Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why we need a secular country, or what Richard Dawkins et al have been saying all along

Hayley Stevens is a blogger whom I admire, but haven't met IRL yet*. She's not a fan of alternative medicine and, if she spots a peddler of alternative medicine making claims that fall foul of ASA regulations, she will report them. (I need to take a leaf out of her book - I've a good few leaflets I've taken with the intent of reporting, but have never quite gotten around to doing it).

Reporting dodgy claims, and highlighting dodgy practices (like my four month homeopathy overdose) are ways to combat all the dangerous and ineffective treatments that are out there.

Recently, Hayley reported another such group that were making unsubstantiated claims about how they could heal certain diseases. Hayley made a complaint to the ASA, the ASA upheld it.

Of course, in this instance, the claims weren't to do with extreme dilutions of a substance in water; they weren't to do with the quantum healing energies of Depak Chopra's bank balance; nor ancient medical wisdom from an age when living to the ripe old age of 40 was pretty good going. No, these claims were to do with prayer. So now it's not an issue of a group simply not following advertising regulations, it's a ban on "expressing beliefs" or a freedom of speech issue.

It's funny how this kind of reaction hasn't happened when other quacks, charlatans and peddlers of alternative medicine have been taken to task.

Religion shouldn't get any special privilege in this country (or anywhere), and should stick to the regualtions that are out there. If you think the regulations are wrong, then by all means say why they are wrong and campaign to change them. However, it's not fair to say "I beleive prayer works and so do lots of other people" and hope that that works, as a crystal healer can say "I beleive that my rose tinted quartz works, and so do lots of other people".

Being religious doesn't make you a special case and doesn't deserve any special deference. Much like many of us Militant Atheists (TM) have been saying all along.
*except once being on the same train and totally blanking her as I was buying a car and then had to get to Yeovil for a wetsuit. Since Sam Harris's Lying, I feel I need to clarify little statements like that.

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