to remain in surroundings resembling their lost paradise.   

An example:  Somebody with sufficient knowledge in philosophy can either be the speaker giving a lecture in an auditorium or he can be the minister giving a sermon in a church with or without a god.   
They may even talk about the same topic, but there is a huge difference:
Independently thinking atheists attend the lecture.   They listen to information, which they afterwards reflect upon and which maybe influences their attitudes and their behavior.   But they actively process the information and choose what to make of it.

People, who prefer to attend services and to listen to sermons, do this in a more passive and submissive way.   Naming an event a service indicates, that there is a target, who is served by humble servants, who expect guidance and who are emotionally ready to be told what to do.   They do not choose or process, they attempt to follow, and rarely doubt the wisdom of someone with the halo of being called a minister.  

Becoming an atheist is only the first, but not sufficient step for rational people.   The logical next step is a rational reevaluation of all attitudes, values, opinions.   Whatever makes no sense without the christian belief, of which it had been derived, has to be reconsidered.
But the choice of a placebo church indicates the clinging to the values and world view of christianity and the wish to change nothing except having lost or deleted the god.


The following is a list of benefits as experienced and perceived by a member of the UU.   With his permission, I am quoting him literally. 
All these benefits do not need a church but can be obtained as good or better elsewhere.    My comments point to alternatives.  
1. fabulous live music of all kinds
No church is needed for life music.   There are many secular places offering concerts.    Anybody who wants to play in public, has a wide choice of places.  
2. liberal religious education, fellowship and musical training for children, making them aware of the great variety of religions and non-religious views
The place for education is the school.  Community colleges offer music lessons beyond the level of schools.  Pupils need to be taught scientific and skeptical thinking.   The place for information concerning religion are in history and social science lessons with sufficient mental distance.   They need to be taught, that religion is obsolete and enhances harming behavior.
Pupils also need to be taught interactive skills like communication, theory of mind, and a value system based upon rationality.   
3. fellowship and fun with people of liberal, non-religious and liberal religious views
People need fellowship with likeminded people.     Non-religious and liberal religious are contradictions.   Someone can either belief in a god or not.  This impedes fellowship.   There is a mental abyss between those, who belief in any god and those, who do not.   Something is weird when they join a placebo church instead of associating with their own kind.  
Liberal is a political term and has its place in a political party.  
4. promotion of enlightened values, including earth-friendly values among others, and tolerance for people of differing views.  
Tolerance for differing views (not different needs or tastes, unfortunate life situations or disabilities) is an indication of ignorance, stupidity and/or irrationality.   The careful evaluation of all views leads to the conclusion, which of them is rationally superior or is the only rational one.  From then on, differing views do not deserve tolerance.    Tolerance is the admittance of insufficient thinking.  
Rational non-religious people need secular non-religious and atheist groups, where religious people are excluded as a nuisance and annoyance.    Only fence-sitting atheists have tolerance for delusional believers.  
Enlightenment is the contrary of tolerated stupidity.   
5. social justice activities
This is the realm and task of political parties and task oriented pressure groups..
6. places where people can evolve their views as they are exposed to new or different ideas, not to mention help and healing in recovering from past indoctrination from dogmatic theology
This is the realm of secular psychological self-help, self-improvement and self-awareness groups and courses at community colleges.     The worst indoctrination is the delusion, that there are deities, afterlife, an immortal soul and such.   Any alleged help, which includes tolerating such insane beliefs would not be a real help, only a slight reduction of the damage. 
7. promotion of an open-minded approach to life in general
This is the realm and task of secular psychological self-help, self-improvement and self-awareness groups and of schools and all educational institutions.
8. non-religious weddings, child dedications, coming of age celebrations, and funeral services
All these celebrations are rituals based upon some interaction with a god.   A wedding means vows to a god, they are obsolete without a god.   People can best organize their celebrations according to their own individual needs.  
9. counseling and support for people going through difficult times
This is the task of qualified secular and rational psychologists.   A minister's kitchen psychology can do more damage than good.
10. community outreach supporting other organizations serving the most needy people in our communities and beyond
This is the realm and task of political parties and task oriented pressure groups.  They have to influence any country's government to fulfill its obligation to care and provide for the needy by getting sufficient tax from the rich.
11. a forum for the free expression of views which sometimes may run counter to those of the populous in general, e.g. opposition to war, oppression, etc.
This is the realm and task of political parties and of task oriented pressure groups.. 
12. an insitution where people can come together on a regular basis to meditate quietly and calmly on their lives and so on
This is the realm of secular psychological self-help, self-improvement and self-awareness groups and courses at community colleges and other educational institutions.    
13. a welcoming congregations accepting of people of different genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, etc.
This is the common ground and every day situation of every functional group of people, who have joined it to pursue a hobby, sport, interest of any kind.  
14. all of these things and more available from one organization existing often like an island of liberality in the midst of a land of conservative religious people and their churches
It is pathetic to imitate, what one rejects.   Independent thinking atheists need a real alternative, not a placebo church.    
15. a denomination demonstrating a democratic way of functioning in the midst of many non-democratic, paternalistic institutions
A democratic way of functioning is the common ground of every functional group of people, who have joined it to pursue a hobby, sport, interest of any kind.  

There is no objective need for a placebo church to provide anything from this list.   A placebo church caters only for the need of people with a specific precondition.